Not What Should Be, But What Is

Alan reminds his audience that our mental image of the world is just an internal fairy tale loosely related to the truth of reality. Paying attention to our sensory experiences can therefore help us lift this thought-tainted veil, an action which reveals the magic of being far better than any words ever could.

Mentioned:

00:00

I wonder what you mean when you use the word “I?” I’ve been very interested in this problem for a long, long time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that what most civilized people mean by that word is a hallucination—that is to say, a false sense of personal identity that is at complete variance with the facts of nature. And as a result of having a false sense of identity, we act in a way that is inappropriate to our natural environment. And when that inappropriate way of action is magnified by a very powerful technology, we swiftly begin to see the results of a profound discord between man and nature. As is well known, we are now in the process of destroying our environment as a result of an attempt to conquer it and master it. And we have not realized, therefore, that our environment is not something other than ourselves. In assuming that it is, we have made a great mistake and are now paying the price for it.

01:33

But most people would agree with the lines of the poet who said, “I, a stranger and afraid, in a world I never made,” because we have the strong sensation that our own being inside our skin is extremely different from the world outside our skin. That, while there may be intelligence inside human skins, and while there may be values and loving feelings, outside the skin is a world of mechanical process which does not give a damn about any individual, and which is basically unintelligent, being gyrations of blind force and (so far as the merely biological world is concerned) gyrations of libido, which is Freud’s word for blind lust.

02:40

It should be obvious that the human being “goeswith” the rest of the universe, even though we say in popular speech, “I came into this world.” Now, it is not true that you came into this world, you came out of it in the same way as a flower comes out of a plant or fruit comes out of a tree. And as an apple tree apples, the solar system in which we live—and therefore the galaxy in which we live, and therefore the system of galaxies in which we live—that system peoples. And therefore, people are an expression of its energy and of its nature. If people are intelligent (and I suppose we have to grant that “if”), then the energy which people express must also be intelligent. Because one does not gather figs from thistles and grapes from thorns. But it does not occur, you see, to the ordinary civilized person to regard himself or herself as an expression of the whole universe. It should be obvious that we cannot exist except in an environment of earth, air, water, and solar temperature; that all these things “gowith” us and are as important to us (albeit outside our skins) as our internal organs—heart, stomach, brain, and so forth.

04:30

Now if, then, we cannot describe the behavior of organisms without at the same time describing the behavior of their environments, we should realize that we have a new entity of description. Not the individual organism alone, but what would now be called a field of behavior which we must call rather clumsily the organism-environment. You go with your environment in the same way as your head goes with the rest of your body. You do not find in nature faces arriving in the world sui generis. They go with a body. But also, bodies do not arrive in a world—which would be, for example, a plain ball of scrubbed rock floating without an atmosphere far away from a star. That will not grow bodies. There is no soil for bodies. There is no complexity of environment which is body-producing. So bodies go with a very complicated natural environment. And if the head goes with the body and the body goes with the environment, the body is as much an integral part of the environment as the head is part of the body. It is deceptive, of course, because the human being is not rooted to the ground like a tree. A human being moves about, and therefore can shift from one environment to another. But these shifts are superficial. The basic environment of the planet remains a constant. And if the human being leaves the planet, he has to take with him a canned version of the planetary environment.

06:29

Now, we are not really aware of this. Upon taking thought and due consideration, it does occur to us: yes indeed, we do need that environment. But, in the ordinary way, we don’t feel it—that is to say, we don’t have a vivid sensation of belonging to our environment in the same way that we have a vivid sensation of being an ego inside a bag of skin, located mostly in the skull, about halfway between the ears and a little way behind the eyes. And it issues in these disastrous results of the ego—which, according to nineteenth-century commonsense, feels that it is a fluke in nature, and that if it does not fight nature, it will not be able to maintain its status as intelligent fluke. So the geneticists are now saying—and many others are now saying—that man must take the course of his evolution into his own hands. He can no longer trust the wiggly, random, and unintelligible processes of nature to develop him any further, but he must interfere with his own intelligence and, through genetic alterations, breed the kind of people who will be viable for human society, and that sort of thing.

07:58

Now this, I submit, is a ghastly error. Because human intelligence has a very serious limitation. That limitation is that it is a scanning system of conscious attention which is linear. That is to say, it examines the world in lines, rather as you would pass the beam of a flashlight across a room—or a spotlight. That’s why our education takes so long. It takes so long because we have to scan miles of lines of print. And we regard that, you see, as basic information. Now, the universe does not come at us in lines. It comes at us in a multidimensional continuum in which everything is happening altogether everywhere at once. And it comes at us much too quickly to be translated into lines of print or of other information, however fast they may be scanned. And that is our limitation so far as the intellectual life and the scientific life is concerned. The computer will greatly speed up linear scanning, but it’s still linear scanning. And so long as we are stuck with that form of wisdom we cannot deal with more than a few variables at once.

09:47

Now, what do I mean by that? What is a variable? A variable is any one linear process. Let’s take music: when you play a Bach fugue and there are four parts to it, you have four variables. You have four moving lines, and you can take care of that with two hands. An organist using two feet can put in two more variables and have six going. And you may realize, if you’ve ever tried to play the organ, that it’s quite difficult to make six independent motions go at once. The average person cannot do that without training. The average person cannot deal with more than three variables at once without using a pencil.

10:34

Now, when we study physics, we are dealing with processes in which there are millions of variables. This, however, we handle by statistics in the same way as insurance companies use actuarial tables to predict when most people will die. If the average age of death is 65—however, this prediction does not apply to any given individual. Any given individual will live to plus or minus 65 years. And the range of difference may be very wide indeed, of course. But this is alright. The 65 guess is alright when you’re doing large scale gambling. And that’s the way the physicist works in predicting the behavior of nuclear wavicles. But the practical problems of human life deal with variables in the hundreds of thousands. Here, statistical methods are very poor, and thinking it out by linear consideration is impossible. With that equipment, then, we are proposing to interfere with our genes. And with that equipment, also, be it said, we are trying to solve our political, economic, and social problems.

11:55

And naturally, everybody has the sense of total frustration. And the individual feels: what what on Earth can I do? We do not seem to know a way of calling upon our brains. Because our brains can handle an enormous number of variables that are not accessible to the process of conscious attention. Your brain is now handling—your total nervous system, to be more accurate—your blood chemistry, the secretions from your glands, the behavior of millions of cells. It is doing all that without thinking about it. That is to say: without translating the processes it is handling into consciously reviewed words, symbols, or numbers.

12:51

Now, when I use the word “thinking,” I mean precisely that process: translating what is going on in nature in two words, symbols, or numbers. Of course, both words and numbers are kinds of symbols. Symbols bear the same relation to the real world that money bears to wealth. You cannot quench anybody’s thirst with the word “water” just as you cannot eat a dollar bill and derive nutrition from it. But using symbols and using conscious intelligence—scanning—has proved very useful to us. It has given us such technology as we have. But at the same time it has proved too much of a good thing. At the same time, we’ve become so fascinated with it that we confuse the world as it is with the world as it is thought about, talked about, and figured about—that is to say, with the world as it is described. And the difference between these two is vast. And when we are not aware of ourselves except in a symbolic way, we’re not related to ourselves at all. We are like people eating menus instead of dinners. And that’s why we all feel psychologically frustrated.

14:31

So then, we get back to the question of: wWhat do we mean by “I?” Well, first of all, obviously, we mean our symbol of ourselves. Now, ourselves (in this case) is the whole psychophysical organism, conscious and unconscious, plus its environment. That’s your real self. Your real self, in other words, is the universe as centered on your organism. That’s you. Let me just clarify that a little for one reason. What you do is also a doing of your environment. Your behavior is its behavior as much as its behavior is your behavior. It’s mutual. We could say it is transactional. You are not a puppet which your environment pushes around, nor is the environment a puppet which you push around. They go together. They act together. In the same way, for example, if I have a wheel: one side of it going down is the same as the other side of it going up. When you handle the steering wheel of a car, are you pulling it or are you pushing it? No. You’re doing both, aren’t you? When you pull it down this side, you are pushing it up that side. It’s all one. So there’s a push-pull between organism and environment.

16:01

We are only rarely aware of this, as when—in curious alterations of consciousness which we call mystical experience, cosmic consciousness—an individual gets the feeling that everything that is happening is his own doing—or the opposite of that feeling: that he isn’t doing anything, but that all his doings (his decisions and so forth) are happenings of nature. You can feel it either way. You can describe it in these two completely opposite ways, but you’re talking about the same experience. You’re talking about experiencing your own activity and the activity of nature as one single process. And you can describe it as if you were omnipotent like God, or as if it were completely deterministic and you hardly existed at all. But remember: both points of view are right. And we’ll see where that gets us.

16:57

But we don’t feel that, do we, ordinarily? What we feel instead is an identification of ourselves with our idea of ourselves—or I would rather say: with our image of ourselves—and that’s the person or the ego. You play a role, you identify with that role. I play a role—it’s called Alan Watts—and I know very well that that’s a big act. I can play some other roles besides Alan Watts, if necessary, but I find this one is better for making a living. But I assure you: it’s a mask and I don’t take it seriously. You know, the idea of my being a kind of messiah or guru or savior of the world just breaks me up. Because I know me! So, you know, it’s very difficult to be holy in the ordinary sense.

18:06

So I know I’m not that. But most of us are taught to think that we are whom we are called. And when you’re a little child and you begin to learn a role, and your parents and your peers approve of your being that, they know who you are. You’re predictable. So you can be controlled. But when you act out of role and you imitate some other child’s behavior, everybody points the finger and says, “You’re not being true to yourself.” “Johnny, that’s not you, that’s Peter.” And so you learn to stay Peter, or to stay Johnny. But of course you’re not either. Because this is just the image of you. It’s as much of you as you can get into your conscious attention—which is precious little. Your image of yourself contains no information about how you structure your nervous system. It contains no information about your blood chemistry. It contains almost no information about the subtle influences of society upon your behavior. It does not include the basic assumptions of your culture, which are all taken for granted and unconscious, and you can’t find them out unless you study other cultures to see how their basic assumptions differ. It includes all kinds of illusions that you’re completely unaware of—as, for example, that time is real, and that there is such a thing as a past, which is pure hokum. But nevertheless, all these things are unconscious in us, and they are not included in our image of ourselves—nor, of course, included in our image of ourselves is there any information about our inseparable relationships with the whole natural universe.

20:00

So this is a very impoverished image. When you ask a person, “What did you do yesterday?” they’ll give you a historical account of a certain number of events in which they participated, and a certain number of things which they saw, used, or were clobbered by. But realize at once that this history leaves out most of what happened. I—in trying to describe what happens to me this evening—will never be able to describe it. Because there are so many people here that if I were to talk about everyone whom I’ve seen—what they were wearing, what color their hair was, what sort of expressions they had on their faces—I would have to talk till doomsday. So instead of this rich physical experience (which is very rich indeed), I have to attenuate it in memory and description to saying, “Oh, I met a lot of people in Philadelphia. And there were men, and there were women, and lots of them were young, and some of them were old.” You know, it’s a most utterly impoverished account of what went on.

21:08

So therefore, in thinking of ourselves in this way—what I did yesterday, what I did the day before in terms of this stringy, mangy account—all I have is a caricature of myself. And, you know, the caricaturist doesn’t draw you all in, he just puts certain salient features whereby people will recognize you. A sort of a skeleton. So we are, as it were, conceiving ourselves as a bunch of skeletons. And they’ve got no flesh on them, just a bunch of bones. And no wonder we all feel inadequate. We’re all looking for something, to the future, to bring us a goodie that we know we ought to have. There’s a golden goodie at the end of the line somewhere. There’s a good time coming, be it ever so far away. That one far off divine event to which all creation moves—we hope! And therefore we say of something that’s no good: it has no future. I would say: it has no present. But everybody says it has no future.

22:17

Now here we are (as it were), psychically starved, and always, therefore, looking, looking, seeking, seeking, seeking. And this confused seeking is going on everywhere. We don’t know what we want! Nobody knows what they want. We say—yes, we think of what we want in vague terms: pleasure, money, wealth, love, fulfillment, personal development. But we don’t know what we mean by all that. If a person really sits down to figure out—write a long essay, twenty pages—on your idea of heaven, it’ll be a sorry production. You can see it already in Medieval art, where there are depictions of heaven and hell. Hell is always much better than heaven. Although it’s uncomfortable, it’s a sadomasochistic orgy. Wowee! You know? Hell is really rip-roaring! Whereas all the saints in heaven are sitting, you know, very, very smug and demure like they were in church. And you see also the multitudes of the saved—instead of this writhing, wormy thing—you can see all their heads, which the artist has drawn to abbreviate them, just the tops of their heads in masses, they look like cobblestone street. Flattened out.

23:58

So what has happened, then, is this: that our “I” is an illusion. It’s an image, and it is no more ourself than an idol is the godhead. But we say, “It can’t be so, because I feel I really exist! It isn’t just an idea in my head, it’s a feeling! I feel me!” Well, what is it that you feel when you feel “I?” I’ll tell you. What do you do when somebody says, “Pay attention!” What is the difference between looking at something and taking a hard look at it? Or between hearing something and listening intently? What’s the difference? What’s the difference between waiting while something goes on and enduring it? Why, the difference is this: that when you pay attention instead of just looking, you screw up your face. You frown and stare. That is a muscular activity around here. When you will, you grit your teeth or clench your fists. When you endure or control yourself, you pull yourself together physically, and therefore you get uptight. You hold your breath. You do all kinds of muscular things to control the functioning of your nervous system. And none of them have the slightest effect on the proper operation of the nervous system. If you stare at things, you will rather fuzz the image than see them clearly. If you listen intently by concentrating on muscles around the ears, you will be so much attending to muscles here that you won’t hear things properly, and you may get singing in the ears. If you tighten up with your body to pull yourself together, all you do is constrict yourself.

26:04

I remember in school I sat next to a boy who had great difficulty in learning to read. And what they always say to children is: try! If you can’t do something you must try. So the boy tries. And what he does when he’s trying to get out words, he grunts and groans as if he were lifting weights. And the teacher’s impressed. The boy is really trying. Gives him B for effort. All he’s doing—eergh! You know? Has nothing to do with it. Now, we all make this muscular straining with the thought that it’s achieving psychological results—the sort of psychological results it’s intended to achieve. Now, all this amounts to is this: like, you’re taking off on a jet plane, and you’ve gone a mile down the runway and the thing isn’t up in the air yet, and you get nervous. So you start pulling at your seatbelt. That’s what it is.

27:04

Now that is a chronic feeling. We have it us all the time, and it corresponds to the word “I.” That’s what you feel when you say “I.” You feel that chronic tension. Because when an organ is working properly, you don’t feel it. If you see your eye, you’ve got cataract. If you hear your ears, you’ve got singing in your ears—you know, getting in the way of hearing. When you are fully functioning, you are unaware of the organ. When you’re thinking clearly, your brain isn’t getting in your way. Actually, of course, you are seeing your eyes, in the sense that everything you see out in front of you is a condition in the optic nerves at the back of the skull. That’s where you’re aware of all this. But you’re not aware of the eye as the eye—I’m talking about the optical eye.

28:00

So when we are aware of the ego-I, we are aware of this chronic tension inside ourselves. And that’s not us. It’s a futile tension. So when we get the illusion (the image of ourselves) married to a futile tension, you’ve got an illusion married to a futility, and then you wonder why I can’t do anything, why I feel (in the face of all the problems of the world) impotent, and why I somehow cannot manage to transform I?

28:34

Now here we get to the real problem, because we’re always telling each other that we should be different. I’m not going to tell you that tonight. Why not? Because I know you can’t be. Nor can I. That may sound depressing, but I’ll show you it isn’t. It’s very heartening. But everybody, you see, who is at all sensitive and awake to their own problems and human problems is trying to change himself. We know we can’t change the world unless we change ourselves. If we’re all individually selfish, we’re going to be collectively selfish. If we don’t really love people and only pretend to, somehow we’ve got to find a way to love. After all, it’s said in the Bible: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and your neighbor as yourself.” You must love. Yeah, we all agree. Sure. But we don’t. In fact, one psychologist very smartly asked a patient: “With whom are you in love against?”

29:49

And this particularly becomes appalling when we enter into the realm of higher things—by which I mean spiritual development. Everybody these days is interested in spiritual development. And wisely, because we want to change our consciousness. Many people are well aware that this egocentric consciousness is a hallucination, and that they presume it’s the function of religion to change it. Because that’s what the Zen Buddhists and yogis and all these people in the Orient are doing. They’re changing their state of consciousness to get something called satori—or mystical experience, or nirvāṇa, or mokṣa, or what have you. And everybody around here is really enthused about that, because you don’t get that in church. I mean, there have been Christian mystics, but the church has been very quiet about them.

30:46

In the average church all you get is talk. There’s no meditation, no spiritual discipline. They tell God what to do interminably, as if he didn’t know. And then they tell the people what to do, as if they could or even wanted to. And then they sing religious nursery rhymes. And then, to cap it all, the Roman Catholic Church—which did at least have an unintelligible service; which was, you know, it was real mysterious and suggested vast magic going on—they went and put the thing into bad English. And they took away incense, and they took away—they became a bunch of Protestants, and the thing was just terrible! So now all these Catholics are at loose ends. As Clare Boothe Luce put it—it ought to be a pun, but she said, you know, “It’s no longer possible to practice contemplative prayer at mass.” Because you’re being advised, exhorted, edified all the time, and it becomes a bore. Think of God listening to all those prayers! I mean, talking about grieving the Holy Spirit! It’s just awful. People have no consideration for God at all!

32:23

But in pursuing these spiritual disciplines—yoga and Zen and so forth, and also psychotherapy—there comes up a big difficulty. And the big difficulty is this: I want to find a method whereby I can change my consciousness. But therefore—to improve myself. But the self that needs to be improved is the one that is doing the improving. And so I’m rather stuck. I find out the reason that I think I believe, say, in God is that I sure hope that somehow God will rescue me. In other words, I want to hang on to my own existence. And I feel rather shaky about doing that for myself, but I just hope there’s a God who’ll take care of it. Or, if I could be loving, I would have a better opinion of myself. I’d feel better about it. I could face myself (as people say) if I were more loving. So the unloving me—somehow, by some gimmickry—has to turn itself into a loving me, and this is just like trying to lift yourself off the ground with your own bootstraps. It can’t be done! And that’s why religion in practice mainly produces hypocrisy and guilt: because of the constant failure of these enterprises.

33:59

Now, people go and study Zen, and they come back and say, “Wow, getting rid of your ego is a superhuman task.” I assure you, it’s going to be very, very difficult to get rid of your ego! You’re going to have to sit for a long time, and you’re going to get the sorest legs. It’s hard work. And all you wretched kids, you think you’re getting rid of your ego on pot or something or other, and easy yoga—you don’t know what you’re in for when it really comes down to the nitty-gritty. But, you know, the biggest ego trip going is getting rid of your ego. And the joke of it all is: your ego doesn’t exist! There’s nothing to get rid of. It’s an illusion, as I tried to explain.

34:58

But you still want to ask how to stop the illusion. Now, who’s asking? I mean, do you think—in the ordinary sense in which you use the word “I”—how can I stop identifying myself with the wrong me? But the answer is simply: you can’t. The Christians put this in their way when they say that mystical experience is a gift of divine grace. Man as such cannot achieve this experience. It is a gift of God. And if God doesn’t give it to you, there’s no way of getting it. Now that is solidly true. You can’t do anything about it, because you don’t exist.

35:46

Well, you say that’s pretty depressing news. But the whole point is: it isn’t depressing news. It is the joyous news! There’s a Zen poem which puts it like this—talking about “it;” “it” means the mystical experience, satori, the realization that you are the eternal energy of the universe, like Jesus did. It says like this:

You cannot catch hold of it,

Nor can you get rid of it.

In not being able to get it, you get it.

When you speak, it’s silent.

When you’re silent, it speaks.

36:23

Now, in not being able to get it, you get it. Because this whole feeling—what Krishnamurti is trying to explain to people, for example, when he says: why do you ask for a method? There is no method. All methods are simply gimmicks for strengthening your ego. So how do we not do that? He says you’re still asking for a method. There is no method. If you really understand what your “I” is, you will see there is no method.

36:54

Well, you say this is so sad. But it’s not. This is the gospel; the good news. Because if you cannot achieve it—if you cannot transform yourself—that means that the main obstacle to mystical vision has collapsed. That was you. What happens? You can’t do anything about it. You’re at your wit’s end. What are you going to do, commit suicide? Supposing you just put that off for a little while. Wait and see what happens. You can’t control your thoughts, you can’t control your feelings, because there is no controller. You are your thoughts and your feelings, and they’re running along, running along, running along. Just sit and watch them. There they go. You’re still breathing, aren’t you? Still growing your hair. Still seeing and hearing. Are you doing that? I mean, is breathing something that you do? Do you see? I mean, do you organize the operations of your eyes and know exactly how to work those rods and cones in the retina? Do you do that? It’s a happening. It happens. So you can feel all this happening. Your breathing is happening, your thinking is happening, your feeling is happening, your hearing, your seeing. The clouds are happening across the sky. The sky is happening blue. The sun is happening shining. There it is, all this happening. And may I introduce you: this is yourself. This begins to be a vision of who you really are. And that’s the way you function. You function by happening—that is to say: by spontaneous occurrence.

39:01

And this is not a state of affairs that you should realize. I cannot possibly preach it to you, because the minute you start thinking, “I should understand that,” this is the stupid notion again that “I” should bring it about, when there is no “you” to bring it about. See, that’s why I’m not preaching. You can only preach to egos. All I can do is to talk about what is. It amuses me to talk about what is, because it’s wonderful. I love it, and therefore I like to talk. If I get paid for it, then I make my living. And sensible people get paid for doing what they enjoy doing.

39:43

So this is not a—you see, this whole approach is not to convert you, not to make you over, not to improve you, but for you to discover that if you really knew the way you are, things would be sane. But, you see, you can’t do that. You can’t make that discovery, because you’re in your own way. So long as you think “I’m I.” So long as that hallucination blocks it. And the hallucination disappears only in the realization of its own futility, when at last you see you can’t do it. You cannot make yourself over, you cannot really control your own mind.

40:30

See, when we try to control the mind—a lot of yoga teachers try to get you to control your own mind mainly to prove to you that you can’t do it. There’s nothing. You know, a fool who persists in his folly will become wise. So what they do is: they speed up the folly. And so you get concentrating, and you can have a certain amount of superficial and initial success by a process commonly called self-hypnosis. And you can think you’re making progress. And a good teacher will let you go along that way for a while until he really throws you with one. Why are you concentrating? See, Buddhism works this way. Buddha said: if you suffer, you suffer because you desire. And your desires are either unattainable or always being disappointed or something. So cut out desire. So those disciples went away, and they stamped on desire, jumped on desire, cut the throat of desire, and threw out desire. But then they came back and Buddha said, “But you are still desiring not to desire.” Then they wondered how to get rid of that!

41:51

So when you see that that’s nonsense, there naturally comes over you a quietness. In seeing that you cannot control your mind, you realize there is no controller. What you took to be the thinker of thoughts is just one of the thoughts. What you took to be the feeler of the feelings—which was that chronic muscular strain—was just one of the feelings. What you took to be the experiencer of experience was just part of the experience. So there isn’t any thinker of thoughts, feeler of feelings. We get into that bind because we have a grammatical rule that verbs have to have subjects. And the funny thing about that is that verbs are processes and subjects and nouns, which are supposed to be things. How does a noun start a verb? How does a thing put a process into action? Obviously it can’t. But we always insist that there is this subject called the knower. And without a knower there can’t be knowing. Well that’s just a grammatical rule. It isn’t the rule of nature. In nature there’s just knowing, like you’re feeling it. And I have to say you are feeling it, as if you were somehow different from the feeling. When I say, “I am feeling,” what I mean is: there is feeling here. When I say, “You are feeling,” I mean: there is feeling there. I have to say, even, “There is feeling.” What a cumbersome language we have! Chinese is easier because you don’t have to put all that in. Why, you can say things twice as fast in Chinese as you can in any other language.

43:25

Well, anyway, when you come to see that you can do nothing—that the play of thought, of feeling, et cetera just goes on by itself as a happening—then you are in a state which we will call meditation. And slowly, without being pushed, your thoughts will come to silence. That is to say, all the verbal, symbolic chatter going on in the skull—don’t try and get rid of it, because that will again produce the illusion that there’s a controller. Just: it goes on, it goes on, it goes on, and finally it gets tired of itself and bored and stops. And so then there’s a silence. And this is a deeper level of meditation.

44:18

And in that silence you suddenly begin to see the world as it is. And you don’t see any past, and you don’t see any future. You don’t see any difference between yourself and the rest of it. That’s just an idea. You can put your hand on the difference between “myself” and “you.” You know? You can’t blow it, you can’t bounce it, you can’t pull it. It’s just an idea. You can’t find any material body, because “material body” is an idea. So is “spiritual body.” It’s just somebody’s philosophical notions. See, reality isn’t material. That’s an idea. Reality isn’t spiritual. That’s an idea. Reality is [clap].

45:10

So we find (if I’ve got to put it back into words) that we live in an eternal now. You’ve got all the time in the world because you’ve got all the time there is, which is now. And you are this universe. And you feel this strange feeling. When ideas don’t define the differences, you feel that other people’s doings or your doings. And that makes it very difficult to blame other people.

45:46

If you’re not sophisticated theologically, you may of course run screaming in the streets and say that you’re God. In a way, that’s what happened to Jesus, because he wasn’t sophisticated theologically. He only had Old Testament biblical theology behind him. If he’d had Hindu theology he could have put it more subtly. But it was only that rather primitive theology of the Old Testament. And that was a conception of God as a monarchical boss. And you can’t go around and say, “I’m the boss’s son.” If you’re going to say, “I’m God,” you must allow it for everyone else too. But this was a heretical idea from the point of view of Hebrew theology. And so what they did with Jesus was: they pedestalized him. That means: kicked him upstairs so that he wouldn’t be able to influence anyone else. And, only you may be God. And that stopped the Gospel cold right at the beginning. It couldn’t spread.

46:59

Well anyway, this is therefore to say that the transformation of human consciousness through meditation is frustrated so long as we think of it in terms of something that I myself can bring about by some kind of wangle, by some sort of gimmick. Because, you see, that leads to endless games of spiritual one-upmanship, and of guru competitions; of “my guru is more effective than your guru,” “my yoga is faster than your yoga,” “I’m more aware of myself than you are,” “I’m humbler than you are,” “I’m sorrier for my sins than you are,” “I love you more than you love me.” This interminable goings-on about which people fight, and wonder whether they’re a little bit more evolved than somebody else, and so on. All that can just fall away.

48:02

And then we get this strange feeling that we have never had, you see, in our lives—except occasionally by accident some people get a glimpse—that we are no longer this poor little stranger and afraid in a world it never made, but that you are this universe. And you are creating it at every moment. Because, you see, it starts now. It didn’t begin in the past. There was no past. See, if the universe began in the past, when that happened it was now. See? Well, it’s still now. And the universe is still beginning now, and it’s trailing off like the wake of a ship from now. And the wake of the ship fades out. So does the past. You can look back there to explain things, but the explanation disappears. You never find it there. Things are not explained by the past, they’re explained by what happens now. That creates the past. And it begins here.

49:01

That’s the birth of responsibility. Because otherwise you can always look over your shoulder and say, “Well, I’m the way I am because my mother dropped me. And she dropped me because she was neurotic, because her mother dropped her,” and away we go back to Adam and Eve, or to a disappearing monkey, or something. We never get at it. But in this way you’re faced with that you’re doing all this. And that’s an extraordinary shock. So cheer up! You can’t blame anyone else for the kind of world you’re in. And if you know, you see, that I (in the sense of the person, the front, the ego) really doesn’t exist, then it won’t go to your head too badly if you wake up and discover that you’re God.



Not What Should Be, But What Is

Alan Watts

https://www.organism.earth/library/docs/alan-watts/headshot-square.webp

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