The rules of the game

There are a number of interlinked elements that have conspired to be causing me to write this article at 4.51am on a Monday morning.  One is that my son is currently reading The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy books and had left The Restaurant at the end of the Universe lying around so I read 3 or 4 chapters before I went to bed.  The second is that I am currently wrestling with a small but interesting part of the game of Life called “buying a car”.  Like all parts of the game this has some interesting parameters and as usual looks like it should be pretty straightforward until you start to try and master it.  I had asked my mind to think about what sort of car I should go for overnight and it did think about this but with the usual twist that the unconscious is so good at. The third was that my son and his friend were playing a new computer game (one where your view is from the perspective of your character). The third is the set of circumstances that caused me to be up and at my computer at 4.51am.

Let me start with the set of circumstances described through the lens of the game of Life:

Unit Nick Oakley-Smith’s engine started into life at around 3.20am.  This was odd as the engine had been closed down to recharge the batteries (although it must be admitted that this unit has been having some battery recharge malfunctions over the last months, mostly due to overuse and this means that the battery rarely seems to be fully charged).  Why this unit’s engine was on at 3.20 am on the surface appeared to be down to some of the glitches normally associated with this aging 45 year old unit.  One was the difficulty this unit has with its nose which has never functioned normally, the second was the unit’s propensity towards an immune system malfunction commonly known as “mild asthma”.  One of the software design elements in this particular unit, described in the astrological user guide as “lots of planets in Sagittarius” was about to enthusiastically get going on a tangent but this has been overidden by the “Mars in Capricorn” sub routine which feels it is more important to get on with point and not be longwinded or you will lose everyone.

What made this particular night different was that the landing light was on (something which caused the irritation sub-routine to consider activating in this unit), however this was overriden by a minor on-going malfunction in this unit’s hardware which caused it to go downstairs to the toilet.  On doing so it became aware that one of the newer units created by this unit had its engine running.  There was an interchange and the younger unit described that there had been a malfunction and it had not been able to continue recharging its batteries.  When the older unit went back upstairs it attempted to recharge its batteries but discovered that a download was taking place.  It fought valiantly against this and tried to recharge its batteries but to no avail.  It did begin to suspect something out of the ordinary when it realised that this download seemed to be coming through very strongly and fully.  At this point the player responsible for this unit began to use the unit’s review and meaning functions because it had been alerted that there was an interesting part of the game playing out.  It tested this hypothesis by seeking to interact with the consciousness of the larger game.  If my engine is still running in 5 mins time at 4.36, I will assume that this download needs to be acted on now rather than waiting till morning it said to itself.  At 4.36 the unit’s engine was still running and, ignoring the battery not fully recharged warnings, got up.

The more the player riding in the unit reviewed the situation the more it began to see that the game had conspired to cause its engine to be running.  The younger unit had suggested the concept of being active at night (it’s role over it had returned to recharging its batteries!), the chance book had combined with the buying the car sub-game and the computer game to create the framework for the download and it only required a set of circumstances to prompt the unit to start it’s consciousness engine to allow the download to take place.  The player could only appreciate the brilliance of this amazingly sophisticated virtual reality game he was playing.

Returning to the vehicle of the game (the first person), I am conscious that we have attempted throughout our history to develop user manuals for this game of Life.  Mostly these come in the form of religions and figures who have provided some insights – Christ, Buddha, Lao-Tze, Mohammed but also through Philosophy, Science, homespun wisdom etc, etc.

It was my friend Chrissy Philp who introduced me to the idea that the analogy of a sophisticated virtual reality game might be the best analogy to describe this game of life that we are playing.  Reading most of the wisest people I could from many different traditions, both eastern and western, they all seemed to be saying a similar thing: you are in a game but do not be too identified with your character – you are not actually your character.  Whilst my son and his friend were playing their game they could do so only through the form of their controllers and within the parameters of the game and the particular view they had on the screen.  However, if I had asked them if they existed separately from their characters they would have been able to step back and tell me it was just a game.

For most of us though, in the game of Life, this is very hard to do.  Certain very shocking parts of the game seem to prompt this in us on occasion – death, severe injury, major loss.  At these points we talk about a change in perspective.  This intrigues me because it has become clearer and clearer to me that we are confused about the components of this game.  We currently seem to be caught collectively in wrestling with the notion of what we control in the game.  There has been some good work done on this by the likes of Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people” where he talks about differentiating between what concerns us (but over which we have no control) and those things we control.  However, this still begs the question of what we do control.  My friend Chrissy described a metaphor she had come up with recently for this.  Her view was that if we take the metaphor of a car on a journey for our individual lives then we do not have any choice over the type of car (our bodies and personalities), interestingly her perspective was that we do not have responsibility either for our journey: it is pre-programmed.  What we do have responsibility for is the quality of our driving – do we stop if someone else has broken down? how do we respond to a traffic jam?

Most of us feel that certain elements of the game (mostly other people!) are the things that are getting in the way of us playing our individual game because they assume the aim of the individual game is happiness.  The more I have examined the game, I have begun to see that we have little control over external factors – other people, the world around us.  If tomorrow an out of control bus runs me over, there will be little I can do to stop it.  Indeed if there is subsidence and my house falls down and kills me, there will be little I can do about it either.  We get very frustrated by this notion that we are not in control, people do not like this one bit; they work very hard to get their control sub-routines to work in ways that they are simply not designed to operate.  This usually causes frustration sub-routines to work overtime!  Again, most people seem to think that we are in control of ourselves (ie. we can do or be whatever we want) but I am unconvinced by this too.  What I have begun to see that we seem to have most control over is our ability to switch perspective.  This switching of perspective has a direct link to our motivation and our emotions.  When we change perspective it changes our motivation and emotions.  I think the element we have real responsibility for is the openness of our hearts and minds.  When we switch our perspective we tend to switch from achievement mode (where we are seeking to control the game) to learning mode.  The key is that we “see”things differently.  Recently scientists have identified the part of the brain that has this ability as being the parietal lobe.  We call this changed perspective wisdom.  At a recent lecture I attended by Edward de Bono, a renowned guru in creative thinking, someone asked him what wisdom was.  He replied that it was having multiple perspectives from which to view life and the situations we encounter.  In the Carlos Casteneda books, the “brujo” Don Juan describes this as “seeing” and he says it is the ultimate achievement of a “man of knowledge”.

So going back to user manuals, it is clear that Douglas Adams was highly connected into the Game in describing The Hitch Hikers Guide (since we are all hitch-hiking a ride in these bodies and personalities) for Life, the Universe and Everything and his vision that the Earth was created by Deep Thought a computer which was tasked with providing the Question for the answer to Life the Universe and Everything.  Having read Douglas Adams biography, it is sadly clear that his deeply connected writing did not come from a conscious wisdom or understanding but rather he was an unconscious tool of the Universe.  One can only appreciate his genius in being this tool.  So let us review the user guides we do have.  For the purposes of this, I am going to use the car analogy that Chrissy provided (it is limited but analogies seem to be one of the best vehicles (no pun intended) for describing our world in ways others can understand so I crave your indulgence for the limitations).

Most religions do seem to have some valuable guidance on driving the car.  Clearly the people around whom they were created seemed to be excellent drivers (Buddha, Christ, Lao-Tze etc.)  However, these manuals seem to suffer from the problem that like a manual for driving a car they describe that at times you need to turn left or right, or sometimes put on the brakes and describe some of the situations where this is the case, but they are not dynamic.  It is like having a manual for driving the car, rather than a driving instructor with you as you drive who can comment on your actual driving or even to use a more modern analogy, a hologram that can interact with you.  So they remain of some value but limited.  Over the years they also seem to have lost touch with the changing roads and come up with a lot of prohibitions about what you should and shouldn’t do when driving.  They also become overly attached to the style of driving of their particular originator – he wore driving gloves and held the wheel with both hands at all times; there were no motorways in his day so driving on motorways is bad and musn’t be done.  You must seek to drive like him and if you are not then your driving is wrong.  In the end many of these become so restrictive that they are rejected by many people and would probably be unrecognisable to the fluid drivers whom they were built around who were responding dynamically to the road conditions in front of them.  Imagine trying to write a manual which sought to describe every piece of road and circumstance you were going to encounter, it would be impossible and pretty much unusable.

At a meeting yesterday for the Steiner school I run, one of the people most steeped in the school and Steiner tradition was talking about how to help the school and the wider Steiner movement respond to change and begin to question its assumptions.  He recognised and advocated that sacred cows were challenged as part of this, yet his conclusion was that we had to go back to Steiner’s teaching and be guided by his perspective and that we musn’t lose that or the school wouldn’t be a Steiner school.  This was a trump card, who could argue with that!  But it was a sad one too; one I suspect would have frustrated Steiner.  I suspect he wanted brilliant drivers not adherents to the Steiner school of driving.  As Monty Python brilliantly lampooned in Life of Brian: “Go and be individuals” – “We’ll all be individuals with you Brian”.  The identification with the school of driving becomes more important than the driving.  The difficulty with many of these religions is that they are also limited by focusing on an individual driver with their subjective perspective (however brilliant) rather than driving and the game itself.  The aim becomes driving as much like a particular driver rather than driving as well as you can.  Nothing can be changed and there is no recognition this driver might have been wrong in any respect.  It is the ultimate sacred cow and sacred cows tend to get in the way when you are trying to drive.

One of the other user manuals currently very much in vogue and, like religions, with much of value to offer is Science.  The difficulty with this user manual however is that it is brilliant at describing the component parts of the vehicle in great detail and to some extent mapping the roads and terrain over which we drive but it is very dubious about the fact that a driver exists or even that the roads lead anywhere – they are described as if they are just random features of the landscape so that it is a very erudite and technical tome which is of great value to expert drivers but it doesn’t provide much dynamic information for driving.  Indeed it even goes as far as describing the act of driving in great detail but with the caveat that a driver is still a questionable premise and that even if it does exist it is probably just part of the car which we will in time be able to describe.  Who knows, it may yet get there with this approach?

There are then various manuals which do not seek to describe how to drive but give you information about what type of car you have and how it is likely to respond and function.  This type of information is contained in personality and psychometric tools and in psychology.  These are very valuable but in my own experience there is an even more valuable tool which  The only tool which provides objective data on the type of car you are driving which is Astrology.  Interestingly it is the only one which also provides data on the game/roads as well.  This map is extremely valuable, it tells you what is coming up in terms of terrain and how your particular car might respond to it.  It is frowned on by the Science user manual because the Science user manual does not accept that there is a driver or even particular roads which lead anywhere.  However, I am more interested in driving well than being adhering to only using the Science user manual.  My interest is in gleaning as much information about driving well and the terrain and roads from every source I can.  I think that makes me eclectic and probably heretical as well!

Whilst astrology is enormously valuable in describing the car and the terrain it does not, however, give instruction on how to drive like religions user manuals do.  In this respect the most valuable user guide for driving that I have found is the I-Ching.  The reason I think it has an advantage over religions is that it is dynamic.  It is like having a hologram driving instructor with you as you drive.  Careful here it says, there is a road block, rather than smashing against it repeatedly, you are going to have to reverse and take the diversion.  It is like having access to the designers of the game – a short cut to understanding their design and so invaluable for navigating.  Unfortunately, however good the user guides and manuals it is still dependent on us to use them effectively – I don’t suppose we will ever get round this work.

Lastly, I think we are developing computers, the internet, films etc. – a technological revolution, not (as most religions suppose) as a corruption which is taking us away from the source of life but rather as a further evolutionary step towards it.  We create programmes about the future like Star Trek and other science fiction programmes and it is uncanny how many of the things they invented get translated into our everyday lives.  When I was young, my friends and I used to pretend to have mobile communicators like Captain Kirk’s for talking to people far away.  Now most people have mobile phones and we take it for granted.  We have reality TV programmes and the individuals become stars.  We are blurring the edges of the game and seeing that what we imagine with our software becomes hardware.  In the past, we used stories, fairy tales and myths which were also valuable guides but now we have hardware which allows our software (the imagination) to take different forms at a virtual level.

Taking the computer game analogy further, I realised recently in coaching someone who was very stuck that our computer games might be describing reality more than we are conscious of.  This individual had been going through a very difficult time at work in a small firm.  Unbeknownst to them, they had been getting stuck in jealousy, blame and scapegoating and because they were unaware of it, it was still playing out.  I had to be very creative to find a way to help them see this.  What struck me though was that they described the fact that they could not get out of the situation; they had tried to look for other jobs and whilst others around them had been successful in leaving they could not find anything.  I thought about this and then reflected back to the individual that when you are playing a difficult game, no matter how frustrated you get, you cannot unlock the next level until you have completed the current one.  Her situation seemed exactly like this.  Indeed I have watched that even when people change the external environment by leaving a job, moving etc. they often find after a few months that the game is so cleverly constructed that they realise that they thought they had found a route out but it led back to exactly the same dead end (much as in a fairytale where characters get lost in a forest). It is only through magic (a shift in perspective) that they find a way out.

The Buddhists say that “Life is suffering”.  Astrologers would interpret this as Chiron.  Chiron is the key.  The key to the game is suffering because it prompts us to evolve and unlock new levels of the game.  I think (and it is ridiculous hubris to say so but then I have the sun rising in Sagittarius so hubris comes built into my car) that we are unlocking a new level at the moment as part of the move to the age of Aquarius and that there is an individual who is the midwife for this.  She is my friend Chrissy Philp and the reason I make such an outrageous claim is for a number of reasons which I have outlined in this article.  The scientific community believes we are on the verge of finding a blueprint for the Universe.  I think they might be right but sadly not in the way they think or at least they might not be happy with the form as they are certain it must come through the scientific user manual.  I think for any blueprint to emerge it would have to synthesize all the current user manuals I have described – religion, science, the I-Ching and astrology otherwise it is incomplete.  Someone who is going to do this would have to be a key in some way in order to be the midwife and unlock this.  Chrissy began to develop her ideas about the black hole game of life back in the mid to late 1970s.  For a description of this work see Chrissy’s book “One Way of Looking at Man”.  When I asked Chrissy the timing of her discovery of the black hole game (with a strong suspicion already in my mind) we traced it back to being around 1977.  This was the date that the planetoid Chiron was discovered.  For astrologers this is significant because with each new planet comes a shift in collective consciousness.  Chiron in astrological circles is seen as “the key” and its symbol resembles that of a key.  Each new planet is assigned rulership of a sign.  Whilst there is some dispute over this it seems clearer and clearer that it is Virgo that is ruled by Chiron.  In a survey in the Guardian many, many years ago, the profession most common for those with Virgo was Nursing.  I think Chiron is the midwife for collective consciousness becoming incorporated at a personal level, its medium is suffering because this prompts consciousness and evolution.  Its orbit moves between Saturn, the last personal planet and Uranus the first collective planet.  It is the key to game consciousness becoming conscious among us at a personal level.  It is the key to game breaking.  Interestingly Saturn-Uranus symbolically represents game-breaking, ie. breaking through to a new level of consciousness and I think Chiron is key to this.

Chrissy’s book The Golden City, describes her discovery of a pattern of the universe embodied (or embedded) in our brains which is described through Astrology, the I-Ching, Science and interestingly Revelation from the Bible.  In Revelation the marriage of Heaven and Earth is brought about through a midwife who labours to give birth to it.  Despite the alarm bells in this unit’s scepticism sub-routine which points to the sheer preposterousness of the possibility that this midwife could be Chrissy, the intuition sub-drive is pretty clear in thinking it is.  Since, if this is true, these ideas are unlikely to take hold for another 1500 years – the time taken for each age to fully flower – the game seems to have any dangers of ego and hubris covered off and, if it is not, then an interesting game of cultism and disillusionment opens up with myriad possibilities for learning so it doesn’t really matter either way!

I also think that the game is getting pretty ridiculous in offering us clues which would cause us to see that it is a game.  For instance there has been an absolute explosion in my profession of coaching.  Coaches help people play games better.  In the latest edition of New Scientist there was an article describing how babies came ready supplied with stem cells in the amniotic fluid which would allow us to repair many of the defects that affect babies.  Can we still still refuse to think there is some conscious design at play?

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