Quote: It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society

This is perhaps Krishnamurti’s best-known quote, shared widely across the internet and even in films. Although we cannot attribute these exact words to Krishnamurti, he made similar statements over the decades, and it is a theme he returned to repeatedly.

The nearest direct quote from Krishnamurti we have found, from Commentaries on Living Series 3 (1960), written in the early 1950s, is:

Is society healthy, that an individual should return to it? Has not society itself helped to make the individual unhealthy? Of course, the unhealthy must be made healthy, that goes without saying; but why should the individual adjust himself to an unhealthy society? If he is healthy, he will not be a part of it. Without first questioning the health of society, what is the good of helping misfits to conform to society?

Additionally:

To help the individual to fit into a society which is ever at war with itself – is this what psychologists and analysts are supposed to do? Is the individual to be healed only in order to kill or be killed? If one is not killed, or driven insane, then must one only fit into the structure of hate, envy, ambition and superstition which can be very scientific?

The origin of this quote being allocated to Krishnamurti is probably a book written by Mark Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut’s son) about his mental illness (The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity). The book was published in 1975 and attributes this phrase to Krishnamurti, without giving any source. Vonnegut might have paraphrased or misquoted it, and it must have spread from there.

Aldous Huxley, a close friend of Krishnamurti’s, also wrote a passage that is similar, contained in his book Brave New World Revisited (1958):

The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.

There is also a very similar quote from Henry Miller (who was inspired by Krishnamurti), from his travelogue The Colossus of Maroussi (1941): 

There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy.

For further material on this subject, please see our article Krishnamurti on Mental Health.

Photo of J. Krishnamurti