Authority Destroys Intelligence

From Krishnamurti’s Book LIFE AHEAD

We have been talking about fear and how to be rid of it, and we have seen how fear perverts the mind so that it is not free, creative, and is therefore without the enormously important quality of initiative.

I think we should also consider the question of authority. You know what authority is; but do you know how authority comes into being? The government has authority, has it not? There is the authority of the State, of the law, of the policeman and the soldier. Your parents and your teachers have a certain authority over you, they make you do what they think you ought to do – go to bed at a certain time, eat the right kind of food, meet the right kind of people. They discipline you, do they not? Why? They say it is good for your own good. Is it? We will go into that. But first we must understand how authority arises – authority being coercion, compulsion, the power of one person over another, of the few over the many or the many over the few.

Because you happen to be my father or mother, have you a right over me? What right has anyone to treat another like dirt? What do you think creates authority?

First, obviously, there is the desire on the part of each one of us to find a safe way of behaviour; we want to be told what to do. Being confused, worried, and not knowing what to do, we go to priest, to a teacher, to a parent or to somebody else, seeking a way out of our confusion. Because we think he knows better than we do, we go to the guru, or some learned man, and ask him to tell us what to do. So, it is the desire in us to find a particular way of life, a way of conduct that creates authority, is it not?

Say, for instance, I go to a guru. I go to him because I think he is a great man who knows the truth, who knows God, and who can therefore give me peace. I don’t know anything about all this for myself, so I go to him, I prostrate myself, offer him flowers, I give him my devotion. I have the desire to be comforted, to be told what to do, so I create an authority. That authority does not really exist outside of me.

While you are young, the teacher may point out that you do not know. But if he is at all intelligent he will help you to grow to be intelligent also; he will help you to understand your confusion so that you do not seek authority, his own or another.

There is outward authority of the State, of the law, of the police. We create this authority outwardly because we have property which we want to protect. The property is ours and we don’t want anyone else to have it, so we create a government which protects what we own. The government becomes our authority; it is our invention, to protect us, to protect our way of life, our system of thought. Gradually, through centuries, we establish a system of law, of authority – the State, the government, the police, the army – to protect ‘me’ and ‘mine’.

There is also the authority of the ideal, which is not outward but inward. When we say, ‘I must be good, I must not be envious, I must feel brotherly to everybody’, we create in our minds the authority of the ideal, do we not? Suppose I am intriguing, stupid, cruel, I want everything for myself, I want power. That is the fact, it is what I actually am. But I think I must be brotherly because religious people have said so, and also because it is convenient, it is profitable to say so; therefore I create brotherhood as an ideal. I am not brotherly, but for various reasons I want to be, so the ideal becomes my authority.
Now, in order to live according to that ideal, I discipline myself. I feel very envious of you because you have a better coat, or a prettier sari, or more titles; therefore I say, ‘I must not have envious feelings, I must be brotherly.’ The ideal has become my authority, and according to that ideal I try to live. So what happens? My life becomes a constant battle between what I am and what I should be. I discipline myself – and the State also disciplines me. Whether it is communist, capitalist or socialist, the State has ideas as to how I should behave. There are those who say the State is all-important. If I live in such a State and do anything contrary to the official ideology, I am coerced by the State – that is, by the few who control the State.

There are two parts of us, the conscious part and the unconscious part. Do you understand what that means? Suppose you are walking along the road, talking to a friend. Your conscious mind is occupied with your conversation, but there is another part of you which is unconsciously absorbing innumerable impressions – the trees, the leaves, the birds, the sunlight on the water. This impact on the unconscious from outside is going on all the time, though your conscious mind is occupied; and what the unconscious absorbs is much more important than what the conscious absorbs. The conscious mind can absorb comparatively little. You consciously absorb what is taught in school, for example, and that is really not very much. But the unconscious mind is constantly absorbing the interactions between you and the teacher, between you and your friends; all this is going on underground, and this matters much more than the mere absorption of facts on the surface. Similarly, during these talks every morning the unconscious mind is constantly absorbing what is being said, and later on, during the day or the week, you will suddenly remember it. That will have a far greater effect on you than what you listen to consciously.

To come back: we create authority – the authority of the State, of the police, the authority of the ideal, the authority of tradition. You want to do something, but your father says, ‘Don’t do it’. You have to obey him, otherwise he will get angry, and you are dependent on him for your food. He controls you through your fear, does he not? Therefore he becomes your authority. Similarly, you are controlled by tradition – you must do this and not that, you must wear your sari in a certain way, you must not look at the boys or at the girls. Tradition tells you what to do; and tradition, after all, is knowledge, is it not? There are books which tell you what to do, the State tells you what to do, your parents tell you what to do, society and religion tell you what to do. And what happens to you? You get crushed, you are just broken. You never think, act, live vitally, for you are afraid of all these things. You say that you must obey, otherwise you will be helpless. Which means what? That you create authority because you are seeking a safe way of conduct, a secure manner of living. The very pursuit of security creates authority, and that is why you become a mere slave, a cog in a machine, living without any capacity to think, to create.

I do not know if you paint. If you do, generally the art teacher tells you how to paint. You see a tree and you copy it. But to paint is to see the tree and to express on canvas or on paper what you feel about the tree, what it signifies – the movement of the leaves with the whisper of the wind among them. To do that, to catch the movement of light and shade, you must be very sensitive. And how can you be sensitive to anything if you are afraid and are all the time saying, ‘I must do this, I must do that, otherwise what will people think?’ Any sensitivity to what is beautiful is gradually destroyed by authority.

So, the problem arises as to whether a school of this kind should discipline you. See the difficulties which the teachers, if they are true teachers, have to face. You are a naughty girl or boy; if I am a teacher, should I discipline you? If I discipline you, what happens? Being bigger than you are, having more authority and all the rest of it, and because I am paid to do certain things, I force you to obey. In doing so, am I not crippling your mind? Am I not beginning to destroy your intelligence? If I force you to do a thing because I think it is right, am I not making you stupid? And you like to be disciplined, to be forced to do things, even though outwardly you may object. It gives you a sense of security. If you were not forced, you think you would be really bad, you would do things which are not right; therefore you say, ‘Please discipline me, help me to behave rightly.’

Now, should I discipline you, or rather help you to understand why you are naughty, why you do this or that? This means, surely, that as a teacher or a parent I must have no sense of authority. I must really want to help you to understand your difficulties, why you are bad, why you run away; I must want you to understand yourself. If I force you, I do not help you. If as a teacher I really want to help you to understand yourself, it means that I can look after only a few boys and girls. I cannot have fifty students in my class. I must have only a few, so that I can pay individual attention to each child. Then I shall not create the authority which coerces you to do something which you will probably do on your own, once you understand yourself.

So, I hope you see how authority destroys intelligence. After all, intelligence can come only when there is freedom – freedom to think, to feel, to observe, to question. But if I compel you, I make you as stupid as I am; and this is generally what happens in a school. The teacher thinks that he knows and that you do not know. But what does the teacher know? Little more than mathematics or geography. He has not solved any vital problems, he has not questioned the enormously important things of life – and he thunders like Jupiter or like a sergeant major!

So, in a school of this kind, it is important that, instead of merely being disciplined to do what you are told, you are helped to understand, to be intelligent and free, for then you will be able to meet all the difficulties of life without fear. This requires a competent teacher, a teacher who is really interested in you, who is not worried about money, about his wife and children; and it is the responsibility of the students as well as of the teachers to create such a state of affairs. Do not just obey, but find out how to think through a problem for yourself. Do not say, ‘I am doing this thing because my father wants me to’, but find out why he wants you to do it, why he thinks one thing is good and something else is bad. Question him, so that you not only awaken your own intelligence, but you help him also to be intelligent.

But what generally happens if you begin to question your father? He disciplines you, does he not? He is preoccupied with his work and he has not the patience, he has not the love to sit down and talk over with you the enormous difficulties of existence, of earning a livelihood, of having a wife or a husband. He does not want to take the time to go into all this; so he pushes you away, or sends you off to school. And in this matter the teacher is like your father, he is like everybody else. But it is the responsibility of the teachers, of your parents, and of all you students, to help to bring about intelligence.

Questioner: How is one to be intelligent?

Krishnamurti: What is implied in this question? You want a method by which to be intelligent – which implies that you know what intelligence is. When you want to go someplace, you already know your destination and you only have to ask the way. Similarly, you think you know what intelligence is, and you want a method by which you can be intelligent. Intelligence is the very questioning of the method. Fear destroys intelligence, does it not? Fear prevents you from examining, questioning, inquiring; it prevents you from finding out what is true. Probably you will be intelligent when there is no fear. So you have to inquire into the whole question of fear, and be free of fear; and then there is the possibility of your being intelligent. But if you say, ‘How am I to be intelligent?’ you are merely cultivating a method, and so you become stupid.