There are only two ways for conscious beings to be – either paranoid or metanoid. Either we perceive that the universe is out to destroy us, and see this as a very bad thing, or we perceive that the universe is out to destroy us, and see this as a very good thing…
We are therefore catching onto the same thing in both cases, only what fills us with a very great terror in the first case, fills us with an equally great joy in the second case.
The fact that we are catching onto something shows that we are conscious – we have a sense, an intimation of what is going on, we actually know what is going on, but there are two totally different ways to take this awareness. Clearly the universe is plotting our destruction – the only way it wouldn’t be would be if it were a dead, mechanical universe, the kind that knows only the logic of following rules. The only way it would not be plotting our destruction would be if it were the type of universe that is all about things reaching an energetic ‘equilibrium level’ and then sticking there forever (or until some external force comes along to kick them out of it and into some new dead equilibrium state).
This is how processes go – the only way for processes to go – in an ‘equilibrium-seeking universe’, a universe in which there nothing to counter the third law of thermodynamics. In a Non-E Type universe, a universe in which there exists a tendency to move out of all equilibria states, a universe which is always reaching out beyond its own boundaries, beyond its own ‘definition of itself’, it has to be the case that there is a conspiracy going on to do away with whatever definition of ourselves we are hanging on to. Thus, it has to be the case that the universe is actively plotting to undermine all the fixed values we hold most dear, and since the fixed value we hold the dearest of all is ourselves, if we had a perception that the universe is ‘out to destroy us’ we would be correct…
We can look at this in terms of ‘comfort zones – an equilibrium state (from a psychological point of view) is a comfort zone. It is a comfort zone because it is what we know and are deeply familiar with, because it provides us with a fixed frame of reference – a landscape we can count on to remain the same, no matter what. This is what ‘equilibrium’ means – it means that ‘everything stays the same’. In an equilibrium-seeking universe everything settles down to the one value, like the leaves falling of a tree in autumn and settling on the ground. Things don’t start off the same but they always end up the same – all variations get evened out, all blips get flattened, all perturbations get regulated. As Ilya Prigogine says, in an equilibrium system it’s the destination that is important not the origin, the end-point in the process not the starting point. The defined goal is the all-important thing – everything else is merely ‘an error to be corrected’.
This is exactly how we look at things when we are in the psychological ‘equilibrium-seeking’ modality, which is of course our normal, everyday ‘conservative’ (or as Robert Anton Wilson puts it, ‘neophobic’) way of being. In this mode everything is about upholding our established pattern of being in the world – we try as hard as we can to keep everything the same, we endeavour to iron out all possible challenges, all possible upsets, to the status quo.
When we look at the world from this familiar vantage-point we feel comfortable, and when we move out of this position we feel uncomfortable and so we have to start ‘correcting things’. And if we can’t correct the problem then this discomfort quickly turns into fear. What we’re talking about therefore is the modality of denial. After all, nothing’s going to stay the same forever, no matter how hard we work at it. That is a blatant impossibility. But impossible or not, this is our constant obsession – to maintain the equilibrium values no matter what, to perpetuate the status quo, come what may.
This status quo isn’t just to do with the outer world and what goes on here – that after all is just a reflection of our perceptions, thoughts, values, beliefs, and so on. The status quo we are really talking about here is thus our own definition of ourselves. The ultimate equilibrium value that we try to maintain is therefore the fixed self – this is what we are always trying to protect and perpetuate, ‘come what may’.
Change is always the enemy in this case. The new is always the enemy. But the thing about the ‘conservative’ mode is not just that we fight change, that we adhere doggedly to the established values or norms, but that in fighting change we believe unquestionably in the intrinsic rightness of what we are doing. We believe in this whole ‘equilibrium-seeking’ business as being the rightful order of things. Without stating it explicitly, we believe that things ought to be the way that they are, that things always have to stay being they are defined as being. Just as orthodox Christianity used to hold (back in the days before Darwin) that species were immutable, that God created each and every species of creature on this earth to remain exactly as He had created it, true to the template, so too do we believe (when we’re in the E-mode of psychological functioning) the self to be an immutable fixture, ordained to be this way forever by the infinitely conservative powers that order the universe.
If we could continue to believe this – in an absolutely ‘unquestioning’ way, then we would neither start to develop a paranoid frame of mind, nor a metanoid one. We would just keep on trucking, safe in our narcotizing cocoon of self-validation. There would be no existential threats to our world-view. But a problem with this over-simplistic scheme of things always arises because something has been left out of the equation – something has been pushed to one side by our flat or literal belief in the ‘rightness’ of our own thoughts, our own ego-centric viewpoint. That ‘something’ is reality itself.
It’s always dangerous to leave reality out of the equation because it has a habit of reasserting itself in an unexpected manner! Reality has a way of coming to the fore again after it has been pushed away, it has a way of popping out of the box that we put it in, and when it does so this can either be a thoroughly horrible experience, or a totally wonderful one, depending upon our attitude to the proceedings…
What we have left out of the equation is the acknowledgment that the universe is not CLOSED but OPEN, and thus what manifests itself against our will is nothing less than our own repressed awareness of this intrinsic openness.
Since the universe we live in is intrinsically OPEN (whether or not we are willing to acknowledge it) we can say – using the word in a very loose way – that it has a ‘plan’ for us. Of course it doesn’t really have a plan for us because ‘a plan’ (in our normal understanding of the word) essentially involves a fixed or final way of seeing things. It’s not that the universe has a plan for us in the sense of it having an idea of a specific defined outcome for us (since that type of business only makes sense within the CLOSED context of an E-Type universe) but rather that if the universe is OPEN then this spells only one thing for all the entities in that universe – change.
But it is not sufficient just to say that the conspiracy is to make us ‘change’. This is a particular type of change we’re talking about here – not just the swapping of one fixed format for another. The fixed structure or defined value is always very, very small. It is infinitesimally small – the ‘defined value’ has collapsed into a state of mere virtuality, like a geometrical point which has no actual dimensions.
So just as OPEN is always a conspiracy against CLOSED, it is in the nature of the Open Universe to be conspiring against us to stop us being so small! It is fundamentally against us, inasmuch as we are in the equilibrium-seeking mode of psychological functioning. And because the OPEN is real and CLOSED is manufactured (i.e. unreal), the Open Universe is inevitably going to win out against our dedication to being small, our dedication to being small-minded, our dedication to being mere virtual entities.
The awareness of this inevitability will affect us in one of two ways. When the vastness of our true being calls us, we will either be filled with terror, or with joy.
By Nick Williams | Staff Writer