What do people mean when they say thought is an illusory concept? I don’t quite understand, maybe someone could clarify?
The things that thoughts are about, aren’t real things. the thought of a unicorn, is just that, a thought. nothing more. even the thought of a specific chair that you have in your home is still just that. a thought. as opposed to the physical chair itself when you see and feel it.
standard example: you’re eating lunch and you see your girlfriend walk into the room with a large guy.
who is that guy? why is my girlfriend with him? what are they doing? he’s a big guy… he must work out. my girlfriend’s probably attracted to that. she’s probably comparing me to him. he’s probably an awesome guy. fuck….
we make assumptions, and see what we want to see. instead of seeing your girlfriend walking in the room with another person, you see your girlfriend with another person that might be courting her and she might be responding positively.
really lame example, but it’s probably the most applicable (probably more so for females, haha…) but we’ve all experienced irrational jealousy at some point or another. basically, our thoughts are our way of creating a false/illusory reality.
Worth pointing out though that there’s a pretty specific function to it. so as to be be prepared for potential eventualities, assessing the situation, all possible outcomes and determining appropriate responses. unfortunately our monkey brains have a hard time differentiating between reality and thoughts about a potential reality so you get stuff like stressing about things that are out of your control or are even entirely fictional (like the example above).
Was thinking about this while walking to the store earlier, and came up with a pretty good rule of thumb, don’t believe your thoughts. but thats a tricky matter, its not just “don’t believe your thoughts” its also don’t disbelieve them cos well… disbelieving them is also a fixed position on things when the actuality is that for the most part you have no idea whats going to happen and to delude yourself about that is, in my view, quite harmful. Its tricky to put into words things like this cos to me, its just how i live, its not something i know or really even think about. its just a way of being. then i try put it in words for other people to understand and it just about always falls short cos well… words = concepts, and concepts aren’t really very good at describing reality. especially in such matters.
Ok here’s another example, as a child i was raised catholic, never really forced into the whole god thing or anything but it was still there as part of my upbringing and such. around the age of 8 or so i kinda went “that god stuff is bullshit, i’m not believing that anymore” and became an atheist, but that too is a fixed position on things when in actuality it comes down to the reality of the thing. magical man in the sky? ridiculous nonsense. laws of physics and ordering principle of the universe whatever they actually are? not quite so ridiculous. I use god now as a term that just best describes the fabric of the universe or whats called the quantum collapse. but thats the thing, its just words and concepts. as interchangeable as spark plugs.
We think linearly in terms of words/symbols which are, in a practical or tangible sense, dead. They mean things to us though, especially when imbued with emotion and viewed as an expression of love, fear or whatever which gives rise to a very real experience of feeling emotions and acting or speaking on them.
It is good to be conscious of this distinction between abstract concept and emotional expression because reality cannot be conceived of in terms of symbols interpreted in a linear fashion; but we cannot deny the reality of our experience of emotion and its effect on tangible reality. And it is largely through words(and their use in everyday thought and word) that our emotional lives are determined. Our emotional lives determine our state of being, which is synonymous with our subjective reality.
Basically, thought is an illusion, but the illusion is a tool through which you create and affect subjective reality. This process occurs through how we express our feelings about life, so if you really pay attention to the feelings behind all words and thoughts, you can overcome the illusion.
I like to think of it like music. Words are notes, but in playing music, the notes themselves are secondary to more emotionally effective elements of music such as the underlying dimensions of harmony(logic), rhythm(intuition), and phrasing(continuity resulting from a balance of logic and intuition, sound and space, dissonance and resonance). So when I improvise(using notes/words just like talking) jazz on my trumpet, I’m not thinking about notes. I’m thinking about intervalic shape, logical phrasing, continuity of idea flow, and above all emotional connection with the listener. This is the light in which I try to view the use of words.
In short: the thought itself is not illusory. It’s very real because you are aware of it just as you’re aware of, for example, the chair you’re sitting in. However, the CONTENT of the thought is illusory because it doesn’t point to anything in reality but rather to a concept. The thought of a chair is not the real thing nor does it refer to the real thing, it refers to the IDEA of a chair, to the IMAGE of the chair inside your brain and therefore it is an illusion and has nothing to do with reality.
Did that simplify or complicate matters? XD
A wonderful video, Alan Watts clarifying your very question.
You are wrong, thoughts are very real, they simply are not concrete. Thoughts are illusory in the sense that Plato said “A thought has no power to create the corresponding concrete block” look into Plato. He defines the difference between a table and a Table. The former is concrete, the latter is illusory, a concept.
What makes a thought not real? It does exist so it is real.
@trek79, Very interesting. Here it is explained. http://www.ehow.com/how_2148157_understand-platos-forms.html