The ego exists within a false world which it itself creates via an act of ongoing selective attention; we pay attention only to those aspects of the world that match our unacknowledged prejudices, in other words. Anything that doesn’t fit in with the picture of the world that we have in our head we steadfastly ignore and this is this ignoring (this ‘ignorance’) that turns our prejudicial view into an actual pragmatic reality for us. Via the act of selective attention – which creates entropy on an industrial scale – we get to see exactly what we want to see, therefore, and this turns out to be the worst thing ever..
This idea is perfectly straightforward and easy to understand but there is an additional twist to the tale, so to speak – the twist being that our prejudice is essentially to see this ego as being an actual real entity when it is only an arbitrary construct of thought. To see the construct as not being a construct is – we could say – our secret agenda in all things. So, the twist is that the false world that the ego identity exists within is actually nothing other than itself! It is not that I, as I generally experience myself to be (i.e., what we call ‘my image of myself’) exists, without knowing it, in a fabricated world, but that the fabricated image of myself (which I don’t know to be a fabricated image) exists within the fabricated world which is a projection of the false self or identity that I mistakenly believe to be ‘who I really am’. To say that we are very far indeed from being able to see this twist is a very big understatement indeed, therefore! This is a nuance that we simply don’t get…
If you happened to turn up in a community mental health clinic and told this to a psychiatrist they would have no problem whatsoever in diagnosing you as suffering from full blown paranoid psychosis and as being – therefore – in urgent need of antipsychotic medication. This is in fact a textbook case of what is informally known as the Truman Show Syndrome – the key element in this syndrome being that the sufferer perceives themselves to be trapped in a simulated reality where nothing is what it is said to be, and where everyone around them knows very well what is going on but is keeping this secret for reasons that don’t bode well. Professional mental health care workers will of course assure you that this is not happening, that this is all in your mind and that you are unwell, and so on, but from your point of view this is of course exactly what they would say! This only goes to prove the point – telling someone suffering from paranoid psychosis that what they perceive to be happening isn’t really happening at all doesn’t actually work, therefore. It’s not a helpful thing to do.
What we’re talking about here goes beyond the classic Truman Show presentation however – it goes one level deeper because we can’t help realising that our own existence is part and parcel of the set-up. Not only are we living in a world that has been faked up, a world that is nothing more than an elaborate hoax or charade, but we too are part of that charade, that hoax, that setup. I myself am an essential part of the artificial setup just as the world around me is. The experiment that is being conducted here is total therefore – my perception that ‘I am this person’ is part of the experiment, just as my perception that ‘this is the actual real world’ is. Everything is a lie! In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions the protagonist Dwayne Hoover experiences a moment of profound revelation after reading a science fiction story by another character in the novel, Kilgore Trout –
“Dear Sir, poor sir, brave sir.” he read, “You are an experiment by the Creator of the Universe. You are the only creature in the entire Universe who has free will. You are the only one who has to figure out what to do next – and why. Everybody else is a robot, a machine. Some persons seem to like you, and others seem to hate you, and you must wonder why. They are simply liking machines and hating machines. You are pooped and demoralized, ” read Dwayne. “Why wouldn’t you be? Of course it is exhausting, having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn’t meant to be reasonable.”
Dwayne takes this passage to be referring specifically to him, which upsets the balance of his mind completely, but even then notwithstanding the utter shock and the need for radical cognitive reorganisation that this insight necessarily brings, it is still just ‘a halfway house’, it still isn’t the full picture. The full picture is to realise that our perception of ourselves is also part of the experiment that is being carried out by God (or by whoever), an experiment that we do not actually have any existence outside of. ‘Who I take myself to be’ and ‘the world around me which I take for granted every day of my life’ are the two sides of the very same experiment, and what lies beyond this experiment is something that we can have no insight into.
This is a ‘double psychosis’ therefore – it’s ‘a psychosis nested within a psychosis’ – but at the same time we can make the point (which is a point that in practise we never do make) that there is a key element of truth within this bizarrely convoluted perception of reality which we can’t actually deny. No one can deny that the world that we take for granted every day isn’t ‘the world as it is in itself’ but merely ‘thought’s representation of the world’ and if we accept this (as we have to that we are not to be a complete fool) then we also have to take on the other half of it, which is that the sense of identity that we take for granted every day of our lives is also a mental construct, just as our idea of the world is. The way thought works is by simulating the world in its own (binary) terms and the only way this mind-created simulation is going to seem in any way real to us, in any way plausible to us is if we too are part of that simulation. That’s the only way it can work.
The point about this is that when we have been subsumed within thought’s simulation of the world we perceive there to be lots and lots of different things in it, lots and lots of different possibilities, whilst really there is only this simulation, and the things that it pretends to be. I take it to be the case that ‘there is me’ and that ‘there is the world that I live in’ but this is merely an artifact of thought, a false perspective that is provided by the thinking mind – there’s no such thing as ‘diversity within the simulation’, there’s only ‘the simulation’ (which is not diverse but 100% homogenous). It’s not that ‘I exist within a simulated world’ but that ‘the simulation of who I am exists within a simulation of what the world is’ and – furthermore – there aren’t ‘two simulations’ here (one nested within the other) but only the one seamless simulation that we can’t see to be a simulation. There are only two possibilities open to us here therefore – either we keep on shying away from ever being aware of our actual situation, and lose ourselves forever in fantasy, or we take a healthy interest in what’s really going on, and move beyond the fantasy…
Image – playgroundai.com