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Series III - Chapter 11 - ‘Psychological Revolution’
THERE WAS A great bustle and ado before the train started. The long carriages were very crowded full of people and full of smoke, every face hidden behind a newspaper; but luckily there were still one or two seats vacant. The train was electric, and soon it was out of the suburbs and gathering speed in the open country, passing the cars and buses on the highway which ran parallel to the tracks. It was beautiful country, green, rolling hills and ancient, historic towns. The sun was bright and gentle, for it was early spring, and the fruit trees were just beginning to show pink and white blossoms. The whole countryside was green, fresh and young, with tender leaves sparkling and dancing in the sun. It was a heavenly day, but the carriage was full of weary people, and the air was thick with tobacco smoke. A little girl and her mother sat just across the aisle and the mother was explaining to her that she must not stare at strangers; but the child paid no attention, and presently we smiled at each other. From then on she was at ease, looking up often to see if she was being looked at and smiling when our eyes met. presently she fell asleep, curled up on the seat, and the mother covered her with a coat.
It must be lovely to walk along that path through the fields, amidst so much beauty and clarity. People waved as we roared along beside the well-paved road. Big white bullocks were slowly pulling carts laden with manure, and some of the men who were driving them must have been singing, for their mouths were open, and one could see by their faces that they were enjoying themselves in that fresh morning air. There were men and women in the fields, digging, planting, sowing.
I wandered up the long aisle, with seats on both sides, towards the head of the train. Walking through the dining car and past the kitchen, I pushed open a door and entered the luggage van. No one stopped me. The many pieces of luggage were neatly arranged in racks, their labels fluttering in the draught. I went through another door, and there were the two engine-drivers, completely surrounded by large, wide windows which gave an unobstructed view all around of the lovely countryside. One of the men was manipulating the handle which controlled the current, and in front of him were the various meters. The other, who was watching and leisurely smoking, offered his seat, and taking a stool, sat directly behind me. He was very insistent that I sit there, and began to ask innumerable questions. In the middle of his questioning he would stop to point out the castles on the hill-tops, some of them in ruins, and others still well-preserved. He explained what those brilliant red and green lights meant, and would pull out his watch to see if we were on schedule at each station. We were doing between 100 and 110 kilometres, round the curves, up the gentle slopes, over the bridges, and on the long, straight runs; but we never went beyond 110. “If you got off at the station we just passed and took another train,” he said, “you would go to the town named after a famous saint.” Crashing over the switches, we went hurtling past stations with names that came down from ancient days. We were now running along the shores of a blue, misty lake, and could just see the towns on the other side. There had been a famous battle in this area on whose outcome the fate of a whole people had depended. Soon we had passed the lake, and climbing out of the valley, and around the curving hills, we left behind us the olive and the cypress, and found ourselves in a more rugged country. The man behind me announced the name of the muddy river as we ran beside it, and it looked so small and gentle for such a famous stream. The other man, who had removed his hand from the throttle only once or twice during the two-and-a-half-hour journey, apologized on behalf of them both for not being able to speak English. “But what does it matter,” he said, “since you understand our beautiful language?”
We were coming now to the outskirts of the big town, and the blue sky was obscured by its smoke.
There were several of us in that small room overlooking the beautiful lake, and it was quiet, though the birds were pleasantly noisy. Among the group was a big man, full of health and vigour, with sharp but gentle eyes, and slow, deliberate speech. As he was eager to talk, the others remained silent, but they would join in when they felt it to be necessary. “I have been in politics for many years, and have really worked for what I genuinely thought was the good of the country. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t seek power and position. I did seek it; I fought others for it, and as you may know, I have achieved it. I first heard you many years ago, and though some of the things you said hit home, your whole approach to life was for me only of momentary interest; it never took deep root. However, through the passing years, with all their struggle and pain, something has been maturing in me, and recently I have been attending your talks and discussions whenever I could. I now fully realize that what you are saying is the only way out of our confusing difficulties. I have been all over Europe and America, and for a time looked to Russia for a solution. I was an active worker in the Communist party, and with good and serious intent cooperated with its religious-political leaders. But now I am resigning from everything. It has all become corrupt and ineffectual, though in certain directions good progress was made. Having thought a great deal about these matters, I now want to examine the whole thing afresh, and I feel I am ready for something new and clear.”
To examine, one must not start with a conclusion, with a party loyalty or a bias; there must be no desire for success no demand for immediate action. If one is involved in any of these things, true examination is utterly impossible. To examine afresh the whole issue of existence the mind must be stripped clean of any personal motive, of any sense of frustration, of any seeking of power, whether for oneself of for one’s group, which is the same thing. That is so, isn’t it, sir?
“Please don’t call me ‘sir’! Of course, that is the only way to examine and to understand anything, but I don’t know if I am capable of it.”
Capacity comes with direct and immediate application. To examine the many complex issues of existence, we must start without being committed to any philosophy, to any ideology, to any system of thought or pattern of action. The capacity to comprehend is not a matter of time; it is an immediate perception is it not?
“If I perceive something to be poisonous, to avoid it is no problem, I simply don’t touch it. Similarly if I see that any kind of conclusion prevents the complete examination of the problems of life, then all conclusions, personal and collective, fall away; I don’t have to struggle to be free of them. Is that it?”
Yes but a clear statement of fact is not the actual fact. To be really free from conclusions is quiet another mater. Once we perceive that bias of any kind hinders complete examination, we may proceed to look without bias. But out of habit, the mind tends to fall back on authority, on deep-rooted tradition; and to be so aware of this tendency that it does not interfere with the process of examination is also necessary. With this understanding, shall we proceed?
Now, what is man’s most fundamental need? “Food, clothing and shelter; but to bring about an equitable distribution of these basic necessities becomes a problem, because man is by nature greedy and exclusive.”
You mean that he is encouraged and educated by society to be what he is? Now, another kind of society, through legislation and other forms of compulsion, may be able to force him not to be greedy and exclusive; but this only sets up a counter-reaction, and so there is a conflict between the individual, and the ideal established by the State, or by a powerful religious-political group. To bring about an equitable distribution of food, clothing, shelter, a totally different kind of social organization is necessary, is it not? Separate nationalities and there sovereign governments, power blocks and conflicting economic structures, as well as the cast system and organized religious – each of proclaims its way to be the only true way. All these must cease to be, which means that the whole hierarchical, authoritarian attitude towards life must come to an end.
“I can see that this is the only real revolution.”
It is a complete psychological revolution, and such a revolution is essential if man throughout the world is not to be in want of the basic physical necessities. The earth is ours, it is not English, Russian or American, nor does it belong to any ideological group. We are human beings, not Hindus, Buddhists, Christens or Muslims. All these divisions have to go, including the latest, Communist, if we are to bring about a totally different economic-social structure. It must start with you and me.
“Can I act politically to help bring about such a revolution?”
If one may ask, what do you mean when you talk about acting politically? Is political action, whatever that may be, separate from the total action of man, or is it part of it? “By political action, I mean action at the governmental level: legislative, economic administrative, and so on.”
Surely, if political action is separate from the total action of man, if it does not take into consideration his whole being, his psychological as well as his physical state, then it is mischievous, bringing further confusion and misery; and this is exactly what is taking place in the world at the present time. Cannot man, with all his problems, act as a complete human being, and not as a political entity, separated from his psychological or ‘spiritual’ state? A tree is the root, the trunk, the branch, the leaf and the flower. Any action which is not comprehensive, total, must inevitably lead to sorrow. There is only total human action, not political action, religious action, or Indian action. Action which is separative, fragmentary, always leads to conflict both within and without.
“This means that political action is impossible, doesn’t it?”
Not at all. The comprehension of total action surely does not prevent political, educational or religious activity. These are not separate activities, they are all part of a unitary process which will express itself in different directions. What is important is this unitary process, and not a separate political action, however apparently beneficial. “I think I see what you mean. If I have this total understanding of man, or of myself, my attention may be turned in different directions, as necessary, but all my actions will be in direct relation to the whole. Action which is separative, departmentalized can only produce chaotic results, as I am beginning to realize. Seeing all this, not as a politician, but as a human being, my outlook on life utterly changes; I am no longer of any country, of any party, of any particular religion. I need to know God, as I need to have food, clothing and shelter; but if I seek the one apart from the other, my search will only lead to various forms of disaster and confusion. Yes, I see this is so. politics, religion and education are all intimately related to each other.
“All right, sir, I am no longer a politician, with a political bias in action. As a human being, not as a Communist, a Hindu or a Christian, I want to educate my son. Can we consider this problem?”
Integrated life and action is education. Integration does not come about through conformity to a pattern, either one’s own, or that of another. It comes into being through understanding the many influences that impinge on the mind; through being aware of them without being caught in them. The parents and society are conditioning the child by suggestion, by subtle, unexpressed desires and compulsions, and by the constant reiteration of certain dogmas and beliefs. To help the child to be aware of all these influences, with their inward, psychological significance, to help him understand the ways of authority and not be caught in the net of society is education.
Education is not merely a matter of imparting a technique which will equip the boy to get a job, but it is to help him discover what it is he loves to do. This love cannot exist if he is seeking success, fame or power; and to help the child understand this is education.
Self-knowledge is education. In education there is neither the teacher nor the taught, there is only learning; the educator is learning, as the student is. Freedom has no beginning and no ending; to understand this is education.
Each of these points has to be carefully gone into, and we haven’t the time now to consider too many details.
“I think I understand, in a general sense, what you mean by education. But where are the people who will teach in this new way? Such educators simply don’t exist.”
For how many years did you say you worked in the political field? “For more years than I care to remember. I am afraid it was well over twenty.”
Surely, to educate the educator, one must work for it as arduously as you worked in politics – only it is a much more strenuous task which demands deep psychological insight. Unfortunately, no one seems to care about right education, yet it is far more important than any other single factor in bringing about a fundamental social transformation.
“Most of us, especially the politicians, are so concerned with immediate results, that we think only in short terms, and have no long-range view of things. “Now, may I ask one more question? In all that we have been talking about, where does inheritance come in?”
What do you mean by inheritance? Are you referring to the inheritance of property, or to psychological inheritance? “I was thinking of the inheritance of property. To tell you the truth, I have never thought about the other.”
Psychological inheritance is as conditioning as the inheritance of property; both limit and hold the mind in a particular pattern of society, which prevents a fundamental transformation of society. If our concern is to bring about a wholly different culture, a culture not based on ambition and acquisitiveness then psychological inheritance becomes a hindrance. “What exactly do you mean by psychological inheritance?”
The imprint of the past on the young mind; the conscious and unconscious conditioning of the student to obey, to conform. The Communists are now doing this very efficiently, as the Catholics have for generations. Other religious sects are also doing it, but not so purposefully or effectively. parents and society are shaping the minds of the children through tradition, belief, dogma, conclusion, opinion, and this psychological inheritance prevents the coming into being of a new social order.
“I can see that; but to put a stop to this form of inheritance is almost an impossibility, isn’t it?”
If you really see the necessity of putting a stop to this form of inheritance, then will you not give immense attention to bringing about the right kind of education for your son? “Again, most of us are so caught up in our own preoccupations and fears that we don’t go into these matters very deeply, if at all. We are a generation of double-talkers and word-slingers. The inheritance of property is another difficult problem. We all want to own something, a piece of earth, however small, or another human being; and if it is not that, then we want to own ideologies or beliefs. We are incorrigible in our pursuit of possessions.”
But when you realize very deeply that inheriting property is as destructive as psychological inheritance, then you will set about helping your children to be free from both forms of inheritance. You will educate them to be completely self-sufficient, not to depend on your own or other people’s favour, to love their work, and to have confidence in their capacity to work without ambition, without worshipping success; you will teach them to have the feeling of cooperative responsibility, and therefore to know when not to cooperate. Then there is no need for your children to inherit your property. They are free human beings from the very beginning, and not slaves either to the family or to society.
“This is an ideal which I am afraid can never be realized.”
It is not an ideal, it is not something to be achieved in the never-never land of some far-distant Utopia. Understanding is now not in the future. Understanding is action. Understanding doesn’t come first, and action later; action and realization are inseparable. In the very moment of seeing a cobra, there is action. If the truth of all that we have been talking about this morning is seen, then action is inherent in that perception. But we are so caught up in words, in the stimulating things of the intellect, that words and intellect become a hindrance to action. So-called intellectual understanding is only the hearing of verbal explanations, or the listening to ideas, and such understanding has no significance, as the mere description of food has no point to a hungry man. Either you understand, or you don’t. Understanding is a total process, it is not separated from action, nor is it the result of time.