Symmetry – in a psychological sense – means that ‘Everything is allowed to be true, but that nothing actually is’. Everything is permitted and nothing is true. Symmetry – in both the psychological and the cosmological sense of the term – is inconceivable, therefore. What makes real be ‘real’ for us is that ‘one statement gets to be true whilst all other competing statements have to be untrue’. When all statements are true then there are no true statements about the world, there are no true descriptions or theories of the world. We can say goodbye – once and for all – to the hope that there might be!
When one description of the thing gets to be true at the expense of all the other possible descriptions then this is what is meant by asymmetry, and an asymmetrical situation is easy to comprehend – this is after all the way we make sense of the world every single day of our lives. We can navigate an asymmetrical world without any problem – we can take guidance from the defined contours, we can see where one thing ends and another begins, we can ‘follow the rules’ and ‘joint the dots’… A positive or defined reality is ‘spelled out’ for us and the great ease with which we can comprehend what is being presented to us so unambiguously is equalled only by our incapacity to somehow unsee this particular view of things, this particular defined story or version of ‘how things are! We’re now stuck with it, whether we like it or not…
This is like an optical puzzle therefore – once the mind has been trained to see one particular image (out of many) it can’t just ‘pull out again’ to see any other competing images. We’re trapped in what we have learned to see. The reason for this is because ‘training’ involves throwing away information – we automatically throw away all information relating to other ways of seeing the puzzle, and once we have ‘thrown it away’ then – naturally enough – we haven’t any way of accessing it again. This is the classic example of thermodynamic irreversibility – a one-way journey into a determinate super-predictable black and white dead formulation of reality. What we’re looking at here is a one-way ticket into the World of Literal Descriptions. ‘We can check into the Hotel California anytime we please, but we can never…’ (everyone knows the rest). We resolve the visual puzzle by ‘oversimplifying it’ so that it isn’t a puzzle anymore but this ‘cheat’ backfires nastily on us later on.
When we ‘collapse’ the puzzle in this way we can then say that it has been ‘solved,’ but there is more (or rather less) to this apparent solution than meets the eye – it’s not really a solution at all but a trick that we have fallen for. We solve the problem by cheating, by ‘oversimplifying the picture’, but once we have oversimplified the picture then we then can’t reverse our steps; we have successfully ‘dumbed ourselves down’ and so now we’re too dumb to know that we actually are dumb! We’re think we’re on the ball; we’re convinced that the reality we see is the way things actually are. Our understanding of reality is the final word as far as we’re concerned. It isn’t ‘the final word’ however – it’s just that we are now unable to look any further than our tired old descriptions. We’ve hemmed ourselves in and we’re saying that this ‘hemmed in situation’ is simply the way things are (when it’s simply ‘the way we’ve chosen to look at things’).
The puzzle – until we ‘solve’ it – irritates us. Puzzles always irritate us – we itch to solve them! We want to escape this irritation by doing something to it, by relating to it in some kind of logical way or other so as to validate our viewpoint. This is exactly what we can’t do however – there is no way for us to make sense of the puzzle, no way for us to interact with it, no way for us to set up some form of communication, and it is this quality of being incomprehensible, of not in any way ‘conforming’ to our biased viewpoint (or to our expectations), that we find so irritating. This throws us back on ourselves big time and what we’re ‘thrown back onto’ is revealed as being very shaky, very insubstantial, very lacking in any actual reality. Our viewpoint is terminally destabilised as a result of our inability to use it as a platform for relating. Chogyam Trungpa, in his commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, speaking of the visions of the Peaceful Divinities, refers here to this exact point –
The vision of the tathagatas do not ask for union at all, they are terribly hostile; they are just there, irritatingly because they will not react to any attempts to communicate.
We seek to validate our own particular biased way of looking at the world by ‘establishing communication with reality’, by getting ‘an angle on it’, but reality just isn’t playing ball. The puzzle remains inscrutable, mocking all our attempts to comprehend it. We’re trying to build a bridge between ‘where we are’ and ‘what we’re trying to relate to’ but we can’t find a legitimate starting-off point. We can’t find a legitimate starting-off point because there is no legitimate starting off point. We’re trying our very best to validate our position, but this just isn’t ever going to happen. The only way we can ever ‘resolve’ the Enigma therefore is by ignoring the fact that we can’t comprehend it and then by ‘ignoring our own ignoring’, which puts us in the position therefore of being ‘ignorant of our own ignoring’, ‘profoundly unconscious of our own profound unconsciousness’…
We seek to ‘collapse the Enigma’ but when we do so we end up in a dead end, we end up in a world that is made up of our own biases reflected back at us, only this isn’t ‘a world’ at all but a mental trap. It’s the Hotel California. This mental trap has one big advantage as far as we’re concerned however and that is that it supplies us with certainty, with the appearance of solidity, but in this certainty or solidity there is no reality, no actual truth. It’s just the thinking mind playing games with itself by creating boundaries wherever it pleases. We tried to cheat our way out of our dilemma by feigning dumbness but then this pretence became an actual reality. In order to win the ‘Dummy Prize’ (and actually get satisfaction from this) we need to become proper dummies; once this has been achieved then we can’t see the dummy prize to be ‘just a dummy prize’, but it is all the same. We just can’t see it.
In the Symmetrical State ‘Everything is true but nothing is true’, which falsifies the very notion of truth. Anything you want to be real is real, and this falsifies the very nature of reality. The question as to whether something is real or not, true or not, is revealed as meaning ‘nothing at all’ and this does away with our fundamental orientation, our fundamental yardstick for navigating the world. The validity of the question as to ‘whether something real or unreal’ seems self-evident to us, but actually we don’t have the faintest idea of what we mean by that word ‘reality’. We’re sure (in our everyday state of mind) that we do know what it means but if we were ever to look into it we’d see that we absolutely don’t. That bland assumption would explode in our faces like a firecracker – it’s just a concept, a concept that we have assumed to mean something when it doesn’t. And when do we realise that this dichotomy of ‘real versus unreal’ (or ‘true versus untrue’) is without meaning what we’re learning by this is that our assumed viewpoint isn’t valid. We don’t ‘solve the enigma’ at all therefore, but rather the enigma solves us.
Image – pxfuel.com