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Paris 4th Public Talk - 25th April 1968

Paris 4th Public Talk - 25th April 1968

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Talks in Europe 1968

I OFTEN WONDER why we go to meetings to listen to others, why we want to talk things over together, and indeed why we have problems at all. Human beings throughout the world seem to have so many, such multiple problems. And we go to meetings, like these, hoping to pick up some kind of idea, a formula, a way of life, that might perhaps be of some use or help us to overcome our many difficulties, the complex problem of living. And yet, although man has lived for millions of years, he is still struggling, always groping after something such as happiness or reality or a mind that is not disturbed, that can live in this world frankly, happily, sanely. And yet, strangely, we don't seem to come upon any of these realities that will be totally, lastingly satisfying. And now here we are for the fourth time, and I wonder why we meet or talk to each other at all? There has been so much propaganda, so many people have said how we should live, what we should do, what we should think; they have invented many theories - what the State should do, what society must be; and the theologians throughout the world state a fixed dogma or belief around which they build fantastic myths and theories. And through propaganda, the endless pouring out of words, we are shaped, our minds are conditioned and gradually we lose all feeling.

To us intellect is enormously important, thought is essential - thought which can operate logically, sanely, intelligently. But I wonder if thought has any place in relationship at all? Because that is what we are going to talk over together this evening. We said we must ask fundamental questions, essential questions. The last three times that we met here, we faced that enormous question to which man has been seeking an answer: what is the relationship of man, who is caught in this turmoil, in this endless misery (with a fluttering of occasional happiness), what is his relationship to that immense reality - if a relationship does exist at all? We went into that.

Perhaps this evening we may consider (not intellectually, but actually with our hearts, our minds, our whole being) we may succeed in giving complete attention to this question of man's relationship to man, and not only his relationship with another but also his relationship to nature, to the universe, to every living thing. But, as we saw, society is making us and we are making ourselves more and more mechanical, superficial, callous, indifferent - slaughter is going on in the Far East, and we are comparatively undisturbed. We have become very prosperous, but that very prosperity is destroying us, because we are becoming indifferent and lazy, because we are becoming mechanical, superficial and we are losing close relationship to all men, to all living things. And it seems to me that it is very important to ask this question: what is relationship, whether there is any relationship at all, and what place in that relationship love and thought and pleasure have?

As we said, we are going to consider this question, but not intellectually, because that means fragmentarily. We have broken up life into the intellect and the emotions, we have departmentalized our whole existence, with the specialist in the field of science, the artist, the writer, the priest and the ordinary laymen such as you and me! We are broken up into nationalities, into classes, divisions which grow wider and deeper. Let us consider this question of relationship, which is really extraordinarily important, because to live is to be related; and in considering this question of relationship we shall ask what it means to live. What is our life, which needs deep relationship with another, whether as wife, husband, children, family, community or any other unit? In considering it we cannot possibly deal with this question in fragments, because if we take one section, one part of the totality of existence and try to solve that one part, then there is no way out of it at all. But perhaps we shall be able to understand and live differently, if we can deal with this question of relationship totally, not in fragments (not as the individual and the community, and the individual opposing the community, the individual and society, the individual and religion and so on, as these are all fragmentations; they are all broken up). We are always trying to solve our problems by understanding a little fragment of this whole business of existence. So could we, at least for this evening (and I hope also for the rest of our lives) look at life not in fragments - as a Catholic, a Protestant, a specialist in Zen, or following a particular Guru, master, which is all so absurdly childish. We have got an immense problem, that is to understand existence, to understand how to live. And, as we said, living is relationship, there is no living if we are not related. And most of us, not being related in the deeper sense of that word, we try to identify ourselves with something - with the nation, with a particular system, or philosophy, or a particular dogma or belief. That's what is going on throughout the world, the identification of each individual with something - with the family, or with oneself. (And I don't know what it means to 'identify with oneself').

This fragmentary, separative existence, inevitably leads to various forms of violence. So, if we could give our attention to this question of relationship, then we could perhaps solve the social inequalities, injustices, immorality and that terrifying thing 'respectability' which man has cultivated; to be respectable is to be moral according to that which is really essentially immoral. So is there any relationship at all? Relationship implies being in contact, in touch, deeply, fundamentally, with nature, with another human being - to be related, not in blood, or as part of the family, or as husband and wife as these are hardly relationships at all. To find out the nature of this question, we must look at another issue, which is this whole mechanism of building images, putting them together, creating an idea, a symbol, in which man lives. Most of us have images about ourselves - what we think we are, what we should be, the image of oneself and the image of another; we have these images in relationship. You have the image about the speaker, and as the speaker doesn't know you he has no image. But if you know somebody very intimately you have already built an image, that very intimacy implies the image that you have about that person - the wife has an image about the husband and the husband has an image about her. Then there is the image of society and the images that one has about God, about truth, about everything.

How does this image come into being? And if it is there, as it is with practically everybody, then how can there be any real relationship? Relationship implies being in contact with each other deeply, profoundly. Out of that deep relationship there can be co-operation, working together, doing things together. But if there is an image - I have an image about you and you have an image about me - what relationship can exist, except the relationship of an idea, or a symbol, or a certain memory, which becomes the image. Do these images have relationships, and is that perhaps what relationship is? Can there be love in the real sense of that word (not according to the priests, or according to the theologians, or according to the Communist, or this or that person) but actually the quality of that feeling of love, when the relationship is merely conceptual, imaginative, not factual? There can only be a relationship between human beings when we accept what is, not what should be. We are always living in the world of formulas, concepts, which are the images of thought. So, can thought, can intellect, bring about right relationship? Can the mind, the brain, with all its self-protective instruments built up through millions of years - can that brain, which is the whole response of memory and thought, bring about right relationship between human beings? What place has the image, thought, in relationship? Has it any place at all?

I wonder if you ask these questions of yourself when you look at those chestnut trees with their blooms like white candles against the blue sky. What relationship exists between you and that, what relationship have you actually got (not emotionally nor sentimentally) what is your relationship with such things? And if you have lost the relationship with these things in nature, how can you be related to man? The more we live in towns, the less do we have any relation with nature. You go out for a walk on a Sunday and look at the trees and say 'How lovely', and go back to your life of routine, living in a series of drawers, which are called houses, flats. You are losing relationship with nature. You can see this by the fact that you go to museums and you spend a whole morning looking at pictures, abstractions of what is, and this shows that you have really totally lost your contact, your relationship with nature; pictures, concerts, statues, have all become terribly important and you never look at the tree, the bird, the marvellous lighting of a cloud.

Now, what is relationship? Have we any relationship with another at all? Are we so enclosed, self-protected that our relationship has become merely superficial, sensual, pleasurable? Because after all, if we examine ourselves very deeply and very quietly (not according to Freud or Jung or some other expert, but actually look at ourselves as we are) then perhaps we can find out how we isolate ourselves daily, how we build around ourselves a wall of resistance, of fear. To 'look' at ourselves is more important and much more fundamental than to look at ourselves according to specialists.

If you look at yourself according to Jung or Freud or the Buddha, or somebody else, you are looking through the eyes of another. And you are doing that all the time; we have no eyes of our own to look and therefore we lose the beauty of the 'look'.

So when you look at yourselves directly, don't you find that your daily activities (your thought, your ambitions, your demands, your aggressions, the constant longing to be loved and to love, the constant gnawing of fear, the agony of isolation) don't these all make for extraordinary separativeness and fundamental isolation? And when there is that deep isolation how can you be related to somebody else, to that other person who is also isolating himself, through his ambition, greed, avarice, demand for domination, possession, power and all the rest of it? So there are these two entities called human beings, living in their own isolation and breeding children and so on, but all this is isolation. And co-operation between these two isolated entities becomes mechanical; they must have some co-operation to live at all, to have a family, to go to the office or factory and work there, but they always remain isolated entities, with their beliefs and dogmas, their nationalities... you know all the screens that man has built around himself to separate himself from others. So that isolation is essentially the factor of not being related. And in that isolated (so-called) relationship, pleasure becomes most important.

In the world you can see how pleasure is becoming more and more demanding, insistent, because all pleasure, if you observe carefully, is a process of isolation; and one has to consider this question of pleasure in the context of relationship. Pleasure is the product of thought - isn't it? Pleasure was in the thing which you experienced yesterday, the beauty or the sensuous perception, or sexual sensuous excitement; you think about it, you build an image of that pleasure which you experienced yesterday. And so thought sustains, gives nourishment, to that thing which was called pleasurable yesterday. And so thought demands the continuity of that pleasure today. The more you think about that experience that you had, which gave you a delight at the moment, the more thought gives it a continuity as pleasure and desire. And what relationship has this to the fundamental question of human existence, which concerns how we are related? If our relationship is the outcome of sexual pleasure, or the pleasure of the family, of ownership, domination, control, the fear of not being protected, not having inward security and therefore always seeking pleasure - then what place has pleasure in relationship? The demand for pleasure does destroy all relationship, whether it be sexual or of any other kind. And if we observe clearly, all our so called moral values are based on pleasure, though we put it over with the righteous sounding morality of our respectable society.

So, when we ask ourselves, when we look at ourselves, deeply, we see this activity of self-isolation, the 'me', the 'I', the 'ego', building resistance round itself and that very resistance is the 'me'. That is isolation, that is what creates fragments, the fragmentary look of the thinker and the thought. So what place has pleasure, which is the outcome of a memory given sustenance and nourishment by thought (thought which is always old, which is never free) what has that thought, which has centred its existence in pleasure, to do with relationship? Do please ask yourselves this question, don't merely listen to the speaker - he is gone tomorrow and you have to live your own life; so the speaker is of no importance whatsoever. What is important is to ask these questions of yourself and to ask such questions you have to be terribly serious, you have to be completely dedicated to the search, because it is only when you are serious that you live, it's only when you are deeply, fundamentally, earnest that life opens, has meaning, has beauty. You have to ask this question: whether it is not a fact that you live in an image, in a formula, in an isolating fragment. Is it not out of that isolation that fear, with its pain and pleasure (the outcome of thought) has become aware of this isolation? That image then tries to identify itself with something permanent, God, truth, the nation, the flag and the rest of it.

So, if thought is old (and it is always old and therefore never free) how can thought understand relationship? Relationship is always in the present, in the living present, (not in the dead past of memory, of remembrances, of pleasure and pain) relationship is active, now, to be related means just that. When you look at somebody with eyes that are full of affection, love, there is immediate relationship. When you can look at a cloud with eyes that are seeing for the first time, then there is deep relationship. But if thought comes in, then that relationship belongs to the image. So then one asks: what is love? Is love pleasure? Is love desire? Is love a memory of the many things that have been built up, stored up, with regard to your wife, to your husband, to your neighbour, the society, the community, with your God - can that be said to be love?

If love is the product of thought, as it is with most people, then that love is hedged about, caught in the network of jealousy, of envy, the desire to dominate, to possess and be possessed, this longing to be loved and to love. In that, can there be love for the one and for the many? If I love one, do I destroy the love of the other? And as with most of us love is pleasure, companionship, comfort, the seclusion and the sense of being protected in the family, is there really any love? Can a man who is bound to his family love his neighbour? You may talk about love theoretically, go to church and love God (whatever that may mean) and the next day go to the office and destroy your neighbour - because you are competing with him and want his job, his possessions, and you want to better yourself, comparing yourself with him. So when all this activity is going on inside you, morning till night, even when you are asleep through your dreams, can you be related? Or is relationship something entirely different?

Relationship can only exist when there is total abandonment of the self, the 'me'. When the me is not, then you are related; in that there is no separation whatsoever. Probably one has not felt that, the total denial (not intellectually but actually) the total cessation of the 'me'. And perhaps that's what most of us are seeking, sexually or through identification with something greater. But that again, that process of identification with something greater is the product of thought; and thought is old (like the me, the ego, the I, it is of yesterday) it is always old. The question then arises: how is it possible to let go this isolating process completely, this process which is centred in the 'me'. How is this to be done? You understand the question? How am I (whose every activity of everyday life is of fear, anxiety, despair, sorrow, confusion and hope) how is the 'me' which separates itself from another, through identification with God, with its conditioning, with its society, with its social and moral activity with the State and so on - how is that to die, to disappear so that the human being can be related? Because if we are not related, then we are going to live at war with each other. There may be no killing of each other because that is becoming too dangerous, except in far away countries. How can we live so that there is no separation, so that we really can co-operate?

There is so much to do in the world, to wipe away poverty, to live happily, to live with delight instead of with agony and fear, to build a totally different kind of society, a morality which is above all morality. But this can only be when all the morality of present day society is totally denied. There is so much to do and it cannot be done if there is this constant isolating process going on. We speak of the 'me' and the 'mine', and the 'other' - the other is beyond the wall, the me and mine is this side of the wall. So how can that essence of resistance, which is the me, how can that be completely 'let go'? Because that is really the most fundamental question in all relationship, as one sees that the relationship between images is not relationship at all and that when that kind of relationship exists there must be conflict, that we must be at each other's throats.

When you put yourself that question, inevitably you'll say: 'Must I live in a vacuum, in a state of emptiness?' I wonder if you have ever known what it is to have a mind that is completely empty. You have lived in space that is created by the 'me' (which is a very small space). The space which the 'I', the self-isolating process, has built between one person and another, that is all the space we know - the space between itself and the circumference - the frontier which thought has built. And in this space we live, in this space there is division. You say: 'If I let myself go, or if I abandon the centre of 'me', I will live in a vacuum'. But have you ever really let go the 'me', actually, so that there is no 'me' at all? Have you ever lived in this world, gone to the office in that spirit, lived with your wife or with your husband? If you have lived that way you will know that there is a state of relationship in which the 'me' is not, which is not Utopia, which is not a thing dreamt about, or a mystical, nonsensical experience, but something that can be actually done - to live at a dimension where there is relationship with all human beings.

But that can only be when we understand what love is. And to be, to live in that state, one must understand the pleasure of thought and all its mechanism. Then all complicated mechanism that one has built for oneself, around oneself, can be seen at a glance. One hasn't got to go through all this analytical process point by point. All analysis is fragmentary and therefore there is no answer through that door.

There is this immense complex problem of existence, with all its fears, anxieties, hopes, fleeting happiness and joys, but analysis is not going to solve it. What will do so, is to take it all in swiftly, as a whole. You know you understand something only when you look (not with a prolonged trained look, the trained look of an artist, a scientist or the man who has practised 'how to look'), but you see it if you look at it with complete attention, you see the whole thing in one glance. And then you will see you are out of it. Then you are out of time; time has a stop and sorrow therefore ends. A man that is in sorrow, or fear, is not related. How can a man who is pursuing power have relationship? He may have a family, sleep with his wife, but he is not related. A man who is competing with another has no relationship at all. And all our social structure with its un-morality is based on this. To be fundamentally, essentially, related means the ending of the 'me' that breeds separation and sorrow.

25th April 1968