We never see consciousness on its own; we only ever see it in the service of thought, we only ever see it in the service of some idea or other. In the general run of things, if this point were to be brought up (which it won’t) we probably wouldn’t see anything wrong with this – we see having thoughts or ideas as being a good thing, on the whole. We certainly see it as being a lot better than having no ideas, no thoughts. Some kind of structure is better than none, as far as we are concerned…
If someone has an idea and then puts it in the effort to see where this idea leads, to do their best to manifest this idea in actual reality, then we would see this as a splendid thing, a most inspirational thing. It’s not going too far to say that we think that this is what life is all about – taking the risk of trying to ‘achieve’ (and they can be no such thing as ‘achieving’ without the standards that are set by thought). Consciousness – by implication – is next to nothing if not aided by thought! We never actually bother to say this, but that’s because we take it as being so very obvious that we don’t need to say it.
It’s not that we are saying that ‘being guided by thought’, or ‘following in thought’s trail’, is necessarily a bad thing. What we are saying however is that thought is always a ‘lesser thing’, an infinitely more limited thing, and so thought ought not – on this account – to be set above consciousness in a permanent way. If we do this then we lose all sense of perspective straight away; if we do this then the prison walls rush in on us out of nowhere – the prison walls of the ‘thought-created world’. The reason thought – if allowed to – always creates a prison world for us to inhabit is because thought can never see beyond itself. If thought could see beyond itself it wouldn’t be thought in this case; it would be something greater than thought – it would be consciousness. Thought makes assumptions and then it can’t see beyond them; thought never strays from its assumptions, not by so much as a nanometre! Thought sticks to its assumptions like glue. Everything thought does is based on its assumptions and so – actually – thought is the assumptions that it makes. The world that is created by thought is a world which made up of assumptions, therefore.
The world thought creates is the world that would be true if its assumptions were true, but the point here is that its assumptions never are true. Thought’s assumptions are never true because assumptions are limits and reality itself is not based on them it. Only thought is based on limits. Thought can make true or valid assumptions when it is a ‘determinate’ or ‘closed’ reality that we are talking about; it is perfectly possible to make absolutely true statements about ‘abstract realities’, in other words. It is possible for thought to do this where all the variables (or parameters) are known, but in the ‘non-abstract’ situation which is reality as it is in itself we don’t know all the parameters and we can’t do. the only reality we can ‘know all about’ is the reality we make up ourselves and so of course we can use our thinking to ‘know about it’!
When we see consciousness that is ‘in the service of thought’ therefore we are seeing consciousness that is in a prison. We see this every day of course – we see it every time we walk down a shopping street whilst looking at people’s faces, we sit when we look at the faces of our neighbours and friends. We see it when we look in the mirror. Just about everyone we meet is a captive of thought in this way, just about everyone we meet is a prisoner of the world thought has created. There is a shadow over all of us – it is just such a familiar shadow that we never notice it. This is our normal way of being – living under the constant shadow of thought, as if that were some kind of necessity rather than just a limitation that we have perversely learned to embrace.
As we were intimating earlier, it’s not that there’s anything terribly wrong – or indeed wrong at all – about being engaged in thoughts every now and again. Thought is a tool to be used – and it is a very useful one into the bargain. But all we need to do at this point in the discussion is to consider what it means for us if we are constantly thinking – if one thought is following another, which is then followed by another and another all day long, every day of our lives! This is of course exactly what does happen to us – this is what thoughts do, in the normal run of things – one follows close on the heels of another with never a break (under usual circumstances, at least). This is the ‘continuum of thought’ and we call it a ‘continuum’ very good reasons. We call it a ‘continuum’ because there are never any breaks in it. It’s ‘wall-to-wall’ thinking…
It’s not as if all this thinking serves any purpose either. Every now and again we have a thought that actually serves a purpose, but for the most part it’s all just random associations, for the most part it’s all just ‘one thought following hot on the heels of another,’ just for the sake of it. If there is a purpose to all of this random thinking than the purpose in question is simply to keep the walls of the prison in place around us – no breaks can be allowed in the continuum after all. If breaks were allowed then it wouldn’t be a continuum anymore, and this would mean that reality would break in. It can be seen therefore that there is a world of difference between thinking about things every now and again, when it is useful or needful to do so, and ‘non-stop blanket thinking’, or ‘wall-to-wall thinking’, or whatever else we might want to call it. The former is purely functional while the latter isn’t functional at all (which is to say it is ‘functional’ only in the very limited sense of maintaining the prison that we are in but don’t know we’re in, and don’t want to know that we’re in).
The other way to put this is to say that in the first case thought is serving us, whilst in the second case thought is serving itself – it is serving itself because all it is doing is securing its power over us. We buy into this quite willingly however; the thing here is that when thought does supply us all our horizons for us (in an open-ended universe which has no hard-and-fast horizons, only apparent horizons, only horizons that we can go beyond) then we ‘throw ourselves into thinking’, so to speak, which means that we bring down the mind-created horizons upon us all the more. We are doing all the work, and the work that we are doing has the effect of containing us within artificial limits. To think is to self-limit.
Absurdly therefore, we are beavering away at the task of creating a small and petty world for ourselves to live in, for no reason at all. We then get attached to this small world, proud of it as if it were actually worth something, prickly and defensive about it, aggressive on its behalf, and so on. We will attack those who insult our small thought-created world by rudely implying that it is not the ‘be all and end all’ that we say it is. This is human history in a nutshell – all we are interested in is protecting the arbitrary limits that we have put in place against anything that threatens to expose them for what they are, and when we do (to some small extent) relinquish them, and let our world expand a bit as a result, we do so grudgingly, with bad grace. Consciousness expansion always occurs against our will, not because of it.
We are constantly ‘valuing the wrong thing’, therefore. We are valuing the principle of limitation over actual consciousness, which is what sees allows us to see through all limitation. We value the prison house over freedom, in other words. Not only do we not value consciousness, we de-value it, we degrade it, we treat it badly – we treat it as a slave whose only ‘value’ lies in the fact that they can be made to do what we want, whose only importance lies in the fact that they can fulfil our petty agendas. It is not the slave that we value, or have any regard or respect for, but ourselves. That’s all we care about. We are all about ‘worshipping ourselves’ when it comes down to it, and consciousness is a very great threat as far as this particular ‘self-worshipping’ game is concerned. It’s a very great threat because it shows us something that we really don’t want to see – it shows us that there isn’t actually any self there to worship…