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The Way Of Interference

A rough and ready way of summarising the ‘message’ of Daoism might be to say that ‘interfering never does anyone any good’. There’s no great poetry in putting it like this it’s true, but it is nevertheless accurate enough. If we wish to characterise the human situation in a succinct way therefore, we could say that – [1] Interfering never does anyone any good, and [2] Our nature is such that we can’t help ourselves from interfering. We can’t help ourselves from interfering and we interfere all the time.



We can define ‘interfering’ in a very straightforward way by saying that it is when we assume that our take on things is the correct one and that any activity we engage in on the basis of this approach has GOT to be legitimate. The less wisdom we have the more committed we will be to our interfering, therefore. Equally – and not surprisingly – the less wisdom we have the more suffering we will incur since – as we started out by saying – ‘interfering never did anyone any good’. The wiser we are, on the other hand, the less we will interfere, and the less we interfere the less suffering we will incur.



If it so happened that we had exhaustive knowledge about what our situation was then we would know in advance what that outcome of our actions would be, and so if we are careful enough then we’re not going to create any unexpected and unwanted consequences. The only consequences we will create are the ones that we want to create. It could be said that we actually know what we’re doing in this case and so no one can say that we are interfering! In theory, this is fine but when it comes to the ‘real-world situation’ things are different because, as we have said, there is always incoherence when we are applying our theories to reality rather than to formally defined situations. When we’re running off models (or ‘operating out of our heads’) then there’s always going to be incoherence.



Theories work by predicting the world (or what happens in the world) but it is the very nature of reality to be unpredictable – anything that can be predicted on the basis of a theory is that that theory (which is to say, only formal systems can be 100% predictable in their operation); reality – on the other hand – can only properly be referred to as such if it isn’t a construct, if it hasn’t been made, if it isn’t the seamless extension of our ideas about the world. Anything that has been made or caused – anything that has come out of our thoughts – is limited, is finite, and this is the one thing that the real world isn’t. When we presume the world to be knowable – as we almost always do – then we are presuming it to be limited, we are presuming it to be finite. We take this to be the case without ever reflecting on what we’re doing here since all we know is the limited, finite or bounded state of being. If anyone tried to tell us that there was something beyond the bounded, beyond the finite, then we would consider them to be flaky (or fluffy-minded) and we’d smile indulgently at their naivete. And yet if we were to stop and actually go into it we’d realise that there has to be something beyond the bounded – we’d realise that the bounded couldn’t be there in the first place if it wasn’t for ‘the unbounded’. Form can’t exist without space, but space doesn’t need form.



We firmly believe in the limited state of affairs but not in the unlimited state that it arises from. We believe completely in the concrete statement that we’ve just made (or that thought has just made) but not in the unrestricted sweep of possibilities from which that statement was pulled, like a rabbit being pulled from a magician’s top hat, and the reason for this is that the thinking process which we rely on to tell us about the world is itself strictly limited and could not ever be otherwise. We automatically project our formatting on the world but this formatting creates a granular character of things that doesn’t actually exist anywhere else other than in the classificatory system that we are putting all our faith in. Whilst we can say that having perspective on the matter allows us to see what’s going on more accurately, it is also true to say that the rational processing module which is thought can only show us a clearly demarked (or defined) picture of things when all other competing perspectives have been excluded from view. Perspective has to be shut down in order for thought to provide a defined world for us. ‘Knowing requires entropy’, as Stuart Kaufman says. If there wasn’t any entropy then we wouldn’t be able to have any mental categories to work off and since our mental categories are what gives us a defined view of things this means that we wouldn’t able be able to know anything. No categories means no knowledge.



Our so-called ‘knowing’ is therefore nothing more than a shadow that we cast upon the world as a result of shutting down the Big Picture which is ‘maximum perspective’. If we didn’t shut down the Big Picture then there would be no ‘shadow’ and if there was no shadow then we wouldn’t be able to categorize anything and so all there would be would be Everything. ‘Everything’ (or Wholeness) is all there is anyway (since our boundaries are projections) which means that the limited or finite world that we assumed to be ‘the only world there could be’ is only a fiction or formal exercise – a hypothetical abstraction from the Whole. All our guesses as to what reality ‘is’ are always wrong therefore – they are always wrong because they never acknowledge the Unitary State from which all our limited perspectives (all our finite viewpoints) are pulled. Only the invisible Magician’s Top Hat is real, in other words, and not the eye-catching bunny rabbits that we pull out of it.



Given what we have just said it is clear that everything we do – without exception – is ‘interference’! Incoherence is thus going to follow in the wake of the conditioned self (which is to say, the rationally informed sense of identity that we all have) as surely as toxic exhaust fumes will follow a car with a badly tuned engine. To exist conditionally (to exist purely according to the narrow dictates or rules of the rational mind) is to be incoherent and incoherence – as we as we have said – can be translated very simply into frustration or suffering. Nothing ever works out as we’d like it to, and nothing ever will. There isn’t a single thing that the extrinsic self can wish for that will actually ever happen, and the simple reason of this is that the conditioned (or extrinsic) self is fundamentally out of tune with reality.



To say that the conditioned self can never get anything to work out for it, not even the tiniest little thing, is very far from being clear to us. As far as we are concerned we can (and do) get the outcomes that we want; for example, if I want to buy a Ford Focus car, and I have the money in my pocket, then I can do just this. On the bigger scale, therefore, we understand it to be the case that we can climb up a ladder where each rung is ‘a task successfully completed’ (or ‘a goal that has been attained’) and so we will end up with what we are pleased to call ‘a successful life’. We believe that we can arrange things for ourselves in such a way that we get ‘all the right results and none of the wrong ones’, in other words and this is called ‘getting the life you always wanted’. If success is possible in small things, we might ask, then why not in the big things too?



‘Incoherence’ doesn’t mean that we can’t get the outcome we want – we’re missing the point big time if that’s what we think. We can (sometimes) get the outcome we want but there is a price in suffering that needs to be paid. Incoherence means that we’re not seeing the whole picture – despite thinking that we do – and that because our understanding is over-simplistic there are going to be repercussions. There is something we’re not taking into account and this means that there are going to be unwanted complications. Since we’re not getting the full picture (because the universe is bigger and more complex than we think it is, or because the universe isn’t equal to our ‘map’ of it) all our so-called solutions are going to lead nowhere apart from a whole new bunch of problems, a whole new batch of problems that we really hadn’t bargain for. Incoherence means that the universe is going to fight back, in other words. We’re assuming that we’re free to ‘make reality be whatever we want it to be,’ but we’re not.



Incoherence between ‘model’ and ‘reality’ means that there is always going to be a backlash, so that although it might seem that we can achieve the outcome we want (if we play our cards right), something else is going to happen, something that is going to take the good out what we have (supposedly) just achieved. There’s going to be a glitch, there’s going to be a jinx, there’s going to be a bug in the system. A Jungian would say that this glitch or bug corresponds to the Trickster Archetype – we are making all our plans, launching into our projects and schemes, working towards our goal, and then along comes the trickster, at exactly the wrong moment, to throw a great big spanner in the works. We are doing our level best to impose our fragile, home-made order on the world, and we regard this very seriously as ‘us doing God’s will,’ and then – to our immense displeasure – along comes the unmentionable spectre of chaos which threatens to bring down everything that we’ve worked so hard for.



From a Jungian viewpoint, the influence of the trickster is to bring us closer to wholeness, only the random, only the unexpected, only things going wrong can bring us back to wholeness. Realizing our rational plans takes us away from Wholeness and towards the unbearable sterility of untrammelled logic. ‘The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings.’ Jung remarks, which is – needless to say – the exact reverse of how we would see things. Goaded on by thought, we are constantly seeking rational perfection, not seeing that this goal entails a denial of life itself. We would say we would say that we are ‘pro-life’ but we’re not, we’re ‘pro’ the thinking mind’s version of life, we are ‘pro’ the game that we are playing, which – as the mystics have told us – is actually death in disguise. ‘ Life has the name of life, but in reality it is death.’ says Heraclitus.



Interference is any activity that is based solely on our rational understanding of the world. If it weren’t based solely on our rational understanding of the world act our activity then it wouldn’t necessarily constitute interference – it’s not that the rationality that is interference but rationality on its own, rationality when that is all there is. We can utilize the instrument of rationality without incurring a rebound just so long as we realize that the world shown to us by thought isn’t the real world but just a limited simulation thereof. When we’re aware of the simulation as being a simulation then this means that there isn’t any incoherence – we haven’t replaced ‘the real’ with ‘a model’, with ‘a theory’, with ‘an idea’, but – rather – we are wise enough to realise that ‘the description isn’t the thing’. We’re wise enough to know that our thoughts without the world aren’t the world and that we can’t ever know anything about the world via our thoughts. Wisdom doesn’t give us ‘the ability to control’ but rather it gives us the capability to ‘not control’, to ‘not do’, to ‘not impose of our arbitrary (and therefore deceptive) system of meaning on the world’.



We can summarise what we have been saying in terms of certainty. This thing that we call ‘certainty’ can only come into existence when we have a viewpoint that we can totally trust, a viewpoint that we can absolutely rely on to be correct under all circumstances. Such a thing doesn’t exist however – fixed viewpoints aren’t a natural feature of the universe and so – as a direct consequence of this fact – certainty doesn’t exist either. Objectionable as we might find this to be, there is no such thing as ‘certainty’ in this universe. Nothing can ever be proven, much as we love proof. There can be (and is) the subjective impression of certainty and this corresponds to what we have referred to as ‘the shadow’ that is cast by our unexamined assumptions. This is the shadow of psychological entropy, the shadow of unconsciousness, and this shadow, for us, constitutes reality. The reality we lose sight of when we are ‘walking in shadow’ is that unmanipulated situation where there is no certainty whatsoever. It is that situation where we have no purchase whatsoever. Because there’s ‘no possibility of purchase’ we’re unable to reify a viewpoint so as to make that VP seem real to us – without certainty we can’t construct the self. We can’t construct the self because the self is a ‘special viewpoint’ and there are no special viewpoints; all we can do is say that it is special, and then believe in our own story.



The process of constructing the self is that process in which ‘perspective is shut down’ and perspective is shut down by the simple expedient of never questioning ourselves, never examining our taken-for-granted viewpoint. We cling to the notion of self and this ‘clinging’ comes down to a simple lack of curiosity about anything that exists outside of the game we are playing. Reaffirming the known is good, fighting against the unknown is good, doing what we always have done is good. Obeying the rules is good. The self-concept is nothing if not conservative, in other words – it will fight against the new and the unfamiliar with everything it’s got. The aim of unconscious behaviour is specifically this therefore – the point of everything we do when we are unconscious is to reify (or solidify) our taken-for-granted viewpoint and the only way to do this is by the cultivation of ignorance. Ignorance – for the self-concept – is the greatest virtue, and curiosity the greatest sin.



Certainty is the greatest good for the self-concept, but this is where the problem arises since certainty is a sword with two sharp edges, not just the one. Certainty cuts both ways – whilst it can create elation one moment it can go on to create the darkest despair the next. The euphoric situation where everything is ‘super-good’ can flip over in a fraction of a second to the reverse scenario where everything is ‘super-bad’ – in the first case our mood shoots up into the sky like a rocket and in the second case it plummets down to the ground like a heavy stone. The ‘shadow which is the unconscious life’ is made up equally of good and bad, right and wrong, whereas in the Light there is no such false dichotomy. Certainty is made up equally of good and bad, right and wrong, euphoria and despair, and the other way of putting this is simply to say that the self is made up of all these various polarities. The life of the self-concept can only take place within ‘the Circus of Yes and No’, as it were.



Unconsciousness is all about the process of identification – ‘identification with some arbitrary viewpoint’ is the way in which we shut down perspective. This tactic is what brings the darkness of unconsciousness (which is the darkness of polarity) down upon our heads. It is the act of identifying with an arbitrarily selected viewpoint that creates good and bad, right and wrong, euphoria and despair. What makes all these entrapping polarities real for us is one thing and one thing only – the way in which we take our viewpoint to be the only viewpoint there is. This just plain isn’t true however, and so certainty isn’t a real thing, but only an mirage. ‘How can certainty be a mirage?’ we might ask, ‘surely if something is certain then that means it is the exact opposite of a mirage?’ This is what we would think, and this is natural enough given that thought operates on the basis of comparison-making; the term ‘certainty’ simply refers to that situation where there is either a definite match, or definite mismatch. Certainty only means something in the context of a game, therefore.



The truth of the matter is that everything the everyday self does is ‘interference’. This isn’t a truth we ever want to see, but it is the truth all the same. The only way we can obtain the experience of ‘being the self’ is if we absolutely take it for granted that our thoughts can tell us unconditionally true things about the world, if we take it for granted that our way of looking at things is unquestionably the right (and only) way. If we want to have the experience of being the self then we have to take this as ‘a given’, but if we take this as a given then everything we do, without exception, will result in incoherence. The conditioned self is itself incoherence. Or as the Buddha has said in his First Noble Truth, ‘conditioned existence is suffering’.






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  • Stefan

    Just great, as always. Maybe some day I will get it. ;-D

    May 9, 2023 at 10:27 am Reply

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