This is part of a series of seminars on the future, and last weekend we were discussing the very nature of time. And I want to give a sort of summary of what we were talking about before going into this particular weekend’s discussion, which is the future of communication.
Last weekend we discussed the idea that history—the notion of human life as a kind of progressive system that is beginning from the old, the primitive, the worn out, the stupid, and going on progressively to greater and greater attainments, the wise, the good, the successful, and so on—that this is a very dangerous illusion. That, insofar as we feel we are participating in and improving human life through the course of history, we are actually destroying ourselves. Because everything that so far—through technology and through the accumulation of human skill—we call the increase of our powers is leading us to destruction. Not because technology in itself is a bad thing, but because the spirit in which it is used is a spirit of man against the universe, man against nature. And man has to realize that he is an integral part of nature, that he is just as much a natural form as a seagull, or a wave, or a mountain. And if he doesn’t realize that he uses his technical powers to destroy his environment, to foul his own nest.
And so when you look at a great modern city like Los Angeles, and you see the absolute ruination of what used to be a very lovely natural scene full of citrus trees and sunshine, now turned into a smoggy slum. So the Los-Angelization instead of civilization of the world is a result of having a sense of our own existence which is contrary to the facts. That is to say, we’re all trained by our parents, by our teachers, by our peer groups to experience our own existence as an ego in a capsule of skin confronted by an external world which is not ourselves; definitely not! And that this external world is something that really threatens us because we’ve been brought up to the idea that, basically, it’s a mechanism. It’s a stupid, unintelligent manifestation of energy, right out in the farthest galaxies; it’s nothing but fire and gas. Nearer to us it’s nothing but water and rock. [Missing Portion] And it’s full of buzzing insects and other organisms that are inferior to the human status, and therefore something that’s not to be trusted at all.
And we have been brought up to the idea that we come into this scene as if we were complete strangers to it. We’re born by an accident of bad rubber goods—or something like that—and we arrive in this and confront it—“kkrrx”, like that, you see? It’s outside there. And this is a hallucination. All this is a complete fantasy. Official people in psychiatry complain about the hallucinatory states induced by LSD and so on and so forth, but they are nothing—they are nothing!—in their hallucinations compared with the hallucination of being a skin-encapsulated ego. One is not that.
For example—it’s very, very, very simple. A human being exists by virtue of living in a world where there are plants, where there is air, where there is water, where there is sun and its temperature. And plants imply insects and grubs. They can’t live without them. And grubs imply birds. And birds imply fish. And so on, and so on. It all fits together so that you are patterns—every, every living organism is a pattern of something which is inseparable from the pattern of everything else that is going on. So that you could say you, as a living organism, are something that the whole universe is doing at the point of space and time which you call here and now. You’re not separate. You flow into all that surrounds you in exactly the same way that your head goes with your feet. See, they’re inseparable. When you were born you weren’t put together like one constructs an automobile, screwing on this bit and screwing on that bit, and so on. You beautifully grew, head and feet together, all of one piece from your mother’s womb.
And in exactly the same way that your head and your feet are related together, so you gowith—I want to get this word into the English language: “gowith.” Instead of cause and effect, instead of that mechanical understanding of the world which was Descartes and Newton, they thought of the world as billiards, you know? You [click] hit a ball and it goes [click, click, click, click] and it hits that ball like that, you see? And they thought of cause and effect. You don’t need to use that concept at all. Gowith, just as a front goeswith a back, just as a top goeswith a bottom, just as up goeswith down—they’re inseparable—so, in exactly that way, you gowith everything that you call the external world. And therefore, you have to treat the external world as if it were as much you as your own foot or your own head. It’s part of you. It is you. There’s no way of separating them. Therefore, you have to be very kind and reverent and respectful to the mountains, to the forests, and so on; to the water, to the fish.
You, for example, live on fish, just as birds live on worms. And if you kill any creature in order to live, you have a duty towards it. That is to say, you must not exterminate the species on which you live. People have—for example, in the whaling industry—they have practically exterminated whales, and it’s becoming a very serious situation because you must farm, cultivate, every species on which you feed. If all worms were to be eaten by the birds, the birds would have no further sustenance. From the worm’s point of view, if all birds were to vanish, the worms would overpopulate themselves and starve themselves. So the worms depend on the birds just as much as the birds depend on the worms. So we all depend on the whole interaction of the system of biology. It’s a mutual eating society.
You may say that’s too bad—you know—that life has to involve this crunching and crushing and annihilation of other creatures. But that’s the way it is. And therefore, if that’s the way it is, the way to do it properly is, number one: to farm instead of merely destroy. Be assured that the species you feed on is maintained, that it goes on. Farm the whales, don’t just hunt them. That’s the first principle. The second principle is: whenever you destroy a living body for your own maintenance, give it the honor of cooking it as beautifully as possible. A fish that has died for you and is not well cooked has died in vain—I’m quoting Lin Yutang.
So this is the situation in which we find ourselves: life is a system in which organisms, by mutual eating, transform fish into people, grass into people, lettuce into people, cows into people—what about people? What are they transformed into? We are proud—too proud—and we try to resist our transformation into some other forms of life, and therefore we have a wretched profession of morticians (otherwise known as undertakers) who try to embalm us, and preserve us, and put us in concrete and barriers instead of letting us simply join the biological rhythm. Actually, what should happen when a person is dead is that they should be buried three feet underground with no casket—nothing—just naked in the earth. And that field should be allowed to lie fallow for some years, and then it would be beautifully fertilized by human bodies, and crops would grow out of it. They always say that the best wheat is grown on old battlefields. But, you see, we resist that. And the morticians will put an ad in with some girl who’s lost her husband, looking out of the window on a rainy day. And they say, “Trust us. He’s not rotting, really.” You know? “We’ve got that concrete thing, we’ve got that extra-special covering, that super-embalming, and the corpse is still there. Baby, don’t worry.” You know? How mad can you get? How insane, how ridiculous.
The root of this kind of disturbance—of feeling that you are separate inside your skin and not simply all one process with everything that’s going on around you—the root of this is a failure of communication. Now, if I want to talk about communication, one of the funny things that occurs to me straight off is that the subject of communication is really the same subject as life! Life is communication. But let’s take the subject of advertising: life is advertising because the moment—what is advertising doing? Advertising is trying to promote somebody’s game, somebody’s existence, somebody’s biological reality, because he’s maintaining himself by selling something and he advertises it so as to sell it. So one could say that all life is advertising. Everybody advertises themselves in some way or other.
Or, take another subject: strategy. Military strategy. All life can be seen as a form of strategy. Any major department of human life that we classify—we can call it business, we can call it strategy, we can call it advertising, we can call it communication—but we can see all life as that. How, then, are we going to define communication as a particular human activity, as distinct from other activities? How—what is the difference between communication and architecture? What is the difference between communication and playing on the stock market? What is the difference between communication and football? These are very, very difficult things to define because there is no difference. Football is a form of communication. Sex is a form of communication. There isn’t anything that we do that isn’t a form of communication, and therefore, you may say, “Why talk about communication, because it’s everything anyhow?”
So, in order to define the field, I’m going to talk about communication more narrowly. Communication is language. Communication is the world of symbols. It’s true: sexual intercourse is a form of communication, but I’m not going to include that sort of activity in what we’re going to discuss. What I’m going to talk about is the way in which human beings use noises (like words) and symbols (like numbers) to represent the things which go on in the material and physical world.
If you take a glass of water and you drink it, and you taste that—you see?—that is an event in the physical universe. But the word “water” is also in the physical universe because it’s a sound. But that particular sound—“water”—is used in a way that is peculiar. It is used to represent that transparent liquid that you drink. So, alongside the physical universe of people and everything that’s going on there is another universe that we have invented—of words and signs and numbers—that represent the physical world. And we are very, very preoccupied with this symbolic world, and we very often confuse it with what it represents. Especially, this is true in the United States of America. This is a country, a nation, a culture, which is devoted in a most peculiar way to symbols.
Not so long ago, the Congress of the United States voted very serious penalties against anybody who burned or mutilated the American flag. That same group of people is responsible for burning and destroying the physical landscape and population of the United States of America. They will not properly resist the depravities of lumber companies who are destroying the redwood forests, the watersheds, the industries who foul our streams and deprive us of water, poison the air—that’s all fine, just so long as you don’t destroy the flag. The flag is the symbol—only the symbol—of the physical country. But they—instead of protecting the physical country—protect the symbol.
In the same way, exactly, people confuse money with wealth. Money is paper, is bookkeeping, is a useful method of avoiding the inconveniences of barter. But money has become something to possess in its own right. To have more money than you can possibly need. You know the joke about if somebody gives you a million dollars on the condition that you spend it all in one day, what would you buy with it? And certain things are excluded, like you mustn’t buy an enormous real estate thing. You just have to spend it on things that you could use. And it’s a very difficult problem as to how you would spend a million dollars a day. Think it out realistically. But when you get this obsession with money as a reality, as if it were something that actually was desirable, you get an entirely hallucinated population. People who simply don’t know what’s good for them and are as, shall we say, intoxicated, addicted to money as if they were all on heroin or opium. This is the confusion of the symbol with what it’s supposed to represent.
So then, let’s inquire carefully into the origin of all this. Because before we explore the future of communication—through symbols, through words—we’ve got to look a little bit at its past. At some point in the development of mankind—and nobody, historically, knows how long ago this is—we invented, we developed two things. One of them was the ability to scan, to pay attention, to use our consciousness in a focused way. In other words, to notice what’s going on. Ordinarily, we depend to an enormous extent on a kind of consciousness that doesn’t notice. That is to say, you’re functioning all the time—breathing, beating your heart, even driving a car while you’re absorbed in conversation with your friendly passenger—you’re doing an enormous number of things very well indeed without noticing what you’re doing. Your entire physical existence, as a matter of fact, goes on and maintains itself without your noticing anything about it. So your faculty of noticing has the same relationship to your total organism as—say, on a ship—the radar is scanning, scanning, scanning the environment looking for trouble. That’s all it looks for: for another that it might collide with, for a rock, for the upper entrance to San Francisco in the middle of the fog. That’s what the radar is looking for. But besides the radar there are all kinds of things going on on a ship that are much more fundamental and essential to it.
So, in the same way, in the human organism. We have a radar: we call it conscious attention. And we are constantly scanning our environment and noticing this and that as to whether it is advantageous to us or disadvantageous. But that’s only a little frippery on the top of us. Useful, yes. Important. But it’s not you. The real you is the you that is beating the heart, shaping the bones, all that. And we have learned, you see, by curious social process, to identify ourselves—our very selves, our… oh, what I say is the ‘real me’—we’ve identified that with the scanning process, a little radar job, instead of identifying it with the whole total organism. And therefore we are estranged from our own bodies. And by virtue of being estranged from the body we are, in turn, estranged from the physical environment of nature. If you understood, if you really, clearly realized that you are your own organism, you would at the same moment feel—because your organism knows it—that you were one with your environment. This organism is related to the world outside it in exactly the same way that, say, a whirlpool in a river is related to the river. Everything outside you is sort of creating you by flowing through you and human-ing, body-ing; just as, when the river moves, it whirlpools and then goes on. So the entire physical universe is peopleing all around here, you see?
But conscious attention doesn’t deliver that to us as an experience. Why? Because conscious attention—or noticing—is a function of consciousness which is separative instead of unitive. It analyzes instead of synthesizing. I don’t want to—by saying this sort of thing—to put it down and say it’s a mistake and something that shouldn’t’ve happened. It’s a very beautiful function, provided—provided, provided—it doesn’t annihilate and distract us from seeing the world synthetically as well as analytically. In a mirror you can see many images, all different, clear and distinct. But underneath the difference of images there lies the pure silver of the mirror. So, in exactly the same way, seeing all the details clearly analyzed, we need to remain aware of consciousness itself, of awareness itself. Just as, for example, all galaxies, all physical bodies, exist in space. What do you think space is? Most people think space is nothing. Space, however, is you! Space is consciousness. Space is the mind. Space is what you call ‘self,’ ‘me.’ That’s space. And it includes everything. But you can so easily forget it because conscious attention ignores every stimulus, every input message that is constant. It rules it out and says “that doesn’t make any difference. I’m looking for differences. Because I’m on guard for what might threaten my existence. Therefore, I’m looking for a change in the environment. I’m a troubleshooter.”
So if you identify yourself with consciousness you are constantly anxious. “What’s going to happen? Is it going to work? Am I on the spot?” You see? Everybody’s like that. But the real you is relaxed. It really doesn’t care about that. It’s not this little function up there that tells it—you know, on the whole—whether any trouble’s going to happen. Really, inside you, deep down, you’re harmonious with your environment. And it really doesn’t matter whether you live or die because the whole system goes on anyway. Ant that’s what you are. So whether you (as a specific example of the system) go on a little while—one year, two years, three years, fifty years, a hundred years—it doesn’t really make any difference. If you want to play it—in other words, if you want to put a gamble on how long will you live—you want to gamble on fifty years more? Or how many years more? And, you see, by gambling on it you put importance on it. You say “That’s what I’ve waited on. That’s what I want to do.” Okay. But that’s your game. It doesn’t have to be that way.
So what we have, then, is a situation in which—by the ability to use our radar to scan ourselves and the world around us, and to notice features of this universe—we notice these features by being able to put symbols on them. You notice the face as something distinct from the knees by being able to call it ‘face’ and call knees ‘knees.’ You do not have the capacity to notice these different features of the human body without being able to assign some symbol to the part that you notice. This is absolutely crucial. Noticing and language go together. Noticing is the same thing as what we call notation. Notation, as in music: symbols, little signs to identify sounds on the scale. Words to identify bits of the world. Numbers to identify how many bits. All this goes together. So to attend, to concentrate, to watch, to be aware in the way that a spotlight focuses on the surroundings—this goes hand in hand with symbols. One uses the world of symbols—the world of special noises, not like ordinary noises, not like the sound of the wind, not like the washing of the waves, but the noises made by speech—to create an almost separate world of noise-forms which, of course, we can think silently in our heads, subvocally, as thought-forms. They’re all the same. It’s forms of noise, forms of air-vibration used to stand over against the world of ordinary, direct physical experience and represent it in a clumsy way.
Clumsy. Yes, clumsy! Because conscious attention has a scanning thing as a spotlight roving over (however fast it goes; diggity-dik, diggity-dik, diggity-dik, diggity-dik all around) as I watch you, if somebody measures where my eyes look, it can be done. They will see them dancing over you, picking out significant points. But that way of looking at life can only comprehend what’s going on in a very clumsy way because the actual physical world is an operation where we would say uncountable—innumerable—things are going on all together everywhere at once. And so we say “What a complicated world we live in!” Now, actually, this world is not complicated at all. It is perfectly simple. It’s only complicated when you try to think it out. That’s what it means: complicated—the word ‘complicated’—expresses a relationship between the physical world on the one hand, and on the other a scanning system which is trying to understand and represent in symbols the physical world bit by bit. As, for example, if would talk about it.
So when you try to talk about the world it’s a complicated world, but only because you’re trying to talk about it. In itself, it’s not a bit complicated. The human body is a—from the point of view of surgery and phyisology—infinitely complicated. It’s networks of veins and nerves and so on. It’s absolutely extraordinary. But we say these words “extraordinary” and “complicated” because we are confronted with a task of trying to translate this body into language. And language is very clumsy. It’s like we would, say, we would move the Pacific ocean into the Atlantic ocean with a beer mug. It would be a very complicated thing to do because we’d have to take it mug by mug across—fly them across by jet plane and dump them in the Atlantic. Very complicated. But that’s what you do when you think about the world: you take thing by thing, fact by fact, idea by idea. And it’s like beer mug after beer mug of water going from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
So we say it’s complicated. It isn’t! It’s only if you approach it with a certain method, then it’s complicated. Because you insist on that method and you say, “Well, that method is me! I am the method of taking in the world bit by bit.” But that’s a hallucination; you’re not. Each one of you includes far more capacity than that narrow method of taking in the world bit by bit. Because every nerve end in your body is alive and aware, every organ is functioning without your thinking about it. And that’s you.
So, because we have a narrowed idea and conception of ourselves as purely the conscious scanner, we’ve invested so much emotion in that and we’ve invested so much of the feeling that that is what we are that we’re completely miserable and tormented. Our communication system, therefore, is constantly exaggerating—or, to use the word in its very correct way, aggravating (to aggravate means to make worse)—it is aggravating all the time the delusion that we are separate from the world. In other words, communication—as we are using it—is a form of non-communication: it’s a way of cutting ourselves off instead of actually communicating. The more we talk, the more we think, the more we ideate, the more we separate ourselves from each other. Identify you, as you, as you, as you. And you’re a republican, and you’re a democrat, you’re a beatnik, you’re a hippie, you’re a… this, that, and the other thing; you’re a square or whatever. The more I identify you, you see, in these terms, the more I don’t feel that you are me. You really, physically, are me. All of you; each one, to everybody else, is like a dewdrop on a spider’s web in the early morning which contains in itself all the reflections of all the other dewdrops. And we really relate to each other like that. But in language, in communication, we all put ourselves apart as separate entities, see? And believe that. So the more we go on with this, the more we are divided up, the more we quarrel, the more we don’t understand how to cooperate. So here we start with this paradox: communication—which is related to the word “communion,” “common,” “what we have together”—communication is separation. And the more we talk, the less we understand each other.
So then, it has been said that our modern systems of communication are an extension into the external world of man’s nervous system. Telephones, telegraph, radio, television: all this network of electronic devices is extending our nervous system in the same way as a wheel extends our feet. But consider the problems that are arising out of this. The extension of the nervous system, electronically, means the end of privacy. As if all your interior thoughts were to become instantly public and available to everyone. Or, conversely, as if your so-called private self were to become a shared self. Let’s think of it, first of all, in the worst way we can think of it: the inconvenience of everybody being able to barge in on us by telephone. Double that inconvenience, triple it with the inconveniences you can imagine for a future technology where you not only have the sound of the person’s voice on the telephone, but also their visual image. It can be so worked out, technically, that everybody can be equipped with a little gadget about the size of a pocket watch. On one side there is a dialing system and on the other side there is a little TV screen. And everybody in the world who possesses one of these things has a number. And if you ring it and the number doesn’t answer, your friend’s dead. Imagine. Because you can’t not answer. That would be unethical, that would be inhuman, that would be to advertise yourself as dead. You must answer.
Or else a busy signal. Have you ever thought about busy signals as a method of self-defense? Because we do it all the time when we, say, somebody asks you to do something you don’t really want to do, you excuse yourself on the grounds of saying, “Well, but that day I happen to be busy. I have work to do.” Even if you thoroughly enjoy your work—like for me: all my work is play. But I can say to people, “I have to work, I’m sorry.” And I feel slightly dishonest and I don’t know what to do about it.
So then, imagine, then, this situation where we have the huge electronic intercommunication so that everybody is in touch with everybody else in such a way that it reveals their inmost thoughts, and there is no longer any individuality. No privacy. Everything you are, everything you think is revealed to everyone.
Well, now, let’s go into the history of this: this idea of privacy. It’s been—for a very many, many centuries—a belief of Western civilization that there is God, who knows everything that you are. The mass in the episcopal church begins with a prayer: “Oh, almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid.” That we have lived centuries now, before we, now, in this modern age—who don’t perhaps believe anymore in this monarch God, but before as our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers, and so on, all believed that there was a reference point called God to whom every single secret thought that you had was an open book, and was watching it all the time. Because according to St. Thomas Aquinas, God the Father creates the universe by knowing it. In other words, you see a flag flapping out there, which you would say is an insignificant little rag on a pole. But according to St. Thomas, that rag flaps there only because God, with his entire infinite energy, is concentrating on every single molecule of its being. And by virtue of that concentration, it exists. So God is an every which way intellect that penetrates everything, that concentrates on everything, and only because of that does the thing exist. So when your thoughts move in your brain, they do so only because the lord God almighty is supporting them.
When you say, in the Creed, Πιστεύω είς ενα Θεόν, Πατέρα, παντοκράτορα,: “Πιστεύω:” “I believe in one God,” “Πατέρα, παντοκράτορα:” “the ruler of all things.” The pantocrat, not the aristocrat. The pantocrat. The all-ruler. Who, therefore, is in charge of everything that happens. Every happening is an expression of the divine power. But you as an individual are privileged with freedom to use the divine power anyway you want. You can do evil with it or you can do good with it. This is the Christian doctrine. So that when you do an evil thing, when you slit a baby from end to end and eat it, you are doing so with the power of God. But you have gone against the spirit of that power—even though it supports you in doing it. Now, that’s the idea. So I’m just bringing up this point to show that the West has had, for centuries, the idea that there is no real privacy. Because God knows everything that you do. And we’ve accepted that. And what we don’t want to accept is the idea that our neighbors know what we do.
But let’s suppose we have a situation in which we know all our friends are listening, and all our non-friends, and there is absolutely no way of concealing our inmost thoughts from general inspection. What does that do to you? What does it do to you? Can you control the way you think and feel inwardly? What would happen, in fact, if everything were exposed? One thing would be very obvious: eventually, after attempting to control your thoughts and stop certain thoughts from happening, you would say, “To hell with it. I’ll think just the way I feel like thinking. And the public be damned.” That’s what you’d do. Everybody would have to do that—they’d have to do it in mutual self-defense. Do you see how this would release everybody? If we all could interpenetrate each other, and know each other through and through, we would forgive each other all our sins. So don’t be frightened of the notion that there may come a day when everybody is mutually bugged with microphones and everything, so that there aren’t any secrets.
Why have secrets? Why have secrets at all? But the moment you overcame the notion, you see, that you have to be defending yourself—when you overcome that, there’ll no longer be any need to defend yourself. Now, what we’re afraid of, you see, is that some power will control all of us by this method. But that power, whoever is the controlling agency, must—in the kind of Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwellian horror—be the one individual whose thoughts are not public. If the super-controller has his thoughts public, then he can’t be in that position. So the horror idea is: if everybody is circuited so as that his private thoughts are public knowledge to all his friends and relations and to the controller, but the controller’s thoughts are not public knowledge, then you have a system which is a real dangerous kind of dictatorship. But if there are no private thoughts for anybody at all, and we’re all hooked in on the system—all plugged in—then everybody will look at each other and say, “Oh! Ha-ha! Come off it!” And we’ll all be free to be our inmost selves. Because you will recognize that everybody else is as much a rascal as you are.
And we’ll forgive each other, because we’ll understand that that is simply human nature. This is so often the case. Somebody goes to a psychotherapist because they have some kind of sex problem that is absolutely weird—or at least, they think it is. And, you know, they want to chew the tip of a woman’s high heel, and this, only, will give them an erection. So they go to the psychiatrist and say, “I have this very strange problem.” And he says, “My dear fellow, do you realize I have forty patients with the same problem you have?” Which is a great relief, you see? He has found out that he shares this.
So this same sharing of our minds, which might come about through super-electronics, would—provided there is no one who is able to opt out of the system and say, “You don’t get my thoughts on it!”—so this is a parallel of what we’re doing already: that every individual has his secret, has his privacy, and to a very large extent identifies himself as an active individual by virtue of having that privacy. And at the same time, what he mostly has in privacy are things about which he feels guilty. They’re his sins. Sin and privacy are really the same thing, because when you go to the confessional in the Catholic church and whisper your sins to the priest, you’re in a box—a private place—and the priest has a rule that he will never, never (even under the threat of torture!) reveal anything anybody has confessed to him. It’s called the seal of the confession. So, in this way, we feel that our individuality depends on our privacy. And privacy and sin are really the same.
Now, everybody who is at all sensitive likes to be alone. You like to be able to go out on a sailing boat all by yourself and float in the middle of the water, or climb up a mountain, or go into the air, or just retire into your own place and relax in loneliness. But I want to make the point that loneliness in that sense, and privacy, are quite different things. The privacy of having a secret in you that should not be revealed, that’s just a silly joke. In other words, we all know perfectly well that Jesus Christ had to go and excrete, although no mention is made of it in the Gospels. There are a certain kind of people who, just because that wasn’t mentioned, drag it out and would draw cartoons of Jesus sitting on the toilet. Like Paul Krassner in The Realist. He loves to bring out this side of life, you see, where… idols are debunked by being shown up as, after all, human.
But that kind of humor, that sort of sick humor, can only exist in a community where, indeed, there is a peculiar self-defensive privacy, and where we base our individual existence upon secrets. And this is why, of course, clothes—as I mentioned earlier today—are of such immense importance to us as the masks that distinguish us. In a nudist camp everybody is kind of depressingly equal, and you have what you have. If you’re young and lucky and strong, you look beautiful. But if you’re old and saggy and not much, you look like kind of a wet potato. So in order to show that you are more mind than body, that you have something in you that isn’t just this flesh, you express yourself in clothes. Great, great, great; wonderful! But everybody with x-ray eyes knows just exactly what you are underneath all that.
Now let’s take the x-ray deeper and read your thoughts. What kind of going-on are you? And at first you say, “Oh god, listen to those person’s thoughts! How boring. Why couldn’t they be more interesting than that?” Because, you must admit, that the ordinary train of your thoughts is pretty dull. I often think what God must feel like when he has to inspect the ordinary train of thoughts of all these millions and millions of people. And they can’t do that thinking without his thinking being completely aware of it. And just think what he has to undergo! Ugh! But when you look deeper, underneath the conscious thoughts, and you see the fantastic convolutions of the organism which is responsible for this thinking—the marvelous structure of the nervous system and the brain—that becomes really interesting. And yet, you see, here most of us are: we’re all—from a point of view of our organic structure—we’re miracles! We’re more beautiful than any kind of gem, any work of art ever conceived. And yet we preoccupy ourselves, use this instrument—just like using a Stradivarius to play chopsticks on; or something like that, you know? Use a Stradivarius to play that—and that’s what most of us do with our organisms. And we think that’s terribly important. So much so that we keep it a dark secret from everybody else.
But now the moment, you see, we’re all public to each other and there are no secrets—and supposing I’m the talker in this group, and therefore in a certain kind of privileged position—supposing it wasn’t so, supposing that I wasn’t in a unique position, and that we all—everybody equally—shared each other’s full conscious knowledge. What would we do? We would have to come off it, wouldn’t we? We’d have to agree with each other. We’d have to say, “Well, hello everyone! You’re me.”
Alright, now: we see our technology moving in this direction. Inevitably. But insofar as it is doing this—insofar, in other words, as electronics is making everybody available to everybody else—what we’re doing is that we are discovering through technology a state of affairs which, in fact, has existed all the time. Look at it this way: the first thing that human beings created on this planet to communicate with distant points were roads. Trails where people walked. With the coming of horses and the mastery of horses, the roads became, as it were, more clearly stamped—because of the hard hoof of the horse. But in the nineteenth century we began to go beyond roads because we discovered rails. Then wires. And the world became a network. The economic world became a network of roads, rails, and wires. But now the fascinating thing is: we are beginning to witness a disappearance of all those three methods of communication. The railways and the roads have gone to the airplane, and the wires have gone to radio and television, which require no wires to connect. And you will see that, as human beings become more technically efficient, that the scars of technology will disappear from the face of the Earth. The moment that everybody has his personal hoppy-copter, there will be no more further need of the freeway. And the freeway will break up, and grass and moss will grow over it because nobody is traveling it, and it’ll disappear back into the landscape. Hooray. What an awful thing it is. You know? The concrete octopus. And these ridiculous automobiles in which we each travel around and make a nuisance of ourselves. But they will vanish because they simply are not technologically efficient.
Now you say, “Well, the helicopter will take its place.” Alright. Is that really necessary? Because, as a matter of fact, if we couple the science of television with the science of laser beams, we can get a three-dimensional image of anybody we’d like to see right here in this room. In other words, you can contact your friends in New York, and you can assemble them all together in laser beam images by, as it were, dialing each one and say, “Can you come on?” “Can you come on?” “Can you come on?” Then we can have a laser beam-created three-dimensional image of anybody you want to talk to, sitting right in this room. Now, there may be some limitations to what you can do with a laser beam image of somebody else. But to all intents and purposes, there they are, sitting together. And you understand that each one of them, in their own room—in New York, or Boston, or wherever—they have an equivalent laser beam image of you and all the others who are involved in this conference. So you’re looking at a certain area in a room where there are three-dimensional images of a group of your friends. And these three-dimensional images exist in the separate apartments of every single one of those people involved in the conference, so that the same conference is happening in five different places. Let’s say there are five people involved. In each one of them, there’s one of them there who thinks he’s authentic. See? And he has these five laser beam images—four—talking to him. And so it is in every other situation. And you begin to ask, then, “Where are you?”
And, furthermore, by means of further electronic technology, every one of these five people are not only visible to each other in the cubic screen of the laser beam television, but also their inmost thoughts are clear to each other. There is no concealment. Imagine that. So this kind of mutual knowledge of each other, which we could have by some sort of technology, would be wonderful. Really. If we would accept it.
It would go on from this that, just as the roads have disappeared—or will disappear—and the wires have disappeared, eventually, the electronic gadgetry will disappear. And the electronic network that communicates from person to person will eventually become ESP, or psionic. We will get it from each other without any need for an electrical gadget. By telepathy. Because, you see, what all technology is doing: it’s not creating a new situation, it is discovering what has always existed. When we started to use conscious attention as our main faculty of understanding the world and communicating with each other, we became ignorant of all the other methods of communication that exist. Because we specialized on one. And in order to function in this world, we had to make this one method of experiencing things find out all the channels of communication that exist. And explain them, and talk about them, and measure them, so that we know they are really there. But as it goes on, you see—this conscious attention creating technological devices for communication—all it is actually doing: it is discovering the routes of communication that have always been there.
Now, I want to take this a step further. Do you understand this now? Let’s suppose we eventually discover that we don’t need radio and that we don’t need television because we have ESP, and that we come through our technology to make ESP respectable, so that we can admit to ourselves that there really is that thing going on. Because we couldn’t admit it before, because it was not scientifically acceptable that there could be anything like that. The first step is we make an electronic model of ESP. And it works. Obviously, because it’s electronic. But then we discover that we don’t need the model. We can do it anyhow. Just like homing pigeons have radar built into them, and whitethroat birds can navigate by the stars. How much more value are you than many sparrows? You know? You have it. So we discover that. Well, when we have finally no need to travel, to telephone, to communicate by any technical method whatsoever because we all instantly read each other’s thoughts and have all information whatsoever available to us, is that the point? Is that the great desideratum? Is that what we want, the thing we were trying to get? You find there’s still something beyond that.
Because when you can read every body else’s thoughts, what information will you get from doing that? You will find that reading somebody else is just like reading you. Knowing somebody else’s mind is pretty much like reading your own mind. Yeah, there are some little variations that are of interest. But basically, to know you thoroughly would be like knowing me thoroughly. So not only have the roads vanished, the rails vanished, the wires vanished, the radio has vanished, the television has vanished, but finally, the ESP vanishes as a line of communication. Because we’ve at last discovered that we are all one. And so, in a way, there is no further need to communicate because we are in total communion.