What matters most to us in life is not ‘the bigger picture’ – which we don’t really seem to care anything about at all – but the mere ‘inconsequential details’, trivial considerations of a humdrum and wearisome nature which on some deeper level we know perfectly well to be of no real importance whatsoever. Though these humdrum ten-a-penny considerations may well be thoroughly inconsequential, essentially unimportant and profoundly wearisome, they do nevertheless monopolize our attention to a truly remarkable extent. These humdrum details press upon us in great numbers, pretty much from the second we wake up in the morning to the moment we sink into the blessed state of sleep at the end of the day. We might be forgiven for mistaking the wretched tedious business of attending to all of these trivial considerations (or as many of them as we can) for life itself – the corollary of which would be that any contemplation of the bigger picture, the grander scheme of things, is not what we should be doing at all, but something more akin to reprehensible idleness or irresponsible time-wasting. This is in fact very much the prevailing cultural attitude – we are encouraged to keep it superficial.
‘Attending to inconsequential details’ doesn’t mean washing socks or underwear, hoovering the carpet, taking out the rubbish, putting away the plates, cups and cutlery when you take them out of the dishwasher – for the most part the all-consuming task of ‘attending to trivial details’ is not about physically doing them but thinking about them. It is not housekeeping that is inconsequential but housekeeping taken to the nth degree of abstraction (or ‘removal from reality’), which Sogyal Rinpoche calls “housekeeping in a dream”. What is inconsequential is the usual run of our thoughts, which are served up with for breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea, and just about every free moment in between. The ‘banquet of the mind’ never lets up and so we might be inclined to clap our hands and say that this a very generous feast, if it were not for the fact that the actual fare is so extremely poor – poor to the point of being downright insulting. It doesn’t take too much in the way of honest self-observation to show that the vast majority of what is offered up thought-wise for my daily delectation is painfully banal; if even one out of every ten thoughts were to be of a genuinely philosophical or revelatory nature then there would be good enough but unfortunately this is not the case. The case is that the major part of my thoughts are simply not worth having – but have them I do, whether I want to or not.
As we have said, it is not to the wider, more magnificent view of the world that my thoughts direct me, but rather I am sent heading in what is quite the opposite direction. My thoughts refer me unfailingly to the small, the banal, the unworthy and the petty. Any one of these inconsequential thoughts – if it were thought only the one time – would constitute a grievous waste of time, but these are thoughts I have hundreds, or thousands, or ten thousands of times a day. And if the thought in question failed to edify me on the first time round, it surely isn’t going to on the millionth repetition! My edification clearly isn’t the point here – that isn’t what its all about at all.
Not only are these daily thoughts very poor fare indeed – they are also compulsory. When these trivially compulsive thoughts become what we call ‘worrying’ the involuntary nature of what is occurring to me is quite clear. No one wants to worry and if I had a choice about it I wouldn’t engage in the activity, but the point is precisely that I don’t have a choice. I am compelled to entertain the worrying thought, over and over again, until hell freezes over or until pigs learn to fly, whichever happens the sooner. I am pulled about by the nose, I am lead ignominiously here and there, I made to consider such-and-such a possibility and then as soon as I have done this I am immediately made to consider another, equally improbable one. I am made to think the thought over and over again, no matter how unlikely or foolish or pointless or distressing it is and so my ignominy in this matter is complete. I am the helpless victim of thought, rather than being the master of it.
But the ‘non-distressing’ thoughts are no different, it’s just that I don’t generally notice that I can’t stop thinking them – I don’t notice because I don’t bother trying to. Some of these thoughts are actually enjoyable to me so of course I don’t want to stop them; others aren’t particularly enjoyable but they still constitute what might be called a form of ‘light entertainment’. In any event, I am very much used to thinking them since it is a long-established habit, constant thinking is what I am used to and so I take the fact that I am always thinking about this, that or the other as being perfectly normal. Whether the general run of my thoughts are enjoyable, pleasant, neutral, mildly unpleasant or acute distressing makes no difference with regard to their compulsivity and not only can we say that they are compulsive – we can also reiterate the point that they take in the direction of an ever-smaller (or pettier) view of myself and the world. What we are talking about here therefore is nothing other than a kind of ‘compulsory small-mindedness’, ‘or enforced superficiality’.
The reason why thinking should be synonymous with ‘compulsory small-mindedness’ is very straightforward and perfectly easy to explain. All rational thoughts (as opposed to thoughts that are ‘intuitive’) occur within a narrow context or framework – this has to be the case since it is only within the assumed narrow framework that the thought in question makes sense. It is only within this specific context that it has ‘legitimacy’, so to speak. In order to focus in on the thought in question it is necessary that we limit or constrict our attention to within this narrow framework. Actually, ‘thinking the thought’ means precisely this – it means taking the assumed context for granted and proceeding to look at the world exclusively from this specific basis. It is this act of focussing or ‘intentional narrowing’ that makes the thought meaningful to me – the narrow focussing and the thinking of the thought are one and the same thing. Focussing our attention brings the specific details that are being attended to into sharp relief, it gives them definition, and it is this precise definition that gives rational thinking that particular quality of black-and-white ‘certainty’ that we value it for. This sharpness and lack of ambiguity is potentially very useful to us but as we have been saying it comes at a price and the price is the shrinking of the world that we are allowed by this ‘adaptive cognitive process’ to be aware of. With the shrinking comes an associated cost and that is the cost of ‘increased compulsivity’: our narrow view of the world makes issues seem important and pressing that, in the light of the bigger picture – would not seem so important and pressing at all. A lack of perspective has the inevitable side-effect of making us feel driven or pressurized, in other words.
We can also look at the loss of perspective which is synonymous with rational (or conceptual) thought as having the effect of making the categories within which we think seem real to us. Exactly the same argument applies – it is only through loss of perspective that the categories of our mind can function. Or to put this another way, the categories of our mind only seem real to us if all the information that doesn’t match them is immediately and unceremoniously dumped, and so it is this ‘throwing away’ of information which maintains the integrity of the conceptual or categorical mind. It is the bringing of reality into line with the organizing mind that validates this mind, and so its never-ending task is to keep on striving to do just this. There exists therefore this constant tension – the tension between what the system sees as ‘right and proper’ and the fundamentally rebellious but entirely unpremeditated tendency of the universe to remain ‘unsystematised’ or ‘unregulated’, its intrinsic inclination to remain spontaneous rather than directed, in other words.
The category-loving mind is condemned by reason of this tension to remain forever active – it can never just ‘let things be’ because if it were to do this it would be unfailingly ‘falsified’. It cannot know unconditional peace but instead must always strive for the ‘ideal state’ – the wonderful projected goal that gleams and sparkles from somewhere just ahead of me, waiting to be realized if I can try hard enough. The idealized goal-state never can be actualized however because it is only ‘an ideal’. It must by its very nature always remain a projection in the future. Even if the goal does seem to be temporarily reached, so that there is a matching between ‘expected’ and ‘actual’, ‘target’ and ‘result’, this concurrence doesn’t really mean what we think it does. Reaching the goal state means very little really but it unconsciously signifies a great deal more; it signifies something very wonderful indeed, it signifies ‘life finally happening on the terms of the organizing mind’ – it signifies the ultimate validation of the categorical mind and its particular way of seeing the world. To me (when I passively or unreflectively identify with this mind) the achievement of my goal stands for the ‘solution of everything’, although what exactly ‘the solution of everything’ actually means is something I never stop to go into very much.
It is this perennial need of the categorical mind to be always active, always busy, always engaged in its task of organizing the world (always striving for ‘perfection’) that lies behind the ceaseless production of the everyday type of thoughts that we have been talking about. These everyday thoughts might often seem random or pointless but there is always order behind it. This apparent randomness is an exercise in ‘sorting’ – the organizing mind wants to organize everything, it wants to sort the world out so that everything gets put in the right place, gets evaluated correctly, gets analyzed so that it can be persuaded to yield up its correct meaning, and so on. Thus there is always an inherent compulsiveness to the operation of the thinking mind, a compulsiveness that derives from the ever-present underlying tension between ‘the right way’ and ‘the wrong way’. As we have said, things can’t just be left to be just ‘any old way’ – they have to be prevailed upon to be the right way. So on the one hand we could say that in the general run of our everyday thinking we are trying to bring order to the world in the sense of ‘allocating everything to its correct place’, and on the other hand it may be said that in our thinking we are ceaselessly ‘analyzing’, ceaselessly trying to make sense of everything within the narrow format that we have unreflectively taken to be the ‘only one possible’. This is therefore ‘purposeful day-dreaming’, as opposed to ‘spontaneous day-dreaming’, or what Jung called ‘active imagination.
When there is no pressing need to either organize or analyse it might be assumed that we would be given a bit of a break from the ceaseless rule-based activity of the mind but this is very rarely the case. What happens in my ‘down time’ is that I amuse or distract myself by playing games with my thoughts – I play about with the various possibilities or outcomes that arise as a consequence of the rules which the logical mind takes for granted. In effect, I run programs to see what happens – I daydream. I spin endless dreams for myself in order to pass the time pleasantly, but always the sort of dreams that make sense within the narrow format of what I know (or what I imagine that I know).
If on the other hand I were to have the sort of dreams that take me beyond the narrow remit of ‘the known’ – which is to say, if I engaged in the type of mental activity that takes me beyond the strictly defined boundaries of my everyday mind – then this would not be the activity of the everyday mind because the everyday mind only ever takes me to places that it itself has previously authorized in accordance with its own all-important scheme of things. The everyday mind only ever refers me to itself, just as a self-obsessed man only ever talks about himself. Truly spontaneous mental activity is rare however – if I am daydreaming the chances are very much that I am simply rehearsing the possibilities of the categorical mind, which is no different from counting Rosary beads over and over again. These apparently ‘free-flowing’ thoughts may not seem pressurized or compulsive but when it comes down to it they are. Any thought that is not spontaneous has got to be compulsive because these are the only two possibilites going – either mental activity is free and spontaneous or it is directed and compulsive. It is very easy to see that a ‘checking’ type thought is compulsive (or that this is the case for an ‘analyzing’ type thought, or a anxious’ thought or a ‘brooding’ thought, or an ‘angry’ or ‘self-pitying’ thought) but it is not at all a straightforward matter to see that our more-or-less neutral, apparently ‘relaxed’ thoughts are unfree or ‘forced upon us’. And yet they are. The average, run-of-the-mill, ‘non-stressful’ type thoughts are also compulsive because they compel us to view the world from within a narrow framework. Our everyday thoughts are unfailingly compulsive because they invariably compel us to understand the world exclusively within the one particular fixed and limited format.
The way that the everyday mind operates is by putting pressure on me to control things in accordance with the way it assumes those things have to be. This pressure might manifest in terms of me feeling that I need to obtain specific results with regard to my environment, or in terms of me feeling that I need to be a certain way myself. There is a rewarding feeling if I obtain the correct outcomes, or successfully reach whatever specified standards I have set for myself, and a punishing (or negatively reinforcing) feeling if I do not. Another way of putting this is to say that the everyday or categorical mind constantly co-opts my attention in order to attend to those tasks that it sees as being valuable, significant, important, and so on. I am directed to attend to this or attend to that, I am directed to think about this or think about that. This may therefore be spoken of as Jung does as the directed as opposed to the spontaneous modality – the only thing here being that we usually interpret this as meaning that it is us ourselves who do the directing, rather than the fully-automated machinery of the everyday mind. Identifying with the mechanical mind in this way results in unconsciousness – naturally enough, the more of my attention that is given over to fulfilling (or trying to fulfil) the proliferating tasks given to me by the mechanism which is the system of thought the less is ‘left over’ to notice those aspects of the world that do not correspond to that system’s categories. In fact the truth of the matter is that the system does not permit any ‘noticing’ of anything other than those elements which correspond to its own categories since any freedom to ‘see things differently’ would result in the relativization of the rules which that system embodies and a rule that is only relatively true (or relatively valid) is not a rule at all…
Having my attention all co-opted by the machinery of the everyday mind means that it becomes automatonized, regulated, robotized, unfree – curiosity gives way to compulsion, playfulness gives way to seriousness, sensitivity gives way to conditioned reflexes and open-mindedness gives way to the tyranny of the closed mind. The Big Picture, in all its ineffable splendour, gives way to an endless morass of ever-proliferating pointless petty details. The everyday mind operates by allocating ‘weight’ to those possibilities in the world that match its own inherent prejudices, its own inbuilt structural bias. My attention is absorbed (or robotized) by these officially defined or designated possibilities according to the degree of weighting that has been allocated to them – the more weighting, the more serious and compulsive I get. At times I am allowed a certain degree of freedom and I can as a result be lighted-hearted, curious, playful, and creative and at other times – when the security of the system is at risk – I am reigned in sharply and all of these spontaneous characteristics abruptly disappear. When the all-important ‘security-issues’ surface, my lightness, my open-mindedness, my sense of humour vanishes; furthermore, as time goes on there is a distinct and undeniable tendency for the amount of freedom available to me to decrease, a tendency for the level of automatonization that I am afflicted with to inexorably increase. Anyone unconvinced of the actual reality of this principle of progressive automatonization would only have to study the difference between children and adults. When we reach adulthood we become notoriously serious – not because as adults the issues and tasks we have to contend with have become more serious but simply because more and more of our free attention has been co-opted by the machinery of the everyday mind, until this insidious co-opting reaches the point where is virtually no free or un-robotized attention left. As an adult I am ‘serious’ not because of the actual importance of the daily issues I am dealing with but because all of my awareness is used up or absorbed in the unforgiving demanding task of taking seriously all those details that the categorical mind says are important. My awareness or attention is as a result obediently glued to these details – it is a system of one-to-one correspondence, or mechanical ‘coupling’. Mechanical coupling doesn’t simply mean that I am enslaved by the system, it means that I actually am the system.
As we have said, the categorical mind grants special weighting or significance to those possibilities in the outside world which match its own prejudices, its own ‘inbuilt structural bias’. When this mind makes us think about a particular detail, and gets us to be ‘serious’ about it, then all it is really doing is getting us to be serious about itself. When it attaches weight to some consideration or other, so as to compel our attention to get dutifully ‘glued’ to that particular detail, it is only really attaching weight (or ‘meaning’) to itself. If the categorical mind where not there, there would be no such significance to what we are thinking about, no such weight – there would be no particular meaningfulness or relevance to it and I would as a result pay it no heed. After all, if I am not compelled by the external authority of the conceptual or categorical mind to take notice, why should I? As a result of being constantly railroaded and corralled by the coercive mechanical mind I have become lazy, fearful and institutionalized, only doing what I have been forced to do, only paying heed to what I have been ordered to pay heed to. I follow the routine of this mechanical mind automatically, finding dull comfort in the structure that has been provided for me, and whatever isn’t part of this routine landscape, I have no interest in. The meaning I perceive life to have is therefore simply the meaning that the external authority which is the system of thought has told me it has – the meaning in question is the meaning that is provided by the system. The system is the meaning.
Existentialism is generally understood as saying that the meaning we perceive life to have is the meaning that we put into it. This carries the obvious implication that life has no meaning other than this, even though Soren Kierkegaard – undoubtedly the greatest of the existential philosophers – never said anything of the sort. But rather than saying that the meaning we perceive in life is the meaning we put in to it (which makes it sound somehow as if we are ‘taking the initiative’) it is less confusing to state that it is the conceptual or categorical mind that does this, and that our role in its all is simply to go along passively with whatever we have been presented with by that mind as reality. Needless to say, there is no ‘taking the initiative’ or ‘creativity’ involved in this at all! We are not saying that the only meaning in life is the meaning that is given to it but that the meaning that is ‘given to it’ is fundamentally false and misleading. To say that the meaning the conceptual apparatus puts on life is ‘a lie’ would not be overstating the matter. It is not life that is meaningless but the ordering or organizing influence of the categorical mind. It is the details or considerations that the categorical mind causes us to preoccupy ourselves with are pointless, not life itself. The suggestion that the reality we all collectively agree upon is false or empty is very often written of as being nihilistic, but any scandalized talk of nihilism is really just another smokescreen to protect the interests of this mind, and those interests have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of existence. The truth is that the categorical mind hasn’t the remotest interest in such matters. It couldn’t care less. It doesn’t give a damn about what reality might be ‘in itself’ – it only ever has the one interest and that single interest has to do with validating itself, which is to say, proving that its own viewpoint (whatever the hell that might be) is the one and only right one.
Saying that the categorical mind ‘grants special weighting to those possibilities in the outside world which match its own prejudices’ is another way of saying that it imposes order on the world. This tends to sound pretty good to us. All in all order sounds very worthwhile and impressive but what it really comes down to is a type of freezing, a type of rigidification of possibilities. Before the order was imposed then, as we have said, the details in question could equally well have been ‘any way at all’ – the details were free to be ‘any which way’. Beforehand there was no special way for things to be, no authority was saying that they had to be like this, or like that, or like anything. There was no one dictating, no all-important template that needed to be adhered to at all times, no predetermined pattern. Afterwards however, all this changes big time. From here on there is a right way and a wrong way for things to be, there is a dictator, there is a structure or format, there is a preordained pattern that has to be adhered to. After the categorical mind enters the picture to impose its order there is a special way for everything to be organized and nothing else matters in the slightest apart from this special way.
We are predisposed to see the introduction of order or structure in a gloriously positive light. It’s all good, its all marvellous, and we do not understand there to be any ‘dark side’ at all to the creation of order. But this structure, this special way for things to be, this ‘order’ isn’t something that is miraculously created ex nihilo, as Jehovah is said to have created the world in the first page of the Book of Genesis. On the contrary, this order is the result of a drastic narrowing of possibilities – it is the result of a ‘rigidification’ of what was previously flexible, a ‘freezing’ of what used to be fluid, a ‘limiting’ of what used to be unlimited. What has been taken out of the prior situation in order to create the order is simply freedom – the possibility of unfettered or unregulated movement, the possibility of change. What has been ‘put into’ the situation is rigidity, restriction, stasis. But rigidity, restriction or stasis isn’t really an ‘addition’ to the prior situation at all – not by any stretch of the imagination! On the contrary, stasis is something that happens as a result of subtracting, it is something that happens as a result of me taking something away from the prior situation.
The fact that we are so predisposed to seeing a subtraction of possibilities as a positive act, the production of order as a positive act of creation, is in itself very interesting. What it means is that when we decry the loss that occurs when ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are relativized, and no longer seen as absolute or unquestionable referents, we are decrying or bemoaning the loss of rigidification, we are protesting against the removal of restriction, we are raising our voices in horror at the dissolving of impoverishment or lack and the consequent reinstatement of unlimited plenitude! The formal description has given way to ‘that which is being described’ (and which is at the same time always beyond description) and we are unhappy about this. The lowly token (which we had been making do with as if it were the only possibility going) gives way to the original reality to which the token – in its humble way – was referring, and we somehow see this as an unmitigated disaster. The crude copy is dispensed of in favour of the magnificent true masterpiece and yet we are looking apon this ‘loss’ of the inferior and misleading copy with great fear and trepidation. So what on earth – we might wonder – is going on here?
The reason for this very curious reaction is of course that we take the absence of ‘more than one possibility’ (which is to say, the frozen or abstract representation) for a positive value in itself. We take the ‘reversed viewpoint’ on matters so that the deficit, the lack, appears to be the actual thing, and the actual thing appears to be the deficit or lack. The way this process of reversal happens is very straightforward and has to do with the ‘throwing away’ (or ‘dumping’) of information. If I take as my starting-off point the assumption that such-and-such a narrow way of looking at the world is to the right way then when I tune into the picture that is created by taking this viewpoint this is the only picture I can see. Tuning in to one viewpoint is the same as tuning out of all other viewpoints and so at the same time that I become able to see the picture I am looking at, I become correspondingly unable to see any other pictures. All the other ‘non-agreeing’ or ‘competing’ viewpoints have been lost to me and it is this loss of ‘unwanted information’ that gives me the possibility of seeing things in a defined or ‘black-and-white’ way.
Irreversibly throwing away information is how logic and logical operations work – if I bring a certain set into being by saying “Let Q equal the set of all numbers divisible by eleven” then what I am doing is allowing numbers that agree with the rule, and at the same time instantly dismissing all those other numbers that don’t agree. I am not at all interested in the numbers that don’t match the rule; the way the logical operation works (we could say) is that I look to see whether the number in question matches the rule and if it doesn’t I immediately dump it, I dump the non-agreeing number without looking any further at it. As far as I am concerned (as far as the search program is concerned) the non-agreeing number constitutes error, and ‘error’ means that it is of no use, no interest. I am not interested in anything about the number at all beyond the act of registering it as ‘error’.
What happens as a result of the logical operation is that the main body of information is rejected as error, and only a vanishingly narrow slice is retained or accepted as ‘signal’. The signal is what goes to make the picture I am seeing as a result of the logical operation, and the ‘dumped information’ (the information that has been thrown away) is now invisible to me, inconceivable to me, lost to me. The information that I keep, and use to create my picture of the world, is ‘the one designated possibility of how things can be seen or organized’. It is the right way and all other ways are the wrong way. But because of the necessarily irreversible nature of the process of information dumping all I am aware of is ‘the one possibility’. All I am aware of this ‘the right way’ and so I don’t see it as ‘the right way’ – I don’t see it as ‘the right way’ because that would imply that there are other possible ways, and I am no longer aware of there being any other possible ways.
I see what I have designated as ‘the right way’ as the only way; all other possibilites are excluded, and the ‘throwing away’ of information means that the awareness that anything has been excluded has also been excluded. Thus, the view of the world that swims into crisp black-and-white focus as a result of this information loss is the only one that I can know about. This is the nature of the trade-off I have got involved in – certainty comes with a price-tag, it comes at the price of ‘ignorance the existence of which I am ignorant’. Psychological entropy, ψS is incurred. So with regard to the categorical mind, the picture that is produced as a result of its lawful operation is simply seen as ‘the true picture’; the world that is produced via the activity of the categorical mind is seen as real and – by definition – everything else is ‘unreal’. The unreal is ‘that which doesn’t get any consideration’. Of course it doesn’t get any consideration – who, after all, is going to be concerned with the unreal? If you are concerned with the unreal then, by definition, there must be something wrong with you!
So the world we get to see and believe in as a result of the operation of the everyday or categorical mind is a slimmed down version of the total picture which in no way presents itself as a slimmed down version. It is slimmed down so very much – right down to the bare bones, so to speak – that what we end up with is an abstraction, a ‘positive representation’ of reality. The thing about a ‘positive representation’ is that it is entirely made up of positive space and positive space doesn’t actually contain any space since every last little bit of it is defined or definable. True, honest-to-goodness space is negative – which is to say, it is the undefined space within which defined elements exist. It is uncontained and thus truly expansive, whereas what we have referred to as ‘positive space’ is a reference to (or simulation of) this expansiveness and is not therefore in itself any way expansive. The rule-based simulation of space is not in itself expansive, any more than a description of cheese is cheesy, any more than the word ‘salt’ is not in itself salty. The definite description, which is the rigidification brought about by order, has been narrowed down so much that reality itself has been excluded. Reality itself has been excluded because reality itself is not that narrow description, and anything that is not that narrow description has been dismissed or thrown away as error. In summary, then, we can say that the world that is produced by the enactment of order is an absence or ‘lack’ rather than being ‘the actual thing itself’ and yet – at the same time – it is an absence or lack that we perceive in a positive way. It is a subtraction of possibilites that we perceive as a positive addition.
As a result of this inversion of perception the unreal becomes real and the real becomes unreal. The impoverishment of possibilities looks back reflexively at itself from its own biased perspective (i.e. it doubles back on itself in the manner of a closed or tautological loop of logic) and then – once it has doubled back in this way – it automatically perceives what it is looking at to be the one and only genuine reality, since ‘itself’ is all it can know. When tautological logic comes across something that matches its own assumptions – assumptions which it isn’t in the least bit aware of having made – then this matching is quite naturally taken by it to be synonymous with ‘proof of authenticity’. The closed loop of logic hasn’t really encountered ‘authentic reality’ of course – it has only encountered itself. It has only ‘linked back up’ with itself, in the manner of monatomic nitrogen N ‘linking up with itself’ to form diatomic nitrogen N2, and in doing this it perceives itself to be an external objective reality. Logic has now colluded with itself in creating a solipsistic world, and having done so it has no chance whatsoever of ever discovering the fact.
This joining up of logic with itself actually takes place instantaneously, of course, since there is no way for the continuum of logic to exist without existing in the form of a closed loop. For logic to exist any other way would mean that it would have to recognize something that is not it, that does not match its specific assumptions, and this is the one thing that logic is constitutionally unable to do. Logic is therefore closed without having any referents to the fact, without having any capacity to conceive or understand that this is the case. The closed loop of logic which is the ‘ordering mind’ encounters elements which is registers as ‘real’ but the very fact that it is deigning to acknowledge these elements means that they are linear projections of itself rather than being any sort of genuine external reality. It mistakes its own projections for an independently existing reality, in other words. The reason for this is as we have said because it unavoidably perceives ‘agreement with its own hidden biases’ as constituting validation via some unimpeachable self-existent independent standard. Logic is its own standard, which is not a valid thing to do! Logic uses itself as a standard without realizing that it is using itself as a standard and it is this profound lack of perspective that allows or facilitates the production of the illusory worlds that it counts as real. What logic is ‘a measure of’ is of course not any sort of reality at all, but rather, its own particular brand of unreality. In short – the ordering mind is constitutionally unable to deal in anything but abstractions, but it nevertheless recognizes itself as actual genuine honest-to-goodness substance and automatically dismisses everything else it comes across.
So the categorical mind doesn’t really ‘come across’ anything really because as soon as it does encounter that it can’t recognize it immediately labels that something as error and thus turns that ‘something’ into a ‘non-something’, the event into ‘something that never happened’. It instantly throws that information away. The system doesn’t even bother to register that it is ignoring anything because to register its own ignoring would be to acknowledge that there was something there to ignore. The hallmark of the categorical or ordering mind – its supremely identifying characteristic – is therefore that it ignores its own ignoring, that it is sublimely unaware of its own ignoring. As far as this mind is concerned, it is perfectly fair and scrupulous in its deliberations and you couldn’t ever convince it otherwise – to demonstrate to it its own limitations is the supremely impossible thing.
This is the very same thing as being self-centred – if I am self-centred then there is no way that you can point this out to me because as far as I am concerned my way of looking at things is the only possible way. If I am ‘self-centred’ then I will automatically assume my way of looking at things to be the right way, and I don’t even see that I am making this assumption. I don’t even see that there is an assumption there in the first places. I am fundamentally incapable of understanding that this is the case and no matter how many times you try to explain it to me I just won’t get it. I can’t get it. Self-centredness is an impregnable position. Of course the biased mind will always agree with itself – it has no way of seeing the bias as a bias, it thinks it is ‘agreeing with reality’. But whether I can see it or not the automatic validation of my arbitrarily chosen set of biases is an absolute irrevocable short-circuit in reality. Reality itself doesn’t come into the picture, it never even gets a look in, it is utterly irrelevant to the business of self-agreement. The act of self-agreement instantaneously excludes reality – it is therefore fixed, final, irreversible and fundamentally sterile.
Order is a jealous god – it values only that which fits its own very precise specifications, which is another way of saying that it values only itself. It prizes what it sees as right and the only process it is interested in is the process whereby all independent and therefore unruly variables are corrected and brought into the fold. It values these elements – the elements that go to make up the world – only in so much as they reflect its own idea for them. It pays lip-service to the idea of valuing the world ‘as it is in itself’ but behind this charade it values only its own reflection, its own disguised projection. The aim of the system is to bring order, to exclude the disorderly, but the consequence of the enactment of this aim is that it creates ‘meaninglessness that it cannot see as such’; the result of its operation is that it produces ‘nonentity that it invertedly perceives as actual genuine substance’.
The ordering principle is therefore ‘meanness that sees itself as a virtue’. Although this principle isn’t able to relate to ‘the wider reality’ or acknowledge that wider reality in any way, it does nevertheless fear this reality. The ordering mind fears what it calls chaos – which is to say, it fears its own dissolution. It fears the loss of its own brand of order, it fears the loss of itself. This fear – as J.G. Bennett says, is really nothing other than the inverted or disguised perception that the categorical mind has of its own unreality. This is what fear is – the backwards or upside-down perception of the unreality of one’s unreflectively cherished position.
Meanness hates and fears generosity. The lie fears the truth. The single unchallenged possibility fears the open contest, the unregulated arena, the level playing field. It can only survive in the specially protected environment that it creates for itself, the closed, artificial and fundamentally sterile environment which it laughably calls reality. This artificial mind-created world isn’t reality, but the very furthest thing from it. It is a dead, bleak, cold and inflexible husk – the eloquent symptom of our utter absolute lack of curiosity about reality…