The Way Up And The Way Down

Nick Williams
8 min readJan 21, 2023
Art by Blu, taken from

The thinking mind is a machine for turning a profit under whatever circumstances it might find itself in, and this means that it has to be operating in the context of a situation in which there exists better and worse. If there is no better and no worse then it can’t function at all, obviously — it has Zero Utility in a world where there is no better and no worse, no up and no down. It’s important to make this point because that world — the world with no up and no down, no better and no worse, no ‘in’ and no ‘out’ - just happens to be the only world there is! The world in which there is no profit and no loss, no advantage and no disadvantage, no inclusion and no exclusion, equals the ‘real world’, the ‘unmanipulated world’, the ‘world as it actually is’

The thinking mind is of no use when it’s the actual world that we’re talking about, therefore. Where it is useful is within the context of a game, within the context of a polar situation. The reason we call a polar situation ‘a polar situation’ is because it is strung out like a washing line between the two complementary poles. The reason we call a game ‘a game’ is because everything that happens has to happen between the two complementary poles of winning and losing. In a polar situation there are only ever two directions to travel in therefore, and yet neither of these two directions is actually a real thing. The ‘game’ is that there are two directions, but this is only true within the artificial context of the limited viewpoint that have adopted in order to be able to play the game.

The reason the two directions ‘aren’t real’ is because, as Heraclitus says, ‘The way up and the way down are one and the same’. If we travelled north long enough then — geographically speaking — we are always going to end up travelling south, as everyone knows. But — more to the point — when we are travelling in a circle then every point on the circle is the point at which the direction we’re travelling switches over from North to South, up to down, one pole to the other. We are constantly flipping over from one direction to the opposite no matter where we are on our journey, so this is a prime manifestation of paradoxicality. We’re travelling up and down at the same time!

If there were two direct directions that are quite different or separate from each other, then our activity (of either proceeding in a positive or negative direction) would be meaningful, would be valid, would be important, but we know that they aren’t two directions but only the one. And if there is only the one direction then the whole dynamic regarding our performance in the game is rendered meaningless. It was never a real thing anyway, as we have just said, since our perception of there being two mutually exclusive directions to travel in is quite illusory, quite unfounded. In a game, there can be no bigger difference than the difference between gaining ground and losing it, improving and disimproving, and yet this whole dynamic is a fiction. It’s an illusion because both poles (the positive and the negative) are perfectly interchangeable — they are the very same thing seen two different ways.

Polarity might be a fiction but it’s a fiction that we live on the basis of — the dynamic of either getting better or getting worse comes into just about every aspect of our lives. Everything is about ‘profit and loss’, everything we think about contains this all-important criterion of ‘right versus wrong’. The pressure in the game is ‘the pressure of having to make sure we go in the right direction rather than the wrong’ and this unrelenting pressure means that we are constantly having to think about what action we’re going to take or what decisions we’re going to make. But if there’s only one direction to go and then it doesn’t matter what we do, what choices we make. It’s all the same — it doesn’t matter what we do or what we decide because it’s going to be the very same result either way.

Even saying this isn’t right that because every point on the circumference of the circle is both ‘going up’ and ‘going down’ at the same time, which is — needless to say — a complete paradox. Because each point on my journey is made up equally of ‘going’ and ‘returning’ the net result is neither, the net result is the absence of both. We could therefore say that this is a type of conjuring trick, a type of a gimmick, because whilst at any one point on the circle there is the impression of motion, the impression of going somewhere (or getting somewhere), if we were to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture, we would see that there’s no going somewhere, no getting anywhere, since the overall journey can never be more than the sum of its parts, and each of these parts is perfectly self-contradictory, as we have just said.

The circle that we travel on in is an extension of each of the points that go to make it up, in other words, the only difference being that if we step back enough to be able to see the circle in its entirety, we can readily see that the circle isn’t going anywhere, isn’t getting anywhere. Circles don’t, after all. When we don’t have access to another point of view (other than the point we’re on) then we can’t ‘step out of the frame’, and because we can’t step out of the frame we can’t ever see the absolutely futility of what we’re engaged in. This provides us with a neat little way of talking about ‘the unconscious state’ — we can say that unconsciousness is where we can’t see that the movement we’re engaged in is made up of both ‘coming’ and ‘going’ in equal amounts, in equal portions, and so we’re incapable of seeing that this isn’t movement at all.

Polarity is a trap for consciousness, therefore — it’s a trap that’s so very effective that we ought to be very afraid of it (even though we aren’t since we’re too trapped in it to see that’s where in a trap). A trap like this could keep us ‘going nowhere but thinking that we are’ for ever and ever, which is something that would definitely frighten us if we could see it, but we never actually do. So, we started off by saying that there aren’t two directions to move in when we caught up in a polarity but only the one, and then we went on to say that there isn’t even the one direction to go in, since the way up in the way up and the way down are one and the same. If we wanted to call this ‘a journey’ then we’d have to say therefore that it’s a journey that is, at every point, perfectly and unfailingly self-contradictory. It’s a journey that is constantly going back on itself: I’m ‘succeeding’ to the extent that I’m ‘failing’, I’m ‘going’ to the extent that I’m ‘returning’, I’m ‘stepping out’ to the extent that I’m ‘stepping back in’, and so on, and this is polarity in a nutshell!

We’re only ever moving North to the extent that we are moving South and, as Spencer-Brown has pointed out, ‘to cross twice is not to cross’. This is the movement of self-negation therefore — something seems to have been produced but when we look more carefully we see that this wasn’t the case. And event seems to have occurred but when we see the event from the outside of the frame of reference that the event itself presupposes, then we realise that this so-called ‘event’ was only half of the actual ‘event’, which is a ‘crossing twice event’, which is a ‘self-cancelling event’, which is a ‘null event’. This is how the conjuring trick of Maya works, therefore. Linear movement (which seems to us speak to be the most straightforward, uncomplicated and unambiguous type of movement there is) is actually movement along the surface of a Mobius Loop, and the surface of a Mobius Loop is a trick surface, a surface that continuously goes back on itself…

The impression we have when we are playing a finite game is that there are two very different outcomes that are possible: the advantageous one, and the disadvantageous one. Whether we achieve the advantageous outcome or not depends upon how cleverly skilfully we play the game, but that of course only holds good if there are two genuinely different directions to move in, and there aren’t. No matter what we do, no matter how clever we are, there is only the one direction to go in and as we have said this compulsory direction isn’t actually a direction at all. The only type of activity that can take place when travelling in this direction is therefore ‘null activity’. Thus, the only type of activity that can take place in a game is null activity, the only activity that can take place in a closed system is null activity, and the only type of activity that can take place within the context of a polarity is null activity. ‘Games’, ‘closed systems’, ‘polarities’, are all ways of talking about the same thing; they are all ways of talking about an artificial version of reality and once we say this we can very easily see that the idea that we can have genuine movement or genuine change within the context of this artificial situation is clearly not a runner! What happens in a game stays in that game; it stays in the game because it isn’t real anywhere else…

The thing we find it so hard to see (not least because we don’t want to see it) is that there’s no freedom in a game, no freedom in a closed world — a world in which everything has been defined. The freedom we think we have is dependent upon there being two distinct possibilities to choose between and there aren’t; there is only the illusion of two different directions and so the freedom we think we are enjoying is every bit as illusory. Really, there’s no free will in the polarity, no free will within a game — there is only ‘mechanical compulsion that we can identify with so as to produce the illusion of the conditioned self’. This mechanical compulsion ensures that we carry on with our ‘journey to nowhere’ forever. There’s no good luck and no bad luck, no advantage and no disadvantage, no winning and no losing — how can there be when there is only the one direction which isn’t really a direction at all? When there is only the one possibility then this no longer is ‘a possibility’. Just as long as we are being led by the consideration of ‘profit’ therefore, we are always going to be stuck on a Mobius Loop Escalator, constantly going back on ourselves but never knowing it.