Intrinsic Space

Nick Williams
7 min readMar 19, 2023

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‘Conditioned space’ is space that has been organised around a framework; it is space that has innate directionality, such that there is an ‘up’ and a ‘down’ to it, a ‘left’ and a ‘right’ to it, a ‘nearer’ and a ‘further’ to it. Conditioned space is linear — it is linear because it is organised around axes, axes that have a positive at one end and negative at the other.

Conditioned space is the only type of space we know, the only type of space we can conceive of. ‘What other type could there possibly be?’ we might ask. The only type of space we know is directional space, space in which we can go this way or that way, space in which we can get closer to something or further away. That’s what space is for, after all, we might argue, it’s there to allow us to move from one place to another, or as we could also say, it is what allows us to move in the direction of the outcome we want, and further away from the outcome we don’t want.

What we’re talking about here isn’t space, however — what we’re talking about here is the framework which we ourselves bring into play. Directionality only exists in relation to our assumed system of reference and this system of reference exists nowhere but in our own heads. When we start measuring in any way — or start seeing the world in terms of progress versus lack of progress, succeeding versus failing — we’re projecting our own private meaning upon the world and then acting as if his private meaning (which is the cognitive overlay that is the framework) really exists and isn’t just our own ‘made-up thing’. When we don’t project a framework, a system of reference, onto the world then there is no directionality.

Space as it is in itself has no directionality to it, no up and no down, no near and no far, no here and no there. This means that we can’t actually envisage it at all since our envisaging is done via our frameworks, via our projected system of reference. If we can’t frame it then we can’t imagine it; anything that doesn’t make sense in terms of a logical continuum doesn’t make any sense at all, as far as we are concerned. This is quite ridiculous however since what this actually means is that nothing makes sense to us in unless it makes sense in terms of our own private system of reference which we ourselves made up. For this reason the notion of ‘making sense of stuff’ doesn’t itself makes sense. What seems real to us only because our ‘made up way of seeing the world; says it’s real, isn’t real!

When we take ourselves out of the picture, when we stop insisting that everything has to be filtered through an arbitrary chosen framework of reference before we will deign to register it as ‘actually being there’, then what remains is intrinsic space, space without any vestige of directionality in it, space that hasn’t been ‘projected upon’. What ‘directions’ really are is that arbitrary viewpoint, therefore; the directionality is simply the distortion which has been introduced into the picture as our result of our insistence on squeezing everything through a very narrow aperture. If everything only makes sense in relation to certain restrictions that we ourselves have imposed onto the situation, then all we are ever going to see are these same restrictions.

When we look out at the world from a narrow cognitive aperture (the narrow cognitive aperture which is the thinking mind) then all we see is the world as it appears when it has been conditioned by an arbitrary viewpoint, and all viewpoints are arbitrary. We say or assume that our viewpoint is the right one, the only one, etc., but it’s only ‘right’ because we choose to say it is. It’s the only the ‘only’ viewpoint because we ourselves have restricted all the others. In reality, there is no ‘right way to see things’, there’s no ‘overview’. To paraphrase Ilya Prigogine, ‘there exists no divine vantage point from which to survey the whole of creation’.

Instead of saying that we cannot in any way envisage unconditioned (or ‘intrinsic’) space we could equally well say that we cannot in any way envisage or entertain a world that is not a straight reflection of our biases, our inbuilt prejudices, our assumptions. Another way of putting this is to say that there is no such thing as ‘an unbiased viewpoint’ — any viewpoint that we might possibly pick is a biased viewpoint. There’s no such thing as an unbiased viewpoint because a viewpoint is a bias; the position we adopt is the prejudice. The absence of bias equals ‘the absence of any viewpoint’, therefore.

Conditioned space is simply our own viewpoint reflected back at us therefore — there’s no genuine space there but we don’t notice this deficiency because we’ve got a substitute for it, which is ‘directional space’, which is the space between ‘here’ and ‘there’, the space between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be’. Directional space takes us away from one position towards another and it is measurable — we can in other words precisely measure our progress (or lack of it). What’s more, we can extrapolate our progress (or lack of it) towards the ‘ideal end point’ of either definitively getting to ‘where we want to be’ or definitively ‘not getting there’. Either the error is zero or it is at a maximum, in other words. Either we get the right outcome or the wrong one; either we hit the target on the nose, or we miss it completely. Both ‘hit’ and ‘miss’ are our own projections however, which is to say, the whole thing is a futile exercise in extrinsic (or projected) meaning.

Conditioned space is what determines how we feel in terms of ‘pleasure versus pain’, ‘euphoria versus dysphoria’: the smaller the error between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be’ the more euphoric we are (and the bigger it is the more dysphoric we are). When the error is zero we’re ‘over the moon’ and when we miss the mark completely we’re ‘down in the dumps’ in a big way. The rule here is that the more control the extrinsic self has the better it feels about itself and so the overriding drive is always for us to try to maximise control (or the sense of having control), unattractive as this is. All there is to know about the so-called ‘psychology’ of the extrinsic self can be ascertained from our understanding of conditioned space, therefore. It’s all just ‘mechanics’, as Gurdjieff says — there’s no need to use the word ‘psychology’ when it’s the everyday self we talking about.

What we need to remember about extrinsic (or conditioned) space however is that it doesn’t exist. We can go on and on about how great it is to arrive at the correct destination, attain the proper standard, hit the designated target, and so on; we can say that this is ‘the ultimate’ or that it’s ‘what we’re all living for’, etc., but the bottom line is that extrinsic space (which is the space within which optimization can take place) is a mere projection, and not something that warrants it being taken seriously. The so-called ‘space’ between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we’d like to be’ doesn’t exist because ‘where we want to be’ is a projection arising from ‘where we imagine ourselves to be’. Our goals are linear extensions of our static ego-based viewpoint — change the viewpoint and the goals no longer mean a thing.

‘Winning’ is a projection of the static viewpoint just as ‘losing’ is and the space between the one and the other is a space in which we live our lives, and this is a hallucinatory space. This is just another way of talking about Krishnamurti’s psychological time. Psychological time is time that we ourselves have created — it is the idea of possibility or potential for change where there is none. Genuine change — on the other hand — is where we move away from the static viewpoint of the extrinsic self and as we have just said as soon as we do this all our goals, all of our intentions, all of our purposes immediately become infinitely irrelevant.

The only way all our goals won’t become irrelevant is if we make very sure never to depart from our chosen position, which just happens to be the one impossibility in life, namely, the impossibility of not changing, the impossibility of remaining in the same spot. We can’t have the luxury of a fixed position because there are no fixed positions — the idea of ‘a fixed position’ is an unreal limitation created by thought. ‘When one functions within the realm of time one is bringing about a contradiction and hence conflict’, says Krishnamurti. Psychological time is a ‘null situation’ — it’s a null situation because the extrapolation of a fixed position or point in the domain of action is always paradoxical, always self-contradictory, always circular. That’s how it demonstrates its inherent unreality…

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