Five Conversations 4th Conversation
We went past the well-known village which had become fashionable both in winter and in summer, along a stream; and the car turned to the right and went through a valley with steep hills on both sides, covered with pine trees. And occasionally we saw the chamois playing about high up in the opening of the pine trees. The road went along a stream, and then we climbed, not too steeply. One could have walked up the slope very easily. And then we entered an unpaved road which was very dusty and rough, with big pot-holes, and a lovely stream full of green-blue water was by its side. The car couldn't go any further and the path went on through a thin pine wood where many of the trees had been uprooted by the recent storm. This path through the silent wood became more and more quiet and lonely. There were no birds here, there was only the song of the water as it rushed down over the rocks and fallen trees, over the big boulders. That was the only sound; and here and there the water was very quiet in deep pools where one could have bathed if the water hadn't been too cold. Here there were many wild flowers, yellow, violet and pink. It was really a beautiful place, full of the sound of the river, cascading down. But over it all there was that strange silence that exists where man has not been. There was moss under foot and a leaning tree was covered with it, end in the sunlight it was very brilliant, green and yellow. On the other side of the ravine one could see the evening light of the sun and the brilliant green of a meadow that stretched upward to the sky, which was intensely blue.
This silence enveloped you, and you remained there quietly, watching the light, listening to the water and to the intense silence which no breeze disturbed. It was a lovely evening, and it seemed a pity to return.
He was a youngish man and had probably studied human nature a little not only from books but from observation, from talking to many people. He had travelled extensively and said that he had met many people and was interested in this whole business of man's relationship to himself. He had witnessed the recent students' riots in different parts of the world, this spontaneous outburst against the established order, and apparently he knew some of the leaders, both in the south and in the north. He was concerned with the uncovering of the self that is hidden both in the subconscious as well as in the upper layers of consciousness.
He said:l see the necessity of exploring this whole field and dying to it, so that a new thing can come into being, but I can't die to something I don't know - the subconscious, the deeper layers which lie so secretly hidden, which are a fathomless storehouse of things unknown or half-forgotten, which respond and contract from a source which remains covered. Though you have said the subconscious is as trivial as the conscious, and that therefore it is of very little importance; though you have compared it to a computer and have pointed out that it is mechanical yet this subconscious is responsible for all our behaviour, all our relationships. How can you call it trivial? Do you realize what you are saying?"
To understand all this, which is quite a complex problem, it is important to look at the whole structure of consciousness and not break it up into the conscious and the hidden. We accept this division as natural, but is it natural, or is it an observation from a fragment? Our difficulty is going to be to see the whole and not the fragment. Then the problem arises as to who is the observer who sees the whole? Is he not also a fragment who can therefore only look fragmentarily?
"Are we ever the whole, or only fragments acting separately in contradiction?"
We must be clear on this question of the whole and the fragment. Can we ever see the whole, or have a feeling of the whole, through this fragment? Do you see the whole tree or only a branch of the tree? You can see the whole of the tree if you are at a certain distance - not too far and yet not too close. If you are too close, you see only the various separate branches. So to see the whole of anything there must be - not the space that the word creates - but the space of freedom. Only in freedom can you see the whole. We are, as you said, sir, always acting in fragments which are in opposition to each other, or in a fragment which is in harmony with one other fragment.
"Our whole life is broken up into the family, the businessman, the citizen, the artist, the sensualist, the good man, and so on. We know only this fragmentary action with its terrible tensions and delights."
These fragments have their own hidden motives opposed to other hidden motives which are different and contradictory, and the upper layers of consciousness respond according to these underground opposing elements of conditioning. So we are a bundle of contradictory motives and drives which respond to environmental challenge.
"The everyday mind is these responses in actual action, and in conflict which is actually visible."
So then what is the problem? What do you want to resolve or understand?
"The problem is that I must see the totality of all these hidden motives and conditionings which are responsible for the visible conflict. In other words, I must see the so-called subconscious. Even if I were not in conflict - and I am in conflict - even if I weren't then l'd still have to know all this subconscious in order to know myself at all. And can I ever know myself?"
Either you know what has happened or what is actually taking place. To know what is actually taking place you are looking with the eyes of the past, and therefore you don't know what is happening. Looking with the eyes of the past at the living present means not seeing it. So the word "know" is a dangerous word, as all words are dangerous and false. When you say,"l want to know myself," there are two things involved. Who is the entity who says, "I must know myself," and what is there, apart from himself, to know? And so it becomes an absurd question! So the observer is the observed. The observer is the entity who dreams, who is in conflict, who wants to know, and wants to be known, the illusion and the demand to end the illusion, the dream which he interprets on waking, and the interpretation which depends on conditioning. He is the whole, the analyzed and the analyser, the experiencer and the experience. He is the whole. He is the maker of god and its worshipper. All this is a fact which actually is, which anybody with a little observation can see. Then, what is the question? The question is this, isn't it, sir: Is there any action within this framework which will not create more conflict, more misery, more confusion, more chaos? Or is there an action outside this historical accumulation?
"Are you asking if there is a part of me which can operate on this accumulation which is not of it?"
You mean, am I positing some Atman, soul, divinity, etc., within myself which is untouched?
"It looks like it."
Certainly not, sir. Nothing of the kind. When you put this question you are really repeating an old tradition of escape. We have to think out this anew, not repeat a time-worn superstition. Within this framework of the `me', the ego, the self, obviously there is no freedom, and therefore it is always breeding its own misery, social, personal and so on. Is it ever possible to be free from this? We spend our energies discussing political, religious, social freedom, freedom from poverty and inequality, etc.
"I agree with you, sir. We spend our time asking if we can be free to act, to change the social structure, to break down social disorder, poverty, inequality, and so on, and I not at all sure we want freedom at all."
Does freedom lie within the structure of this accumulated past or outside the structure? Freedom is necessary, and freedom cannot be within this structure. So you are asking, really, is it possible for man to go beyond this structure, to be free - that is, to act not from this structure? To be, to act and to live outside this framework? There is such a freedom and it comes into being only when there is the total denial - not resistance - the total denial of what actually is, without having a secret longing for freedom. So the negation of what is, is freedom.
"How do you deny it?"
You can't deny it! If you say,"l will deny it," you are back again within the framework. But the very seeing of what is, is the freedom from it, and this may be called "denial" or any other word you care to use. So the seeing becomes all-important, not all this rigmarole of words, cunning subtleties and devious explanations. The word is not the thing, but we are concerned with the word and not with the seeing.
"But we are right back where we started! How can I see the totality of myself, and who is there to see it, since the observer is the observed?"
As we said previously, sir, you can't see. There is only seeing, not "you" seeing. The "what is" is before your eyes. This is seeing, this is the truth.
"Is it important to see the structure which operates, or the content of that structure?"
What is important is to see the whole, not as structure and content, but to see that the structure is the content and the content is the structure, the one cannot exist without the other. So what is important is to see.
Five Conversations 4th Conversation
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