Let me see if I can write a cheat-sheet to make the last essay a little easier.
First, it’s necessary to see things through a prismatic perspective. Otherwise what I say won’t make sense.
It sounds hard, but it’s only a little disconcerting at first.
By a prismatic perspective I mean realizing that nothing we think is actual. I think most humble human beings accept that their ideas are not perfect.
Now look at the same realization a little more intensely, that’s all.
What that means is I can only observe a small bandwidth of stimuli even at my best. And from what I Can see, I only remember a smaller fraction. And of those memories, I can only stitch together the few that make the most sense to me. So all I ever know are fictions.
That’s not what we usually think, but it’s the same thing as realizing that our ideas are only interpretations. Interpretations are fictions.
And they can be honest or dishonest fictions. But facts that aren’t the product of some interpretation are few and far between. And they’re usually negative, such as “the emperor has no clothes”. But in this case the negative discovery is that thought is not actual.
So ideas are only at best insightful, not literal.
Without the delusion of absolute truth there’s no motive to lie. Think about that. We lie when we’re trying to convince someone of an absolute truth, even if it’s only the absolute truth of Selfishness, the need to lie to protect my sense of Self. But if we see that nothing is conclusively true, including our sense of Self, but only at most a helpful way of distorting an otherwise ungraspable whole to make it meaningful, then there is no competition between points of view. They all add information, that’s all.
And if nothing can be taken literally, then thoughts become more creative, conjectural, metaphoric, prismatic.
Each word is like a different refraction of an unknowable actuality. Each word provides a slightly different slant or insight into qualities of the world.
So I could have called this a “metaphoric mentality” instead of a “primsmatic perspective.” The word “prism” emphasizes the ability to spin the issue around to get insights into different qualities. When I use the word metaphor, this emphasizes the suggestive nature of thought, the absence of Literalism. But neither of them are the actuality. They are merely different qualities that each metaphor reveals in what would otherwise be a mysterious, ungraspable whole.
So when thought stops trying to be actual, it becomes more creative, trying out different angles to discover wider potentials in the world. We shift from a narrowing search for answers to a widening, adventure-loving exploration, which can’t have an agenda because it doesn’t know what’s coming next. But in this spirited exploration of the world we begin to discover new powers, like the freedom from competition that this prismatic angle provides; the creativity it encourages.
Every shift in our stories provokes and diminishes different potentials in the world.
Right now we’re stuck on a story of competition and opposition because our thoughts are confused with actuality, making us fight for our version of reality over others. But there are far more profound insights available when we see it differently.
If we realize the ability to see things prismatically, then we stop asking “what idea is true?” and start asking “What insights does each story reveal?”
That’s why I wrote “we can call this history of deceit, racism and war-making an Evil, a “Something”, a personal fault, a devil, a criminal cultural momentum, a corrupt “system of thought”, or an inorganic predator, and on and on. Every story delivers a different kind of insight into the nature of the problem. It’s not a matter of which is right and which is wrong, but how we wish to hold the prism of perception in order to see things we might not otherwise recognize.”
So what are we to make of the “predator’ as a metaphor? Are you taking it as something far-fetched and fanciful, like an allegory? Are you assuming that there’s no such thing, that it’s “just a story”?
But here’s the thing, an honest metaphor isn’t allegorical and far-fetched, it’s precise and it reveals qualities of actuality that are hidden otherwise.
So we have to look at “the predator” as a metaphor that accurately reveals certain qualities of our condition that wouldn’t be noticed if we limited ourselves to using more conventional metaphors such as “bad guys and good guys” or “criminals” or “life-choices”, etc.
All of these ways of looking at our deteriorating human condition reveal something of actuality.
And if you say that the human condition is improving, that’s also another story that reveals certain actual qualities too.
But each of these stories misses something if it’s taken as the only correct way to see things. From a prismatic perspective there’s no argument, only shifts of light and meaning.
But the metaphor of the predator is profound in ways some of the others aren’t. Not all stories are equal. But we don’t identify and fight over different metaphors, we fight when we think that OUR versions are supreme and the only vantage point that we should have. A more powerful metaphor isn’t vying to be the only one used. It’s powerful because it’s pointing out a quality that is going unnoticed and which changes how we respond to the world. It holds greater transformative power, but it disappears once it has delivered its meaning. It changes the world and ceases to be necessary any more.
If we defeat the predator, then the predator metaphor would no longer need to exist.
So what is the unique charge of this predator metaphor?
For one thing, a predator is a very different animal compared to other metaphors reflecting outside controls, such as a “devil”, an evil spirit and other simplistic metaphors. The “predator” allows us to see our predicament as a natural phenomenon, not as an otherworldly evil force that we can’t do anything about. This predator is certainly subtle and immaterial in some forms, but it’s natural. It tells us we have the potential to overcome it, to actually free ourselves. We can defeat the predator. You can’t say that easily about Evil, as a metaphor. It traps us more. The idea of evil is only something we can save our Selves from, not something that can be systematically overpowered for the benefit of all.
The predator, in other words, allows us to respond to this as an evolutionary challenge, not like a battle for one’s own personal soul.
The predator metaphor also reveals a foreign quality to our predicament – what Castaneda calls “a foreign installation”. This isn’t like the metaphor of demonic possession. It provides a far more subtle insight. The predator wants us to think we’re good and happy, wants us to believe that our thoughts came to us by choice, that this culture reflects our authentic values, and not the values that it has fed us, and which we have absorbed helplessly like chickens on a feeding tube, because it needs its prey to remain docile and weak.
It isn’t hard to see this foreign force in operation, but people are made to recoil from it.
But do we choose to recoil? See, it happens to us, like almost every other thought and feeling. We can only see this foreign quality of our thoughts clearly at present if we look at the very roots of thought, the very first instant of every feeling and thought that arises. You’ll notice from that angle that we never choose what we’re going to think, do or feel. It’s an illusion of control. We think we’re choosing, but the desire to choose already arose automatically. So we’re only reacting mechanically to outside forces. Our thoughts are not our own. And the predator metaphor shows us this quality of actuality. It wouldn’t be noticeable from other angles of perception.
Yes, we can see choice if we look at the world as composed of separate things, where we’re only influenced at most. This story tends to be attractive to people desperate to believe in a solid certainty and who don’t want to lose the illusion of control. They only react this way, however, because they are conflating their own thoughts with actuality, and so they tend to be frightened by the sudden groundlessness of it all, and so they can’t switch to a prismatic perspective, where everything is fictional and insightful.
So in that case we have utterly merged with the body of the predator, the foreign force that is consuming our energy.
If we study the way the predator is talked about in Castaneda’s book it’s an almost perfect reflection of that which coerces human intelligence into mistaking thought for thing, thus chaining itself to a repetitive hamster wheel of wasted energy. This is the energy the predator needs to survive. It parasitizes us..
I’m saying that these metaphors are not merely fanciful comparisons, but they reveal a subtle quality of predatory aggression that rolls through the world engulfing the entirety of human energy. It’s real, but the image isn’t actual. There is some force that is like this, but our descriptions of it are metaphoric, fictional.
But it reveals that we’re trapped by a foreign force. And this metaphor provides a way of pointing out this actual condition, even though we can’t describe this condition without resorting to some fiction. Our thoughts can’t portray actuality.
But the point is, a real predator has coalesced around these qualities. But our description of it is only metaphoric.
And it would be dangerous to take the predator image literally, because there is a very good chance that these forces would coalesce and become material realities, just as thoughts of enemy humans coalesce into real war. If our metaphors remain too literal, they evoke those selective qualities and reify a world out of them.
See, this starts to suggest the real dangers of schizophrenia in our culture. If we believe something too positively, we evoke that reality, the qualities we focus upon get pulled from the world and magnified into walking and talking hallucinations. That’s why we need to realize that thought is not actual. Then we don’t fearfully provoke the world into manifesting our nightmares.
And if you think it’s possible to use imagination to evoke heaven think again. Any imagination used literally creates a false world, a distraction from actuality, which precludes joy and creativity, becoming eventually nightmarish all on its own. A Literal system of thought tends inevitably towards nightmare.
Now another prismatic perspective would be like this: The prism story itself could be described as an impersonal perspective.
I knew that the word “impersonal” would probably generate confusion. But I want words to be loose enough in meaning to provoke an exploration of actuality. If I define words too carefully, then attention is directed to the idea, and we settle on a concrete and literal interpretation. But the word impersonal (in the context in which I talked about it) means looking at ideas without taking any of them personally. It’s not the absence of emotion or empathy. It’s a wider view than the individual view, so it’s naturally more empathetic and loving. It’s not competitive. It sees prismatically, metaphorically. It’s not even the absence of a Self-concept. It’s just the absence of a settled sense of Self. It takes itself less seriously, because it sees itself as an honest fiction, not something that needs to be defended as actual.
So with that ground established, here is the summary of the last essay:
I’m saying an insight can be seen more insightfully as an explosive device. The meaning won’t be made manifest if we hold it and preserve it as a mere idea. Insight acts on the world by destroying blinding assumptions, such as the literalism of words and ideas. It’s not a flash ending in words, but words and ideas that explode with meaning and leave nothing but a changed way of being.