The Magic Theatre
It is through ‘judging’ (which is to say, ‘allocating a definite description’) that we create the self. The self can only exist in a world of definite descriptions — it wouldn’t last so long as a nanosecond if all its descriptions were taken away from it. The self — in some reversed-logic kind of a way - is its descriptions, is its labels and judgments, therefore.
Or as we could also say, it is through thinking that we create the self since, to paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, all thoughts are judgments. Every thought is a judgement, and every judgement is a thought. When we are advised to suspend our judgements (as we might be if we are learning to practice meditation) then we are being asked to ‘refrain from creating the self’ therefore, and that’s a lot easier said than done!
The whole business is very tangled, very problematic, very fraught: who is it that is refraining from creating the self, and who is it who created it in the first place? Before the self is created there is no self to do any creating, and once it has been created then we’re pretty much stuck with it since the only reason the self gets to be the self is because it is a ‘final reality’, a ‘final definition’, which is to say, something we can’t ever ‘go beyond’. When the self tries to uncreate the self all that happens is that another self is created, as Krishnamurti says. Another level of the game has come into existence as a result our attempt to escape it.
When the self tries to ‘back out of being the self’ (as might happen if we misunderstand the spiritual teachings) then all that happens is that we create ‘the self which doesn’t want to be the self’, which is just another self just the same as any other. When the self, out of the desire to be more spiritual, denies the self, then ‘the self which wishes to deny the self’ is born and this is ‘the spiritual ego’! The spiritual ego defines itself in terms of its transcendence, in terms of its freedom from the ego and the ego’s lowly games, which means that it does not transcend anything. If I define myself in terms of ‘going beyond society’ then I can’t go beyond society, any more than I can leave alcohol addiction behind by defining myself as a person who does not drink.
We can neither enter the Equilibrium World (the world that is made up of the self and its objects) nor can we leave it if we are in it. We can’t get into the E-World because there is no one there to get into it, and we can’t exit it once we are in it because the self (by its very nature) can’t jump over itself, can’t escape itself. Once we’re in the world of our thoughts, the world of our descriptions, the world of our judgments, then we are like ghosts bound inextricably to their unhappy haunting ground.
Once we are in the world of our descriptions then we can’t find our way out of it again because we can’t go anywhere that we can’t first describe! We can’t think our way out of the world that thought has made because our thoughts about ‘how to escape from the world that thought has made’ are the world that thought has made. We can’t exit the game that we are playing because ‘trying to exit the game’ is a move within the game. We’re doing the very thing that we’re trying to get away from.
The highly esteemed spiritual ego that we mentioned earlier claims that it wants to quit the game (and it honestly believes that it wants to as well since all egos, spiritual ones included, automatically believe whatever they themselves say) but this was never the real intention. Secretly, the spiritual ego wants to be the beneficiary of its own spiritual success, but it can only do this if it sticks around to reap the reward, obviously enough. As Jung says,
You wish to have results that flatter your pride, you expect something useful, but there can be no question of that as you have realized with a shock. Because of this you no longer even want to be fruitful, as it would only be for God’s sake but unfortunately not for your own.
Once we are trapped in The World of Our Own Descriptions then we have no way of relating to anything that isn’t a description. We apprehend everything in terms of our descriptions and so the only way we can imagine freeing ourselves from this claustrophobic world is by describing to ourselves the paths that (supposedly) lead to freedom. We don’t believe in anything that hasn’t been rendered in the crude brush strokes of thought and so ‘the state of being free’ is just another thought, just another dry and dusty category of the logical mind. We want to escape the dreadful closed world of our own automatic judgments and so we say to ourselves ‘judging is wrong’, but this just takes us around in a very tight circle…
The problem here is that once we have been translated wholesale into The World of Our Own Descriptions then we can only know ourselves as descriptions (just as we can only know everything else by our descriptions of it). We have been infected with the virus of Hyperreality, which is ‘a well-signposted shortcut to nowhere’. We express an interest in ‘knowing the truth’ but there is a problem here that we don’t know about, and that is that we can’t ever see the truth (or connect with reality) unless we let go of ourselves. The thought that we ourselves are the biasing or distorting factor is something that never occurs to us. We wouldn’t want it to occur to us…
There is a precondition here that we don’t want to meet, as Hermann Hesse noted in his novel Steppenwolf. The price of admission to the magic theatre is our mind. The show is not for everybody, Hesse says, but ‘madmen only’. We’ll never see the truth, even though we say that we want to, because we want to see it with our minds (i.e., we want to see the truth but only if we can see it in the way we habitually see things). We want reality on our terms, not its own. We’ll never ‘see the truth’ or ‘connect with reality’) until we drop the self, until we drop ‘the one who wants to know’, and since everything we do is on behalf of this self, there is simply no incentive here! ‘Who we think’ we are is the big distorting factor (it’s a big distorting factor because we have to filter everything through it) but we don’t want to take the risk of dropping ‘everything we know’ in favour of ‘we don’t know what’. That’s simply too radical for us…