The Movement of the Past to the Future

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE FIRST AND LAST FREEDOM

Question: The conscious mind is ignorant and afraid of the unconscious mind. You are addressing mainly the conscious mind and is that enough? Will your method bring about release of the unconscious? Please explain in detail how one can tackle the unconscious mind fully.

Krishnamurti: We are aware that there is the conscious and the unconscious mind but most of us function only on the conscious level, in the upper layer of the mind, and our whole life is practically limited to that. We live in the so-called conscious mind and we never pay attention to the deeper unconscious mind from which there is occasionally an intimation, a hint; that hint is disregarded, perverted or translated according to our particular conscious demands at the moment. Now the questioner asks, “You are addressing mainly the conscious mind and is that enough?” Let us see what we mean by the conscious mind. Is the conscious mind different from the unconscious mind? We have divided the conscious from the unconscious; is this justified? Is this true? Is there such a division between the conscious and the unconscious? Is there a definite barrier, a line where the conscious ends and the unconscious begins? We are aware that the upper layer, the conscious mind, is active but is that the only instrument that is active throughout the day? If I were addressing merely the upper layer of the mind, then surely what I am saying would be valueless, it would have no meaning. Yet most of us cling to what the conscious mind has accepted, because the conscious mind finds it convenient to adjust to certain obvious facts; but the unconscious may rebel, and often does, and so there is conflict between the so-called conscious and the unconscious.

Therefore, our problem is this, is it not? There is in fact only one state, not two states such as the conscious and the unconscious; there is only a state of being, which is consciousness, though you may divide it as the conscious and the unconscious. But that consciousness is always of the past, never of the present; you are conscious only of things that are over. You are conscious of what I am trying to convey the second afterwards, are you not; you understand it a moment later. You are never conscious or aware of the now. Watch your own hearts and minds and you will see that consciousness is functioning between the past and the future and that the present is merely a passage of the past to the future. Consciousness is therefore a movement of the past to the future.

If you watch your own mind at work, you will see that the movement to the past and to the future is a process in which the present is not. Either the past is a means of escape from the present, which may be unpleasant, or the future is a hope away from the present. So the mind is occupied with the past or with the future and sloughs off the present. That is the mind is conditioned by the past, conditioned as an Indian, a Brahmin or a non-Brahmin, a Christian, a Buddhist and so on, and that conditioned mind projects itself into the future; therefore it is never capable of looking directly and impartially at any fact. It either condemns and rejects the fact or accepts and identifies itself with the fact. Such a mind is obviously not capable of seeing any fact as a fact. That is our state of consciousness which is conditioned by the past and our thought is the conditioned response to the challenge of a fact; the more you respond according to the conditioning of belief, of the past, the more there is the strengthening of the past. That strengthening of the past is obviously the continuity of itself, which it calls the future. So that is the state of our mind, of our consciousness – a pendulum swinging backwards and forwards between the past and the future. That is our consciousness, which is made up not only of the upper layers of the mind but of the deeper layers as well. Such consciousness obviously cannot function at a different level, because it only knows those two movements of backwards and forwards.

If you watch very carefully you will see that it is not a constant movement but that there is an interval between two thoughts; though it may be but an infinitesimal fraction of a second, there is an interval that has significance in the swinging backwards and forwards of the pendulum. We see the fact that our thinking is conditioned by the past which is projected into the future; the moment you admit the past, you must also admit the future, because there are not two such states as the past and the future but one state which includes both the conscious and the unconscious, both the collective past and the individual past. The collective and the individual past, in response to the present, give out certain responses which create the individual consciousness; therefore consciousness is of the past and that is the whole background of our existence. The moment you have the past, you inevitably have the future, because the future is merely the continuity of the modified past but it is still the past, so our problem is how to bring about a transformation in this process of the past without creating another conditioning, another past.

To put it differently, the problem is this: Most of us reject one particular form of conditioning and find another form, a wider, more significant or more pleasant conditioning. You give up one religion and take on another, reject one form of belief and accept another. Such substitution is obviously not understanding life, life being relationship. Our problem is how to be free from all conditioning. Either you say it is impossible, that no human mind can ever be free from conditioning, or you begin to experiment, to inquire, to discover. If you assert that it is impossible, obviously you are out of the running. Your assertion may be based on limited or wide experience or on the mere acceptance of a belief but such assertion is the denial of search, of research, of inquiry, of discovery. To find out if it is possible for the mind to be completely free from all conditioning, you must be free to inquire and to discover.

Now I say it is definitely possible for the mind to be free from all conditioning – not that you should accept my authority. If you accept it on authority, you will never discover, it will be another substitution and that will have no significance. When I say it is possible, I say it because for me it is a fact and I can show it to you verbally, but if you are to find the truth of it for yourself, you must experiment with it and follow it swiftly.

The understanding of the whole process of conditioning does not come to you through analysis or introspection, because the moment you have the analyser that very analyser himself is part of the background and therefore his analysis is of no significance. That is a fact and you must put it aside. The analyser who examines, who analyses the thing which he is looking at, is himself part of the conditioned state and therefore whatever his interpretation, his understanding, his analysis may be, it is still part of the background. So that way there is no escape and to break the background is essential, because to meet the challenge of the new, the mind must be new; to discover God, truth, or what you will, the mind must be fresh, uncontaminated by the past. To analyse the past, to arrive at conclusions through a series of experiments, to make assertions and denials and all the rest of it, implies, in its very essence, the continuance of the background in different forms; when you see the truth of that fact you will discover that the analyser has come to an end. Then there is no entity apart from the background: there is only thought as the background, thought being the response of memory, both conscious and unconscious, individual and collective.

The mind is the result of the past, which is the process of conditioning. How is it possible for the mind to be free? To be free, the mind must not only see and understand its pendulum-like swing between the past and the future but also be aware of the interval between thoughts. That interval is spontaneous, it is not brought about through any causation, through any wish, through any compulsion.

If you watch very carefully, you will see that though the response, the movement of thought, seems so swift, there are gaps, there are intervals between thoughts. Between two thoughts there is a period of silence which is not related to the thought process. If you observe you will see that that period of silence, that interval, is not of time and the discovery of that interval, the full experiencing of that interval, liberates you from conditioning – or rather it does not liberate ‘you’ but there is liberation from conditioning. So the understanding of the process of thinking is meditation. We are now not only discussing the structure and the process of thought, which is the background of memory, of experience, of knowledge, but we are also trying to find out if the mind can liberate itself from the background. It is only when the mind is not giving continuity to thought, when it is still with a stillness that is not induced, that is without any causation – it is only then that there can be freedom from the background.