Jan Cox Talk 2593

Thoughts Are Not  Things


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Transcript by TD

Jan Cox Talk 2593, Oct 18, 2000
copyright 2008 Jan Cox; Jan's Legacy
Notes made  by TD , March 2008 from Mp3

[Reads] A short new treatise concerning thought, as said in two parts.
Part one:
 Thoughts are not things, but are things about things. 
 Thoughts are not things, but carriers of pictures about things.
 Thoughts would be better called; references to things, but not a thing themselves. 
 Speaking and thinking of thoughts as them being things is a radical error and a cause of much misunderstanding.

Part Two: 
 Taking “serious” type thoughts that pass through you, seriously, supports the confusing illusion that you, the thought haver, are an individual, independent being, which, under such conditions, you are no more than an ooze hole, a local franchise outlet for the collective mind of mankind.

[Reads] Concussion! (laughs) Taking thoughts to be an actual thing, makes you take 'you' to be one also.
  Bad Boy! Bad Boy! Now Sit.  Now lay down and be quiet.

[ End of Reading]

I don't have any idea whether any of you have considered the matter in this way. I understand the difficulty thought will have grasping this, as simple as it is. Once you see it, even if it slips away, you will see that it could not be more obvious. Do not take this metaphorically, try and think about thought, look in your own head as I'm saying this. I know I've spoken metaphorically before about looking over thought's shoulder, when you know that thoughts don't have shoulders to look over. But this is not metaphor.


Its simply this: Thoughts are not things. They are only references to things. Any thought you might have is about something. You don't think without words and the words always refer to something in the outside, physical world. Something from your past, something you imagine might happen... I guess that about covers it... (laughter). You hear me speak about thought more than anyone else in the world, but

while I say “thought this, thought that” as though it is something, there is literally no such thing as a thought. When you have a thought, you are referencing or translating, words, sounds, pictures and memories. Without the words & pictures, there is no thought, there is only a medium.


What could be more real to an ordinary person? To say you're conscious is to have conscious thoughts.

So what is more a part of our reality, even the very sensation of us being alive? We have our physical sensations, discomforts, etc., but in the most personal sense, How do you feel 'you, being you'? Its through conscious thought. But to refer to thought as it were a thing, is a most obvious error. Thought is not a thing, its is a medium. It is always making reference to something else, never itself, because there's nothing there. The trick that we play on ourselves all of our lives, goes “Is that you?” “Well, sure, who else would it be?” Thats being asleep.


Its not supposed to bother you. I don't know what happened to people like us. Its not supposed to interest anybody, but then some wierdo like me comes along and says “how can you say that that's you?” When somebody says “hey is that you?” and you say “uh-huh” Don't you realize what's going on? Its just electro-chemical cellular activity in one identifiable area of your brain. Thats not 'you' its the same thing that figures out how to do your income taxes, daydreams, etc. Its just a fluctuating physiological operation that happens to traffic in imaginary pictures, talks to itself and listens to itself talk... And if you told an ordinary person about it they'd say “So?”


Could I entice you to consider that that thing, passing itself off as 'you' is the very same thing that's answering my question with disdain? “whatever.” All wanting to wake up is, is having an unnatural awareness that thoughts are not things. You may never have considered it quite that way, but I say to you that that is a genuine description of what the desire to awaken is. Everyone else says thoughts are things. Everyone else says God exists, there's life after death, its important whether you believe in God, voting for this political party will impact your life.


Even if you never analyzed it this way, amongst the few, if they never put it into these words, it wouldn't matter. What people who are drawn to this are aware of, is that what is presented as mental fact, does not exist. To ask a 'serious question like “does God exist?” is to be at least two time zones, or two light years from having any idea what is going on. The real question thats bothering you is “do I believe in the question itself?” And of course you don't. The question has to do with what is producing these questions, forget about the damn answers.


The moment you hear a man begin to speak seriously on some thinking or thought related subject, he has already confessed that he does not understand what thought is, that is, thought is not a thing, it is a carrier of words. What are thoughts? What do they carry? The one I like most is: they are “word references”, they conjure up pictures. When we talk about thoughts, not just the rest of the world, but us, we nod our heads and say: “Yes, I know what thoughts are. I have struggled with them, tried to stop them, tried to slow them down, call out certain ones... “ From one view, thats idiocy, because you're looking at the wrong thing.


For instance, people looking at the question “Is there life after death?” An ordinary person looks at the question and is over taken by a somber mood, the gravity of it all, it must be important. No its not! Since when is the inevitable important? Sticking with the life/death issue, given that its usually the one everyone considers the most important, If you had a choice between dying and living forever, now that would be a serious matter. If you could make certain efforts and not die, or not make those efforts and subsequently die, then I'd say thats serious business... assuming you consider the outcome serious anyway. If its inevitable though, what kind of use of conscious thought is it, to be concerned about it? Or to take it seriously?


Thought carries words. If you never looked at it point blank, or else were sound asleep, you might allow thoughts to speak for you; saying, “Well, I think this” or “I have thought that”, but of course you know in your more lucid moments that thoughts just magically appear in your mind and tend more to think you.


But if you look at the content, such as “Is there life after death?” Thought will tell a man that the question is an important one, but no one considers the question “Where does the question come from?” What is the basis for asking the question? There is no basis. There is no rational basis for questioning the inevitable. One of my definitions of a man awake is “One who doesn't trouble himself with the inevitable”. But of course, the question must then be asked “Why do you even trouble yourself with the inevitable fact threat we're all asleep?” (laughter)


If I asked you to consider just what thought is, pretend that you're starting with a blank page, what would you come up with? Now watch this... Assume you're a person who is sincere about this and I say

“there is something that you've overlooked”. Pretend that you know nothing about thought other than the ordinary sense that when it occurs in your head, you know what it is. Now, I say to you “You have missed something of supreme significance, pretend that you know nothing. You are starting off pristenley, don't accept any description of thought that you've ever used.” What do you come up with?


If you could just get the right, running jump at this, You'd back up, look down and spit, and then look up real quick and where you used to see what you knew thought was, you instead see an open field and then put your head down like a raging bull (stomps) and just ram at it right quick, and when you get out to the middle of the field look up and think ok, now I'll look up to see what I might find out about thought, You might just get it. And what I mean by “get it” is; to see that thought is not a thing.


And that is astounding when you see it, that simple obvious fact. But here you are looking at me blankly... What you call a thought is normally a picture, a short scene... its magic.


When they first started showing moving pictures at little arcades, they were marketed as “Magic Lanterns”. People couldn't believe what they were seeing. They would faint and go running away. The MC would say “here is something you've never seen before” and they would see humans and people riding horses across the wall. There were riots. All this happened not much more than 100 years ago. People would run screaming to their Priests and Rabbis.


I say to you that there is something similar that will hit you... and you are thinking “I know that”, trust me, you don't. You haven't seen it head on. It is magic. Imagine your great grandparents in their time, 1870s & 80s being introduced to moving pictures. They are led in to a room and are told to look at a blank wall. The lights go down and suddenly there are people dancing, horses galloping across the wall and then a train is heading straight into the room! To appreciate the magic that goes on in our brains! All the time! As I was just talking... If you were listening, you were seeing it in your own mind. Do you ever wonder where all this stock footage in your brain comes from? (laughter) That magic lantern stuff is child’s play.


If what I was describing, was a story about this guy I met one time who really knew something about waking up, it was in Paris, at this sidewalk cafe about 20 years ago.... And if you're listening, you start seeing a movie. Many of you have never been out of this state, and yet you've got a picture of a Paris sidewalk cafe right there. Even if you had been there before, you start replaying your own experience, meanwhile you're listening to me tell the story. That area of your brain can still project a movie complete even with dialog. This electro-chemical process that we call thought, which doesn't exist, carries pictures, words and conversations and yet there is no such thing as thought.


Now, to get back to the original idea... To attack thought in any way, which is to say, even to speak of it as I do, for me to talk about thought trying to understand itself... its not valid. The effort to describe it is. Just like the effort to remember oneself is valid. Thought can not understand itself, but its effort to do so is the only operative description. As you know, I've taken it down to the cellular level before where we understand certain physiological facts. All we are is a bunch of cells stuck together and whatever energies and activities originate in us happens at the cellular level. Whether its thinking, digesting or fighting off a virus. So I can say that the cellular activity in the brain that produces conscious thought is just the cells themselves trying to understand themselves. Trying to identify their origins and understand what they are and what they're doing.


The effort is alright, but to believe that its going to pay-off in a certain way is problematic. What it reveals is that thought is not a thing. We look at cellular activity and say that it results in thought, but it doesn't result in anything, its a process, an activity, a reference to pictures and words.


I have spent the last year saying that thought does not exist. I'll leave the subject for a while and come back to it, but its been a solid year that I've been hammering on it. That isn't really even a descent description. If I had a better one I'd give it to you, I'm hoping that you will take this into your own hands and look up real quick and see it. Look up, consider whats going on before it and your attempt to look at it become one and you lapse back into ordinary consciousness. A thought has to be a reference to something, a thought is never about itself. If I knew of another way to put it to you... but thats what did it for me. When you begin to see it this way, it changes your entire relationship to the struggle to awaken.


When you say “I had a thought” you are personalizing a process not a thing. Much like the popular christian idea that there is a “demon of debt”. Its not that you just spent beyond your means, "there is a demon that did something, causing debt to overtake you". Going into debt, is an activity. Thought/thinking, is an activity. Thought will accept an idea on its face that by any reasonable standard is ridiculous. Things that don't exist, must be hyped. Thats why people talk about themselves.
Thought is not a thing. When you are thinking, its always about something else, never about thinking.