The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 7: June 2022

Dear Friends,

This month Europe has been under a heat wave. Normally cool countries like Britain and The Netherlands were melting in the sun. Spain and Portugal were having to contend with unseasonably high temperatures. The lack of rain and the dwindling levels of rivers and reservoirs has brought about water shortages in Italy as well. The dryness has put everyone on alert for another potential summer of infernal fires. This not only applies to the Mediterranean basin. The current global situation, with millions on the verge of starvation on account of the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and the disrupted food supplies due to the war in Ukraine, is even more worrying. Millions are being displaced, and the current refugee problem will be compounded by mass migrations as living conditions worsen all over the world. The destruction of nature continues apace, with the old shenanigans of power politics making things worse. These events were foreseen over fifty years ago, and the call for a paradigm shift in our socioeconomic values and political structures, particularly in international cooperation, went unheeded. The good old tribal nationalistic divisions, plus the lure of immediate and short-term gains, ensured that the necessary actions were not taken. There was no genuine global vision and concern, only the use of the term ‘globalisation’ to provide a measure of respectability to the widening scope of the prevailing mercantilism. Now the term ‘global’ takes on an ever more urgent meaning, namely that when it comes to the co-dependent web of existence there are no separate entities and that we bear a great responsibility for the conservation, health and wholeness of all life on Earth.

“Nature is part of our life. We grew out of the seed, the earth, and we are part of all that, but we are rapidly losing the sense that we are animals like the others. Can you have a feeling for that tree? Look at it, see the beauty of it, listen to the sound it makes; be sensitive to the little plant, to the little weed, to that creeper that is growing up the wall, to the light on the leaves, and the many shadows. You must be aware of all this and have that sense of communion with nature around you. You may live in a town but you do have trees here and there. A flower in the next garden may be ill-kept, crowded with weeds, but look at it, feel that you are part of all that, part of all living things. If you hurt nature you are hurting yourself.”
On Nature and the Environment, pg. 41

Some months ago, I was asked whether I would be willing to make a presentation at the Friends of Brockwood Summer Gathering. Before the pandemic, I used to be a regular visitor at the K Study Centre, and I was happy for the opportunity to take part in this event after such a long absence. Since I structured the online course on K’s metaphor of reading the book of oneself, which is the book of humanity, which is the book of life, I proposed it as the general theme for the weekend. My presentation was entitled ‘Krishnamurti’s teachings as a reading of the book of time’, which in the programme was shortened to ‘The book of time’. A series of related videos were selected. They included the Ojai 1979 talks 4, 5 and 6, and the dialogue between K, Pupul Jayakar and Achyut Patwardhan at Rishi Valley on 19 December 1982 entitled ‘Reading the book of mankind’ (published as ‘The Book of Mankind’ in Fire in the Mind, pp. 145-160). The Ojai talks were really impressive, and I highly recommend them. The dialogue was a bit more complex and required some familiarity not only with the Indian accent but with the teachings to be able to follow the reasoning. One beautiful thing at the end was that K saw the book of humanity not as confined within the time-bound limitations of consciousness but as essentially infinite. This seemed like a fitting validation of extending the reading of the book of oneself to the deeper or cosmic dimension.

“To realize that there is no end is to enter into something called love. Love has no end. I may love my wife – she dies, or I die, but the thing called love goes on; it has no end. But as I have identified myself with my wife, I either say that my love has gone, or I begin to love someone else. And all that is no more than pleasure. I don’t want to go into it now. So how do you read the book? You don’t read it at all. Right? There is no book to read. And when you come to this really deep point, namely that this book has no end and no beginning, you realize that you are that book. This does not mean that you become eternal, but that life as this movement had no end. It is then the universe. It is then the cosmos. It is then the whole thing.”
Fire in the Mind, pg. 160

The videos were shown either in the morning after breakfast or in the evening after dinner. The ones in the morning were followed by a dialogue. The participants were divided into three different groups with their respective facilitators. I was asked to facilitate the group that met in the Conservatory. Not much facilitation was needed, as most of those attending the gathering were not only old friends but quite familiar with the whole process. That made it relatively easy, and I would have been happy doing nothing else – except I had to make my presentation and then moderate the discussion afterwards.

While the core themes in the book of humanity are universal, it has always seemed important to me to ground them in the concreteness of experience. So I began by narrating an episode in my childhood that set the question of time squarely at the centre of my existence. As a kid I was very curious to know where I came from, a quest that was intended to determine who I was and was likely to become. The logical approach seemed to be to inquire after one’s ancestors. Unfortunately, the stories from the past faded into legend and, apart from a couple of interesting characters, did not seem to be particularly meaningful. I was led to conclude that we were a people without a history. Coming from what looked like pure peasant stock, this might not have been so surprising, but I was not giving up my quest. So when I found that the family kept its memorabilia in an old traveling trunk, I decided to investigate. This was not that easy, since the trunk was in the attic, and I was afraid of all the monsters that dwelt there. But one day I found my courage and braved the perilous journey to the mysterious trunk.

To my great disappointment, it contained no written records. There were some old yellowing photos of my father’s two trips around the world while doing his military service aboard the naval officer’s training tall ship Juan Sebastián de Elcano, and a few accounting legers from when grandfather Antonio had emigrated to Cuba. No narrative of any kind. However, out of that historical vacuum came the overwhelming thought that all history was already written, for I was destined to go through essentially the same round of experiences that all my ancestors had undergone. But if so, then what did it mean to live? The enormity of the implications glued me to the spot. As I watched the motes of dust dancing in a sunbeam filtering through a hole in the roof tiles, it occurred to me that our time-bound existence blinded us to the beauty and eternity of the light. I then realised that freedom from the prison of time was one of the deepest human aspirations, as otherwise we could not be one with the whole. And that was the same for the living and the dead since we were all revenant manifestations from the past.

Coming upon such an immense issue as a nine-year-old made quite a deep impression on me and I never forgot it. I suspect that this was one of the keys to my subsequent concern with my universality as a human being, for inbuilt in it was the perception that, significant as their differences might be, humanity was deep down one and the same. The content of consciousness might vary but we were all caught in the cyclical returning of the stream of time. To realise this was already an important aspect of that same universality. From then on, I saw the phenomenon of time as the perpetuation of an inherently problematic and deeply tragic condition. When a friend of mine gave me a Bible to read at age twelve, I quickly realised what the ancient Hebrews had been attempting, namely, to narrate their history from the perspective of the timeless. I pictured it graphically as the horizontal arrow of chronological time moving from past to future being met by a timeless vertical line. Their intersection was the present moment, perhaps the now, where time and the timeless were reconciled and heaven was the earth, and the earth was heaven. This, it seemed to me, was the core intent of religion – not Western or Eastern, animistic or deistic, traditional or modern, but the essence of it, the essence of the quest for goodness. Two years later, I was discovering K, at the core of whose work lies the question of time as the key to human liberation and wholeness. And three years after that, I was a student at Brockwood, sitting at the feet of the master.

K’s teachings represent an in-depth reading of the universal history that is enfolded in the consciousness of humanity. The first thing is to develop the art of reading this book of time, a book that, in some sense, must read itself. Consciousness is the accumulation of ages of experience. As such a conditioned system of memory it is compelled to proceed along the standard patterns set by its established assumptions. So, learning this art is a first and fundamental task. For K the first and last freedom is the freedom to observe. This observation then discovers a panorama of widespread contradiction and disorder, of division and conflict, both outwardly and inwardly. The spectrum of violence and sorrow reveals itself as endemic to the human condition. These are the two most fundamental issues that mankind needs to resolve, for a life of violence and sorrow is not worth living. Life is relationship, so the quality of relationship is the same as the quality of life. If relationship is mired in constant friction and misery, our lives will be under the constant shadow of aggression and fear. But relationship is also the primary mirror in which we can see ourselves. We could say, borrowing an old phrase and giving it a new meaning, that relationship is the real school of life. Our relationships bring out whatever we are inwardly, and the point is to learn together so we can free ourselves from the factors of fragmentation that destroy the qualities of sensitivity, affection and intelligence. These are the three pillars of human wholeness. When they work together in harmony there is integrity and creativity. The challenge of relationship is to love, and the challenge of love is the abandonment of self. The self has become the nucleus of the human psyche and it is so assiduously cultivated that it seems hard to see how pervasive it is. Selfishness, as K might say, is the fundamental human problem – perhaps the source of all our problems. The self is the product of thought and time and for K it represents the primary factor of separation not just between human beings but between humanity and the universal mind. The point of self-knowledge is the reading of the book of consciousness so that the self-isolating movement of psychological time can come to an end. The ending of psychological time is thus the needful freedom for the awakening and incarnation of beauty, goodness and truth.

More or less, that’s what I tried to say in the presentation. It was filmed and I am waiting to see how it might have come out. I challenged myself to speak without notes while attempting to map out the table of contents of the book of time. Reading the book of time to the end is of the essence, as in that end there may be a totally new beginning.

You be well, amigos, and enjoy the summer,


P.S.: this comes a bit late, but those interested in the KECC series on 'The Core of the Teachings' beginning tomorrow evening can find the programme information here: .

Photos: Carl Marcus ( 1. Valley of Fire #5; 2. Valley of Fire #4.

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