Saanen 6th Public Talk 22nd July 1965
It seems to me that we very rarely ask ourselves a fundamental question; and when we do, we generally answer it according to our particular pleasure, fancy, or belief, and therefore the original question - the essential, fundamental question - never gets answered. We answer it in terms of a particular religion, or a particular branch of knowledge, or according to some mythical, theological conception of life. And I think that we must not only ask fundamental question, but also try to discover the true, original answer;
This morning I would like to talk about conformity; that is, I would like to find out if there is anything original, anything which is free of conformity, and which is not a mere abstraction, not just an idea, but as actual as any fact in daily life. So the fundamental question we are asking ourselves is this: to what extent can conformity bc ended? Is it possible to end conformity altogether, and thereby allow the original to be? I think this is a fundamental question, because most of us do conform endlessly. We shape ourselves according to a particular pattern, according to an established ideological mould, whether imposed by society, by economic, social and environmental pressures, or by our own experience. We are always shaping; ourselves in one way or another - I think this is an obvious fact. And can this process of conformity - which is so deep-rooted, and which is conscious as well as unconscious - come to an end?
Surely, it is only when we are free of conformity that we can find out for ourselves what is the original, the essential, the true; and unless we find that out for ourselves, we shall always live a counterfeit, secondhand life, a life of imitation. Therefore it seems to me a valid, fundamental question to ask ourselves whether conformity can ever end. By conformity I mean the process in which thought and the thinker are always ; shaping themselves to a pattern, always imitating, repeating, always complying with an idea, a concept, a belief, a dogma, always adjusting to a particular standard or ideal in relationship. Such conformity is the norm of our life, it is the everyday pattern of our existence; and we are now asking ourselves whether that conformity can come to an end. And we should ask ourselves also whether the ending of conformity breeds disorder, so that we must conform; or whether, with the ending of conformity, there is the discovery of something totally original, not counterfeit, not secondhand.
Most of our lives are secondhand. We do not know for ourselves what the original is, or even if there is that which may be called the original. To me, the word `original' is ordinarily rather misused. We talk about `original' writing, an `original' painting, an `original' way of thinking or expressing oneself; we say that an author has written an `original' book. I do not think the word `original' is aptly used in such matter; There is an original something which religion throughout the world - however organized, repetitive, however stupidly ritualistic it may have become - has always sought. But apart altogether from organized religion, with its dogmatism and complex theology, with its absurd ceremonials and all the rest of that nonsense - apart from all that, can you and I as human beings living in this world, surrounded by all the complexities of modern existence, discover for ourselves something which is really original? Otherwise life becomes terribly monotonous, a boring routine that has very little significance.
So this morning I would like, if I may, to go into this question of conformity, in which is implied imitation, moulding thought according to a certain pattern, whether imposed by society or put together by our own experience, and thereby never coming near the original. When I use the word `conformity', all this is implied: the counterfeiting process, the desire to conform to a particular pattern, to imitate, to accept, to obey.
Now, first of all, are we totally aware of this conforming process that is going on within each one of us, whether we are conforming to the past, to a present concept, or to some future ideal or Utopia? And if we are aware of it, then should we not ask ourselves whether it ii possible to end this conformity? Surely, to be free of the whole process of conflict, effort, we must first understand and be free of conformity; and because effort implies conformity, we must find out whether it is possible to live in this world without conformity, and therefore without effort. One can see that the more effort one makes, the more conflict and confusion there is, and hence the greater the sorrow, the greater the pain. So we must find out whether it is possible to live without effort, that is, to live originally and therefore to be free of all conformity.
Now, to come to that point, I think one must first be aware - which seems so obvious - of the nature of a mind that conforms. Why do we conform at all? Please bear in mind that when I use the words 'to conform', I mean to counterfeit, to imitate, to obey authority, to adjust oneself to a pattern, all this is implied. So, why do we conform? Conformity implies effort, does it not? And when there is effort in any relationship, there is no relationship. If I make an effort to be kind, to be affectionate, or to be polite to you, it has no meaning. Kindliness, gentleness and affection spring from a state of mind in which there is no effort; and to understand that state of mind, one must understand fundamentally this question of conformity.
One naturally conforms in certain outward, superficial things, but that is not what we are discussing. I conform here when I put on this kind of clothing, whereas in India I conform in another way, I put on something else. When I drive a car, I conform by keeping to the right side of the road here, and to the left side in England. I conform in a certain way when I have to post a letter, and so on.
But have I to conform to the poison of nationalism? Must I conform to a particular pattern of existence, to a particular way of thinking which society seeks to impose on me and through which my mind is shaped by organized religion, by economic and social influences? So, if I would live a life in which there is the establishment of right relationship, right conduct, right behaviour, I have to find out whether it is possible to live without effort; because where there is effort ,all that is denied.
Where there is effort, there must be conscious or unconscious conformity. I see that. I may see it verbally, intellectually, but that is too easy, it has very little meaning.I have to be aware of it in myself. Am I aware, in my daily activities, in my daily relationship with my family, with my friends, to what extent I conform? Being aware of it means knowing that I do conform, not merely superficially, but very deeply; because it is the very nature of the unconscious to conform, and one has to be aware of all that. In talking together this morning, the speaker may be aware of your own unconscious conformity. You have to be aware, not merely of your adjustments to superficial things, but also of your deep-rooted conformity.
As we have seen, conformity implies effort, and where there is effort there is no real relationship of any kind, but only imitation and a secondhand kind of life. One is aware of this-it is all so obvious. Then one asks oneself whether is it possible to be totally free from the deep form of conformity. Do you understand? Superficially we have to conform in certain things. You have to sit there, and I have to sit here, unfortunately. We have to put on this or that article of clothing, and so on. Very superficially it is necessary to conform. But to search out this question of conformity in the deep psychological sense, and to find the right answer-not an answer according to one's pleasure ,or according to a particular concept, formula, or religious dogma, which is no answer at all, and which becomes so utterly meaningless and stupid-one has to inquire into the question of fear. We are afraid, and that is why we conform. If one had no fear of any kind, would one conform?
So, one sees why one conforms, imitates, adjusts. Superficially a certain conformity may be necessary, and perhaps it is necessary. But deep down, inside the skin, as if it were, we conform because there is fear of not doing the right thing, fear of going wrong, fear of not living a complete life, fear of not finding reality, God, and all the rest of it. So in all of us the is the root of fear,and I think it is very important to understand the fact before we try to answer the question as to whether it is possible to end all conformity.
I do not know whether you have ever actually experienced fear. Apart from the instinctive fear which arises upon meeting a physical danger of some kind, have you ever realized what it is to be afraid? It is generally an idea which makes you afraid, is it not? Or rather, the idea creates the fear. Do you understand? I am afraid, let us say, of what you might think of me. That is an example of an idea creating fear; and when an idea creates fear, I am not in relationship with the fact of fear itself. Are you following me? Am I making myself clear?
You know, an idea can cause fear; and, with most of us, it is the idea which causes fear. The concept of what tomorrow might bring, causes fear, with the result that the concept becomes much more important than the actual fact of fear. So we try to change the concept, the idea, the cause, and we are never directly in relationship with fear itself. Either one is made fearful by an idea, a concept; or one is in immediate contact with fear, and not through an idea. But is there fear without idea?
Please don't just listen to me; don't accept or reject what is being said, but actually go through this with me. Most of us have our own peculiar fears, and it is an idea that is creating them. Perhaps you are afraid that you might lose your husband, your wife, your job, you may be afraid of what will happen tomorrow, afraid that you will fall ill again, and so on. These are all ideas. So we must find out whether it is always an idea that creates fear, or whether there is fear independent of idea. Is there fear independent of idea? Until I find that out, I cannot possibly understand this question of conformity.
Are you following this? It is not really very intricate, but it demands attention and penetration.
I see that there is no fear without idea. I see that thought creates fear, and that fear in itself is non-existent; so I have to find out why thought, idea, creates fear. Am I making myself clear?
Does thought create fear? Or is it that thought, having created the thinker, then creates fear? Surely, thought in itself does not create fear. Fear arises when there is a thinker separate from the thought, a thinker who is conforming, and who therefore creates fear.
Let us look at it differently. There is the censor, the observer, apart from the thing censored, the thing observed; there is the experiencer apart from the experience, the thinker apart from the thought. And it is thinking that has created the thinker, because without thinking there would be no thinker.
Please, this is not some fanciful theory or mystical philosophy - it is nothing of that kind at all. We are just observing our own daily life. The thinker is the idea, the memory of pains and pleasures, the bundle of recollections, which responds, when there is a challenge, in terms of thought and action. So I see, as you also must see, that the thinker is the centre of ideas based on the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. He is the originator of all effort to conform, and that effort is based on fear. As long as there is fear, there is the urge to conform, and so there must be effort. Effort then is always the struggle to imitate, to become, to shape, to adjust oneself to a pattern, and all such effort is obviously based on fear. So merely to cultivate courage, which is part of the effort to become something, has very little meaning. But when one understands this whole structure of fear, then one is confronted with quite a different problem.
As long as there is a thinker separate from thought, there must be not only fear but also effort based on the urge to conform; and when one is aware of that, is it possible to think without creating the thinker? Are you following me? Does this mean anything, or is it just a lot of words being put together I see you are all puzzled about this, sirs, so let us begin again.
One sees that one's whole life is a routine, a conformity, a repetition, and therefore it is boring. One is aware of that fact. Then one asks oneself: can there be an ending to all this conformity, not ultimately, at the time of death, but while one is living? To inquire into this, one has to find out what is the nature of conformity, and why the mind always conforms, whether it be to a past experience, or to a present pattern of action, or to some future ideal. Conformity, as we have seen, implies imitation, repetition, adjustment, and all the rest of it. I see that where there is conformity, there must be effort; and when there is the effort to conform in relationship, all relationship ceases. My life is a constant repetition, a ceaseless effort to conform, and therefore there is no relationship at all. So I must find out whether it is possible to end the effort of conformity, and therefore to have relationship. But to find out what is implied in the cessation of this effort, I must first find out whether fear, of which one may be conscious or unconscious, can come to an end - totally, and not just partially. This means that my mind must inquire into the depths of the unconscious.
Now, is the conscious mind capable of inquiring into something it has never touched? You know there are experts - Freud, Jung and many others - who have described the unconscious, attributing to it various characteristics; but if one is at all aware of one's own inward activities, one need not go to the experts at all. It is fairly obvious that the unconscious is the residue of the past, and the past includes the inherited as well as the acquired memories. There are the family memories, the racial memories, the communal memories. Man's total existence of two million or more years - it is all there in the unconscious. And that unconscious is part of one's fear. I may not be consciously afraid of anything, but deeply I am afraid of so many things. I may have rationalized death most beautifully, but deep down there is still this extraordinary fear of coming to an end. So in the unconscious there is fear; and to understand it, you must come to it, not consciously not deliberately, but with sensitivity, with freshness, with eagerness, with intensity. In other words, you must come to it with affection, with love, for that is the only way you can understand anything.
So, is it possible to end all fear? One may be afraid of the dark, or of coming suddenly upon a snake, or of meeting some wild animal, or of falling over a precipice. It is natural and healthy to want to stay out of the way of an oncoming bus, for example, but there are many other forms of fear. That is why one has to go into this question of whether the idea is more important than the fact, the what is. If one looks at what is, at the fact, and not at the idea, one will see that it is only the idea, the concept of the future, of tomorrow,that is creating fear. It is not the fact which creates fear.
Conformity, adjustment and adaptability are superficially necessary; but inwardly, deeply, conformity brings about effort, and therefore imitation. As long as the mind is imitating, making effort to conform, it is isolating itself; therefore it has no relationship, and only breeds greater fear.
Now, I have somewhat analysed this thing. One could go into it much more deeply, in more detail and at a greater length, but we have more or less touched upon the important facts. However, the description is not the fact. The word is not the thing. When you are hungry I can describe food to you, but the words are obviously not the food. Similarly, one has to be directly in contact with this whole question, not just verbally, but actually, and then one begins to find out what freedom is, which is not conformity. One begins to. discover for oneself that as long as there is the thinker apart from thought, there must be fear, there must be effort, there must be conformity. Then effort is conformity. And is it possible - please 1 on n to this - is it possible only to, ,l think, and not create the thinker? Is it possible to think intensely, reasonably, sanely, logically, without the thinker, whose values, ideas, concepts are all based on pleasure, and therefore the whole process of effort and imitation begins? Is it possible to think only when necessary, not otherwise? That is, can one think only when a question is asked, and the rest of the time be in a complete state of negation - which is a most positive state?
Am I making myself clear? Please don't agree. This is a most difficult thing to inquire into, or to feel one's way into. You can't just say, "I agree" - that has no meaning.
It is the centre as the thinker, the censor, that breeds time, and therefore the centre is the origin of disorder. It is not thought that creates disorder, but the centre, the censor, the thinker who has been put together through time. And as long as there is this censor, this centre, this maker of effort, do what you will, there can be no end to fear.
So, for a mind burdened with fear, with conformity, with the thinker, there can be no understanding of that which may be called the original. And the mind demands to know what the original is. We have said it is God - but that again is a word invented by human beings in their fear, in their misery, in their desire to escape from life. When the human mind is free of all fear, then, in demanding to know what the original is, it is not seeking its own pleasure, or a means of escape, and therefore in that inquiry all authority ceases. Do you understand? The authority of the speaker, the authority of the church, the authority of opinion, of knowledge, of experience, of what people say - all that completely comes to an end, and there is no obedience. It is only such a mind that can find out for itself what the original is - find out, not as an individual mind, but as a total human being. There is no `individual' mind at all - we are all totally related. Please understand this. The mind is not something separate; it is a total mind. We are all conforming, we are all afraid, we are all escaping. And to understand - not as an individual, but as a total human being - what the original is, one must understand the totality of man's misery, all the concepts, the formulas which he has invented through the centuries. It is only when there is freedom from all this, that you can find out whether there is an original something. Otherwise we are secondhand human beings; and because we are secondhand, counterfeit human being; there is no ending to sorrow. So the ending of sorrow is in essence the beginning of the original. But the understanding that brings about the ending of sorrow" is not just an understanding of your particular sorrow, or my particular sorrow, because your sorrow and my sorrow are related to the whole sorrow of mankind. Do you understand? This is not mere sentiment or emotionalism; it is an actual, brutal fact. When we understand the whole structure of sorrow and thereby bring about the ending of sorrow, there is then a possibility of coming upon that strange something which is the origin of all life - not in a test tube, as the scientist discovers it, but there is the coming into being of that strange energy which is always exploding. That energy has no movement in any direction, and therefore it explodes.
Sirs, as you seem disinclined to ask questions, may I ask you a question? Have you ever experimented with gathering all your energy - physical, emotional, mental, visual, every form of energy - and being with it completely, quietly? Do you understand? You know, when energy has movement in any direction, that energy is being dissipated. But when all one's energy is completely still, there is a movement which is original and therefore explosive. Are you getting this? Try it sometime and see if you can do it. But it requires a great deal of intelligence, a tremendous awareness - it is not just a matter of pleasure and pain. If you can gather all your energy without effort, the mind is then completely full of energy without friction of any kind. Then there is an explosion, and in that explosion there is the original.
July 22, 1965
Saanen 6th Public Talk 22nd July 1965
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