I would recommend you get in to the habbit of meditation for post-self investigations though. To start with though, you can cultivate your looking skills with no previous experience. You might be wondering what phenomenology is so I have written an article explaining the basics (LINK TO FOLLOW).
There seems to be a limited amount of straight forward resources available and this is where a fair enquirer may benefit from a no nonsense approach. The whole idea of this site is to present things in a straight forward manner and in particular, appeal to the western need for demonstrable proof.
Mr Searle is one such philosopher who thinks negatively of them and I am sure there are countless others who have criticisms. I am not going to make an extended defence of this as my priority, we will have to agree to disagree and the discussion of its merits can be done another time.
I will just say that if you actually gave this looking at direct experience a chance you would realise it adheres to the scientific method.
Once a fellow philosopher can present me an infallible system of epistemology, then I will change my opinion. Until such time we have no good reason to limit our exploration to the physical world.
If anyone would like to claim there is no pattern in their cognitions or actions, it is strikingly clear that they have never bothered to look.
These patterns are quite apparent given that one may be startled by a loud noise. This would be an example of a pattern occurring. Maybe it is not uniform across all humans, maybe it strikes you with a different force or vivacity on different occasions when you are startled. The fact remains that a pattern can be observed empirically within your awareness.
Whilst there is great value in studying the physical it seems clear that science can never explain what it is like to experience the world*. It may explain the causal mechanism in the brain that brings about the process of thoughts, however, it seems to miss out the qualitative aspect of experience.
Even if we can reduce the process of experiencing the startle response to its neural correlates, we have not explained what it is like to appear to be experiencing the startle response.
*Foot note: There is an explanatory gap to explain and we have two choices. We could cling blindly to the belief that studying physical phenomena will explain consciousness. The naturalist has to form a belief here, and no matter how much they remain steadfast in their convictions, this is nothing more than a belief at present.
Or, we can take a pragmatic approach and explore mental phenomena until such time as it becomes superfluous to a naturalist epistemology. We need not deny that a naturalist explanation is possible but it does seem quite clear that it will always miss out on explaining what experience is qualitatively like.
Personally, I was a card carrying anti – qualia materialist, who used to side with Daniel Dennet and made counter arguments against David Chalmers work. However, I have had to follow my convictions and concede that Chalmer's has a point, even if I disagree with his doctrine of property dualism.
At times we will logically de-construct beliefs and assumptions, but generally you want to be looking at your direct experience for answers.
The goal of this process is not to think yourself away, it is see what 'you' really is. Essentially, this 'you' is nothing more than a fiction. Thoughts are believed to be about you but in direct experience you will not find this 'you'.
This 'you' is simply a thought fiction and your true nature is not a mere cog in the machine of a capitalist society, who turns up to work every day and spends their money and efforts on a personal vanity project.
If you take a good look at the way you think and your actions, you will see just to what extent this governs your life. Every time you choose what clothes to wear, it is because you are thinking about how other people will see you. Everything you buy, those selfies you put on Facebook, are all about constructing an image to other people.
We are evolutionary wired to feel shame and humiliation, and it is also illegal in certain places! In this sense we cultivate our social image and as we are social creatures, it makes sense that we do this. However, you need to see where this obsession is unhealthy and part of de-constructing our self, removes our ties to our self image to a degree.
However, with the right persistence and a commitment to building ones honesty, these tools can be used to demonstrate many of our beliefs and assumptions are false. Then one can gain an intellectual inclination that this is possible and have some confidence that undertaking some looking will yield some insight eventually.
This kind of persistence is what is needed and if you go in to this half arsed you will not get any results. Some people took an hour, some 3 days, me three weeks, others, 3 – 6 months of looking. Your mind will try to convince you in to giving up every step of the way and since you are fucking with your own belief system, you will come to realise that belief systems do not like to be f**ked with.
It will go eventually but it takes a lot of patience and a steadfast commitment. Back in the day there were forums to help people do this but they became very hostile places and eventually closed. We were dealing with human delusion and that is exactly what you will be coming face to face with.
These lies form the basis of your own dishonesty and we have to scythe them away layer by layer. Essentially, when you take on assumptions they appear to be self evident truths.
This is where you have to realise that you cannot take anything as reliable anymore and you are going to have to re-evaluate your knowledge. That means that anything that you have not verified as a matter of fact in this investigation, must be discounted as unproved until demonstrated otherwise.
Stepvhen's excellent blog 'Burning True' went on a journey in to nihilism and back, and his journey is recorded there. Whilst seeing that everything is inherently devoid of meaning or value is ultimately the truth, this also means nihilism is devoid of value or meaning as a life philosophy.
Life is basically much better filled with people, love and joy, than loneliness, hate and sadness. This itself is reason enough to behave ethically even if we cannot assert a logical argument for why we should be just.
Even if as a consequence of this other people do not essentially exist, and their feelings and suffering have no inherent value, this doesn't mean we should ignore our moral prerogative.
We have a sense of undertaking right and wrong actions and we are clever enough not to resort to animal like behaviours most of the time. This intelligence we are bestowed with can be put to any use and I strongly recommend that we use it to cultivate respect and tolerance for others, even if morality and moral persons are ultimately an illusion, and we have no objective grounding for ethics.
If you have a history of mental illness, or you are severely depressed and suicidal, I implore you to leave this website immediately. You should only do this investigation if you have your psychological trip together.
Believing that the proposition of 'no self' is true, is contrary to how this investigation should be done. You only need to be open to the possibility and then try to discover what the self actually is.
Be sceptical of everything you read on this blog, everything that others tell you, and especially be sceptical of your own reasoning. In summary you need to develop scepticism about EVERYTHING.
JFL = In this investigation all you need to do is Just F**king Look at real life. Sorry for swearing here but it needs this kind of emphasis since it is often ignored and I will use this acronym a lot to emphasise what I mean by looking.
When I say 'look' this means you turn your attention inwards and do not try and interpret what you are seeing. You just look internally at your direct experience unless you are specifically directed to look at physical objects.
It is not magical looking or anything esoteric it is the simplest thing. It is just normal looking but, metaphorically speaking, you have never looked from this perspective before and that is why you cannot see through the illusion right now. The best pointer I can give you is this.
There, I said it once and this is all you need to do. If you are stuck on seeing Anatta try imagining me screaming JFL at you and and then actually do this. All you need to do is actually follow through with this instruction it really is that simple.
There is no logical puzzle to solve, there is simply the truth. Just look honestly at the phenomena that arises in your experience, it only takes honest looking to crack this insight. If you are analysing or interpreting what you are seeing then this is commonly known as the verb; thinking. Thinking and looking are two different kinds of activity.
Looking = Y
X = Y is fallacious reasoning, thinking is not the same thing as looking and vice versa.
You need to be well acquainted with this fact as you will be convincing yourself that you are looking when you are merely engaged in thinking. You cannot think yourself in to oblivion that would be absurd. You can only see the true nature of the self, and that is why you need to JFL instead of think about it.
Just be persistent and the truth will eventually show itself. If you have been looking for a long time with no results, you need to challenge the other beliefs and assumptions you hold that support the existence of the self.
Some of the work will involve testing the coherence of our beliefs and our logical thinking. Generally though we just need to know that thinking and looking are two different things, and we want to find out what the beliefs and thoughts are actually referring to in real life.
You may experience headaches, volatile emotions, and anxiety when undertaking this investigation. You may find you are concentrating hard and are challenging your belief system, which may stir up buried emotions and repressed memories. These symptoms usually indicate that you are on the right track, although you may not experience any discomfort.
I have personally helped many people crack this insight but there are other places who will help you get this insight for free on the web, and in any case the whole idea - the raison d'etre of this site - is to provide you with all the necessary tools to crack this on your own.
This resource is absolutely free of charge and always will be.I have no wish to guide people any more as inevitably you are seen as posing as a teacher. In any case check out 'Liberation Unleashed' on the web or 'Hall of Mirrors' on Facebook.
The fact of the matter though is that everything you have already seen and experienced seems real. In the matrix movie, Neo was trapped inside a simulated world, much like the brain in the vat scenario.
However, even if we accept the bounds of reality are beyond the sphere of possible human experience, the real life experience of sitting here reading this is certainly not illusory. It is happening right now, and it is alive and direct in the most intimate sense of real. Clearly, this is undeniable and therefore we cannot in any way reject any occurrent phenomena that appear in our experience.
It is also matter of fact that an aspect of experience cannot be changed either. It is a truism to say we cannot change the appearance of experience or any particular phenomenon that occurs within experience.
The sky is blue because it appears that way to us - unless you are colour blind. Even then, it appears in a particular way, and you certainly have no control over how it appears in your experience.
Obviously then, this means seeing no self does not mean that any quality of your experience can suddenly change. You do not obtain x ray vision, insta-bliss, or anything like that. The qualities of experience are what they are, as such, and that will not change after you have realised no self.
What does happen upon seeing no self is that you will get an insight in to the world that is like an earthquake to the foundations upon which your world was based. Your world view will shatter and fall apart and even five years on, I find myself grateful and still in awe of what happened.
In this sense then, looking is not about thinking things away, forming new beliefs or models about the world, or denial of any aspect of it. It is actually the search for truth derived from your own direct experience. Nothing more.
This also means that nothing can dissolve away since every quality of experience is real. Basically you can't destroy the self or think it away since it doesn't exist to start with.
You can certainly see that what gives rise to the illusion of being a self, must be completely real – i.e. thoughts, suffering, happiness etc. All the qualities of experience are completely real, including the voice that says “Of course I exist”.
We need to be crystal clear on this.
We are not going to deny any aspect of experience or else we are doing this process all wrong. Living in denial is inherently dishonest and is the antithesis of honest enquiry.
However, we need to be sure that our concepts relate to a real life phenomenon. Take the “Of course I exist” claim. If we substitute the word 'I' for 'unicorns', we know that there is no such phenomenon. It doesn't matter if we say “Unicorns must exist, it must be true” a hundred times, that doesn't mean that the statement is true.
The way to prove there are unicorns is to look for evidence in real life. If we experience the phenomenon of a unicorn then we can know whether that statement is actually true or false.
What we discover is that when we question the existence of the self, we quite often justify the statement “Of course I exist” with, perhaps, a number of reasons or just a gut intuition that you do.
We don't ever come across the phenomenon of a self but we come across the phenomena of reasons about “why I must exist” and often an uncomfortable feeling when this is directly questioned (you may not necessarily get an uncomfortable feeling but it has been widely reported).
If you can see that this is actually what is happening in real life, then that means you are starting to look honestly at what is arising in your direct experience.
When To Use Logic
Some of the process will involve a little bit of destroying beliefs by utilising logic and recognising patterns of dishonesty. BUT... this is not to be confused with looking since these are two distinct categories of activity. We will focus on how honesty and dishonesty will influence the investigation shortly, but for now lets check out the process.
If I could lay it out in an overview format it would probably look something like this:
Look at direct experience for the phenomenon that 'I' refers to
Thought or feeling appears proclaiming the self exists.
Ask how do I know the self exists?
Because of 'X'
Expose the dishonesty related to X
Look at direct experience for the phenomenon that 'I' refers to
Rinse and repeat 100 – 1,000 times until you have discovered the truth.
While I was involved at Truth Strike, I specialised more in helping people recognise their erroneous beliefs to facilitate them to look at direct experience. In this respect I used to help people recognise their dishonesty for the most part. However, I would always refer back to the core of looking which is simply looking for what this 'I' is.
The truth is, you only need to focus on that one thing - which is looking for what the word 'I' refers to in real life.
If there was only one thing I wanted you to take from reading this piece, it would be the previous sentence written in bold.
It really is that simple.
However, there are also times when a more reasoned approach is necessary. Sometimes it is useful to refute certain beliefs as you unearth the dishonesty related to the illusion of self. The absolute key to doing this correctly is making a distinction between concepts and phenomena.
Much of the work I have done on www.ghostvirus.com has been related to the emptiness of many of our concepts. Language is the medium in which we are able to deceive ourselves and by investigating certain facets of meaning, we can discover that what we took for granted as common sense assumptions, are actually without foundation.
When we are engaged in this aspect of enquiry though, we need to be aware that we are not looking.
When we are doing this we are thinking and you need to make sure that this is not your only means of enquiry. To put this in to a simple analogy we can think about removing buried concrete in the ground. One must use a spade, and a jack hammer. We use the jack hammer to shatter the concrete in to smaller pieces and then we use the spade to lever up the pieces and dig them out.
This process involves the use of two tools and whilst the hammer is effective at breaking things apart, unless we dig out and remove the pieces, we are still left with the concrete.
Obviously, the use of both of the tools is effective but one in isolation makes the job as good as impossible.
So, the correct method is to use logic to guide the enquiry.
You use the jack hammer to focus on a small section and chisel it out. Then you start trying to unearth it by looking at phenomena that support the assertion.
We will use a concrete (ha!) example later on that will make this clearer but for now we need only to be aware of the difference between phenomena and concepts. We will introduce how to utilise logic in an investigation in due course.
You need to be able to distinguish between phenomena and concepts in order to utilise looking and thinking effectively.
Observations regarding Logic
When I started the looking process a few years ago I sat there with a notepad refuting every excuse I came up with. In the end, I broke through the pattern of dishonesty that prevented me from seeing, and this is why I came up with a more logically biased method than some others did.
It is debatable whether my way of doing things is any better, all the evidence seems to suggest that it is a slower way of doing things in actual fact. What worked for me doesn't necessarily work for others, and thinking too much distracts you from actually looking anyway.
Mulling over too many concepts is counter productive and is a distraction from the truth. So, my advice to you is make looking your primary focus but also be prepared to smash apart your faulty assumptions using logical thinking.
However, you must do this within the context of looking at the ideas that support the notion of self hood.
The reason I did things in this way is that I am not too keen on esoteric means of doing things. Like any rational westerner, I had to be sure that the logic worked and I went about rationally deconstructing my framework of thinking besides giving myself a headache from trying to look too hard!
After I had seen no self and committed to helping others, I saw similar themes in the response patterns on forum posts and this led me to start to focus on ways of destroying our taken for granted assumptions and undermining the foundations on which they stand.
I did not use a forum group to do the investigation, I simply put my framework of thinking to the test and scrutinised it with the light of reality. What I found was that my 'self' was merely assumptions based on more assumptions that I had never bothered to test, which formed the underpinning of my entire world view.
Naturally, I was shocked at what I discovered, and I found the process somewhat uncomfortable. In this sense, I always preferred to let people discover the truth for themselves and most of my successful 'liberations' (if you really want to call it liberation) were as a result of people being left to their own devices.
It is no good anyone giving you an account of 'the truth' - you must discover it for yourself.
In my honest opinion you do not need guides to do this successfully. I will admit that reading other peoples investigations who were being mentored by a guide can be very useful. However, you must be careful that you are not reading along nodding, instead of discovering the truth for yourself – be very careful with this and trust nothing that other people say.
It may be the case that you are reading the work of an inexperienced guide and they might be facilitating subtle dishonesty by allowing wishy-washy concessions. However, in the hands of an experienced guide, the process can be a systematic demolition of the self and the kind of questions they ask can be the ones you can starting asking about reality.
Some people benefit from the motivation of guides when they have been unsuccessful for a long time in their search and using a guide also helps expose hidden dishonesty. There are benefits to doing things this way.
However, the key to getting the insight of Anatta in my view, is to have a burning desire to get to the truth and that is sufficient to crack this on your own. If you work the honesty angle then it is possible to spot your own inconsistencies and come face to face with your dishonesty.
I was just as, if not more so, dishonest than many people and I had rather poor critical thinking skills when I started out. So, know that it is plausible to crack this on your own with no philosophical or spiritual experience if you have the right attitude.
You need to laser focus on looking at the truth - that is all that is required.
Do this relentlessly until you have investigated and turned over every stone looking for what this self could possibly be. However, this is not always easy as you are going to lock horns with the brains defence mechanism which will try to dissuade and confuse you at every turn.
Courage is required to see this through the illusion of self. Putting it simply the mind will twist and turn, and throw up every excuse not to look and convince you that you are looking, when you are actually thinking. It will also throw up the idea that seeing no self will make you insane and this will also obstruct you from looking.
It will also cause other strange artefacts but generally the fear of insanity theme seems to be common in 90% of cases. The way to dissolve this one is simply to acknowledge that all you are doing is looking for the truth. Can the truth really affect your sanity, or is this just a story related to a self that you have not discovered yet?
If there is no self, then you are entitled to ask “How come this happens?”
As discussed, experience is real and hence the appearance of thoughts is also a real appearance and we obviously cannot reject the appearance of thoughts in our experience. The illusion of self arises from the myriad of thoughts and projections about an entity being in control of thinking and having agency over the body.
As far as the mind is concerned, there is no problem and everything is working fine. The idea of no self is a disturbance to the equilibrium and I'm sure when you first heard about the idea there was, and certainly still is, a degree of resistance. Basically, the brain filters the incoming sense data through its model of reality. If you believe there is a self, everything that comes in to the brain is in terms of this model of the world.
On an evolutionary level this makes perfect sense, as the brain needs to form a working model of reality in order for it to be able to judge the appropriate action to be taken in a wide variety of situations. As an example, take a look at this picture:
Do you see a six of spades?
It is actually a red six of spades. As we know the six of spades is black, therefore, this card does not exist. As you have never seen a red six of spades before, the brain filtered the incoming sense data in terms of its model of reality. Therefore, we can conclude that our brains model of the world actually influences our perception of it. It also follows then, that our beliefs and preconceptions can potentially obscure what is really going on in reality.
This is literally what is happening through the illusion of self. It warps reality in terms of an illusory entity being responsible for thoughts and actions. If we think about this in terms of confirmation bias, we are prone to interpreting data in terms of our entrenched beliefs. What is happening, to put it simply, is that we are fighting against our own confirmation bias to try and discover the truth.
This is why some seekers in the Ruthless Truth and Truth Strike days could not even muster a shred of courage or honesty.
Hence the reason why we thought people actually needed harpooning and lancing, and why we aggressively tried to tear a persons ego to shreds.
The whole point of those endeavours was to smash apart their reality bubble in the hope they could see that they needed to look honestly instead of arguing from a set of preconceptions they had never tested. But that's another story, I digress.
At every step of the way in an investigation we are disrupting our equilibrium to try and search for information that might contradict our model of reality. Naturally, the brain does not want to do this and hence we might experience mild emotional turmoil, all the way to more intense physical ailments. For me, I had a migraine. For others, they experienced a little fear when looking.
The scariest thing about liberating people during the Truth Strike and Ruthless Truth saga was discovering the degree to which people deceived themselves. Watching people slither out of uncomfortable questions was one of the ways in which we highlighted to people the circular logic they were utilising. Quite often this helped folks hone in.
Other people used to fight to protect the integrity of the illusion and delude themselves that they were not arguing against the idea of no self, when they clearly were. In this sense the inability to face up to difficulties for their story or the contradictions they were faced with was indicative of a degree of cowardice.
In this sense, it was those who were brave and cared about the truth who managed to push their way through to the other side of the gate.
Remember being brave also entails being afraid.
It is not so much a special quality that only tougher people have but it is the courage to keep going, no matter what uncomfortable truths you might find, that will serve you well on this journey. One of my good friends who was a fellow administrator at Truth Strike came out with a great quote.
'The opposite of truth is not a lie, it is cowardice', (Stepvhen 2011)
To this day I realise the profundity of this statement and you need to realise that we lie to ourselves and weave intricate stories for the sake of avoiding suffering. Now, if we weaved ourselves a story about god and heaven, what we have is a paradigm example of the most putrid form of cowardice. Religion is merely taking on an ontology that avoids the fear of death and tells us that our suffering is a virtue.
All of us have weaved complex mental fictions in some way or another, however, it is on us to untangle the mess and find out what is true - Or else we are simply wrapped up in a vacuous story and our humanity is suppressed.
If you believe religion actually encourages our humanity you need to realise that that it is actually self serving. It is done within the context of trying to curry favour on the day of judgement as such, and any supposedly 'selfless act' in this context has, at its core, the vile stench of ego.
Of course, one weaves a story of how they are a 'good' and 'just' person, but this is just one of the ways that the deceit, in which they are suckered in to, is rationalised in to a narrative that can be rote learned and parroted ad nauseam. You have to grow a pair, metaphorically speaking, and challenge everything - even things you never even dreamed of questioning.
Dishonesty - An Introduction
This word has a negative connotation straight off the bat. It does suggest that there is a degree of conniving and plotting, much like in the sense of perpetrating a scam on some poor unsuspecting victim.
As a matter of fact dishonesty is just as toxic as this metaphor makes out, however, the conniving and scheming aspect is done entirely by your brain.
It is in fact you who are both the unsuspecting victim and blissfully unaware of the deceit your mind is perpetrating all the time to prop up the facade the constitutes 'your world' – but fear not.
The whole purpose of this investigation is to root out and shine the light on this dishonesty.
You will find I make unkind references to religion frequently in my work but I do not blame the adherents, it is actually this core mechanism of human dysfunction that riles me. The depths of dishonesty to which we all sink will literally shock you, once you start to explore what is happening.
Back in the Ruthless Truth days we use to refer to it as 'the lie'. When we used to spot patterns of delusion within our own ranks, we used to cry “There is lie in you”. In the context of this view of the self as a 'lie' it seemed pertinent to label it as 'wretched dishonesty'.
I will concede here that nobody likes to be told they are dishonest. To come across this site for the first time and be told that all your life you have been engaged in wretched dishonesty is hardly going to endear you to me.
That being said though, if you have the nous to investigate no self be prepared to discover the uncomfortable truth.
I am not here to make this more palatable or persuade you that you need this no self insight, I am primarily interested in studying this as a curiosity and I happen to think that others would benefit from my previous work. For this reason I am laying out some of the tools one can use, and I will be presenting some of my findings whilst working out in the field.
You are not required to undertake this investigation so if the notion that you are dishonest upsets you then please walk away now. I take it as a given that our starting point is being wrapped up in an intricate fantasy story that is held together at the seams by dishonesty.
Whilst there are a number of narratives available in which to view this process, the only things that are important for us to note here are that dishonesty is a very destructive force against humanity and we are all unconsciously engaged it in some way. Some more than others. It is probably worth mentioning that I was drowning in wretched dishonesty when I started this journey, so you are probably not as much of an extreme case as I was!
Crucially though, we have to recognise that it is not our fault that we are dishonest.
It is pointless looking back at what life threw at us and how we built psychological defences to cope with the world. It is also pointless blaming others and making accusations of dishonesty. We are already engaged in dishonesty and we have to accept that we will find it when the story begins to unravel.
We certainly didn't intend to deceive ourselves from the outset but, unfortunately, that is what happens ultimately. It is up to us to start and dispel our ignorance and test our taken for granted assumptions. The first step is actually gathering the honesty and courage to be willing to face up to what we find.
Dishonesty can only be perpetuated continuously in the absence of truth.
The Ruthless Truth and Truth Strike Days
One of the reasons I do not masquerade as a so called 'liberator' anymore is because I realised that no-self as an end, in itself, is a trapping. There is further to go and there is no sense in which it is a final liberation.
However, it must be remarked that it opens up great vistas and insights in to the human condition, and for that I am grateful.
That being said I still fall foul of dishonesty from time to time, and it is not so much that one vanquishes it after seeing through the illusion.
It is such an ingrained response to coping with the world, that it still happens. One must be vigilant and continue to look at the mechanisms.
The second reason I stopped 'liberating' was because I realised that I was swimming against the current. Trying to take on dishonesty and fight it with fire was a fruitless endeavour. To give an analogy it was like fighting a hydra. Once you chopped one head off, another would grow back immediately and the creature would be far more riled this time.
|Credit to Moonscream: http://moonscream.deviantart.com/gallery/26906822/Pencils-And-Ink|
Once I turned my back on doing this I was glad to walk away from it. The depths of deceit that some people were engaged in absolutely sickened me. This dishonesty is the core mechanism of human delusion , and it was not pleasant trying to battle it.
All the fire and brimstone that came out of ruthless truth and truth strike was never directed at the person, but it was directed at this mechanism. Persistence would usually win the day but it was at a great cost to my time and it was disheartening to think that humanity was held in its clutches.
Instead of doing this, I feel it is better to let people find the truth themselves and now I am no longer burdened with trying to wage a futile and demoralising war against psychological defence mechanisms and peoples inherent dishonesty.
It is now your prerogative to try and bring in to awareness the mechanisms of delusion.
Having being acquainted with fighting human delusion, I am now a weary veteran and have an intimate understanding of the mechanisms we use to delude ourselves, and can tell you some of the downright bizarre phenomena that I discovered when dealing with peoples psychological defences.
It is not so much that you need to rote learn these or anything, but once you get an idea of what to look for, it will become apparent that this is actually happening in real life. Once you start investigating, you will witness the mechanisms of dishonesty playing out and they become easier to spot.
Honesty is not some simple resolve to be honest, it is actually being attuned to the way in which we live in a fantasy world. This world is held together by assumptions which are contradicted by what we discover when we begin looking.
Seeing the truth is what loosens the stranglehold of dishonesty.
Truth is a very relative term and is an empty concept in of itself. If by truth we mean it is derived from direct experience then this is what I am talking about. However, when we investigate this area we actually discover that most of our ideas about the self are given to us within the constraints of a social construct.
If you adopt the view that all of this knowledge has been framed through a socially shared cultural context which has never been challenged, then it should now make sense to you now that challenging the constraints of this context piece by piece, is exactly what we will be doing.
So, the best way to do this is to give a very basic example of looking at real life and investigate the way we draw our conclusions. From here, we can have a glimpse of the process and look at the way we use the information derived from experience.
The Ease of Dishonesty
Let us think about the actions of the body. Do they all just happen of their own accord, or do they require any conscious thought? Perhaps we could try and take conscious control of certain actions. Can you, for example, influence and regulate the rate at which you synthesise ATP from Glycogen, or even metabolise proteins, and produce insulin?
Can this be done?
If you are reading this and then immediately answer no, then in all likelihood you are being dishonest. Unless you can clearly remember sitting there previously, and trying to manipulate these processes that do not, apparently, come in to consciousness, then you are taking it on faith that this is a true state of affairs without actually testing it.
This is not honest enquiry, it is simply resting on the assumption that this is a taken for granted matter of fact.
This is simply dishonesty at work. Welcome to the first pattern of dishonesty that the brain engages in.
1. Resting on prior assumptions without actually testing their validity.
The way that dishonesty comes in to play is that we are merely resting on such assumptions rather than engaging in testing their validity. To equate this to a real world example it is like claiming you know what the contents of a box are without actually opening it and looking inside.
The tin can may be labelled as crab meat and every tin you have ever seen, you were told had the same contents time and time again. It didn't occur to you that smugglers were putting diamonds in the tins!
Have you ever been so convinced of an assumption that you have made plans only for them to fall apart because your assumption was wrong? Assumptions are useful don't get me wrong, however, we are now in the business of testing them.
Going back to our example, if you cannot think of a specific experience or you have a vague intuition that something 'must' or 'just is' true, then it probably requires that you investigate it.
What I want you to do now is actually get a feel for this process and look to see if your reasoning was actually true. Can you control the synthesis of glycogen from ATP in your cells or insulin production? Is there any phenomenon that appears to contradict your world view?
Take 30 seconds or so to actually try this out and for once in your life, and you will have momentarily engaged in honest looking.
Actually do this right now...
There, that wasn't so hard was it?
This honesty lark is not complicated at all, it is the most simple act of looking for the truth.
That is all that is required
There is no magical looking or anything esoteric about this at all. It is just making sure that we actually look to see if our assumptions are true. If you can keep this at the forefront of your mind instead of trying to imagine what no self is 'like', or trying to deny the self exists then you will actually be more inclined to look instead of think about it.
Anyway, as you could see during the exercise these kinds of processes happen of their own accord and cannot be manipulated simply by willing them. No phenomenon appears in our awareness to suggest that there is any control of these processes.
It may seem a little trivial to do this but we have utilised looking at direct experience to see if we can manipulate these processes and we have discovered that the following proposition is necessarily true: That there are certain aspects of physiology that we cannot consciously control.
We can also logically work on this because we can suggest conditions under which our logic holds. For example, if we were asleep or in a coma it does not require that we were are involved in these processes to make them work. Clearly, it is not necessary that we are conscious of these processes.
Were it requisite that we consciously had to will these states we would have no explanation for why these processes occur during our sleep or in the event we were comatose for example.
If we could refute this line of reasoning just once we could discard it, however, we have discovered that consciously willing is neither necessary nor sufficient for causing these processes. Part of doing things in this way is that we don't rest on this as universal truth because it is impossible to prove a negative.
We also acknowledge that this reasoning is based on other suppositions such as there being a real physical brain that regulates our metabolism, and some 'thing' that is conscious to try and look to see if it can manipulate these brain states.
We could have worked this out from logic and infer that we don't have the ability to will certain things like this to happen. We do not will ourselves to sneeze for example and we can extend this argument to other physiological processes.
The point here though is that by extending the same argument we create an assumption that this idea has universal applicability. Whilst in this case, our assumption was true, the point is we actually looked for evidence in direct experience and that is all you ever have to do when you are engaged in this looking.
It is not complicated at all, it is simply looking at the truth of direct experience.
However though, we have to leave open the possibility that we may find sufficient cause through simply willing the action to occur at some point in the future. We might be able to take control of certain processes eventually by training ourselves, for example. It may also be the case that other people might report that they can manipulate these processes.
You are testing your assumptions and that means that you have to be agnostic about other claims and trust only your own direct experience. It might seem that we are looking for absolute certainty when we are using honesty, however, in light of the lack of evidence in empirical reality, we have to concede there is no evidence to suggest that our willing is a sufficient cause for our metabolic function.
I am sure there are very few, if any, that would argue against this conclusion but we must leave open the possibility nevertheless. Before we go any further I think it is important to make a clarification on the above paragraph. You will have noticed that I wrote 'It might seem that we are looking for absolute certainty'. In one sense we want to be sure that what we have found is true. However, the truth of the matter is we are actually dealing in uncertainty. This is because we are challenging our preconceived notions and assumptions.
Once we demonstrate the fallibility of our preconceptions, we actually find we are increasing our uncertainty about the world.
Where we thought we'd find foundations of certainty, we actually find these notions are quite empty which can be a little disconcerting. In essence, we are highlighting how our belief structures are groundless. These structures become more unstable throughout this investigation, and hence this is directly correlated with the overall sense of uncertainty that we may begin to feel. If anything, where we thought things were black and white we actually find shades of grey.
We should take away the fact that we need to make sure our ideas conform in a one-to-one relationship with reality, and this is done with experiential validity aka looking. We also accept that where we expect to find certainty we actually find uncertainty, simply because we cannot prove the non-existence of things.
Proclaiming that something does not exist is actually dishonest as it is committing the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy. As you go through the process and unravel the fiction, you will start to get leverage on the difference between concepts, and phenomena that have a real existence in real life.
In doing things this way we have to leave open the possibility that an experiential proof that confounds our findings may arise at some time in the future. However, until such time as one presents itself in your direct experience, it is not valid to use possibility as the basis for further reasoning.
An example of this is time travel.
Yes, we cannot prove it is definitely impossible in the future as this is committing the argument from ignorance fallacy. However, this is certainly not grounds for us to reason that, therefore, time travel is possible and then rest our entire world view on this assumption, or reason from the possibility.
A more relevant example of this is the self. Without an experientially validated proof of what the self is, it would make sense to suspend any reasoning based on it without having ascertained what it is we are actually reasoning about. Naturally, you should expect that you will be finding uncertainty about the concept of your self during this investigation but this leads us on to our second mechanism of dishonesty.
The Dishonesty of Assumption
Having outlined this mechanism of dishonesty and shown how easy it is to slip in to it, we need to take a broad look at where we are situated. If we can be dishonest about something that simple then we do have to ask questions about whether our entire world-view is founded on honesty. What we often find is that it is based on our second mechanism of dishonesty which is this.
To illustrate this by analogy it is like arguing about the contents of a box, which you have never looked inside, and then using this assumption as the basis for your argument.
I accept that a fair enquirer such as yourself may think I am being unnecessarily patronising in saying this, but I have to mention it since it was one of the most common aspects of dishonesty we used to come across in the TS days.
In both sides of this proposition a fallacy has been committed but it is not so much that I can or should convince someone the self doesn't exist. However, if they were to look inside the box, so to speak, and examine their free will regarding thinking then maybe they would see this was questionable. Then they might look in to the self after seeing this assumption was untrue.
For instance, if we compared a Nazi ideology to our own, we would find it somewhat abhorrent that school kids were taught they were superior to all other beings and that these others were 'untermensch'.
Naturally, if we could cram the best knowledge of the best historical tried and tested ideas and principles in to a training program, it makes sense we have an education system.
This is not without its own set of problems and the way in which the education system was implemented was rightly criticised by Schopenhauer back in the 1800s and has never actually been addressed even to this day.
This certainly did not interfere with general consensus that we won many wars, were victorious in colonising the largest empire the world had seen, single handedly kick started the industrial revolution, and paved the way for the modern world.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with reported knowledge and you can apply this to your own life usefully and critically reflect on it, it points to the fact that Schopenhauer's observation rings true. Whilst we may have had some practical lessons and even questioned some of the concepts we learn, I'm sure you will not be inclined to disagree with me when I say that much of our knowledge is second hand.
It makes sense that we are indoctrinated with a code of how to behave towards each other and are packed full of the most up to date concepts ready to take out in to the adult world. There is nothing wrong with this but we simply have to recognise that not all of the 'facts' we have learned are necessarily true.
A Given Framework Of Thinking
I am already familiar with these companies and the way they arise in my mind when I want insurance is because when I listen to the radio they are there, when I watch TV they are there. You could literally spend a whole day and have one of their adverts appear every 15 – 20 minutes drumming in to your brain.
The thing to note is that even though we may try and insulate ourselves from this relentless stream of BS, it still has an effect on us because we absorb the things around us that either grab our attention, or pass us by unaware.
The fact that confused.com and go compare spring to mind is not because you have the remotest interest in insurance products, it is their aggressive advertising practices which means you can't help that they spring to mind when you have the ball ache of hunting for a cheaper insurance renewal.
As Noam Chomsky said:
'The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum' (Chomsky, 1998).
Rather than being presented with the arguments for each side, we have opinion pieces which aim to influence us by appealing to our emotions rather than present any kind of rational debate.
It is asking a lot for the layman to engage in any kind of debate that goes way over their heads. However, some of us are condemned to the compulsion of a life of picking away at orthodoxy and exploring the implications of our discoveries.
Here we can give an example of how narratives proliferate the mindset of a nation.
How to Look (2010)
I have written this section because at the start of my journey in to liberation, I was hearing the terms look and see all the time. My question was how do I actually look. This may seem counter intuitive but Maxi Jazz (leadsinger of Faithless) came out with a good quote in his lyrics "You don't need eyes to see, you need vision". That sums it up really, you need to look with your inner vision. Now I'm going to cover the proces of looking and what it really entails.
Here you go: LOOK in reality, there is no you, there is no thinker behind the thinking, no doer behind the actions and no experiencer behind the experience, there is just thought, action and experience but no you, it is an illusion.
Some people can get this quickly, others take longer, others come back after a month off and some will just eventually give up. Not everyone is capable of seeing it through.
Courage is required to see this through as the lie of self being threatened, will twist and turn and throw up every excuse not to look. It will throw the idea that no self is oblivion and will obstruct you from looking.
The idea of no self is a disturbance to the equilibrium and I'm sure when you first looked at the idea there was a lot of resistance to this idea at first. Now hopefully by doing the experiments with honesty, you will agree with my observations and now rather than being 100% skeptical, you are only 90 - 99% skeptical. That is at best all I could hope to acheive in this blog.
My aim is to sow a seed of doubt and give you the information you need to start looking at reality for the truth, nothing more.
Honesty is also required to see the lie of self.
Me: Basically all you have to do is look and you can prove it, for instance take a look at that flag, tell me what you see.
Friend: I see the national flag, it stands for the nationalism of the country, the people....
Me: Hah, there you go, you weren't looking at the flag, you were telling me what it means. This is what I see... a metal
pole and some material flapping in the wind.
This is the level you need to look at reality on. If you see what the flag represents, you are interpreting its meaning and thinking about what it actually means. You are not in fact looking at it for what it is.
The problem with trying to see no self is this impression that you are looking at something for what it is. This is what a flag is, it has meaning, it represents something. So it is with a false self there is so much meaning tied in to this illusion that one will find it difficult to really see it for what it is at first.
There is an organism called a "homo sapien". It has a highly evolved brain and is capable of complex thought. Sometimes the organism likes drinking tea especially if it happens to be made in England. This is what we call free will. An organism has the freedom to have a preference for the type of drink it wants, if given the choice, it is not dictated by anybody. So the kidneys send the signal to the brain that the water tank needs topping up. The brain responds by producing the thought about a cup of tea on this occasion. The body then goes towards the kettle in order to start the procedure of making a cup of tea.
We can use logic to get us so far and we can come to the conclusion that there is in fact no self if we spent long enough using logic. However, this is futile as really all you need to do is look at reality. So to start with you will be using a combination of logic and observation in the experiments that I have put up on this blog. Your observations will be based purely in honesty and many people get to the stage where they can comprehend logically there is no self but they are not yet liberated.
When this stage is reached we have the problem that we know too well the truth but we cannot see it. This was the stage I was at for about two weeks. This part was the most frustrating part of it if I'm honest. I had come to the logical conclusion that the self was an illusion however I would come out with a description that went something along the lines of "I know there is no self but the ego keeps on taking over again".
This is actually the thought of self clinging on desperately. Why does this happen? Ok basically the brain has a conditioning mechanism and the input is filtered throught the conscious mind. I don't like the idea of dividing the brain but this is a good way to explain it to the layman.
I was sat there watching Viet Nam playing Malaysia on ESPN. It wasn't the best football match I had ever seen but anyways,with ten minutes to go, the Vietnamese made a fast attacking surge and overwhelmed the Malaysian defence.
The whole point of that experiement is for you to re - create this realisation in your own view of reality. From this point my reticular activation was set to keep noticing when I was running on auto pilot, which was alot more than I would ever have dreamed of and this gave me a good shove in the right direction as I was able to start looking at the inner processes and start to remove the parts that the self wasn't responsible for...
I had various Satori's while I was doing my inner looking and I had a lot of false positives/ false dawns of what the truth was. I started looking so hard at the fact there was no self, I had a head ache constantly for a week. I devoted all my energy to this process and it does take its toll a little bit. This is common from what I can tell and this part is tough.
Here is where you must hold your courage. The mind is resisting this with all its might and you pretty much know its the last stand of the false self. I literally noticed that the mind was blocking my awareness from seeing the truth in the end.
I was literally sat in the chair and I had to summon up all my inner reserves to take a look at reality. At this point the mind was screaming NOOOO!! and then I had to make one last push to look in reality. This final look was actually using the same awreness that is used in meditation, the kind of awareness where you are looking at the mind.
Its so hard to describe this and I vowed I would try my damndest but words cannot explain it. It is not a special kind of looking, there is no special way of looking, it is just using your awareness to see but it is not thinking, it is LOOKING.
How do I know I'm done?
There is just the experience, or what they call non - duality in Neo - advita teachings.
- If you are thinking, then you are not looking
- Smack the crap out of this from every angle
- Logic becomes an obstacle to looking, always make sure you are looking instead of expecting an answer
- Honesty must be used at all stages
- Write your thoughts down on a piece of paper or on the computer. Write everything down right from the beginning no matter how crazy it sounds. Only you need ever look at this.
- DON'T WORRY ABOUT HOW IT SOUNDS, write for the sake of writing and then scrutinise it
- Get help, contact me or check out the Ruthless arena, we can help you to see no self there
- If its frustrating and causing you discomfort then you are on the right track
- Try and focus on the absence of a self behind the thoughts, actions and experiences and describe what it means
- Do not trust anything that can not be seen directly in reality