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Series I - Chapter 43 - 'Consistency'

Series I - Chapter 43 - 'Consistency'

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Commentaries on Living

HE WAS OBVIOUSLY intelligent, active, and given to reading a few select books. Though married, he was not a family man. He called himself an idealist and a social worker; he had been to prison for political reasons, and had many friends. He was not concerned with making a name either for himself or for the party, which he recognised as the same thing. He was really interested in doing social work which might lead to some human happiness. He was what you might call a religious man, but not sentimental or superstitious, nor a believer in any particular doctrine or ritual. He said he had come to talk over the problem of contradiction, not only within himself but in Nature and in the world. It seemed to him that this contradiction was inevitable: the intelligent and the stupid, the conflicting desires within oneself, the word in conflict with the act and the act with the thought. This contradiction he had found everywhere.

To be consistent is to be thoughtless. It is easier and safer to follow a pattern of conduct without deviation, to conform to an ideology or a tradition, than to risk the pain of thought. To obey authority, inner or outer, needs no questioning; it obviates thought, with its anxieties and disturbances. To follow our own conclusions, experiences, determinations, creates no contradictions within us; we are being consistent to our own purpose; we choose a particular path and follow it, unyielding and determined. Do not most of us seek a way of life which is not too disturbing, in which at least there is psychological security? And how we respect a man who lives up to his ideal! We make examples of such men, they are to be followed and worshipped, The approximation to an ideal, though it requires a certain amount of exertion and struggle, is on the whole pleasurable and gratifying; for after all, ideals are homemade, self-protected. You choose your hero, religious or worldly, and follow him. The desire to be consistent gives a peculiar strength and satisfaction, for in sincerity there is security. But sincerity is not simplicity, and without simplicity there can be no understanding. To be consistent to a well-thought-out pattern of conduct gratifies the urge for achievement, and in its success there is comfort and security. The setting up of an ideal and the constant approximation to it cultivates resistance, and adaptability is within the limits of the pattern. Consistency offers safety and certainty, and that is why we cling to it with desperation.

To be in self-contradiction is to live in conflict and sorrow. The self, in its very structure, is contradictory; it is made up of many entities with different masks, each in opposition to the other. The whole fabric of the self is the result of contradictory interests and values, of many varying desires at different levels of its being; and these desires all beget their own opposites. The self, the "me," is a network of complex desires, each desire having its own impetus and aim, often in opposition to other hopes and pursuits. These masks are taken on according to stimulating circumstances and sensations; so within the structure of the self, contradiction is inevitable. This contradiction within us breeds illusion and pain, and to escape from it we resort to all manner of self-deceptions which only increase our conflict and misery. When the inner contradiction becomes unbearable, consciously or unconsciously we try to escape through death, through insanity; or we give ourselves over to an idea, to a group, to a country, to some activity that will completely absorb our being; or we turn to organized religion, with its dogmas and rituals. So this split in ourselves leads either to further self-expansion or to self-destruction, insanity. Trying to be other than what we are cultivates contradiction; the fear of what is breeds the illusion of its opposite, and in the pursuit of the opposite we hope to escape from fear. Synthesis is not the cultivation of the opposite; synthesis does not come about through opposition, for all opposites contain the elements of their own opposites. The contradiction in ourselves leads to every kind of physical and psychological response whether gentle or violent, respectable or dangerous; and consistency only further confuses and obscures the contradiction. The one-pointed pursuit of a single desire, of a particular interest, leads to sell-enclosing opposition. Contradiction within brings conflict without and conflict indicates contradiction. Only through understanding the ways of desire is there freedom from sell-contradiction.

Integration can never be limited to the upper layers of the mind; it is not something to be learnt in a school; it does not come into being with knowledge or with self-immolation. Integration alone brings freedom from consistency and contradiction; but integration is not a matter of fusing into one all desires and multiple interests. Integration is not conformity to a pattern, however noble and cunning; it must be approached, not directly, positively, but obliquely, negatively. To have a conception of integration is to conform to a pattern, which only cultivates stupidity and destruction. To pursue integration is to make of it an ideal, a self-projected goal. Since all ideals are self-projected, they inevitably cause conflict and enmity. What the self projects must be of its own nature, and therefore contradictory and confusing. Integration is not an idea, a mere response of memory, and so it cannot be cultivated. The desire for integration comes into being because of conflict; but through cultivating integration, conflict is not transcended. You may cover up, deny contradiction, or be unconscious of it; but it is there, waiting to break out.

Conflict is our concern and not integration. Integration, like peace, is a by-product not an end in itself; it is merely a result, and so of secondary importance. In understanding conflict there will not only be integration and peace, but something infinitely greater. Conflict cannot be suppressed or sublimated, nor is there a substitute for it. Conflict comes with craving, with the desire to continue, to become more - which does not mean that there must be stagnating contentment. "More" is the constant cry of the self; it is the craving for sensation, whether of the past or of the future. Sensation is of the mind, and so the mind is not the instrument for the understanding of conflict. Understanding is not verbal, it is not a mental process, and therefore not a matter of experience. Experience is memory, and without word, symbol, image, there is no memory. You may read volumes about conflicts but it can have nothing to do with the understanding of conflict. To understand conflict, thought must not interfere; there must be an awareness of conflict without the thinker. The thinker is the chooser who invariably takes sides with the pleasant, the gratifying, and thereby sustains conflict; he may get rid of one particular conflict but the soil is there for further conflict. The thinker justifies or condemns, and so prevents understanding. With the thinker absent, there is the direct experiencing of conflict, but not as an experience which an experiencer is undergoing. In the state of experiencing there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced. Experiencing is direct; then relationship it direct, and not through memory. It is this direct relationship that brings understanding. Understanding brings freedom from conflict; and with freedom from conflict there is integration.