Our dilemma, which is characteristically one that we give no attention to at all, has been growing steadily – if not exponentially – over the centuries. The dilemma in question has to do in the need for society to regulate itself. For a social group that is comprised of fifty, sixty or seventy people, only a light degree of regulation is necessary; for a social grouping that consists of thousands or tens of thousands a lot more regulation is required, whilst for ‘mega groups’ containing millions or even billions of members regulation becomes all defining. The regulations then become the whole world to us, odd as this may sound. Regulating society is after all the very same thing as regulating what we perceive (or agree to perceive) as reality, even though we rarely (if ever) stop to consider this.
When society regulates itself then it does so on the basis of rules. We need hardly say this – how else could anything ever be regulated if not by rules? A rule is a thing that ‘applies across the board’, it’s an ordering principle which tells all the various elements in the mix how they have to be, or what they’re supposed to be doing, and this means that there is a tremendous loss of diversity going on. Rules always produce a ‘loss of diversity’. The rule is the thing, after all, not the things that are being ruled over. It doesn’t actually matter what those things are – it doesn’t matter in the least what they are just as long as they fall obediently into line and be what the system wants them to be! ‘It doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going’, to paraphrase complexity pioneer Ilya Prigogine. This is linear thermodynamics in a nutshell.
This process can be very neatly pictured as a cone – at the pointy end of the cone there is only the one possibility, only the one outcome – the outcome that has been specified whilst at the broad base of the cone, on the other hand, there are an unspecified number of possibilities. The possibilities here aren’t specified because we don’t care about them, as we have just said – we’re interested in our plans for things not the things themselves. The ordering principle hasn’t yet come into play, and as a result of it not yet coming into play no possibilities are excluded and this makes the base of the cone indefinitely wide. Actually, because the ordering principle doesn’t come into play, no boundaries are coming into play and because no boundaries are coming into play nothing at all is excluded and so the base of our cone isn’t just ‘broad’ in the usual sense of the word, it is synonymous with Everything, it equals the Universal Set. It actually equals reality.
What we are looking at here is the vision of non-linear thermodynamics as applied to psychology, which is an extraordinary inversion of our ordinary way of looking at things. We might say that our ‘ordinary way of looking at things’ is the output of another set of rules (not the set of rules that govern society) but the set of rules that governs thought are the same set of rules that are governing the social system, as David Bohm says. It’s all the one – it’s all the System of Thought. The SOT gives us our way of understanding the world and our way of understanding the world is the world as far as most of us are concerned and this is why each and every social group is always synonymous with the manufacture of a corresponding ‘false’ or ‘phoney’ reality. Inasmuch as we take thought to be ‘the final word’ thought itself is our world and nothing else. Thought is all we care about – when we take thought to be the final word then there can be nothing else in our world apart from thought. Taking thoughts literally separates us from the undecided or unspecific reality which is the indefinitely broad base of the cone and translates us lock, stock and barrel into a world that is made up of definite statements, definite statements which are the regimented output of the machine of thought. This mind-generated world is the only one we are allowed to enjoy – everything else is closed to us, everything else is forbidden. This is both ‘the tyranny of the group’ and ‘the tyranny of the thinking mind’.
About this prescribed world that has been created by the action of thought we can say several things. One thing we could say is that a huge amount of entropy has been generated – there is no knowing without entropy, as Stuart Kaufman points out. ‘Entropy is the price of structure’, says Ilya Prigogine. The hidden debt of entropy that goes into creating the matter-of-fact world which is the only world we ever have any business with is colossal – it is ‘the Shadow of the Real’ and a very dark shadow it is too. The unspecified reality which makes up the undefined (and therefore entirely unprovable) base of the cone – the base which is everything, the base which is everywhere and nowhere – is ‘the extraordinarily unprecedented event’, so to speak. There’s no making sense of it at all, there is absolutely no making sense of it. ‘Making sense of things’ is only ever achieved as a result of homogenization (which is to say, a reduction in diversity) after all! We can ask ourselves how this unprecedented event came about or rack our brains as to why it should have come about, but no answer will ever come to us! There exists no ‘context’ within which to make sense of it. There is no logic with regard to the state of Non-Dual Subjectivity, no cause for it, no justification for it. It exists outside the world of causes and causes are all that we understand. Rules are all that we understand. The pointy end of the cone is entirely precedented however, it is precisely as it was meant to be, precisely as it was ordered to be. It obeys the laws of logic, the law of precedence in all respects – there’s nothing ‘strange’ about it at all, in other words. To live in the world that has been created for us by thought is to live in the world that is completely regular, completely standardized, nested somehow in a universe that is endlessly strange.
The cone that we’re talking about here is a ‘pictorial representation of the entropic process’ therefore. It’s a representation of the process whereby reality is turned on his head. Instead of analogue (or unstated) reality we’ve got the digital variety, which is made up of unreal points or ‘pixels’ and these unreal points or pixels go to make up the positive or emphasised world that we live in. It’s ‘thought’s version of reality’, which just happens to be at odds with the actual thing itself. The ‘emphasised world’ is all very well – it does function – however crudely – as a world but there is a malign aspect to it that we’re not able to see when were adapted to it. When meaning is emphatically stated we are effectively prevented from seeing any other (disagreeing) meaning and this creates the irresistible impression that the meaning which we are being presented with is definitely true, true in every respect, sure and certain, etc. The ‘malign aspect of thought’ (since that is what we’re talking about here) has to do with the sterility of emphasised meaning therefore – once the particular meaning in question has been emphasised then, by virtue of the very mechanism that is being employed to create the emphasis, this so-called ‘meaning’ can’t ever go anywhere. It can’t go anywhere because it isn’t connected to anything, it isn’t connected to anything because this is the only way that it can get to stand out, by ‘stifling the opposition’, by ‘denying any other reality’…
This is essentially a cheat – we have found an easy way to get ahead of the competition, not realizing that what facilitates our rapid success is also the very same thing that is going to hold us back! The dark (or ‘malign’) aspect of thought that we’re talking about here has nothing to do with the way in which our grasping for security, our grasping for a positive reality, backfires on us in a way that we do not anticipate and cannot after the event appreciate. We cannot appreciate how it is that our perceived reality – which we are operating when we’re operating on the basis of thoughts – is trapping us like flies on flypaper by seeming so real (which is to say, ‘by coming across so authoritatively’) even though this trick is nothing if not obvious when we see it. The fact that the positive reality is so authoritative (in the sense that it leaves no space for doubt) convinces us that it must be true! This is how – after all – we respond to confidence in those around us; if someone is confident we automatically assume that they know what they’re talking about. We don’t as a result see that the positive reality has to be authoritative (or ‘confident’) in the way that it is if it is to exist at all. If it doesn’t bully us we won’t believe it.
Instead of saying that the positive world is authoritative because it doesn’t ‘allow space for doubt’ we could say that this positive reality controls us, which is much more to the point. If we have no freedom in how we see the world (which of course we don’t, when is it the positive reality we’re talking about, that being the whole point of +R) then we are under the control of whatever agency it is that is withholding this freedom from us – the agency in question simply being the System of Thought which operates by ‘telling us what things are’. When thought tells us what something is we look upon this predetermined process as ‘us evaluating the situation’, which is to say, we feel as if it is us ourselves who are responsible for arriving at a conclusion, instead of having that conclusion foisted upon us by the apparatus of thought (which is what really happened). That doesn’t make any sense to us because we very much feel that we are free to use the apparatus and that we have agency in it; we certainly don’t experience ourselves being manipulated by the machine of thought, which we very much are being.
The principle here is clear: if our guidance system – which is the positive way of seeing the world – doesn’t provide us with ‘the full picture’ (whilst claiming that it does) then nothing we do on the strength of the information we have been provided with is going to be free – on the contrary, our activity has been entirely pre-programmed, preordained, preconditioned. Our activity all of it has been conditioned by a whole bunch of rules that we know nothing about, and to talk about freedom when everything we see, think and do has been conditioned by a bunch of rules we can’t ever know anything about is the purist fantasy. This is the fantasy that we all partake in on a daily basis. The one thing that we can’t argue about is that thought comes about as a result of rules and rules only get to exist because of the entropy debt that we have taken on. ‘No entropy debt’ equals ‘no rules’, to put it as bluntly as we can. Entropy can be defined as a loss of information that we have no information about, and so very clearly there can be no free activity, no free perception of reality, occurring on this basis. How can there be freedom coming out of entropy? The only thing that can come out of entropy is Philip K Dick’s ‘violent institution’ – the ‘Lower Realm’, the manifestation of ‘astral determinism’. As James Burton puts it in his essay on the philosophy of science fiction, ‘Astral determinism’ and ‘Fate’ designate the inexorable outcome of a closed system’.
We are – in effect – assuming that a world which is made up of abstract mind-created rules (the product of the ‘pointy end’ of the cone) is equivalent to the surface area at the base of the cones. The world that is made up of abstracted points is the deterministic world and this determinism is the result of the unreal nature of this situation. The only way there wouldn’t be any determinism operating would be if those two areas (the area made up of the sum of all the pointy ends of the data-reducing cones and the sum of the areas of all the base areas) were exactly equal But straightaway we can see that this can’t be the case since no matter how many points there are (the points that are functioning as pixels in the mental images that we are forming) their combined surface area is always going to be zero since geometric points have no width or breath and so they don’t add up to anything no matter what we might think is going on. Pixels don’t every add up to anything. They certainly don’t add up to reality! That’s why we say that they are abstract, because they never add up to anything.
It is the same with the base of the cone, only in reverse – no matter how many cones we want to consider, the sum of the base areas always comes out it always comes out the same because the base area of even one data-reducing cone is as broad as everything, as broad as the whole of reality, and so no matter how many bases we have they are always going to add up to ‘the Whole’. The reason the pointy end of the cone is abstract (which is to say, not actually occupying any space or place in reality) is because it is precisely defined (which is something that we insist on, since we think that anything which isn’t properly defined isn’t worth a damn) whilst the base is real precisely because it isn’t defined. We can illustrate our ‘love of the precisely defined’ by referencing the self or ego: if the self were not defined, if it were not completely bounded or positively emphasised, then the self that so confidently says ‘I am’ would no longer seem like anything – the illusion would no longer hold. A sense of absurdity would creep in. Suppose my perception of who I am were not completely bounded (suppose the defining boundary was leaky) – what would happen then? What would this feel like? Is it better to be unreal but neatly defined or undefined but nevertheless real?
Using the terms that we have just set out, we could say that what happens when the integrity of the mind-created boundary is breached is that there is a transition from being defined (and therefore abstract) to being undefined but actually real, which is something that is called ‘the truth of anatta’ in Buddhism. To our common sense (which is to say, as far as the everyday mind is concerned) this transition is one that must be avoided at all costs. To the TM, any occurrence of this nature is clearly bad news of the very worst kind – things are only real if they are definite, when they are defined, and this applies every bit as much to the self as it does to anything else. This is how things are in the positive world – to be emphasised is to be real and to not be forcefully asserted is to not exist. We never pause to look into this however because if we did then we’d see the big joke here – the joke being that when we forcefully assert something (something that wouldn’t be the case otherwise) then this is the denial of the truth rather than the assertion of the truth, which is not – needless to say – quite the same thing at all! Any meaning that is aggressively asserted is denial – the truth isn’t the truth because we vigorously promote it and don’t tolerate any dissenting views the subject, on the contrary, the truth is the truth only when it stands up by itself and no aggression is needed.
Perversely therefore, we cling to our constructs even though there’s nothing in them, even though they are profoundly sterile. It is because we cling to them in this way that they are sterile – ‘what we don’t give away we lose’, as the saying goes. If we are afraid to risk (which is what it all comes down to) then we are afraid to be, because to be is to risk. To be all is to risk all and to risk nothing is to be nothing. If we close the door to risking (if we close the door to the risk of finding out that the world isn’t what we think it is, or that we aren’t who we thought we were) then we close the door on being itself. If we close the door on being itself then we have to make do with ‘the promise of being’ instead and that’s exactly what we do do – we make do with the promise of being, bogus though it is. We don’t in other words know that it is only a promise and we take it to be the real thing. This gives rise to the Great Irony of Conditioned Existence, which is that by attempting to clinch the deal (or minimise the risk of things not happening correctly) we end up valuing the phoney promise over what is supposedly being promised. What is being promised is of a different order of being to the promotional material – we live in a world that is made up with promises or tokens of reality, promises that can never be delivered and tokens that can never be redeemed, and because we are so greedy for them (or so afraid to let them go, in case there’s nothing else) we end up living in a world that is made up of these utterly empty promises. This is the psychological monkey trap therefore – we trapped by our greed (or by our fear of missing, out since if we did let go of these worthless tokens then we have the real thing instead). What is required (the key to our freedom, so to speak) is for us to find some equanimity with regard to these signifiers, these tokens, these promises. That is the only way for us to get out of this trap, for us to give up everything (or what we mistakenly see as everything). This is of course the Motif of the Sacrifice which we are very familiar with in one way or another but which we nevertheless do not apply to our lives in any way at all…