The Consensus Reality Is Always Banal

Nick Williams
8 min readMar 26, 2024
Image credit —

Whenever a bunch of people get together and agree between themselves what life is or ought to be then this is where life ends, this is where life ceases. Instead, there’s only conformity to the established order, there is only compliance to the group rules. Instead of creativity there is only copying, there is only trying to be like everyone else, there is only ‘trying not to be the odd one out’.

Whenever two or more people get together and agree what reality is then that’s where reality ends. That’s ‘the murder of the real’ right there, just as Jean Baudrillard says. We have swapped ‘what’s going on’ — which we can’t be sure of — for ‘what we think is going on’ and we’re a lot worse off as a result. Instead of being able to relate to what is actually real, we can now only relate to what people say is real, what people tell us is real.

This is ‘the phoney life’, therefore, and what takes place in the consensus reality is always a phoney life, no matter how we dress it up. Even the pinnacle of what consensus reality has to offer us is phoney — it’s phoney all the way through, it’s phoney from top to bottom. If we have any respect or regard for the authentic we will have nothing to do with the consensus reality, nothing to do with what people say is real or true. The CR is a fake reality and when we buy into it we become fake too…

When we get together and agree what life is, or what it should be, then what we’re agreeing upon is an idea. When two or more of us come together to agree about what reality is then what we are agreeing upon is a theory, a model, an hypothesis. The one thing we’re not agreeing on is reality! Reality can’t be agreed upon — in order to be able to agree upon it we would first have to know what it is, and be able therefore to define it exhaustively, and we don’t and can’t. No one knows (or can say) what reality is, no one can ever define it; when people make out that they do know what’s going on then this is invariably a racket. It’s the biggest racket going!

Even when I agree with myself about what stuff is, or what life is all about, I am departing from reality. When I agree with myself about what life is (or should be) then I have straightaway substituted my thoughts about life, my ideas about it, for the thing itself. Somehow, I think that my ideas or beliefs about life supersede what I am supposedly thinking about, that they are more important than life itself. Beliefs are always banal however — there never was such a thing as ‘a belief that is not banal’. There never was such a thing as ‘a belief that wasn’t an insult to our intelligence’. So what is it — we might ask — with us and our desperate need to believe in stuff? Why would we do this to ourselves? Why do we insist on putting the cart in front of the horse in this way?

If I agree with myself about ‘what it’s all about’ then this necessarily means I am agreeing with an idea; I am agreeing with some mental construct or other; I’m always going to be comparing whatever raw data comes my way with this second-hand mental construct, which means that everything is getting painted with the same old brush. I’m always going to be seeing the world in terms of my own personal prejudices and that means that I’m not seeing the world at all. I’m only ever seeing what my thoughts show me, which is banal, which is generic.

We can’t agree on what’s real, we can only agree on what we think is real and that isn’t the same thing at all. There is no agreement when it comes to reality, there are no conclusions that we can come to. Every conclusion we make every thought or idea we buy into equals us shutting the door on the real. We’re shutting the door on what is real and bizarrely we take the locked in bolted door to be the same thing as reality. They couldn’t have made a stupider mistake than this if we had tried. What we’re essentially doing here is that we are creating systems — we are creating systems which then enslave us completely. We become the tools of the systems that we have created — we become pawns of that system, extensions of that system. Every agreement we make always results in the creation of a logical system, and logical systems always enslave us. When we take the system that thought has created to be ‘equivalent to reality itself’ then how can it not enslave us? The only way not to be enslaved by thought’s systems is to see them as being thought’s systems, and we aren’t in any hurry to do this. It suits us to be the slaves of the thinking mind because that way we don’t have to deal directly with reality ourselves…

If we had any curiosity about what it means to be alive, about what life really is (as opposed to what we are told by the authorities that it is), then we wouldn’t agree with anything. We wouldn’t agree with anything or anybody — we wouldn’t even agree with ourselves! Agreement isn’t the thing; ‘jumping to conclusions’ isn’t the thing — what counts is staying open even when we’re under serious pressure. As Kurt Vonnegut points out, we don’t agree with others because of any regard we might have for the truth, we agree with each other in order to be friendly, in order to have companionship, in order not to cause problems, in order to be part of a group. We won’t be allowed in any group if we don’t come prepared to agree to a whole bunch of stuff. It’s convenience we’re looking for, not the truth — the very fact that we all opt to be part of a group demonstrates quite clearly that we value convenient lies over an inconvenient truth. There is after all no such thing as ‘a group which tells the truth’, a ‘group that values the truth’. Groups aren’t about honesty or integrity, groups are about loyalty and loyalty is another thing entirely…

Another way of putting this would be to say that all agreements are made for political reasons; we make agreements for political purposes and — as everyone knows — politics never has anything to do with the truth. Politics is all about power alignments, all about control, all about looking after the interests of one group of people at the expense of all the others. It’s about promoting ideologies. At best, politics deals with what is pragmatic useful and the truth is never useful. ‘All art is useless’, says Oscar Wilde, and so too of course is the truth. If we could put the truth to some ‘use’ then that ‘use’ would necessarily be something higher (or more important) than the truth, something above it, which is thoroughly ridiculous! There couldn’t be ‘a thing that is more important than the truth’ — if we say that there is such a thing then we’re simply lying…

And almost inevitably, we do act as if there is such a thing as ‘a value which surpasses the truth’, ‘a value that we take to be more important than the truth’. What’s ‘more important that the truth’ — is as — we keep reiterating — is the Consensus Reality, ‘the game that we have all agreed to play’. It is rarely (if ever) the truth that we are concerned with but how well (or otherwise) we are doing in terms of what the collective says is important. This is where all the pressure comes in — everything we do or think is geared towards getting approval rather than disapproval from the ‘imaginary audience’ that we carry around in our heads. We behave as if being socially adapted (or ‘being on the same page as everyone else’) were the most important thing in the world (since that is where all the positive / negative feedback comes from) but we don’t see that we’ve made this deal. We have — in all probability — a mental list of things that we say we value and social conformity doesn’t tend to be on it; the problem is however that once we are socially-adapted then everything we hold to be important from this point on is only ‘important’ to us only because society has said that it should be. We go along with whatever the group says we should be taking seriously and the result of this is that our lives become vanishingly trivial.

The reason for us opting for a second-hand, generic existence (rather than the life that is really ours) is of course — as Jung says — that collective functioning is just so much easier than individual effort. It is vastly easier to go along with the consensus, as we all know perfectly well — we might talk very casually about ‘peer pressure’ as if it’s something that only teenagers are susceptible to, but we are all victims of peer pressure, whether we care to admit it or not. Peer pressure is what has moulded us into what we are today — who we are comes from ‘the outside rather than the inside’, in other words. We’d all like to say that we don’t care about ‘what other people think’ but we absolutely do. We care very much indeed. No matter how forbiddingly difficult it is to not agree with the Group Mind, to not get sucked up in the Great Amoeba which is the Consensus Reality the alternative is utterly ignominious — unless we rebel both against society and the ‘foreign installation’ of our own mind then our existence will become ‘an absurdity that we can’t allow ourselves to see as such’.

The socialized version of life is — we might say — a joke that we are quite unable to appreciate. We take it seriously when we shouldn’t — we should never take what other people say seriously. ‘Another person’s truth is a lie’, says Jung. The conditioned life is a joke that’s being played on us but it’s a joke we don’t want to get. We resist getting the joke because it offends against our self-importance, because it’s so painful to see how we’ve been taken in and made fools of. Rather than see this (which, although painful, would liberate us) we double-down on what we’re already doing, we burrow deeper than ever into the fold of the Consensus Reality, hoping thereby to obtain the super-powerful enhanced validation that total adaptation can bring. The more validation we get the more rigid, brittle, and downright absurd we become, however — the more we adapt the more of a ‘joke’ everything becomes…