The fate of consciousness is akin to that of a marriageable young woman in a strongly patriarchal society. A marriageable young woman is – from a patriarchal point of view – a highly prized commodity to be snapped up straightaway and kept under lock and key. As soon as she appears on the scene she is pressed into service – producing babies, raising children, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, budgeting, managing the home. She is firstly valued as a commodity and secondly as a functionary. She is not valued for who she actually is – this consideration in fact never comes up. Naturally she is not encouraged to develop or express her own individuality. Apart from the fact that she simply doesn’t have the time to realize her self-nature (being kept far too busy with her ever-proliferating tasks) being an autonomous self-directing being would of course be utterly disastrous from the point of view of the patriarchal system that is busy hitching a ride on her back!
Which slave-owning culture ever showed an interest in emancipating the hard-pressed workers at the base of the social pyramid?
Which owner of a pack-horse ever concerned themselves with the question of what his long-suffering beast of burden thought about things?
The existence of a large tier of voiceless and status-less workers allows those at the apex level of the status pyramid to devote themselves to far loftier matters – such as devising an ideology specifically suited to validating their place at the apex of the hierarchy. This has invariably been the way things work; it has been the way throughout the whole course of human history. In the case of a good, old-fashioned patriarchy men have the status because men make the rules. Having made the rules, they then proceed to believe in what they themselves have dictated, and become unshakably convinced of the rightness of the arrangement. Men then get to feel like the important ones, the significant ones, because of the system of ideology and systematic indoctrination which they themselves have devised.
The parallel with consciousness runs deep. Consciousness is highly prized, highly valued, but not for what it is in itself. It is not valued for its own nature (which we never bother to look into) but for what it can be used for; it is valued purely because of the work it can do for us.
How could we value it for anything else when we don’t know (or care) anything else about it?
As soon as it shows its face consciousness is pressed into service – it is kept busy at all times, it is inundated with tasks and duties. It is the workhorse, the donkey, the pack mule – no one cares what the workhorse thinks about things, no one cares about the dreams of the donkey, the inner life of the pack mule.
But if this is so, if this is the case, then who is it that is pressing consciousness into service?
Who is loading the pack mule?
Who is setting consciousness all these tasks, keeping her busy the whole time so that she can never reflect upon her own nature?
Who is it that doesn’t care about who she really is, but only values her because of the labour she can provide?
The answer is of course very easy to see. The dogmatic patriarch in this case is the rigid, self-important, opinionated and control-driven old rational mind, which is convinced of its right to call all the shots, convinced of its right to at be the centre of everything, the rightful recipient of whatever benefits that happen to be going. The rational mind is the one who is riding on the back of consciousness, thinking that he is ‘king of the castle’, thinking that he is running the show, thinking that it’s all about him…
This can be hard to appreciate since we are so very identified with the position of the rational mind – we are identified with it because we have been subjected to its ideologies and its systematic indoctrination for the whole of our lives. We believe what the thinking mind says, in other words; we believe in what the thinking and controlling mind says because it never occurs to us to question it, because it never occurs to us to go against it. It’s the boss. In our culture everything’s about the thinking mind – everything is seen and ordered from the narrow, utilitarian-based point of view of this mind. If – just for example – we were a culture which values art and creativity more than thought, then things would be organized very differently. In fact they wouldn’t be ‘organized’ in the way that we understand the word at all – rather than everything being pressed into the service of ideas, dogmas, theories, beliefs, structure and systems life would be allowed leeway to organize itself into whatever patterns it is that happen arise spontaneously. Creativity and spontaneity would be the thing, not logical systems, not regimentation, not order and control, and the constant humourless pursuit of rational goals.
Of course, we like to imagine that we do value art and all things creative. The truth of the matter is that the rational or calculating mind values art only as an enhancement for itself, not for the sake of the art itself. This is like a rich man who likes to associate himself with artists or poets because it reflects well on him, because it shows him in a better light. If I appreciate the arts, then this says something about my tastes, it says something about me! Art is valued as a commodity in our society, and the proof of this is the fact that it ends up in the hands of the wealthy. Spontaneity too we like to think that we value and appreciate, just like a dull man may like to think that he has a sense of humour! We pay lip service to spontaneity but the bottom line is that our so-called spontaneity (or ‘light-heartedness’) will vanish very quickly indeed the moment something important (which is to say, something that the rational mind deems important) comes up. We are not a spontaneous or creative culture; we are a rationalistic and goal-orientated one, as Carl Jung pointed out sixty years ago. We don’t celebrate life as it is in itself (or as it might be) we celebrate our own systems. We celebrate what we have made of life.
The system-loving mind naturally defends its position. It is deep in us to imagine that there simply couldn’t be any other way – that we have to be the way that we are, that we have to organize life on this planet the way that we have done. The structures that the thinking mind has created (and which have proceeded to enslave us, just as Frank Herbert says they always do) appear to us to be necessary, to be essential for our very survival. The way in which we run things seems to be eminently right and proper – our institutions seem right and proper, the goals (both collective and individual) that we concern ourselves seem right and proper, but this is only because we have been indoctrinated into thinking so.
The perennial pursuit of the rational or thinking mind is to increase its own security – this is its game, the only game it knows. In support of this all-important goal we endeavour to increase our knowledge of the world, our control over the world, our grip on the world. As has often been said, we bend the world to our needs – we seek to dominate it, to exploit it, to render it tame and subservient to our every wish. This dominating and controlling attitude is the characteristic attitude of the over-bearing rational mind, which doesn’t allow any voice other than its own. This mind, we might say, ought never to have been allowed to have the position that it does; it can’t after all help itself, it can’t help being the way that it is because that is its nature – it is limited, it can only do what it can do, it can only ever be the way that it is. As the spiritual teachings say, it is a good servant but a terrible master. It has cleverness but no wisdom, it knows the ‘how’ but not the ‘why’, and to make up for its utter lack of wisdom it invents an impenetrable smokescreen of dogmas, beliefs, theories, customs, legal or societal codes, religious or political doctrines, pseudo-metaphysical or pseudo-scientific systems of thought, and so on. In the face of all of this obfuscation we bow down, we bow our heads and accept…
The unwise pursuit is that of always seeking to increase security, by which means we tie ourselves up in knots, by which means we imprison ourselves. Wisdom would lie in seeking liberation, in seeking the emancipation of consciousness from her dogmatic oppressor, who covers up his absurd foolishness with the cloak of tradition and self-bestowed authority.
By Nick Williams | Staff Writer