When we find that we can no longer conceal things, lie about things, sneakily make things ‘be what we want them to be’ then this is surprisingly disabling! What we discover in this moment is that we can’t function at all (in the way that we are used to functioning) unless we distort reality in order to make it reflect how we want it to be. We can’t survive in the real world but only in our fantasies, in other words…
We can only exist within the artificial context (the artificial context which is our unacknowledged distortion of the real world) – we couldn’t continue for a second (in the way that we are habituated to continuing) if there wasn’t any distorting going on. There would be no continuity and ‘no continuity means no identity’ since there can’t be any such thing as ‘an inconsistent identity’ or an ‘inconsistent self’; the only way we can get the sense of being this self is because the self is a linearity, because it ‘continues unchangingly through time’. The mind-created sense of self is a constant within the universe within which – ultimately – there are only open-ended variables.
The conditioned identity is a bit like a great white shark or a bluefin tuna in that it is obliged to never stop swimming (since it relies on a constant stream of oxygenated sea water passing over its gills) – the conditioned identity is in the same situation in that it cannot ever stop editing reality, concealing things, lying about its motivations, and so on. Just a shark or a tuna will perish if it has to stay still, so too will the idea we have about ourselves perish if it ever stops manipulating or rewriting reality on its own terms. Instead of talking about the conditioned self or ego we could talk about the ‘conditional self’ since that it can only continue to exist when certain key conditions are in place, conditions that the self itself has the onerous responsibility of taking care of. This is a ‘responsibility’ that – ultimately – we can never fulfil – it’s a glitched responsibility.
It’s no surprise that such a thing as ‘clinical anxiety’ exists – it is not possible to have the awareness that our continued existence (which, needless to say, we are very attached to) depends entirely upon our own successful controlling – this is an awful lot of pressure! The only way this insight wouldn’t lead to acute anxiety would be if  we have total confidence in our own controlling or  we are ready to let go of the whole contrived setup and see what happens next. So in order to feel non-anxious either we totally believe in our power to control (which is a lie) or we are willing to give up the controlling entirely, unreservedly, which is the radical option that doesn’t make any sense to the thinking mind. To be actually aware that we are manipulating our perceptions so that the ego-self appears to be a bone fide entity (when we are still attached to this illusion) is the least ‘comfortable’ thing that could ever happen to us. Far from being ‘comfortable’, this semi-repressed awareness is actually the root of all paranoia.
The type of manipulation that we’re talking about here isn’t conscious however – we can’t be conscious of what we’re doing when we lie to ourselves, for obvious reasons! There would be absolutely no point in the exercise in this case. We can’t afford to be aware of what’s going on when we distort reality so as to facilitate the illusions that we have the type of existence that is independent of our manipulation; to see what is happening here would be a total disaster and so we have to sidetrack ourselves by buying into a false reality every minute of the day without admitting to ourselves that this is what we’re doing. As we’ve just said, the basic choice that we’re faced with is  to be confident in our illusory ability to ‘do’ or  give up the whole business entirely. There’s no middle ground here – either we fool ourselves into believing that we can successfully control the world (which we absolutely can’t) or we face the truth and give up this belief (thereby ending our bondage to this particular suffering-producing illusion).
Either we ‘buy into the illusion and turn away from the truth’ or ‘we take a genuine interest in what’s really going on and turn away from the web of self-deception that we have created for ourselves’. We can refer to this as ‘a choice’ but actually it isn’t since there’s no way that we can ‘choose the truth’ – we can’t choose the truth simply because we wouldn’t recognise it if we saw it. We don’t know what it is and we don’t know what it would look like. The truth always comes as a surprise so how the hell can we image that we’re going to be in a position to ‘choose’ it? This is nothing more than hubris on our part. When truth does come to pay us a visit it comes as a destructive force, not a ‘supportive’ one. We’re very fond of telling ourselves that the universe (or whatever way we want to put it) supports us (this being a central tenet of the New Age philosophy) but there’s simply no way that the universe is going to support us when our whole existence is based on a lie. The universe is not going to play patty cake with our bullshit; on the contrary, it’s going to insult and offend us to the very maximum! That’s how we can know the truth – because of the way it never supports our prejudices. ‘He who is near to me is near the fire…’ says Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas. When we are in the ‘inverted’ state of consciousness (where what we perceive depends entirely on our unconscious prejudices) then all our so-called ‘choices’ are simply extensions of the Mind-Created Simulation which we think is reality, so there’s no question of any meaningful choices ever being made here. When we become conscious then we see this.
Awareness banjaxes the system when it comes on the scene – it certainly doesn’t help our confidence any because we see that there’s no basis for it. In order for us to be confident we have to believe in two unreal things – we have to believe that we understand the world that we live in so that our actions make sense and can be genuinely effective and we also have to believe that we have an existence that is independent of our controlling, our manipulation. This is the idea we all subscribe to of course, but if we’re going to but if we were to make the experiment of examining the matter first hand, without paying any heed to what everyone else thinks, without succumbing helplessly to social indoctrination, then we will see very clearly that it’s only because of our constant controlling that we get to perceive the ‘actor’ (or the ‘doer’) as being ‘a real thing’. When there is purposeful doing (or controlling) this automatically produces the convincing appearance of there being an actual doer there, an actual controller. That’s the way things look to us but – to borrow from Alan Watts – this is like the ‘semantic confusion’ that automatically arises when we say ‘It is raining’ – we could (although generally we don’t!) imagine that there is an ‘it’ there that is doing the raining, when really this is just the way the sentence works in colloquial English. If we wanted to check this out for ourselves ‘all’ we would need to do is stop controlling our perceptions and see what happens next. To do is let go of all our prejudices with regard to what we would like to find out to be the case – which is the Buddhist virtue of equanimity – and see what shows itself then, in the absence of our biases, in the absence of our ‘bias-confirming activities’. What could be simpler than this, we might (naively) ask?
This is simple for sure but it’s also the single most difficult thing we could ever be called upon to do – looking at ourselves with all our sneakiness, all our trickiness, all our double dealings and double standards, all our self-deceptions, is very tough, after all. This sounds very similar to Jung’s idea of the personal Shadow, of course. How much easier it is to act out our prejudices, and keep on justifying ourselves, rather than turning around and actually looking at what we’re doing. ‘He who looks within awakes’ says Jung but that’s the last thing we want to do! To act out our biases first is incredibly easy (easy like falling off a log is easy) whilst the second possibility is both extraordinary difficult and not at all profitable to us. This is the essence of our dilemma – if everything we do is driven by the desire for profit then how are we ever going to do something that is both ‘unrelentingly arduous’ and ‘not in the least bit profitable for us’?
How likely is it that anyone is ever going to try this experiment? The way we’re generally wired absolutely prevents such a thing. ‘Being driven by profit’ doesn’t just mean that we’re ‘selfish’ – this goes way beyond our normal conceptions of greediness or selfishness. Our understanding of ‘reality’ is also driven by our unquestionable need to turn a profit, only in this case the ‘profit’ – as we keep saying – is that we get to believe in the independent existence of ‘the doer.’ This is the ultimate profit as far as we’re concerned; it is in fact the only type of profit we’re interested in. Hence, Dr Gregory Tucker [batgap.com/dr-gregory-tucker] says,
…psychotherapy’ is not a people-based event, but only a dreamer-based event, in which the dream features all the problems the dreamer in the dream deals with in the process of defending the fiction it is ‘the person’ it portrays in the dream.
For the Mind-Created Sense of Identity to be to be genuinely interested in its own situation it would have to be interested in discovering ‘the truth of its own non-existence’, which is something that is clearly against its basic programming. The Mind-Created Identity (or ‘pseudo-entity’) is motivated entirely by profit (as we have said) and there is no profit in learning that it doesn’t actually exist. ‘Profit’ means discovering that ‘we are real’ and that ‘everything is all about us’ (which is what most of us believe, of course). According to orthodox Christianity, God created the entire universe for our benefit, after all. This is a bizarre concept however – why would God create the universe just for the sake of the Mind-Created Hallucination of Self? The truth that we don’t want to see – but which we can see for ourselves if we are sincere about it – is ‘the Truth of Impersonality’. The key is to not take it personally, or – as David Bowie puts it – ‘It’s got nothing to do with you, if you can gasp it…’
Fake interest in ‘discovering that we don’t actually exist’ (or that we don’t really matter as much as we think we do) is very common in spiritual circles but this is never anything more than a sophisticated game. The Mind-Created Identity can create the impression that it’s seeking the truth (since there is profit in creating such an impression, which straightaway interests it) but there’s no way it’s ever going to actually mean it.
Image – Playground AI