17 | CR Book VII, Chapter 3 & 4
the individual, could act as a distorting medium. Things are experienced
as they are, as one sees the bottom of a lake through clear and quiet
water. If inactivity is the key to reality, the multifarious objects of
everyday experience are deprived of personal associations and meanings.
When confronting us, they become void, in the sense that they are not
worth clinging to. On this level of experience we can no longer say
which belongs to which. Everything belongs to everything, or, if one
prefers, nothing belongs to anything. For the idea that something
"belongs" to objects is a projection of the idea that something
"belongs" to oneself. Contraction of objects is the consequence of the
contraction of self.
If the self realises itself in self-extinction, and if objects find their
true nature in voidness, reality should be approached by diminution of
selfhood. One would have to practice self-surrender, passiveness in its
various forms, and cultivate negative attitudes to oneself*, in order to
paralyse self-activity and to counteract one's desire to preserve oneself.
In order that we may get out of ourselves, and sozialise the experience,
we may find it helpful, at least for a time, to seek identification with
things as they are through identification with a super-person who is
capable of being loved, and who is considered responsible for events,
because he creates or guides them. In any case, differences in
temperament, character, social tradition, etc., make for a great variety
of techniques by which the individual self, as a limited thing, main-
taining itself against something else, is gradually abandoned.
Chapter 3 - If the self, however, should find itself and reality
through activity, the self would be the more itself, the more active it was.
When completely active, on the highest level of self-activity, it would
completely have its own way, it would be free, liberated, quite itself by
itself. In the absence of an obstacle it would, however, have no feeling
of self-activity, and it would be unaware of itself.
If man is considered to be unfree, in the sense that he is tied down
to an external necessity, and passively pushed about by external forces,
he will have no self, if we define the self as something active. If he is
considered to be free, his self is a contradiction, as self which is on the
way to realise its nothingness. Freedom, as complete self-activity and
self-determination, involves contradictions. (1) Genuine self-movement,
taken in its strict sense, implies the presence of a contradiction. Change
implies destruction. Self-destruction is another word for contradiction.
A thing, to move itself, must have its negation within itself. (2) The
completely indeterminate and empty determines itself, although there
is nothing in it to determine it in that manner. (3) Liberty, to be really
free, should involve a capacity for contradiction. The self, to be free,
cannot be tied down to the affirmation of self. It must be capable of
adopting a negative attitude to itself, i.e. to contradict itself. This
ability, to negate oneself, is essential to one's liberty and dignity. Thus
again we see that the self is either nothing, or on the way to become
[1941 Note on liberty: This self and the self by itself]
Chapter 4 - Liberty and Nonsense - While moving towards com-
plete liberty, or absence of restraint, we treat the world occasionally as
nonsensical, illogical and lawless. A world in which the principle of
contradiction is invalid, in which this is as well that as it is not that,