Commentaries on Living Series 2
Commentaries on Living Series II Chapter 5 'Progress and Revolution'
THEY WERE CHANTING in the temple. It was a clean temple of carved stone, massive and indestructible. There were over thirty priests, naked to the waist; their pronunciation of the Sanskrit was precise and distinct, and they knew the meaning of the chant. The depth and sound of the words made those walls and pillars almost tremble, and instinctively the group that was there became silent. The creation, the beginning of the world was being chanted, and how man was brought forth. The people had closed their eyes, and the chant was producing a pleasant disturbance: nostalgic remembrances of their childhood, thoughts of the progress they had made since those youthful days, the strange effect of Sanskrit words, delight in hearing the chant again. Some were repeating the chant to themselves, and their lips were moving. The atmosphere was getting charged with strong emotions, but the priests went on with the chant and the gods remained silent.
How we hug to ourselves the idea of progress. We like to think we shall achieve a better state, become more merciful, peaceful and virtuous. We love to cling to this illusion, and few are deeply aware that this becoming is a pretence, a satisfying myth. We love to think that someday we shall be better, but in the meantime we carry on. Progress is such a comforting word, so reassuring, a word with which we hypnotize ourselves. The thing which is cannot become something different; greed can never become non-greed, any more than violence can become non-violence. You can make pig iron into a marvellous, complicated machine, but progress is illusion when applied to self-becoming. The idea of the `me' becoming something glorious is the simple deception of the craving to be great. We worship the success of the State, of the ideology, of the self, and deceive ourselves with the comforting illusion of progress. Thought may progress, become something more, go towards a more perfect end, or make itself silent; but as long as thought is a movement of acquisitiveness or renunciation, it is always a mere reaction. Reaction ever produces conflict, and progress in conflict is further confusion, further antagonism.
He said he was a revolutionary, ready to kill or be killed for his cause, for his ideology. He was prepared to kill for the sake of a better world. To destroy the present social order would of course produce more chaos, but this confusion could be used to build a classless society. What did it matter if you destroyed some or many in the process of building a perfect social order? What mattered was not the present man, but the future man; the new world that they were going to build would have no inequality, there would be work for all, and there would be happiness.
How can you be so sure of the future? What makes you so certain of it? The religious people promise heaven, and you promise a better world in the future; you have your book and your priests, as they have theirs, so there is really not much difference between you. But what makes you so sure that you are clear-sighted about the future?
"Logically, if we follow a certain course the end is certain. Moreover, there is a great deal of historical evidence to support our position." We all translate the past according to our particular conditioning and interpret it to suit our prejudices. You are as uncertain of tomorrow as the rest of us, and thank heaven it is so! But to sacrifice the present for an illusory future is obviously most illogical.
"Do you believe in change, or are you a tool of the capitalist bourgeoisie?"
Change is modified continuity, which you may call revolution; but fundamental revolution is quite a different process, it has nothing to do with logic or historical evidence. There is fundamental revolution only in understanding the total process of action, not at any particular level, whether economic or ideological, but action as an integrated whole. Such action is not reaction. You only know reaction, the reaction of antithesis, and the further reaction which you call synthesis. Integration is not an intellectual synthesis, a verbal conclusion based on historical study. Integration can come into being only with the understanding of reaction. The mind is a series of reactions; and revolution based on reactions, on ideas, is no revolution at all, but only a modified continuity of what has been. You may call it revolution, but actually it is not.
"What to you is revolution?"
Change based on an idea is not revolution; for idea is the response of memory, which is again a reaction. Fundamental revolution is possible only when ideas are not important and so have ceased. A revolution born of antagonism ceases to be what it says it is; it is only opposition, and opposition can never be creative.
"The kind of revolution you are talking about is purely an abstraction, it has no reality in the modern world. You are a vague idealist, utterly impractical."
On the contrary, the idealist is the man with an idea, and it is he who is not revolutionary. Ideas divide, and separation is disintegration, it is not revolution at all. The man with an ideology is concerned with ideas, words, and not with direct action; he avoids direct action. An ideology is a hindrance to direct action.
"Don't you think there can be equality through revolution?"
Revolution based on an idea, however logical and in accordance with historical evidence, cannot bring about equality. The very function of idea is to separate people. Belief, religious or political, sets man against man. So-called religions have divided people, and still do. Organized belief, which is called religion, is, like any other ideology, a thing of the mind and therefore separative. You with your ideology are doing the same, are you not? You also are forming a nucleus or group around an idea; you want to include everyone in your group, just as the believer does. You want to save the world in your way, as he in his. You murder and liquidate each other, all for a better world. Neither of you is interested in a better world, but in shaping the world according to your idea. How can idea make for equality.
"Within the fold of the idea we are all equal, though we may have different functions. We are first what the idea represents, and afterwards we are individual functionaries. In function we have gradations, but not as representatives of the ideology."
This is precisely what every other organized belief has proclaimed. In the eyes of God we are all equal, but in capacity there is variation; life is one, but social divisions are inevitable. By substituting one ideology for another you have not changed the fundamental fact that one group or individual treats another as inferior. Actually, there is inequality at all the levels of existence. One has capacity, and another has not; one leads, and an other follows; one is dull, and another is sensitive, alert, adaptable; one paints or writes, and another digs; one is a scientist, and another a sweeper. Inequality is a fact, and no revolution can do away with it. What so-called revolution does is to substitute one group for another, and the new group then assumes power, political and economic; it becomes the new upper class which proceeds to strengthen itself by privileges, and so on; it knows all the tricks of the other class, which has been thrown down. It has not abolished inequality, has it?
"Eventually it will. When the whole world is of our way of thinking, then there will be ideological equality."
Which is not equality at all, but merely an idea, a theory, the dream of another world, like that of the religious believer. How very near you are to each other! Ideas divide, they are separative, opposing, breeding conflict. An idea can never bring about equality, even in its own world. If we all believed the same thing at the same time, at the same level, there would be equality of a sort; but that is an impossibility, a mere speculation which can only lead to illusion.
"Are you scouting all equality? Are you being cynical and condemning all efforts to bring about equal opportunity for all?"
I am not being cynical, but am merely stating the obvious facts; nor am I against equal opportunity. Surely, it is possible to go beyond and perhaps discover an effective approach to this problem of inequality, only when we understand the actual, the what is. To approach what is with an idea, a conclusion, a dream, is not to understand what is. Prejudiced observation is no observation at all. The fact is, there is inequality at all the levels of consciousness, of life; and do what we may, we cannot alter that fact.
Now, is it possible to approach the fact of inequality without creating further antagonism, further division? Revolution has used man as a means to an end. The end was important, but not man. Religions have maintained, at least verbally, that man is important; but they too have used man for the building up of belief, of dogma. The utilizing of man for a purpose must of necessity breed the sense of the superior and the inferior, the one who is near and the one who is far, the one who knows and the one who does not know. This separation is psychological inequality, and it is the factor of disintegration in society. At present we know relationship only as utility; society uses the individual, just as individuals use each other, in order to benefit in various ways. This using of another is the fundamental cause of the psychological division of man against man.
We cease to use one another only when idea is not the motivating factor in relationship. With idea comes exploitation, and exploitation breeds antagonism.
"Then what is the factor that comes into being when idea ceases?"
It is love, the only factor that can bring about a fundamental revolution. Love is the only true revolution. But love is not an idea; it is when thought is not. Love is not a tool of propaganda; it is not something to be cultivated and shouted about from the house tops. Only when the flag, the belief, the leader, the idea as planned action, drop away, can there be love; and love is the only creative and constant revolution.
"But love won't run machinery, will it?"
Commentaries on Living Series 2
Commentaries on Living Series II Chapter 5 'Progress and Revolution'
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