What Are We?


What we are is what I am calling 'whole-mind', which is noumenon. The manifestation of this which we are, is a process of objectivisation entailing a division into two elements - a subject which perceives and an object which is perceived. This is known as 'dualism', and all phenomena, whatever is sensorially perceived, are so constituted, being the correlation of a cogniser and that which is cognised. It is evident that without these two categories nothing could have any kind of phenomenal existence, and it is evident also that neither cogniser nor that which is cognised could have any independent existence, since each only exists in function of the other.

Mind, which we are, therefore, is both its objects, cogniser and cognised; and whatever cognises and is cognised must necessarily exist only in this mind in which this process occurs, and which is what we are.

The cogniser is necessarily what we term 'subject', and that which is cognised is necessarily what we term 'object', and the cognising subject of objects regards his subjective function as constituting an entity which he objectifies as a 'self', i.e. as himself.

This entification enables discrimination to arise, whereby the entified cogniser in order to compare, and so judge, his objects, imagines opposing concepts, such as good and bad, great and small, light and heavy, by means of which he can discriminate between them. This is a further application of the dualistic principle on which phenomenal manifestation entirely depends, and all reasoning is the application of this principle and process.

The mechanism itself of phenomenal manifestation primarily depends on the creation of an imagined objective framework composed of what we know as 'space', in which objects can extend and thereby become apparent, and of what we know as 'time' in which they can have duration, without which their appearance could not be perceived. All phenomenal events depend for their extension or apparent occurrence on these two associated factors together known as 'space-time'.

Such is a schema of the mechanism whereby the so-complex phenomenal universe comes into manifestation and evolves through vast periods of purely suppositional 'time' in a purely suppositional 'space'. Such, also, is what we are, since there is nothing therein that is other than what we are, which is what I have referred to as noumenon or whole-mind.


Our unhappiness, our so-called 'bondage', all our suffering whatsoever, our 'fall' out of paradise in the Garden of Eden metaphor, is solely the effect of the identification of what we are with the subject or cogniser element of our division into subject and object. The entification of that subject causes a supposedly independent and autonomous individual to be conceived, who can exercise personal volition according to his own good pleasure.

But what we are is neither more nor less the subject-cogniser than the object-cognised, which, as has been pointed out, are entirely interdependent, mutually inseparable in mind, so that neither could possess or exercise any kind of personal volition or independence in any circumstances, since neither could be in any sense an autonomous entity.

It is this illusory entification which constitutes 'bondage', and all suffering whatsoever, for 'bondage' is bondage to that concept. Since, however, the concept is a concept only, there is no entity to be bound, and factually there is not, never has been, and never could be any such thing.

What we are, whole-mind or noumenon, manifested objectively as the totality of phenomena, has no objective existence otherwise than so manifested. Having no objective existence, what we are cannot be subject either to constraint or to liberation, so that our 'bondage' and the suffering dependent thereon, can only have a conceptual basis. Being purely conceptual, that is to say the result of conditioning, we can only be rid of it by understanding profoundly either This-which-we-are or That-which-we-are-not. The former, whether in our noumenal or whole-mind aspect or in our phenomenal or split-mind aspect, we have never ceased to be; the latter, as supposed phenomenal entities, we have never been at all, and never could be. Therefore the profound understanding should be recoverable either by apperceiving what we are or by comprehending what we are not, by either or both kinds of cognition.

That can hardly matter, however, since either understanding can only result from the functioning of what we are, and never from the functioning of what we are not, since such functioning is inexistent except as our own functioning misapplied.

In fact the sought which we are is seen as the seeker which we are, the finder as the found, and what is found can only be what we are, since we can never have been anything else. That which we are looking for cannot be anything but this which is looking for itself, but for that very reason it can never be found - for there is nothing to find. What we are is by definition totally devoid of any element of objectivity, what we are is 'looking', is all 'looking', and all 'doing'; it is the Eye which can see everything - but never can hope to see itself.

(© HKU Press, 1966)

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