There Is No Consciousness In A Game
All rational-type psychological therapies, without exception, involve making something happen because we want it to happen (or as we should really say, trying to make something happen that we want to happen). That’s the whole idea, obviously. If we didn’t believe that we could do this (if we didn’t believe that we could change our mental state on purpose) then there wouldn’t be any such thing as ‘rational therapy’. The truth of the matter however – which by and large we are unacquainted with – is that in the psychological sphere of things we can’t make anything happen! We can’t command the psyche, we can’t make a damn thing happen, and if only we could see this would be so much better off! We’d be better off because we wouldn’t spend so much time fooling ourselves, and setting ourselves up for disappointment and feelings of failure and culpability.
To say that we can’t actually make anything happen in the psychological realm is an insult to our whole way of seeing things, to our whole way of life. We only have respect for ourselves when we are able to make things happen in the way we want them to – if we can’t do this (if we don’t have any belief in our own self-efficacy) then we don’t think much of ourselves at all. We turn from hero to zero. Our belief in ourselves is the same thing as our belief in the agency of the ego-construct, which comes down to our belief in the reality of the ego-construct).
The reason we can’t make anything happen in the psychological realm is very, very simple – anything we cause to happen in this realm is – by definition – artificial rather than natural, and this means that what we cause to happen isn’t actually a real thing. It’s our own artifice, our own design, and so it’s ‘an extension of us’. It’s something that we ourselves have produced or constructed and if it’s a construct then it can’t be real. It’s only ‘real’ because we made it be so, it’s only real because we have decided in advance that it is – if we didn’t choose for it to be real then it wouldn’t be.
It’s different in the external / physical world – if I build a house then that house is undoubtedly a construct, it is undoubtedly ‘artificial’, but all the same the walls will protect me from the wind and the roof will shield me from the rain. The fact that I (or someone else) made the house isn’t a problem, after all. Strategies are legitimate in the physical world – we can do stuff here and what we do can be useful (up to a point). Our constructs can be useful. We can still say that the constructs in question aren’t ‘real’ however – they aren’t ‘real’ because they are transient, because they are only a passing show. In the Realm of Form individual forms come and go, and none last forever. Our constructs (or ‘doings’) need to be constantly maintained or else they will decay, or else they will fall into a state of greater and greater disrepair. They are subject to the law of entropy, as are all ‘made things,’ as are all artificial things. Even a mountain is subject to the rule of entropy – even if this is not something we can easily observe.
Despite the temporary nature of our doings, projects or schemes they can still serve in the short term. The designed environment we create around ourselves can serve us in the short term. This is not the case with our mental adaptations however – our mental adaptations are a special case in terms of how useful they might be to us. There’s a very significant problem with our mental adaptations which we really wouldn’t expect from our knowledge of physical adaptation and this problem can be explained by saying that we get confused and believe that we are the adaptation which we have made to our environment. This is ‘Downwards Transformation’- the adaptation we make is always a degradation of where we started off (i.e., the unadapted situation), the adaptation being essentially a compromise, and so the problem is that we get trapped in a version of ourselves that is hugely less then we really are. We’ve made a deal with the Devil and that deal (naturally enough!) is not going to go in our favour – we pay a very heavy price for psychological adaptation, in other words, but we don’t realize this at the time.
Jung is very clear on this score – our adaptations towards society are richly rewarded (potentially at least) whilst who we actually (and uniquely) are isn’t, and so we end up thinking that we are our generic roles. We become ‘possessed by the persona’, as Jung puts it, and because everyone around us is similarly possessed no one sees anything untoward about this. The takeover goes unobserved; it has been legitimised and so we don’t pay any attention to it. It’s not just that we don’t pay any attention to the substitution that has taken place, but that ‘the natural order of things’ has been reversed such that the artificial or generic personality constructs are celebrated, whilst the unique / true manifestation of who we are is discouraged, penalised, excluded, marginalized, etc. If we think that this isn’t what happens in society then we’re really not living in the real world, we’re living in the fantasy that society itself provides us with…
Who we are in the consensus reality which is the social world is a doing therefore – it’s ‘doing’ rather than a ‘not doing’. Who we were originally is a ‘not doing’ – there’s no ‘fitting in’ going on here, no particular attitude that has to be cultivated in response to the structures or systems that exist in the outside world, no societal role that is being fulfilled. ‘Who we essentially are’ is of no use or interest to the social system and this is why the true individuality gets neglected, abused, pushed to one side, covered over with a socially acceptable face. We stand to obtain many benefits as a result of our successful adaptation, it is true, but the snag here is that the beneficiary of society’s boons isn’t us but only some societal fiction, some generic product of the system. We can only enjoy the said ‘benefits’ to the extent that we are able to pretend that we are who we aren’t therefore, and this turns out to be a cruel trick in disguise.
The world as it is in its essential nature isn’t a ‘doing’ either; it isn’t a construct, it isn’t a ‘caused thing,’ and neither are we, and so the question of adaptation (or compromise) never comes into it. As the adapted (or generic) self, we are ‘constructs living in a world of constructs’ – the act I am putting on inhabits the world that is also an act, that is also a ‘put on’ thing, and what this means is that whatever activities take place here are always going to be null. When we’re not adapted to the system (which is to say, when we haven’t allowed ourselves to be defined by the game that everyone else is playing) then we’re living in ‘the world as it actually is in itself’. Reality can enter the situation then and our activities aren’t null, aren’t predetermined by the rules of the game that we’re playing. When we’re identified with our societal roles (when we’re identified with the avatar that we have been allocated in the game), operating as a result exclusively within the consensus reality, exclusively within the game, then the whole drama is null.
When we’re acting not ‘as we are’ but ‘as we’re not’, when we’re acting as the adapted self (the self which is a reflection of the social game that we’re playing) then because of the closed nature of this system the net result of everything that is (apparently) taking place within this domain is zero, is nothing. No change can ever take place within a closed world because everything that happens (all the possibilities that are permitted by the system) are tautological developments of the initial state. Due to the complete lack of perspective (due to the ‘shrouding of consciousness’) that the closed world brings, we can’t see the tautological developments to be ‘merely tautological’ and so we think they’re real. It is because the game contains no consciousness (but only its all-important rules) that we can’t see it to be a game, in other words. Just as Jung says, ‘rules are a substitute for consciousness’.
This is such an extraordinary thing to consider – it is astonishing to consider that there is no consciousness in a closed system, no awareness in a game. It may not initially sound to be too thrillingly revolutionary a thing to say until we consider that all we ever know are closed systems, that all we ever know are ‘games’. The adapted self cannot be ‘the adapted self’ within an open system; in the absence of a closed system there can be no such thing as adaptation, as we have been saying – there can be no such thing since in openness there is simply nothing there to be adapted to. There are no templates, no maps, no structures, no blueprints. And furthermore, when we say that ‘there can be no adapted self in an open system’ what we are really saying is that there can be no self – there is no fixed anything in openness and so if there’s ‘no fixed anything’ then there’s nothing there to identify with, and if there’s nothing there to identify with then there can be no identity. There’s no identity in Ungrounded Movement. There can be no question of me saying ‘I am this but not that’ – that act of differentiation is a stark impossibility. I can’t populate openness with categories and this includes the all-important important category that we call ‘myself’.
What’s happening in the process of identification is that we are ‘giving away our freedom’ – we don’t want freedom because we can’t use it to define ourselves, for that task we can only use the ‘lack of freedom’ (which is to say, rules). So we dispense with our intrinsic freedom and we cultivate lack of freedom instead, and this way we get to define the self, which is what we want. There is a problem with this however and the problem is that lack of freedom isn’t a real thing, but only a kind of a trick that we play on ourselves. Even saying this isn’t making the point properly because the self that is playing the trick on itself is the outcome of this very same trick. In reality no one is playing a trick on anyone because – as we have been saying – in freedom there can be no self. There is no tricker and no tricked. The self is, at root, nothing more than a rule, as we have indicated – it’s a rule which says ‘this but not that’, ‘here but not there’, etc., and all rules are overlays, all rules are ‘empty mental exercises that we choose to take seriously’ (and then conveniently forget that there ever was any choice). Rules are only rules because we agree for them to be: ‘there’s no rule that says there has to be a rule’, as James Carse reminds us.
The point that we’re coming at in all of this is that – given what we have just said about rules (or given what we could have equally well said about conditioned realities) the one who wants to change – the one who is expected to benefit from the therapy – is an artefact of the concealed self-referential manoeuvre that is being carried out, which means that we’re pinning all our hopes on the agency of our own construct, the agency of our own act, which we don’t see to be a construct (which we don’t see to be an act). We started off this discussion by talking about this thing called rational therapy, which we can define by saying that it is any psychological approach that is purposeful or goal orientated. Purposeful therapy contains three key ingredients, we might say – there is the goal, the method or means by which the goal is to be obtained, and the volition (or agency) to engage in the method, to utilise the means. This all sounds perfectly reasonable to us, so much so in fact that we wouldn’t normally bother to think twice about it, but – notwithstanding our universal acceptance of these three ingredients – the whole idea is utterly and completely nonsensical. The idea of ‘purposeful or goal-oriented psychological therapy’ is foolishness from beginning to end.
Having a goal when it’s mental health we’re talking about is nonsensical because we have absolutely no idea what the ‘right’ or ‘optimal’ way to be is – the goal we latch onto is simply the rational mind exposing its own arbitrary categories, our own ‘made-up meaning’ on the proceedings. The goal represents ‘our successful escape from the neurotic suffering that we’re in’ and this is a glitch because that neurotic suffering only came about in the first place because of our stubborn ‘escape-seeking attitude’. That’s one reason why having goals with regard to what we’d like our situation to be is not actually a helpful thing (i.e., that our superficial ideas of health or well-being actually have nothing to do with the process that’s really going on within us) and the other is that we are absolutely powerless to bring it about (even if it were ‘right’). The psyche is not ours to command, no matter what we – in our hubris – might think.
We have got carried away in our hubris and we’re absolutely convinced that thought can be put in charge of the whole show. We might be able to get our own way (as far as surface level appearances are concerned, at least) but only temporarily, only until we either run out of the energy we need to continue maintaining this artificial state of affairs, or some opposing force overwhelms us. Purposeful change is only an act, it’s not real – it only exists ‘in our imagination’, we might say. The only type of change that is real or organic is spontaneous change, change that happens all by itself. The idea that the rational ego knows what’s going on (that it knows what is right and what is wrong) is false, and the idea that it has actual agency is also false, as we keep on saying. Who we are in the game has no volition – ‘who we are in the game’ is the game! Rational therapy (or rational psychology) might therefore present itself as being ‘scientific’ and ‘evidence-driven,’ and all the rest of it, but the truth of the matter is that it is simply a delusion.
Image – wallpaper-mania.com
Can you describe the term ‘entropy’ which you use quite a lot? From some of your other articles I understood it as a narrowing down of perpspective or a simplification. From this article it seems to mean a decay to randomness as you describe there is entropy occurning, very sublty, in a mountain. I’m a bit confused on how this term ‘entropy’ relates to a constructed self (ego or I concept)
I found this quote a couple days ago! – https://nick251260.wordpress.com/2023/04/08/negentropy/?fbclid=IwAR1F96UYRkB-pyjGlc-OUDaBrQhdYmUb3TKEIeb1rVWFQBcNBxs
A system that always follows the rules and is totally predictable has a maximum level of entropy, anything that is super-efficiently organized has max entropy and this is the frightening thing about it because ‘entropy’ – as RAW says – refers to the ‘deadness’ of the system. What gives rise to unpredictability is when the rules don’t get obeyed (i.e. when it turns out that the rules aren’t actually ‘rules’ at all). This can be applied to human beings – when we always do what we’re told and think what everyone else thinks then this is a manifestation of entropy – we’re 100% predictable then and yet a true individual – because they are unique – can NEVER be predictable. We’ve got nothing else to go on; we just can’t second guess what’s going to happen next, or write a formula to explain it. ‘Social entropy’ is therefore another way of talking about the death (or denial) of the actual individual.Society is all about entropy (i.e. copying the well-known pattern).
Entropy is a confusing kind of a thing though because we tend to think that it’s about everything decaying into randomness but actual the random – because it is quintessentially unpredictable – is anti-entropic! Entropy is the ordered system because the ordered system just keeps on repeating itself. In terms of the ego-construct or I0concept we could say that there is order’ here because that ego gets to be repeated over and over again in an infinitely predictable way. It’s the same old story every day, the same old tune. Were we to ‘revolt’ against the rules of the ego, then this would of course be unpredictable and it would also be the manifestation of our true – non-generic – nature. Who we really are is always new, in other worlds – it’s never a copy of anything else…
Thanks for the reply – so entropy is slippery in it’s meaning, hard to define as is tautology which I asked about before. If something is hard to define I guess it’s more real than the definitions of the positve world that are rigid and narrow.
It’s easy to get confused by entropy I think. It twists my head anyhow. There is a narrow technical definition as applied to mechanical systems but it does get slippery. The tautology side of things is easier in the sense that it all comes down to trying to explain (or validate) something on the basis of itself. So if there is a word ‘Gnarf’ and you look it up to see what it means and the dictionary says ‘Similar to a Grubbit’ – you then look up ‘Grubbit’ and the dictionary definition is ‘A type of Gnarf’. So it’s a loop of logic that doesn’t get anywhere. According to Alan Watts ALL definitions are tautologies. I’d agree with what you say about definitions of the positive world – they’re easy but fairly meaningless, whilst anything real simply can’t be defined.But there is a connection between tautology and entropy here which I can’t get clear about… I’m going to have to go away and think about it some more!
I think Derrida says this too that all definitions are tautologies. He says “there’s nothing outside the text”. If there’s no word for something then it doesn’t exist to us, but with definitions/words you have to refer to another word to define that word, and refer to another word to define that word and so on. If an alien was trying to learn a language from a dictionary the alien would be going in circles flicking from one page of the dictionary to another. However, I think Derrida argues that how we know things is based on difference, or we know things because of what something is not. Eg happiness has meaning because it is the emotion of not being sad. So maybe definitions aren’t tautologies but are based on subtle differences or opposites. I think what can be argued however, is that language defines and constructs our realties.
This is what happens in Orwell’s 1984 with ‘Newspeak’ the language is being reduced down to less words so that peope can only think in a rigid narrow way and think in a way the totalitarian Big Brother state wants them to think and speak . So the word bad, which can (mean disobedient, evil, penitent, repentant, unfavorable, unfavourable, worse, worst) is replaced by the word “ungood”. Therefore people are less likely to behave badly because there are no words for it, only”ungood” and so the people can be more easily controlled.