The Prison Of Literalism

Nick Williams
6 min readJul 12, 2022

The collapsed form of consciousness is the Literal World, is literalism. Everything consciousness is, literalism isn’t, and everything literalism is, consciousness isn’t. They couldn’t be two more different things, two more incompatible things. The Literal World only gets to be ‘a world’ when there is absolutely no consciousness in it — were we to be awake or aware then the LW couldn’t have any existence at all.

One way of talking about the Literal World is to say that it’s like a dark and confusing dream which we can laugh at when we wake up from it but which seems very real indeed when we’re stuck in it. When we’re stuck in the LW it will kick our asses from one end of the field to the other. The collapsed form of consciousness is the most terrible of all possible traps — it’s the most terrible of all possible traps because, despite appearances to the contrary, it goes absolutely nowhere at all. The Literal World takes away all of our freedom and gives us nothing back in return apart from a whole bunch of worthless illusions. These illusions preoccupy us so much that we don’t ever get a chance to examine them or ask ourselves why they should make such an exclusive claim on our attention.

Our only ‘option’ in this situation is to continue to allow ourselves to be manipulated whilst remaining blissfully unaware that this is what we’re doing. That’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do, that’s what the system wants of us. We don’t see that we’re being controlled and the reason we don’t see that we’re being controlled is because we automatically identify with the rules that have been imposed on us and identifying means losing consciousness. A rule is an external ordering factor, a mechanical force that acts on us from the outside and which completely overrides all other considerations — when we identify with a rule then we see everything backwards, which is to say, in a ‘radically distorted way’. Instead of seeing the external ordering factor for what it is (i.e., ‘the total absence of freedom’) we see it as being the authentic expression of our own free will. As we automatically obey the rules that define our existence we see this ‘successful obeying’ as being supremely empowering for us; we celebrate our prison as if it were a valuable personal accomplishment, bravely achieved against all the odds…

We can handily refer to the process of identification as ‘a loss of consciousness’ because that’s exactly what it is! When we see things the right way around (so to speak) and observe the external mechanical force for what it is (which is to say, ‘something that is taking away our freedom’) we can call that state of affairs being conscious and when we mistakenly perceived the state of being in which we are one hundred percent controlled by external determinants to be the very same thing as ‘us expressing our innate and unalienable freedom’ then there is clearly no consciousness, no awareness going on here at all. How can we say that we are ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ when our way of seeing our situation is so extraordinarily distorted?

Instead of actual consciousness we have something very different — what we have is the state of being brainwashed so that we believe what we are told by the external authority that is brainwashing us no matter how bizarre or ridiculous what we’re being told may be. We are existing — in other words — in a ‘conditioned state of consciousness’, which is to say what we see as being true is determined by external mechanical factors that we have no insight into. We’re conscious when we see through these illusions, not when we believe in them and are controlled by them every step of the way. When we believe in illusions (and are therefore totally controlled by them) we aren’t in the least bit conscious — we’re not conscious but we nevertheless believe that we are.

In the Literal World the only type of consciousness we have is conditioned consciousness — no other type of consciousness is allowed. The LW itself is the conditioning factor; the literal statements that make up the LW have a conditioning effect because they tell us what things ‘are’. Everything has been nailed into place and once everything has been nailed into place that’s all there is. The defined positions are the only positions there ever could be, the defined positions are everything. What is said to be true is the only thing that is true, or can be true, and this is the Prison of Literality. According to the (completely overpowering) implicit logic of the Literal World there is no prison — there is no prison because the literal statements that make up our perceived reality really are true. They are literally true and you can’t get any more true than that! That’s as true as it gets. If the literally true statements really are ‘literally true’ then the defined world isn’t ‘a prison’– it’s simply ‘the way things are’. It’s something we’re supposed to celebrate…

The implicit logic of the Literal World is that the literal statements which make it up are ‘unquestionably true’ but the problem here is that there’s actually no such thing as ‘a literally true statement’. It’s a meaningless concept, although without the benefit of consciousness, without the benefit of having any perspective on the matter, we can’t for the life of us see this. What perspective shows us is that all so-called statements of fact our extensions of the framework that was consulted in order to derive them in the first place. In order to know something to be true or not true we have to compare the incoming information with a set of guidelines, with the official ‘Book of Rules’; we have to compare our perceptions with the ‘manual’ which authoritatively tells us what is real and what isn’t. The fly in the ointment here however is that ‘the Book of Rules’ isn’t itself a real thing, which tends to detract more than just a little bit from this crucial concept of ‘literal truth’.

What we call ‘literal truth’ is an extension of the criteria or rules that we used to derive it therefore, and the criteria or rules in question are our own choice. So although we have this super-important commodity which we call ‘objective truth’ (which we rely on to tell us all about the nature of reality) all we are seeing are our own choices reflected back at us. A conditioned reality is never more than the rules which condition it — if the rules don’t allow something to be there then it won’t be there! Rules are however only ever rules’, which is to say, they are only arbitrary biases and arbitrary biases don’t tell us anything that reality at all. They can’t tell us anything precisely because they’re arbitrary. They are extrinsic rather than intrinsic. Rules can’t tell us about reality any more than waves can tell us about the sea.

Yet we feel very much of course that the rule (or viewpoint which we have identified with) can and does tell us about reality. We believe that it doesn’t just tell us something about the nature of reality, but that it tells us everything. On the one hand we can say that when we lose consciousness to the rule (by identifying with it) then this is what creates the Literal World as we perceive it and on the other hand, we could equally well say that when we identify with the rule then that rule doesn’t just tell us ‘a little bit’ about who we are, it tells us ‘everything there is to know’. What it doesn’t tell us doesn’t exist. We are the rule, in other words; we are the rule that we are unconsciously obeying. Reality is necessarily excluded from this picture — there can be no literal world and no one to inhabit that literal world unless reality as it is in itself is excluded. We are magnetically drawn to the ‘equilibrium position’ from which it is possible for us to have the advantage of being able ‘know all about’ the world in which we live, which is what we like. We are able to know all about the world within which we live, but we are ‘knowing all about’ a world that doesn’t exist on the basis of an observer or actor who also doesn’t exist, so what exactly is this so-called ‘advantage’ really worth?