The Great Grandfather Of All Mistakes
Suppose that there was just space and nothing else: in this scenario there is nothing but space and space is perfectly open, perfectly unobstructed, perfectly luminous. This is ‘the open situation’ – the situation of not being limited in any way. There’s nothing we can actually say about this situation because all descriptions are limitations! So what happens then – or what can happen then – is that this symmetrical or open situation gets collapsed – we identify a goal and start trying to attain it. This of course is generally said to be a good thing. Having a goal is a good thing, we say. Having the motivation to pursue our goals is seen as being ‘a sign of good mental health’ and we are all in favour of it.
When we identity a goal and start controlling or manipulating so as to achieve it this equals ‘closing down space’ therefore and when we put it like this it doesn’t sound quite as heroic. A goal is a compulsion – topologically speaking, it exists at the bottom of a hollow or valley. It exists at the bottom of a downward-sloping entropy gradient. A goal is an asymmetrical situation in other words, it is asymmetrical because it is not at all the same as everything else – it is ‘specially indicated’. It is ‘a preferred state’.
When we say that a goal is ‘a compulsion’ or that it is ‘an asymmetrical situation’ or that it is ‘a specially indicated or preferred outcome’ what we are really saying is that a goal is a lack of freedom – these are all ways of talking about a lack of freedom. To say that a goal represents ‘a lack of freedom’ is a perfectly good way of looking at things but it is – at the same time – a very unfamiliar way. Not only is it an unfamiliar way, it is also a completely back–to-front way because we normally see our ability to move towards a goal as being a measure of our freedom in the situation. If we are able to gravitate successfully towards our goal then we say that this is a prime manifestation of our freedom and when we can’t get any closer to realising our goal then we see our freedom as being curtailed and this of course is said to be very bad thing.
What we have here therefore are two antithetical ways of looking at goals and goal-orientated behaviour: there is the conventional way, which says that being able to move closer towards the fulfilment of our goal is an expression of our freedom, and there is the unconventional way which says that the movement towards the goal is an essentially unfree one since we have no freedom to not pursue it. We lost our ‘equanimity’ in other words and equanimity is the same thing as freedom. When we have equanimity then we are of course free either to attain the stated goal or not attain it; both possibilities of the same as far as we’re concerned and if both possibilities are the same (i.e. if winning is the same as losing) then obviously the goal isn’t really a goal at all. It isn’t a goal in this case because it doesn’t represent a ‘specially indicated outcome’; if the goal is the same as any other outcome then it can’t be a goal!
The unconventional way looking at goals (or looking at games, which is the same thing because games are all about goals) is infinitely more interesting, from a psychological perspective, than the conventional one. It opens up a door for to see things in a radically new way. If we take the view that goals represent a ‘loss of freedom’ (in that we have no choice other than to keep on trying to attain it) then we can make the jump from saying this to saying that the absence of freedom that the game or goal represents is what is responsible for the creation of the empirical self. Without this compulsion, without this need to keep on trying to obtain the goal in question (whatever that goal might be) then there simply wouldn’t be a self.
The reason we can say this is because of what happens when we mistake a compulsion (or the absence of freedom) for our own volition, for our own free will (which is clearly what happens all the time since if it didn’t happen all the time then there would be a ‘conventional viewpoint’ which says that the unimpeded movement towards the fulfilment of the goal is an expression of our freedom). So what is happening here is that an inversion is taking place, an inversion in which an externally originated compulsion is perversely being seen as freedom (when the truth is that this is the very antithesis of freedom). The inversion is where ‘intrinsic motivation has been replaced by extrinsic motivation’, we might also say. But if we can make such a very mistake basic mistake as this then – we might ask ourselves – how could anything we see or believe in being any way true? How can anything we think be trusted? Our whole lives are in this case predicated upon illusion…
The strange ‘inversion’ whereby we start perceiving an external compulsion as being our own true will (when really it has nothing to do with us at all) is the very same thing as ‘the creation of the empirical self’. The empirical self isn’t a real thing (or natural entity in its own right) – it is an illusion that is created at the very same time that we mistake an externally-originated compulsion for our own true volition. And it is not just that this peculiar illusion (or delusion, rather) comes about ‘at the same time’ as we mistakenly perceive ‘zero freedom’ to be the genuine honest-to-goodness article – these two things aren’t actually ‘two different things’ at all. The delusion that ‘I am this self’ and the delusion that ‘this external compulsion is my authentic volition’ are the very same delusion – the goal equals ‘the absence of freedom’ and ‘the absence of freedom’ equals ‘the self which chases this goal’.
The wide-open situation where there are no goals is nothing other than freedom, therefore. This is what freedom is – it is the complete absence of all goals. [Or – as we all as we could also say – freedom is the complete absence of the purposeful self.] When there are no goals then this is perfect well-being, perfect freedom, perfect harmony, perfect ‘at-one-ment’. We say – in our collective wisdom – that to be continually motivated to pursue our goals is a sign of good mental health but what we should really say is that being continually motivated to be pursuing our goals is a sign of slavery, and it doesn’t sound quite so healthy when we put it like this. Being a helpless and deluded slave to some external compulsion and thinking at the same time that we actually are that external compulsion is hardly an inspirational state of affairs!
Of all the mistakes we could ever possibly make this has got to be the most fundamental; this has got to be the Great Grandfather of them all. Nothing beats this when it come to the topic of ‘making mistakes’ – this is the mistake to end all mistakes. We simply couldn’t look at the world in a more back-to-front way than this – that simply wouldn’t be possible! When we say something to the effect that ‘goals are healthy’ then where we coming from with this statement – although we don’t see it like this – is the understanding that ‘goals are healthy for the goal-orientated self’. Goals are healthy for the goal-orientated self because without goals there would be no self, so what are we are claiming to be true definitely is true in this sense. The principle is true in this very narrow sense.
Once we take into consideration the fact that we aren’t this self however (and that both the purposeful self and the purposes that it can’t help chasing after are delusions, two delusions that are actually the same delusion) then this doesn’t sound like such a healthy situation at all. Far from sounding healthy it sounds like most unhealthy situation that there ever could be! That little word ‘unhealthy’ totally fails to do justice to what this inversion actually entails. The word or term which could do this situation justice doesn’t exist – this is ‘the Life-Denying Vibration’ that we are talking about here, this is ‘the Tomb Which We Cannot See To Be A Tomb’, this is the Living Death, this is the Nullity which asserts itself in place of (and in denial of) Reality Itself.