The more I study people’s religions (and I’ve studied them for an awful long time), the less I am inclined to quarrel with anybody’s position or belief or way of practice. And this is also true of various philosophical systems. It’s alright that philosophers should argue with each other. I’m not going to quarrel with that either. But from my standpoint, the more I look at it, the more the extraordinary variety of human opinions and ways of life becomes comparable to a flower garden, where these plants and trees and worms and birds and snails and slugs are playing all kinds of different games.
Now, some of you may be unaccustomed to this idea because I see some new faces here, but it’s my fundamental philosophy that the universe is essentially a game. We use the word “game,” or we use the word “play,” in varying senses, and it may give the wrong impression, because very often people assume that when such a word is used it indicates something trivial, as we say it’s only in play or only a game. And then, when you consider what an appalling amount of suffering the universe contains, one wants to feel that it’s worthwhile.
You see, either you must take the point of view that, if there is this deplorable suffering, the universe is one hell of a mess, and the only response that you can make to it is to do battle. Or you may say: no, it isn’t really a mess. Somehow, all this suffering amounts to something in the end. It creates energies, it’s a kind of a process like an oyster suffering to mature a pearl. And therefore, people who feel bothered about that can’t quite emotionally contain the idea that it’s all a game. Because then, if that was so, I would be the sport of some cosmic process—whether God or whatever—that plays with me as a child might torture an insect, a butterfly, by pulling off its wings or burning it with a magnifying glass with the sun, or something like that. Only, as I will develop it, we shall see that there is no system in which somebody tortures and somebody else is tortured.
In my view of the world—which is semi-Buddhist, semi-Hindu—the creator and the creature are one, and all beings whatsoever are the masks and plays and ploys of the central Self. There is just this Self which plays itself through all forms, through all of us, endlessly. So if you look upon the different forms of life—human, animal, insect, plant, or whatever—as comparable to mazurkas, waltzes, rumbas, Charleston’s, twists, or whatever, or to poker, bridge, backgammon, chess, or (if you want to get more highbrow), to concerti, symphonies, partitas, fugues, and so on, you can see that everything is a way of dancing. And so this also applies to people’s different religious attitudes. There is the Baptist game, you see, and the Roman Catholic game, the Bible game, the ritual game. These are all ways of doing a dance, but the religious ones have a way of trying to express some sort of fundamental attitude to everything that there is.
Now, I was thinking about this in New York recently. My wife and I attended a very marvelous ceremonial which is held in Holy Week, and it’s called Tenebrae. It’s really very simple, but it’s extraordinarily dramatic. It goes on for about two hours and consists of the chanting of Psalms interspersed with the most gorgeous anthems composed by, I think, Victoria. And during the chanting of the Psalms fifteen candles on a triangular-shaped candlestick—like this, standing up so—are slowly extinguished until only one is left. And this is supposed, historically, to represent the desertion of Christ by his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane and at the crucifixion. Then that one candle is taken out behind the altar, and the place is totally dark. And the choir sings the psalm Miserere: “Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness,” which is a penitential Psalm; the fifty-first Psalm. “For behold, I was shaped in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me.” And then they make an enormous crash, and the candle is brought back, put on the stand, and everybody goes away. This is a church—it’s a high, high, way-out Anglican Church—where they do everything to ultimate perfection. The music, the ritual is just… there’s nothing like it in the world. And so I began to think about what those people were really doing. What are they digging in this rightful penitence, repentance, about the death and the crucifixion of Christ?
So this led me to begin thinking about various ways or fundamental attitudes that run through all the religions. And I classify them in a scheme under three Rs, and I use the “R” simply as a mnemonic device so that you could remember it easily. And we get this scheme. So here is the attitude of repentance. And I question: what is its opposite? Well, obviously its opposite is rebellion: “I won’t give in.” When I was a little boy and I was taught the Lord’s prayer at my mother’s knee, when we got to the phrase “thy will be done,” I would never say it because I thought it was saying “I will be done.” And I was damned if I would be done! Now then, over here is another attitude: resignation. And over at the opposite side I consider: what is the opposite of resignation? Now, this is difficult to find a word for, and so I’m using an old word in a new sense: reincarnation. This is not being used exactly in the sense of successive lives. But incarnation means: entering into the flesh, into life. So reincarnation is when we don’t do it once, but we say, “That was that was something!” And so we do it again. So it’s the attitude of a child. When a child sees you do something that’s amazing the child says, “Do it again!” And an English poet once said that when the Lord God created the world and commanded the stars to shine and the planets to revolve around the Sun, he was so fascinated that he said, “Do it again!” And it kept on happening. So I’m using this to express an attitude of what we call, slangily, “getting with it;” of complete affirmation of life.
So now, the point is this: that every one of these can be seen as a way leading to a center, at which point they all coalesce. And you can get to the center—that is to say, to the transcendence of our ordinary sense of isolated individuality—you can get to the center by following any one of these ways to an extreme. Only: it’s very difficult for a person who follows this way to understand this way, or for a person who understands this way to get with this. Or even between right angles; they’re a little difficult to understand. And I imagine many of you here—you wouldn’t be in this kind of a scene if, for example, you understood the way of repentance. And that was the way that you like to follow. You would be in church instead. So I’m starting out with this way because it’s the most difficult for probably most of you to understand, and the most repugnant. The extreme of repentance, you know, of course, is the Penitente cult in Mexico and the southwest here among the Indians: an extreme of identification with Christ and His crucifixion, a kind of self-torture. And the extreme of this way is, of course, the penitentiary. The most interesting experiences that many of us that have had through exploring the prison world, the world of the asylum, the world of the enemy of society. And that, as a kind of yoga. You know that San Quentin looks like the Potala at Lhasa? The great Tibetan monastery. It’s almost the same architectural design. And there are—I lecture at San Quentin about once a year, and the most extraordinary questions and most attentive audience you could imagine. And lots of them. It is a kind of monastery, as asylums for the insane are also kinds of monasteries. So I’m just saying these general things to give you an outline of the scheme we’re going to follow. And then, I’m also going to illustrate these moods by playing music appropriate to them. It’s difficult, in a short time that I’ve had to prepare this, to find the music that is perfectly appropriate. But this is suggestive, and I’m going to say something about that in general later.
Now then, let’s go back to the fundamental assumption that all people—and this also includes all beings whatsoever, but we’re talking mainly, of course, about human beings—all people are manifestations, disguises, of the total reality behind this cosmos and that, if that is so, there are not any mistakes in the world. When you look at patterns on the foam of the breaking waves on the seashore, and you look at the outlines of mountains, and the grain in wood, and the markings on marble, you notice that it never makes an aesthetic mistake. Never. Also, when you study plants and you go into their relationships with each other and with insects, the fact that the so-called diseases of plants are the full life of some other kind of organism having a ball. And you see this complexly interrelated world, and you realize that it all hangs together. That everything outside the human world is a system of balances where you couldn’t have, really, any form of life without the others going on, too. There have to be friends and there have to be enemies. Because if there aren’t enemies, the friends get too prosperous and they kill themselves by their excessive exuberance. So they are constantly being pruned by various kinds of enemy species.
And what is—when you got down there, and suppose you identified yourself with a certain plant, you would thoroughly object to—if you were a lettuce—to the snails eating you up. And also, a person who gets identified with lettuces, you see—say, somebody who grows lettuces for his living—gets mad at the snails. But actually, the lettuces need snails. Because there would be too many lettuces if there weren’t snails. And those lettuces would choke each other. Now, of course, the human being comes in and starts organizing the lettuces, you see, so that the seeds don’t propagate in the usual way. Because he puts them out in row, and that’s a different kind of a scene. And so he objects to the snails. But that’s because he’s looking at the problem of letters from a partisan point of view. And it’s quite right that he should do so. What he may not see—because he’s taken the side of lettuces against nails—he fails to see that conflict at one level is health at another, just as a conflict going on between microorganisms in your bloodstream is absolutely essential to the health of your organism as a whole. But you’re not aware of that conflict going on, because conscious attention doesn’t need ordinarily to focus upon it. And so you don’t get involved, and you’re not anxious about what party is winning and what party is losing. They’re keeping up a kind of balance.
Now then, to take this a step further: we are all amazingly involved in the process of being human, and playing our game and taking our side, and therefore our victories and defeats, our sicknesses and our healths, are things we get mighty partisan about. And therefore we cannot see that human behavior is just like everything else: it never makes a mistake. Only: its never making a mistake must include the feeling that mistakes can be made. See, that’s where this point of view would differ somewhat from the point of view of a Christian scientist, who strives—manfully, in a way—to assert that evil is purely illusory, but doesn’t quite grasp the point that the illusion of there being something evil is important and good, too. We’re not trying to get rid of it, you see? Because if you get rid of it you would have problems.
It’s… I could say, for example, that a character—a historical character like Hitler—is someone about whom it is very natural for most of us to feel angry. And that’s perfectly right that we feel angry—although he is a as much a natural phenomenon as an earthquake. So what we have, then, is a system of a sort of hierarchy of levels. And at the point where you are involved you can’t stand aside from yourself and look at it objectively in the same way as you look at the patterns of foam on the seashore, or as the life of the fishes of the tide pools. But to be liberated is to be able to see human life in the same way as you see all other life. And to do that you have to be able to live, as it were, on two levels: the level of involvement and the level of detachment.
And therefore, cultivating the level of detachment is something that is done through the mysterious human property of self-consciousness. To be able to know that you know, to feel that you feel. And by possessing that faculty—which is self-consciousness; is being able to reflect upon one’s own life—we are able to become, as it were, to go to a level at which our own life is seen in its total context in the universe. That is to say: to realize that your Self is not your ego, which is the standpoint at which you are involved in your game and taking sides, but your Self is the eternal, immeasurable reality that is what there is. Only, the difficulty here is that this capacity—this capacity of self-consciousness—although it is that which enables us to awaken is also capable of getting us into perfectly frightful messes. Into all kinds of (what must be called) feedback snarls where you know that you know, you can think about thinking, and the moment you can think about thinking you can think whether your thinking was right or not. Did it come off? Was it? Did I do the right thinking? Then you start to worry. Then you start to worry about the kind of thinking you are doing about thinking. And so builds up our particular human anxiety.
When these creatures that are not self-conscious behave, they behave spontaneously. They just go zoom-zowee, and do what they have to do. And so if it doesn’t work they die, but they don’t worry about it in advance. That’s that. Magnificent, you see? And human beings have a faint memory. Kind of archaic, sort of collective unconscious, Jungian-style feeling that there was a time when we didn’t have to worry and when we could never be neurotic. And a great deal of religion, you see, is an attempt to regain the golden age, the paradise lost. And so it involves, as it were, an attitude of surrender:
Be not anxious for the morrow; what you shall eat, what you shall drink, or what clothes you will wear. Or consider the flowers of the field: they don’t work, they don’t spin, they don’t gather into bonds. And yet, Solomon in all his splendor was not clothed like one of those. And so if God clothes the grass of the field which exists today and is thrown tomorrow into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, faithless ones?
I’m translating it myself to put it in a way that isn’t just so familiar that you don’t hear it. Now, I mean, that’s totally subversive! These words in the Bible are outrageous! Everybody says, “Well, it’s all very well for Jesus, and the few Saints, and things like that. For all practical purposes that’s ridiculous! You can’t live that way. After all, you’ve got to plan for your old age. You’ve got to have a savings account. Got to have insurance. You gotta have a job. You’ve got to do all those things. See?” So you have to think about that. Why can’t I do that? So you see, in this way the human being comes to reflect upon himself and begins to see that there’s something wrong. Now, there isn’t—but it’s right that he should feel that something is wrong because it is through this that his capacity for self-knowledge and self-consciousness develops.
So you see, there is the sense that somehow or other at some time there was a fall; a point at which we became unnatural. There’s a great deal of worry going on about this now because of the rise of the computer. Do you know this? This is terribly interesting: that a new form of intelligence, you see, has come into the world which is in certain directions vastly superior to human intelligence. And people are beginning to worry like anything about whether the machines are going to take us over. But we’ve got to realize that machines aren’t… see, “machine” is becoming a dirty word. Just a machine! Mere machinery! You see? But actually, there has grown out of us through these things enormous electronic circuits that are new forms of life. And these are all connected with us. They’re not separate from us. They’re not something like a different order of beings that might come from some other planet and conquer us. The whole development of the electronic minds and brains that we have are new cortexes.
See, the cortex overlaps the original central brain. And, as it were, when you play this game—you know, putting hands over hands over hands that children like to play; it’s a game called capping—well, the cortex caps the central brain (that is more like the brain of an animal) and enables us to reflect on it. Now, all this machinery that we are making is an extension of our brain and is a new kind of life. But it worries us. And when we start to do that, we get the feeling something is going wrong. There has been a fall, there has been a mistake. And exactly the same sensation, you see, is anciently connected with the development of self-consciousness in the cortex: something went wrong. Because every time we get that feeling it means that we’ve taken a new step in controlling things. Instead of relaxing and letting our wings fly us—like a moth or a bird—we now have these jet planes where we have an elaborate system of anxious people morning, noon, and night checking that those things go right. And it’s marvelous that they do. Our friend Ralph Johnson, who often attends these seminars, is an American Airlines captain, and saved the jet the other day in very dangerous circumstances. Fantastic! But here it is.
Now, when you haven’t yet discovered that the new development (such as self-consciousness) is really a new form of nature—like a branch coming out of a tree, which is a kind of a new development of the trunk—and it’s something just as healthy and just a splendid as that, then you begin to reproach yourself and say, “Oh dear, I am awful.” You begin to be alienated, you see, from your own center. But do understand that being alienated from your own center is a form of, a way of, stepping apart so that you can see yourself? Now, that’s important. That is resonance. See, when you sing in the bathtub you find you’ve got a better voice than when you sing in a non-resonant room, because you’ve got a little echo. You mustn’t get too much echo. But just a little echo is resonance, and that’s more fun because it’s more conscious. If you’re happy and you don’t know you’re happy, you see, you’re not as happy as if you know you’re happy. But if you know you’re happy, you may spoil it by getting anxious about it.
So this self-consciousness is a kind of resonance. But then, you see, when it gets to the point of this terrible feeling, “I can’t trust my instincts anymore.” “I’ve got to decide.” “I have,” as it were, “taken over the prerogatives of God.” Well, that’s a terrible thing to do because you can’t be genuine anymore, you see? You know that when you love somebody, you also want to get as much out of them as you can. You know that when you act as a responsible citizen, you do so so as to have a good image in your own view of yourself. This is your ego-kick, only you dress it up so that it’s not an ego-kick at all, but perfectly sincere public service, and charity, and good feelings towards everybody. Ha-ha! And so then there begins this awful thing. Repentance.
And so, somehow, there comes up this state of mind when you appear to yourself as a rotten. Some people, when they take LSD, get visions that everything is glorious, you see, and has light inside it, But occasionally, people get the vision that everything is corrupt, that all faces are things that are slowly drooling away into into sort of [purulent] rot. And just everything is falling apart. And they begin to get the feeling that life is a disease. We originally had here a nice, clean planet with nothing but rocks, fire. And it was sterile and nice. And then all this dreadful goo developed. And the best thing for it is to wipe it up. Life is a terrible mistake, see? And a lot of people feel that, and therefore want to get away from their bodies to a purely geological, electronic state, which is called spirituality. You know what most people think of as spirituality? Something totally abstract. Something mathematical. Something electronic. Something that has no kind of pus or blood or goo, especially no flesh in it, you see? That’s the spiritual state. So that expresses the feeling of these people, fundamentally, who are at variance with their essential life.
Now, this is going to get complicated, I warn you. They’re ambivalent about it. See, in both Hebrew and Christian—and I should add Islamic—theology, sin (of which one repents), is a spiritual thing. It does not arise from the body. The author of evil is an angel, a bodyless being. And therefore he is something closer to, say, E = mc² than to a rosebud. But at the same time, in practice—that’s the theory—in practice, what so many Jews, Christians, and Muslims regard as evil is the body, the physical world and our involvement in it; our interest in it. And so, you see, for this reason materialism is a dirty word. You shouldn’t be a materialist. Although William Temple very wisely said once that Christianity is the most materialistic religion. That is true theoretically. Judaism is an equally materialistic religion, theoretically. Sometimes more so practically than the Christian religion. Because materialism is the love of material. And, as we shall see, it is fundamental to Judaism that God’s creation of the world is not a mistake, but a great good thing—and a material world at that.
So then, if you can see what I’m pointing out to you is this: how ambivalent we are. We say that evil is spiritual, and yet we treat it as if it were fleshly. As if one couldn’t escape from this flesh.
See? The wall of flesh, the image of the prison, and the soul inside. I’m quoting Shakespeare. “O that this too too solid flesh would melt.” And, you see, when you get sick, when you get old, when you find that your body is something tiresome to carry around, it grows up this resentment against physical existence. So all of these different moods, horror at one’s own perverse soul, horror at being involved in a corruptible body, will be involved in the penitential mood.
Now, I presume most of you have had personal experience of this at some time in your lives. It’s always puzzling to children when they all start out on this kick. I know in the Anglican Church they have everybody says a general confession at the services, and children can never understand it. They don’t know what all these terrible things that they’re supposed to have done are. Say,
Think of it! The children—that the most amazing thing to say. Or that awful one they have at the Holy Communion, talking about our sins: “The remembrance of them is grievous onto us, the burden of them is intolerable.” And then, of course, in the Catholic Church it’s simpler, where they say,
I confess to God almighty and all the various saints, I’ve sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by now most grievous fault.
In Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. The story is told of an altarboy who didn’t understand Latin, and was always saying, “Me a cowboy! Me a cowboy! Me a Mexican cowboy!”
But you see, first of all, there is a wonderful security in admitting that you’re wrong. Then you’re sure to be right, see? If you know you’re wrong and make a great point of it. And if you’re suffering and paying a punishment, you see, for being wrong, then you know it’s okay.
See? So the way of the cross is interpreted by many people as this way of life lived in chronic frustration. And I’ve read many manuals on this. The spiritual advice, for example, they say: when you get a headache don’t take aspirin. Live the pain through and offer it to the Lord in union with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Always arrange your life in such a way that it will be a little difficult. That’s why some people where a hair shirt. They are always uncomfortable. They always itch. And they do it to keep them going. I mean, this keeps you alive. You know you are there.
I was in Mexico last August studying this, because I wanted to go down there and find out why their form of Catholicism is so agonizing. And I even meditated a long time on this in the cathedral in Oaxaca. And here was the main altar—no, not the main altar. The chapel where the sacrament is reserved. The central figure behind the altar is a huge crucifix of Christ covered in blood and wounds. The sores are all modeled, you know? And then, on either side of the walls facing this, there are great paintings. One of Christ carrying the cross, and being mocked and scourged, and the other of the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. And all around in the stores where they sell [???] in the neighborhood of the cathedral you can buy these agonized faces of Christ with the crown of thorns, and every thorn individually sticking in, and dribbles of blood. The face is kind of green and ghastly. And the people dig this! They love it! They’ll go walking into the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe; go for a whole mile on their knees. You’ll see young girls doing this, you know? And what is this about?
Well, you see, some people don’t really feel they exist until they are sitting on the point of a thorn, if I may put it that way. Reality is a measure of pain. See, pain—in this way of looking at things—is the most real thing that there is. The pleasures of this world escape and disappear and pass away. There’s nothing to cling to, so don’t go after pleasure, my dear friends! That’s awful, that’s deceit, because the real thing in life is pain. And so what you do is you train yourself from childhood to deal with pain. We were brought up in a school system where it was simply axiomatic that suffering builds character. So therefore, any time you inflicted pain on anybody, you were perfectly justified in your own conscience because you were doing him a favor. You were building his character for him. “Do him good! Hit him hard on the head!” You know? This sort of attitude.
And so this is based on—this philosophy of “pain is reality”—is the ultimate penitential philosophy. Going down, down, down into the most awful. “I am wrong.” See? “I am a mistake.” “I am responsible for this mistake, therefore I ought to suffer.” And I go right into that state of mind. And if I’ve got guts and courage, I’ll go as far into it as possible. And what will I find out at the end?
Now, if you go far enough—the trouble is a lot of people don’t, and they stay around, mimble-mambling about their sins and all that. It’s just sort of disgusting. And they never really get down to it. They never find out. What I’ll call “the moment,” the hidden motivation behind all this. Behind self-renunciation, behind wallowing in the reality of pain. They don’t see that it’s phony. Because nothing can be more egotistical than true repentance. As I pointed out: you’re safe when you’re repentant enough. Therefore, you conceal for yourself, temporarily, what an egotist you are.
But if you really get down to the bottom of this thing, as some of the Christian saints have done, and find out what that repentance is all about, and you suddenly see why it’s dear old sin all over again. What I thought was good was, as a matter of fact, evil. It was the same self-seeking and self-righteousness and ineradicable pride and irreducible rascality which the Hebrews call the yetzer hara, which means the “evil inclination.” But they say that the evil inclination was created by the Lord God. And probably the Lord God has a yetzer hara himself; that the Lord has his own element of irreducible rascality. And that is, of course, what you might call the dark side; the left hand of God. The left hand that doesn’t know what the right hand doeth.
Because that mustn’t be let out. That’s the secret, you see? If the game of the cosmos is of the fundamental pattern of hide and seek, then when hide turns up and it’s the time for hide to happen, then darkness has its day. Hide in the dark. But when it’s time for seek, then light has its day and we find out what was hidden in the dark. And then the right hand suddenly discovers what the left hand was doing. At first it’s shocked. What, that?
What is “that,” by the way? What is the fundamental taboo, The thing you really mustn’t do? Freud said it was sex. But because he said that, you see, we’ve recovered from it. The epoch B.F., “Before Freud,” and the epoch A.F. are very different. Sex isn’t the taboo. Maybe it’s incest. Why is incest taboo? It’s getting kind of close to home. Going back to mama. Going back, but not going back in the ordinary way. It’s going back as an adult, not as a baby. And you mustn’t do that. Because—why? Because this is simply a biological analogue of the great taboo, which is to discover who you really are. Going back to Big Papa. And that… crrrk!, that’s out.
But that’s what is discovered when you discover you are a phony, you see? What is a phony? A phony is a mask. And the masks used—as I have told most of you—in classical drama were megaphones. They had mouth pieces so that the voice would be projected in an open-air theater. So we get the phone. And the mask was the persona. That’s the Latin for “that through which the sound passes.” So the persona is the mask, the phony. So to discover that you are a phony through and through and through is to discover that you’re a big act, that you’re a game. And when you discover that, then you wake up to find out who’s the player.
Now, I have been discussing four fundamental attitudes that are found in the various religions of the world towards the human predicament. And as you see still on the blackboard, they are given to be four Rs instead of the three Rs: repentance opposite rebellion and resignation opposite reincarnation, the latter word being used in a special sense—not in the ordinary sense of rebirth, but of an affirmation of the human predicament, of getting with life. And this morning I discussed the attitude of repentance: the frame of mind in which it is felt that there is something profoundly wrong about being a self-conscious, isolated individual human being. And I tried to show that, when this attitude is carried to an extreme point, it results in your discovering that you are a total phony. And I said that the difficulty of the repentance attitude is that people don’t carry it to an extreme point. And they use the attitude of repentance and the indulgence in punishment for whatever they think is wrong about themselves as a kind of lifestyle which assures you that you’re in the right because you hurt, and because you insist that you’re wrong.
I’ve sometimes suggested that this statement, “I am a sinner,” is logically equivalent to the statement, “This statement is false.” Because, you see, if that is a true statement, it’s a false statement. And if it’s a false statement, it’s a true statement, and so on forever. And to say “I am a sinner” is really the same thing, because it implies that the statement itself—since it is the statement of a sinner—is a sinful statement. And it’s a trap called a double-bind. And so I’ve often twitted my clergy friends about this to their great amusement, because the clergy aren’t as bad as you might think—at least a good many of them. They have trouble in making it with their congregations, and they expect that their congregations will want the good old religion of wallowing in sins because many congregations, I’ve found out, love to be scolded. And if you make everybody feel temporarily guilty, but also make each individual feel assured that everybody else is more guilty than he is, this is a much sought-after emotional experience.
But the point that I was making was that, if you pursue this idea—of being sinful, of being phony, of being insincere—to its ultimate point where you discover that all you do and all you are is a big act, then this raises the question of: what is reality? What lies behind phoniness? And so, then and there, you have an initiatic experience because it leads into the discovery that the Upanishads call tat tvam asi (“that art thou”): that the real you is not the isolated conscious ego. That is only a game being played all over the place by what there is. Tat [???] “that,” and what there is, is coextensive with the whole cosmos and is the imperishable reality, and everyone is that. But the game—since we started on the premise that existence is a game—the game is hide-and-seek, the game is pretending that it’s not so.
We then move on, you see, to another possible response: not repentance, but resignation. “I quit the game. I won’t play it.” There are all sorts of ways of doing this. But basically, this is an aristocratic posture. “You ordinary mortals, with all your desires and all your involvements, are deluded. You get attached to things. But there are a certain minority of us who are above it all. And we simply resign. We’re not going to follow this.” Now, this, as I say, is aristocratic, but it may be aristocratic in two ways. There’s the aristocracy of the Hindu sannyasin: the people who are outside and above caste. And there’s also the aristocracy of the actual aristocrat. (I get so mixed up with my British and American pronunciation on this word.) The aristocrat who comes on with a pose of always being bored, who has complete sang-froid, who is imperturbable. Keyserling’s study of this mentality is marvelous: in his book Europe, the essay on Hungary portrays the type he calls the grand seigneur, and he always identified himself with this type, this role. The grand seigneur who cannot be fazed, who can always rise to the occasion under any social circumstances whatsoever without trying to do so, or without apparently trying to do so. In other words, if he goes to the opera wearing blue jeans, he will somehow make it apparent that everybody else is improperly dressed.
This is a very interesting type of person. You know, there was an essay—written by someone whose name I can’t remember—in the Centennial Review which contrasted the attitude to time of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat. They said the aristocrat lives in the past because his ancient forebears have achieved everything, and by the fact of his birth, his existence, he has nothing to strive for. And he somehow never need overdo it. He’s always cool. The bourgeois, on the other hand, feels that it’s necessary to arrive. And he’s always striving for the future, whereas the aristocrat lives in the past. On the other hand, the proletarian lives in the present, because he doesn’t care about his reputation and he just lives. And so, of the three, the bourgeois is the sucker. Because the poor bourgeois is always cheated. Because… well, it’s going to come some day, see? You’re going to get it. Even your money, when you pull it out of your pocket, says on it: “promise to pay.” Watch out for that! It’s promises.
And the bourgeoisie, you see, lives on promises. The whole economy of the United States—being the great bourgeois country—is in a state of expectancy; of feeling happy not on what you have, but on what is going to come. The aristocrat is happy of what has happened. These great achievements of the past—there’s nothing left to do, except sort of glory in it. The proletarian wants it right now, see? And very often gets it. But the poor bourgeois. As my uncle once said, “The poor have it given to them. The rich have it anyway. But the middle classes do without.” So both the aristocrat and the sannyasin have resigned.
Now, the more interesting of the two types is, of course, the sannyasin who resigns from the world game. Let me review for you the role of the sannyasin in Indian culture. You know there are four castes: the caste of priests (or brahmins), the caste of warriors and rulers (called kṣatria), the caste of merchants (called vaishya), and the caste of workers (called shudra). And to belong to a caste means that you are in the state called gr̥hastha, which is “householder.” That is to say, you are one who is involved in the world. You are engaged in what is called lokasaṃgraha. And loka means “the world,” saṃgraha means “upholding:” upholding the going-on of the great illusion. And so you are playing for money, for position, for status, for success, and hoping above all that you could win; you can beat the game.
But it’s supposed, in the same culture, that every man who attains the age of 45 or so, who has now a grown son to take over his work, will quit the game, will resign. And so at that age you’re supposed to move from the state of gr̥hastha (householder) to vanaprastha, which means “forest dweller.” You give away all your possessions to your son, you change your name, you take off your clothes and go more or less naked—because you have abandoned status. So the sannyasin has no status. He is, however, respected in the culture for being an upper outcast, whereas the aborigines of the Indian Peninsula are untouchables; the lower outcasts. And the upper outcast always mimics the lower. For example, Buddha had his disciples wear ocher robes because ocher robes were worn by convicts. So in the same way, today, in San Quentin they all wear blue jeans of a special kind: pants and a kind of a blue denim jackets. This could well become the uniform of a new kind of sannyasin in the Western world, and to some extent this is happening.
So, this guy says, “The game is not worth the gamble. The richer I get, the more miserable I get.” You know how this is? You think that your problems may be monetary, and you get more money—what do you do then? When you’ve got enough money you start worrying about your health. And you can never, never stop worrying about that. Or, if you’re not worried about your health, you worry about politics: if somebody is going to take your money away from you. You worry about taxes, about who’s cheating you. And so a person who goes through all that sees, finally: “I don’t think the game’s worth it. I’m going to resign.” And so resignation, or renunciation, is different from repentance. It hasn’t got the same kind of passion in it at all. The repentant person feels he’s wrong, has made mistakes, has committed sins, and wants to get better. But the renounced person isn’t concerned with that kind of thing. He knows that better, progress—whether moral or material—is an illusion. And you have to understand this when you approach, for example, the study of Buddhism.
I think one of the most withering remarks I ever heard from an Oriental—he was Japanese—he said once: “You must never forget that, whereas Jesus was the son of a carpenter, Buddha was the son of a King.” You know… wow! Take that! And it’s true, you see? There is something always of that about it. That this is not… there’s a sense, you see, in which Christianity historically was the protest of the slave class against the Roman establishment. Buddhism was different. It was the abandonment of position by an aristocracy saying, “We’ve done it, we’ve seen it all, we’ve had it. And so now we check out. And we will therefore resign from all games.” And if you follow this attitude to an extreme, you’re going to make (because it all goes to the center) the same discovery that is made by the person who follows repentance to an extreme. Just as the repentant person discovers that his contrition is phony, the person who tries to resign will discover that he can’t—that there is no way of not playing games.
Let’s go a little bit, then, into this game theory. There are a lot of games that we play. And it’s not only the game of “can I get one-up on the universe”—of pretending that I’m me, this is ego with its name and its role; the mask—but also we have what I call meta-games. For example the game “my game’s better than your game.” I won’t play with you because your game is vulgar, stupid, banal, inferior. Or one of the most, therefore, effective games in saying “my game is better than your game” is that “I’m not playing games at all.” You are. Now, at the lowest level we find that in the form of “you’re not sincere. I am sincere.” “You are fooling. I’m not fooling you. I’m being honest with you,” you see? Now, that’s a great game. And this game of resignation is a form of it. That’s to say, you are children playing with toys, and you haven’t ever really woken up with the important concerns of life. You haven’t reached the dimension of ultimate sincerity. All that is to say ultimate reality. And in order to reach it you have to resign from distractions.
You hear a great deal in the literature about meditation of getting rid of distractions, wandering thoughts. Well, you might ask when you think about all that: “What are wandering thoughts? What are wrong thoughts? What shouldn’t I be doing with my mind?” “Well,” they all say, “actually, every day you think about this and then you think about that, and your thoughts run on in an undisciplined way from one association to another. And you can’t keep your mind fully on the job.” Or whatever it is. So, you see, you’re supposed to renounce that. Because that’s triviality. All those wandering thoughts, they’re not about the important thing. Now, what’s important? What should you keep your mind on? Well, something. Just so long as you keep your mind on it. In an instruction of one of the Buddhist scriptures it says about concentration: one may concentrate on a yellow square on the ground, on the burning tip of an incense stick, on your navel, on the tip of your nose, on the center between the eyes, or anything. And in a footnote the commentator adds: but not on any wicked thing. You know, that’s commentators the world over: they never have any humor. So anything will do just so long as you keep your mind on it. Don’t wander. Stick to it.
So wandering is involvement in games by this kind of definition. So, then you try to get out. Can you now get out? Can you stop competing with other human beings? In ancient Greek society there was a place in the center of the community called the agon, and this was a place of contests where they had wrestling matches and other athletic events, because all the men were constantly trying to show who was the better. And from this word, the agonia—which means the contest itself—held in the agon, we get our word “agony.” The struggle and striving to be superior. And a lot of people which you meet—you will recognize this among your friends all the time—are not happy unless they are involved in a contest. It doesn’t matter what it is. So long as they are trying to beat something, they’re happy. And you may say, “Oh, for heaven’s sakes. You know, can’t we just sit around and talk instead of having to play a game or bet or do something to prove who’s the stronger?” I was once married to a girl who was never happy unless she was engaged in some kind of contest. Well, of course I had a game that didn’t look like one. And so it was a very superior game. Just because it didn’t look like one. But it was a form of the game “my game is better than yours.”
So you can’t really not play. You may go through the motions of not playing, but you still are. And one of the most marvelous examples of this is the Buddhist sangha. Sangha means the order of Buddhist monks, or… “monks” isn’t quite the right word because the basis of Buddhist monkhood is a little different from Christian, but I don’t want to go into that technicality. Here are these people—living in, say, Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, and so on—who go around in yellow robes and have renounced the world. But of course they’ve become, as a community, very prosperous and powerful. And everybody, you know, makes an obeisance to monks and feeds them. And they don’t they don’t feed just on the rice gruel. Important monks get called into the houses of wealthy laity and get given fine dinners, because the layman feels he’s acquiring merit by being so generous to the monks. And you should see the scene in Japan. Although today the monks have lost their power to a large extent, you can see the traces of the power they once had. In the city of Kyoto, the Buddhist orders—Zen, Tendai, and especially Shinshū sect—have the best parts of town. If you stay a night in a Zen monastery as a guest and go into one of the rooms there, you are not in any hovel, you’re in a palace. You live differently from the way we are accustomed to, but you are liable to get shown into a room where the walls are entirely covered in gold leaf and painted by the greatest masters of Japan. You’ll, say, sit down to sleep by a Kanō Motonobu screen. And the landscape around you, the gardens, the view, are gorgeous beyond belief. This is the life of resignation. Now, it’s true—I know most about Zen monks, rather than the other orders—Zen monks live a pretty rough life. But it’s extremely toney. It’s healthy. It’s absolutely non-masochistic. They have studied the art of enjoying poverty.
Now, this is a terribly important thing in the understanding of Far Eastern culture. When a man in Japan—if he sort of inherits an old-fashioned tradition—makes a killing in business, he doesn’t go around showing off how much he possesses. He goes around showing off how little he possesses. Even though he may drive to his office in a Mercedes or a Rolls Royce, his house is relatively barren. And he chooses objects of art and paintings that look extremely simple. And he will as likely as not have a separate house from his main huge establishment where it’s like a hermitage. I mean, it’s almost as absurd in its own way as Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess after reading Rousseau and having a little cottage, rustic cottage, in the grounds of Versailles. But it’s not quite as absurd as that, because even the main house has an austerity about it. And they learn, you see, to love that austerity. To them it has the feeling of great comfort.
Now, you see, what happened was this: that, long ago, the best part of Kyoto—the hills that ring the north side and east of the city—being so beautiful, were owned by a bunch of brigands who were later the noble Daimyō, (or lords) of Japan—the great feudal barons. And these people work as tough as all get-out. They were always fighting. And so the Buddhist monks moved in and decided they would take this property away from the Daimyōs by out-competing them, by playing the game “our game is more interesting than your game.” So they said to all those brigands: “So what? You’ve attained all these conquests, you have your castles, you have your great estates. But then what?” It all falls apart. You know, especially when the brigand is getting a little elderly, and has stomach troubles and dizziness and so on, and this monk comes along and says—and furthermore, the monk says, “You can’t scare me.” And the brigand says, “HA!” And he pulls out his sword and points it at this monk.
But now, the point is: he can’t kill the monk then and there, because if he does that he won’t find out whether the monk was scared or not. And so the monk looks straight in the eye. And nothing happens. He doesn’t flinch. And the brigand has him now in a contest, he thinks. And he puts the sword—point right against his throat. The monk sits there. Well, the monk has it. Right there. But you see how, in a way, easy the game was. Because the monk knows that he wins his point. If the brigand kills him before the monk flinches, he’s obviously cheated. Now, since there is honor among thieves, the chances are—although there will sometimes be a brigand who will feel put down by this contest and therefore kill the monk—the chances are that he won’t. But look what the monk stands to gain! If he wins, the brigand says, “Wow! Would I like to have that courage! Because if I had that courage I would be that much better a warrior.” So the monk says, “I’ll teach you.” And as a result of that, the monk does teach him. He teaches him the practice of Zen, zazen, meditations, and all this kind of thing, and puts him through the works.
And so he comes to understand what the monk did understand anyway, which was that it really doesn’t matter if you live or die. Because the thing goes on. It’s perfectly indestructible. If you happen to die it just goes on in a new way. Because you are the works. So… fine. But the monk is playing a game. And so, as a result, all the Zen communities got given the old palaces. The brigands all moved to Tokyo and set up their business all around the great court, and the gorgeous temples and grounds went to the monks, where—although none of them owns anything personally; which is a great idea, you know, because you don’t have any responsibility then. The community owns it. And you don’t have to pay any taxes. And since you’re a nonprofit organization you’re not taxable anyway. Oh, it’s a great setup. And they really did it beautifully. What they did, in effect, was to con those brigades out of the best land in Kyoto—by resignation, by playing a higher game.
But, you see, anyone who goes through that—goes through the Buddhist process of resignation—will come to a point where he knows that he didn’t resign at all. And this is what makes the difference between pedestrian Buddhist monks—who think they’ve resigned, and feel a little bit guilty because it’s such a prosperous affair to resign, because you live in the best place and so on—and those ones who know, who go right through, who constitute a small residue of great Buddhist masters, who discover that they can’t resign at all.
Let’s consider an extreme example of resignation: the life of a hermit. Far Eastern literature is full of the idealization of the hermit’s life. The wonderful idea of an old man somewhere in the mountains, far off in the forest. Hakuin’s books describe such an individual who can’t be found: nobody knows where he is. He leaves no trace. And they consider that as admirable. The poem, you know, which says:
And that idea of the far-off man, way, way, way off in some forests. But what does a hermit discover? If you try this and get as lonely as you can get, you become vividly aware that you can’t get away from it. Because when you get very lonely and very quiet, you become extremely sensitive. And everything that goes on that’s ordinarily unnoticed comes to your attention. First of all, you will find there’s a community of insects. And they are tremendously interested in you, and not necessarily hostile. I mean, maybe sometimes, but alone in the forest when you get really quiet you will notice little creatures will come and inspect you, look you all over. And they will go away and tell their friends, and they’ll come and look to see what it is. And you become aware of every single sound. And you realize that, alone, you’re in the midst of the vast murmuring crowd. May not be human. But it’s everything else. So that the point of being a hermit, the discipline, leads you to understand that you can’t resign. The lonelier you are, the more you’re joined together with everything else, because you get more sensitive.
So then I find, then: I cannot give up playing the game. Look at it, too, from another point of view. Supposing I say everybody is playing the game “me first.” Now, I’m going to play the game “you first”—to use the phrase of Bonhoeffer, who called Jesus the man for others. Now, let’s see if we can play that game. Instead of “me first,” “you first.” “After you, please.” Will you please? You know, what a way this is at putting everybody down! See, I’m the one who’s so generous. I’m the one who’s so loving, so self-effacing. And all you inferior brats can go first. You can play “me first.” I’ll play “you first.” I’ll try and convince you to play “you first.” But the success of convincing you on that is relatively small and therefore the in-group will always be the people playing “you first.” And therefore they will get the honors.
So, when you think that through and you say, “I cannot stop playing ‘me first’.” There’s no way of not doing it! Well… and what does it mean when I’m in a trap that I can’t get out of? There’s no way of getting out of this trap! Well, what it means is that you and the trap are the same thing. You’re not caught. Because when there’s nobody in the trap, there’s no trap. See that? As long as you think you’re in a trap, then the trap’s got you. But when you know you are the trap, then what has the trap got? If you’re trying to get out of the game, you’re trapped. No way out. But when you have found that you and the game are the same, there’s no game to get out of. There’s no one to get out of the game. And that’s true resignation. And then you can take the point of view of the bodhisattva as distinct from they arhat. The arhat, in Buddhist terminology, is the person who escapes from the wheel of birth and death, the saṃsāra, and gets out of the game. So he stands here. The bodhisattva is the arhat-plus. He’s the arhat who’s gone on to find out that you can’t get out of the game at all. So the bodhisattva’s found over here. In other words, he goes back into the cycle of reincarnations and doesn’t bother about escaping anymore.
So, in just the same way as to repentance leads to the understanding that you’re a phony—even in repenting—resignation leads to the understanding that even in resigning you can’t resign. It isn’t as if someone were saying, “You must play this game,” and you felt yourself under some sort of compulsion. It’s rather discovering that the game is what there is. And if you got out of it, you would be nowhere. You don’t have to play. This is the point. I’m going to repeat this because this is crucial: it isn’t that you have to play, because that would make you feel a victim of some process beyond yourself that has been compelling you. It is that the playing is you. And nobody is shoving you around. Because you and the universe which seems to constrain you are not two things. If you play the game that you are only here, then you will feel pushed around. But when—through trying to resign from either pushing around or being pushed around—you discover that it can’t be done, you then become very much aware there is no point getting away from anything. Where is away? And so it’s said: a true Zen monk has a mountain hermitage in any place that he stands on.
So let’s have intermission, shall we?
Thus far, we have discussed two of the four attitudes to the human predicament characteristic of religions and methods of spiritual development: the attitudes of repentance and of resignation. Now, let me repeat that the premise of this whole discussion, the first premise, is that existence is a game in all senses of that word. The best senses and the worst senses. That it’s a pattern of dancing, the principle of which is: “now you see it, now you don’t.” Or: hide-and-seek, or lost-and-found. And that we, as members of Western culture in the 20th century, inherit a way of playing this game wherein we pretend that we are—each one of us—an isolated individual who comes into the world as a stranger. We do not know, in the ordinary course of events, that that is not true and that each one of us is a way in which the whole fullness of ultimate reality pretends that it gets lost in an individual life situation, and endures the adventures of pain and death, and endures all the critical efforts and decisions connected with practical and moral problems. The fact that this is the case is, of course, the content of certain kinds of experience which are extraordinary. That means simply: not necessarily rare, but outside the usual order of things.
The types of experience we call cosmic consciousness, mystical vision and so on—wherein sometimes, as the result of following a yoga, but sometimes simply as a consequence of a spontaneous change of gears (you might almost call it) inside the brain, or some anomaly of switching—we get let into the secret. And in such a moment a person feels that scales had dropped from his eyes and that he was awakened to the true state of affairs. That we do not know this to be the case in the ordinary way is because we are—you could say, in a certain sense of the word—hypnotized; in the sense of the word that is applicable to the technique of a stage magician. Almost all stage magic consists in misdirection of attention, so that the magician makes you watch something that will distract your attention from the trick he’s going to pull on you. And we are almost all distracted in just such a way because we have so specialized in the powers and properties of conscious attention to things that we have identified our very selves with that faculty alone. We are therefore unaware of a much more inclusive and diffused kind of awareness which underlies the possibility of conscious attention and which characterizes every single nerve end in our bodies. We screen out—that is to say, we pay no attention to—most of the information (or to use electronic terms, input) that our organism receives.
It is possible, however, to—as I say—slip switches so that we become aware of the input. I won’t say of the total input, because that would be shattering. But we become aware of a great deal more than we ordinarily notice. And it is in those moments that the experiences of cosmic consciousness occur, because it is in those moments that we become aware of the fact that what is inside your skin goes together with what is outside your skin in just the same way as your head goes together with your feet. The two—obviously, it’s physically impossible for your inside organs to exist apart from the outside universe. I mean, you just simply wouldn’t have any air to breathe, for one thing; the simplest possible case of it. But it’s far more complexly related than that. And the going-together of these two worlds constitutes a unified field of process, of being, and we are not ordinarily aware of it because of the trick, the game, of pretending that we are the inside of the skin only.
So then, under the conditions of this game—and I’m not saying it’s a bad game, that we shouldn’t play this game. I’m only pointing out that it is a game and that it sets up—in other words, as all games sets up, it sets up some formal rules, but these formal rules of the game should not be identified with the laws of nature or with the state of affairs of reality. The rules of games are conventions; that is to say, agreements about how we are going to carry out a certain operation. Like the rules of dancing a waltz are game rules. So, also, are the rules of marriage, of political elections, of how we measure time and distance, and all such things. They are conventions. And “convention” is a word that translates exactly one of the meanings of the Sanskrit term māyā, which is the all-inclusive word that the Hindus and Buddhists use for the “world illusion.” It is therefore a convention to think of nature as divided into separate things and separate events. That is a convention that corresponds exactly to the mathematical operation of the calculus, whereby a curve is measured by pretending that it is a discontinuous series of points or of tiny, tiny straight lines. It isn’t so. The curve is continuous. But by pretending that it could be a series of point-instances, we can count them, work out their positions in reference to some kind of a standard scale, and so get a measurement of the curve.
Now, just as one does that in mathematics, so in everyday life we count every human organism as a thing-unit. And we count all kinds of things as a thing-unit, but sometimes a child will surprise you by asking you for the name of something which you’ve never thought of as a thing. We don’t, for example, have a word which specifies the inside of curved surfaces, like the inside of a pot, or the inside of a pipe, or the inside of a tin can. We don’t have a word that specifies dry space, or a dry surface. Now, other languages have words for those, because to those peoples (for some reason or other) this concept is important. Aztec language has one word which covers rain, ice, hail, snow. Whereas the Eskimos have five words to just differentiate different kinds of snow alone.
So a child will often ask about something and say, “What is that?” And the parent is not clear as to what “that” signifies. And it is because, you see, things and events are the units of experience, and they are those parts of experience that we notice. And when you notice something you apply to it a notation. You notice by making notations. And notations are words, numbers, and such symbols as musical notes, or algebraical signs, or astronomical symbols, or whatever. It is a way of dividing up the world so as to be able to discuss it with each other and so to control our environment. But don’t be deceived by noticing and notation. The world in which we live is not really divided. It’s like taking a sieve and passing it through water. The wires, of course, cleave the water, but the water doesn’t stay neatly sliced into square lengths, you see? As if it were something like bean curd. The water closes again. And so, in the same way, although the intellect constantly slices the world into units, the world won’t be sliced. That does not mean that the real state of the world is something like bean curd or junket; completely formless. It means that the world is full of just those various forms that we see. But it’s full of a lot more forms than we see.
First of all, the waveband upon which our senses are responsive to the electrical goings-on outside our skins is quite narrow. And if we had a wider range of sensitivity—let’s imagine that we had some additional sense organs that were as different from the five that we have as sight is different from hearing—then we should be aware of all kinds of connections and phenomena that we don’t see in the ordinary way. But even without the addition of extra senses of that kind, it is possible to increase human awareness so that we can see all kinds of things that we ordinarily ignore.
The simplest example of this is that, when we look at other people’s faces, we see the human face in a formalized way. We see faces as painters and beauticians have taught us to see them. There are many characteristics of the human face that we block. Now, supposing you are a so-called white caucasian. You are supposed to have, you see, a vaguely pinkish, smooth skin. Well, you don’t have anything of the kind. You have a highly differentiated, many-colored, blotchy skin. Only, if you put on heavy makeup like a pancake makeup, of course, you reduce the color variations. But even then, your face moves constantly through an interplay of lights that are altering all the time. And we choose—unless you are a painter or a photographer who is trained to look at these details—you ordinarily ignore them altogether. Our faces have all kinds of hairs on them, and pimples, and little funny jiggles, and it’s all there. Only, we don’t consider that those details are significant details, and so we screen them out of everyday consciousness.
So this māyā—this calculus of dividing up reality into units which are presumed to be disconnected, but somehow related to each other in more or less the same way as billiard balls that interact by banging each other around—becomes the commonsensical view of the world, and is just a convention and nothing more. Now, in that circumstance—in the circumstance of the person: the human being feeling lonely and feeling that he confronts an alien world—one of the possible tactics and the games that he can play is the highly aggressive game of dominating the environment by the power of his will. And this game is what I’ve indicated here by the word “rebellion.” Now, I’m using that word in a very loose and inclusive sense to cover not only formal rebellion—that is to say, the criminal way of life—but also even official rebellion. That is to say, a U.S. Marine sergeant might represent in some way an official rebel, since his attitude, his whole way of life, is based on guts and the exaltation the gutsy attitude to things, of the strong arm, of muscle, of brawn as against brain. And you can carry this attitude to such an extreme that it can become a way of realization just in the same way as these others: repentance, resignation, and (as we shall see) reincarnation. In a certain sense, Jean Genet is an example of the rebel. Sartre has put forward the view that Genet is a holy criminal. And this idea has had great popularity in modern times in France and is part of the mystique of criminal young people in the United States. And it has to be understood, because otherwise one doesn’t really deal with it. To be, in other words, delivered from the egocentric predicament by carrying egocentricity to its extreme.
Now, first of all, the idea that we are egos—although I have described it as a convention and as something that is not fundamentally so—nevertheless, the idea that we are egos does exist.
But, you see, the fancy is there. And in the same way, the imagination—the illusion, the māyā that we are separate egos—is something that does exist. And that fact of fancying so is not a bad thing. It is a form of game. If you would imagine life as a dance, a choreographic pattern, you might say that the imagination of being an ego is a very far-out curlicue. You know how people do frond design? Where you get a front like this, and another one here, another one here, and so. And then say, “Well now, come on. Let’s go.” In this, smaller ones. Like this. So. So. See? Drawing these tendrils on a vine. And then itty bitty tendrils come out of the others. See? And they make it more complicated and more interesting. And so, in that in that way, the development of the sensation of the ego is a very far-out curlicue on the extremities of life.
So the fact that you and I imagine we’re egos is the same sort of thing as you will observe in any complex pattern of ferns, or crystals, or surface tensions in foam, or anything like that. It is very, very natural. And so there is, then, a legitimate way of following this fancy through to its logical conclusion: the yoga of egocentricity. This is a very difficult yoga for many people to follow, because we’ve been brought up so as not to have the courage of our convictions about it. To be a consistent egotist. Perhaps Nietzsche was a great exemplar of this philosophy. To be a consistent egotist requires tremendous nerve because everybody is trying to put you down and say to you: “You should be unselfish. You should cooperate with us.” And that requires doing things that you may not like to do, but it is for the common good that you should do these things.
But the difficulty about all this is—and I’m talking about a quite superficial level of this dissent. I’m talking about here. When people pretend to be unselfish and cooperative, they confuse others horribly. If you give somebody else the impression that you’re going to be their loyal friend and you’re going to really knock yourself out for them, and they rely on you to do that, and then you let them down because that wasn’t really what you meant to do, you create a great deal of trouble. So, in marriage, if you vow to be faithful and constant to some girl in a moment of intense passion and then, after a while, your affections cool off, and you’ve led her to believe that you will always be reliable and faithful, there’s an awful crash coming. So it’s terribly important to be emotionally honest. It’s very difficult, because we don’t always know what our emotions are. But to say to someone that “I will love you for ever and ever” is a very, very serious dishonesty and deception.
So, in the same way, to give the impression to all those around you in your society or community that you will put the community before yourself, and can be relied upon to do this, is a dangerous thing to do. You may have the fullest intention of carrying this out. But I find, in practical relationships, that I am much more comfortable with people who tell me frankly what their feelings are. In other words, if I’m not welcome because they’ve got other business to do and they’re all tied up with things, it’s much better that a person should say “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel inclined to see anybody right now. I’m busy,” and so on. Then I can rely upon that person that, when they tell me, “You are welcome,” that I really am. One of my best friends is a woman who is totally frank. And if, even for purely irrational reasons, she doesn’t want to come along with something or do something, she just says, “I don’t feel like it.” And so we understand each other perfectly. Everybody understands her. Because then they know when she says, “Please come,” that she really means it.
So a proper egocentricity, if you feel like an ego, you see, is essential in good human relations. And to be guided by your real wishes—as far as you can make them out; you know what they are—is on the whole a safer bet in human relations than to be guided by abstract principles. Now, the abstract principles are all very well. And we should know what an ideal pattern of human behavior might be. One has to keep, as it were, one’s eye on that: to see if you like it. You see, the game of existence is not very simple. If I could say, you know, “Rely entirely on your feelings. Act on impulse. Never do anything except what you would really want to do.” That would be oversimplification because, among the things that most of us really want to do, there is a certain concession we would like to make to an ideal pattern. So sometimes, when a person does do something which is an act of self-sacrifice or described as such, it really is something he wants to do. Somebody gives away [to] somebody some money, he doesn’t do it because this is a sacrifice and in a masochistic spirit, but because, good heavens, I would really like to see what would happen when this guy gets the money. What fun to see this enterprise start, even if I don’t get anything back from it. I’ll have the entertainment. So an ideal pattern of how human relations might be is always something to be worked out, thought about, and kept in mind, for it’s always possible we might want it that way. But basically, to do what you really want to do is a more secure gamble than pretending all the time about a lot of oughts and shoulds.
A friend of mine (who’s a very brilliant mathematician) once told a story that, in the beginning of the ages, God was making up a dictionary of all the words that would be used in language. And one day he visited the Archangel Gabriel, and they left the dictionary in the taxi. And while he was in talking to Gabriel, the devil got into the taxi and wrote into the dictionary to words: “ought” and “should.” Well, as a result, then, of pretenses, of not being honest about what we want, untold confusion arises. You know the proverb: “Be very careful of what you desire. You may get it.”
We live in a culture where almost the whole economy depends upon the creation of artificial desires; upon giving you desires that you might never have had in the ordinary way, and therefore thinking that you want things that simply aren’t wantable. A lot of people—for example, when they feel miserable, depressed—simply go out shopping, because somehow purchasing something seems to be a fulfillment of life. I mean, I know of a lot of wives whose husbands are engaged in business and leave them alone most of the day, and there’s nothing to do—except they regularly go and go shopping. They shop every day as if it was something they had to do every day like having breakfast. And, of course, that keeps things buzzing and keeps the economy going. It means you misinterpret your own feelings. And so there’s always, after a shopping spree, a sense of letdown.
Same thing happens every Christmas Day with children. You know, toys are increasingly phony: they are a method of propitiating children. I was saying yesterday about the educational system as being a method of preventing children from growing up too fast so that they won’t come on the labor market in one huge podge. So, in the same way, children who are not allowed to participate in human activities, such as cooking and hunting and so on, have to be given so many activities: toy cooking stoves, dolls, dolls houses, guns, anything but the real thing, so that they will be kept amused and kept out of the way. Because any real child, you know, likes to play with pots and pans and all the things that the adults use and are doing. But toys prevent them from doing that.
Now then, what happens is: the children are given an immense artificial desire for toys. A toy shop seems paradise. But when, on Christmas Day, the beautiful tree and all the tinsel and all the stuff and packages, wonderfully wrapped—you know, the wrappings are better than the contents! More beautiful! They get all these things out and the room is strewn with guns and buses and dolls and all that stuff. By four o’clock in the afternoon they are screaming frantic. Because actually, the whole thing was a terrible letdown. And that happens again and again. But that happens to the adults, you see? The adults are merely repeating for the children what they’re doing. They’re acquiring all this kind of pretentious junk and thinking that’s the answer, and it’s a letdown. Because they didn’t find out that they don’t really want it, and they don’t find out what they do really want. Because everybody has to pretend that it’s good to work for what you don’t want. So that’s the initial difficulty. That is the mere guardian dog at the gate on this path, you see?
But so—I mean, just simply the initial step here is to be honest with yourself, and to be unashamedly eager to [???]. See, I like people who are—supposing they have a certain accomplishment—don’t be blushing violets about it, but say, “I can do this. I know how to do that and I do it well. And I can exact, therefore, a fair price for it.” I feel happy with a person like that. Especially if he’s someone, say, like a doctor. I sure want to know that he’s good at his job! And if he is confident about it like that and says, “Yes, I know what to do,” then I have that essential faith in him which everybody has to have in their doctor in order to be healed. But the community says to a person who does that: “You are immodest. You are too big for your boots. You’ve got a swelled head.” Now, a person has a swelled head when his opinion of his accomplishments is excessive. But when a person’s accomplishments are good he ought to be proud of them and be delighted that he can do it so well. Everybody. If you can dance well, don’t you love to do it? Are you a show-off? Yes, you are a show off. You know? But beautiful. Show off! Please! We like to see it. This is part of the reason, too, why we all go around in drab colors. Mustn’t show off. Mustn’t be too conspicuous. You’ve got to have a kind of a clergy look to you. You know, modest.
Because, you see, people have thought in the past: if you show off, the enemy will notice you. So a chameleon disappears into its background and doesn’t show off, so that the birds or whatever want to eat that chameleon won’t notice it. But when you live in a reasonably protected community as we do, we are still carrying over from the past all kinds of camouflage habits which really aren’t necessary anymore. You can branch out a little. It’s extraordinary that our society doesn’t really tolerate eccentricity, even though it was based on what it thought was rugged individualism. But, you see, that’s because we are half-hearted about individualism. And if you are going to go the way of the ego, you must go it thoroughly. That was true of all these ways. If you’re going to chop off somebody’s head, and that really is the decision—somehow or other it’s necessary—you’ve got to do it with determination, for a half chopped-off head is very bad. To use a blunt axe.
This is the philosophy underlying Bushidō, which is the Japanese philosophy of chivalry based on Zen, where they decided that if there are going to be soldiers and if there is going to be fighting at all, then it must be done supremely well. And if you’re going to fight supremely well, you’ve got to have a sword like a razor. You know? A Japanese sword is literally a heavy razor. And you’ve got to know how to go on; to have what we call follow through. So the whole notion of Bushidō swordsmanship is based unhesitating going ahead. Going a-head. It’s called, in Chinese, mo chih chu, or “going straight ahead-ness,” which is an attitude of never pausing.
If, for example, you drive a car on a freeway here, you have to have a little mo chih chu. You mustn’t hesitate. It’s even more true driving a car in Rome, where these Italian drivers are fast but very subtle. And they’re tremendously aware of each other—much more so than here. The worst drivers are in England, but in Rome there’s very fast-speed driving, but they’re instantly responsive. And you just have to go ahead and get into the traffic and go! That’s the only safety there is. If you hesitate and fiddle around and so on, you’re done for. So this is the art of decapitation: with sudden, swift speed. If what you’re going to do is wrong, do it well. As Luther put it: pecca fortiter. If you’re going to sin, make it a good one. If you’re going to make a mistake, make it a good one. But don’t mimble-mamble and shuffle. As they say in Zen: “Walk or stand as you will. But whatever you do, don’t wobble.” So that realization is about here. You know, we have the first one there. We’re about here now.
Now then, keep on going. When, in the Divine Comedy, Dante (accompanied by Virgil as his guide) explore hell, they pass through a gate which says “All hope abandon you who enter here.” You never, never can get out. That means you can’t retrace your steps. There is a way out, however—but you have to go down to the bottom. And they finally come to the place where Satan himself is encased in ice, brooding over a huge, vast field of ice, and gnawing on Judas and Brutus and someone else—Cassius. The great traitors. And there he is: utterly malignant. And every now and then his bat-like wings close together and open, close together and open.
Now, those wings are the symbol of the active door. The active door comes in all mythologies in some way or other, and it is the gate through which, in passing, you go through the critical moment of initiation. And to get through the active door you’ve got to go without hesitation. Because if you hesitate, you’re too late; it crushes you. Jason, sailing the Argo, has to go through the Symplēgádes; the Clashing Rocks. Odysseus has to get between Scylla and Charybdis. In one of the Arthurian legends—is it Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? I forget—but there’s somebody who has to charge his horse across the drawbridge and into the portcullis. And just as he gets in, the portcullis crashes down and takes off the rear end of his horse. He’s got in. All sorts of stories like that. So the wings of the devil, going this way, this way, this way, they have to get quickly through those wings. And they climb down the devil’s back on this great, tough fur that he has. Very heavy hair. Then, suddenly, they get a strange sensation that they are no longer climbing down, but climbing up. Because they’ve passed the midpoint of the Earth. And then they come where they hear a stream flowing. And by following the sound of the stream they find the secret passage which leads them out again to the vision of the stars.
So what it means—“all hope abandon ye who enter here”—is: you can’t go back. You can only go on. And so in this thing, in this egocentric situation, once you’re an ego (or think you are) there is no way out but on. Now, you see what’s happened here? The people who repented of being egos were trying to go back. And by trying very hard to go back, to relent, saying, “No, no, I should never have got into this,” they found they couldn’t go back and that they were phonies. The people who said, “We resign from being egos,” found they couldn’t resign. And now we’re getting a little bit warmer, aren’t we? You found you couldn’t go back, and so you’ve got to play the ego game to the limit.
And so comes the point where a person plays this to an extreme. He may be in a very odd situation. He may play it by being a real criminal and end up in the penitentiary. But he’s going to end up in a situation which is symbolized by three great myths. One is the myth of the tar baby, the other of giant sticky hair, and the other the crucifixion. We found the crucifixion again, didn’t we, when we went along this way. But, you know, the tar baby is… you get stuck to it whenever you touch it. And giant sticky hair comes in the Jātaka tales about the Buddha. In one of his previous incarnations [he] attacked a [???] giant whose hair was sticky. And everything that hit him got stuck. And this giant used to eat the people of a certain village. And the prince came there one day and heard about it, and said he would go and clobber the giant. So he went for the giant and he struck him with his left hand and, it got stuck. He struck him with his right hand and that got stuck. He kicked him with his left foot—that got stuck. Kicked him with his right foot and that got stuck. He then banged him with his head and that got stuck. And the giant said, “Aha! Now I’m going to eat you.” And the prince said, “That’s all very well, but you will find if you eat me that inside my belly is a thunderbolt. And if you swallow that, it will blow to pieces.” So the giant released the prince and promised not to eat the villagers anymore.
So when you follow your ego to the limit, you get stuck, you see? You find you’re suddenly paralyzed in your effort to play against the world. But you realize that the reason for this is that, in fighting the world, you’re fighting yourself. You are like a person who picks up a dagger in each hand. And the left hand says to the right, “I’ll take you on. Let’s fence.” You ever tried it? Fascinating! You know, be careful! But you can have this strange thing—and what happens is this: you meet a moment of total paralysis because each hand knows perfectly well what the other one’s going to do. It’s a stalemate. So by following your ego to its most intense point you reach stalemate in the same way, because suddenly the left hand discovers what the right hand’s doing. And at that point, you see: ah, ah, ah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. After all, I wasn’t a separate ego.
So, let’s have an intermission.
It’s curious that in all the three approaches we’ve thus far discussed—the response of repentance, resignation, and rebellion—that there’s an element of desperation in each one of them. Each one is an expression of conflict: conflict between the human being sensing himself as a separate ego and the life situation in which he finds himself. Now, remember that I pointed out that the situation of feeling yourself to be an ego is a kind of game. It is a pattern of life, a style of life, just in exactly the same way that a robin or an ant or a marigold is a style of life. It has a particular shape. It goes this way or it goes that way, or whatever it is, you see? And so the human world in which we live out our egocentric adventures is a certain style of behavior, a certain kind of music. And so, also, are these three conflicting scenes.
The fourth way, though, that we bring up now, I call reincarnation simply because, for mnemonic reasons, I was giving four Rs instead of the usual three Rs. And I don’t mean reincarnation quite in the sense that it’s ordinarily understood. I mean getting with life. And if this should by any chance involve reincarnation—that is to say, the willingness to be manifested in this world and all its adventures again and again and again and again—yes, you can take it in that sense. But, you know, this attitude in the religions of the world is extremely rare. Most religions are against life, practically speaking. They turn back, as it were, to the Lord God and say, “You made a mistake.” Either in creating the world, or in allowing the snake in the garden. And what we really have to do is get out of it. The way of repentance says, “God you didn’t make the mistake, we did. We’re terribly sorry, but we’ll try to do better next time. And we know we’ve offended most awfully against you. But I know you will still love us and we really will do our best if you will help.” The way of resignation tends to say not that there wasn’t some kind of original sin that man or an angel committed, but that the manifestation of the many out of the one is itself some kind of mistake in some way. And this game—where, for example, all biological beings live by eating each other—is a bad show and we resign. If possible, we won’t eat anything that screams too loud when it’s killed. I asked R. H. Blyth—or my wife, I think, asked him—“Why are you a vegetarian?” R. H. Blyth is a great British Zen man. And she said, “Don’t you realize that it also hurts the plants? To tear them up, and so on?” He said, “Yes, but they don’t scream.”
But in the attitude of resignation, you see, there is still this conflict: spirit against matter, the sense of the dualism, of the soul incarcerated in the fleshly prison. In the attitude of rebellion there is still, even in a very critical way, expressed the sense of differentiation between the individual and the world. And our modern technological civilization dedicated to the so-called conquest of nature is a preeminent expression of that spirit. But as I pointed out to you, if you push it far enough, if you rebel or oppose the universe with sufficient will and vigor, you eventually reach an impasse which is just like fencing with yourself. You have two knives crossed, see, and you are going to dig one of them—I mean, if you don’t want to do it so dangerously you can do it with knitting pins or even with chopsticks—and have a fencing match with yourself so that one hand tries to hit the other and the other to defend itself. Well, you reach a stick point, because both hands know in advance what the other one’s going to do. And I use that as comparable to the situation which arises when you have opposed whatever it is that you want to oppose sufficiently enough to discover that everything you defined as “other” turns out to be the same as you. Or to put it more exactly: “I” and “not I” turn out to be two poles of the same process. And it’s the process rather than the poles that really constitutes you.
The last word in Metaphysics is—if you understand this, it’s the whole secret—there is an inside for every outside and an outside for every inside. They go together, you see? When the inside moves, the outside moves. The movement of the inside is the same as the movement of the outside, and the movement of the outside is the same as the movement of the inside. When a globule of some kind changes its shape, this is the same thing as a change in the shape of the space that surrounds it. Only, we are brought up to believe that space isn’t there and is an unimportant factor in the changes that go on among the solids in space. But this is why astronomers have such difficulty in communicating to the general public ideas that come under the heading of properties of space. Why? Because to the average person space doesn’t have any properties. Space is just what isn’t there. But we know, now, that space isn’t nothing, that it has properties—only, that they are not yet clearly understood—and when space may be said to be curved, and by its curvature influence the way in which light is propagated, or when you can consider space as a magnetic field, you begin to realize that there’s something you’ve been ignoring all the time.
It was, for example, perfectly a matter of common sense to Dante (and probably many of his contemporaries) to regard space and mind as the same thing. If you read a book called Saving the Appearances by a Britisher whose name momentarily escapes me. [Owen Barfield] I think that’s it. Saving the Appearances Anyway, that’s the title. He has the most marvelous discussion of changing common senses. How different it would be to live in a world where everybody realizes that space is the mind, rather than our present superstition that the mind is something inside your head. When neurologists look for the soul somewhere in the brain, they can’t find it because they’re looking in the wrong place. The brain is in the soul. And the soul is not some kind of gaseous spook. The soul is the total arrangement and system of relationships constituting the universe, as picked up and transmitted by a brain. The brain, in other words, is like a radio receiver, and it expresses in a highly complicated way the total configuration of all things that are. But in each brain it does it slightly differently.
So the soul—as you know, when astrologers drew a map of a person’s soul, cast his horoscope, they drew as nearly as they knew it a picture of the universe as focused upon the time and place of that individual’s birth. Well, that is—astrology, I think—is a highly unreliable science for practical affairs. But it did express in a kind of mythological image very beautifully the truth that everyone is the cosmos, centered in the place that you call here and now. But, you see, when you don’t know that and you think that the external world is foreign to you instead of being, as it were, your better half—I mean, imagine that! It’s so. I know of one difficulty that people have in assimilating this idea is that what happens to me when I’m unconscious? See, I go to sleep at night, and if I sleep soundly and don’t have any dreams I wake up at the same moment I went to sleep. You know, there just wasn’t any interval. Only, I feel different when I wake up. I either have a hangover or I feel refreshed. But the interim just wasn’t there. And you think if it wasn’t there, then… but there was I, open to everybody else’s inspection while I was lying in bed.
Now, the same sort of situation bothers people about death. Because if you come to an end, and after death there is unconsciousness. But, you see, unconsciousness doesn’t last any time. It may, from somebody else’s point of view. But actually, there is no such thing as experiencing being unconscious. But in the same way that you are unconscious of the way your, say, pituitary gland is functioning at this moment, or unconscious of the structure of small capillaries inside your body—and yet, they’re working even though you don’t know anything about it consciously—so in just exactly that way your extended body, namely the cosmos, goes on when you’re dead in the same way that your organic body goes on when you’re asleep. And as, when you wake up, your organic body restores its particular local consciousness. So, after all of us die, the big organic body (which is the cosmos) waves lives somewhere else. And they are us. By “us” I mean the real self, the total cosmos, appearing all over again and becoming conscious once more. And when it happens, do you know what it’ll feel like? It’ll feel exactly like it felt when you were born. And whether you have, instead of eyes, long tentacles of some kind, or whether you have antenna on top of your head on non-head, whether you have a hundred legs or two, you will see yourself as a human being. After all, mice and cats look human to each other. They think we look very odd. We are some kind of monster, because we’re a different species.
But all species look human to each other, because what the word “human” really means is: the center place. Wherever anything looks out from is, from its point of view, the human place. And you must also be very respectful to creatures, because although you may think that they’re not very cultured, they have a culture which is (from their standpoint) as refined as ours. They know—cats, for example—know that there are more and less refined cats. I’ve just been sitting on Henry Denison’s patio listening to a mockingbird. And that thing has a tremendous culture. The things it can do with it voice! And there’s no apparent reason for all that. It’s just sitting there on the TV antenna, enjoying the afternoon. It doesn’t seem to be a mating call; no mate comes around. It doesn’t seem to be threatening anybody. It’s just happy. And it’s up there doing its stuff and making this gorgeously complex music. And it’s much more complex than we can hear. There are things in the qualities of the voice, subtle tiny changes, that are perfectly fascinating. This creature is unencumbered with clothes. In other words, we judge people’s culture to such a large extent by their shopping. I was talking about that this morning, you know? Why they go around and acquire things, and have them all around, and that’s the human way of showing off. But other creatures do it in a different way they would, from their point of view, criticize us as being messy, as having all these things we have to dangle on ourselves and put on jewels and things and whatnot, and they would say, “Well, that’s not… poor humans. They have to do that because they have such ugly bodies. They look like potatoes underneath their skins. And we have all these lovely feathers, and the fish have such beautiful colors on them. and they live in the water.”
One of the most intelligent creatures on earth is the dolphin. And the dolphin—many, many thousands of years ago—was a land animal. But when it saw what human beings were doing and the direction a high intelligence was taking on land, they all decided to go back into the water. Because in the water there is plenty of food. You don’t have to hunt too energetically. You’re never liable to run into a famine. And you don’t have to be encumbered with houses and clothes, and so you don’t have to work. So dolphins spend most of their time playing. They like, for example, to pick up with a human ship. And then the ship makes a wake, and so they set their tail at an exact angle of 26.5 degrees, or something, and the ship pushes them along. They can actually swim faster than the ship goes, but they don’t want to work. And they laugh. They make circles around the ship. They do all sorts of things because that’s their way of life. And they’re very, very sensible people. I’ve absolutely renounced eating dolphin because I feel it’s cannibalism. The dolphin, in other words, knows how to get with it.
And, you see, this is the thing that these three religious approaches only find at the end of the line. Now, is it possible that there could be a new kind of religious approach in which heaven says to earth, “I really do love you with no ifs and buts.” They say in Christianity: God so loved the world. But there’s always a “but” after it. But the world has fallen away from God and He loves it in the sense of a kindly but stern father who says, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” And as this sort of… I don’t know. The whole attitude, you see, is one of schism, schizophrenia: division between the spirit and the material.
Would it not be possible for there to be a real reconciliation in which the spiritual and the material make friends and can say to each other genuinely: “I love you with all my heart”? And, you see, this possibility emerges in the fourth way. And this fourth way, historically, is largely characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism. Because whereas, in Theravada Buddhism, resignation is carried to its full limit, in Mahayana, what happens really is that, when resignation has been carried to its extreme and you find you can’t resign from the game—because you are the game, there’s no “you” to get out of it—then, you see, this tends to happen automatically. So that the kind of personality called the bodhisattva emerges. That is to say, the one who doesn’t go off into nirvāṇa, but who comes back into the turmoil of everyday life out of compassion for all other beings, and helps them to be liberated. But when they get liberated, you see, they in turn become bodhisattvas. Because there’s always someone to liberate.
Because while with one hand reality is realizing what it is, with the other it’s forgetting. See? Like this. And three for a penny, three for a pound, it’s love that makes the world go ’round. And that’s what happens. So this is constantly going on, just like you’re eating and yet excreting, in-breathing, out-breathing, coming and going. Everybody is a whirlpool into which a great stream of milk and beer and beefsteaks and all sorts of things are flowing. And they swirl around like this and shoot out the other end. And that’s just like a whirlpool in water, you see? So everything is like that, because existence is constituted by in and out. In alone doesn’t make any do. Out alone doesn’t make any do. But in and out together, they make ado. And so, “much ado about nothing” is a Buddhist conception of the cosmos. And that’s marvelous, you see? Because much ado will be better than nothing; nothing all by itself, you see? You can’t have nothing all by itself. You have to have something to have nothing. And as soon as you get nothing, you’ve got something. They go together in the same way.
So, in this point of view of, then, we are at peace in the middle of conflict. This is really the point from which I started in saying that, from my point of view, there are no right religions and wrong religions. All of them are simply different, like different flowers. And one has certain preferences and tastes, one has one’s favorite flowers and the flowers one personally doesn’t like. But the variety of them is necessary for every individual species. They all go together. Well, so in the same way, from this standpoint you get this odd view of the world as fulfilled and completed—not sometime in the future, but now. Here. Today. With all the things in it that appear from various points of view to be faults, sicknesses, peculiarities, and horrors. Now, I quoted this morning a kid in a college who said, “The thing I can’t stand about college is that it’s always preparing you for something to come. It never teaches you how to live now.”
You know the poem called the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam—which is not really Omar, but FitzGerald. It’s an extremely free translation, but it carries the theme that we call carpe diem: seize the day. Drink, eat, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And so, especially drink! Get roaring drunk because the future has nothing in it for you. Actually, this poem is really mistranslated. You should read the translation by Winfield, which is quite a different matter. Omar Khayyam was a Sufi—that is to say, an Islamic mystic. And the Sufis have to keep quiet about their doctrine. The central doctrine of Sufism is anal al haq. And that means “I am he.” The realization, “I am God.” And so they say, just as there is no deity but He, so there is no he-ity but He.
Well, many Sufis were tortured and slain because of the proclamation of the anal al haq. So they used hidden language to propagate their ideas. And in Sufi symbology wine is the divinity. And to be drunk is to be enlightened, is to transcend oneself. And, of course, this imagery is likewise, in Christianity—that’s one of the meanings of holy communion: “Blood of Christ inebriate me” Is one of the sayings in the, I think, the divine praises. And so the whole meaning of the Rubáiyát is: get drunk today because there is no tomorrow. Why is there no tomorrow? It is not because life is transient. Not because we fall apart. We keep on falling apart. See? Once you’ve fallen apart, you fall apart again. Everything is falling apart. It always has been. See? I mean, life is a process of everything falling apart. That makes multiplicity; many things. But the reason to get drunk today, because tomorrow we die, is that there is no such thing as tomorrow. There is only now. And if you don’t do it now you’ll never do it. Because now is the only time it can be done in.
So anybody who makes preparations for spiritual development and says, “Well, this is a tough and difficult road. And after many lives I shall finally attain,” you know what you’re doing? You’re playing games. You’re postponing it. Because you don’t really want to wake up. It’s better to stay in the adventure; in the dream in playing the role that you aren’t you-know-who. Now, you see how—in this way I’ve mentioned in talking about repentance—how you can play with guilt. And I raised the question, “What is the awful thing you’ve really done?” And I showed you how the confessor, if he’s a really smart confessor, will reject all the ordinary sins, all the murders and adulteries and all those things, and say, “Just small cheese. Just piddling menial sins.” But there is something awful. Really awful that everybody’s done. What do you suppose it could be? Was it something I did in childhood and have forgotten? No. Something you’re doing now but have forgotten. See? Now, nobody can admit this sin, because if you admit having done it you’re immediately classified as insane. It’s to say, “Uh-oh! I see what happened. I am the supreme Self playing it isn’t.” And the reason for having a guilt feeling here is to keep the game going. There is this prohibition: you mustn’t step beyond this mark. Don’t do that! That’s the deepest taboo we have.