Mysticism, Religion and Science

The warfare between science and theology has been of a peculiar sort. At all times and places — except late eighteenth-century France and Soviet Russia - the majority of scientific men have supported the orthodoxy of their age. Some of the most eminent have been in the majority. Newton, though an Arian, was in all other respects a supporter of the Christian faith. Cuvier was a model of Catholic correctness. Faraday was a Sandymanian, but the errors of that sect did not seem, even to him, to be demonstrable by scientific arguments, and his views as to the relations of science and religion were such as every Churchman could applaud. The warfare was between theology and science, not the men of science. Even when the men of science held views which were condemned, they generally did their best to avoid conflict. Copernicus... dedicated his book to the Pope; Galileo retracted; Descartes, though he thought it prudent to live in Holland, took great pains to remain on good terms with ecclesiastics, and by a calculated silence escaped censure for sharing Galileo's opinions. In the nineteenth century, most British men of science still thought that there was no essential conflict between their science and those parts of the Christian faith which liberal Christians still regarded as essential — for it had been found possible to sacrifice the literal truth of the Flood, and even of Adam and Eve.

The situation in the present day is not very different from what it has been at all times since the victory of Copernicanism. Successive scientific discoveries have caused Christians to abandon one after another of the beliefs which the Middle Ages regarded as integral parts of the faith, and these successive retreats have enabled men of science to remain Christians, unless their work is on that disputed frontier which the warfare has reached in our day. Now, as at most times during the last three centuries, it is proclaimed that science and religion have become reconciled: the scientists modestly admit that there are realms which lie outside science, and the liberal theologians concede that they would not venture to deny anything capable of scientific proof. There are, it is true, still a few disturbers of the peace: on the one side, fundamentalists and stubborn Catholic theologians; on the other side, the more radical students of such subjects as biochemistry and animal psychology, who refuse to grant even the comparatively modest demands of the more enlightened Churchmen. But on the whole the fight is languid as compared with what it was. The newer creeds of Communism and Fascism are the inheritors of theological bigotry; and perhaps, in some deep region of the unconscious, bishops and professors feel themselves jointly interested in the maintenance of the status quo.

The present relations between science and religion, as the State wishes them to appear, may be ascertained from a very instructive volume, Science and Religion, A Symposium, consisting of twelve talks broadcast from the B.B.C. in the autumn of 1930. Outspoken opponents of religion were, of course, not included, since (to mention no other argument) they would have pained the more orthodox among the listeners. There was, it is true, an excellent introductory talk by Professor Julian Huxley, which contained no support for even the most shadowy orthodoxy; but it also contained little that liberal Churchmen would now find objectionable. The speakers who permitted themselves to express definite opinions, and to advance arguments in their favour, took up a variety of positions, ranging from Professor Malinowski's pathetic avowal of a balked longing to believe in God and immortality to Father O'Hara's bold assertion that the truths of revelation are more certain than those of science, and must prevail where there is conflict; but, although the details varied, the general impression conveyed was that the conflict between religion and science is at an end. The result was all that could have been hoped. Thus Canon Streeter, who spoke late, said that "a remarkable thing about the foregoing lectures has been the way in which their general drift has been moving in one and the same direction…. An idea has kept on recurring that science by itself is not enough." Whether this unanimity is a fact about science and religion, or about the authorities which control the B.B.C., may be questioned; but it must be admitted that, in spite of many differences, the authors of the symposium do show something very like agreement on the point mentioned by Canon Streeter.

Thus Sir J. Arthur Thomson says: "Science as science never asks the question Why? That is to say, it never inquires into the meaning, or significance, or purpose of this manifold Being, Becoming, and Having Been." And he continues: "Thus science does not pretend to be a bedrock of truth." "Science," he tells us, "cannot apply its methods to the mystical and spiritual." Professor J. S. Haldane holds that "it is only within ourselves, in our active ideals of truth, right, charity, and beauty, and consequent fellowship with others, that we find the revelation of God." Dr. Malinowski says that "religious revelation is an experience which, as a matter of principle, lies beyond the domain of science." I do not, for the moment, quote the theologians, since their concurrence with such opinions is to be expected.

Before going further, let us try to be clear as to what is asserted, and as to its truth or falsehood. When Canon Streeter says that "science is not enough," he is, in one sense, uttering a truism. Science does not include art, or friendship, or various other valuable elements in life. But of course more than this is meant. There is another, rather more important, sense in which "science is not enough," which seems to me also true: science has nothing to say about values, and cannot prove such propositions as "it is better to love than to hate" or "kindness is more desirable than cruelty." Science can tell us much about the means of realizing our desires, but it cannot say that one desire is preferable to another...

But the authors I have quoted certainly mean to assert something further, which I believe to be false. "Science does not pretend to be a bedrock of truth" (my italics) implies that there is another, non-scientific method of arriving at truth. "Religious revelation … lies beyond the domain of science" tells us something as to what this non-scientific method is. It is the method of religious revelation. Dean Inge is more explicit: "The proof of religion, then, is experimental." [He has been speaking of the testimony of the mystics.] "It is a progressive knowledge of God under the three attributes by which He has revealed Himself to mankind — what are sometimes called the absolute or eternal values — Goodness or Love, Truth, and Beauty. If that is all, you will say, there is no reason why religion should come into conflict with natural science at all. One deals with facts, the other with values. Granting that both are real, they are on different planes. This is not quite true. We have seen science poaching upon ethics, poetry, and what not. Religion cannot help poaching either." That is to say, religion must make assertions about what is, and not only about what ought to be. This opinion, avowed by Dean Inge, is implicit in the words of Sir J. Arthur Thomson and Dr. Malinowski.

Ought we to admit that there is available, in support of religion, a source of knowledge which lies outside science and may properly be described as "revelation"? This is a difficult question to argue, because those who believe that truths have been revealed to them profess the same kind of certainty in regard to them that we have in regard to objects of sense. We believe the man who has seen things through the telescope that we have never seen; why then, they ask, should we not believe them when they report things that are to them equally unquestionable?

It is, perhaps, useless to attempt an argument such as will appeal to the man who has himself enjoyed mystic illumination. But something can be said as to whether we others should accept this testimony. In the first place, it is not subject to the ordinary tests. When a man of science tells us the result of an experiment, he also tells us how the experiment was performed; others can repeat it, and if the result is not confirmed it is not accepted as true; but many men might put themselves into the situation in which the mystic's vision occurred without obtaining the same revelation. To this it may be answered that a man must use the appropriate sense: a telescope is useless to a man who keeps his eye shut. The argument as to the credibility of the mystic's testimony may be prolonged almost indefinitely. Science should be neutral, since the argument is a scientific one, to be conducted exactly as an argument would be conducted about an uncertain experiment. Science depends upon perception and inference; its credibility is due to the fact that the perceptions are such as any observer can test. The mystic himself may be certain that he knows, and he has no need of scientific tests; but those who are asked to accept his testimony will subject it to the same kind of scientific tests as those applied to men who say they have been to the North Pole. Science, as such, should have no expectation, positive or negative, as to the result.

The chief argument in favour of the mystics is their agreement with each other. "I know nothing more remarkable," says Dean Inge, "than the unanimity of the mystics, ancient, medieval, and modern, Protestant, Catholic, and even Buddhist or Mohammedan, though the Christian mystics are the most trustworthy." I do not wish to underrate the force of this argument, which I acknowledged long ago in a book called Mysticism and Logic. The mystics vary greatly in their capacity for giving verbal expression to their experiences, but I think we make take it that those who succeeded best all maintain: (1) that all division and separateness is unreal, and that the universe is a single indivisible unity; (2) that evil is illusory, and that the illusion arises through falsely regarding a part as self-subsistent; (3) that time is unreal, and that reality is eternal, not in the sense of being everlasting, but in the sense of being wholly outside time. I do not pretend that this is a complete account of the matters on which all mystics concur, but the three propositions that I have mentioned may serve as representatives of the whole. Let us now imagine ourselves a jury in a law-court, whose business it is to decide on the credibility of the witnesses who make these three somewhat surprising assertions.

We shall find, in the first place, that, while the witnesses agree up to a point, they disagree totally when that point is passed, although they are just as certain as when they agree. Catholics, but not Protestants, may have visions in which the Virgin appears; Christians and Mohammedans, but not Buddhists, may have great truths revealed to them by the Archangel Gabriel; the Chinese mystics of the Tao tell us, as a direct result of their central doctrine, that all government is bad, whereas most European and Mohammedan mystics, with equal confidence, urge submission to constituted authority. As regards the points where they differ, each group will argue that the other groups are untrustworthy; we might, therefore, if we were content with a mere forensic triumph, point out that most mystics think most other mystics mistaken on most points. They might, however, make this only half a triumph by agreeing on the greater importance of the matters about which they are at one, as compared with those as to which their opinions differ. We will, in any case, assume that they have composed their differences, and concentrated the defence at these three points — namely, the unity of the world, the illusory nature of evil, and the unreality of time. What test can we, as impartial outsiders, apply to their unanimous evidence?

As men of scientific temper, we shall naturally first ask whether there is any way by which we can ourselves obtain the same evidence at first hand. To this we shall receive various answers. We may be told that we are obviously not in a receptive frame of mind, and that we lack the requisite humility; or that fasting and religious meditation are necessary; or (if our witness is Indian or Chinese) that the essential prerequisite is a course of breathing exercises. I think we shall find that the weight of experimental evidence is in favour of this last view, though fasting also has been frequently found effective. As a matter of fact, there is a definite physical discipline, called yoga, which is practised in order to produce the mystic's certainty, and which is recommended with much confidence by those who have tried it. Breathing exercises are its most essential feature, and for our purposes we may ignore the rest.

In order to see how we could test the assertion that yoga gives insight, let us artificially simplify this assertion. Let us suppose that a number of people assure us that if, for a certain time, we breathe in a certain way, we shall become convinced that time is unreal. Let us go further, and suppose that, having tried their recipe, we have ourselves experienced a state of mind such as they describe. But now, having returned to our normal mode of respiration, we are not quite sure whether the vision was to be believed. How shall we investigate this question?

First of all, what can be meant by saying that time is unreal? If we really meant what we say, we must mean that such statements as "this is before that" are mere empty noise, like "twas brillig." If we suppose anything less than this — as, for example, that there is a relation between events which puts them in the same order as the relation of earlier and later, but that it is a different relation — we shall not have made any assertion that makes any real change in our outlook. It will be merely like supposing that the Iliad was not written by Homer, but by another man of the same name. We have to suppose that there are no "events" at all; there must be only the one vast whole of the universe, embracing whatever is real in the misleading appearance of a temporal procession. There must be nothing in reality corresponding to the apparent distinction between earlier and later events. To say that we are born, and then grow, and then die, must be just as false as to say that we die, then grow small, and finally are born. The truth of what seems an individual life is merely the illusory isolation of one element in the timeless and indivisible being of the universe. There is no distinction between improvement and deterioration, no difference between sorrows that end in happiness and happiness that ends in sorrow. If you find a corpse with a dagger in it, it makes no difference whether the man died of the wound or the dagger was plunged in after death. Such a view, if true, puts an end, not only to science, but to prudence, hope, and effort; it is incompatible with worldly wisdom, and — what is more important to religion — with morality.

Most mystics, of course, do not accept these conclusions in their entirety, but they urge doctrines from which these conclusions inevitably follow. Thus Dean Inge rejects the kind of religion that appeals to evolution, because it lays too much stress upon a temporal process. "There is no law of progress, and there is no universal progress," he says. And again: "The doctrine of automatic and universal progress, the lay religion of many Victorians, labours under the disadvantage of being almost the only philosophical theory which can be definitely disproved." On this matter... I find myself in agreement with the Dean, for whom, on many grounds, I have a very high respect. But he naturally does not draw from his premises all the inferences which seem to me to be warranted.

It is important not to caricature the doctrine of mysticism, in which there is, I think, a core of wisdom. Let us see how it seeks to avoid the extreme consequences which seem to follow from the denial of time.

The philosophy based on mysticism has a great tradition, from Parmenides to Hegel. Parmenides says: "What is, is uncreated and indestructible; for it is complete, immovable, and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be; for now it is, all at once, a continuous one." He introduced into metaphysics the distinction between reality and appearance, or the way of truth and the way of opinion, as he calls them. It is clear that whoever denies the reality of time must introduce some such distinction, since obviously the world appears to be in time. It is also clear that, if everyday experience is not to be wholly illusory, there must be some relation between appearance and the reality behind it. It is at this point, however, that the greatest difficulties arise: if the relation between appearance and reality is made too intimate, all the unpleasant features of appearance will have their unpleasant counterparts in reality, while if the relation is made too remote, we shall be unable to make inferences from the character of appearance to that of reality, and reality will be left a vague Unknowable, as with Herbert Spencer. For Christians, there is the related difficulty of avoiding pantheism: if the world is only apparent, God created nothing, and the reality corresponding to the world is a part of God; but if the world is in any degree real and distinct from God, we abandon the wholeness of everything, which is an essential doctrine of mysticism, and we are compelled to suppose that, in so far as the world is real, the evil which it contains is also real. Such difficulties make thorough-going mysticism very difficult for an orthodox Christian. As the Bishop of Birmingham says: "All forms of pantheism… as it seems to me, must be rejected because, if man is actually a part of God, the evil in man is also in God."

All this time, I have been supposing that we are a jury, listening to the testimony of the mystics, and trying to decide whether to accept or reject it. If, when they deny the reality of the world of sense, we took them to mean "reality" in the ordinary sense of law-courts, we should have no hesitation in rejecting what they say, since we would find that it runs counter to all other testimony, and even to their own in their mundane moments. We must therefore look for some other sense. I believe that, when the mystics contrast "reality" with "appearance," the word "reality" has not a logical, but an emotional, significance: it means what is, in some sense, important. When it is said that time is "unreal," what should be said is that, in some sense and on some occasions, it is important to conceive the universe as a whole, as the Creator, if He existed, must have conceived it in deciding to create it. When so conceived, all process is within one completed whole; past, present, and future, all exist, in some sense, together, and the present does not have that pre-eminent reality which it has to our usual ways of apprehending the world. If this interpretation is accepted, mysticism expresses an emotion, not a fact; it does not assert anything, and therefore can be neither confirmed nor contradicted by science. The fact that mystics do make assertions is owing to their inability to separate emotional importance from scientific validity. It is, of course, not to be expected that they will accept this view, but it is the only one, so far as I can see, which, while admitting something of their claim, is not repugnant to the scientific intelligence.

The certainty and partial unanimity of mystics is no conclusive reason for accepting their testimony on a matter of fact. The man of science, when he wishes others to see what he has seen, arranges his microscope or telescope; that is to say, he makes changes in the external world, but demands of the observer only normal eyesight. The mystic, on the other hand, demands changes in the observer, by fasting, by breathing exercises, and by a careful abstention from external observation. (Some object to such discipline, and think that the mystic illumination cannot be artificially achieved; from a scientific point of view, this makes their case more difficult to test than that of those who rely on yoga. But nearly all agree that fasting and an ascetic life are helpful.) We all know that opium, hashish, and alcohol produce certain effects on the observer, but as we do not think these effects admirable we take no account of them in our theory of the universe. They may even, sometimes, reveal fragments of truth; but we do not regard them as sources of general wisdom. The drunkard who sees snakes does not imagine, afterwards, that he has had a revelation of a reality hidden from others, though some not wholly dissimilar belief must have given rise to the worship of Bacchus. In our own day, as William James related, there have been people who considered that the intoxication produced by laughing-gas revealed truths which are hidden at normal times. From a scientific point of view, we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is in an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perceptions. Normal perceptions, since they have to be useful in the struggle for life, must have some correspondence with fact; but in abnormal perceptions there is no reason to expect such correspondence, and their testimony, therefore, cannot outweigh that of normal perception.

The mystic emotion, if it is freed from unwarranted beliefs, and not so overwhelming as to remove a man wholly from the ordinary business of life, may give something of very great value — the same kind of thing, though in a heightened form, that is given by contemplation. Breadth and calm and profundity may all have their source in this emotion, in which, for the moment, all self-centred desire is dead, and the mind becomes a mirror for the vastness of the universe. Those who have had this experience, and believe it to be bound up unavoidably with assertions about the nature of the universe, naturally cling to these assertions. I believe myself that the assertions are inessential, and that there is no reason to believe them true. I cannot admit any method of arriving at truth except that of science, but in the realm of the emotions I do not deny the value of the experiences which have given rise to religion. Through association with false beliefs, they have led to much evil as well as good; freed from this association, it may be hoped that the good alone will remain.

Religion and Science, Bertrand Russell (1961)


Happiness, Mortality and the Meaning of Life

"I suppose you heard about Hayward, didn't you?"

"I know he went to the Cape."

"He died, you know, soon after landing."

For a moment Philip did not answer. He could hardly believe his ears.

"How?" he asked.

"Oh, enteric. Hard luck, wasn't it? I thought you mightn't know. Gave me a bit of a turn when I heard it."

Lawson nodded quickly and walked away. Philip felt a shiver pass through his heart. He had never before lost a friend of his own age, for the death of Cronshaw, a man so much older than himself, had seemed to come in the normal course of things. The news gave him a peculiar shock. It reminded him of his own mortality, for like everyone else Philip, knowing perfectly that all men must die, had no intimate feeling that the same must apply to himself; and Hayward's death, though he had long ceased to have any warm feeling for him, affected him deeply. He remembered on a sudden all the good talks they had had, and it pained him to think that they would never talk with one another again; he remembered their first meeting and the pleasant months they had spent together in Heidelberg. Philip's heart sank as he thought of the lost years. He walked on mechanically, not noticing where he went, and realised suddenly, with a movement of irritation, that instead of turning down the Haymarket he had sauntered along Shaftesbury Avenue. It bored him to retrace his steps; and besides, with that news, he did not want to read, he wanted to sit alone and think. He made up his mind to go to the British Museum. Solitude was now his only luxury. Since he had been at Lynn's he had often gone there and sat in front of the groups from the Parthenon; and, not deliberately thinking, had allowed their divine masses to rest his troubled soul. But this afternoon they had nothing to say to him, and after a few minutes, impatiently, he wandered out of the room. There were too many people, provincials with foolish faces, foreigners poring over guide-books; their hideousness besmirched the everlasting masterpieces, their restlessness troubled the gods' immortal repose. He went into another room and here there was hardly anyone. Philip sat down wearily. His nerves were on edge. He could not get the people out of his mind. Sometimes at Lynn's they affected him in the same way, and he looked at them file past him with horror; they were so ugly and there was such meanness in their faces, it was terrifying; their features were distorted with paltry desires, and you felt they were strange to any ideas of beauty. They had furtive eyes and weak chins. There was no wickedness in them, but only pettiness and vulgarity. Their humour was a low facetiousness. Sometimes he found himself looking at them to see what animal they resembled (he tried not to, for it quickly became an obsession,) and he saw in them all the sheep or the horse or the fox or the goat. Human beings filled him with disgust.

But presently the influence of the place descended upon him. He felt quieter. He began to look absently at the tombstones with which the room was lined. They were the work of Athenian stone masons of the fourth and fifth centuries before Christ, and they were very simple, work of no great talent but with the exquisite spirit of Athens upon them; time had mellowed the marble to the colour of honey, so that unconsciously one thought of the bees of Hymettus, and softened their outlines. Some represented a nude figure, seated on a bench, some the departure of the dead from those who loved him, and some the dead clasping hands with one who remained behind. On all was the tragic word farewell; that and nothing more. Their simplicity was infinitely touching. Friend parted from friend, the son from his mother, and the restraint made the survivor's grief more poignant. It was so long, long ago, and century upon century had passed over that unhappiness; for two thousand years those who wept had been dust as those they wept for. Yet the woe was alive still, and it filled Philip's heart so that he felt compassion spring up in it, and he said:

"Poor things, poor things."

And it came to him that the gaping sight-seers and the fat strangers with their guide-books, and all those mean, common people who thronged the shop, with their trivial desires and vulgar cares, were mortal and must die. They too loved and must part from those they loved, the son from his mother, the wife from her husband; and perhaps it was more tragic because their lives were ugly and sordid, and they knew nothing that gave beauty to the world. There was one stone which was very beautiful, a bas relief of two young men holding each other's hand; and the reticence of line, the simplicity, made one like to think that the sculptor here had been touched with a genuine emotion. It was an exquisite memorial to that than which the world offers but one thing more precious, to a friendship; and as Philip looked at it, he felt the tears come to his eyes. He thought of Hayward and his eager admiration for him when first they met, and how disillusion had come and then indifference, till nothing held them together but habit and old memories. It was one of the queer things of life that you saw a person every day for months and were so intimate with him that you could not imagine existence without him; then separation came, and everything went on in the same way, and the companion who had seemed essential proved unnecessary. Your life proceeded and you did not even miss him. Philip thought of those early days in Heidelberg when Hayward, capable of great things, had been full of enthusiasm for the future, and how, little by little, achieving nothing, he had resigned himself to failure. Now he was dead. His death had been as futile as his life. He died ingloriously, of a stupid disease, failing once more, even at the end, to accomplish anything. It was just the same now as if he had never lived.

Philip asked himself desperately what was the use of living at all. It all seemed inane. It was the same with Cronshaw: it was quite unimportant that he had lived; he was dead and forgotten, his book of poems sold in remainder by second-hand booksellers; his life seemed to have served nothing except to give a pushing journalist occasion to write an article in a review. And Philip cried out in his soul:

"What is the use of it?"

The effort was so incommensurate with the result. The bright hopes of youth had to be paid for at such a bitter price of disillusionment. Pain and disease and unhappiness weighed down the scale so heavily. What did it all mean? He thought of his own life, the high hopes with which he had entered upon it, the limitations which his body forced upon him, his friendlessness, and the lack of affection which had surrounded his youth. He did not know that he had ever done anything but what seemed best to do, and what a cropper he had come! Other men, with no more advantages than he, succeeded, and others again, with many more, failed. It seemed pure chance. The rain fell alike upon the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing was there a why and a wherefore.

Thinking of Cronshaw, Philip remembered the Persian rug which he had given him, telling him that it offered an answer to his question upon the meaning of life; and suddenly the answer occurred to him: he chuckled: now that he had it, it was like one of the puzzles which you worry over till you are shown the solution and then cannot imagine how it could ever have escaped you. The answer was obvious. Life had no meaning. On the earth, satellite of a star speeding through space, living things had arisen under the influence of conditions which were part of the planet's history; and as there had been a beginning of life upon it so, under the influence of other conditions, there would be an end: man, no more significant than other forms of life, had come not as the climax of creation but as a physical reaction to the environment. Philip remembered the story of the Eastern King who, desiring to know the history of man, was brought by a sage five hundred volumes; busy with affairs of state, he bade him go and condense it; in twenty years the sage returned and his history now was in no more than fifty volumes, but the King, too old then to read so many ponderous tomes, bade him go and shorten it once more; twenty years passed again and the sage, old and gray, brought a single book in which was the knowledge the King had sought; but the King lay on his death-bed, and he had no time to read even that; and then the sage gave him the history of man in a single line; it was this: he was born, he suffered, and he died. There was no meaning in life, and man by living served no end. It was immaterial whether he was born or not born, whether he lived or ceased to live. Life was insignificant and death without consequence. Philip exulted, as he had exulted in his boyhood when the weight of a belief in God was lifted from his shoulders: it seemed to him that the last burden of responsibility was taken from him; and for the first time he was utterly free. His insignificance was turned to power, and he felt himself suddenly equal with the cruel fate which had seemed to persecute him; for, if life was meaningless, the world was robbed of its cruelty. What he did or left undone did not matter. Failure was unimportant and success amounted to nothing. He was the most inconsiderate creature in that swarming mass of mankind which for a brief space occupied the surface of the earth; and he was almighty because he had wrenched from chaos the secret of its nothingness. Thoughts came tumbling over one another in Philip's eager fancy, and he took long breaths of joyous satisfaction. He felt inclined to leap and sing. He had not been so happy for months.

"Oh, life," he cried in his heart, "Oh life, where is thy sting?"

For the same uprush of fancy which had shown him with all the force of mathematical demonstration that life had no meaning, brought with it another idea; and that was why Cronshaw, he imagined, had given him the Persian rug. As the weaver elaborated his pattern for no end but the pleasure of his aesthetic sense, so might a man live his life, or if one was forced to believe that his actions were outside his choosing, so might a man look at his life, that it made a pattern. There was as little need to do this as there was use. It was merely something he did for his own pleasure. Out of the manifold events of his life, his deeds, his feelings, his thoughts, he might make a design, regular, elaborate, complicated, or beautiful; and though it might be no more than an illusion that he had the power of selection, though it might be no more than a fantastic legerdemain in which appearances were interwoven with moonbeams, that did not matter: it seemed, and so to him it was. In the vast warp of life (a river arising from no spring and flowing endlessly to no sea), with the background to his fancies that there was no meaning and that nothing was important, a man might get a personal satisfaction in selecting the various strands that worked out the pattern. There was one pattern, the most obvious, perfect, and beautiful, in which a man was born, grew to manhood, married, produced children, toiled for his bread, and died; but there were others, intricate and wonderful, in which happiness did not enter and in which success was not attempted; and in them might be discovered a more troubling grace. Some lives, and Hayward's was among them, the blind indifference of chance cut off while the design was still imperfect; and then the solace was comfortable that it did not matter; other lives, such as Cronshaw's, offered a pattern which was difficult to follow, the point of view had to be shifted and old standards had to be altered before one could understand that such a life was its own justification. Philip thought that in throwing over the desire for happiness he was casting aside the last of his illusions. His life had seemed horrible when it was measured by its happiness, but now he seemed to gather strength as he realised that it might be measured by something else. Happiness mattered as little as pain. They came in, both of them, as all the other details of his life came in, to the elaboration of the design. He seemed for an instant to stand above the accidents of his existence, and he felt that they could not affect him again as they had done before. Whatever happened to him now would be one more motive to add to the complexity of the pattern, and when the end approached he would rejoice in its completion. It would be a work of art, and it would be none the less beautiful because he alone knew of its existence, and with his death it would at once cease to be.

Philip was happy.

--On Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham, Chapter 106

Pleasure, Morality and the Meaning of Life

Philip was captivated. He did not realise that little that Cronshaw said was new. His personality in conversation had a curious power. He had a beautiful and a sonorous voice, and a manner of putting things which was irresistible to youth. All he said seemed to excite thought, and often on the way home Lawson and Philip would walk to and from one another's hotels, discussing some point which a chance word of Cronshaw had suggested. It was disconcerting to Philip, who had a youthful eagerness for results, that Cronshaw's poetry hardly came up to expectation. It had never been published in a volume, but most of it had appeared in periodicals; and after a good deal of persuasion Cronshaw brought down a bundle of pages torn out of The Yellow Book, The Saturday Review, and other journals, on each of which was a poem. Philip was taken aback to find that most of them reminded him either of Henley or of Swinburne. It needed the splendour of Cronshaw's delivery to make them personal. He expressed his disappointment to Lawson, who carelessly repeated his words; and next time Philip went to the Closerie des Lilas the poet turned to him with his sleek smile:

"I hear you don't think much of my verses."

Philip was embarrassed.

"I don't know about that," he answered. "I enjoyed reading them very much."

"Do not attempt to spare my feelings," returned Cronshaw, with a wave of his fat hand. "I do not attach any exaggerated importance to my poetical works. Life is there to be lived rather than to be written about. My aim is to search out the manifold experience that it offers, wringing from each moment what of emotion it presents. I look upon my writing as a graceful accomplishment which does not absorb but rather adds pleasure to existence. And as for posterity—damn posterity."

Philip smiled, for it leaped to one's eyes that the artist in life had produced no more than a wretched daub. Cronshaw looked at him meditatively and filled his glass. He sent the waiter for a packet of cigarettes.

"You are amused because I talk in this fashion and you know that I am poor and live in an attic with a vulgar trollop who deceives me with hair-dressers and garcons de cafe; I translate wretched books for the British public, and write articles upon contemptible pictures which deserve not even to be abused. But pray tell me what is the meaning of life?"

"I say, that's rather a difficult question. Won't you give the answer yourself?"

"No, because it's worthless unless you yourself discover it. But what do you suppose you are in the world for?"

Philip had never asked himself, and he thought for a moment before replying.

"Oh, I don't know: I suppose to do one's duty, and make the best possible use of one's faculties, and avoid hurting other people."

"In short, to do unto others as you would they should do unto you?"

"I suppose so."


"No, it isn't," said Philip indignantly. "It has nothing to do with Christianity. It's just abstract morality."

"But there's no such thing as abstract morality."

"In that case, supposing under the influence of liquor you left your purse behind when you leave here and I picked it up, why do you imagine that I should return it to you? It's not the fear of the police."

"It's the dread of hell if you sin and the hope of Heaven if you are virtuous."

"But I believe in neither."

"That may be. Neither did Kant when he devised the Categorical Imperative. You have thrown aside a creed, but you have preserved the ethic which was based upon it. To all intents you are a Christian still, and if there is a God in Heaven you will undoubtedly receive your reward. The Almighty can hardly be such a fool as the churches make out. If you keep His laws I don't think He can care a packet of pins whether you believe in Him or not."

"But if I left my purse behind you would certainly return it to me," said Philip.

"Not from motives of abstract morality, but only from fear of the police."

"It's a thousand to one that the police would never find out."

"My ancestors have lived in a civilised state so long that the fear of the police has eaten into my bones. The daughter of my concierge would not hesitate for a moment. You answer that she belongs to the criminal classes; not at all, she is merely devoid of vulgar prejudice."

"But then that does away with honour and virtue and goodness and decency and everything," said Philip.

"Have you ever committed a sin?"

"I don't know, I suppose so," answered Philip.

"You speak with the lips of a dissenting minister. I have never committed a sin."

Cronshaw in his shabby great-coat, with the collar turned up, and his hat well down on his head, with his red fat face and his little gleaming eyes, looked extraordinarily comic; but Philip was too much in earnest to laugh.

"Have you never done anything you regret?"

"How can I regret when what I did was inevitable?" asked Cronshaw in return.

"But that's fatalism."

"The illusion which man has that his will is free is so deeply rooted that I am ready to accept it. I act as though I were a free agent. But when an action is performed it is clear that all the forces of the universe from all eternity conspired to cause it, and nothing I could do could have prevented it. It was inevitable. If it was good I can claim no merit; if it was bad I can accept no censure."

"My brain reels," said Philip.

"Have some whiskey," returned Cronshaw, passing over the bottle. "There's nothing like it for clearing the head. You must expect to be thick-witted if you insist upon drinking beer."

Philip shook his head, and Cronshaw proceeded:

"You're not a bad fellow, but you won't drink. Sobriety disturbs conversation. But when I speak of good and bad..." Philip saw he was taking up the thread of his discourse, "I speak conventionally. I attach no meaning to those words. I refuse to make a hierarchy of human actions and ascribe worthiness to some and ill-repute to others. The terms vice and virtue have no signification for me. I do not confer praise or blame: I accept. I am the measure of all things. I am the centre of the world."

"But there are one or two other people in the world," objected Philip.

"I speak only for myself. I know them only as they limit my activities. Round each of them too the world turns, and each one for himself is the centre of the universe. My right over them extends only as far as my power. What I can do is the only limit of what I may do. Because we are gregarious we live in society, and society holds together by means of force, force of arms (that is the policeman) and force of public opinion (that is Mrs. Grundy). You have society on one hand and the individual on the other: each is an organism striving for self-preservation. It is might against might. I stand alone, bound to accept society and not unwilling, since in return for the taxes I pay it protects me, a weakling, against the tyranny of another stronger than I am; but I submit to its laws because I must; I do not acknowledge their justice: I do not know justice, I only know power. And when I have paid for the policeman who protects me and, if I live in a country where conscription is in force, served in the army which guards my house and land from the invader, I am quits with society: for the rest I counter its might with my wiliness. It makes laws for its self-preservation, and if I break them it imprisons or kills me: it has the might to do so and therefore the right. If I break the laws I will accept the vengeance of the state, but I will not regard it as punishment nor shall I feel myself convicted of wrong-doing. Society tempts me to its service by honours and riches and the good opinion of my fellows; but I am indifferent to their good opinion, I despise honours and I can do very well without riches."

"But if everyone thought like you things would go to pieces at once."

"I have nothing to do with others, I am only concerned with myself. I take advantage of the fact that the majority of mankind are led by certain rewards to do things which directly or indirectly tend to my convenience."

"It seems to me an awfully selfish way of looking at things," said Philip.

"But are you under the impression that men ever do anything except for selfish reasons?"


"It is impossible that they should. You will find as you grow older that the first thing needful to make the world a tolerable place to live in is to recognise the inevitable selfishness of humanity. You demand unselfishness from others, which is a preposterous claim that they should sacrifice their desires to yours. Why should they? When you are reconciled to the fact that each is for himself in the world you will ask less from your fellows. They will not disappoint you, and you will look upon them more charitably. Men seek but one thing in life—their pleasure."

"No, no, no!" cried Philip.

Cronshaw chuckled.

"You rear like a frightened colt, because I use a word to which your Christianity ascribes a deprecatory meaning. You have a hierarchy of values; pleasure is at the bottom of the ladder, and you speak with a little thrill of self-satisfaction, of duty, charity, and truthfulness. You think pleasure is only of the senses; the wretched slaves who manufactured your morality despised a satisfaction which they had small means of enjoying. You would not be so frightened if I had spoken of happiness instead of pleasure: it sounds less shocking, and your mind wanders from the sty of Epicurus to his garden. But I will speak of pleasure, for I see that men aim at that, and I do not know that they aim at happiness. It is pleasure that lurks in the practice of every one of your virtues. Man performs actions because they are good for him, and when they are good for other people as well they are thought virtuous: if he finds pleasure in giving alms he is charitable; if he finds pleasure in helping others he is benevolent; if he finds pleasure in working for society he is public-spirited; but it is for your private pleasure that you give twopence to a beggar as much as it is for my private pleasure that I drink another whiskey and soda. I, less of a humbug than you, neither applaud myself for my pleasure nor demand your admiration."

"But have you never known people do things they didn't want to instead of things they did?"

"No. You put your question foolishly. What you mean is that people accept an immediate pain rather than an immediate pleasure. The objection is as foolish as your manner of putting it. It is clear that men accept an immediate pain rather than an immediate pleasure, but only because they expect a greater pleasure in the future. Often the pleasure is illusory, but their error in calculation is no refutation of the rule. You are puzzled because you cannot get over the idea that pleasures are only of the senses; but, child, a man who dies for his country dies because he likes it as surely as a man eats pickled cabbage because he likes it. It is a law of creation. If it were possible for men to prefer pain to pleasure the human race would have long since become extinct."

"But if all that is true," cried Philip, "what is the use of anything? If you take away duty and goodness and beauty why are we brought into the world?"

"Here comes the gorgeous East to suggest an answer," smiled Cronshaw.

He pointed to two persons who at that moment opened the door of the cafe, and, with a blast of cold air, entered. They were Levantines, itinerant vendors of cheap rugs, and each bore on his arm a bundle. It was Sunday evening, and the cafe was very full. They passed among the tables, and in that atmosphere heavy and discoloured with tobacco smoke, rank with humanity, they seemed to bring an air of mystery. They were clad in European, shabby clothes, their thin great-coats were threadbare, but each wore a tarbouch. Their faces were gray with cold. One was of middle age, with a black beard, but the other was a youth of eighteen, with a face deeply scarred by smallpox and with one eye only. They passed by Cronshaw and Philip.

"Allah is great, and Mahomet is his prophet," said Cronshaw impressively.

The elder advanced with a cringing smile, like a mongrel used to blows. With a sidelong glance at the door and a quick surreptitious movement he showed a pornographic picture.

"Are you Masr-ed-Deen, the merchant of Alexandria, or is it from far Bagdad that you bring your goods, O, my uncle; and yonder one-eyed youth, do I see in him one of the three kings of whom Scheherazade told stories to her lord?"

The pedlar's smile grew more ingratiating, though he understood no word of what Cronshaw said, and like a conjurer he produced a sandalwood box.

"Nay, show us the priceless web of Eastern looms," quoth Cronshaw. "For I would point a moral and adorn a tale."

The Levantine unfolded a table-cloth, red and yellow, vulgar, hideous, and grotesque.

"Thirty-five francs," he said.

"O, my uncle, this cloth knew not the weavers of Samarkand, and those colours were never made in the vats of Bokhara."

"Twenty-five francs," smiled the pedlar obsequiously.

"Ultima Thule was the place of its manufacture, even Birmingham the place of my birth."

"Fifteen francs," cringed the bearded man.

"Get thee gone, fellow," said Cronshaw. "May wild asses defile the grave of thy maternal grandmother."

Imperturbably, but smiling no more, the Levantine passed with his wares to another table. Cronshaw turned to Philip.

"Have you ever been to the Cluny, the museum? There you will see Persian carpets of the most exquisite hue and of a pattern the beautiful intricacy of which delights and amazes the eye. In them you will see the mystery and the sensual beauty of the East, the roses of Hafiz and the wine-cup of Omar; but presently you will see more. You were asking just now what was the meaning of life. Go and look at those Persian carpets, and one of these days the answer will come to you."

"You are cryptic," said Philip.

"I am drunk," answered Cronshaw.

--On Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham, Chapter 45


Zen Principles

…Zen is living experience, not musty principles in the abstract. It is a special form of Buddhism in which precepts and practice fuse. What are some of its main teachings?

1. Zen emphasizes meditation as a way to enlightenment. This final spiritual awak­ening focuses on one thesis: we and the universe are coextensive. This central theme is implied in the term Maha-prajna-paramita. Maha means great; prajna means insight-wisdom; paramita implies reaching that other shore, the place where there are neither attachments to living nor fears about dying. The term points to that profound insight which frees one from all suffering caused by selfish, egocentric concerns.

Atomic physicists can tell us in words that we are all derived from stardust. But Zen takes our interpenetration with the universe literally. Its insight strikes as a fact of experience. This deepest truth is not captured in words. Insight informa­tion, like a cool drink of water, has an impact at levels beyond reasoning.

To D. T. Suzuki, the kind of Zen enlightenment that took place back in the Sung and Tang dynasties of China was subtly different from other kinds of spiri­tual illumination. Zen masters then, he noted, aimed to bring their students so intimately in touch with the "Being of Life which animates all things" that they felt its own awareness vibrate within themselves. An endpoint this advanced would seem to go beyond the usual spiritual goals that we ascribe to those who practice most religions today.

Zen enlightenment today is still somewhat different from the others. No, it does not descend from some greater power up above. Its aspirants view it as emanating from that within, which is all around. It means awakening to our fun­damental unity with that eternal universe right under our noses. It does not imply adding some new and esoteric concepts from the outside. The potential for such insight-wisdom is latent in each of us, and will ripen under the proper set of circumstances. Fully ripened, it will greatly simplify, stabilize, and liberate the person. Opening up to anything and everything, the aspirant will drop off child­ish passions and rechannel his or her energies along more mature lines.

2. The intellect is not at home in the province of Zen. Zen withdraws before the intellect. Hides, if you will. In this, it resembles the elusive Japanese bush warbler, the uguisu. Never is this warbler perched on high, singing assertively for all to hear as do the Japanese grosbeak and the American cardinal. Instead, the uguisu blends naturally into the foliage of smaller trees and thickets. There, its lyrical notes begin with a low, soft uprising whistle, then end in a loud, incredibly beauti­ful liquid warble: "hot-kat-kyot!" One memorable day, I actually saw the bird while it was singing. Only then could I convince myself that a creature this small and unprepossessing could create such beautiful music.

Zen teachings emphasize the straightforward. They devalue the discursive intellect with its edifice of words and abstract theories. Lengthy, complicated phil­osophical discussions are scholastic mumbo jumbo. Less is more. As the Tao Te Ching puts it, "Those who know, do not speak; those who speak, do not know."

3. Zen values the simple, concrete, living facts of everyday direct personal experi­ence. When our brain takes in a red rose, it doesn't need to think about the word "red," ponder its wavelength, or try to analyze what chemistry caused it to be this color. It perceives red directly. Zen training encourages this same instantaneous, uncluttered awareness throughout everything else in the here and now. The Zen point of view appreciates each moment's sacramental quality. Imbued with genu­ine ecological reverence toward nature in all its forms, Zen practitioners learn to look humbly, "livingly," at the way they use each day's food, clothing, shelter, and companionship.

Zen, living in this present moment, concentrates upon this bird song, this falling cherry blossom. It brings together all these present moments of quiet clar­ity into the flow of its timeless, ongoing awareness. This Zen doesn't soar or prose­lytize. It will erect no cathedral spires high in the sky It is utterly down-to-earth, matter-of-fact. In Zen, life's firsthand earthy experience is the living reality. The unreality is our usual hectic existence, the one full of swarming thoughts, clouded perceptions, and self-centered behavior.

Today's New Age spirituality, newly wedded to high technology, is already promoting a host of brain-tuning devices. Authentic Zen will not be drawn into such artificial "mind gyms." Zen requires no contrived "virtual reality." It is like an art appreciation course. Its message is to look at natural things; see into them. One day, you will finally see, beyond yourself, into their own sacred qualities. Then you will comprehend things as they really are, in keeping with the basic unity of all things. This illumination will remain, and thereafter you will act au­thentically in relation to all things.

4. Zen is intensely pragmatic, wary of moralistic judgments, of manmade dis­tinctions between good and bad. Its security comes from knowing, as a result of long experience, how people act after they have become totally committed to its path of awakening. Go ahead, let them then encounter some ambiguous laissez-faire situation. Increasingly they will act in accord with the "natural, right way" of things. And meanwhile, why burden them with another superstructure of someone else's doctrines imposed from without? Their behavior is going to be­come increasingly selfless anyway, because it will be proceeding in harmony with this natural order of things.

A favorite Zen phrase is, "A finger pointing at the moon." Symbols are cru­cial in religion. In Zen the pale moon symbolizes enlightenment, at many metaphoric levels. The real moon up there will still go on existing, long after our fingers and words down on earth have ceased to point toward it. Similarly, any­thing said about Zen is, at best, no more than a finger vaguely pointing off in its general direction… Zen is like swimming; you don't learn swimming by reading about it in a book. You learn to swim by doing it, in the water.

5. You learn about Zen in zazen, Zen meditation. It is the essential, fundamen­tal practice for ripening the brain's intuitive faculties. To the Zen master Dogen, the practice of zazen in itself constituted enlightenment. The Zen meditative ap­proach has a simple, unstated premise: moods and attitudes shape—determine— what we think and perceive. If we feel happy, we tend to develop certain trains of thought. If we feel sad or angry, still others. But suppose, with training, we become nonattached to distractions and learn to dampen these wild, emotional swings on either side of equanimity. Then we can enter that serene awareness which is the natural soil for positive, spontaneous personal growth, often called spiritual growth.

Meditative practice does not set itself against all conscious thoughts or emo­tions. Rather it encourages those that are selfless and freed from unfruitful links with the passions. Zen shuns hallucinations and dogmatism, except, perhaps, that which may be implied by some of its rigorous training methods. Because such methods are regarded as the fruit of centuries of experience, in the Orient, at least, the novice is unlikely to brush them aside.

6. You needn't sit on a pillow to practice Zen. Zen practice extends itself into paying bare attention to all the events of daily life. If a goal is to be defined, then it is to learn the art of letting go while paying attention. Sitting in clear-minded, open-eyed zazen, one develops the capacity to let go, and this gradually flows on into all other activities of one's daily life practice. Aspirants flounder until they finally let go of their attitude that enlightenment is something to "achieve." Those who keep trying to "gain" enlightenment discover that becoming truly goalless and selfless is the most difficult of all the arts of living.

7. Zen stresses self-reliance, self-discipline, and personal effort. It's up to the indi­vidual to enlighten himself or herself. Zen deemphasizes, even-handedly, not only those behaviors that are self-centered from the inside but also any authoritarian doctrines from the outside that might interfere with self-realization.

"Look within." True. But still, the long, hard meditative path to awakening is best traversed with the aid of the master, the roshi. He has traveled the bumpy road before. He may not speak about its every height, but he knows its twists, turns, and pitfalls. However, the Zen master only acts as guide and exemplar. It is the aspirant's own self-discipline and tolerance which will prove critical. Positive interactions within a small group are strongly reinforcing, yet the journey is mostly private, interior. The final responsibility falls squarely on the aspirant.

8. The inner journey is but a prelude to going out. Insightful awakening will reunite the aspirant deeply with what is understood to be the mainstream of the life force, the full range of life's joys and sorrows. But these rare moments are not to be savored for themselves. They are to be actualized. This means putting pre­cepts into practice. It implies an increasingly selfless, simplified spontaneous af­firmation of life. Whether this is the dedicated life of a monk or lay aspirant, it then becomes one of introspection, humility, labor, and service. What does the herdsman do in the old Zen story after he finally becomes enlightened? He does not retreat from the world to become a hermit. Instead, he goes forth with joy and compassion to mingle in the world "with helping hands."

--Zen and the Brain, James H. Austin


Awareness and Introspection

Question: What is the difference between awareness and introspection? And who is aware in awareness?

Krishnamurti: Let us first examine what we mean by introspection. We mean by introspection looking within oneself, examining oneself. Why does one examine oneself? In order to improve, in order to change, in order to modify. You introspect in order to become something, otherwise you would not indulge in introspection. You would not examine yourself if there were not the desire to modify, change, to become something other than what you are. That is the obvious reason for introspection. I am angry and I introspect, examine myself, in order to get rid of anger or to modify or change anger. Where there is introspection, which is the desire to modify or change the responses, the reactions of the self, there is always an end in view; when that end is not achieved, there is moodiness, depression. Therefore introspection invariably goes with depression. I don't know if you have noticed that when you introspect, when you look into yourself in order to change yourself, there is always a wave of depression. There is always a moody wave which you have to battle against; you have to examine yourself again in order to overcome that mood and so on. Introspection is a process in which there is no release because it is a process of transforming what is into something which it is not. Obviously that is exactly what is taking place when we introspect, when we indulge in that peculiar action. In that action, there is always an accumulative process, the 'I' examining something in order to change it, so there is always a dualistic conflict and therefore a process of frustration. There is never a release; and, realizing that frustration, there is depression.

Awareness is entirely different. Awareness is observation without condemnation. Awareness brings understanding, because there is no condemnation or identification but silent observation. If I want to understand something, I must observe, I must not criticize, I must not condemn, I must not pursue it as pleasure or avoid it as non-pleasure. There must merely be the silent observation of a fact. There is no end in view but awareness of everything as it arises. That observation and the understanding of that observation cease when there is condemnation, identification, or justification. Introspection is self-improvement and therefore introspection is self-centredness. Awareness is not self-improvement. On the contrary, it is the ending of the self, of the 'I', with all its peculiar idiosyncrasies, memories, demands and pursuits. In introspection there is identification and condemnation. In awareness there is no condemnation or identification; therefore there is no self-improvement. There is a vast difference between the two.

The man who wants to improve himself can never be aware, because improvement implies condemnation and the achievement of a result. Whereas in awareness there is observation without condemnation, without denial or acceptance. That awareness begins with outward things, being aware, being in contact with objects, with nature. First, there is awareness of things about one, being sensitive to objects, to nature, then to people, which means relationship; then there is awareness of ideas. This awareness, being sensitive to things, to nature, to people, to ideas, is not made up of separate processes, but is one unitary process. It is a constant observation of everything, of every thought and feeling and action as they arise within oneself. As awareness is not condemnatory, there is no accumulation. You condemn only when you have a standard, which means there is accumulation and therefore improvement of the self. Awareness is to understand the activities of the self, the 'I', in its relationship with people, with ideas and with things. That awareness is from moment to moment and therefore it cannot be practised. When you practise a thing, it becomes a habit and awareness is not habit. A mind that is habitual is insensitive, a mind that is functioning within the groove of a particular action is dull, unpliable, whereas awareness demands constant pliability, alertness. This is not difficult. It is what you actually do when you are interested in something, when you are interested in watching your child, your wife, your plants, the trees, the birds. You observe without condemnation, without identification; therefore in that observation there is complete communion; the observer and the observed are completely in communion. This actually takes place when you are deeply, profoundly interested in something.

Thus there is a vast difference between awareness and the self-expansive improvement of introspection. Introspection leads to frustration, to further and greater conflict; whereas awareness is a process of release from the action of the self; it is to be aware of your daily movements, of your thoughts, of your actions and to be aware of another, to observe him. You can do that only when you love somebody, when you are deeply interested in something; when I want to know myself, my whole being, the whole content of myself and not just one or two layers, then there obviously must be no condemnation. Then I must be open to every thought, to every feeling, to all the moods, to all the suppressions; and as there is more and more expansive awareness, there is greater and greater freedom from all the hidden movement of thoughts, motives and pursuits. Awareness is freedom, it brings freedom, it yields freedom, whereas introspection cultivates conflict, the process of self-enclosure; therefore there is always frustration and fear in it.

The questioner also wants to know who is aware. When you have a profound experience of any kind, what is taking place? When there is such an experience, are you aware that you are experiencing? When you are angry, at the split second of anger or of jealousy or of joy, are you aware that you are joyous or that you are angry? It is only when the experience is over that there is the experiencer and the experienced. Then the experiencer observes the experienced, the object of experience. At the moment of experience, there is neither the observer nor the observed: there is only the experiencing. Most of us are not experiencing. We are always outside the state of experiencing and therefore we ask this question as to who is the observer, who is it that is aware? Surely such a question is a wrong question, is it not? The moment there is experiencing, there is neither the person who is aware nor the object of which he is aware. There is neither the observer nor the observed but only a state of experiencing. Most of us find it is extremely difficult to live in a state of experiencing, because that demands an extraordinary pliability, a quickness, a high degree of sensitivity; and that is denied when we are pursuing a result, when we want to succeed, when we have an end in view, when we are calculating — all of which brings frustration. A man who does not demand anything, who is not seeking an end, who is not searching out a result with all its implications, such a man is in a state of constant experiencing. Everything then has a movement, a meaning; nothing is old, nothing is charred, nothing is repetitive, because what is is never old. The challenge is always new. It is only the response to the challenge that is old; the old creates further residue, which is memory, the observer, who separates himself from the observed, from the challenge, from the experience.

You can experiment with this for yourself very simply and very easily. Next time you are angry or jealous or greedy or violent or whatever it may be, watch yourself. In that state, `you' are not. There is only that state of being. The moment, the second afterwards, you term it, you name it, you call it jealousy, anger, greed; so you have created immediately the observer and the observed, the experiencer and the experienced. When there is the experiencer and the experienced, then the experiencer tries to modify the experience, change it, remember things about it and so on, and therefore maintains the division between himself and the experienced. If you don't name that feeling — which means you are not seeking a result, you are not condemning, you are merely silently aware of the feeling — then you will see that in that state of feeling, of experiencing, there is no observer and no observed, because the observer and the observed are a joint phenomenon and so there is only experiencing.

Therefore introspection and awareness are entirely different. Introspection leads to frustration, to further conflict, for in it is implied the desire for change and change is merely a modified continuity. Awareness is a state in which there is no condemnation, no justification or identification, and therefore there is understanding; in that state of passive, alert awareness there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced. Introspection, which is a form of self-improvement, of self-expansion, can never lead to truth, because it is always a process of self-enclosure; whereas awareness is a state in which truth can come into being, the truth of what is, the simple truth of daily existence. It is only when we understand the truth of daily existence that we can go far. You must begin near to go far but most of us want to jump, to begin far without understanding what is close. As we understand the near, we shall find the distance between the near and the far is not. There is no distance — the beginning and the end are one.

--The First and Last Freedom, Jiddu Krishnamurti