The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 26: January 2024

Dear Friends,

I am sorry I am so late with this issue of the newsletter. My agenda, which is generally quite leisurely, seems to have become rather busy of late. Besides, I tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes me to prepare these activities. Last week, from Monday to Friday, I presented and moderated a series of daily online meetings organized by KFA under the heading ‘What is intelligence?’ It took me almost a couple of weeks to prepare for that, although the dedication was worthwhile, as it made for a rich content and a challenging and inspiring inquiry.

In the context of K’s teachings the question of intelligence touches on a much deeper dimension. Starting from the historical evidence of our endemic state of fragmentation and conflict, it probes into its causes and finds that the issue is not external to us but that the crisis is in consciousness itself. The inquiry into intelligence is thus first and foremost concerned with self-knowing. The key factor is the understanding of the nature of thought and, more specifically, of the creation of a psychological center, ego or self. It is here, both in the inherent limitation of thought as the response of memory and in the projection from itself of a separate entity, that K places the root of conflict. Such conflict breaks down relationship, which indicates a lack of intelligence and the absence of love and compassion. That is why K can say that love and intelligence are not thought. Thought may act as an instrument helping to carry out the intent of intelligence in action, but intelligence is insight, which is not the response of memory. So the first insight we need is into the essentially illusory nature of the self as well as into the inherent limitation and fragmentation of thought. If the mind is free from illusion, then there is a quality of direct perception of fact which is the ground of intelligence.

K on occasion distinguished between the intelligence of the body, the intelligence of thought and what he called holistic intelligence, the intelligence that sees the whole. The body has its own intelligence. It is such an extraordinarily complex organism, with tremendous sensitivity and its own self-regulating and protective system capable of safeguarding its own well-being. This native intelligence and sensitivity of the organism is often interfered with and destroyed by the dominant patterns of desire and habit that thought generates. Thought also has its own tremendous capacity, as can be seen in the whole field of science, technology and, more generally, culture. Building a space station, splitting the atom or developing the tremendous advances in medicine and information technology requires a high degree of intelligence. But, as we can readily see, without a deeper understanding of ourselves and our total responsibility for the world and all life in it, the benefits of such advances will only contribute to the mounting wave of destruction.

This quality of integral intelligence is not only what sees through and dissolves the factors of conflict in perception and thought but penetrates into the depths of feeling. This is implied in the holistic nature of such intelligence. After all, the endemic condition of fragmentation and conflict implies a persistent state of suffering. And as consciousness is the sedimentation of experience over the long history of mankind, our superficial pains and fears have a deeper echo in what K calls the universal stream of sorrow. For K the full flower of intelligence can only be when there is an ending to sorrow. This release of the energy trapped in sorrow is for him the explosion of compassion. So both intelligence and compassion come to be the flowering of a profound inner liberation and healing from the darkness of self-ignorance and its abiding reservoir of universal suffering.

Such a view of intelligence is imbued with the deepest ethical concern for the whole and wholeness of life. It is concerned with the ending of the self-ignorance that is responsible for all the violence and suffering in the world. This brings to mind a statement K made at the very beginning of his first talk in Paris in 1967: “I think there are really two fundamental problems, violence and sorrow. Unless we solve these, and go beyond them, all our efforts, our constant battles, have very little meaning.”[1] As amply and most horrifyingly illustrated by what is currently going on, we are nowhere near solving these problems, which means that our efforts and constant battles have very little meaning, as they are not addressing the primary causes but only serve as palliative treatment for a condition that is looking increasingly terminal.

That mankind is sick is no news to us, but what is currently going on is sickening beyond belief. In these newsletters I tend to refer to current events primarily as manifestations of a much deeper malaise affecting the whole of consciousness and our endemic self-ignorance. I feel that such an approach is an important counterpoint to the standard analysis and social commentary, which is based on shortsighted, partisan and opposing points of view. But frankly, what is happening in Gaza is absolutely ghastly and indicative of the total degeneracy and moral bankruptcy of our socioeconomic and political system. We might have thought that the degeneracy lay in some brutal dictatorships to the east or in different bands of religious fanatics and dysfunctional regimes, but now our cherished and principled democracies turn out to be wolves in sheepskins. When it comes to deciding between, on the one hand, the rule of law and human rights, and, on the other, their economic and geopolitical interests, they choose the latter and use their power to sanction the wanton destruction of a caged and defenseless people.

[1] Talks in Europe 1967, pg. 8
Despite all the horrific evidence, the charge of genocide brought by South Africa before the ICJ and all kinds of protests and demonstrations, the monstrous situation on the ground is being met with utter complacency on the part of the politicians as well as the vast majority of the established communication channels. The vaunted neutrality of the latter, once a virtue, now amounts to the most abject indifference towards the plight of the victims and, by implication, to a tacit collusion with the perpetrators. The attitude seems to be to treat this event as perfectly ordinary and commonplace. After all, there is a war here and a war there, there was a war yesterday and there will be a war tomorrow. War, like death, poverty and disease, will always be with us. People die in war, both combatants and civilians. Houses are demolished, roads are ploughed up by armored bulldozers, hospitals are bombed to smithereens, ambulances blown to bits, surgeons killed by snipers while at work in the operating room. The population is deprived of food, shelter, water, gas, electricity, sanitation and medicine. A whole people, most of them refugees from an earlier ethnic cleansing and survivors of previous military raids, half of them children, packed like sardines in a narrow strip of land and with no way out, the inmates of the biggest open-air concentration camp on earth, being butchered daily by one of the best equipped and deadly armies in the world. Might is right and the end justifies the means. This is realpolitik. Get on with the program!

Openly stated like that, this level of cynicism might sound rather shocking, but it is rampant. All you get to hear from our leading politicians, when they deign to speak of it, is their weak and hypocritical call for restraint on the part of the oppressors, while supporting them with trillions of dollars, supplying them with the most sophisticated and destructive weaponry, refusing to condemn their actions and systematically vetoing the calls for a ceasefire at the UN Security Council. We knew, since Hamlet’s days, that something was rotten in the State of Denmark, i.e. in all civilizations, states and societies, but this really puts the candied cherry on the cake. And that is not all, for a quick inquiry into the nature of this conflict reveals the central responsibility of western powers in the creation and perpetuation of a criminal injustice against the Palestinian people. Either our political elites don’t read history, or they are choosing to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. The record is clear and the information is widely available, so I suspect it must be the latter. And if so, then it is not a question of a lack of knowledge but of willful ignorance, which makes it all the more irresponsible and inexcusable.[1]

As we were saying before I went off into this rant about current affairs, the manifestation of conflict is a failure of intelligence and compassion. And if there is anything that stands out in this catastrophic situation, that is surely the glaring lack of compassion. The sustained way in which we dehumanize and destroy each other on account of our identities and their possessive demands for security and power is what keeps staining the printed as well as the psychological pages of history. K stated that our consciousness is the repository of the universal history of humanity and that, if we are aware of what that history entails and are concerned with changing the world, we must learn to read the book of ourselves. Reading this book from beginning to end, without skipping a page or missing a meaning, is the education we need if we are to dispel the darkness of self-ignorance and break the chain of violence and sorrow.

To learn from books is important, but what is far more important is to learn from the book of the story of yourself, because you are all mankind. To read that book is the art of learning. It is all there – the institutions, their pressures, the religious impositions and doctrines, their cruelty, their faiths. The social structure of all societies is the relationship between human beings with their greed, their ambitions, their violence, their pleasures, their anxieties. It is there if you know how to look. The book is not out there or hidden in yourself; it is all around you; you are part of that book. The book tells you the story of the human being, and it is to be read in your relationships, in your reactions, in your concepts and values. The book is the very centre of your being, and the learning is to read that book with exquisite care. The book tells you the story of the past, how the past shapes your mind, your heart and your senses. The past shapes the present, modifying itself according to the challenge of the moment. And in this endless movement of time human beings are caught. This is the conditioning of man. This conditioning has been the endless burden of man, of you and your brother.”
Letter 25, 1 September 1979
The Whole Movement of Life is Learning, pp. 98-99

This is no mere poetic metaphor but the very reality in which we are all existentially involved. There is no separating the individual from humanity, the inner from the outer, the ethical from the pragmatic, the historical from the psychological. It is all one movement for which we are all equally responsible, for we are one consciousness and one humanity on the one earth. We are brothers in this, mirror images of each other, so that to kill another is to kill oneself. So it comes down to the quality and depth of self-awareness and the consequent freedom from our egocentric conditioning, which is the birth of compassion and intelligence.

Be well, amigos, and let us read the book of our shared humanity with exquisite care,


[1] Suggested reading: The Hundred Year’s War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi; The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé; The Biggest Prison on Earth by Ilan Pappé; Gaza – An Inquest Into its Martyrdom by Norman Finkelstein. If you prefer not to read, talks by these same authors abound on YouTube.

Photos by J. Gómez Rodríguez: 1. Sunset, Het Bovenwater, Lelystad; 2. Evening, Hollandse Hout, Lelystad.
Email Marketing Powered by MailPoet