The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 21: August 2023

Dear Friends,

The phenomenon of AI, artificial intelligence, seems to have burst upon the scene and to be about to take the world by storm. It has been a long time in the making, thousands of bright people working on it, perhaps more with an eye on its achievement than on its consequences. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, everyone, including its creators, seems to be rather alarmed by the deleterious potential of this new technology and governments are wondering how best to legislate to prevent its abuse.

Every technology comes with a double edge. What can be used to build can be used to destroy. This technology would seem to have raised the stakes, as it might just take over many of the ordinary as well as some of the higher functions of the human brain. In other words, it might be a rather dangerous leap forward in the realization of the scientific nightmare in which AI and robots take over the world and either enslave or replace the human race. There are even people, some of them seemingly quite serious, who prophesy that this is the next step in human evolution, seeing mechanical perfection as an improvement on our chaotic bio-psycho-social existence. This may sound crazy, but these utopian scientists – some of them very much on the autistic spectrum – are already working on it.

This information technology is naturally extolled for its potential benefits, some of which are already being demonstrated, for example in medical applications. Its ability to process vast amounts of information in a very short time could make it useful in all manner fields, thus replacing people and creating a problem of massive unemployment. Although one might comfort oneself thinking that these programmes are fundamentally mechanical, they would also seem to pose a threat to the creative arts. AI may not be creative, but it can grasp patterns out of which it can produce ‘new’ variations. Since a good deal of what goes under the rubric of ‘creative’ has become formulaic, AI could profitably replace, for example, a great number of Hollywood scriptwriters, which is what has their guild up in arms. This whole new development clearly comes with its own challenges and moral dilemmas.

One of the greatest fears is that AI will be used to mislead and control people. Social media and its algorithms have already proved decisive in swinging the popular vote in national elections and referenda. It is expected that AI, with its greater sophistication, will bring about what some have called a post-cognitive era, in which the traditional trust in the objectivity of knowledge will be thoroughly undermined by the exponential increase in misinformation. Such manipulative uses point to the fact that the problem is not the tool but the exploitative nature of human beings and our seemingly unstoppable will to self-destruct. Neither the humanity that uses it nor the instrument that lends itself to such pernicious ends can be called intelligent.

When the computer was invented, it was instantly equated with the brain on account of their obvious similarities. K would seem to lend support to this view by his insistence that the brain is programmed like a computer. For K the brain is the storehouse of memory, knowledge, experience, conditioned in a particular culture and socioeconomic environment. It acts from there, gathers more knowledge from experience and repeats the cycle. It creates internal self-referential loops that make for habitual ways of thinking, feeling and action. One might argue that the computer has no feelings, but K considers that in as much as both are the response of memory, thought and feeling are of the same mechanical order. K does not distinguish, either, between brain and psyche because knowledge is the basis of thought and thought has put the psyche, the ‘me’, together. This would seem to reduce the whole of consciousness to the mechanical level of the known, which is how the computer works.[1]

K tended to deny that thought had anything to do with intelligence. We normally take intelligence to mean the skilful use of thought in the processing of knowledge. Thought has its own limited ‘intelligence’ and right place, but it is not creative, therefore not intelligence in the way K understood the word. The computer reproduces many of the features of thought and it is thus feared that the computer’s takeover of the standard brain functions in the processing and application of knowledge might lead to the disuse and atrophy of the brain. K feels, however, that the brain is already degenerating because it is stuck in the conditioned, mechanical and repetitive process of the known, of which AI is an extension. So from K’s perspective the mind and the computer are working in tandem to turn us into robots. It is this mechanical process that stands in the way of intelligence. The difficulty is that for intelligence to operate we need to have an insight into the whole movement of thought. For K the non-movement of the mind from what is, is the essence of insight.

K was adamant that thought was a material process, the product of evolution, the response of memory and therefore inherently limited, mechanical and uncreative. At the same time, he made a distinction between right thinking and right thought. Right thought he viewed as conforming to a static pattern of acting from fixed concepts and ideas. This would correspond with the mechanical aspect of thought that he tended to emphasise. Right thinking, on the other hand, he saw as arising spontaneously, thus not mechanically, from the constant awareness of the ways of the self, which would eliminate the mind’s deteriorating factors of self-contradiction and conflict. This implies that thinking is not of necessity stuck in the destructive mechanical mode. The key is to be completely attentive so that we perceive insightfully, so that the mechanical movement stops. Insight is something the computer cannot have.

Insight is a flash of intelligence that sees instantly the integral truth of something. Etymologically intelligence means to read between the lines, i.e., to grasp the implicit meaning of something. It also means mental alertness. K’s reiterated dichotomy between thought and intelligence begged the question as to how intelligence is to act in the world. For one thing, intelligence depends on the healthy condition of the brain for its function. The brain is not the creator of intelligence, but it is an instrument that responds to intelligence and helps to actualise it. For the operation of intelligence, the brain must be in a state of high order and sensitivity. For thought to have a relationship with intelligence, it must be harmonious, not contradictory. Then intelligence can use it to communicate and create things in the world.

[1] For K’s concerns regarding computers and AI, see the series of dialogues between him, Asit Chandmal and David Bohm in The Way of Intelligence and Questioning Krishnamurti. For a fascinating discussion on intelligence between K and Bohm, see the last chapter in The Awakening of Intelligence.
This would seem to be a more holistic perspective on the relation between thought and intelligence than the assertion that they never met and will never meet. While it is clear that intelligence is not thought, thought can point to it and serve as the actualising instrument of intelligence. By itself, without intelligence, the pointing of thought is of very little significance. Intelligence is what gives thought its meaning, value and purpose. Thought is necessary to carry out the action of intelligence in the manifest world. This would suggest that the separation between matter and intelligence is not absolute but rather that they are aspects of the same energy stemming from the same source. This gets sort of metaphysical, but K accepts that they do have a common origin, which is the ultimate ground of their inherent harmony. So how did thought and intelligence come to diverge so drastically?

Thought and intelligence are the bifurcating streams of the one river of creative energy. One stream, thought, became an instrument of survival and, following the animal instinctual drive, it channeled itself into the pursuit of pleasure and security. The instincts were not intelligent enough to deal with the complexity of thought, they got stimulated by the projections of desire and demanded more. The understanding of the illusory process of consciousness that has been put together by thought and the consequent freedom from it is for K the essence of intelligence. For example, when we see the fallacy of nationalism as a means of security – because it implies division, conflict and war –, the action of intelligence is to drop nationalism. Intelligence sees and removes the false in the operation of thought, which causes it to function in parallel with intelligence, carrying out its implications. This is what K calls the skill of intelligence, which unfolds naturally from self-awareness in the mirror of relationship. Thought then finds its right place and there can be order and creativity in our lives.

Coming upon the source, upon this quality of creative energy beyond time, was for K the fundamental and radical answer to our human problems. Only in contact with that energy was there the wholeness of beauty, intelligence and compassion. K was adamant that we don’t see the whole because we function in the fragmented field of conditioned thought. It is the lack of wholeness that keeps the source at bay. The self cannot see the whole because it is a fragment of thought, which is itself a fragment. What we need is an insight into the whole content of consciousness. This requires the wholeness of the energy of intelligence.

From this more universalist perspective, AI is a new form of an old challenge, namely the place of knowledge and thought in human existence. It is a new advance in the gathering and application of information in all sorts of fields, but its very mechanicalness confines it to the known and makes it uncreative. Life is inherently creative and without creativity we are not truly alive. The ethical issue arises because humanity is deeply fragmented and ignorant of itself, i.e., not fundamentally intelligent. Thus this new technology is bound to be made to serve the good old deleterious and exploitative ends. It is this lack of self-knowledge or wisdom that imbues every new scientific and technical development, especially one of such far-reaching implications, with danger. Thought is part and parcel of what it means to be human, but the fullness of humanity requires the awakening of a deeper quality of intelligence capable of dissolving the self-contradictory and illusory contents of consciousness. This intelligence, as K sees it, can operate through knowledge in the material world but its essence is neither temporal not material. Ultimately, the solution to our human problems would seem to lie in coming upon or uncovering the source of this living creative energy of the universe.

It is hard to imagine such a seemingly ‘metaphysical’ perspective having any immediate impact on the development or application of AI and related technologies. The primary concern of our civilisation is with technological advances as the means to security, longevity and happiness, not with awakening the kind of intelligence and compassion that K is talking about. We seem to be caught in an inertial technological movement whose pragmatic and economic prospects carry the day. This movement is not likely to cease until it reaches the end of its tether. K says that thought has already reached it, principally by showing its inherent inability to solve the human problems it has created. As the psychological controls the technical, we should not be surprised if we find ourselves once more in a pickle.

Be well, amigos, and let’s keep awake to the mechanical movement of thought in our lives.


Photos: J. Gómez Rodríguez: 1. Het Bovenwater, Lelystad; 2. Fruit bowl, Brión, Rianxo, Spain.


Dear Friends,

This is to announce that registration for the new edition of The Book of Yourself online course is still open.

For those of you who may be new to it, The Book of Yourself is a comprehensive study of J. Krishnamurti’s teachings. It consists in fourteen sessions or chapters covering the broad spectrum of Krishnamurti’s insightful journey into the human condition, from the evidence of pervasive fragmentation and conflict to the exploration of consciousness and the awakening of a deeper, spiritual dimension of being. On the website below you can find a more detailed description of the content of each of these chapters and an introductory video to the course.

Each chapter consists of a selection of texts by Krishnamurti over the theme under study together with a set of PP slides summarising these texts. Links to relevant audiovisual material are also included. In this new edition of the course, the presentations are prerecorded. The idea is to allow people to follow the schedule at a more leisurely pace. However, in keeping with the participatory nature of our inquiry, the course also includes a series of zoom dialogue meetings where we can go into all these questions together. (Please see the schedule for these meetings and their suggested topics on the website.)

The cost for the course is €350. Should you like to get the set of recorded presentations, these are available for €70, postage included. Payment can be made via PayPal or directly to the bank account provided. For people in Europe, it is preferable that payments be made via direct bank transfer. Once registration is completed, you will receive an email from me with the passwords to access the course content as well as the zoom link for the live dialogue meetings.

Do take a look and I hope you will join us in this exploration.

All the very best,


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