The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 11: October 2022

Dear Friends,

We’re having a rather mild Autumn in these latitudes. There’s been some rain, even a couple of windstorms, but otherwise we have been enjoying a string of balmy days. The ambient luminosity delays the turning of the leaves and prolongs their colourful display. The pall of cloud at times dulls the scene. When the clouds let through the sun, its low rays sharpen the contours of things with their higher contrast of dark and light. These deepening chiaroscuros have archetypal echoes in them. They mark the end of the harvest, the gathering of darkness and the descent into the longest night. No doubt due to my love of Art, I am reminded of the works of Giorgio de Chirico[1], the Italian precursor of surrealism, whose enigmatic early paintings used just such a pictorial device to evoke at once a sense of nostalgia[2] and the ominous premonition of an impending absence. His cityscapes, with their archways, lonesome statues, empty squares, clock towers and departing trains are the stuff of dreams. His pictorial language contains more elements, and his symbolism is more complex, but it touches on a deep sense of existential angst in the face of the persistence of desire against the relentless passing of time. That’s all to be read on the canvas of Autumn, whose brilliant palette mixes gold and rust in a masterful tour de force before the white and sombre stillness of the frost.

On Sunday 13 November we will be holding our fifth meeting in the series To Be Human – Examining the Core of the Teachings[3]. This time we will be exploring the fourth paragraph in this unique attempt by K to summarize his teachings:

“Thought is time. Thought is born of experience and knowledge, which are inseparable from time and the past. Time is the psychological enemy of man. Our action is based on knowledge and therefore time, so man is always a slave to the past. Thought is ever limited and so we live in constant conflict and struggle. There is no psychological evolution. When man becomes aware of the movement of his own thoughts, he will see the division between the thinker and thought, the observer and the observed, the experiencer and the experience. He will discover that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation which is insight without any shadow of the past or of time. This timeless insight brings about a deep, radical mutation in the mind.”

The inquiry into thought and time is central to the teachings. In many ways, it is perhaps at the core of their transformative potential. It is in the inherent limitation of thought that K places the primary source of our psychological and existential miseries. Thought is limited because it is the response of memory, knowledge and experience, which are all of the past. So thought is inseparable from time. This limitation brings about division and conflict because it creates a gap between what was and what is as well as between what is and what should be. It is this quality of fragmentation that makes time the enemy of man.

“What is thinking? It is a response, a reaction, of memory. If you had no memory, you would not be able to think. Memory is stored in the brain as knowledge, the result of experience. This is how our brain operates. First, experience; that experience may have been from the beginning of man, which we have inherited. That experience gives knowledge, which is stored up in the brain. From knowledge there is memory and from the memory thought. From thought you act. From that action you learn more. So you repeat the cycle. Experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action; from that action learn more and repeat. This is how we are programmed. We are always doing this: having remembered pain, in the future avoid pain by not doing the thing that will cause pain, which becomes knowledge, and repeat that. Sexual pleasure – repeat that. This is the movement of thought. See the beauty of it, how mechanically thought operates… Time, knowledge, thought, and action – in this cycle we live. Thought is limited, so whatever action thought generates must be limited, and such limitation must create conflict, must be divisive.”
The Network of Thought, pp. 10-11

Not only does thought bring about division and conflict outwardly but it generates an internal duality between the thinker and thought. In both instances there is an interference of the past in the act of perception so that we neither see the external actuality as it is nor do we comprehend the true nature of our own consciousness, for they are obscured by the concepts or images already established in our minds. K maintains that the discovery that this separation is an illusion opens the way to a timeless insight that brings an inner mutation about.

[1] Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) was an Italian artist and writer born in Greece. In the years before WWI, he founded the metaphysical school of painting, which influenced the surrealists. After 1919, he rejected surrealism and reverted to traditional painting techniques and styles. He is best known for his earlier, metaphysical works.
[2] The word 'nostalgia' derives from the Greek nostos (return) and algos (pain). So nostalgia means the suffering evoked by the desire to return to one's place of origin.
[3] For further information, please visit: .

“Now what is this observer, or thinker, or experiencer? The observer is the living entity who is always moving, acting, who is aware of things, and aware of his own existence. This existence he is aware of is his relationship to things, to people and to ideas. This observer is the whole machinery of thought, he is also observation, he is also a nervous system and sensory perception. The observer is his name, his conditioning, and the relationship between that conditioning and life. All this is the observer. He is also his own idea of himself – an image again built from conditioning, from the past, from tradition. The observer thinks and acts. His action is always according to his image about himself and his image of the world. This action of the observer in relationship breeds division. This action is the only relationship we know. This action is not separate from the observer, it is the observer himself. It is the observer who talks about the world and himself in relationship and fails to see that his relationship is his own action, therefore himself. So the cause of all the division is the action of the observer. The observer himself is the action which divides life into the thing observed and himself separate from it. Here is the basic cause of division, and hence conflict.”
Freedom, Love and Action, pp. 60-61

This is a very challenging perspective, as culturally we have placed our faith in the power of knowledge and thought to organize our lives and solve our problems. Inwardly we exist in the stream of consciousness, which is the movement of thought as knowledge and becoming. Our psychological as well as social existence takes place within this framework, in which we seek both security and meaning. K’s understanding of the nature of consciousness as the streaming of thought-time throws a spanner in the works of our cultural assumptions, as it reveals the intrinsic inability of thought to meet and encompass the whole of life. The transformation he envisions as absolutely necessary if we are to solve our endemic problems calls for nothing less than the ending of time as the primary mode of seeing, understanding and action.

“Time has bred consciousness with its content. It is the culture of time. Its content makes up consciousness; without it, consciousness, as we know it, is not. Then there is nothing. We move the little pieces in this consciousness from one area to another according to the pressure of reason and circumstance but in the same field of pain, sorrow and knowledge. This movement is time, the thought and the measure. It is a senseless game of hide and seek with yourself, the shadow and the substance of thought, the past and the future of thought. Thought cannot hold this moment, for this moment is not of time. This moment is the ending of time; time has stopped at that moment, there is no movement at that moment and so it is not related to another moment. It has no cause and so no beginning and no end. Consciousness cannot contain it. In that moment of nothingness everything is.”
Krishnamurti’s Journal, pp. 99-100

Perhaps one of the most radical statements K makes concerning consciousness is that there is no psychological evolution. This cuts at the root of one of our most cherished beliefs, namely that we are advancing towards perfection as a species as well as individually. Most of us are pursuing some kind of self-improvement, which is the transformation of what we are into what we should be. This is what K calls psychological evolution, which he totally denies, saying that the self can never become what it is not and that the movement to what should be is illusory. Instead, he proposes a psychological revolution or mutation which comes through watching what is without the watcher, without the past, which means the ending of the self.

“As we were saying, there is no psychological evolution… The ‘me’ can never become a better me. It will attempt to, it thinks it can, but the ‘me’ remains in subtle forms… So one sees there is no becoming of the self, there is only the ending of selfishness, of anxiety, of pain and sorrow which are the content of the psyche, of the ‘me’. There is only the ending of all that, and that ending does not require time. It isn’t that it will all end the day after tomorrow. It will only end when there is the perception of its movement. To perceive not only objectively, without any prejudice, bias, but to perceive without all the accumulations of the past; to witness all this without the watcher – the watcher is of time and however much he may want to bring about a mutation in himself, he will always be the watcher; remembrances, however pleasurable, have no reality, they are things of the past, gone, finished, dead: only in observing without the observer, who is the past, does one see the nature of time and the ending of time.”
Krishnamurti to Himself, pp. 40-41

What K would seem to be describing is a profound misunderstanding or unawareness of ourselves. The thinker or observer, the self, being the product of thought and thought being the response of memory and time, it is invariably a step behind the actuality of being, of the now. If so, then our hopes of achieving wholeness through fulfilling the aspirations of the self are futile, for time cannot transcend itself and must forever remain a fragment. Only in its ending or silence, in the absence of the observer, is there an opening to the whole and wholeness of being. And the beauty of it is that, if so, that possibility is in principle always available, as it is to be found not in the continuity of time but in the creative uniqueness of the moment. And would that not eradicate all these factors of division and conflict that plague our existence? Would that not be the very seed of a new world without the brutality and sorrow of conflict and war?

You be well, amigos, and watch without the watcher, for that is the way of liberation and peace.


P.S.: This year’s Friedrich’s Newsletter is now available for free downloading from this website. The piece on it in the Blog reproduces the Editorial Note describing its content.

Photos: J. Gómez Rodríguez: 1. The cement factory, Lelystad, NL; 2. The rose garden, Brockwood Park School, UK.

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