The Experiment

Nick Williams
9 min readFeb 26, 2024
Image credit — wallpaperflare.com

We are all — it could be said — taking part in a Great Experiment — the crucial point about this experiment being that we don’t realize that it’s going on. This might be called ‘an experiment unconsciousness’, therefore. The aim of the experiment is to find out what possibilities exist for ‘the self that takes itself literally’, or for ‘the self which can only relate to artificially created absolutes’. The odd thing about this experiment is therefore that as soon we embark on it we instantaneously lose the ability to understand that we have embarked on anything (which is to say, we lose the ability to appreciate the nature of the experiment that we are now engaged in). Taking part in this experiment means ‘not knowing what we’re doing’, in other words — we have tacitly agreed to play by the rules of the game and playing by the rules of the game means that we can’t see that the game is only a game. Playing a game on its own terms (which is of course the only way to play it) means that we are now fully immersed. Immersion in this game (the game of unconsciousness) thus happens when we agree to look at the world in a very specific way and then forget that there are (or could be) any ways other than this.

What’s happening here therefore is that we are closing everything down and that as a result we are being completely controlled by the concrete view of things. We have closed everything down and what this means that we have put ourselves in the position where we are being ‘totally controlled by concrete images’, where we are being ‘totally controlled by our concrete view of things’. This is what happens when we buy into the Literal World, the World that is made up of Concrete Images — we get controlled by it, we get controlled by it every inch of the way. If we want to have a concrete world to live in (and that is what we want) then we have to give away our power to the rules which this domain runs on, the rules that we invented in order to bring the literal realm into being; we have to ‘hand over responsibility’ to the rules that make up this Formal World because that’s the only way it can function as a concrete reality for us. That’s the only way the deal works.

When we play the game that the literal world is true then [1] We can’t see that it’s just a game, and [2] We can’t see that there’s nothing in it (i.e., we can’t see that we’re living in a ‘hollow world’). When we’re living in the Literal Reality that is ‘the game we can’t see to be a game’ then we are reacting to abstract surfaces as if there were actually something there when there isn’t, when all that’s really there is the ‘name’, the ‘describing statement’, the ‘signifier’ that tells us or informs us that there is something there to react to. This the ‘nominal reality’ of thought which has us under its power and just as long as the agency that is telling us what is real and what isn’t (i.e., the System of Thought) is imbued with confidence in its statements then we can rest assured that the world which is being described to us is there just as thought tells us that it is — the more confident the SOT is the more we believe it. Because we’re under the sway of the super-confident External Authority Machine we take ‘the description’ and ‘what is being described’ as identical. This is the ‘lazy shortcut’ that lies behind everything we know, everything we believe in, everything we take for granted…

As we’ve just said, nothing the External Authority tells us is true, no matter how much crisp, no-nonsense authority it hits us with. The only reason that the world which has been described by thought subjectively exists for us in the way that it does is because of the absolute confidence it is being projected by the mechanism we call the Thinking Mind. This is the ultimate bluff, the supreme bluff. It’s an act of bluff because what we’re being presented with is an abstract surface, a kind of hyperreal two-dimensional ‘label’. The external authority doesn’t just have lots of confidence, it has infinite confidence within its proper jurisdiction, which is the Formal World of Logical Statements, the Nominal Realm which is made up out of our arbitrary positive statements. The rules of a game are utterly unquestionable when we consider them within the terms that have been assumed by that same game.

Essentially, the Stated (or Nominal) Realm can only be known (can only be describable) because it isn’t real; we are legitimately able to make ‘literally true statements’ here, as we have just said, but only because what we’re referring to is a purely artificial setup, and not anything to do with the real world. A formal reality is only a type of a ‘pretence’ that we have engaged in, therefore. This is where the ‘problem’ — if we can call it that — comes in — the ‘problem’ comes in because of the way in which the real world automatically gets subsumed within the stated one, so that we completely fail to register the all-important difference between these two things. It’s not that we’re guilty of conflating these two worlds but rather that we are forcefully imposing the one on the other. We are making out — without acknowledging that we are — that the Formal World is ‘the only world there is’. We will -as it turns out — get very touchy about this point…

Just as long as the External Authority sticks to its proper domain then there’s no problem with its confidence, no problem with it being so very sure of itself — in this case thought is justified in being 100% certain with regard to whatever the hell it is saying. In the Formal World it is possible to be 100% certain about things, which is where its irresistible confidence comes from; this confidence is a ‘legitimate thing’ and no one can say a word against it. We could for example make the uncontroversial statement that ‘a triangle has three sides’ and there can of course be no argument here, there is no ambiguity or uncertainty about this statement. We can make literal statements about the FW that can be 100% true, which is exactly what we CAN’T do with the Real World. It is because the FW is constructed out of literally true statements that we can make the claim that we do ‘know’ things, which is something we would naturally tend to take as a benefit (the proviso here being however that positive knowledge doesn’t count for as much as we think it does since the only reason we can have it is because we ourselves defined the world that we have ‘knowledge’ about in the first place, which means that whatever we say about the situation is inevitably going to be ‘null and void’). Knowing has become a thoroughly meaningless term in this case since nothing meaningful can ever come out of self-reference.

The Stated Realm can only be known or described because it isn’t real, therefore; we are able to make literally true statements here but that’s only because it’s an artificial setup. We’ve already agreed ‘what is to be true and what isn’t’ in the Designed World and so — in a completely redundant way — we have the power to ‘know’ what’s in it. Having this ‘redundant power’ goes to our heads — we might say — because we then start to think that we can have the power to know stuff about the real world too. This is where the ‘problem’ comes in therefore — the problem comes in because of the way in which we subsume the real world within the stated world, not seeing the all-important difference between the two. We’re not conflating the two worlds, we’re forcefully superimposing the one on the other and — thus — we’re making out tacitly that the Formal World is the only world there is.

There are — might say — these two ‘things’ operating in our lives: there is reality (which is where ‘things are what they are’) and there is thought which, as Krishnamurti says, is always ‘trying to get things to be the way it thinks they should be’. All we understand is the world that thought makes and so — as a result — we are forever trying to get things to be what we think they should be. The Defined World is the compulsive world — it’s compulsive because we are not at all free in the way we see things, it’s compulsive because we have to do things in the way thought says we must. When we’re able to get things to be the right way (so we believe on a very basic level) then then ‘stuff will somehow be better’. Stuff will somehow be ‘great’ simply because we have compelled everything to fit in with thought’s plans for it. This precarious logic makes perfect sense to us it; this is our ‘game plan’ under all circumstances — all we have to do is obey thought and everything will somehow work out for us. This is the compulsion we are acting under, which is not just a compulsion with regard to what we’re allowed to do, it’s also a compulsion in relation to how we’re allowed to understand reality.

The possibility that the Literal Self is obsessively concerned with is the fictional possibility of ‘things being the way it wants them to be’. This is the Attractor State — this is what we’re constantly aiming at, this is what we’re always trying to bring about. This is ‘the plan’. We could go so far as to say this is the underlying motivation for everything that the Extrinsic (or Rule-Based) Self does; we could say this is what we’re living for — we’re living for the sake of making things be what we think they should be (even though, when it comes down to it, we don’t have a clue about anything). To make our lives be all about ‘chasing an unreal possibility’ ensures of course that our lives as a whole become unreal in sympathy; when we define ourselves in terms of the unreal then that makes us unreal too. The Literal Self is a curious kind of a creature — on the one hand it’s absolutely sure of itself (it’s absolutely irrevocably convinced of the rightness of its position) and yet on the other hand the very thing that it is so very sure of, so very convinced about (which is that it has a genuine possibility of ‘making something of itself’, or of ‘making things be the way it wants them to be’) is a total delusion. This isn’t ‘a possibility’ at all; it is — on the contrary — the most perfectly impossible thing that could ever be…

This then gives us a way of looking at the experiment we are embarking upon when we identify with the literal self or concrete identity — the aim of the experiment (we might say) is to find out what possibilities exist for this projected entity. Only it isn’t ‘an aim’ at all really since the whole experiment is entirely unconscious, which is to say we have absolutely no idea that the experiment is an experiment, or that the game is a game. Furthermore, we can say that the situation of the Literal Self is that it is fundamentally incapable of ever seeing that the so-called ‘possibility’ which it is continuously projecting ahead of itself (which is to say, the possibility of it ‘furthering’ itself, the possibility of it ‘winning’, the possibility of it ‘realising its important goals’) is actually the most perfectly ‘impossible’ thing there is. We’re chasing a non-existent carrot. The intoxicating illusion that there is a genuine possibility here runs very deep however — the Literal Self only gets to feel that it exists because of its conviction that it can make something of itself, because of its conviction that it can attain its goals, and this is why we always say that despair is such a terrible thing. Despair is the death of the Extrinsic Self. This makes this pseudo-entity constitutionally incapable of doubting its projections; the Rule-Based Self simply doesn’t have the capacity to ask the type of questions that would allow it to see through itself — it doesn’t have the capacity to take those steps that would destabilise its own viewpoint. It is afflicted with ‘the urge to exist’, in other words. The ES is afflicted with the urge to exist, but at the same time it never can. In conclusion therefore, we can say that the outcome of experiment was never in doubt — the outcome is always that we discover that there are no possibilities for the extrinsic (or concrete) self. What keeps the game going is the fact that we have now become ‘fundamentally incapable’ of ever seeing this…

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