The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 24: November 2023

Dear Friends,

We have been descending into darkness for a while and we are fast approaching the winter solstice, when the sun will swing back from the abyss. No wonder that Christianity celebrates the birth of its prophet at this turning from darkness to light. However, to judge by the catastrophic nature of current events, the way, the truth and the light that supposedly dawned with that incarnation have not fundamentally altered the tragic course of mankind. What we are witnessing at the present time in the Holy Land is ample proof of the insane and barbarous condition of humanity. This is sad beyond belief, but it is nothing new. It is the latest expression of an ingrained pattern of division, hatred and violence that has been with us from the beginning. We are caught in the Ferris wheel of time whereby the present is the outcome of the past in its transit to the future. As long as that pattern of conditioning persists, history cannot but repeat itself, for the future will be but an eternal return. And this applies not only to these outbreaks of violence but to so much else in human life. So the question naturally arises as to whether the destructive pattern behind all these human disasters could come to an end.

Recently, as part of our monthly exploration of the teachings, we went into the question of the future of humanity by reading the book of the same title.[1] Those forty years ago, K and Bohm were very aware that humanity faced a multiplicity of environmental and social problems that did not augur well for the future. On the contrary, in their view the future was looking rather grim, depressing and dangerous. They even asked themselves what they would do for a living if they were young again, with K feeling he would have done the same thing, whereas Bohm doubted whether he would have pursued a career in science, seeing that science did not seem to help with these deeper human issues. But K plunged directly into the heart of the problem by stating that the future is now, and therefore not a matter of evolution and time. If the future is now, then, in a sense, there is no future. You can say the same of the past, for the past is also now. Which means that all time, psychologically speaking, is now. That is the deeper implication. However, the more immediate sense of that phrase is that unless there is a break with the past, the future will be a modified continuity of the present. This seems to be self-evident. What may not be so obvious is that such a break necessitates a radical transformation of consciousness. Here is where K places the key to a different future for humanity and that’s why the issue of time is central to this inquiry, for time is the very structure and limitation of consciousness. It might sound paradoxical, but the implication is that for humanity to change the future, it must die to psychological time, for this kind of time, as K put it, is the enemy of man, meaning the fundamental factor of fragmentation, violence and sorrow in human existence. But can psychological time be denied? And is that the only way to bring about the needful revolution in consciousness?

For K the psyche is the ego, self or ‘me’, the personality, is made up of the name, the physical form, and the memory, experience and knowledge making up the content of consciousness. Consciousness is thus the field of the known and thought is its active response. Knowledge, being the past, is always limited and so are thought and consciousness, so they respond inadequately and create confusion and disorder. Although knowledge is continuously being added to, the key point is that there is always more and more unknown to be discovered. This limitation is thus a necessary feature of thought, so we might just have to accept it and live with it. The issue, however, is that it proves to be highly dangerous, as borne out by the destructive consequences it is having in the world. If the present is the measure of the future, then that future is not very promising, as it will be the same as the past because thought, as the reflex response of memory, can only repeat.

One of the factors to which K attributes the disorder in the world is our mistaken approach to security. We need security but by seeking it through identification with various territorial, racial, ideological and confessional groups, we create division, which leads to conflict and insecurity. Such divisions are dangerous and, as far as K is concerned, they are based on an illusion, for we are all one. K never tired of saying that consciousness is not an individual entity but the common ground of all humanity. We are conditioned to think we are separate from the moment the me and the mine develop in childhood, which is cemented by the cultural emphasis on individuality. While there is no denying that each of us is endowed with distinct abilities and characteristics, these are not of the essence. While we might rightly value our remarkable achievements in culture, science and technology, these are not the basic common factors but rather all the fear, pain and sorrow resulting from our psychological disorder. We have advanced greatly in all sorts of technical fields, but that has not altered us psychologically in any significant way. Technology is at the service of the psyche and if the psyche is not in order, the more we progress technologically, the more dangerous the whole thing becomes.

K attributes the whole mess to the fragmentary nature of thought and its cultivation of psychological becoming, which he views as a fallacy. He usually gives the example of being violent and seeking to become nonviolent. This movement of thought as becoming between the opposites of what is and what should be is what K understands by psychological time. This creates a division between the observer and the quality, in this case violence. This division is illusory – violence is me – and so is the movement of psychological time. The duality of the psychological self is the source of conflict, so there is no end to violence this way. The art is to perceive this whole movement without the observer, which is the memory of things past. K says that if we were to see that the perception of memory is limited, we would not be acting from conditioned thought but from intelligence.

[1] The Future of Humanity consists of two dialogues that K and Bohm held in June 1983 on this topic. They also appear as an appendix in the revised edition of The Ending of Time (2014).
To discover this intelligence, K says we have to go into such products of thought as suffering. He indicates that freedom from suffering is necessary if intelligence is to operate through thought. Suffering is the essence of the me and it arises from identification and attachment. Since ancient times people have been saying that we learn through suffering, that the self is dissolved. The overall evidence does not seem to support this view. Wars, for example, have created enormous suffering for thousands of years but we have not learned to end war. Suffering, like consciousness, is not an individual matter but common to all humanity. Identifying suffering as yours and mine is an illusory division that makes for further suffering. The social and psychological worlds are one indivisible whole. We are our brother’s keepers. Although various religions have stated this, the fact is that every group and individual is fundamentally concerned with their own survival. The inherently divisive nature of thought makes it incapable of solving the human problems it has created. That’s why we need to awaken intelligence.

The awakening of intelligence raises the question of the relationship between the brain and the mind, the brain being the seat of thought and time and the mind being the field of intelligence. The brain has been conditioned biologically and psychologically. Some conditioning is necessary and useful in all manner of practical applications. The self, however, is separative and creates conflict at every level of our existence. The self is the movement of thought as becoming, which, as earlier indicated, is a fallacy, which makes the self equally illusory. This psychological conditioning, however, being deeply rooted in the brain, would have to be dissipated in some neurophysiological sense. Scientists and psychologists would hope to alter it through various procedures, but such professionals, like the rest of us, are still caught in the process of becoming, which is a modified continuity of the conditioning. What changes conditioning is insight, which is the action of the mind on the brain cells. Insight is perception of the mind without the interference of the past. The brain can only respond to the mind, which is intelligence, when it is quiet. This quietness is the natural outcome of understanding one’s conditioning through choiceless awareness, which is a brain activity that is beyond thought. This is rather interesting, because it suggests that the brain has the inherent capacity to understand itself and thus set the ground for insight. When the brain is silent, free from self-centeredness, there is attention in which the brain is aware of the mind. This awareness is meditation. The mind lives in space and silence. This space is not bounded by things or limited by thought and time.

K says that when thought is absent, the limited space of the brain is open to coming in contact with the intelligence, love and compassion of the universal mind. Love is impersonal and has no relationship to thought. Intelligence is direct perception of what is, insight into human complexities, such as suffering. When there is insight, mind contacts matter and there is a mutation in the brain cells. When we face a deep issue, the pure energy of mind contacts the limited energy of matter and the problem is resolved. When the self is not, there is beauty, space and silence and the intelligence born of compassion operates through the brain. When the observer is the observed, duality ends, there is no conflict and no wastage of energy. This heightened state of energy is attention in which there is contact between mind and brain.

Freedom from psychological time was for K the necessary ground of wholeness and the release of the pure energy of intelligence and compassion. But we have to start to discover what we are by staying with what is, with our reactions. Psychologically we are the content of our consciousness, which is the past. More specifically, we are the things we are identified with and attached to in which we seek security and becoming, such as races, nations, religions, ideologies and the like. These are factors of division and conflict, which sustain the two fundamental blights of violence and sorrow. So the ending of sorrow and violence implies the ending of psychological time, which is the ending of the me. Clearly, the tragic events unfolding before us as we speak are the result of the separate identities in which we have sought security and becoming. These identities cannot bring about security, for they are the product of thought, which is inherently divisive and therefore violent. Psychological time is thus the root of violence and becoming nonviolent is a fallacy, for the ending of violence is the ending of time. That’s why K called such time the enemy of man. It is the enemy because it is inherently destructive. The perception of this fact, however, does not seem to be penetrating human consciousness or we would not be embroiled in these fratricidal wars. We seem to carry on like sleepwalkers unaware of the dangerous delusions in which we are caught. We dreamers are so identified with our dreams that we do not want to awaken. But if we are at all aware of the consequences, we must, for our dreams are nightmares.

Be well, amigos, and may this festive season bring a new dawn of compassion and insight,


Photos by J. Gómez Rodríguez: 1. Sunset, Het Bovenwater, Lelystad; 2. The Van Gogh and Rijks museums, Amsterdam.
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