How do we restore the prismatic flow to human culture without forcing it, without imposing our will from the top down?
The personal lens has mainly become psychotic in this culture, blocking access to wider views. And if we learn to change without force on a narrow or personal level – without introducing this divisive top-down mentality when we’re alone — then there is no other obstacle to a communal and cosmic clarity.
So what I write about are the aspects of a new vision that are wavering for me personally. I’m nothing if not inconsistent. But I’m learning things from these wavering encounters with sanity, more specifically from these failures to retain sanity. Every failure reveals the nature of the madness. (One thing I learn is it’s not “my mind”. The system of thought is a shared system of tracks for trains of thought. So whatever I learn about this situation on a personal level is applicable to everyone else (and vice versa, what you learn)). And writing is one way for a span of attention to widen enough to discover the underlying system of switches (so to speak), which keep the personal trains of thought circling on a narrow gauge, falling for the delusion that they’re running on an isolated system of tracks. And this attention repairs or alters those switches, releasing this human energy from that self-centric circularity and allowing the human (shared) mind to rediscover a wider fluidity of movement between the narrow, the mid-range and the long views.
This is important: In this particular fiction I’m writing (and every essay is a fiction) the personal point of view represents no independent being. It’s a story from the microscopic point of view. Here, likewise, the communal lens is a story from the shared, communal point of view. And the cosmic lens is a little different (as I tried to show in Part IV, “What Is Radically New”). We need cosmic stories (myths and theories), but not as a primary point of access to the cosmic. The cosmic is mainly contacted by negation (by the realization that all of our myths and theories are cartoons of “something more” that can never be known in any conclusive sense). The cosmic lens can only be accessed when we’re in a non-Literal or metaphoric state of mind, whereby the Self is also felt as a cartoon depiction of something beyond the reach of knowledge. In other words, the Self here is not seen as an actual source of this life, but only as a cartoon representation of the whole from a microscopic perspective.
We Don’t Change by Trying to Change (there’s no top-down change)
We don’t change by trying to change. (The moment we have the urge to change ourselves, something already changed. And this urge arose in us spontaneously, without knowing how, without making a decision – the decision is the result of change, not the cause). The reason a “decision to change” sometimes seems to help arouse energy is because the “decision to change” is a kind of microscopic myth or creed that gives us an illusion of something we can trust as a crutch.
The myth of personal control (of being a self-made man or woman) only helps us move the chairs on the Titanic, and we need to learn to move the Titanic culture itself. So this myth needs to be replaced by a wider-envisioned myth. Because the narrow myth tell us that we’re only these isolated selves, and have no influence on culture. So the myth helps us to narrow our focus to our Selves and ignore the wider culture. Hence the wider culture never changes, because the individual molecules (me and you) never give up our own top-down approach internally.
This is a little contradictory at first. The Self we conceive is not a real being, only a story. But if the individual story (narrow lens) isn’t clear, then there is no clear communal or cosmic point of view either. So the Self story is ironically the essential link in rediscovering a communal and cosmic fluency. If the small story is confused, then the broad story is confused.
If we continue to believe that the Self is an independent, isolated, relatively powerless reality, then the communal mind will manifest this same haywire approach to the world. We won’t be able to cooperate, we won’t be able to share an inquiry, a state of mind. We might even be antagonistic to the very idea of sharing anything, because it will seem to destroy the illusion of independence. And this microscopic virus of belief will express itself in the communal as a tendency towards fragmentation and war.
We can’t change the course of the Titanic until we realize that this Self is not independent of the Titanic. It doesn’t have to act from the outside like a social activist. The Titanic is each of us. The moment you or I lose this illusion of a separate reality to our Selves, the whole has changed. Because the Self is a story that the whole tells from a narrow, idiosyncratic perspective. Communal, personal and cosmic stories are ways that an unfathomable world spins the prism of itself. And if there is confusion in these spins of the prism it’s because an element of Literalism is causing the vision to “stick” to an idea that has forgotten that it’s only an idea.
The Astonishing Discovery that Decision Making Is an Illusion – or Why Top-Down Decision Making Is Not Necessary for Change to Happen
We need a motive to be deceitful. We don’t need a motive to be honest. Honesty is merely the way things are prior to the distortions of self-defensive denial, justification and guilt. Honesty is merely what happens when the effort to lie stops. Nothing needs to be done. The doing needs to stop.
The Ego could be called a ganglion of Self-defensive “doings” of this sort. A kind of lying machine. But there is no motive strong enough to rid us of the dishonest Ego. Honesty doesn’t deny or hate the Ego. When we’re honest we See the Ego in operation, we don’t try to stop it. We ENJOY the ego when we’re honest. It doesn’t bother us. Intelligence needs to see the Ego in order to recognize over-reach and imbalance. Honesty has no intention of eliminating the Ego. If we’re responding dishonestly, we’ll do anything we can to avoid revealing the Ego in operation. This vigilance is Ego itself, motivated by the desire to look good, to act good, to be almost Saintly if possible. This “good intentioned” vigilance means we never notice our over-reach. We deceive ourselves with good deeds.
The Ego can only transform into less of a confusing trouble-maker when it’s no longer perceived as a shameful thing.
I’m not talking about giving ourselves permission to indulge in stupid things. I mean, we’re already doing that, and hiding from this fact is self-deception.
In other words, when I notice that I’m being stupid – let’s say I catch myself in a Walter Mitty-style fantasy – what I normally do is feel embarrassed by my indulgence, as if someone caught me in the childish act. I might “depress myself” vaguely by imagining an indignant voice scolding me. I have to remain depressed, I have to remain feeling scolded for a while. I imprison myself in a depressed frame of mind until the guilt wears off.
This playact allows me to feel justly punished. And as long as I regard myself with a certain self-disgust I eventually earn the right to feel cleansed enough to resume my half-conscious patterns until I “catch myself” again. A circular pattern that we presume to be “human nature”, although it’s only a train of thought running from itself.
This pattern reflects society. I’m my own deceitful politician scapegoating my own depressed populace of thoughts, a politician who pretends to represent his own inner “silent majority” (the better angels). The righteous voice I use to condemn my own selfish indulgences is held as the next great leader of the body’s inner “politic”, the voice of law and order. And by identifying with this scolding voice I cease identifying with the depressed image of the selfish idiot I was a moment ago and slide over to become one of the Good Guys. And this allows the Self to feel Great Again. When I feel “Great Again”, the internal boot lifts its weight discernably (not entirely) from the internal neck. Or rather, I switch allegiances and become the internal boot holding down the rabble rousing Ego, which feels much better, even though the Ego has merely found a way to keep active without noticing it (without being depressed about it).
That’s to say, these fake scenarios allow me to be restored to a normal level of unconscious turmoil, the usual clipped thinking that circles the drain of confusion and depression, but rousing itself now and then to maintain the circular pattern, ad infinitum.
It’s an elaborate hoax. And the culture carries out the same pattern in the newspapers – one blowhard after another claiming to be tough on crime so as to distract the populace from the populace’s own collusion and criminal self-deceit. Ad infinitum, and then we blame it on human nature, simply because we don’t want to be honest.
Society, too, is perpetually circling the drain, and even as the whirlpools drown more and more of us, we stiffen at the suggestion that anything of the sort is happening, as if circling the drain is really just a spiraling ascent (however microscopic it must be).
We don’t want to be honest, that’s all. And that’s why the swirling waters are accelerating. And improvements in machine capacities give us all the phony proof we need of a life that seems to be expanding (although it’s only the machines that expand, and we’re merely pulling off the usual transference of identity. This time a transference from identifying as human beings, or life itself, to the machine itself (from empathy to cold indifference, which allows us to keep feeling good right up to the end)). So as we go down the tubes we envision a comforting transhuman piggyback carrying us directly into the Singularity (of extinction). But don’t let me ruin the Walter Mitty moment.
I can’t help finding this slapstick erasure of human life a little comical when it’s not overwhelmingly horrifying and sad. I’m not saying this is what we’re destined to become, but only how we’ve deceived ourselves into an unnecessary hell. I don’t like realizing I’m hypnotized any more than you, but if we don’t realize it, then we’ll complete the journey down the drain. This is the do or die moment, I proclaim with bluster.
OK, but it could be a do or die moment. It could be made into a turning point. The situation holds that potential if we have the guts to unfold it. The potential is there to see through the whole charade from a perspective that is wider than any particular view, seeing through our own cultural and personal indoctrinations categorically (all at once) as fictions that don’t serve us in this new do or die context. If we do that, then we see ourselves less personally for the moment. The wider view puts the personal and cultural views in their proper context.
From a wider perspective I can see myself as a single synaptic nerve in the infinite human mind, or better yet, a single synaptic nerve in the whole earthly mind, lighting and flaring now and then through no will of my own. The synapse doesn’t decide when to light. It fires in the broader patterns of its neural network, which is why we think in the framework of the religious or non-religious patterns that formed us. We are virtual slaves to forces of a different order. We absorb the patriotism of our locality. We don’t decide our own indoctrination. We know to light up at certain key triggers.
When I’m able to recognize myself as a triggered slave of indoctrinated values, and can still laugh, then that’s the “alchemical moment”, or the alchemically prepared soup for the emergence of another orientation to life, one that can survive the absence of old, comforting, indoctrinated certainties, such as the idea of Me as the primary lens (as the center of the solar system).
It’s disorienting, to be sure. If we can’t know what is real, how can we act? What will give us the will to move when we have no indoctrinated convictions?
One answer to this riddle is “we don’t have to decide to move.” Living things move. Conclusions and decisions dam this movement, or channel the movement into narrow frames.
Every belief and assumption we hold determines the direction of attention’s flow. If our beliefs are rigid and conclusive (indoctrinated), then this prevents our attention from flowing freely. If the beliefs are open-ended probes, which acknowledge themselves as cartoons in comparison to the ungraspable world, then our attention is not hindered in any direction.
But the point is, in the alchemical moment we don’t decide what to do anymore. Every new angle we obtain alters our course. Instantaneously.