Krishnamurti on the Psyche
‘If thought, reason, knowledge or experience will not bring about a radical revolution in the psyche, what will?’
This week’s episode on The Psyche has four sections.
The first extract (2:52) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Ojai 1976, titled ‘The psyche is put together by thought’.
The second extract (26:05) is from the second talk in San Francisco 1983, titled ‘Time and the psyche’.
The third extract (46:32) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in New York 1966, titled ‘What will bring about a revolution in the psyche?’
The final extract in this episode (1:15:12) is from the fifth talk in Madras 1981, titled ‘It is not your psyche, it is the human psyche.’
The Psyche Is Put Together by Thought
One wants to find out a way of living in which there is no conflict, in which thought, which is the movement in time as measure, which creates division, whether thought can realise its own limitation and function where it is absolutely necessary, and not enter into the psychological field at all.
Thought has created the psyche. Thought has built the psyche, the psychological states, which is me, my ego and all the rest of it. And thought is fragmentary. Therefore what it has created, the ‘me’, is fragmentary. And then thought says, ‘I must integrate with the whole’ – which is an impossibility.
So that’s the thing. And our consciousness is filled with the things of thought. Therefore our consciousness is fragmentary. So is there a consciousness which is not fragmentary? And can thought find it?
You are getting it now?
K: Good! By Jove, it takes a long time, doesn’t it?
So can thought realise itself, that it is a fragment, and whatever movement it makes must be a fragment, fragmentary? And is there an action which is not fragmentary? This can only take place when the observer is the observed, watching. Then that which is undergoes a radical change.
Now the next point is: is there a consciousness which is not put together by thought? First, we have divided the universe as the ‘me’ and the ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘they’, good and bad, evil, and all the rest of it. We have divided it. Which is, thought has divided it. And then thought says to itself: is there a consciousness which is not put together by me?
Now, how are you, a human being, going to find out if there is a consciousness which not put together by thought? Man has tried this for millennia – it isn’t just now we are trying it. He has said there must be another consciousness which is not this kind of consciousness. And so he says, ‘I must control thought. There must be a system by which thought can be controlled. And then when thought is controlled, held, then perhaps I will know what the other is.’ And this is the whole basis of meditation, whether Zen or other forms of meditation: control thought. But they have never said, ‘Who is the controller?’ The controller is still thought.
So, to find out, to come upon that which is not put together by thought, we have to understand the place of thought as knowledge, and where thought has no place whatsoever. Not suppressing it. Thought has a place as knowledge in our daily, superficial activities. When you drive a car, you must know how to drive a car. You must know if you work in a factory and so on, or how to write – you know, where knowledge is necessary. And it is only possible to give knowledge its right place when you have understood the whole nature of thinking. That is, the psyche, the entity as the ‘me’, has been put together by thought – me, my virtue, my temperament, my desires, my ambitions, my peculiar idiosyncrasies, my experience as opposed to your experience. Those are all the result of thought. And thought has its right place, otherwise you couldn’t speak, you wouldn’t be able to understand the English language. Thought as knowledge has its right place, but it has no place in the psyche. Which means, can the mind, can this whole structure of the psyche cease to be? Then only there is a totally different kind of consciousness – which you will never find through meditation, even though you call it transcendental and all that nonsense. That word ‘transcendental’, you know, is a good word spoiled by cheap meditation.
Therefore there is time in the right place, as movement of thought, measurement in the technological field. You must measure, otherwise there is no technological activity at all. All the things that thought has created is reality. All the things that thought has put together is reality. But thought has not put together the mountain or the tree. But that is also a reality. All the gods, all the rituals, all the mischief that is being made in the world by thought is a reality. War is a reality, killing people is a reality – the violence, the brutality, the callousness, the destruction is a reality made by thought, put together by thought. And nature is not reality, it is actuality but not put together by thought. All the things that thought has put together, including wars and violence, all that is a reality. The mountains, the trees, the rivers, the beauty of the sky is a reality, but not put together by thought. Belief is a reality put together by thought, but it is neurotic. The neuroticism is a reality. And truth is not reality. Thought can never touch truth. Then what is the relationship between truth and reality?
We have examined the nature of thought. We said thought is a material process, matter, because it is stored up in the brain, part of the cell, which is matter. So thought is a material process in time; a movement. And whatever that movement creates is reality, both the neurotic as well as the so-called fragmentary – they are realities. The actual is a reality, like the microphone. And also nature is a reality. So what is truth? Can thought, which is fragmentary, which is caught up in time, mischievous, violent, all that, can that thought find truth, truth being the whole, that which is sacred, holy? And if it cannot find it, then what is the relationship of thought, of reality, to that which is absolute?
You know, all this demands meditation. This is real meditation – not the things imported into this country by the gurus – whether consciousness, which is its content, can ever expand to include that consciousness of truth. Or this consciousness of the psyche, the ‘me’ with all its content has to end before the perception of what is truth. So one has to find out what is the nature of the psyche, which has been put together by thought. What is ‘me’ to which one clings so desperately? The vanity, the arrogance, the desire to achieve, to become successful, you know, be somebody – what is this, the nature of it? How has it come about? Because if that exists, the other cannot be. If I am egotistic, in its total sense, not in parts, in the fragmentary sense but totally – because one is totally self-centred. You may pretend, but as long as that psychic centre exits, truth cannot possibly be, because truth is the whole.
So how is the mind – the mind being all the senses, the emotions, the memories, the prejudices, the principles, the ideals, memories, experiences, the totality of that, which is the psyche, which is the ‘me’ – how is that to end and yet behave in a world which is now? Is that possible? To find that out, one must go very deeply into the question of fear and the very complex problem of pleasure. Pleasure is very complex; fear is fairly simple. Pleasure is what one demands. And the question of sorrow; whether sorrow can ever end. Man has lived with sorrow for millennia upon millennia. He hasn’t been able to end it.
One must also go into the question of what death is, and love – because all that is the matrix of the ‘me’. So this is a very, very serious affair. It is not just a thing to be played with. One must give one’s whole life to understand this. To live in this world completely, sanely, without the psyche. Not escape, not go off into some monastery or commune, or this or the other, but to live here, in this mad, insane, murderous world where there is so much corruption, where politics are divorced from ethics and therefore there is corruption. To live in this world sanely, without the psyche, the ‘me’. This is a tremendous question. That requires a mind that is capable, can think meticulously, correctly, objectively, having all your senses fully awakened, not drugged by alcohol, speed and all the rest of it. Do you understand what all this means? You must have a very healthy mind. And when it is drugged, you haven’t got a healthy mind. Smoking and drinking, all this destroys the mind, makes the mind dull.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1976, Talk 2
Time and the Psyche
We live by time – we get up in the morning, go to the office, come back home, and the whole process of time is involved. There is physical time: sun rises, sun sets. We must find out for ourselves, not to be told, not to be suggested, but discover for oneself the nature of time in the psychological realm.
Time has built up the egotistic, the personal, the whole psychological world. We think time is necessary in that area. And we are questioning whether the psyche, the ‘me’, the ego, the self, the centre from which all action takes place, whether it is caught in illusion and therefore pursues the idea of time; whether the psyche, the ‘you’, has evolution at all. Or there is no future for the psyche, for the ‘me’.
The future is the movement of the past, modified by the present, which continues as the future. So the past is maintained, however modified. The past is the accumulated knowledge, experience. The past is the observer. The past is the knowledge we have accumulated, whether it be of yesterday or thousands upon thousands of yesterdays. That is the past. That past meets the present; the present environment, society and so on, and the past gets modified, slightly changed. But the past remains as the past, and continues as the future. This whole cycle is called time.
The accumulation of knowledge in the physical world or in the scientific world needs time. That is, acquiring more and more knowledge, however limited that knowledge is. But we are asking: is time necessary at all? Or time is a factor in the psychological world and the evolution of the psyche, that is, the ‘me’, the ego, the self, has a future. Knowledge, which is the accumulation of experience, which is tradition, which is the past, is in fact time.
Now, we are questioning whether fear, which is part of time, whether fear has a process of evolution, gradual growth, ending. Or the future has no time at all. That is, the ending of fear instantly, not gradually. Our concern is whether fear can end, ever. Or it is the lot of man, as sorrow, to have fear to the end of his days. We tolerate it, we accept it as a part of life, and we try to escape from fear, fear being something that is painful, dangerous, to be avoided; fear of some incident of the past, continued as memory, and that memory breeding fear. We all know what fear is. Not a particular form of fear – fear of darkness, fear of something or other – we are concerned with the root of fear. What is the cause of fear? And in asking that question, to discover for oneself the root of it. Not merely clipping off the branches of fear, the various expressions of fear. If you want to cut down a tree, you don’t trim the branches, you cut at the very root of the tree.
So we are asking what the root of fear is, and whether it is possible, in the discovering of it, whether it can end, totally, completely. Not partially; not it ends sometimes and begins again. Which means, the brain – the speaker is not a specialist in the brain but he has observed very carefully not only in himself but in the activities of humankind – this fear exists among the animals, and that fear is rewarded or punished. So we depend on reward and punishment. But in the understanding of fear, one must go into it very, very deeply. That is, we inquire into time, which I think is fairly clear, and also whether thought is the cause of fear.
Thought is time; they are not two separate activities. Thought has created fear. That is, psychologically one remembers some incident that caused fear and that incident is recorded in the brain, and the brain then is afraid of that incident happening again. So thought is responsible for fear, as time is. This is a fact. This is not an invention by the speaker, but one observes these two elements, time and thought, bring about fear. And out of fear, we create a great many illusions. The illusion of God. I hope you don’t mind me saying this. The illusion that one can escape from fear by forgetting it, suppressing it, denying it, or tolerating it.
Fear has done a great many horrible things in life, things that any sane man would never do. Fear of war, being destroyed, your homes, yourself, your relations and all the rest of it. But we never inquire into the cause of wars: separate tribalism, and whether it is possible to live without any nationality, without any division.
One does not know if one realises we are in a great crisis. Not only outside as war, but also a crisis in our lives, a crisis in our consciousness. We are trying to stop a particular kind of war, nuclear war and all the rest of that of business, and that fear, in finding security in division, that fear… No, the desire to find security in division creates fear, then that fear brings about wars.
Please, we are thinking together. We are walking down a lane, or in a wood, sitting down on the ground, looking at all the magnificent trees, and talking about serious matters, like two friends who are concerned with the world and with themselves. In their conversation, this question of fear arises. They are asking themselves whether this fear can ever end completely. One of the friends says it can, it is possible.
So one must understand, not intellectually, superficially, but very deeply that time and thought are involved in the causation of fear. Now, the friend says, ‘I can’t stop time or thought, it is impossible to stop it.’ But the other friend says it is not a question of stopping it; it is not trying to exercise will in order to stop it, but to understand where time and thought are necessary and where they are not. So the friend says time and thought are necessary in the physical world – learning a language, a skill, and so on. To put together a computer requires time and thought and knowledge. There it is necessary, the friend says. And the other says, ‘Yes, I accept that. That is natural, it is inevitable, it is necessary. But in the psychological world, my brain has been conditioned through time, through thought. So to understand the nature of fear, I must understand why the brain’ – I hope you are following all this; we are two friends talking together – ‘my brain is conditioned by knowledge, which is experience. And that experience and knowledge have been the process of evolution, both outwardly, and, I thought, inwardly. But you are suggesting that what we consider necessary psychologically is an illusion, not a fact.’
So they discuss the matter because they have plenty of time; it is a lovely morning, the birds are singing, and there are shadows, numberless, of the trees on the ground. It is a pleasant, lovely morning, and the subject is not morbid, but they have to find out. And it is important to find out. So one of the friends says, ‘One can understand the necessity of time and thought, where it should be, but has it any place in the area of the psyche?’ That is, the psyche is put together by thought, and thought says, ‘I will become better.’ The ‘better’ is the movement of time. The ‘better’ is measurement. The ‘more’ is measurement and comparison.
Now, can one live without comparison whatsoever? Of course, you have to compare between two cars, two houses, two gardens, two machines and so on, but why should we live always comparing inwardly? Is it possible, he asks his friend, to live without comparison whatsoever? That is, never compare, never try to become something more, because the self, however evolved, however it becomes better, will still be the self, still be very, very refined selfishness.
Krishnamurti in San Francisco 1983, Talk 2
What Will Bring About a Revolution in the Psyche?
Can experience of any kind bring about a radical change in the psyche, in consciousness? That is the issue, that is the problem.
Our consciousness is the result of the past. We are the past. A mind functioning within the field of the past cannot at any time resolve any problem. We must have a totally new mind; a revolution must take place in the psyche. Can this revolution come about through experience? That is what we are waiting for, that is what we want. We are looking for an experience that will transform us. That is why we go to church or take drugs, or sit in meditation – because our craving, longing, intensity is to bring about a change within ourselves. We see the necessity of it, and we look to some outside authority, or to our own experience.
Can any experience, through any means, bring about this total revolution in the psyche? Can any outside authority, outside agency, such as God, an idea, a belief, bring about this transformation? Will authority as an idea, as grace, as God – will that bring about a change? Will authority transform the human mind? This is very important to understand, because to us authority is very important. Though we may revolt against authority, we set up our own authority, and we conform to that authority.
There is the authority of the law, which obviously one must accept. Then there is the psychological authority, the authority of one who knows, as the priest. Nobody bothers about the priest nowadays. The so-called intellectual, fairly clear-thinking people, don’t care about the priest, the Church and all their inventions, but they have their own authority, which is the authority of the intellect, reason or knowledge, and they follow that authority. A man afraid, uncertain, not clear in his activities, in his life, wants an authority to tell him what to do: the authority of the analyst, the book, or the latest fad.
Can the mind be free from authority, which means free from fear, so that it is no longer capable of following? If so, this puts an end to imitation, which becomes mechanical. After all, virtue and ethics are not a repetition of what is good. The moment it becomes mechanical, it ceases to be virtue. Virtue is something that must be from moment to moment, like humility. Humility cannot be cultivated, and a mind that has no humility is incapable of learning. So virtue has no authority. The social morality is no morality at all; it’s immoral, because it admits competition, greed, ambition. And therefore society is encouraging immorality. Virtue is something that transcends memory. Without virtue, there is no order. Order is not according to a pattern, according to a formula. A mind that follows a formula through disciplining itself to achieve virtue, creates for itself the problems of immorality.
An external authority which the mind objectifies, apart from the law, as God, as morals and so on, becomes destructive when the mind is seeking to understand what real virtue is. We have our own authority as experience, as knowledge, which we are trying to follow. There is this constant repetition, imitation, which we all know. Psychological authority – not the authority of the law, the policeman who keeps order – the psychological authority, which each one has, becomes destructive of virtue because virtue is something that is living, moving. As you cannot possibly cultivate humility, as you cannot possibly cultivate love, so also virtue cannot be cultivated. And there is great beauty in that. Virtue is non-mechanical, and without virtue there is no foundation for clear thinking.
That brings in the problem of discipline. For most of us, discipline is suppression, imitation, adjustment, conformity, and therefore there is a conflict all the time. But there is a discipline which is not suppression, which is not control, which is not adjustment. That discipline comes when it becomes imperative to see clearly. We are confused, and out of that confusion, we act, which only increases confusion all the more. Realising that we are confused, to not act demands great discipline in itself.
To see a flower demands a great deal of attention. If you really want to look at a flower, at a tree, at your neighbour, at your wife or your husband, you have to look; and you cannot look if thought interferes with that look. You realise that; you see that fact. The very observation of the fact demands discipline. There is no imposition of a mind that says, ‘I must be orderly, disciplined, in order to look.’ There is the psyche that demands authority to guide itself, to follow, to do the right thing. Such an authority ends all virtue, and without virtue, you cannot possibly think clearly, live a life of tremendous sensitivity and activity.
We look to experience as a means to bring about this revolution in the psyche. Can any experience bring about a change in consciousness? First of all, why do we need experience? We demand it because our lives are empty. We have had sex, we have been to churches, we have read, we have done hundreds of little things, and we want some supreme experience that will clear away all this mess. What do we mean by experience, and why do we demand it? This is a very serious question; do go into it with me. Find out for yourselves why you want experience. Not only the experiences that LSD gives, but also other forms of experience. Obviously, these experiences must be pleasurable, enjoyable; you don’t want sorrowful experiences. Why? And who is it that is experiencing? When you are experiencing, in a state of experience, is there an experiencer who says, ‘I am enjoying it’? All experiences are always in the past, never at the moment, and any experience that you have is recognisable, otherwise it is not an experience. If you recognise it, it is already known; otherwise you can’t recognise it.
A mind that demands experience as a means to bring about a radical revolution in the psyche is merely asking for continuity of what has been, and therefore there is nothing new in experience. Most people need experience to keep them awake; otherwise they would go to sleep. If there was no challenge, if there was no response, if there was no pleasure and pain, we would just become vegetables, cow-like. Experience keeps us awake, through pain, through suffering, through every form of discontent. On one side it acts as a stimulant and on the other, it keeps the mind from having clarity, from having a revolution.
Is it possible to keep totally awake, to be highly active, intelligent, sensitive? If the mind is sensitive, tremendously active, it doesn’t need experience. It is only a dull mind, an insensitive mind that is demanding experience, hoping that through experience it will reach greater and greater and greater experiences of enlightenment.
The mind is the result of many centuries, thousands upon thousands of years. It has functioned always within the field of the known. Within that field of the known, there is nothing new. All the gods it has invented are from the past, from the known. Can the mind by thought, by intelligence, by reason, bring about a transformation? We need tremendous psychological change, not a neurotic change, and reason, thought, cannot do it. Neither knowledge nor reason, nor all the cunning activities of the intellect, will bring about this radical revolution in the psyche.
If neither experience nor authority will bring it about, then what will? This is a fundamental question, not a question that can be answered by another. But in examining the question, not in trying to find an answer to the question, we will find the answer. To put that question, we must be tremendously earnest, because if we put the question with a motive because we want certain results, the motive dictates the answer. Therefore we must put the question without motive, without any profit. And that is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do because all our activities, all our demands, have personal motives, or a personal motive identified with a greater motive, which is still a motive.
If thought, reason, knowledge, experience will not bring about a radical revolution in the psyche, what will? Only that revolution will solve all our problems. I am examining the question; I am not answering the question because there is no answer, but in investigating the question itself, we will come upon the answer.
Krishnamurti in New York 1966, Talk 5
It Is Not Your Psyche, It Is the Human Psyche
You are watching yourself, which is, watching the human consciousness, watching the human psyche. It is not your psyche because wherever you go in the world, it doesn’t matter where, human beings are suffering. Human beings have fear, human beings are pursuing pleasure, human beings are afraid of death, human beings have no love. So it is a common factor. Your psyche is the common factor, so you are the whole of humanity.
I know this is something probably new to you, therefore you are rebelling and resisting it, but if you just listen to it, you will see that is a fact for yourself. You may have a different name, different colour, different stature, different manners, but deep down, psychologically, you are like the rest of mankind – mankind that is lonely, mankind that is frightened, mankind that is longing to escape from itself and burdened with innumerable sorrows, the sorrow of a thousand years. You are that.
So you are the representative – you are the rest of mankind. You are mankind. So when we investigate, we are investigating not your particular little ‘me’, which is part also, but investigating into the whole psyche of man, therefore there is nothing selfish, there is nothing to be saved. This is not a religion; we are not talking about a religion of salvation; we are talking about the ending of fear.
Fear is the result of thought. Fear is the result of time – fear of the past, fear of the future. Actual fear has no time, only when thought says, ‘I am afraid.’ I wonder if you understand this. At the moment of fear, thought is absent; it is only a sensory response, centred in the brain, and thought says, ‘I am afraid.’ I am afraid of losing my job. I am afraid of losing my wife, I am jealous because my wife… etc., etc. All that is the movement of thought, as pleasure is the movement of thought, sexual pleasure, the picture, the image, all that. And also the various types of pleasure – pleasure of having more money, the pleasure of power, pleasure of possession, pleasure in attachment, whether to my wife, to a child, to a building, to an idea, and that attachment is corruption. Yes sir, attachment is corruption – obviously.
You are attached to your wife. You are attached for various reasons, fairly simple – physical pleasure, psychological pleasure, and the comfort you derive, or whatever it is. You are attached. Without her, you feel lost, lonely, therefore you are attached. So from that attachment arises jealousy, anxiety, fear of losing, and so on. So where there is attachment of any kind, there must be corruption. Do you see it, the truth of it? Do you see the fact of it? Then end it. But if you say, ‘I’ll think about it, I will learn about it. Why should I not be attached,’ and all the rest, back and forth, then you are back into the old system where time binds you. I wonder if you understand this. Our brains have become slaves to time. But if you see that, you can end time, which is ending thought.
But before we go into much deeper things, this you must be clear about. A brain, a psyche that is not afraid, that has no fear, that isn’t everlastingly pursuing pleasure in different forms: possession, power, siddhis, becoming an ascetic, controlling oneself, all the various forms of pleasure, to look at it, to see what it is. It is not a pleasure when you see a sunset or beauty, but it becomes pleasure when thought says, ‘I must have it again, I must go there again.’ Do you understand all this? See it and do it instantly!
Krishnamurti in Madras 1981, Talk 5