What is negation?

…and how does it differ from suppression, denial?

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In negation there is a sense of “freedom”.
In suppression, there is sense of “no freedom”.
Freedom from what ? From the oposites, maybe ?
PS: If I am asked to say more, I won’t be able to elaborate …

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Originally, the Latin word ‘negare’ meant ‘to deny’, so obviously it has its roots in suppression and denial. But there is also in more recent times a meaning given to it which points only at the absence of anything actual or positive. Therefore, it is a tricky word to get at when we apply it to any aspect of our psychological nature because it implies the absence of any entity who is operating upon its own problems and difficulties. In this sense, negation only makes sense or has meaning when there is the complete absence of any negator, the absence of one who makes any movement, either positive or negative. Then negation is not something one does; it is something that happens regardless of what one does.

The meaning of simple absence predates the latin use of the term negare. The Proto-Indo-European root of negare and negate is ne-, meaning simply “not.”

So, strictly speaking, negation can never be an action (which is something positive). It is complete non-action with respect to its relevant context.

The positive form of negation - as in denial, suppression, etc - is to make something that is currently present, absent (by force). But to force something into non-existence (i.e. through an act of will) is, strictly speaking, not to negate that thing at all, but to affirm it as real, as present, as something that is definitely not nothing. So positive action (of suppression, denial) is not negation.

A related word is of course nothingness (which has the same PIE root as negation, ne- “not”), which means “no thing,” “not any thing”, i.e. the complete absence of things or actions.

So one might say that negation implies the perception of a thing’s actual nothingness - a perception that is simultaneously non-action (because there is no actual ‘thing’ being affirmed or acted upon). I.e. a ‘thing’ that we have heretofore taken to be an actual thing - such as the self - is in fact not.

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Yes, that’s very clear. Could we explore then the nature of this perception?

Ordinary perception is usually considered something positive - because, after all, one perceives things and objects. The object is something positive, and the perception of the object adds something positive to that object, namely perception itself (i.e someone or something perceiving).

But more significantly, ordinary perception is also positive because of what is added to the perception by our habitual laziness and tendency to think, to create artificial time and artificial space between ourselves and the objects of our perception. That is, our perception - of a bird, of a flower - almost always has this additional layer of distortion and distance created by thought.

However, looked at a little more closely, perception is in fact quite negative. That is, perception implies the disappearance or absence of the space and time created between oneself and the object being perceived (that is, the space and time created through our habitual laziness and mentation). So perception is the non-addition of subjective space and time to what is there to be perceived - so that we see the tree, the bird, the flower as it actually is.

This state of perceptual non-additiveness also implies a non-intrusion into perception by the intellectual centre (the ‘I’)

So when nothing is added to perception through the positive activity of the observer (the ‘I’), or the habitual laziness of mentation (which creates artificial space and time within perception), then only is there perception. This is the perception that I would call negative.

This same quality of negative perception that we can have with respect to outward objects (trees, birds, flowers), can also occur in relation to ‘inward’ psychological objects. The difference here is that whereas the flower, the tree, the bird have a certain actuality of their own (which remains relatively constant throughout the perception), the same may not be said for our inward psychological objects.

This, of course, is something to be discovered. One cannot be dogmatic about it ahead of time. But it appears to be the case that when certain psychological objects - such as hurt, belief, ideas - are perceived negatively, they disappear. That is, when one negates - through perception - the time and space between oneself and the inward content there to be perceived (such as belief), the content turns out to be non-existent.

The problem of course is that our minds are so habitually and unconsciously attached to certain contents, that we find it almost impossible to perceive them negatively, just as they are (without the distance of the perceiver and the perceived). But this doesn’t mean that these psychological objects actually exist in their own right; it merely means that they have never been seen directly (i.e. negatively) for what they are.

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Is the perceiver also non-existent at such a moment? In other words, doesn’t this kind of perception preclude the presence of a perceiver who is separate from its perceived?

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In perceiving the ‘outer’, it seems proper that thought will ask why such and such is happening. For security and also for our knowledge about things. But when it comes to the ‘inner’, is thought’s presence simply misplaced? Asking ‘why’ about the state of the ‘inner’, why do I suffer, why am I in conflict, etc makes real the recognized, named state and continues it through analysis and speculation. Also thought has split itself into the analyst and the analyzed. Negation is replaced by thought. And ‘time’ to reach a conclusion.

Yes. When there is no time or space between oneself and one’s quality, between oneself and the particular psychological content being perceived (when this actually occurs), then the perceiver is not different from its quality (from the content of what is being perceived). There is then only the quality itself, and not a centralised observer of that quality. That is negative perception.

Of course, with outward perception this is more simple to state.

When this happens inwardly it is a little bit more subtle to follow. It may indeed be the case that the quality takes on more intensity (more apparent reality) as it unfolds in perception - so if perception is broken at this point, then the quality remains (apparently real, existent, positive).

But if the quality is permitted to choicelessly unfold in negative perception, then it may happen that the quality (which is non-different from the perceiver of that quality) dissipates; is not. Which is to say that both the quality and the perceiver of that quality are, in that moment, realised - in perception - to be non-existent.

Another way of putting the same thing is to say that the non-action of the perceiver with respect to the perceived psychological content, is the negative perception of that content (which allows the content to show itself for what it is).

There is no attempt to become anything else away from the content, to dissipate or transcend the content, but just complete non-action with respect to the content; which gives permission for the content to be what it is (in perception).

What else is there in the inner but thought?

Yes, all of this is again very clear.

The content has been generated by thought; so thought cannot act upon that which it has generated without producing further content. The quality and the perceiver of the quality are both products of thought. But the nature of the perception which we are now exploring is very different because it has no roots in thought; it has no history.

The ‘feeling’, ‘sensation’ of being. The ‘awareness’ of being ‘in’ this body. The sensation that ‘I Am’…

Yes. I don’t make a great distinction between perception and awareness, so to be aware and to perceive are - as I understand them - present tense actions (or non-actions) that have no root in memory, thought, the past. The past can arise in perception (or awareness), but where the past predominates there is no negative perception (or awareness) as such.

I think the ‘negation’ necessary is that of the identification of awareness with the movement of psychological thought. Awareness is not-a-thing, Thought is a thing. In the metaphor of the ‘stream’, it is the quality of awareness that frees itself from this movement of thought which is the past…which is the known. If this breaking free in the life of the body does not occur, the same situation continues in the next manifestation.

As I understand it, there are two related but distinct forms of inward awareness.

  1. There is the choiceless awareness of whatever is arising in the mind (as thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc), in which there is no specific identification with what is arising. This awareness is, as you say “not-a-thing”, and so thought - which “is-a-thing” - can arise within it, without any identification being necessary. So simple, choiceless awareness is already non-identification with the movement of thought. It isn’t a deliberate or willed non-identification. It is merely the relaxed, passive openness to whatever is arising, in which momentary identifications may indeed occur (in the mind), but which the mind can catch relatively quickly and easily, and so instantly dis-identify from as soon as they are perceived.
  2. Then there is the direct awareness of a content in consciousness, such as hurt, fear, envy, grief, sadness, irritation, pleasure, pride, etc. In becoming aware of this content, the content is seen to be non-different from oneself (as the observer, as an ego, as a self-centre apparently separate from its quality). This non-difference of oneself from one’s greed, sadness, envy, etc is not the same thing as conscious or unconscious identification with it; it is simply the choiceless permission for the content to be as it is: a free, nonjudgmental acceptance that one is already the movement of greed, one is already one’s sadness, one is directly (one’s) envy. It is simply an observed fact. When this direct observation of the content occurs - in which one is perceptually non-different (from the greed, from the envy, from the sadness) - then there is no identification with greed at all (which means there is no resistance to it): one is that content. Then the content cannot continue in the same form.

As I understand it, the first kind of awareness is like the background, while the second kind is like the foreground. The first is like the ocean perceived as a whole; while the second is like an intense wave that rises up in the ocean, the content of an ocean wave itself (metaphorically, the water). The first includes the second, and the second cannot occur without the first; but both are relevant forms of awareness.


I hesitated to use the word ‘identification’ because I’m not clear what is identified with what. I settled on awareness but I don’t think that that’s right. But I felt ever since reading K say “I don’t mind what happens “ that that was a clue to where the ‘identification’ is. With what is ‘happening’. That there is an awareness of what is happening but the relationship to it is one of “not minding”. In other words, out of the ‘stream’. Freedom. So if there is identification, who or what is identified with what? (that needs to be negated?)

I am this body with its senses; and the senses generate vital information which I must remember in order to survive and to function in the world. But what is my function in the world? Unless this is very clear, the memories and thoughts I am accumulating are very quickly going to become confused and contradictory.

There is the strong sense that this perception is only about clearing away the false without building any fresh images of what we think may be true. Is it therefore operating contrary to the desires of the self which wants to establish a foothold in truth? Or is it revealing to the self a far greater truth?

Yes. Being choiceless - choicelessness means (to me at least) not to mind. One can’t alter what is already in the movement of occurrence; one can’t alter one’s face as it is reflected back to one in the mirror. That is choicelessness.

In the Bible it says somewhere that God makes the sun shine on the wicked and on the good alike; the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The fact is what is presently happening, and one can’t change that through an act of will or volition.

This is a subtle issue. At one level it is thought identifying itself with thought - thought has invented the idea of something secure, and then identifies with it. But stepping back and seeing the larger picture, it seems to me that it is rather the brain, the organism, that in seeking biological security gets caught in a trap of its own devising.

That is, thought exists for the body, to safeguard the body and brain. But unless there is sensitive awareness, the body can’t tell the difference between actual physical security (which is necessary and real, but transient) and a security that is purely mental (which may appear to be more permanent, but is no security at all because it is unreal).