The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 3: February 2022

Dear Friends,

This month the storms have caused a great deal of havoc in these northern latitudes. The gale force winds uprooted trees, brought down power lines and blew off rooftops, causing massive disruption to public transport, leaving thousands of homes without electricity, and spreading a sense of general unease and insecurity, not to say panic. In some countries the heavy downpours caused significant flooding. The old rickety fence separating my backyard from the neighbour’s was torn to shreds. These sorts of high winds used to be frequent in the Autumn, but they seem to have changed seasons. They say this phenomenon is the result of very high-speed air currents in the Jet Stream. The Jet Stream is a complex dynamic system involving the interaction of several layers in the upper atmosphere. The meteorological explanation is rather complex, and I could not even begin to make sense of it. Here in The Netherlands, we got three general alerts on our mobiles telling us to stay indoors, as it was too dangerous to go outside. The images in the news were an impressive testimony to the power of the elements as well as to the profound interconnectedness of everything on this beautiful planet we call Earth.

At such times life seems rather fragile and impermanent. Life, a miraculous exception in the known universe. That very uniqueness should make us value it all the more. But what do we actually make of it? Biology is the science of life, but it studies it as evolutionary organic existence. That is complex enough, but for us human beings it would seem to involve a good deal more. K’s answer is that life is relationship, that nothing exists in isolation. That might refer, in the first place, to the organic interdependence of all things on Earth, in the universe, but it points not just to the co-dependent unfoldment of existence – every living thing is the result of the vast interaction of genetic makeup, mutation and environment –, but to our own relationship with nature, things, people and ideas. When we examine these relationships, we can see that not everything is in order. On the contrary, disorder prevails.

In our modern historical period – roughly since the so-called Enlightenment –, science and technology increased our power and launched the industrial revolution. This rapid economic expansion, however, rode on the back of colonialism and its militaristic culture, if culture is the word for such a heinous institution. Rival colonial powers competed for territorial expansion and influence. The tribal, nationalistic mentality prevailed, slavery was good business and war was the inevitable consequence of the game of power. This whole structure involved an exploitative approach to nature and other people, a materialist view of the world and human happiness, and the acceptance of violence as the needful complement of success. The whole system was underpinned by social Darwinism, which translated the natural selection of evolution into the rat race of socioeconomic progress. Few cared to see the ruthlessness, cruelty and destructive implications of a system based on the survival of the fittest. The survivalist mentality and its progressive utopia seemed to keep everyone in line. After all, it promised untold riches, glory and security for the victors in the cut-throat competition. Little did they suspect that it was all leading to the destruction of nature, massive social and political upheavals, and devastating global conflicts, culminating in the universal threat of mutually assured annihilation thanks to the very science and technology on which our civilization had placed its hopes. The contradictions could not have been starker, for the way of progress carried the seeds of its own destruction, exposing the barbaric underbelly of ‘civilization’.

If our historical understanding is correct, we might expect that we would have learned something from it and taken a different course. Some improvements were made, such as the development of the welfare state and the creation of various areas of international cooperation. The very founding of the European Union was a major step in the undoing of one of the major causes of war, namely nationalism. It also renounced any imperialist ambitions, which made it a beacon of peace. But, in the main, the old geopolitical divisions remained. The power blocks shifted from one group to the other, but the same old pattern of conflict kept repeating itself. The combined cultural package of race, nationality, ideology and belief that goes into making these separate territorial identities has proved extremely resistant to change.

The recent and ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the utter fragility of the socio-political order. Just when we thought we were well on track to establish a firm foundation of cooperation and peace on the Continent, war breaks out in the East, raising the darker spectre of an unthinkable third world war. (Tragically, that possibility is implicit in our current geopolitical organisation, which is itself the product of thought.) This outbreak of hostilities has shocked us all. Independently of the specific issues at stake, such as the concern with security, the revindication of historical claims, the rivalries of superpowers over spheres of influence, and the good old animosities of pride and prejudice, this aggressive action should have been avoided, as such differences could have been resolved by peaceful means. Instead, reason yielded to the old knee-jerk reaction whereby war is the preferred option. War is barbaric from any point of view. The killing of human beings is a monstrous act that denies our own humanity. And it does not matter who does it, what ideology or political system they represent, whether democratic or dictatorial, religious or secular. These are not of the essence, but rather the predisposition to exploitation and violence that is innate to the political agencies of organized self-interest. And as long as we share in such self-interests and identify with such tribal entities, we are all responsible for the divisions that bring about war:

Photo 1: Photo: F. Grohe

Photo 2: Photo: F. Grohe

“No external imposition, laws, systems, will ever stop the killing of man. Nor will any intellectual, romantic, convictions stop wars. They will stop only when you, as the rest of humanity, see the truth that as long as there is division in any form, there must be conflict, limited or wide, narrow or expansive, that there must be struggle, conflict, pain. So you are responsible, not only to your children, but to the rest of humanity. Unless you deeply understand this, not verbally or ideationally or merely intellectually, but feel this in your blood, in your way of looking at life, in your actions, you are supporting organized murder which is called war.”
Krishnamurti to Himself, pg. 62

K used to say that war is the bloody and dramatic expression of our daily lives. We create the conditions for such fratricidal conflicts with our parochial nationalism, our egocentric search for security, ambition, greed and lust for power. Our territorial and ideological identifications divide the globe and bring about the disasters of war, whereas the earth belongs to all:

“It is our earth, not yours or mine or his. We are meant to live on it, helping each other, not destroying each other. This is not some romantic nonsense but the actual fact. But man has divided the earth, hoping thereby that in the particular he is going to find happiness, security, a sense of abiding comfort. Until a radical change takes place and we wipe out all nationalities, all ideologies, all religious divisions and establish a global relationship – psychologically first, inwardly before organising the outer – we shall go on with wars. If you harm others, if you kill others, whether in anger or by organised murder which is called war, you, who are the rest of humanity, not a separate human being fighting the rest of mankind, are destroying yourself.”
Krishnamurti to Himself, pg. 60

Every war is a suicidal act because mankind is one. This oneness was for K an absolute fact on which all manner of cultures had imposed the illusion of group separateness and individuality. He expressed it most succinctly in his key statement that each of us is the world and the world is us. This unity of humanity rests on the deeper perception that no matter where we live, what race we belong to, what country, what climate or culture, what political regime, social strata or degree of knowledge and sophistication, we all go through the same basic existential experiences. These reveal the shared structure and content of consciousness. It is this universal consciousness which constitutes the common ground of humanity:

“A human being psychologically is the whole of mankind. He not only represents it, but he is the whole of the human species. He is essentially the whole psyche of mankind. On this actuality various cultures have imposed the illusion that each human being is different. In this illusion mankind has been caught for centuries, and this illusion has become a reality. If you observe closely the whole psychological structure of yourself, you will find that just as you suffer, so does all mankind suffer in various degrees. If you are lonely, the whole of humankind knows this loneliness. Agony, jealousy, envy and fear are known to all. So psychologically, inwardly, you are like another human being. There may be differences physically, biologically – one is tall, or short and so on – but basically you are the representative of all mankind.”
The Whole Movement of Life is Learning, pg. 19

For K, the realization of the oneness of humanity is the birth of compassion, with its deep sense of care and responsibility for the whole. One wonders how much suffering it will take before the simple truth that we are the world dawns on us. And who is going to take responsibility for this wider, deeper and longer view of the human condition? We certainly need a radically different kind of education. We need a completely different set of values on which to build our socioeconomic structures. The ideological and theological constructs of the past have all failed. The leaders have all led us up the garden path. We would seem to be on our own and unable to stop the winds of war that threaten to turn our children into cannon fodder. However, if each of us is the whole of humanity, then we can do something about it. It is then a matter of becoming fully aware of ourselves in our relationships:

“To be is to be related, and there is no such thing as living in isolation. It is the lack of right relationship that brings about conflicts, misery and strife; however small our world may be, if we can transform our relationship in that narrow world, it will be like a wave extending outward all the time. I think it is important to see that point, that the world is our relationship, however narrow; and if we can bring a transformation there, not a superficial but a radical transformation, then we shall begin actively to transform the world. Real revolution is not according to any particular pattern, either of the left or of the right, but it is a revolution of values, a revolution from sensate values to the values that are not sensate or created by environmental influences. To find these true values which will bring about a radical revolution, a transformation or a regeneration, it is essential to understand oneself. Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, and therefore the beginning of transformation or regeneration.”
The First and Last Freedom, pg. 43

It may seem like a drop in the ocean when compared to the disastrous events unfolding as we speak. Some might even see it, in the heat of the moment, as navel gazing. But these events, tragic as they undoubtedly are, have their roots in a deeply entrenched pattern of conditioning in which we are all involved. It is the continuation of these psychological patterns that causes history to repeat itself. We are the world and totally responsible for it, so we need to stop contributing to that destructive stream of consciousness. If we see that it is one earth, one humanity and one consciousness, we may begin to awaken the flame of compassion that might light the way of peace in a world of violence.


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