The Continuum Of Self

Nick Williams
10 min readFeb 15, 2024
Image credit — theartist.me/art/famous-paintings-by-keith-haring/

If there is any continuity to things at all then this means that there’s nothing happening — we are dreaming that something is happening but it isn’t. If we are perceiving that there is a ‘logical continuity’ then what this means is that reality itself has ‘collapsed into its inverse’. The ‘Eternal Now’ has been processed by the machine and turned into a linear sequence of knowable events. This is what continuity (or ‘logical consistency’) means — it can’t mean anything else.

The thing about this however is that there is no continuity and there never was. Nothing persists, even though we are very much subject to the illusion that it does. The appearance of persistence (which we are all subject to) doesn’t mean that there actually is ‘some element which persists’ — what would that ‘element’ be, after all? There is no evidence of there being some kind of ‘thing’ that has extension in time, and it is completely unnecessary to hypothesise that there is.

There is only the appearance of continuity, that’s all — it’s not that there is some concrete phenomenon (of one sort or another) which lies behind the world we see all around us, but rather that there is only this appearance — this appearance that has nothing solid (or ‘persistent’) behind them. We could also talk in times of ‘regular versus unique events’, in which case we would say that ‘a regularity’ is an appearance of extension in time that has nothing behind it. Regularity as a phenomenon (or as we might also say, ‘serial existence’) seems to exist but it doesn’t — that’s just how thought sees things (or represents things). As Wei Wu Wei says,

What we know as ‘life’ is the analytical realisation in the seriality of time of our eternal reality.

Our normal way of envisaging things is to say that they are both unique events and regular (i.e., repetitive) ones, and that when a unique event is reproduced it then becomes a regularity. This is the conventional viewpoint on the matter. In reality however, regularity — as we keep saying — doesn’t exist and can’t exist. Reality doesn’t operate by dint of ‘copying itself’; it doesn’t get to exist by extending itself (or serializing itself) as we started off this discussion by saying. Reality, as Krishnamurti says, it’s always new. It can’t be not new and yet still be real, in other words. Positive knowledge — which is to say, familiarity — is an illusion.

Our normal way of envisaging things is to say that they are both unique events and regular (i.e., repetitive) ones, and that when a unique event is reproduced it then becomes a regularity. This is the conventional viewpoint on the matter. In reality however, regularity — as we keep saying — doesn’t exist and can’t exist. Reality doesn’t operate by dint of ‘copying itself’; it doesn’t get to exist by extending itself (or serializing itself) as we started off this discussion by saying. Reality, as Krishnamurti says, it’s always new. It can’t be not new and yet still be real, in other words. Positive knowledge — which is to say, familiarity — is an illusion.

Repetition — which is to say the extension or projection of something that is (supposedly) already there — isn’t how reality works. It’s not that there is this ‘thing’ that gets to carry on, that gets to be extended, that gets to be serialized, but rather that there is a total lack of prejudice or expectation that allows anything that is going to happen to happen, no matter how radically different it might be to our expectations, to what has happened before. This is, we might say, the principle of All-Inclusivity, which is a principle that is profoundly alien to the thinking mind; it’s alien to the TM because rationality works on the basis of ‘excluding possibilities without knowing what those possibilities might be’. Rationality works on the principle of Exclusivity and exclusivity means we are excluding stuff automatically (which is to say, ‘information-dumping’ or ‘excluding stuff without looking at what we are excluding’). This is how rules work — a rule gets to be a rule by automatically excluding anything that doesn’t agree with it.

We’re looking at two antithetical paradigms here, therefore. The paradigm we’re familiar with — familiar with to the point of not knowing that there is or could be anything else — is the positive one, which is all about maintaining and promoting what we think (or assume) we already know. We push the positive paradigm into service for all aspects of life and we can’t even conceive that there could be such a thing as its ‘negative counterpart’ — it’s not that we dismiss the idea so much as we are incapable of ever entertaining it in the first place. This goes back to the principle of Exclusivity that we were just talking about, which is where we exclude without allowing ourselves to become aware what it is we are excluding. In everyday life we refer to this type of thing simply as ‘prejudice’! The Positive Paradigm is all about prejudice, it is all about ‘being biased without being able to see that we are’ — we can’t see that we’re biased because the bias in question has been adopted as ‘the unquestionable basis for everything’. The bias has become our reference point, our yardstick, and because of this we don’t have a hope in hell of ever seeing it. It has become our blind spot.

The Positive Paradigm has to do with ‘holding on’, therefore — we hold on tightly to whatever it is we think we know (i.e., we hang on tightly to our frame of reference) and we keep on repeating it, reiterating it, recycling it — for ever and ever, if we can get away with it. We can relate this to the coagulation phase of the alchemical process, which — in terms of ‘our basic psychological orientation’ — equates to Conservative Mode. We can talk in terms of Conservative Mode here because we’ve got something (or we think we’ve got something) that we think is worth conserving. We could also say that this situation corresponds to the everyday state of ‘egoic’ or ‘self-based’ existence where we very much feel that we have something that both can be conserved and is eminently worthy of at. We don’t actually have any choice in the matter — the rules of the game compel us to try to conserve it. Fear compels us to try to conserve it. Fear compels us to hang onto what was never there in the first place.

As we’ve said, we are so used to this modality of existence, this mode of being, that we can’t for the life of us imagine how there could be anything else. We all believe that egoic existence is the only type of existence there is; this is a box which we’re not — in the usual run of things — able to look out of. We might refer to this state of affairs as ‘the Continuum of Self’ therefore: in this modality all I can look back on is the self, all I can envisage ahead of me is the self, and everything I perceive in the present moment is also perceived purely in terms of the self. This then is what constitutes the Continuum of Self, which is also the Continuum of Thought. The two cannot be separated.

We will say, with absolute certainty, that this is the only type of existence there is. We won’t even bother saying this because it’s just too obvious a thing to say — we will blithely take it for granted in everything we do. This is the ‘modality of holding on’ where we hang on to what is essentially a construct without knowing that we are doing so. ‘Holding on’ is so normal for us that we think we’re not doing it. This is where the ‘twist in the tail’ comes in however because we’re seeing things backwards. The twist is that what we’re hanging onto (the FW, aka ‘the Continuum of Thought’) was never a real thing in the first place — what’s real is the unexpected, the unpredictable, the unforeshadowed, the uncaused, and that’s not something we can hold onto.

Talk like this is utterly incomprehensible to us from our usual way of thinking about things — it just doesn’t make any sense to us. The reason it doesn’t make any sense is because we’re looking at everything from the point of view of thought, which can only see the world in terms of regularities. Thought automatically discounts anything which doesn’t match its assumed rules, its assumed framework. We might not necessarily appreciate this about the thinking process, but the point here is that unless there is a category for something then we can’t think about it and categories — by their very nature -are a ‘generic’ type of thing. Thought is therefore ‘a machine for turning the uniqueness of existence into generic data’. Anything non-generic (anything that is ‘unforeshadowed’) will be automatically screened out because it won’t fit into any of the slots that we are insisting it should fit into. The only world we know about is the Generic World, therefore, this being the world that is organised by our concepts, by our categories, by our arbitrary rules or criteria.

What this means is that we exist in a world that is (as Krishnamurti says) strictly second-hand, a world that is made up purely of repeats or copies. The same basic organising framework is copied out over and over and anything that doesn’t fit into it doesn’t get through, and the result of this is that the world we live in is a logical continuity, which is something which isn’t actually real. The world that is made up of regularities (the Generic World) is easy to get the hang of — we’re able to adapt to it or adjust to it easily enough but the twist here is that this process of adaptation, helpful as it may be in the short term, is also the process of disengaging with the natural world.

When we say that the subjective reality which we all believe in is a logical continuity then what we mean is that it’s ‘the output of rules’ — it’s a ‘rational output’, a ‘production’, a show that’s put on for us that is quintessentially ‘non-mysterious’ . With regard to the thinking mind and the regular domain that it creates for us, we can say that we will never (in this domain) encounter anything that is not the output of a bunch of ‘taken for granted rules’ and thus it follows that the whole shebang is nothing but one big tautology, impossible as this ordinarily is for us to grasp. The physical universe also obeys laws, as we know, so we might ask if this means that the universe — in essence — is also ‘nothing more than the serialization of a frozen set of rules’.

Going back a hundred years or so, almost any physicist you’d meet would have said that it absolutely does mean this — this being the nature of the Newtonian (or Rule-Based) Universe. The current position is that Newton’s laws are valid only for a specific subsetof reality however, not for the entirety of it, and this puts a very different complexion on matters. This means that we move into an altogether more mysterious universe, a relativistic one where what we ‘know to be true’ is true only with respect to the viewpoint we have assumed. Some aspects of the world run on rules (to a greater or lesser extent) but underlying this tangible and predictable show of ‘rule-based activity’ there are no rules and — thus — there is no certainty. Rules are ‘artificial’, in other words — they are ‘an arbitrary imposition’ and not an intrinsic feature of reality, which actually has no discernible ‘features’ at all. ‘Original Symmetry’ has no discernible features or characteristics — if it did then it wouldn’t be symmetrical…

This is therefore something we simply can’t think about — there’s no way to think about a world that doesn’t run on rules since — as we’ve just said — thought can only understand regularities. It has exactly zero capacity to relate to anything that isn’t the output of a mechanical or rule-based process and when confronted by such a phenomenon we see it as being an error, as having no real significance. The lack of rules is an ‘evil’ that we call chaos — an ‘evil’ that the ancient Greeks knew as apeiron. This is looking at things from the point of view of the thinking mind however — what the lack of rules really means is freedom (freedom being something we recoil from in horror). We can’t say what freedom is (even though we’re convinced that we can) — we can only say what freedom isn’t, and ‘what it isn’t’ is anything to do with rules, anything to do with precedence.

The most famous ‘regularity’ of all is the self, of course (the self being the ultimate example of ‘precedence’, the ultimate example of ‘predictability’). This is the reason we are so devoted to the Paradigm of Linearity, this is why we are constantly either ‘planning for the future’ or ‘looking back over the past’ — because that’s the only way we can maintain this most important of all illusions! We’re caught up in the straitjacket that is the Continuum of Thought and — as cramped as it might be — this is not a garment that we can ever divest ourselves of; we can’t ever do without the COT because unless we are constantly dwelling upon the past (either nostalgically or regretfully) and anticipating the future (again, either hopefully or fearfully) then there can be no more perception of being ‘a self’. Reviewing the past and anticipating the future are both ways of projecting a sense of familiarity upon the world, a familiarity which isn’t really there (since — in reality — there isn’t any handy reference point to automatically refer things to. Projecting our thinking — which is necessarily based on self-reference or ‘looping back’ — on the present does exactly this of course; by projecting ourselves constantly (without ever taking a break) we create a cosy familiar situation — a cosy familiar situation that exists nowhere outside of the Mind-Created Simulation.

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