Useful fictions




‘Nature abhors a vacuum’,1 thus Aristotle’s negative and incomplete statement.


If I’ve got an unresolved problem (experienced as a sort of black hole) I can do one of two things. Either I can try to resolve the problem, i.e. fill the black or grey hole and make it white or colourful. That takes time and energy, sometimes a lifetime. Or I can invent a fiction, i.e. a virtual reality, that purports to resolve my problem, sort of paper over the black hole with a smiley face. That fiction is useful, indeed expedient, hence sweet, in that the problem, having been resolved, I can get on with or improve my life.2


There are fundamental problems, close to the human heart, which have so far evaded the humans’ capacity to resolve them. For instance, ‘How was the world created?’3, ‘What happens when I die?’, ‘What is an atom?’4, ‘What is space?’(to wit, ‘Is a vacuum full or empty?’5), ‘What is time?’6 There are, obviously, a zillion more questions.




If a question (or need) can’t be answered (or satisfied) it as it were leaves a vacuum (i.e. a turbulence free, hence black hole). And that vacuum, because uncertain, is experienced as uncomfortable, indeed unpleasant. It’s that discomfiture that drives an individual either to fill the vacuum with facts (i.e. with specific turbulences) or hide (i.e. fill) the vacuum behind (i.e. with) a fiction.


So what happens if there are unanswered questions? Enter the fantasist7 who invents an answer, that is to say, a fiction that satisfies ones needs, at least temporarily or culturally or scientifically and so return one to one’s comfort zone.8 A useful fiction, such as heaven, is simply a confidence trick, a little (or big) white lie that is intended to cover the cracks.


A useful fiction, that is to say, a placebo, is true until proven otherwise. If everyone believes the fiction to be true, as happens within social, cultural, religious or scientific echo-chambers,9 then everyone is happy,10 at least until some nasty twit comes along and proves otherwise.



However, since such fictions, i.e. confidence tricks, are fundamentally untrue, albeit useful, they are eventually reality tested and either a true fact or another fiction fills the vacuum and so again eliminates distress.10



Most social, philosophic and religious truth statements11 are fundamentally fictions made even more useful (thus promising salvation, like a Ponzi scheme) because they tend to include social behaviour modification templates. Indeed, most behaviour modification templates12 are embedded within an (allegedly) irrefutable fiction13 so that the behaviour modifications can’t be challenged or can be challenged only by those not put off by crucifixion, stoning or incarceration in a Chinese re-education camp curtesy of comrade Xi, the current son/dictator of heaven.




Useful fictions, like for instance angels, are (white) lies that (for the time being, i.e. until a more useful fiction is created) satisfy basic human needs, specifically emotions, and inspire one to behave. Since no one yet has survived death or peered into the absolute because unperturbed ground state of becoming,14 the useful fiction is deemed a fact by the majority, operating as echo chamber, since it has the merit of being useful and distracting from the horror of not knowing.




Those who know speak not, since by speaking they might upset those not ready to know;15 and those who speak, since they are speaking in fables, know not.





© 2018 Victor Langheld










1.     The completed statement would read: ‘Because nature abhors a vacuum it seeks to fill it.’ Or, ‘It’s easier to feed down the food chain.’ Or ‘Turbulence spreads easier in a (turbulence free) vacuum since there is less resistance.’ At present there are about a dozen theories of a vacuum, all fictions, to wit, ‘fairy tales for adults.


2.     The vast majority of humanity, whose primary problem is simply to survive, have neither the brains nor the inclination nor the guts to seek to answer fundamental problems. They are perfectly happy with the status quo of ‘as if’ solutions. Such ‘as if’ solutions function as placebos.        

                                                                      What’s a placebo?







3.     God, Allah or Brahman were the most useful fictions (i.e. placebos) used in ancient times to resolve that problem. Darwin’s invention of the dodgy proposition, hence fiction of ‘evolution via natural selection from random mutations in large populations’ attempted to explain some of the obvious contradictions to the previous fiction, namely God as source of life, and help remove some of the downside effects of seemingly aloof religious dictatorship.


4.     A smallest part, to wit, a true atom (rather than a hadron), or bit (of what?) has yet to be actually discovered, observed and defined. There are plenty of guesses.


5.     Whether or not a true (i.e. absolute) vacuum is full or empty, and of what, is in dispute. If full, then an absolute vacuum ‘waits’ (in perfect stillness (or Nirvana) as an area of non-turbulence (hence devoid of information, hence without colour).


6.     Apart from (always relative) clock time (a human fiction cum fairy tale), no theory of time that holds up to discrete scrutiny (because a definitive theory of space has not yet been created) has yet been presented.









7.     Such as Moses or St Paul or Marx or Einstein






8.     That is to say, in stasis or enstasy, hence a quantum state capable of contact @100%, hence realness. The prime function of useful fictions (i.e. fairy tales for adults) is to provide comfort, consolation and hope on the one hand and up-to-date behaviour modification on the other. The fictional ascension to heaven of Jesus, his mamma and of Mohammad serves to reassure and comfort the devotees






9.     An echo chamber effect happens if everyone believes the same fiction, as when everyone believed that the earth was flat or that it was the centre of the universe or that a greenhorn lawyer shot Liberty Valance.


A Muslim echo chamber

The Hajj






10.   More specifically stated, unperturbed (to wit, in Nirvana) hence exerting no pressure, hence no information. In any case, better a useful fiction (i.e. lie) than a useless or even disruptive fact (i.e. truth) such as that at death the human dissolves without a remainder, for instance a soul or psyche.


11.   Hence useful fictions (indeed metaphors in general) are a simplified means to personal salvation/wholeness (i.e. stasis = closure). All the great religions are useful fictions, i.e. adult fairy tales, as are the notions of universal happiness, the ending of poverty; the goodness of man; the soul (invented about 400 BC by the Greeks), the spirit, the self (as Atman or Brahman), angels, the devil (Luther’s favourite fiction), life after death, heaven, hell, karma, transubstantiation, Original Sin (St Augustine’s most cherished psychological (i.e. soul-full) cat-of-nine-tails) and so on and on.

See: The Buddha’s bluff



12.   Like the 10 commandments or the traffic rules, both domestication templates unknown to mammals other than humans.



13.   Irrefutable because written down in an ancient scriptures of unknown provenance like the Jewish Bible (including the New Testament), the Upanishads, the Buddhist sutras or chanted as vox populi, therefore vox dei, thus producing an echo chamber effect.



A very Christian Echo Chamber

The Vatican




Can 150 cardinals and 200 bishops be wrong?



14.    So Meister Eckhart and the Upanishads, meaning immediately before (hence in enstasy) or after the turbulence of the Big (or even little) Bang’s ending (hence in astasy (= nir-vana).



15.   For instance, parents remaining silent when questioned by a toddler about how babies are made, or fobbing it off with the stork fable. Or the guru who remains silent because he realises that the questioner isn’t ready to survive the (cold, unpleasant) answer. Hence, ‘The guru appears when the devotee is ready’ (to survive his impact).