The Psyche Can Never Become Something It Is Not

The clouds were very low this morning. It rained last night, not too much but it has left the earth watered, rich, nourished. Considering, on a morning like this with the hills floating among the clouds and with those skies, the enormous energy that man has expended on this earth, the vast technological progress in the last fifty years, all the rivers more or less polluted and the waste of energy in this everlasting entertainment, it all seems so strange and so sick.

On the veranda this morning time is not very near to man, time as movement, time as going from here to there, time to learn, time to act, time as a means of changing from this to that in the ordinary things of life. One can understand that time is necessary to learn a language, to learn a skill, to build an aeroplane, to put together a computer, to travel around the world; the time of youth, the time of old age, time as the setting of the sun and of the sun rising slowly over the hills, the long shadows and the growth of a slowly maturing tree, time to become a good gardener, a good carpenter and so on. In the physical world, in physical action, time to learn becomes necessary and useful.

Is it that we carry over, extend, the same usage of time into the psychological world? Extend this way of thinking, acting, learning into the world inside the skin, into the area of the psyche, as hope, as becoming something, as self-improvement? It sounds rather absurd – the changing from this to that, from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’. Time is necessary, one thinks, to change the whole complex quality of violence into that which is not violent.

Sitting quietly by yourself, overlooking the valley, wide and long, you could almost count the rows of orange trees, the beautifully kept orchards. Seeing the beauty of the earth, of the valley, does not involve time, but the translation of that perception on to a canvas or into a poem needs time. Perhaps we use time as a means of escaping from ‘what is’, from what we are, from what the future will be for ourselves and for the rest of mankind.

Time in the psychological realm is the enemy of man. We want the psyche to evolve, grow, expand, fulfil, turn itself into something more than what it is. We never question the validity of such a desire, of such a concept; we easily, perhaps happily, accept that the psyche can evolve, flourish, and that one day there will be peace and happiness. But actually there is no psychological evolution.

There is a humming bird going from flower to flower, brightness in this quiet light, with such vitality in that little thing. The rapidity of the wings. so fantastically rhythmical, steady; it seems it can move forward and backward. It is a marvellous thing to watch it, to feel the delicacy, the bright colour, and wonder at its beauty, so small, so rapid and so quickly gone. And there is a mocking bird on the telephone wire. Another bird is sitting on the top of that tree overlooking the whole world. It has been there for over half an hour, never moving, but watching, moving its little head to see that there is no danger. And it too has gone now. The clouds are beginning to move away from the hills, and how green the hills are.

As we were saying, there is no psychological evolution. The psyche can never become or grow into something which it is not. Conceit and arrogance cannot grow into better and more conceit, nor can selfishness, which is the common lot of all human beings, become more and more selfish, more and more of its own nature. It is rather frightening to realize that the very word ‘hope’ contains the whole world of the future. This movement from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’ is an illusion, is really, if one can use the word, a lie. We accept what man has repeated throughout the ages as a matter of fact, but when we begin to question, doubt, we can see very clearly, if we want to see it and not hide behind some image or some fanciful verbal structure, the nature and the structure of the psyche, the ego, the ‘me’. The ‘me’ can never become a better me. It will attempt to, it thinks it can, but the ‘me’ remains in subtle forms. The self hides in many garments, in many structures; it varies from time to time, but there is always this self, this separative, self-centred activity which imagines that one day it will make itself something which it is not.

So one sees there is no becoming of the self, there is only the ending of selfishness, of anxiety, of pain and sorrow which are the content of the psyche, of the ‘me’. There is only the ending of that, and that ending does not require time. It isn’t that it will all end the day after tomorrow. It will only end when there is the perception of its movement. To perceive not only objectively, without any prejudice, bias, but to perceive without all the accumulations of the past; to witness all this without the watcher – the watcher is of time and however much he may want to bring about a mutation in himself, he will always be the watcher; remembrances, however pleasurable, have no reality, they are things of the past gone, finished dead: only in observing without the observer, who is the past, does one see the nature of time and the ending of time.

The humming bird has come back again. A ray of sunlight through the broken clouds has caught it, flashing its colours and the long thin beak and the rapidity of those wings. The pure watching of that little bird, without any reaction, just watching it, is to watch the whole world of beauty.

‘I heard you the other day saying that time is the enemy of man. You explained something briefly about it. It seems such an outrageous statement. And you have made other similar statements. Some of them I have found to be true, natural, but one’s mind never easily sees that which is actual, the truth, the fact, I was asking myself, and I have asked others too, why our minds have become so dull, so slow, why we cannot instantly see whether something is false or true? Why do we need explanations which seem so obvious when you have explained them? Why don’t I, and any of us, see the truth of this fact? What has happened to our minds? I would like, if I may, to have a dialogue about it with you, to find out why my mind isn’t subtle, quick. And can this mind, which has been trained and educated, ever become really, deeply, subtle, rapid, seeing something instantly, the quality and the truth or the falseness of it?’

‘Sir, let’s begin to enquire why we have become like this. It surely has nothing to do with old age. Is it the way of our life – the drinking, the smoking, the drugs, the bustle, the weariness, the everlasting occupation? Outwardly and inwardly we are occupied with something. Is it the very nature of knowledge? We are trained to acquire knowledge – through college, university, or in doing something skilfully. Is knowledge one of the factors of this lack of subtlety? Our brains are filled with so many facts, they have gathered so much information, from the television and from every newspaper and magazine, and they are recording as much as they can; they are absorbing, holding. So is knowledge one of the factors that destroys subtlety? But you can’t get rid of your knowledge or put it aside; you have to have knowledge. Sir, you have to have knowledge to drive a car, to write a letter, to carry out various transactions; you even have to have some kind of knowledge of how to hold a spade. Of course you do. We have to have knowledge in the world of everyday activity.

‘But we are speaking of the knowledge accumulated in the psychological world, the knowledge that you have gathered about your wife, if you have a wife; that very knowledge of having lived with your wife for ten days or fifty years has dulled your brain, has it not? The memories, the pictures are all stored there. We are talking of this kind of inward knowledge. Knowledge has its own superficial subtleties: when to yield, when to resist, when to gather and when not to gather, but we are asking: doesn’t that very knowledge make your mind, your brain, mechanical, repetitious from habit? The encyclopaedia has all the knowledge of all the people who have written in it. Why not leave that knowledge on the shelf and use it when necessary? Don’t carry it in your brain.

‘We are asking: does that knowledge prevent the instant comprehension, instant perception, which brings about mutation, the subtlety that isn’t in the words? is it that we are conditioned by the newspapers, by the society in which we live – which, by the way, we have created, for every human being from past generations to the present has created this society whether in this part of the world or any other part? Is it conditioning by religions that has shaped our thinking? When you have strong beliefs in some figure, in some image, that very strength prevents the subtlety, the quickness.

‘Are we so constantly occupied that there is no space in our mind and heart – space both outwardly and inwardly? We need a little space, but you cannot have space physically if you are in a crowded city, or crowded in your family, crowded by all the impressions you have received, all the pressures. And psychologically there must be space – not the space that thought may imagine, not the space of isolation, not the space that divides human beings, politically, religiously, racially, not the space between continents, but an inward space that has no centre. Where there is a centre there is a periphery, there is a circumference. We are not talking of such space.

‘And is another reason why we are not subtle, quick, because we have become specialists? We may be quick in our own specialization, but one wonders, if one is trained, specialized, whether there is any comprehension of the nature of sorrow, pain, loneliness and so on. Of course you cannot be trained to have a good, clear mind; the word ‘trained’ is to be conditioned. And how can a conditioned mind ever be clear?

‘So all these may be the factors, sir, that prevent us from having a good, subtle, clear mind.’

‘Thank you, sir, for seeing me. Perhaps, and I hope that, some of what you have said – not that I have understood it completely – but that some of the things you have said may take seed in me and that I will allow that seed to grow, to flourish without interfering with it. Perhaps then I may see something very rapidly, comprehend something without tremendous explanations, verbal analysis and so on. Good bye, sir.’