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Early Writings

THE VALUE OF INDIVIDUALITY

1928

The spirit of mediocrity is everywhere gaining on the spirit of aristocracy. By aristocracy I mean an aristocracy of culture, of refinement of thought and feeling. The spirit of the bourgeois -which is the spirit of pettiness, narrowness and mediocrity- desires to pull down the spirit of true nobility, not the nobility of titles and possession of a multitude of things.

The desire to follow, to imitate, to be loyal, which prevails in the world at large, is the antithesis of real understanding. You all want to be free, but freedom can only be achieved when you are above loyalty, above the desire to imitate, to mould yourself to the thought of another.

Even among cultured people there is the tendency to reduce all ideas to form, to some definite and concrete pattern and then to reproduce that concreteness in themselves. The only way to step beyond this stage of limitation, which in its essence is mediocrity, is to aim at true freedom.

Most people think that freedom means to be able to do just what they please; but true freedom does not imply lack of discipline, or restraint and control.

If you will permit me for a moment, I will take my own example. I have always wanted to be free -and I think I am now free from the circles that have been drawn around me, that is, the circumstances around me. Everyone, in his life, has certain special circumstances, which force him, urge him to mould himself to a particular pattern. The genius is a person who frees himself from those circumstances, who grows beyond them. As I wanted to be free, I had to watch all the time what circles were being drawn round me. It is very easy to follow, to be loyal to someone else, but it is much more difficult to be loyal to oneself. It seems to me that the spirit of mediocrity can only be conquered if everyone tries all the time to struggle, to put aside those influences, which urge him to conform, and to mould himself to a pattern.

Agreement and acquiescence of the wrong kind breed mediocrity. But if there is a real revolt of the mind and an immense desire for affection and understanding, then the spirit of mediocrity can be overcome. To bring the mind into a state of great revolt seems to me the first duty of everyone, because then true comprehension will be born. I would much rather have people who are against all that I say but are struggling to understand, than people who agree with me all the time without understanding. I have found all over the world that I can talk with people who are absolutely unconvinced, who are skeptical, who are prejudiced and who scoff in interviews and at public meetings, with greater ease than with those who imitate or blindly follow and thus put a wall between true understanding and themselves.

True contentment comes through understanding, and stagnation through self-satisfaction. At Eerde there must be no stagnation, because here we should cultivate the spirit of absolute freedom of thought.

There is no other righteousness than the righteousness of behaviour and that can only come with the true desire for the spirit of freedom. Eerde ought to produce not mediocrity, but minds and hearts that have in them the quality of genius, and you can only have that if there is at the background of life the desire for freedom.

Another tendency prevalent everywhere is the desire to quote authority. This is especially so in India where the mind is cultivated in the spirit of the past. To whatever I say they object, "it is written in our sacred books, Shri Krishna has not said it, the Buddha has not said it", and so all the time one is judged, not by the truth of the present, but by the tradition and authority of the past. Agreement, with understanding, is the essence of friendship.

Early Writings

THE VALUE OF INDIVIDUALITY
1928

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