Yes, This Is Happening


Like a lot of people these days, I get most of the influx of world news from my friends. Through social networks, my feed gets peppered with items of note from all over the globe. Many of the postings include some expression of incredulity about what is being passed on. Many of them with lead ins such as, “Is this legal?, “This can’t be happening…”, “I don’t believe we are still this fucked up…”, and so on.

Side-bar here: Recently I started on a piece about Hassan i-Sabbah. You see, I am an avid gamer, as well as being a fan of fringe philosophy, whack-o epistemology, strange ontology, stripped down spirituality, shadow history, and the scientific method, all while working towards immanetizing my personal eschaton.

Recently, I caught quite a fascination about the original order of assassins by playing the “Assassin’s Creed” games (which are awesome, by the way.) In them, part of the credo of the assassins often quoted is the phrase, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” I had read that phrase before, of course, mostly in the Principia Discordia, and the works of Uncle Bob.

So, being the avid geek I am, I started researching. As I did, my romantic notions about the ideology of freedom that the phrase calls fort, and which the game creators emphasized, bubbled over. The idea of facing reality directly, without holding any one particular reality-tunnel as absolute, allows for a personal unbridled freedom. Our behavior comes under our full ownership and responsibility. We can begin to answer for ourselves to ourselves. For me, this formulation is right up there with, “The map is not the territory”, and “Whatever you say a thing is, it isn’t” from Korzybski, alongside the offerings from Aliester Crowley, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”, and “Will under love.”

Hassan i-Sabbah, was the founder of the original order of assassins, and the apparent coiner of this phrase. Trouble is, no one really knows when he said it, or why. The most compelling version (for me anyways), is as follows: After winning the castle-fortress Alamut in a con-bet that involved the hide of a bull, Hassan took up residence and proceeded to run his group of assassin’s to make targeted eliminations for the purposes of forwarding the agenda of the Muslim world. He recruited soldiers and conditioned them by using drug enabled trips to “heaven”, a walled paradisiacal garden built to evoke the fantasies of what awaits Muslim’s who give their lives over to the service of Allah in the afterlife, complete with virgins to provide physical delights. Hassan employed a wide range of theatrical shows to convince his troops. Once, he had a pit installed in his throne room. He had a follower stand in the pit, then rigged a false floor that made it look like his severed head was sitting on a platter. Calling his troops in, Hassan claimed this was the head of a man who had failed to obey him. He then evoked his “magical powers” and commanded the head to speak, at which point the man in the pit began screaming and detailing the tortures that he was undergoing in Hell.

Once Hassan was installed in Alamut, he never left his chambers (aside from one trip to the roof gardens) for the remaining 35 years of his life. He sank himself into studies of the religion, philosophy, science, and mysticism of his time. Hassan was a deeply respected spiritual authority, and he turned to his studies with an unmatched fervor. On his deathbed he uttered the phrase, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Now, what did he mean by that? Was this a death bed confession that all he had believed in for his life was false? Or, was this some deep mystical revelation representing the culmination of his studies, and meditations? Or, was it the farewell of a con-man who wanted to assuage his guilt?

Who knows?

In any event, one thing is clear. Hassan was a confidence man of the highest order. He willfully used the fanatic religious conviction of his followers, which he magnified through genius level brainwashing, and spent their lives for his own ends. What he did was amazing, but it’s nothing to get romantic over.

This ended my fascination with Hassan i-Sabbah as a source of mystical insight. My respect for the insight remained, however.

Here ends the side-bar.

All of that was to illustrate the truth behind the term, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” You see, we all live in reality-tunnels sourced from our individual unique partial views. This reality-tunnel is colored by our physical and psychological structure, as well as the conditioning imprinted on us by our culture and life experiences. We each have a unique “take” on things, and none of them is ultimately true. They (at best) are just how things seem to us. This does not mean they are not real; it’s just that they are only real for us. In this way, “nothing is true.”

Each of us takes our actions guided by our own personal plum-lines. The thing is these conditions of morality, and ethics, and social norms, are installed in us during our upbringing. These rules of conduct dictate our actions to a large degree. If we had a glimpse (or maybe a good long look) at reality free of our conditioning, then we might understand that, “everything is permitted.” Then our actions become fully our own. That does not mean we will necessarily do good things. We can still be bad people. Some will take advantage of such freedom in service of their own needs and desires.

“There are trivial truths, and there are great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.” ~ Niels Bohr

It seems ironic to use that quote as a tool to look at an insight that states that, “Nothing is true…,” but to heck with it. Life is short. Following on with Professor Bohr’s line of reasoning, it seems to me that every deep insight can be implemented in a positive light and in a negative one. I am beginning to suspect that this insight, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is floating around out there in the noosphere with a negative inflection. Not in the foreground like the countless LoLCats, and Ikea Monkeys, but just like those memes, it’s being passed around in the background.

Those working with this idea have a free license to do as they please. With no truth holding them back, they permit themselves actions that most of us would balk at.

So, yes, this is happening.

Governments are breaking laws.

People are being locked up for no reason other than convenience.

Teenagers are bashing each other’s brains in, and people are using these tragedies as an excuse to promote racial profiling.

Corporations are poisoning the bio-sphere and exterminating species to increase their bottom line.

All of that is happening. Really. It really is.

As long as we deny it, what’s going to stop it?

This is not a call for some overt action, or screaming in the streets. But, what if we all let in the idea that maybe, just maybe, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” And, maybe if we did we could slow the tide of license and abuses, and expose them all to the light of our awareness. Not our hatred, or our revenge, but just our knowing. Maybe that light could be shined into the darkest crevices and if they want to take their actions, at least they will do so while we see.

Just a thought.

It Isn’t What It Is


Yay for distinctions! Here’s another one I love!

One of the things I was taught early on were the names for the things in my world. I was taught, “This is my bed”, “This is my foot”, “This is the door to my room”, and so on.

I was told what everything is. Each item given an identity within my personal reality map.

I was convinced that the names equaled the thing in question.

This lead to some funny, and confusing conclusions early on.

It was explained to me that the TV carried a signal coming from the filming of actors in a show that was then displayed on my screen. When it was on, the signal was displayed for my viewing pleasure. What wasn’t really explained was what happened when my TV was turned off. To my reality map, the TV being on was the signal for the shows to be displayed. That meant that they should not be going when the TV was turned off. For a couple of years I was presented with a mystery. I would watch some TV in the morning while getting ready for school. When I got home my shows would not be where I left them. When I asked my Mom who had been watching the TV when I was gone she had no answer. It was a couple of years of this before she got what I was asking. Then she had to explain recording and broadcasting and the idea that everyone was watching the same shows so they had to run in case anyone was watching.

I was laboring under what Alfred Korzybski call the “is of identity.” We human beings have a wonderful capacity for identification. This affords us a tremendous evolutionary advantage. The problem comes when we go from holding an identification for some thing, to assigning it an identity. In that way we give the thing a certain permanency. The trouble with that is that it’s not true. Nothing has that kind of permanency. No thing is identical to any thing else, nor is any thing identical to itself, moment to moment. So, any “is of identity” that we hold about things (either external objects and forces, or internal emotions, sensations, or thoughts) becomes inaccurate the moment after we assign it. We have a view on reality that becomes what Korzybski calls, “false to facts.”

Ancient Buddhism and Taoism, along with modern Physics, confirm the above assertion. No thing has an identity in the sense of a permanent set of characteristics or relations.

Living contrary to the ever changing reality we occupy does not seem a very skillful method at all.

The issue there stems from the deep roots such assigning of an “is of identity” has in us, in terms of our habitual language and thinking. The way out of this trap lies in the same way the trap was created; we can consciously grind in new habits that eliminate the “is of identity” from our thinking and language.

My spiritual uncle, Robert Anton Wilson, outlined a bunch of sample ways to restructure sentences that embrace this notion.

  • The photon is a wave.
    The photon behaves as a wave when constrained by certain instruments.
  • The photon is a particle.
    The photon appears as a particle when constrained by other instruments.
  • John is unhappy and grouchy.
    John appears unhappy and grouchy in the office.
  • John is bright and cheerful.
    John appears bright and cheerful on holiday at the beach.
  • The car involved in the hit-and-run accident was a blue Ford.
    In memory, I think I recall the car involved in the hit-and-run accident as a blue Ford.
  • That is a fascist idea.
    That seems like a fascist idea to me.
  • Beethoven is better than Mozart.
    In my present mixed state of musical education and ignorance Beethoven seems better than Mozart to me.
  • Lady Chatterly’s lover is a pornographic novel.
    Lady Chatterly’s lover seems like a pornographic novel to me.
  • Grass is green.
    Grass registers as green to most human eyes.
  • The first man stabbed the second man with a knife.
    I think I saw the first man stab the second man with a knife.

By assiduously, and purposefully working these versions into our language (in writing and speaking) we can re-wire our linguistic habits so they become our norm. This, in turn, will re-wire our thinking. Eventually the “is of identity” can be totally removed from our processing of our realities.

Without the “is of identity” our life once again becomes a dance of change and possibility, no longer caged by certainty, or fixed labeling. Our words, and our view, goes from becoming “false to facts” to “true to facts.” We will always be working with abstractions of reality, but at least we will be using abstractions that a more in line with what is actually occurring.

As Uncle Bob has said, we find ourselves, “In a world where no two fingerprints appear identical, and no two brains appear identical, and an electron does not even seem identical to itself from one nanosecond to another…”