Since the ideas representing who we think we are and would like to become can be easily disregarded or openly violated, we are extraordinarily prone to hurt and humiliation by others, even though they themselves are generally acting at the behest of their own overwrought (and, therefore, equally vulnerable) sense of past, present, and future personal identity and social status. Our very existence depends (psychologically) on identification with an idealized portrayal of ourselves, and this is why when this image is somehow hurt the remedy reactively sought nearly always involves an automatic reassertion of the separate existence and predetermined destiny of the same self-image. That is, the person (the mental representation thought forms of the person) responds to hurt by increasing the energy and resources invested in defending, reforming, expanding, or hiding himself. In this habitual maneuver of evolving and expanding self-defense, one’s psychological estrangement from others, from society, and from life itself gains continuity and renewed strength, even though defended self-isolation is the source of all our mental and much of our physical suffering. In the end, successive presumptive remedies adopted in self-defense only guarantee an extension of the endless vulnerability, struggle, and hurt that, intercalated with insufficient gains and ephemeral pleasures, is familiar to most of us.
Nations arm themselves to defend their material and ideological treasures from the real or imaginary threat posed by the greed and military might of other nations; and we as individuals do very much the same. Accustomed to the reality created by this ancient cycle of insecurity, ambition, violence, and sorrow, we miss time and again the clues begging us to see that the only real solution to the immense problem of alienation and suffering lies in the perception and negation of the images and ideas fleshing out and animating the self, past, present, and future. (36)
What is psychological hurt, and who exactly is the one who gets hurt? —”I” have a lot of images and ideas describing who I am, and an important part of this sense of myself is wrapped around further mental constructs portraying, in positive or negative terms, what I am to become (or what could happen to me) in the near or more distant future. Consequently, whenever others with their words, actions, or omissions do not corroborate and support —or, worse yet, when they actively disparage and block— whatever image “I” hold of myself, I feel psychologically wounded, which in turn sparks off a host of other reactions associated with this fundamental insecurity. Everyone’s self-image is then, by definition, extremely subjective and therefore unstable, with roots deep in a limited and selectively remembered past, and a mad proclivity for projecting itself into a future defined by the same limited experience and nearly always dependent for its realization on the unreliable compliance of other people.
No universally accepted scale exists that will justly assess the value of different human beings, and not even the most entrenched social position can guarantee genuine respect and admiration from others. Thus, the most wretched of slaves may easily be contemptuous of the master, especially if the latter is convinced of his or her power, intelligence, beauty, or saintliness; and the stupidest, most uneducated fool can ridicule and probably offend the most refined and conceited intellectual. The disdain that those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder inspire from those at the top is so prevalent and conspicuously proud of itself that it hardly needs mention. Few human beings live free of identification with a positive, negative, or mixed, personal image, and no mind possessed by this mad habit of self-reflection dependent loaded comparison with others (or their approval) is exempt from their indifferent or critical attitude and harsh actions, or impervious to the fear of frustration that comes with idealized personal projection. Furthermore, beyond the irrational demands of one’s own internal slave driver and the wear and tear typical of relationship with other individuals as egocentric and needy as oneself, lies the sorrow related to the gradual or sudden, but either way inevitable loss of everything the self may possess and desire.
It is important to note that while the incidence and gravity of suffering may be higher for individuals with a comparatively greater number of attachments, dependencies, and false expectations, no self-image —not even the most minimal— is exempt from significant injury and sustained hurt. However, if properly witnessed, the mental disorder and painful interpersonal friction generated by experience- and desire-based self-isolation can, paradoxically, illuminate the entire problem and catalyze its only solution: complete self-abnegation; the emptying out or radical disregard of unnecessary knowledge. This illumination, and with it the possibility of a selfless existence, must be open to all because, were it otherwise, it would be just another sectarian escape fantasy limited to the chosen and, therefore, hardly a final solution to the human predicament in all its countless embodiments and complexities.
Any amount of serious attention payed to the massive incidence of suffering afflicting humankind, especially mental suffering, is capable of giving rise to essential questions such as these: Can the contradictory set of images and ideas with which the self regards and projects itself within the framework of psychological time, cease to exist along with the framework itself? And if it can, who might be the entity assigned to carry out the hit job? Is not the “I” inseparable from the mental constructs and projections with which it is identified and from which it derives both pain and pleasure? How then can an act of will emanating from this seemingly dominant layer of the conditioned mind detect and eliminate the fraud while simultaneously getting rid of the swindler?
The self is indistinguishable from the imprint left in the brain by its pre-historical, tribal, and biographic experience, and for this reason it is also incapable of doing anything conclusive about its endemic sense of existential isolation and the often-excruciating pain of its mental, social, ecological condition. However, full awareness of this dead-end —the self as a particular manifestation of a species-wide mental system conditioned by equally dead but still divisive mental representations of the past, the present, and the future— is in itself the emergence of a mind unencumbered by the detritus of trans-personal and exclusive experience and its doomed journeys to an imaginary future liberation. The question of whether a mind purged of unnecessary personal memory and desire can survive in a dog-eat-dog world is as spurious as it is dangerous because it comes from the same self-protective and self-projective conformity that is our fundamental problem in the first place. The proper question sounds more like this: can the insane world in which personal images are endlessly erected, celebrated, attacked, and often enough violently destroyed (along with the bodies that bear them as battle horses once bore infantrymen), survive the presence of a growing number of selfless, and therefore intelligent and caring human organisms approaching critical mass? (37)
If thought is a general mental process through which memory meets the actual unfolding of life and responds to it by judging the experience and by projecting modifications of itself and its future experience, then it is absurd to continue believing in the existence of an independent personal entity responsible for the quality of this thinking process and its consequences. Thinking is to the brain what blood is to the circulatory system, and this generic brain function guides the historical unfoldment of the species much like an operating system and a memory set guides the workings of a computer. Most peculiar about this memory-based operating system is the “me,” an equally standard-issue, but dominant part of the human brain/mind. This part is granted an spurious executive role as the perceiving, thinking, feeling, and desiring center of consciousness, and this conceit takes on the trappings of an independent entity existing in separation from just about everything, including consciousness and life itself.
When limited to the application of objective knowledge that is necessary to diagnose and resolve the practical challenges of everyday life, thought can be fairly rational and efficient. However, as we all know well, thought is far from rational when, through the application of different mixtures of objective and subjective knowledge, it attempts to manage and improve the lives and relationships of billions of conditioned and self-centered individuals organized in sectarian tribes. In other words, thought can be intelligent and effective when dealing with practical problems external to itself, but it is generally irrational and even destructive when it comes to dealing with the psychological, interpersonal, and social disorder created by its own divisive self-centeredness and profound alienation from life.
A simple example may be in order here. Practical experience and at least some theoretical knowledge gathered over time about engines might be of great relevance the day one’s car stops running. However, the record of personal experience mixed with knowledge taken from different political, ethnic, psychological, religious, or scientific orthodoxies is generally useless in accurately perceiving and instantly eliminating thought and behavior hurtful to the human organism, singular and plural. Self-centered knowledge is dysfunctional because its insularity and general limitation is deeply implicated in its false sense of autonomous and unique personal existence and in the mental and interpersonal problems it is constantly attempting to solve. It is for the same reason that nations are obsessed with their historical identity, political sovereignty, and economic advantage, and therefore nearly incapable of intelligent action, this, especially in the larger context of global climate disruption, nuclear weapons, conventional war, unjust inequality, and all the rest of species-wide and planetary problems and threats.
Combining these two sides of the same mindset it is easy to imagine, let us say, a person who is extraordinarily well informed in chemistry and desperate to play an important historical role determined by his political/religious beliefs and his need for notorious self-fulfillment. This person may be quite capable of making his knowledge available to a nation, or to a group of dissidents, for the manufacturing of terrible weaponry necessary to settle some score or gain greater influence. A sustained and thorough observation of the present state of the world (and of one’s own mind in this world) is enough to realize that, while thought’s capacity in certain areas is incontrovertible, its record is abysmally bad in the far more critical areas of mental health, interpersonal relations, social and geopolitical order, and ecological harmony. We remain blind to the obvious and irresponsibly immature when we fail to notice that the conditioned, divisive, self-protective, and self-projective process of thought is itself the fundamental problem confronting humanity.
Despite the great existing variety of psychological profiles and their considerable creativity and generosity, there is a single mental program at work in every human brain/mind characterized and sustained by a little rivulet of illusory individuality running somewhat above a massive underground stream of memories, desires, feelings, and sensations. Paradoxically, the mental trickle of the “me” has the power to block from view, not just the wide stream of psychological commonality running deep within the species as a whole, but also the boundless space of mind and life. Unable or unwilling to see what lies beneath and beyond our personally appropriated conflicts and sorrows, loves and hates, fears, pleasures, and joys, we tragically rededicate ourselves at every moment to the defense and expansion of ourselves in the direction and manner set by pre-established cultural mandates and our appetite for the fantasy of self-fulfillment. The entire system of mental conditioning by proprietary experience gains strength and is projected into the future by the attachment each person has to her own beliefs, fears, and desires.
The arduous struggle necessary to become psychologically better and socially and materially better-off, is fifty percent personal resistance and fifty percent the tenacity with which others resist our efforts to induce, seduce, or force them to act in a manner more accommodating to our claims and goals. Thus, regardless of how hard we try to modify our behavior and cajole others into changing theirs, our efforts are seldom, if ever, sufficient and effective. What is even worse is that in their own small or large way our respective efforts to change and improve invariably contribute to the general atomization and ossification of the human mind, the strain in our relationships, and the cumulative damage we do to the delicate natural systems on which all life on Earth depends.
In a certain sense, personal and tribal hypocrisy is far worse than the countless problems it so successfully ignores, misrepresents, or disavows because, difficult as our problems are, what makes their solution nearly impossible is the personal and cultural cover-up of the dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns responsible for their existence and perdurability. Were we not self-blinding hypocrites willfully unaware of ourselves as the fundamental problem of being human, the same energy and intelligence regularly and successfully applied to the solution of immensely complicated but more objective problems, would be similarly and instantly applied to the central challenge of a brain/mind conditioned by limited experience and a self-serving agenda.
It is fair to say that the most damning effect of the bias and self-protective maneuvers of the tribally issued self, is to make the very perception of the source and nature of chronic mental and social problems seem like an unwarranted or impossible task. Self-deception and the allure of status have such hold on the mind that even the suffering that someone may endure is liable to be turned into a conspicuous sign of virtue and self-importance, perhaps even a source of profit. Whatever brings the conditioned psyche distinction is, generally, what matters most, because we remain convinced that what makes us different from others (personally and culturally) is what establishes the fact and unique quality of our evolving existence.
This is, of course, not true. Personal difference is just the visible tip of the human iceberg of commonly shared traits, and this immense iceberg of impersonality is just a tiny dot floating in the infinite ocean of life’s intimate and highly sensitive kinship with itself. We are only strangers to this kinship when we insist in living with our backs turned to it.
If I think that “I” am not all that violent, I may try to enhance my self-image by curing others of their, in my eyes, far more apparent hostility, and I may do so quite violently, which puts in evidence the original incoherence and the resulting lack of clear perception. Moreover, if “I” happen to somehow realize that violence must be an integral part of “me” given that it is a fixed trait of the isolated and conditioned personal psyche, I will most probably fail to stay with this startling fact long enough to let it tell its own story. The fear of being indistinguishable from others as far as violence (or any other similar trait) goes, almost mechanically turns one’s eyes away from the truth and back to the illusion of a unique, and therefore separate identity/existence. It generally seems so much more natural (let alone, convenient) to disregard violence or to indulge in some vain effort to overcome it, as though it were not an integral part of one-self, but rather an external and temporary disturbance that the same aggressive pretender is quite likely to eventually eliminate. The same one who, at some level of consciousness, may be telling itself something like this: “These incidents of violence (intra- or extra-psychic) are damaging my self-esteem, what is even worse, they are interfering with the gradual realization of the super-peaceful “me” I have in mind for the future.”
Awkward as it is, this example of how we frequently think and act regarding violence may nevertheless drive home the fact that each one of us is just a particular mixture of the same constellation of basic human traits. Fear; envy; ambition; hostility; the desire for exclusive love, pleasure, and power; and the proclivity towards habit and illusion are all traits characteristic of the species as a whole and the reason for the sustained high incidence of conflict and hurt in our minds and relationships. Unless we are free of the gradually changing preferences and aversions determined by personal experience and cultural determination at every point in time, the great elephant in the room remains invisible. In other words, clear vision of reality is contingent on the willingness to put personal identity, not just in serious doubt, but on the chopping block. Barring this willingness, we simply go back to thinking ourselves safe and righteous within our respective biographical and cultural sanctuaries, but still caught in, and contributing to the general deception that we are substantially different from others (possibly better, potentially if not actually), and able to direct our process of personal development (and, perhaps, theirs as well).
A tribally endorsed narrative helps to define and distinguish the self-centered individual making him appear to himself as a central protagonist in a protracted struggle to be and become better through the pursuit and potential achievement of proprietary goals of worldly and/or otherworldly success. The interminable posturing (intellectual, technological, moral, religious, political, sexual, etc.) of each personal narrative constricting the mind and determining its projection, renders practically invisible that we remain very much as confused, divided, conflicted, and violent as we have ever been. Significant psychological and cultural progress is a lie nurtured along and reinforced by everyone who thinks him or herself as an autonomous creature engaged in a continuous effort to improve its personal, clannish, and tribal attributes and circumstances.
Now, to face this enormous fact, to look at the phenomenon of the self and in a single undivided and passive glance see the multifaceted deception of the species as a whole, is not so much a step in the right “evolutionary” direction, as an instantaneous collapse of the fantasy of a separate and endlessly perfectible personal existence. This radical and abrupt break in psychological and sectarian continuity ends the myriad maneuvers intended to increase exclusive pleasure, power, and status while diminishing loss, frustration, and pain. This break in continuity also happens to awaken the brain/mind to its deepest source.
In this peculiar question of what to do about being part of a crude, cruel, and suffering humanity, intelligence is something entirely other than the traditional application of appropriate knowledge to a well-diagnosed problem. Intelligence in this crucial matter comes rather as an immediate and comprehensive insight into the whole phenomenon of human existence that, in barring any further action informed by previous experience and desire, demolishes the fantasy of separate person living and evolving in the time-bound realm of the known and the knowable. (38)
In order to claim a unique identity capable of progressing into a better version of its own separate existence, one has to think oneself in some way the measure of all things. A life of one’s own cannot exist without a corresponding lack of awareness regarding the mystery of life as a whole that then is, at the very best, the functional stage of one’s unique and all-important performance of a well-memorized part acted out in the company of allies and foes who think the same of their own scripts. For most of us, life has only the meaning and value that our narrow knowledge, petty attachments, and bitter-sweet experience impart on what we each call “my” life; and this immense perceptual and cognitive error continues to be the source of the human tragedy. (39)
Let us assume that one has come to see that no action instigated by thought (one’s own or someone else’s) is commensurate with the challenge posed by the critical problems thought itself has created. Perception of thought’s barrenness implies, of course, that the personal past is no longer relevant, and while plans still have to be drawn for lunch tomorrow, and perhaps a necessary visit to a doctor next week, there is nothing to look forward from a psychological point of view. Long-term goals of advancement and self-improvement that once seemed nothing short of essential are instantly abandoned, and there is no further dependence on the support provided by membership in consensual groups of any size or type. Commitment to local, partial, and gradual social reforms and services are equally out of the question, or something of little relevance.
Language is still used, but in a highly critical manner and sparingly, for it is now also evident that language reflects and reinforces the basic structure of self-centered and sectarian thought that, in turn, mechanically articulates and corroborates the dysfunctional intra-psychic and interpersonal transactions of a falsely unique personal existence largely at odds with life itself. Despite their unique value in certain respects, languages, in plural, constitute one of the most divisive and problematic components of human culture. However, when carefully employed our existing means of communication may prove to be pliable and accurate enough to reflect the dangerous role they all too often play in the distortion of human nature and its place in life. Through caring and sustained dialogue in different languages and through other types of communication, we can certainly warn one another of the extent to which our conformity to different cultural contexts and personal mental habits is preventing us from seeing ourselves as the mystery of undivided life conscious of itself.
It is important to clarify that, in this context, the word culture is employed in its largest anthropological sense, and mostly to underline its role in producing and sustaining a set of psychological entities with similar characteristics, especially when compared those other entities product of other cultures. The self thinks and acts mostly according to the traditions, norms, and values dictated by the larger cultural organisms that sponsor its very existence and that are, themselves, integral part of the reconstructed, recorded, and projected experience of humanity in mental and actual chronological time.
There are many reasons why the perception of self as indistinct from human experience is not just another predetermined cultural point of view, but the most important is that the actual perception of this fact brings about a fundamental change in consciousness in which the insularity of the self ceases to exist. In other words, the actual integration of the idea of the self into the reality of a broken-up and chaotic world is not a mere modification in the psychological configuration of the mind, but a deep alteration in the very physiology of the brain. This alteration involves the end of personal and tribal identity, and consequently the cessation of any action exclusively based on the mental record of proprietary past, present, or future experience.
Once the mind is no longer isolated, bamboozled, and drained of energy by the insane demands of personalism and sectarian tribalism, there is no longer space in the mind for the cramped hyperactivity of egoic thought. There is no more hoarding and craving for imaginary psychological and tribal treasures, and therefore no more maddening mental back and forth about reward and punishment; fear and expectation; pleasure and pain; “me,” yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The mind is free of self-serving judgment and irrational desire, and therefore acutely aware of things as they actually are and the action warranted by this reality alone.
A great space of impersonal equanimity and silence suddenly replaces the clatter, fear, and sorrow of personal being and becoming. Freedom from psychological and cultural shackles and blinders implies a radical independence, but this independence is nothing akin to uncaring disconnection and behavioral license. When the made-up personal entity hell-bent on becoming somewhat better or something else altogether is no longer constricting and controlling the mind, awareness is intense, quiet, and boundless. The subject/object, “me”/”not-me” divide is gone. Except for practical knowledge, the mind is now empty. Life is one, and all goodness and wisdom lies in that. (40)
As the situation of the world grows progressively more confused, conflicted, and dangerous, people everywhere generally see no better option than to entrench themselves further within their respective tribes, ideologies, and traditions. After all, self-referential thought is restricted to reactively behaving according to what it knows, wants, and fears not being able to get. As in previous times of crisis, all too many of us are increasingly tightening our loyalty to the memories and projections defining both, our exclusive bond with those with whom we share a given material and ideological haven, and our consequent and nearly unbridgeable separation from all those who inhabit different but equally exclusive cultural enclaves. This atavistic urge to identify with whatever appears as greater than the vulnerable self and protective of it, has since time immemorial, engendered and sustained the wasteful competition and often violent confrontation in which, to this day, the entire world is engaged. Through blind commitment to exclusive versions of personal and tribal identity, we personally allow the separation, conflict, and sorrow of the past to spill into and corrupt every present day and every conceivable tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, even though the technology always manages to get better for some, the future always turns out to be just a slight modification of the same broken-up and hurtful reality that every generation gets to know and suffer.
Our general and chronic lack of intelligence and compassion emerges, of course, from this circular and barren struggle for the security and status we all absurdly expect to attain from exclusive access to material resources, culturally defined meaning, and social position. We remain willfully ignorant of who we are, and therefore unable to see the egregious consequences of our most insensitive and egotistical thoughts and actions and the insufficiency of our most noble ones. Worse yet, this habitual myopia also renders impossible an unthinkably different mode of being human in which the accumulation of knowledge and its application through thought is circumscribed to practical problems, and therefore no longer serves a false sense of separate existence stubbornly acting out its neurotic claims and desires. Just one instant of clear and thorough vision is enough to reveal the possibility of a collaborative and harmonious humanity grounded, not on different versions of the same mental conditioning, but on life as a whole.
“I can only hope,” he said to his friend, “that if I happen to be by the side of your bed as you lay dying, I will not have to witness your frustration at not having found this ‘master switch’ you say will lead to an entirely different form of being human.” A little crest-fallen, the friend responded: “I must not be expressing this correctly. Give me one more chance and maybe you’ll see what my words are merely pointing to. First, there is no such master switch, for that would presume a separate entity reaching out to turn it on or off. Besides, there is no two of you: one who would execute the psychological change deemed necessary, and the other who would be reformed by it. Personal enlightenment and the realization of the personal self are both oxymoronic notions. There is nothing we can personally do and nothing we can depend that will significantly improve our situation or save us from ourselves. The radical mental change I am suggesting may be possible depends precisely in seeing the self’s incapacity to bring about enlightenment and profit from it. So, right here and now, can you see the fixed limitation and egotistical isolation of self-centered thought, and the dogged way in which it projects itself onto the future? It is essential that you look at yourself and the world without trying to resist or transcend the situation observed, because it is obvious now that any movement of thought chasing after less restrictive parameters or eventual liberation will only contribute to the continuation of the same dysfunctional mental process that needs to come to an end?”
“I’m trying real hard, maybe if you tell me more,” said the friend in a somewhat unconvincing tone. “Good! Now, if you see that any effort made to improve, escape, or transcend yourself only serves the continuity of the same limited mindset, then all is left is the most intimate and immediate truth: the immensity of what is actual and perceptible at every point in time, and the mysterious space from which it is perceived. See it right now, in this very conversation between us two. Let me state the problem once more, just to make sure you are with me. Any movement of thought and will intending to gain access to a predetermined and preferred state of consciousness simply leads back to the pseudo-evolutionary mental process presumably led by the isolated entity that that we all know as “my” self. Is it not evident that what you habitually think of as “your” life —that is, the mental version of you in the past, in the present, and the future— is an illusion, definitely not the life force in you and all-around you? And, is this illusion of a separate and self-centered existence not sustained by the on-going struggle to attain successive versions of itself; a struggle that you now can see full well is the source of loneliness, conflict, and pain, and not just for you, but for everyone? If you hold nothing back, the lucid perception of this entire realm of illusion brings about its dissolution. You do not have to take my word for any of this. Just ask yourself if the ultimate ground of your presence is the personal psychic field or the infinity of life itself?”
To this unfashionably earnest little speech and its crucial final question, the friend curtly and all-too-quickly said, “Look, I’ll be honest with you. I think I definitely need to hold something back: namely, myself. I do not want to go insane playing this cynical game of hyper-criticism of everything, including what I hold most dear. But you know that I will defend to death your right to say whatever you want. Bye now, I’ve really got to go, my life is calling me back!” (41)
A profound exploration of oneself begins with the simple corroboration of the fact that different levels of recorded experience have conditioned the human brain and psyche. These levels are the evolutionary (pre-historical) journey of the species; the history of the many different cultural enclaves that developed sequentially, and side-by-side; and the biographical experience of the individual whose existence depends on these cultural enclosures to which so much is owed. Although what we each personally “know, feel, and desire” may be somewhat different from what others know, feel, and desire, the general configuration and operation of the mind is common lot to every human being practically without exemption, and this is what is meant by asserting that mental conditioning is a general phenomenon. If this fact is perceived in a manner far more incisive and direct than the lame description these words afford, the conceit of a distinct personal entity existing in relative isolation from different versions of the same conceit in others is instantly destroyed. The mind that survives this purge is no longer a particular reflection of the psychological and social travesty we have become accustomed to call “human nature.”
There are no gradual steps leading to different and presumably higher stages of understanding, no incremental mastery necessary to complement or complete what this first and fundamental step in self-inquiry achieves with its simultaneously illuminating and destructive power. More bluntly put, either the falseness of the person conditioned and isolated by experience is evident or it is not. There is no gradual progression in this matter. The conditioned mental process we all call “me” cannot survive unconditioned, and therefore complete and instantaneous awareness of its fraudulent nature. Again, not all recorded knowledge perishes in this upheaval in consciousness, but what remains is merely a functional tool at the service of the organism and the community, not the ground and vehicle of a separate and self-projecting psychological entity.
Why is it that we so strenuously resist seeing that “our” brains/minds have been uniformly shaped, not just by all the events that preceded our personal irruption into life, but also by all the pre-historical events that led to the appearance of the phenomenon of self-reflective human consciousness on planet Earth? Why is it that we so insistently hide that the same instincts, drives, and other predetermined proclivities characteristic of our (common) brain/mind have enormous gravitation on everyone’s experience of life, and action within it? Is anyone amongst us exempt from sexuality, fear, jealousy, anger, ambition, and dread? Beyond that, who amongst us is exempt from the threat of accident, disease, failure, and loss, let alone the hardships of old age and the death of the organism? Is anyone not privy to the fundamental processes and events that make up the life cycle of a physical organism coextensive with nature as a whole? Who is not a willing or unwilling servant to the master-drive mechanically attempting to avoid discomfort and pain while just as mechanically chasing after physical, and especially psychological, security and pleasure?
The psychosomatic imprint of previous pre-personal, cultural, and biographic experience is so pervasive and tenacious, that any positive effort made by anyone to alter or escape its influence is, more than anything else, clear sign that the fact and resilience of conditioning has not yet been properly seen and understood. Direct attempts to disguise, undermine, or overcome psychological conditioning only serve to give further continuity (and a deeper neurotic character) to the central entity —the “me”— instructed and alienated by this conditioning. To make matters worse, any attempt of personal reform is just another aspect of the same conditioning that merely adds to the number of conflicting pseudo-solutions already shaping and conflicting, not only the particular mind, but the species as a whole. However, as already repeatedly mentioned, a single, unpremeditated, and therefore agenda-free glance at oneself as a mere representative of the entire record of human existence, puts in evidence our fundamental similarity and the extreme limitation of our shared mindset. For the same reason, this glance annihilates the importance habitually granted to the personal differences with which we each claim an overwrought sense of personal uniqueness and a manifest destiny. The constancy and tragic consequences of a mind divided, programmed, and sustained by particular experience is the most necessary and immediate truth, and when this truth is fully evident the cover is blown and the separate self is no more.
To be sure, unless one understands that the conflict between the actual and the ideal self is futile, and therefore open to whatever actually happens to a mind devoid of any past, present, or future, this or any other similar description of the possibility of a radical change in consciousness is only that, a lifeless theoretical possibility. (42)
A great blessing is granted when the fundamental equality of human beings becomes apparent, because it is only when the ranking of oneself vis-à-vis others has ended, that envy, hatred, frustration, and fear lose their venom. (43)
The only illumination we need is pure and simple. It is also available to all. It lies in the revelation that, as far as mental conditioning goes, one is fundamentally the same as everybody else. We are all particular manifestations of a common human psyche that has evolved, first within the fold of nature, and then within the realm of tribal and personal mental representation; a human psyche increasingly alienated from nature and intent on the realization of exclusive and therefore contradictory goals the realization of which necessarily involves great effort, conflict, and suffering. This simultaneous unveiling of the plight and impotence of the self-reflective mind conditioned by experience and knowledge, terminates in one blow the conflict involved in being who one actually is while simultaneously attempting to become the better person that one imagines is possible, and this termination is the advent of an unthinkably different —selfless— participation in life. No longer weighted down by a particular identity with its odious and misleading psychological comparisons and the internal and interpersonal animosities these comparisons engender, the mind quiets down and lightens up. Only the wise, all-encompassing embrace of life remains. (44)
The full flowering of the human mind comes, not through the yearning and struggle involved in attaining what the person covets, but rather through the dis-illusion of its isolated existence. The truth cannot be an object of desire, because it lies beyond the limited and error- and delusion-prone realm of the already known and the potentially knowable. Try searching the Internet for the truth. (45)
When one stands alone, not isolated but equally free of allies and foes, there is clear perception. Particular tribal sanctuaries grant company and protection, but at the onerous cost of self-righteous and conflictive separation from others. This tribal security is largely illusory, not only because its isolation necessarily carries antagonism, fear, and sorrow, but also because it is always looking for an improved, or an altogether new form of exclusive consensus claiming the capacity to exercise an even more righteous and efficient influence over itself and others. Naturally, this tribal or sectarian righteousness can only exist and operate in competition or outright opposition to that claimed by other groups and individuals who suffer the same delusion, only that behind a slightly different, but equally dumb consensual barricade. (46)
What we each may think about the truth has a lot more to do with the limitations of the way we perceive, know, and desire, than with the unthinkable living immediacy and depth of truth itself. Knowledge (especially psychological knowledge) is so self-absorbed and arrogant that it cannot look beyond itself and see the boundless (and actual, not merely representational) ocean on which it floats. Clearly, what we ignore and what is entirely beyond our learning potential, is infinitely greater than whatever we happen to know and desire, both personally and tribally, at any point in time. The infinity of the movement of existence, (especially the energetic ground pulsating beyond discernible form) is not something that can be dissected and appropriated by knowledge, now or ever. When we surrender to this living totality that alone merits the name of truth, we are no longer part of any of the disparate cultural entities who exist and prolong themselves through the false impersonations of the truth they each have invented in the past and learned to experience today and tomorrow, and in permanent conflict with one another.
The insight that exposes our present psychological and social reality as an absurd collection of superficial and contradictory opinions jointly responsible for the fragmentation and unmitigated suffering of humanity also clears the mind of the conceit of its unique identity and separate existence. All that remains then is a free and impersonal mind. Nothing has changed, however, if this is only a possibility, an idea affirmed while still in alienation from the actuality of this mind. If that is the case and one is still trapped in the (representational) outside, as it were, awareness of this very sense of captivity demands a renewed negative approach to the possibility of an impersonal mind (and with it the manifestation of the indivisible mystery of life). All attention then naturally focuses on that which is not reducible to knowledge. The absence of any particular constellation of stored-up images, ideas, and plans constricting consciousness and standing in contrast and outright contradiction with other similar constellations, is the presence of a mind that, being nothing in itself, is one with the indivisible flow of life and death. Freedom lies in seeing that the self-centered fragmentation of human society renders the truth invisible and life hardly bearable. (47)
What hollows one out is the realization that what passes for “my” existence is only a particular instance of a general mindset splintering humanity into billions of egotistical and conflicted personal entities generally at odds with each other. Awareness of the interconnection and gravity of human problems, and of the futility of the inadequate and contradictory solutions routinely proposed for these problems, also hollows one out. Subjected to this powerful outer pressure and inner vacuum, the thin and brittle walls of the self finally give way. The sense of personal time created by memory and desire suddenly disappears, along with unnecessary effort. All that remains then is the impersonal brain functions necessary to communicate with others and safeguard the wellbeing of the physical organism. Where the noise of the world and the chatter of the self used to echo each other, there is now silence. Not a manufactured, worked-for, or meditated-for silence that would be just another product of self-centered thought, but an unmerited, unprecedented, and thus ever indecipherable silence. (48)
Self-centered thought operates by defending its roots in cumulative memory while simultaneously endeavoring to reach a comparatively safer and better version of itself conceived by the same rancid memory. The results of this operation can be satisfactory at times, but they are always temporary, involve mental strain, a damaging drain of vital energy, and a non-trivial incidence of painful interactions with others.
There may freedom from manner of being human, but the very nature of this freedom negates that it be the result of yet another willful choice made by the same conditioned mindset on behalf of what it thinks its future ought, and ought not, to be. Confronted with this impossible challenge the thinker hits an impassable wall that annuls the pretense of particular being and becoming. (49)
What I think of “my” life, what I want or fear from it, has nothing much to do with life itself. The dimly perceptible flow of being and its imperceptible source are both independent from the intellect and ultimately inaccessible to it. Thought is only capable of exploring, identifying, and making conjectures about certain parts and aspects of interlocking material and mental systems that it cannot fully perceive or understand, let alone manipulate with any degree of intelligence. There is then no sound reason to trust that human ingenuity and cumulative knowledge will eventually unravel the mystery of life, and thus assume full control of its forces. Unfortunately, unbridled expressions of this unfounded trust have already made possible the creation of immensely destructive nuclear armaments and levels of ecological transgression that put in jeopardy our very presence within this mystery.
To embrace the mystery of life and death is not obscurantism. It is rather the natural outcome of realizing the limitations and dangers and of all forms of additive knowledge, especially those utilized to grant ourselves separate existence, unique identity, social status, and with that, also influence over the life of others. One can surmise that this realization may spell the end of the line for self-serving thinking, but it would be a serious error to go on to visualize the outcome of this ending as an alternative mental state extending, and perhaps spiritualizing the private life of a refurbished “me.” The indivisible, ever-present, and self-aware mystery the made-up narrative of the personalized mind obscures cannot possible be a subject of knowledge and appetite. (50)
Most of us seem to be permanently engrossed in the struggle to realize particular definitions of personal security, meaning, and fulfillment in life (all these generally extended to family, friends, small group, and tribe). Given the low rate of success inherent in an all-out battle for absurdly exclusive self-realization, it is more than licit to stop offering oneself as a propitious sacrifice in the altar of secular and spiritual success. Why not simply be the life we all share in equal measure? Are the goals of hypothetical future security and success and the enormous efforts we make to achieve them not futile escape from what is actually occurring at every moment within and all around us and, worse yet, from who we actually are? If beyond superficial appearance we are nothing in ourselves, is it not just fearful avoidance of this fundamental insignificance what is sustaining this pointless charade of a separate personal life? To overcome this fear is to see simultaneously that the only possible outcome of our contradictory attempts to assert ourselves and further the presumed significance of our particular groups of reference is a sea of distress and violence occasionally visited by small, ephemeral waves of pleasure and love. The true ground of human existence lies, not in personal consciousness, but in the all-inclusive embrace of life that is all there ever is. (51)
When there are no more security blankets to hold on to, who are you? If no longer dependent on the mercy of pie-in-the-sky faith, and/or on the insanely demanding and equally false craving for worldly success, where do you stand? What is left of you when once it is obvious that no one else, human or divine, will ever solve your personal problems, calm your strained nerves, and take care of the ever more pressing issues of the world at large? If your membership in a self-deluding cultural consensus largely cut off from the rest of humanity is no longer valid, do you still exist? Does the pain and sense of vulnerability that come from seeing things just as they are, and as bad and dangerous as they are, do away with you?
A mind free of the imperatives of personal fulfillment and the inane sense of manifest destiny characteristic of a particular clan or tribe is largely unoccupied, silent, and unafraid. It is one with the impersonal vitality of the cosmic flow. (52)
Corporatism has created a false sense of globalization. Life, which is not just global but infinite has, on the other hand, no brand whatsoever; particular nationality, faith, gender, class, or race mean nothing to it. In other words, life is not conditioned by thought. It cares nothing about identity and the realization of personal, national, corporate, racial, ethnic, scientific, artistic, or religious ambitions. Seen within the ample and vital context that holds us (and everything else) without distinction, the future of humanity clearly depends on our ability to attain and maintain an intelligent and therefore harmonious global collaboration —something that can never result from one faction, tribe, or set of tribes managing to subjugate all others by force.
The fate of our children, their children, and the children of their children depends on a critical number of caring individuals irrevocably setting aside the personal and cultural attachments from which a destructive sense of separate existence and exclusive fulfillment invariably grows. (53)
At its very best, thought is an impersonal function of the brain that can be extraordinarily efficient in the application of what has been experienced and learned in the past to the solution of practical problems. This much is abundantly clear. What is much more difficult to discern is why the early territoriality of human groups and the functional differentiation (technical specialization) of individuals necessary for survival have turned into rigid social and psychological patterns of behavior that have been themselves representationally codified and systematically internalized. After all, there is a limit to the usefulness of this type of knowledge and structure that when transgressed becomes the division, conflict, and suffering every generation of human beings has had to endure, and that, unless there is a veritable revolution in consciousness, future generations will have to endure as well.
Put differently, the extraordinary human ability to commit experience to memory in increasingly complex and pliable forms of additive and interconnected knowledge —knowledge needed to intelligently respond to the multiple demands of different, present, and future circumstances— has perverted itself through the acquisition of separate, self-sustaining, and conflictive tribal and personal identity. Even worse is the fact that the most impersonal form of knowledge (essentially scientific and technical), clearly an essential tool with immense potential for diminishing human pain and sorrow, is routinely placed at the service of misguided tribal and personal interests, thus making the general disorder of human affairs that much worse. Witness if not the monstrous consequences of putting some of the greatest insights in science, mathematics, and technology into the creation of extraordinarily destructive instruments and practices, and these at the service of the most stupidly aggressive political, economic, and religious forces.
I say that a rock exists because it is stable over time; I see it today, and tomorrow it is still there relatively unchanged, at least in simple view. In the same manner, I have a strong sense that “I” have been around for a good time, that I am here now, and that I will most probably be here tomorrow as well, from which I assume that I too exist as a stable and relatively independent entity uniquely different from everyone and everything else. Leaving aside the fact that no separate existence can be predicated of our rock either, this psychological entity, this “I” that is assumed to exist independently from everything else, does not exhibit the substantial, stable actuality of the rock. The self is only a collection of largely unverifiable and highly unstable images and ideas routinely representing a past that no longer exists, interpreting an evanescent, ever unknowable present, and projecting a future that does not yet exist and most probably will not come to pass as feared or desired. Its identification with the physical body generally ignores the extent to which this body, and the mental process responsible for this narrow identification is dependent from and coextensive with the material universe and its unfathomable source.
The essential and initially devastating fact revealed by this query is that the self, who presumes to be an autonomous entity continuously evolving in time, does not in fact exist as anything other than a remarkably unstable and hardly tangible collection of mental representations and projections. The vagaries of past, present, and future experience are all there is to the self, any self, and this mental content rigging every mind/brain in different but largely superficial ways extends itself in time by means of thought, will, and desire (the dynamic projection of memory). The self that “thinks” of itself as the observer, thinker, and doer existing apart from everything else, by attributing knowledge, desire, and will to itself cannot see that thought is a collective phenomenon and not a personal attribute or function. The peculiar mental layer in which representations of past, present, and future experience coalesce to generate the idea and sensation of a unique and largely autonomous personal existence gifted with a uniquely precious identity, naturally has nothing much to do with the unthinkable breadth and depth of material and immaterial infinity. We pay dearly for this perceptual insensitivity and cognitive dissonance that hold steady regardless of how hard we may try to reform ourselves and ameliorate the most egregious consequences of a separate sense of personal being.
Our lives are nothing more than the ephemeral pleasures and the unending effort, fear, and grief experienced in the attempt to acquire more than we need and be more than we actually are, all while pretending that death is not the end of the generally far more anxious than happy “me.” We are only particular idiosyncratic instances of a single phenomenon of accumulated pre-personal, tribal, and personal experience; a phenomenon that sustains itself through a permanent projection of its countless constituent selves seen in the illusory screen of a future that is insanely contradictory and never anything other than isolation, fear, desire, conflict, pleasure, and grief. Whether this is the only possible mode of human existence is the only truly relevant question we face. Our contention being, of course, that it is not. (54)
A human being is a person minus the multiple layers and projections of cultural and psychological knowledge that choke the mind with their intransigence and opacity. If freed of this heavy load of self-centered and time-bound information, this peculiar organism with the big brain can be exquisitely sensitive, sensitive enough to see the extent and depth of the conflictive division and self-inflicted suffering of humanity and be radically altered by it. The fully attentive mind does not suffer or willingly contribute to sorrow, and in this alone lies all freedom, goodness, love, and intelligence. (55)
After defining and insulating ourselves with multiple layers of inherited, adopted, and self-created images and ideas, life suddenly rips off the thick mask of particular identity. In an instant, death literally pins us to the ground and without a trace of compunction strips us naked of all the claims and achievements, dreams, and dramas that we thought were our very being, our life. The farce of the tribal and personal self is then over for good because the physical organism that supported it is no longer there. With the destruction of the body, life merely gathers back the energy that is essentially hers by rolling unceremoniously over what had been all along a wrong-headed strangulation of this energy: namely, the additive mental content and the clever back-and-forth with which we identify in order to know ourselves in superficial contrast with others and apart from life. Serious consideration of these facts inevitably leads to an immediate surrender of the fantasy of a separate, thought-based existence, and this surrender leads, in turn, to the incontrovertible truth of an all-encompassing conscious life.
It is commonplace to live a capriciously concocted personal story almost entirely cut-off from that of most others and from life. It is also commonplace to die with eyes still firmly shut to this all-encompassing embrace of existence. In fact, what dies is this reluctance to see, because while death is certainly part of life, life itself does not die. Countless cultures and billions of human beings conditioned by the same absurd sense of separate existence have preceded us in this cruel and unnatural way of living and dying. Barring the fantasy of religious extensions of the self into subsequent life, or lives, it seems logical to assume that death is an event that terminates the life cycle of the physical and psychological self. However, this logic hinges on the larger assumption that the significance of the human presence within the wholeness of existence lies fundamentally in some-one’s life: a personal endowment and proprietary experience that begins at conception or birth and that will be eventually truncated by death. Unsurprisingly, when the validity of this assumption is seriously questioned, the very foundations of the secular establishment and the secular person shake badly. Their disturbance is, in fact, quite similar to that experienced by traditionally religious social and personal entities when their own assumptions are put in doubt.
The real question is not whether life is the span of time and experience available to the individual, or the eternity of a personal existence that extends indefinitely beyond both birth and death. The real question is, rather, if there is any truth to either one of these claims given that the personal self is itself an illusion responsible for many other illusions. Who is the entity who lives forty, sixty, eighty, or a hundred years and then dies irreversibly or only to move on to greener pastures? Is the habitual defense and laborious pre- and post-mortem projection enacted by countless self-declared units of human existence warranted because it represent the truth, or is the present state of human consciousness merely the self-replicating outcome of a massive and tragic error with multiple and contradictory expressions?
If we happen to be reducing the mystery of the living whole to whatever each one of us declares to be “my” life, then this is not just an unfortunate oversight responsible for different types and degrees of secular and/or religious performance judged according to the particular standards of every society and every person. No, this absurd reduction of the unknown to the known —of life to self— is responsible for the appalling fate of generation after generation of human beings living half dead and in secret terror of a devastating (even if pregnant) end. Besides, the end of personal life may well be as illusory as the separate existence we all seem to enjoy some and suffer much. Tribal and personal myths inherited, adopted, or created in the hope of escaping the imagined horror of eternal non-being are a significant and integral part of the general system of conditioned thought that is responsible for the conflictive division of humanity and its tragic alienation from life.
If every instant dies in the very birth of the next, should we not also die every moment to what we have experienced in the past, so that life may thrive innocently and ever anew in, through, and all around us? There is no good way to put this question into words without sounding silly or, much worse, without creating the impression that there is a method to live life correctly and die without fear or regret. A method necessarily implies time, effort, and a pre-conceived and proprietary goal, all of which are constituent parts of the same mental self-isolation and alienation from life that we desperately need to shed.
Our false sense of interpersonal separation and existential alienation is deeply encoded in language, which is why it is so difficult to speak or write about this fundamental matter without incurring in further error and self-deception. The only safe and reasonable approach to a radically different mode of being implies direct, complete, and unbiased observation of what the self actually is and is not. This implies, in turn, having resolutely set aside all established and potential idea-based descriptions and prescriptions regarding self, life, and death. The inception of an unthinkably new mind lies in this peculiar, wordless perception of what actually is. (56)
life, the totality of existence, manifest, non-manifest, and potential, could not possibly be a penumbral stage designed with the only purpose of hosting for a few years the mediocre one act play that each of us calls “my life.” Thus, anyone with some sense of the unimaginable scale and complexity of the cosmic context, and consequently of the fractious insignificance of personal life, inevitably comes to see that (our) fundamental reality is not particular to “me”, but general and impersonal. Life pertains to everything that, being lively or a necessary condition to what is lively, is an integral part of existence as a whole. Therefore, the presumed time-bound singularity of self-centered thought (the mental record of the person who was, is, and will be) emerges from an insane constriction and profound misrepresentation of life that, in turn, renders invisible the depth and significance of the human presence, both personal and collective, within it. The species as a whole has betrayed its integral participation in life by means of the discrete entity (the “I”) that exists psychologically in the peculiar time-space created by personal memory mechanically progressing though fear and desire. Closer to the bone, each alienated human being is cause and effect of an unending cycle of falsely compensatory tribal and personal actions meant to assuage insecurity and conflict, but that in their isolation, contradictoriness, and insufficiency, only manage to produce further consecutive versions of the same needless afflictions.
Only direct, complete, and passive awareness of the absurdity, insensitivity, and violence intrinsic to separate being and becoming has the power to terminate the pointless trajectory of the self. A sudden disregard of psychological memory and its insatiable craving for certainty and social relevance naturally nullifies the mind-deadening compulsion to turn other people (often “loved ones”) into the means deemed necessary for self-fulfillment. A single penetrating glance can end the self-centered and sectarian process of thought and usher-in the caring intelligence and collaborative unity without which the human species can never thrive and may not even survive. The fully awake and attentive mind is one with the moment-by-moment unfoldment of life. (57)
What could the path to true freedom be if conditioned thought is an immense high security prison holding billions of “me” inmates, all equally craving freedom while simultaneously clinging to the relative security and cozy familiarity offered by their respective buildings and cells? Why and how would the prison guards allow the prisoners to leave, and why would the latter actually leave if there is no difference between the two? Contented lifers in the penitentiary of personal being and becoming (what we each think we are and may want to own and become in this life, and perhaps in the next) are not ever seriously interested in anything other than small privileges granted to make their uninterrupted imprisonment look better. A freedom that goes infinitely beyond what the mind imprisoned in the penal system of self-centered thought can hope for is inconceivable.
Given that personal experience conditions the mind and fragments it into individual units, there is no one within the general system of self-centered thought who is capable of escaping from it. Some small measure of largely irrelevant reform is possible, but only because it is precisely through insubstantial progressive change that thought sustains itself through time. However, extreme resistance to the operating system itself is futile, because any conceivable revolt carries with it the same conceit of existential separation, the same proclivity to interpersonal conflict, and the same inner split between the peripheral contents of consciousness and the central manager —the “I”— who depends for its very existence on the illusion of open-ended potential.
The solution to this fundamental problem of human existence lies in a proper understanding of its nature, as is the case with any other problem. However, in this case the self cannot act as explorer of its own problematic nature, for the simple reason that its point of view necessarily carries the limitations and bias of its preconceptions and its preferred or feared outcomes. To see that it is pointless to keep wasting energy struggling to escape from or fix the claustrophobic and sorrowful condition of the self may seem like a dead end at first, but if this impasse is not rejected outright, an entirely different —impersonal— examination of the nature of the problematic self ensues. The self’s existential dependence on memory and future projections of this same memory makes evident that the solution to the problem of suffering cannot possibly reside in any further exercise of the process of egocentric thought that is at the very heart of this limited and painful mode of existence. The inquiry into the self then begins and ends with the unprecedented realization of the necessity of an a priori eradication of all pre-conception and ulterior motive that, for obvious reasons, the self cannot survive.
Let us give this subtle realization a closer look. We are saying that because every insular human being is part of a general mental phenomenon that depends for its existence on the continuity of a personal story, this story cannot survive the realization that no amount of psychological modification or social (and “spiritual”) climbing can ever deliver the stable security and undisturbed happiness it craves. Let us add to this that, in our own day, this immense and ancient problem of human fragmentation and conflictive desire for self-fulfillment is putting at risk the very capacity of the Earth to sustain complex life forms. Seen from the other side, as it were, the only possible solution to our personal, social, and ecological problems can only come from full awareness of an aberrant mind isolated, conditioned, and sustained in time by particular cultural ideology and personalized experience.
It is extremely important to be quite clear that this insight into the human condition, both personal and collective, has to occur independently in every personal mind. This, because any group effort intending to systematize, multiply, and perhaps accelerate the transformation of personal consciousness risks bringing about instead a relapse into the dogmatic associations and tribal and personal projections that are the very source of the problem of existential isolation that needs to be, not gradually and temporarily diminished, but instantly eliminated.
“I” can do nothing to see the program occupying and running the mind. Much less can “I” do something that will dissolve it because “I” am not different from this program. “I” am the on-going accumulation and projection of experience that makes this entire mindset appear real and continuous. Truly significant change can only be, then, the advent of a mind free of self-centered memory/thought/desire, and therefore fully integrated within itself, at peace with others, and one with life. We have been now absorbed for millennia in efforts to create order and eliminate suffering through the exclusive accumulation and deployment of wealth and power, and the equally proprietary exercise of greater and greater knowledge and intelligence, more efficient virtue, and more impassioned belief. Unsurprisingly, none of these conflicting efforts have produced the intended consequences in any group or society, let alone the world as a whole. Disorder and suffering are still very much with us, and they will remain firmly in place until the made-up entity that craves, hoards, and fights for exclusive security, pleasure, and power is no longer in control of the human mind. (58)
If the obscure prehistorical memory of the species and the more conscious record of tribal and personal experience is by far the more common mode of human existence, can a mind that is somehow fully aware of this conditioning, and therefore free of its influence, induce this awareness in others? The difficulty lies in that anything that does not corroborate the fact, value, and importance of the self is usually taken to be a personal attack devoid of any redeeming value, and therefore deserving to be treated as such. For there to be actual contact between two minds on this crucial matter, the account given by one of them of freedom from personal isolation and cultural fragmentation must be born of full and direct awareness of these phenomena, and it must be paradoxically met by the other with the same undefended, non-ideological, and agenda-free mental stance. In other words, clear and eloquent expression of the necessity of full insight into the human condition may facilitate an intellectual connection, but without a certain mental emptiness lending an ear to this expression, insight remains just another useless ideational proposition. Most will not listen to any of this, a few may do and profit some, but only an explosion occurring within the unbreachable wall of psychological and ideological separation may bring this wall down. (59)
There is a level of perception and a point in chronological (not psychological) time at which the mind becomes aware of the irrationality of depending on knowledge (personal or cultural) to do anything truly effective in regard to isolation, fear, conflict, and suffering, both personal and collective. This insight scuttles the representational timeframe on which the self simulates the illusion of its separate and evolving existences, thus also stopping the retrieval and projection mechanism of psychological knowledge and cultural ideology. This simultaneous collapse of psychological time and egocentric thought and action may appear (on theory) as a total disaster, and perhaps evoke a nightmarish vision of a mind socially isolated and paralyzed by morosity or stupidity, but this is not true, and for two simple reasons. The first reason is practical and almost self-evident: without some measure of knowledge, interpersonal communication, and practical thought, the awakened mind could not survive in the world as it is. The second reason why the collapse of self-centered thought is far from a total disaster is a bit more esoteric: who still suffering from the strictures and bias of proprietary conditioning desperately need and, under certain conditions, may be able to receive the formal evidence that the liberated mind may choose to give of itself. Whenever privately recorded and projected psychological experience no longer dominates the mind, loneliness, insecurity, and sorrow (and all the negative reactions that ensue from these afflictions), naturally disappear.
For full insight to occur, the conditioned mind must contain a least a germ of sensitivity for the suffering of humanity (and not just its own); enough sensitivity to see how its own disorder contributes to the division, conflict, and sorrow afflicting everyone. In simply refusing to rush along with everybody else in hot pursuit of illusory and contradictory ideals, a given manifestation of self-centeredness may disconnect from the general status quo and thus be effectively and instantly deprogrammed. This awakened or liberated mind may have no immediate and tangible effect on human society, but the very nature of its illumination must affect positively the mental health of the species as a whole given that mind or consciousness per se is an integral aspect of life itself and, therefore, necessarily present in everyone. When a given human organism is free of tribal sectarianism and the cruel isolation of self-centered thought, the rest of humanity is that much more exposed to the truth. This emergence from the strictures of egotism and tribalism, and the consequent immersion into the mystery of life is nothing other than the sanity of love. (60)
Sanity is what results from seeing the dysfunction of stored-up experience and the growing danger posed by the unchecked continuity of inter-tribal conflict. The one who is, comparatively, a bit less irrational than most obviously cannot access the accuracy and breadth of perception that unwittingly and undeservedly opens to a veritable mutation in consciousness. As already repeatedly mentioned, theoretical learning and understanding will just not do in this critical matter, because what is necessary is not further gradual and partial modifications in cognition, but rather the demise of that part of thought that is propelled by self-centered memory with its attendant fears and ambitions. Naturally, the central impediment to this fundamental mental change lies in “me,” the impostor who will do anything to prevent having to face a challenge it cannot survive. There is no difference or distance between a presumed separate existence gifted with autonomous agency and the equally presumed mental object of this agency, therefore it is delusional to claim direct personal involvement in a campaign designed to improve significantly the nature of consciousness. The self is nothing but the cumulative contents of consciousness and vice-versa; let us be aware, then, of what the core of the problem is.
The self is the most dynamic and dominant aspect of memory and its presence on the screen of consciousness is the most conspicuous. “I” may be capable of effecting relatively superficial modifications, additions, and subtractions to my cultural and personal record and its future projection, but I am utterly incapable of freeing myself completely from the determinism of memory itself. At the macro context of the species itself, we have never been able to overcome the division, conflict, and sorrow characteristic of our condition because, being what we suffer from, whatever we do to ameliorate or transcend our particular grief only serves to prolong and strengthen the reign of the small-minded and self-serving persona that is its source. Only an unprecedented flash of clarity can blow the dishonest personal cover of thought and thus put a definitive end to its falsely evolving existence. A terminal break in the continuity of the self opens the space necessary for a full irruption into the mind of the impersonal intelligence of life, an intelligence that is timelessly present, but effectively ignored by the opacity of cultural tradition and egocentric consciousness.
Our most immediate problem, then, is that an entity maniacally dedicated to searching —always within the realm of the known— for some safe and worthwhile alternative to its present mental and social tribulations usually reacts in terror to and mechanically rejects any suggestion that there is no significant change without the unknown overwhelming it familiar, personal psychic field. Even a trifling amount of fear or desire still doing the bidding of previous experience and idealized self-projection can block direct perception of one-self as nothing but a particular instance of a doomed general phenomenon of conditioned alienation from life. However, outside the ever-insufficient territory of thought there is nothing the self can lose or gain, nor is there anyone who would mourn the loss or profit from the gain. (61)
“I” look at others and at myself and, beyond superficial differences, see in us all the same isolated and irrational mind busily constructing the future of its preference. To be sure, this statement ought not to be taken as a self-righteous condemnation of congenital or acquired evil, because it is not meant that way. It is only a simple recognition available to anyone who cares to look that the mind/brain we share is extraordinarily diminished by the psychological and tribal knowledge that fleshes out our particular identities and troubles our relationship with one another and with the world at large. No individual human being or group of human beings is morally responsible for the presence of this alienated, doctrinaire, and suffering mind in the world—we were all born with it and within one of its major chambers of cultural resonance. However, if we share this view and look further together, it becomes evident that to give this condition safe transit into the future is a choice each one of us has been mechanically making at every passing moment. This robotic behavior can stop—right now. There is a direct perception of the mental reality of the person that, by eliminating the bias of pre-conception and pre-determined projection ends this reality and uncovers the truth that conditioned thought could never even imagine.
In all too many of us, self-absorption is so dominant that we are indifferent to the lives and suffering of most others. Those of us who may be less entranced by navel-gazing have, according to our respective mental programming, specific explanations for the causes of suffering and perhaps particular plans for the gradual decrease or eventual eradication of particular instances or types of it. As proponents of different theories and projects designed to heal different forms or sectors of human misery, we do not generally question our underlying assumptions and beliefs. Much less do we discuss with exponents and practitioners of different theories and projects the veracity and efficacy of what we each think and do nor, goodness forbid, the fact that we often stand in wasteful if not outright hostile contradiction with one another. In fact, the defense and expansion of what we believe and practice is far more important than the attempt to find common ground and a far more rational cooperative action. The irrationality of personal isolation and tribal division is generally rendered invisible by the insensitivity implicit in every exclusive record of personal experience and ideological consensus. After all, our personal identity and very sense of existence depends on believing that what we know and do is the truth, or at the very least, good and important enough to justify disregarding any other inconvenient consideration.
Even though it is patently absurd to react to the revelation of the falseness or inadequacy of one particular set of beliefs and traditions by adopting another similar set offering essentially the same combination of blindfold and security blanket, such transit is a rather common occurrence. The mechanical urge to attain psychological security generally avoids seeing the fact of chronic conflict and sorrow and its root in the isolated and conditioned personal mind because such perception demands something other than yet another self-protective transition from one orthodoxy to another. It demands, rather, a leap away from all pseudo protective cultural forms equally guaranteeing the continuity of the self and its particular brand of thinking at that point in time.
What is false and illusory ought to be abandoned, not because one sees the reassuring hand of “the truth” extended by a different cultural enclave, but because it is clear that any particular source of exclusive psychological security and social status is as false, barren, and dangerous as all the rest. Thus, to be true, the abandonment of false security cannot be gradual, partial, and warranted by well-heeled authorities glad-handing popular guarantees, but rather independent, instantaneous, across-the-board and, hence, entirely devoid of well-worn precedent and alluring ulterior motives. We have been forming and reforming ourselves along predetermined cultural and personal patterns for thousands of years, and the result of all that “progress” is the psychological and social disorder (and the ecological mess) in which we live today. This general situation will only become worse if we continue presuming that half and quarter measures of the same useless religious, political, artistic, corporatist, scientistic, and technocratic tonics will eventually make it better.
If well heeded, this brings us back to the eternal starting point, right now. We begin simply, right where we are and as we are. We begin by seeing ourselves as identical to others in our common subjection to a multiple and falsely evolving experiential programming that is, in effect, a single and incurable mental disorder suffered by the species as a whole. There is nothing independent and unique about oneself in this central regard, and nothing “you” or “I” can do directly will improve on or eliminate this mental and social condition. The “me” present in every human organism and pretending to control its life is not at all different from the accumulated experience (prehistorical, tribal, and biographical) that physically and psychologically conditions the brain/mind of every organism. No manifestation of “me” is, therefore, fundamentally different from any of “you,” and while the mental conditioning of others may appear as entirely other than “mine and ours,” the general fact of mental programming makes us all essentially the same. The fixed imprint of previous experience equally binds all of us, and in that fundamental sense, we are equally isolated, unintelligent, insensitive, and dangerous. When finally aware of all this, the process of tribal and self-centered thought slows down and finally comes to a stop. It has nowhere else to go, there is nothing else for the self to achieve and become. Conditioned mental and social reality is a dead-end.
If “I” see that any attribution of particular distinction is rendered absurd by the fact that I am as conditioned as everyone else, and therefore not special at all, then the insanity of continuing to be part of any group or tribe investing its members with a false sense of particular identity and status also becomes apparent. And if “I” am no longer deriving a dangerously false sense of psychological security and distinction from any group(s) or cause(s), all efforts made to improve myself and succeed in the world, or to further the development of my self-validating group or society, also end.
In other words, a direct perception of the falseness of separate evolutionary being determines that the mind is also free of any obligation projected by fear and ambition. Rid of the dead weight of psychological being and the strain of becoming better, all that is left of the conditioned contents of consciousness is language and the functional knowledge and thought necessary to communicate, earn an honest and simple living, and somehow survive in a world still largely dominated by self-centered and sectarian thought.
Again, this insight, this sudden and complete perception of the divisive, limiting, and conflicting nature of conditioned thought, can have no precedence in personal memory, nor lead towards the fulfillment of an idealized self constructed by thought with elements of the same memory. A total insight into the human condition cannot possibly occur within the time bubble of personal thought. For the same reason, it cannot be reduced to knowledge and transmitted to others, especially if, at one end is the pursuit of power and notoriety, and at the other the need for assurance and a sequential series of steps methodically leading to a state of consciousness imagined as a better alternative to whatever is actually being experienced. An insight with the power to derail sectarian self-centeredness is clearly not the outcome of desire; it cannot be established a priori and attained by obediently following a predetermined method.
Mental conditioning and its awful consequences are either properly seen for what they are, or they are not. If they are adequately and fully perceived, and there is therefore no rush to fix or overcome them in any way prescribed by previous experience, the sense of personal and tribal existence ceases to exist along with its contribution to the on-going division, corruption, and contentiousness of the species as a whole. If one is still asking for a reason or a method to see oneself and discern one’s part in the conflictive fragmentation of humanity, it is because the urge for psychological security that undergirds the personal narrative is still imagining and demanding from self and others a still separate, but much improved state of mind. (62)
Can thought be seen as nothing more than a limited mental faculty that has somehow come to dominate the mind by granting itself, through the creation of the self, the fantasy of a separate and autonomous existence? The illusion of personal being is so strong that it effectively dims or entirely blocks off whatever is conceived as “not-me,” and especially the ground generating and animating cosmic existence. This alienation from the totality created by the fragmentary and comparative character of thought is the fundamental reason why we are so distant from one another, riddled with psychological problems, and only capable of mostly banal and often troubled relationships.
As long as our physical needs are met and our psychological claims even minimally recognized and respected, most of us seem equally (though separately) indifferent to the plight of others and oblivious to our part in the devastation we are bringing to the biosphere. We are either brainwashed by religious delusions of personal redemption and eternal life, or all too consumed by the obligations, trials, and pleasures of a more secular nature. And those of us who are relatively aware of the calamity of the human condition —always a minority— generally convince ourselves that greater effort along the lines dictated by our particular ideological convictions is, not only what needs to happen, but also what absolves us from having to raise fundamental questions regarding life and our place in it. Our collective trust in the double illusion of personal development and social progress tragically confirms and extends onto the future the dominant presence of self-centered and tribal thought. Locked in this familiar mindset we march on and on, resigned to our abysmal mental health, our chaotic affairs, and the threat of ecological and/or nuclear calamity mounting over our descendants and us.
Despite the pain and confusion we may personally suffer, and despite the constant failure of countless contradictory and always insufficient reforms and revolutions, we generally remain unwilling to take a proper look at ourselves and assume responsibility for what we have made of life. We simply continue pouring most of our energy into the traditional efforts with which we hope to realize exclusive and therefore largely impossible dreams. Anyone can come to see the insolvency of the memory bank from which everyone draws the devalued currency of their limited and loveless thought and action, but this vision demands great honesty and a certain recklessness in the face of a dismal situation. The instant at which things are clearly seen as they are, the mind can no longer continue exerting itself in any particular direction dictated by habitual selfish desire and the many external pressures to conform. No more energy is wasted in conceiving and projecting idealized images of a better self and an “improved” humanity, and from the tragedy of a fragmented and alienated species trapped in a conflictive and false sense of personal, social, and religious progress emerges an unconditioned and therefore impersonal mind capable of great compassion.
Finally free of the particular knowledge, belief, and desire that had previously atomized, distorted, and wasted its natural energy, the mind now turns easily and with a quiet and fearless eagerness to the previously ignored or rationalized mystery of undivided and ever-unfolding life. It is even wrong to say that the mind “turns” because those words still imply separation. It is better to say that in the absence of the illusion of discrete and continuous personal existence, the mind is the unknowable. The disappearance of that “someone” who identified with a remembered past and utilized the deciphered present to reinstate in an imagined future a modified version of itself is the manifestation of the undecipherable flow of life and its formless source.
There is a question that often emerges at this point of the inquiry into the issues of personal being and becoming, and it goes something like this. If through an insight into the limitation of its own psychological and tribal insularity, a given brain/mind breaks free of pre-established content and its own projection in mental time —that is, if the self dissipates — who will then experience what lies beyond the countless and shapeshifting overlays of thought? The very posing of this question reveals —does it not?— that while the words employed to express the possibility of insight may have been clear enough and intellectually understood, insight has not actually occurred. The verbal announcement of something that is unrelated to symbolic representation and utterly beyond the reach of established methodology generally has no effect on the listener, except perhaps the arousal of mild curiosity or annoyance. Nothing can guarantee the achievement of insight, much less the subsequent capacity to “teach” insight to others who may want to benefit from it. Like any other form of propaganda, any positive (explicit) characterization of insight intended to mobilize the energy of the individual in the direction of predetermined psychological and social value is manipulative and misleading.
The mental clarity necessary to apprehend the entire condition of humanity and see beyond it cannot be an object of desire, because such clarity implies the collapse of the process whereby a separate being moves from a painful or an uncomfortable state of mind to a presumably better one. The only valid assertion in this matter is the absolute necessity of an accurate, complete, and therefore unconditioned perception of what is false and illusory in the personal mind and the general realm of the known. To ask who will benefit from insight and how is as pointless as to ponder whether the messenger announcing the possibility of insight has achieved “self-realization” (as it is paradoxically called in some quarters). (63)
Let us say that someone actually comes to a full and clear perception of cultural and psychological conditioning in oneself and in the human mind per se. Her awareness of the fact that conditioned personal minds are only idiosyncratic instances of the same general pool of memories and competing projects effectively rules out, in turn, any further action attempting to somehow improve this mindset and stem the suffering that results from it. The very feeling that there is an “I” capable of creating and implementing an action of self-improvement or outright transcendence has disappeared. Who, then, would be saying this? And, if there be an action originating from this impersonal awareness, what would this action be, and who would be able to recognize its significance? (64)
How does one come to see that both the chaotic situation of the world, and the mental dystrophy that has created and sustains this situation, demand the negation of personal and tribal time (past, present, and future) on which existence itself seems to depend? In other words, how can anyone ever come to see the absolute necessity of psychological death? After all, no one wants to die. All we generally want is to go on being ourselves while simultaneously trying to become better, wealthier, more knowledgeable, more ethical, more spiritual, even enlightened (to become enlightened: the most absurd of all oxymora). In one way or another, we all want more and better experience. We crave as well the love and approval, or the envy and submission, our privilege is supposed to elicit from the minds and hearts of others. It generally does not matter if the fulfillment of our hopes and expectations happens to come at the cost of the fundamental right of multitudes and interferes with the infinitely complex order of the natural world. Our craving for a better state of consciousness remains constant or grows even more demented regardless of circumstances and consequences. To compensate for the possibility that we may not be able to achieve the level of pleasure and status that a world in the grip of dementia offers us, we routinely move the goal posts and redirect both the craving and the effort it demands towards different goals. The common desire for the trump-all illusion of an afterlife stems from the same isolation, fear, and greed that whet our appetite for the material and mental pleasures of the world.
Because we are generally willing to do just about anything to get what we feel we deserve, if we have the resources we are seldom averse to economizing effort and saving face by having others perform whatever violence this sense of entitlement may require. By unwittingly embodying the three-tiered illusion of existential uniqueness, psychological development, and independent tribal progress, we turn life into a permanent mental and relational struggle and, what is worse; we infect future generations with the same illusion. The particular claims that anchor and express the actual or potential relevance of our identity (and its presumed pedigree) have such an intense and durable hold on us only because we take them to be the essence of our existence. Thus, we defend the neurotic distinction we each extract from race, gender, class, religion, nationality, age, level of education, talent, particular physical or mental suffering, you name it, with the same energy with which the physical organism would reflexively defend itself if subjected to a deadly attack. Strangely enough, we generally live and die without realizing that the more destructive attributes of the self-centered process of thought are not just characteristic of “bad,” transgressive, or foreign people, but common to us all, fellow travelers in the long, nightmarish journey of the human mind through history. Which brings us back to our original question of how anyone can ever come to see the absolute necessity of psychological death. The answer is simple, through an instantaneous and thorough perception of the very nature of our predicament. There is no choice, it is either darkness or light. (65)
We think of ourselves as separate and distinct individuals, but in fact we are only slightly differentiated versions of the same process of thought that circumscribed experience conditions and isolates. This false perception of ourselves as significantly different from one another has very real consequences, though. Topping the list is our chronic alienation from life, and our chronic incapacity to confront fundamental problems and solve them promptly. To say this makes it seem as though all is irremediably lost and there is absolutely no point to this whole discussion. For, what could anyone do if the self-corrective and liberating potential of knowledge and thought is a collective delusion, and this delusion responsible for our division, constant bickering, and general feeble-mindedness? The terminal impotence of self-centered thought is not our fundamental problem, however; it is rather, and paradoxically, the unwillingness to heed this fact without instantly reacting to it in predetermined and necessarily contradictory ways. The uncertain and passive posture necessary for directly and fully witnessing —for actually being— the abject failure of the personalized and tribalized mind seems intolerable, madness itself perhaps, and so we disassociate from what is actually happening and run away through reactive thoughts and the foolhardy actions and projections they suggest.
Other than indifference and distraction, the most common escape from the problem of being human is to let oneself be consciously or subconsciously seduced by whatever fantasy of a more “reasonable” solution may happen to come one’s way, kind courtesy of —you guessed it right— self-centered memory, fear, desire, and will (thought). In this manner, and through what, at the time may seem like a life-saving measure, one is again going around-and-around in the same old familiar carrousel of preordained experience “psyched” by the fantasy of eventual success and pre- or post-mortem happiness. The comprehensive and vicious turning of this mental carrousel seems to leave no way out. Yet some who can no longer tolerate its trifling pleasures and devastating sorrows do jump off quite willing to risk not having a story to star on, work for, and brag about. The self is the story lived and told while circling the unending bend of conformity to tradition and the mostly banal demands of recorded experience endlessly projecting re-cycled versions of itself onto an imagined future. Sure, the self without a story is a dead self, but the mind free of the self is sane, keenly attentive, compassionate, and free.
We may be going too fast here and thus risking falling into the old pit of useless theoretical conclusions. Let us slow down, then, and give this difficult argument another whirl. All we know and love is the process of separate personal existence cradled by family/clan/tribe and relentlessly propelled forward by the desire to attain psychological goals, so it does not seem reasonable to even question, let alone abandon this process. In some cases, however, the inertia of personal habit and cultural tradition starts to lose its hold on the mind. It happens when a concerned and thorough look at what is going on in oneself and the world at large makes plain that separate existence is unkind and may well be a false interpretation of life and our presence in it. Some persistent doubt may remain regarding the capacity of a human being to survive in the world as it is without the protection of a personal identity and the structure and guidance of an established social role. However, this too is eventually seen as an evasive or dilatory tactic emerging from the same questionable mindset guarded by fear. Growing awareness of this mechanical defense mechanism soon disables the wired-in proclivity to defend, extend, correct, or transcend the fantasies, miseries, and limitations of thought-based psychological reality. This peculiarly alert and undefended mental stance is already a monumental change in the operation of the brain/mind. Verbal arguments can point out the futility of any further effort towards personal and/or social improvement, but they will not reach their mark unless there is a direct insight into the absurdity and danger of wanting to have more and be better than others, while simultaneously striving to become more than one actually is. The reason why we are mostly dead while still alive is this constant disregard of the actual self behalf of an idealized version of it to be realized in a make-believe future.
The whole panoply of therapeutic and “spiritual” disciplines promising healing, empowerment, love, and unending personal growth is a collective fantasy that dissolves when properly seen. So it soon becomes apparent that the brand of security and satisfaction they offer is only a slightly modified reiteration of the same mental regime that has forever kept human beings separate, at odds with one another, and therefore permanently unstable, insecure, and unhappy. It hurts to see the extent of the mental and social damage done by thousands of years of conditioned, divisive thinking, and imprudent action, but only this harrowing perception makes terminally clear that further efforts undertaken by the same sick mind responsible for the disorder we suffer will never bring about order. For the same reason, none of the many ideological persuasions, group sanctuaries, and progressive disciplines that fracture the species and give private distinction to the mind can ever free particular individuals from the countless negative repercussions of this general situation. No imaginable political, economic, religious, military, or professional initiative will ever save anyone, let alone humanity as a whole, from the insensitivity, violence, and sorrow inherent in our absurd self-isolation and alienation from life.
Just to make sure that this argument is not overshooting its target let us reiterate once again that ending the careless run of egotistical sectarianism does not annul the capacity of the mind to use thought on those occasions in which its impersonal capacity (thought’s) is necessary to asses and address practical challenges. The capacity to discuss these difficult and subtle issues and to conceive even of the possibility of a mode of being human not mediated by self-centered thought is no other than that of thought. However, our species will never mature and may not even survive unless its self-centered modality stops pretending to have a crucial role to play in the solution of the mental, interpersonal, inter-social, and ecological problems it has itself created.
If after making all these distinctions and clarifications, thought is still wondering what may be involved in directly perceiving the falseness and danger of a self-projecting separate existence, then nothing much has changed. Probing the reality of the self conceptually only serves to guarantee continued circling in the roundabout of personal memory and its imaginary projections. Even awareness of the limitations and dangers of personal thought does not guarantee the end of its domination of the mind/brain. The fake managerial entity at the center of the mind conditioned by experience may gain theoretical knowledge of the limitations and dangers of this mindset, but it cannot be both fully aware of it and able to survive the shock. If the perception of the futility of thought is, pardon the redundancy, thought-based then the “I” can only do one of two things. It can choose to disregard this perception altogether, or it may attempt to improve or overcome the condition it reveals. This last, by creating out of what it already knows and believes still another contradictory idealized version of itself demanding gradual realization in competition with other people, themselves utilizing different means in their selfish own push towards essentially the same end. Either way it manages to remain essentially the same.
There is an end to the mind’s servitude to all the existing and possible tricks of thought and the dysfunctional thinker who sustains them with its fears and desires; an end that, by its very nature, is unprecedented, unforeseen, and undeserved. It comes as a veritable mental cataclysm that shifts the ground of being from a representation-based personal/tribal consciousness to an unthinkable holistic and therefore impersonal awareness. Beyond, but not very far off the mentally constructed person, lies the all-encompassing mystery of life that is not subject to representation, and therefore not a memory item or a goal of desire. This awareness is not of life, but life itself, and therefore not a separate thing, but an ever new witness of itself and every aspect of its manifestation —including, of course, the futile struggle of the conditioned personal mind attempting to escape its isolation, turmoil, and suffering. (66)
The supremely rational collaboration necessary to confront existing challenges to the well-being and very survival of the species demands that a steadily growing number of us be willing to die to the particular sense of separate existence that a strong claim to personal fulfillment warrants and sustains. Put the other way around, no conceivable further modification, increase, or refinement of our personal or tribal acumen and action will ever be enough to end suffering or to avoid the species-wide disaster we are courting with the reluctance to see ourselves personally as the root of the irrational division and relentless conflict afflicting the entire species. We need to open ourselves to the necessity of a radical shift in consciousness, and the fact that this shift begins and ends with the collapse of the fantasy of self-projective existential separation that has for millennia constricted and tortured the human mind and brought such devastation to the world.
Evidently, it would be absurd to expect that this demise of an absurdly atomized and self-projective mental conditioning will deliver a “new” and superior state of personal consciousness of which there is already some memory. Which is to say that the presence of any representational (memory-based) forecast of the outcome of this radical break in the continuity of self-centered thought destroys the possibility of its actual occurrence. Regardless of how positive or negative, noble or ignoble ulterior motives might be, they do nothing but prolong the harmful and capriciously sustained alienation of the human mind from life as a whole. To feel that time and further thought are necessary to assess the veracity of this last statements is a clear sign that the actual problem of the untrammeled continuity of self-centered thought has not yet been properly seen and understood. (67)
The insecurity incurred by simply being physically alive is, in the human organism, increased a thousandfold by the conditioned drive to adopt and maintain a distinctive psychological identity throughout the life cycle of the organism. Over and above the essential task of securing the satisfaction of fundamental physical needs, a task we share with all other living organisms, we take on the much more stressful duties of acquiring and securing the meaning, influence, and pleasure that supposedly come with a respectable social position.
Granted, some mental changes, such as learning a new language or acquiring a practical skill or an entire body of specialized knowledge, are necessary and often quite useful to society. However, when what is desired above everything else is an enhancement of the “me” entity in conformity to particular cultural values and seeking the subservient admiration of others, this very desire will have a deleterious effect on the mental health of the organism and the quality of relationship with others. The overwrought egocentric and tribal persona is in every case a distortion of the fundamental nature of the human mind/brain itself.
The deepest quality of the life we all share in equal measure does not need to have the same expression and uniform function in every particular human organism. There is plenty of need, room, and talent to justify an enormous multiplicity of functional knowledge and occupation. However, to endow certain social roles with enormously unjust material rewards and highly exclusionary markers of personal distinction that place barriers between people will always be a tragic failure of intelligence, let alone compassion. Specialized social service is good and necessary as mere function, but it becomes highly toxic when it serves to produce the unjustified privileges and corresponding miseries characteristic of a divided and disorderly world.
Inequality is and remains one of the most salient characteristics of human social reality for the simple reason that not all members of the species enjoy the same physical prowess and intellectual aptitude, let alone the same level of initiative and intensity of ambition. The negative consequences of natural inequality would find easy and prompt remedy if those better able to generate the goods and services upon which the life of everyone depends, would only take notice of the relative inability of certain individuals and groups, and share generously with them the bounty that their good fortune, knowledge, and skills generate. This most natural and intelligent form of justice is seldom established, however, and not so much due to environmental limitations and logistical impossibilities.
There is no justice, and consequently no peace, simply because overall material parity cannot be attained without a concomitant leveling-off of the sense of superiority that so often and so tragically entrances those who are able to transform their relatively greater physical and intellectual advantage into exploitative or outright destructive power over others. To make matters even worse, the connection between status-based psychological security and excessive influence is so tight and demanding that it tends to worsen indifference in those who, regardless of their present level of privilege, still feel the need to placate their ever-growing appetites through increasingly shady and unfair means. Injustice and greed generate, in turn, levels of inequality, violence, and suffering that eventually reach practically everyone. Who feels safe in the world today, and who beyond the age of six is innocent of the divisiveness, fear, conflict, and sorrow afflicting the species as a whole?
How could humankind ever come to enjoy peace and harmony if as separate tribes and individuals we are still striving to have and become more and more in relative comparison with others who, for that purpose, must have, and be, less and less? Evidently, the huge significance assigned to private wealth and exclusive personal status in a world of limited material resources and artificially created (and restricted) social privilege guarantees nothing but an open-ended process of senseless competition, outright violent conflict, and ecological devastation. In a world in which the unity we desperately need to live with dignity is not even discussed, any temporary victory of “our” ideology and particular interests over those of others merely prolongs the insane fear and ambition that has brought us to this desperate place in which not even the best-meaning acts of charity mean much.
If division, strife, and mental pain are the only possible outcome of a self-projective process of conflictive psychological and tribal division, then the emergence of unity, love, and peace hinges exclusively in the collapse of this mental and cultural division in a critical number of individuals. It is not necessary or convenient to take these words on faith. Look, and perhaps you too will independently come to see yourself as the source of human isolation, conflict, and suffering, and thus surrender the false to the truth. (68)
There is a type of thought and a certain set of actions that are necessary and peremptory because they relate directly to the satisfaction of the basic physical needs of the organism and other closely related organisms. However, it is hard to think of any other form of thought and action warranted by such clear necessity. If the insecurity, chronic conflict, and sorrow we each experience in the relative privacy of our psychological isolation are, in fact, the result of a single human phenomenon of limited and contradictory accumulated experience, then there is no action that can emerge from that same mindset that is commensurate with the problem, except the full realization of just this fact. One cannot intellectually deduce or induce this insight and then gradually and methodically will it through because any such process would merely reconstitute and prolong the mental programming that is the problem in the first place. Thus, the different methods taught by traditional religions and smaller cults as a secure path to empty the mind and widen the heart only burden new converts with a reconstituted version of the same separate and patterned mode of human existence.
All this might leave one with the panicky feeling of having just awakened paralyzed from head to toe after colliding with a concrete wall at a hundred miles per hour. However, this dread is itself yet another mechanical reaction coming from the same personalized thought process that while quite able to detect, diagnose, and solve all manner of practical problems, but cannot quire see that its own claim of separate existence is the source of all psychological, social, and environmental problems because that is a problem it can never solve. After repeatedly reading here about the terminal barrenness of self-centered thought, you may notice yourself still wondering if there may be something that could be done to overcome this impasse.
Like existence, awareness is present in everyone, but is not anyone’s exclusive property. It is impersonal; it has no name and no story. Awareness has no country, race, religion, profession, social class, or gender; the concepts of subject and object do not apply to it; it is wordless and thus concept-free. Even the most subtle things and events are apparent in pure awareness precisely because —and again, like existence— it is undivided and therefore nothing in itself. The blinding illusion of separate existence fostered by self-projective memory is evident to its all-seeing gaze. (69)
Nothing is whatever anyone may say it is because there is no thing that exists in complete isolation from everything else, or that remains unchanged over time. Consequently, knowledge —the symbolic representation of reality perceived by thought with the help of all the instruments and methods it can conceive— can never account for the wholeness and dynamic actuality of life. The reality that emerges from conceptually isolating (abstracting) certain parts or aspects of life and then reassembling and mechanically articulating the resulting representational splinters doe, of course, exist within the living totality, but is not intimately, vitally related to it. The map is never the territory.
Anyone can sense, however dimly, the multidimensional and inter-penetrating flow of everything in and out of form and existence, and if given proper attention this same awareness makes plain the falseness of the traditional notion of the individual person existing in relative separation and operating as a constant and objective observer of himself and the world. For the awakened mind there is nothing strange or abnormal about considering that the sanity of the human mind, and increasingly the very survival of the species, is contingent on freedom from the illusion of independent existence and exclusive becoming still upheld by an alienated and culturally fragmented humanity. Naturally, this freedom from illusion and falsehood cannot come without breaking free from all authority figures whose influence serves to prevent any radical re-vision that could shatter the status quo they represent and defend. In fact, the fire of truth may only be tested by those willing to reject the authority of their own memories and hopes along with that of the secular and religious VIP’s offering ideological certainty and herd protection.
Naturally, radical questioning of the psychological and social reality of the self does not bring about abundant and convivial companionship. Solitude is generally the price paid for not sleepwalking through life in conformity with the dictates of tradition, peer pressure, and personal habit. The general mindset responsible for all that ails us, personally and collectively, relies for its existence and perdurability on identity enhanced and protected to whatever degree by respectable conformity to the dictates of cultural tradition. Within this general context, sanity is to remain with the pretense of personal development and cultural progress that embodies and sustains the tragedy of our permanent alienation from one another and from life itself. Our contention is that the willingness to examine the self as it is specifically “known,” isolated, protected, and extended in time by this collective mental illness to which we have grown accustomed, is the first sign of real sanity, and this sanity spells the end of the lunatic at the center of divisive thought.
What form does integration with the totality of life takes is not something subject to knowledge, therefore no imaginary projection should be allowed to inform one’s perception or motivate one’s actions in this matter of self-abnegation. All that our condition and present circumstances call for is a full but non-reactive awareness of the deadening effect of what is false or illusory in and around oneself. The most immediate truth is to be found in the falseness of psychological separation and the species-wide disorder and sorrow that result from it, and this truth leads naturally and inevitably to the infinitely larger truth that, while out of the reach of knowledge and desire, is already (timelessly) present. (70)
Despite evident scientific and technological advances, there is no such a thing as progress or evolution of the personal psyche for the simple reason that particular experience and the limited and selective knowledge that is cumulatively extracted from that experience, conditions the mind, splinters humanity, and remains constant regardless of all possible additions and subtractions. What appears as psychological progress is nothing more than particular modifications made to parts and aspects of the general phenomenon of mental isolation, cultural division, and permanent conflict that, in itself, remains fundamentally unchanged. More succinctly still, the chronic nature of our psychological distress and social dysfunction makes clear that our general belief in psychological, social, and religious progress is unfounded. The constancy of the division, conflict, and suffering we experience, and the ecological devastation brought about of late by our reckless transgression of the limits of our place in the biosphere, is both obvious and tragic. What other evidence do we need to come to terms with our entrapment in a chronic state of reckless immaturity?
We noted above in passing (and before, in other essays) that there is an important, albeit qualified, exception to the toxic irrationality of thought. However, it may be worth reiterating it here to spare the reader the confusion and waste of energy inherent to arguments of false opposition. It is evident that when applied to the learning, remembering, hypothesizing, and forecasting that allow the prompt resolution of the everyday challenges of life, thought is both sane and necessary. Unsurprisingly, this form of thinking that is rational and useful because it is empirical, and therefore impersonal, has undergone extraordinary progress that is most evident in the domain of science, both pure and applied. However, important as it is to establish this exception, it is far more important to qualify it immediately by adding that, in the last hundred years, the rationality of the scientific method has frequently served the most irrational ends that the human mind is capable of conceiving.
Who can doubt the involvement of science and mathematics —of specific scientists and mathematicians— in the design of the most destructive instruments of war, and in the generation, hoarding, and manipulation of knowledge used to keep multitudes weak and subjugated and to extract reckless amounts of wealth from the natural environment? This common use of reason by different groups and very clever individuals irrationally fighting each other over the same material and immaterial goods is irrefutable proof of a primitive mind still conditioned by its animal past, and thousands of years of contradictory cultural idiosyncrasy and a self-serving, and therefore largely insensitive personal intellect.
Despite the positive aspects and general potential of intellectual progress, the human psyche—your mind and my mind—remains programmed by instinct, private experience, and learning. This essentially means that beneath a superficial veneer of progress, we still live divided and conflicted within, in uncaring isolation from most others, and overwhelmed by the problems our thinking generates and half-heartedly tries to solve. No significant change occurs because we are still refusing to see ourselves hanging on to different forms of secular and religious “exceptionalism” and the ever-evolving deceptions of our personal distinctions and most neurotic claims. If we were free of these attachments, we would naturally come together to solve all problems armed with different forms and complementary forms of impersonal thought and the caring collaborative intelligence that thought corrupted by ethnocentrism and egotism can never envision, let alone achieve.
Clear perception of the nature of the conditioned and self-centered mind and the challenges confronting the species guided by this mind makes obvious the futility of further psychological and social tinkering. Since nothing significant can be expected to come from any form or stage of psychological/tribal memory, the possibility of an unprecedented revolution in consciousness hinges exclusively in the dissipation of this memory. More to the point, the revelation that efforts made in the direction of exclusive improvement are at best insufficient and, at worst, a form of self-deceptive violence destroys the appetite of thought for revamped versions of previous tribal and personal experience. Not knowing what to think and do about the self and its social reality and, more importantly, no longer wanting to know what to think and do in this realm, thought quietly restricts its operation to the simple task of satisfying the fundamental needs of the organism performed in cordial relationship with others. Naturally, this restriction ends its role in the definition, defense, expansion, and wishful realization of the self.
No longer occupied by the memories and obligations of self and tribe, the impersonal mind may then move to introduce others (through any of the languages of thought, but now at the service of life) to the challenge confronting the species and the nature of the mode of consciousness that is commensurate with this challenge. (71)
Is life (death included) not totally other than what you or I —or anyone else for that matter— may think or believe it is? It is both arrogant and wrongheaded to reduce the whole of manifest and non-manifest existence to whatever each one of us thinks it is or wants it to be, all based on necessarily limited previous experience and the almost unlimited imagination that is part of that recorded experience, replete with fear and greed. It does not take much to see that life is infinitely more than the personal/tribal consciousness that routinely crowns itself with the same title. It is not difficult either to realize that our collective dread, violence, and sorrow results from this unfounded personal appropriation of life. If all our psychological, relational, and social problems stem from this absurd sense of separate existence, is not their only possible solution contingent on the collapse of self? There is no other way. There is no way to improve psychological and tribal separation. Different forms of the same injustice, strife, and fear cannot be better than those that preceded them, nor much worse than those that may replace them in the future—self-centered tribalism and alienation from life cannot redeem themselves.
It is not enough to either accept or reject the truthfulness of this assertion. For all you know, it may just be yet another ideological publicity stunt in search of a greater share of the zombie market, but if you can somehow tell that this representational call to end the nightmare of separation is a faithful echo of the actual demand of life indivisible (and pure awareness), then attend to it with all your being. (72)
Is the field of awareness ever unblemished by those aspects of culture and personal character most responsible for mental disorder and interpersonal conflict? True, we are born and forcibly educated into this absurd play of antagonistic persons, groups, and ideologies we call reality, but must physical death be the only way out of it? Must we keep with the performance of approved social roles, and under their cloak of respectability continue ruthlessly competing with one another (fighting literally to death at times) over the possession of material goods and the “right” to prove the superiority of one particular set of idiotic ideas and beliefs over others, just as idiotic? The answer is, of course, no. This tragic charade has to stop if for no other reason than to continue with it is utter madness. Sanity, on the other hand resides in an independent, complete, and direct perception of the dubious privilege of playing some self-enhancing role in this absurd theater of dysfunctional psychological isolation and cultural fragmentation.
The only real solution to the suffering of humanity is of a religious nature in that it demands putting back together what thought has torn asunder (as you may know, the Latin re-ligare means just that. The unity that is sought (and that perhaps elicits the search) is sacred, but has nothing to do with the insane multiplicity of deities, principles, dogmas, and methods invented and recorded by different historical amplifications and extensions of seminal religious experience). One of the definitions of sacred in the dictionary point to what is “entitled to reverence and respect,” and all we are suggesting here is that the unthinkable source and wholeness of life is what is sacred. Not much more can be rightfully said about this sense of the sacred, because any further assertion implies a knowing separation, and therefore also the odious possibility that this knowledge may be possessed by some and not by others.
Knowledge and logic are the wrong approach in this matter of the indivisible singularity of life because its actual truth grants no space outside itself to any separate entity aiming to turn it into a symbolic representation that can then be subject to appropriation and proselytizing broadcast. The realization that, in this matter, all existing and potential ideological creations of the human mind —both secular and religious, personal and collective— create division and conflict, and therefore deny the sacred unity of life, occurs at (and constitutes) the outermost limit of the intellect. The absolute necessity for the comprehensive negation of separation is seen, and simultaneously and wordlessly realized, one-step beyond this limit.
Some further clarification regarding this alleged connection between the sacred and the end of self-centered thought is in order. First, abandoning the fragmented world of secular and religious culture on which the conditioned self depends, literally for dear life, does not imply the advent of an uncaring mind indifferent to others and the fate of the species. All to the contrary, it is precisely the deepest affection for everyone and everything, especially for the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us (including all non-human earthly creatures), that terminates personal allegiance to the exclusive mental and social constructs responsible for so much unnecessary division and sorrow. However, the general nature of psycho-cultural conditioning and its deep imprint in the physiology of the brain leaves little of relevance that a person free of attachments can do for those who choose to remain loyal to their particular cultural enclaves and whatever material, intellectual, or “spiritual” projects they feel best serves their personal interests, hopes, and ambitions.
Another essential clarification that needs to be made in this respect is that a decision to discard unnecessary cultural knowledge and obligations (related, not to practical function, but to the identity and continuity of the separate self) motivated by an ulterior motive —in this context, the desire to experience some manifestation of the sacred— is utterly worthless and possibly dangerous. To be sure, what is crucial here —the end of self-centered separation— does not occur by getting to know the qualities and advantages offered by the whole of existence and by complying with predetermined prescriptions deemed necessary to come to enjoy them. The possibility of an end to existential isolation opens up, rather, through the austere realization that one’s very presence is both root cause and effect of disorder and sorrow and, as such, the negation of life’s mysterious order and unity. This realization is timeless in the sense that nothing in one’s past, present, or future can facilitate its occurrence or provide a taste of its aftermath.
Any thought-based project promising eventual transcendence of personal and tribal reality is only a new addition to the same old panoply of contradictory ambitions providing particular and enduring identity to superficially different individuals and sets of individuals. It is imperative, then, to be alert to the danger of letting an otherwise essential interest in this peculiar possibility inadvertently slip into a new idea of what the sacred might be. Again, it is not only that in this matter ideas and ideals are beside the point, but that the effort and time involved in their realization merely serves the continuity of self-centered and tribal thought. The discipline demanded by religious fantasies serves only the preservation of one’s progressive self-image operating over and against that of others engaged in the same exact maneuver, only that with different practices and a different idea of the sacred in mind. To end attachment to mental constructs implies an effortless but irreversible negation of any secular or religious belief projecting itself onto the future, and thus safeguarding and sustaining in psychological and chronological time the general alienated condition of the human mind.
Because the self-centered mind exists in relative isolation from others and largely alienated from life by its exclusive experience/desire, it is also incapable of improving or “saving” itself through any traditional or innovative maneuver, whether this maneuver is supported by any other real or imaginary agency or not. Having no precedence and no ulterior motive and future projection, this realization of impotence is already outside the realm of thought, and therefore that much closer to the mystery of life as a whole —what we are here very tentatively calling the sacred. It should be abundantly clear by now that “my” presence as a particular psychological and cultural manifestation of the general system of self-projective thought is only capable of further installments of the same tragic history of humankind. In sweeping the mind clean of anything significant or transcendent to imagine and pursue, this insight leaves the self with nothing to be and nothing to do in order to improve itself. “I” am nothing, “I” cannot exult in nothing, and therefore there is nothing in me that you can envy or that “I” can chose to either give or withhold. Nothing, not a thing, that is all that matters, that is all there is. (73)
We may hate to admit it, but praise is what far too many of us live for. We would sacrifice practically anything to receive the approval, or better yet the adulation, of people near and far. We especially crave validation coming from those we happen to see as standing at the top of whatever may be our field of interest and expertise. We covet rank even in the spiritual realm, though the mere notion of status within the sacred stinks to the proverbial high heaven.
This common hunger for respectability vouchsafed by the approval of others is, clearly, an indication of an irremediable inner poverty. Now, can one stop avoiding, judging, or in any other way tinkering with this dreaded sense of inner lack or insufficiency? When this occurs, the mind stops fighting itself and the interior vacuum at its core reveals itself as the source and essence, not just of the human presence but of the mystery of life itself. (74)
A mind that has no specific personal and cultural content stands uncommitted and unattached and, therefore, alone. This aloneness does not imply isolation or loneliness, however; it is rather the natural outcome of non-alignment with divisive forms of cultural consensus and self-enhancement demanding constant protection, dedication, and projection in time. Only freedom from personal and cultural blinders enables the mind to stand on its own and be passively aware of things as they are, and that stance is all that is necessary.
Being one with what actually is implies selflessness for the simple reason that what “you” and “I” may think we are (our experience and knowledge; our proclivities, attractions, and repulsions; and our fears, hopes, and desires) is never fully aware of the actuality of life itself and never incapable of correct action. How could an ephemeral collection of images and ideas selectively strung together and running across a largely imagined temporal framework of presumed development be capable of integrity and intelligent, compassionate action? The innate insensitivity of psychological and cultural isolation is, of course, the origin of endless conflict and sorrow, yet the defense mechanisms guarding the self are so strong and rigid that even the most atrocious suffering seldom manages to soften the heart and enlighten the mind. Only the derailment of the false story of “my” life developing within the larger fables spun by groups of reference can do that. The self cannot survive the truth of its falseness.
Beyond the isolated self, and beyond humanity as the sum total of phantom psyches identified with particular groups and engaged in exclusive relationships, lies the mystery of undivided life, actual and ever unknowable. Two interrelated questions immediately arise: Who is making this assertion, a particular self or life itself, and who is it that is going to find out and how? (75)
Humanity is a constellation of billions of relative solitaires who generally follow the norms of the few or many different cultural clusters in which they live. A nearly universal commitment to defend and improve the individual’s lot (material, mental, and/or spiritual) determines and sustains the psychological and cultural diversity of the species, often with calamitous consequences. For thousands of years we have trampled one another in the invariably selfish rush to own as much property and to experience as much love, power, pleasure, holiness, and redemption as may be possible, all while simultaneously struggling to avoid the quite likely frustration of these irrational demands for exclusive fulfillment. Now, is this just a cynical exaggeration of certain bad traits of our species and a concomitant failure to point out that a much greater number of excellent traits amply compensate our negatives? Well, without denying any of the good things we are capable of doing and enjoying, no one can reasonably deny the high incidence of anxiety, violence, and sorrow we all experience, nor the somber fact that the laborious project of isolated existential overreach we each call “myself” will never overcome these chronic afflictions.
The crucial fact is that human beings around the world still suffer enormously from mental anguish and interpersonal conflict despite millennia of testing different forms of relationship, experiencing much pleasure and enjoyment, accumulating knowledge, obediently following masters and experts, and worshiping different gods and principles. We are what we suffer from; we all embody the psychological, interpersonal, and intertribal conflict that perturbs the human mind and wreaks havoc in the world. Whether successful or not, our contradictory attempts to cultivate ourselves and strengthen our tribes do little to bridge the separation between us, thus maintaining or worsening the general insecurity from which new and often violent attempts to attain exclusive gratification, certainty, and security continue to flow. In fact, it is precisely this constant and contradictory effort we make to improve our circumstances and ourselves that blinds us to the presence of the entire human dysfunction in our own mental and tribal separation thus blocking its only possible solution.
The fact that the nature and consequences of the psychological distance between us is still far from obvious to most human beings is only part of self-centered thought’s terminal inability to effect its own demise, even when the necessity for this demise is already apparent. The temporal/mental framework within which some one is methodically engaged in the ideational process of becoming better or someone else altogether cannot be undone by the concerted effort of the same entity who is not different from the mental space confining and determining its action. The one who would dedicate great time and effort to reform or get rid of the “ego” by studying, working, praying, or meditating is no other than the same ego-tistical mindset. However, however, full awareness of this terminal incapacity to think or wish oneself out of the predicament of psychological and cultural isolation is something entirely other than what anyone may think it is. When the absurdity of personal becoming —one layer of thought attempting to put order into other layers— is fully realized the mind re-integrates quietly and without effort. Freedom from the irrational claims and obligations of a sectarian and biographical past, makes the nature of the human plight plain to see, and from this impersonal perception flows compassionate, and therefore sane, action. (76)
Is the nature and significance of the human presence in the cosmos limited to a collection of disparate personal stories endlessly clashing with one another in their mad, common attempt to improve themselves and their circumstances? These stories live out their ephemeral arc within larger tribal narratives nested within human history, itself cradled by the impersonal and supra-contextual narrative of the coevolution of life forms and, deeper yet, by the timeless ground of life containing all physical and mental forms but extending infinitely beyond both. This is so, yet we routinely assume our existence unfolds, not so much within the infinity of life, as through the simplistic stories we tell ourselves about who we are and work so hard to develop and control. There are other reasons to do it, but the mental suffering and relational conflict created by the friction between our stories (our-selves) alone justifies investigating whether these conscious and half-conscious mental recollections of experience indefinitely modified and projected onto the future are all there is to the human presence. In this radical inquiry, we tentatively assume that the deeper import of the human phenomenon may be indistinguishable from the actual and potential forms and processes of mind and matter, and even beyond that, one with the formless ground of being manifest and non-manifest.
Why should anyone assume that the outer limit of his or her partaking of existence lies where the surface of the skin and the scant reach of memory and desire end? Is not matter something entirely different and far less identifiable and constant than we once thought it was? Do elementary particles not emerge into the structure of time and space perceptible to our limited sensory and cognitive capacity from a formless ground that is utterly beyond its reach? How could we possibly relate with this ground if it is not in any way exhausted by the perceptible form or the sustained evolution of form through time that is apparent to us? Is the human mind alert enough to stop defining its source and nature to what it can remember, learn, and desire? Is this ground that generates, contains, and destroys every possible manifestation of matter and mind, but that is not itself manifest, the truth? And does the unconditioned freedom implicit in this pure truth not demand the total abnegation of what has all along been the most salient aspect of humanity’s painful alienation from life: the knowledge- and thought-based self?
Clearly, if the truth exists at all —the truth of life and the truth as life, material and immaterial, manifest and non-manifest— it must be imperceptible and inconceivable to a mind mired in formal psychological and cultural insularity and consumed by the labors and sorrowful fruits of its developmental conceit. Does a serious interest in the mere possibility of the existence of this ground not imply (and amply justify) not fearing the collapse of the mind’s psychological moorings and imaginary projections that are so evidently interfering with this interest? Finally, what difference might there be between the mind cleansed of the dregs of self and tribe and the formlessness and stillness that may be tentatively predicated of the source of all being and non-being? (77)
Can a human being be free of all identification with gender, race, age group, nationality, profession, educational level, and any other source of prejudice and limited perspective? And this, for no other reason than a profound interest in seeing without blinders, seeing everything there is to see, including the fact that what is unconditioned, and therefore essential can never come within the reach of this vision? Knowledge might be extremely useful in the scientific exploration of matter, in certain forms of communication, and in the resolution of the practical challenges of everyday life, but in matters of psychology and relationship knowledge and belief are, without exception, the source of the severe myopia, if not outright blindness, that leads inevitably to division, banality, conflict, and sorrow. How can I accurately see you and you me if we are both looking through the aberrant optics issued by our respective backgrounds and their attendant fears and ambitions? How can any individual or any group or nation respond adequately to the global challenges that are increasingly putting our collective survival in jeopardy, if our immediate interests are limiting and biasing our perception, and thus also misleading and corrupting our action?
What does a human being unbiased by particular identification, attachment, and ambition see? How does the world appear to one who is not in any way defending or coveting worldly or “spiritual” status and is therefore insignificant in herself? Is it not an utterly atomized and conflicted world, a world drunk with projected illusion yet cowering in the fear and hatred that threatens self-destruction? This much is surely apparent while looking in the direction of the time-bound reality created by sectarian and personal thought, but an unconditioned mind also partakes of something infinitely greater. There is no description that comes even close to what is actual, whole, and therefore inseparable from the mind that realizing the abysmal limitations of tribe and self rids itself of them. (78)