In order to have the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction, if it turns out that way) of knowing what we’re doing, it is necessary for us to restrict ourselves to a particular version of reality that is being created by only paying attention to what can be mapped out in relation to the abstract framework of thought. What can be mapped out by reference to the abstract framework of thought is also abstract however and so this is the drawback that we have to put up with (if we wish to enjoy the luxury of being able to validate everything is being ‘definitely real’, or ‘definitely true’). We can then have the satisfaction (or otherwise) of operating within a concrete world where outcomes can always be known to be either right or wrong.
Within the Concrete Realm everything is – needless to say – 100% ‘cut and dried’ and that’s what we like about it. When the outcome is the right one then we can feel properly pleased by it, just as we are justified in feeling properly displeased when we fail to attain the correct outcome. This is a mechanical situation, in other words – it’s a world of mere mechanical reactions. If we couldn’t identify right as being definitely right or wrong as being definitely wrong then there wouldn’t be any reacting and if there wasn’t any reacting then the world of mechanical reactions would immediately fall apart. If we can’t be sure that the right outcome is most definitely ‘the right outcome’ then there will be no satisfaction in it, there won’t be this all-important ‘sense of satisfaction’ that we’re playing for. There won’t be any euphoric payoff.
Instead of talking about ‘the World of Mechanical Reactions’ we could talk about the Purposeful Realm, which is the same thing, only seen from a psychological angle. We might think that the reason for engaging in purposeful activity is to achieve the relevant purposes but actually it is to experience the satisfaction that comes from knowing that we have achieved them. The problem here is that knowing something to be technically right and correct (or the converse) isn’t possible in the real world, only in our models of it. In an open universe, where all definite statements are subject to radical revision depending upon how we choose to look at things, it is impossible for us to feel either satisfaction or dissatisfaction, euphoria or dysphoria. We need to have final meanings to hang our satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) on but final meanings don’t exist in nature, only in our shuttered imaginations.
Final meanings only come about (in a virtual way) when we close off our horizons and keep them closed; all traces of the Open Universe have to be shut out entirely, in other words. This is what is meant by ‘restricting ourselves to a particular domain of reality’, therefore. When we take the abstract framework of thought to be the only possible viewpoint, and turn our attention outwards on this basis, then we get to live in a closed world, a world that is made up of final meanings, a world that we can play our finite games in. Finite games are made up of final meanings; everything in a finite game is final and that’s what motivates us to play. Failure is final and so we must avoid it as best we can; success is final and so we have to chase after it as hard as we can – it’s all either ‘hard surfaces that repel’ or ‘hard surfaces that attract’; it’s all repulsion and attraction with absolutely nothing at all behind this repulsion, this attraction. What we’re looking at here – therefore – are blind mechanical forces.
This is what always happens when we replace the Open Universe with a closed version of it – we lose all depth of meaning and end up with mechanical meaning instead, which is nothing more than ‘rules for the sake of rules’, control for the sake of control. We end up with rules that we must obey without ever questioning and this is of course the very essence of the mechanical world. We act as if the rules stand for something ‘greater’ than themselves, we assume that they do, but they don’t. They don’t stand for anything. When we get rid of the infinite relativity that pertains to the Whole then we create a literally-understood world for us to mechanically interact with then this Extrinsic Order orientates us 100% since the rules leave nothing undefined, nothing ‘loose’, nothing ‘free’. But – even though we infer some deeper meaning to this ‘obeying of the rules’ there isn’t any. This is the same as saying that when we play a game we infer a higher meaning to our actions than there actually is – which of course what ‘playing games’ is all about! When we win then we get extraordinarily excited, we act as if this means an awful lot (we act as if it means everything, in fact) whilst the truth is that what we have just done is entirely arbitrary and doesn’t mean a thing. The same holds good for losing – neither winning not losing mean a damn thing outside of the context of the game and so the meaning we experience when we experience the ups and downs is meaning that we ourselves have projected onto it.
‘Right versus wrong’, ‘yes versus no’, etc., is the lowest form of meaning there is therefore – this is the ‘Bargain Basement of Meaning’, only it isn’t so much of a bargain really since what we are purchasing so cheaply isn’t worth a damn, as we have just said. This is how it is when we opt to live in the world that has been defined for us by thought – we’re choosing the Bargain Basement, we’re selecting the super-attractive option of ‘100% Immersion in an Empty Show’. We’ll be kept busy every minute of the day for sure but there will be no depth to what we’re doing, no genuine content in it. ‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life’, says Kierkegaard. We have the opportunity to chase petty satisfactions all day, and this is what we have our eye on, but for every petty satisfaction there is going to be an equal-but-opposite petty irritation and so there’s never going to be any net gain in this scheme of things. They can’t ever be any net gain because what we’re looking for in all of this (i.e., ‘a final meaning to things’) simply doesn’t exist.
What we’re trying to do is to ‘grasp hold of life’ and know it to be good, know it to be wholesome, know it to be ‘for real’, and so on. This seems like a realistic enough proposition to us but it turns out that it is anything but – we’re looking for certainty in this regard therefore but we’re never going to get it because our efforts are all taking place on an unreal basis. It’s all being done via the ‘external abstract viewpoint’ which is the thinking mind, it’s all being done for the sake of the hallucinatory mental construct I call ‘me’ and this is never going to work. All that’s going to happen is that my efforts are going to collapse the world into a ‘self-cancelling vibration’; it’s going to collapse the world into the ‘lowest or cheapest form of meaning it is possible to have’, which is the meaning of the Finite Game, which is the meaning of the Empty Show, which is the meaning of the Hollow Drama. Hollowness always shows itself in terms of reversal, or self-nullification, which the following quote from Johannes Fabricius illustrates very clearly –
Known to the Greeks as peripeteia, or the ‘reversal of roles’, this principle of irony and paradox is overwhelming and its operation in hermetic science: that which has been worshipped as holy becomes in the twinkling of an eye a monstrous horror; The cup with the elixir of life turns into a deadly poison…
When we fail to appreciate ‘the operation of irony and paradox’ that Johannes Fabricius speaks of then all our earnest literal-mindedness can ever yield us (even on the best day) will be ‘elation followed by despair’ – ‘hallucinatory success followed by equally hallucinatory failure’, this being the only way that the concrete identity can ever relate to the world. The only ‘good’ that it can relate to is the ‘literal good’, the ‘concrete good’, the ‘relative good’ (i.e., what is good for it) and literal good always comes with literal bad in tow (since both YES and NO are projections of the very same abstract viewpoint). Things start off very well because what we’re actually doing here is ‘identifying with the world’, which is another way of saying that we think we actually are the world. This seems great at the time of course but it’s not really good news because what’s happened is that we’re now locked into the deadly ‘swing-cycle’ of UP and DOWN, as Johannes Fabricius explains here –
On the bright side of the moon the whole world is ‘eaten up’ and introjected by a manic ego inflated by a universal soul and self. On the dark half of the moon the manic’s engulfed world is ‘thrown up’ and projected onto reality, which is now painted in the same colours as the ego’s blackened soul and self. As the sense of universal elation is changed into one of universal depression, the circular flight of manic denial comes full circle in the depressive return of the denied. For this reason the elation of mania is an uneasy one since it may be defined as a denial of the horror of the depressed state.
The concrete sense of self that we cling to so determinedly can only ever exist within that circular (so-called) ‘world’ of elation and despair, that abstract logical domain in which we get to feel like a winner one moment and a loser the next, with no other options on the table. The irony here is that both elation and despair are as meaningless as each other since there isn’t any literal reality to attach them to (since things never are and never could be what we categorize them as being). Euphoria and despair belong to the World of Final Meanings, which is a world that simply doesn’t exist. The developments that we respond to with either elation or despair are our own projections and nothing else and so we live in a state of slavery to these projections; what keeps us slaves, keeps us ‘prisoners on the wheel’, is our fondness for the satisfaction – fleeting as it may be – of ‘being validated as who we like to think we are’. We are addicted to the rush of egoic satisfaction that comes with ‘getting it right’, ‘getting approved of by our peers’, ‘achieving our goals’, of being ‘better than everyone else’, which are all ways of talking about the sense of security that comes with successful controlling.
William Gibson uses the phrase ‘the seamless universe of self,’ and what we’re talking about here is ‘the seamless universe of knowing’, or ‘the seamless universe of controlling’. It turns out that these are all the same thing – which is to say, they all equal the continuum of logic. It doesn’t make any difference whether we talk about ‘the self’ or ‘controlling’ or ‘naming’ or ‘knowing’ – it’s exactly the same phenomenon that we are looking at here. When we cling to control we cling to the self and vice versa. When we cling to our ideas of things, our picture of things, our beliefs about things, then we cling to the self, and when we cling to the self we cling to both elation and despair (we cling to both ‘the honey’ and ‘the razor blades’ referred to by the Buddha). When we hold on tight to our thoughts then we hold on tight to the self and this is ‘the wheel of agony’ spoken of by Sir Edwin Arnold (1908) in The Light of Asia. Our attachment to pleasure is the same thing as our attachment to pain, therefore. To say that attachment causes suffering (or that identification causes suffering) is a familiar formula but we could also say that – because attachment to one pole equals attachment to the other – that what attachment causes is an endless cycle of pleasure followed by pain, elation followed by despair, and that what this adds up to – therefore – is nothing at all….
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