I’m referring to a kind of experience, a kind of—shall we say—state of consciousness which seems to be as prevalent among human beings as measles. It’s something that simply happens, and we don’t know why it happens. And although there are all sorts of techniques which claim to be able to promote it, and which are more or less successful in doing so—and sometimes rather less than more—nevertheless, there is this peculiar thing that happens to people. And it’s been recorded as far back in time as we have any recording at all. And that is coming over people the peculiarly convincing sensation that their ordinary sense of individuality—of personal identity—is transcended, and the individual suddenly feels an experience that… actually, it could be described from a number of quite different points of view. But we could add up these dominant characteristics:
That—instead of the ordinary feeling that I, as an individual, confront a world that is foreign to me, that is not me—in this kind of experience I find myself to be of one and the same nature or identity as the world outside me. In other words, I suddenly feel no longer a stranger in the world, but as if the external world were my own body.
The next aspect of the feeling is even more difficult to assimilate to our ordinary practical intelligence. But a very overwhelming feeling that everything that happens—everything I have ever done, everything anybody else has ever done—was part of a harmonious design. That there is no error at all. And that’s the sort of thing I’m referring to.
Now, you see, I’m not talking about a philosophy, I’m not talking about a rationalization, some sort of theory that somebody cooked up in order to explain the world and make it seem a tolerable place to live in. I’m talking about a rather whimsical, unpredictable experience that suddenly hits people, and it includes this element of feeling the total harmoniousness of everything. Now, I realize that those words can carry with them a sort of sentimental feeling, a sort of Pollyanna feeling. There are various religions in our society today which try to inculcate in you the belief that everything is a harmonious unity. You know, things like Christian Science—or the Unity Movement, and so on—they want to make a kind of propaganda for one to believe, and through believing, to feel that everything is harmonious.
Now, to my mind that is a kind of pseudo-mysticism because it’s an attempt to make the tail wag the dog, to make the effect produce the cause. Because this sensation of things being harmonious is somehow never brought about by insisting to yourself that that is so. Because when you do that—when you would say to yourself all things are light, all things are God, all things are beautiful, et cetera—actually, by doing that, you’re implying that they’re not. Because you wouldn’t be saying all this stuff if you really knew it to be true.
So this thing—the sensation of a kind of universal harmony—can not come to us when it is sought, when we look for it as something to be an escape from the way we actually feel or to compensate for the way we actually feel. It’s a thing that comes out of the blue. And when it comes out of the blue—just like hiccups come out of the blue, or something like that—it’s overwhelmingly convincing and it stands as, actually, the foundation for most of mankind’s profound philosophical, mystical, metaphysical, and religious ideas. Someone, in other words, to whom this sort of thing has happened. And as I said before, it strikes us as measles may strike us. Someone to whom this sort of thing has happened can’t restrain himself when it has happened, and he has to get up and tell everybody about it. And, at last, he becomes the founder of a religion. Because people say,
You see, that the wonderful thing about a great human being: he’s like an animal or a flower. See, when a flower buds and the bud goes pop and opens, it has no hesitation or doubts about it. But when a young woman appears in society as a debutante—you know, she’s not quite sure if she’s going to come off—and she appears on the stage of society with some doubts in her mind. Therefore, all appearances of this kind are of a rather sickly nature. But when the bird sings, or the chicken’s egg breaks, the flower buds, there’s no doubt about it at all. It comes forth.
And so, in the same way, when somebody has an experience of this kind he just has to tell everybody about it. Because, you see, he sees everybody around him looking dreadfully serious, looking as if they had a problem, looking as if the act of living were extremely difficult. But from his standpoint—the person who’s had this experience—he feels that they look funny, that they don’t understand that there isn’t any problem at all. That he has seen—from where he stands, you see—that the meaning of being alive is just being alive. That is to say, I look at the color of your hair and the shape of your eyebrow, and I understand that that is the point. That’s what we’re all here for. And it’s so plain, and it’s so obvious, and so simple. And yet, here is everybody rushing around in a great panic as if it were necessary for them to achieve something beyond all that. And the funny thing is: they’re not quite sure what it is. But they’re devilishly intent upon it, after that thing.
And so, to the person in this state of consciousness—which I call ‘mystical’—that all seems very weird, very absurd. But it’s not something that you criticize in an unkindly way. You don’t say,
In other words, the intensely serious preoccupations and anxieties of mankind appear from this standpoint not to be foolishness, but to be a kind of marvel in the same way, perhaps—as you could say—that the protective coloring of a butterfly, who has somehow contrived to make its wings look like enormous eyes. So that when a bird who is about to devour this beast is confronted by these staring eyes, the bird is a little hesitating—as when you stare at somebody they’re always taken a little bit aback. And so the butterfly appears to stare at the bird. And perhaps, you see, this phenomenon—of the marvel of staring wings of the butterfly—is in some way a result of anxiety. The anxiety to survive, all the problems and struggles of natural selection. Nevertheless, in this intense struggle, we are unknowing poets.
You see, one of the greatest ideas in the world that has ever been produced is, for my thinking, the Hindu idea that the world is a drama in which the central and supreme Self behind all existence gets lost and involved, and pretends—plays—that he, or it, or he/she, or whatever you want to call It, is all the creatures that there are and gets totally involved. And thus, you see, the more involved, the more anxious, the more finite, the more limited the infinite manages to feel itself to be, the greater the artistry, the greater the depth of the illusion which is created. For, you see, all art is—in a way—illusion. The art of the magician is the art of illusion, the art of misdirecting attention so that the magic seems to appear.
And so, in this way, the more there is anxiety, the more there is uncertainty, to that degree the play has succeeded in the same way as, when you are watching an actual play or reading a novel or a movie, the more the author or the actors manage to grip you and to persuade you just for a moment that you are actually involved in reality, the more they have succeeded as artists. You may have a faint recognition in the back of your mind that this is, after all, only a play. When you sit on the edge of your seat, and you’re sweating and your hands clutch the arms of the chair. When the scene so grips you… that is magnificent acting. And so the Hindus feel that the whole arrangement of the cosmos is something exactly like that.
But when, in the reality of actual life, you are sweating it out and you’re wondering whether this surgeon—who’s got to operate on you in a matter of life and death—is a competent man or a charlatan. Or whether the investment that you made is a good thing or whether it’s going to make you lose your shirt. You see? All those matters of terrific crisis are exactly the same as when you’re sitting in the theater, sweating it out there. But now, a far more convincing theater has been arranged. Because, as the Hindus would say, that in you which is It—the basis of you, the thing that is real in you and that connects you under the surface with every other being that is alive—this is the player of the parts, this is the maker of the illusion. This, the player of the game which has got you involved in this mess, and is living it up in the same way as those actors on the stage are living it up to convince you that this is a real situation.
And this is very understandable because, basically, everybody loves to play this game. The game of hide-and-seek. The game of scaring one’s self. Running up behind yourself in the dark and saying,
I have tried to show you at various times that there’s really one simple principle that underlies everything, and it’s so simple it’s funny. The principle is: all insides have outsides. Because, you see, you don’t know that the inside is inside unless there’s an outside, and you don’t know that the outside is outside unless there’s an inside. Okay. Then you, as you ordinarily feel yourself, are the inside. You are the animate, sensitive being inside the skin. But the inside of the skin goes with the outside of the skin. If there weren’t the outside of the skin there wouldn’t be no inside. And the outside of the skin is the whole darn cosmos. Galaxy beyond galaxy, and everything. You see? And that goes with the outside in the same way that front goes with back. So that if you wake up and understand that, you find that the two are one and the same identity, one and the same Self, one and the same life. So that’s the mystic’s point of view. He finds that out.
Now, if I may switch: what is morals? In the sense in which I am using the term ‘morality,’ or ‘morals.’ It’s a set of rules analogous to the rules of language. Now, it’s perfectly obvious, isn’t it, that we can talk to each other in English only if there is mutual agreement among ourselves as to how to use the language. What words refer to what experiences, and what ways of stringing words together to be meaningful, how to be used. And it’s very much of interest that we don’t have too much trouble in coming to this agreement about language. We don’t find that the police have to enforce grammar. The schoolteacher? Yes. For little children, the school teacher does sometimes have to enforce grammar and say in an authoritative way, and in the old-fashioned schools with the aid of some implement of corporal punishment. You know? You use the correct grammatical forms. But when we grow up into adult life we use these grammatical forms without much difficulty and very rarely do the police have to enforce it.
But it is otherwise—with other arrangements that we have to make—in common, because just as we have to agree in order to communicate about language, we have to agree about, say, the rules of driving on the highway, the rules of doing business, the rules of doing banking, and so on, and so on, the rules of family arrangements and whatnot. And these are actually rules of the same kind as the rules of grammar. But, alas, this is not very often recognized because the authority, the sanctions, the power behind these rules is different from the authority behind grammar.
What I mean is this: if you transgress the rules of grammar people will shrug their shoulders and say,
Now, the problem is this: where the domain of mysticism and the domain of morals come into conflict. You see, throughout all known history of religion the mystics have been suspect insofar as religions have been the upholders of moral rules; the—as it were—the guardians, the authorities. In the same way, for example, as the lexicographers of the Grammarians guard the rules of grammar and expound upon them, so in the same way priesthoods and the lawyers guard the rules of social behavior. But when, into the domain of religion, there appears the mystical experience, then the priests are very, very disturbed.
Now, you all know that—in recent months, in California—there has been a very strange outbreak in the most respectable of all churches, the Episcopal church. Various congregations of the Episcopal church have had a phenomenon called glossolalia, and this means ‘speaking with tongues.’ If you will turn on your radio to any [African-American] revival meeting on a Sunday night, you will hear glossolalia. That is to say, when the preacher starts talking sensibly but the congregation gets more and more enthusiastic and says,
Well, it so happened that, in recent months, various congregations of the Episcopal church had outbreaks of this. The bishop of California, when all this happened—bishop Pike—wrote an encyclical letter to his pastors and said,
Now, you see, this has characteristically—through the ages—been the attitude of priesthoods, of the guardians of law and order—or, as they say in the Episcopal church, everything should be done decently and in order. The guardians of this kind of thing have always been afraid of the spontaneous manifestations of the spirit. And not only of things like mysticism, but also of things like falling in love. They’re very, very dangerous happenings. And so, here an absolutely astounding paradox comes about, and it goes like this:
We know, on the one hand, that human love is only genuine when it is felt in the depths of the heart. And we know that this is true whether it be the love of man or whether it be the love of God. We’re always looking for the genuine article, you see? We don’t want someone to love us because they’re forcing it. We want them to love us because they really do, in their heart. Now, you see, when you go back to the study of the history of the Hebrew religion underlying the history of Christianity, you will find this problem in this way: that you’ve got two traditions constantly compensating one against the other, playing each other off in the history of the Hebrew religion—the priestly tradition and the prophetic tradition. The priesthood is always concerned with the external observance of the laws. But the prophetic tradition is always concerned with
So, you see, what this comes to, then, is a peculiarly paradoxical situation that you are required, by law, to be completely honest. And more than that; you are required, by law, to be loving, and honestly loving. You must love God and love your neighbor honestly, not forcing it, not pretending to it, not being a hypocrite. You must really feel it. Now that, you see, is where the astonishing conflict occurs between the mystic and the moralist. For the moralist knows that he has to be more than a legalist. He has to be more than one who insists that the outward observance of the law be kept to. Luther said that the law which requires that inward compliance is the most terrible thing. He based a great deal of his philosophy on an attack on the idea that one’s own inner feeling could be commanded. Because, you see, the moment you subscribe to the idea that your inner feeling should be commanded, you let yourself in completely for hypocrisy. If, you see, you tell another person that you love them because you know you’re supposed to love them and, in fact—in your heart—you don’t love them, you’re a liar. And therefore, the more you insist on that lie, the more you feel it’s your duty to make your feelings over and to love that other person, the more you get yourself deeper, and deeper, and deeper into trouble. Because here, if anywhere, the truth will out. You will not be able to sustain the pretense. You will not have sufficient energy to go on pretending and making a kind of mock of the feeling of love. And you have at last, then—if you’re honest—to say,
Now, we think—you see—that an honest expression of our feelings would be disruptive of law and order. It wouldn’t; not in the least. Actually, it would be contributive to it. Because if I say to somebody,
I was associated once with somebody—in a business way—who was a complicated person who pretended, always, that he was a great idealist and that he was doing whatever he did for the benefit of mankind, for the furtherance of mutual understanding, for unselfishness and love between human beings. Actually, his dealings were ethically of a very shady character and I couldn’t get on with him because he wouldn’t come clean. If he had said,
You see, now, how real honesty is a genuine basis of morals. Real honesty is always not pretending that you’re feelings are other than they are. We know, as we deal with situations practically, that we may have to do things that go against our feelings, and it’s the same with helping people—when you have to—whom you don’t like and you don’t want to help, but on the whole it’s rather necessary to do so. But don’t ever be dishonest in playing that you’re feelings are not what they are.
Now, from this standpoint we can perhaps understand something about the deep relationship between morals and mysticism. If we go back, you see, to the experience that I described as mystical we see that it is the vision—I tried to put it, fumblingly, in the sense of the rightness, the harmoniousness of everything that you are from one moment to another. That, in other words, human behavior—its ups and its downs—is no different in principle from the behavior of the clouds, or of the wind, or of dancing flames in the fireplace. As you watch the pattern of the dancing flames they never do anything vulgar. Their artistry is always perfect. Ultimately, it is the same with human beings. We are just as much a part of the natural order as flames in the fire or stars in the sky. But this is only apparent to the person who is honest in the sense in which I have spoken. In other words, the person who is tied up with trying to pretend that his feelings are other than what they actually are—he can never see this, and he’s always a troublemaker. He is the original hypocrite. The person who is unbelievably destructive is the person who pretends that he is a model of love and rectitude and justice, and, in fact, isn’t. Because nobody really can be. But then, superior altogether is the kind of person I would call the ‘loving cynic’ who knows, of course, that everybody has his weakness and his price and so on, but isn’t contemptuous for that reason.
Incidentally, may I be so bold as to recommend a book? Memories, Dreams and Reflections by C. G. Jung: Jung’s autobiography. The life story of a man who, in my opinion, was a superb human being in this particular sense of thoroughly knowing his own limitations, and of having a certain humor about them. A man who understood how to integrate into his whole being the devil in himself and the monkey in himself.
So then, in the metaphysical sphere the mystic is the one who feels that everything that happens is in some way harmonious, is in some way right, is in some way an integral part of the universe. Now, when we transplant or translate that into the moral sphere, the sphere of human conduct, the equivalent is this: there are no wrong feelings. There may be wrong actions in the sense of actions contrary to the rules of human communication. But the way you feel towards other people—loving, hating, et cetera, et cetera—aren’t any wrong feelings. And so to try and force one’s feelings to be other than what they are is absurd and, furthermore dishonest.
But, you see, the idea that there are no wrong feelings is an immensely threatening idea to people who are afraid to feel in any case. And this is one of the peculiar problems of our culture: that we are terrified of our feelings. Because they take off on their own and we think that if we give them any scope, and if we don’t immediately beat them down, they will lead us into all kinds of chaotic and destructive action. It’s so funny that we, in our Western culture today, say that kind of thing. We, who do more chaotic and reckless kind of action than anybody ever did.
But if, for a change, we would allow our feelings and look upon their comings and goings as something as beautiful and as natural and necessary as changes in the weather, the going of night and day, and of the four seasons, we would be at peace with ourselves. Because what is problematic for Western man is not so much his struggles with other people and their needs and their problems, as his struggle with his own feelings, with what he will allow himself to feel, and what he won’t allow himself to feel. He’s ashamed to feel really, profoundly sad, so much so that he could cry. It is not manly to cry. He is ashamed to loathe somebody because you’re not supposed to hate people. He’s ashamed to be so overcome with the beauty of something—whether it be a natural landscape or a member of the opposite sex—that he goes out of his mind with this beauty. Because all that kind of thing is not being in control, old boy! Not—kind of—having your hand on the wheel!
But it is because, you see, we don’t go with that that we are not in control, that we try to pretend that our inner life is different. So I think this is the most releasing thing that anybody can possibly understand: that your inner feeling is never wrong. That’s to say, what you feel—it’s never wrong that you feel that way. It may not be a right guide to what you should do. In other words, if you feel that you hate someone intensely, it isn’t necessarily the right way of dealing with that feeling to go out and cut his throat. But it is right that you should have the feeling of hating, or of being sad, or frightened, terrified—whatever it is.
For, you see, when a person comes to himself, he comes to be one with his own feeling. And that is the only way of being in a position to control it. It is in exactly this way that the sailor always keeps the wind in his sails. Whether he wants to sail with the wind or whether he wants to sail against the wind, he always uses the wind. He never denies the wind. Well, it’s in exactly that same sense that a person has to keep going with his own feeling. Whether he wants to act as the feeling obviously suggests or act in a different way, he has to keep the feeling with him because that’s his own essential self. But when he attempts simply to sail against the wind, he’s lost himself. He’s become just a kind of empty mask which hasn’t got any real life behind it. And all its protestations of love and good will are hollow.
So, you see, it is in the most basic, simple situation: a mother has a child. She got it by accident. You know? And she thinks,
So, to sum up: what the mystic primarily feels is the divinity, the glory, of whatever is. And when we apply that to the moral sphere, what is is what one feels genuinely. And this must always be admitted, always allowed. It doesn’t mean to say—let me emphasize this—it doesn’t mean that we always are therefore compelled to act upon the basis of what we feel. That is to say, to kill the person we hate. Hatred does not necessarily lead to violence. It is unacknowledged hatred that leads to violence. Honest hatred can be expressed in much simpler ways. But the expression, the recognition, the acceptance of what is honestly felt is the moral equivalent of the vision that whatever exists is a manifestation of the divine.