Network of Thought
The Network of Thought Chapter 1 1st Public Talk Saanen 12th July 1981
I see some of my old friends are here - and I am glad to see you. As we are going to have seven talks we should go into what I am going to say very carefully, covering the whole field of life, so please be patient those of you who have heard the speaker before, please be tolerant if the speaker repeats himself, for repetition has a certain value.
Prejudice has something in common with ideals, beliefs and faiths. We must be able to think together; but our prejudices, our ideals and so on, limit the capacity and the energy required to think, to observe and examine together so as to discover for ourselves what lies behind all the confusion, misery, terror, destruction and tremendous violence in the world. To understand, not only the mere outward facts that are taking place, but also the depth and the significance of all this, we must be able to observe together - not you observing one way and the speaker another, but together observe the same thing. That observation, that examination, is prevented if we cling to our prejudices, to our particular experiences and our particular comprehension. Thinking together is tremendously important because we have to face a world that is rapidly disintegrating, degenerating, a world in which there is no sense of morality, where nothing is sacred, where no one respects another. To understand all this, not only superficially, casually, we have to enter into the depths of it, into what lies behind it. We have to enquire why it is that after all these millions of years of evolution, man, you and the whole world, have become so violent, callous, destructive, enduring wars and the atomic bomb. The technological world is evolving more and more; perhaps that may be one of the factors causing man to become like this. So, please let us think together, not according to my way or your way, but simply using the capacity to think.
Thought is the common factor of all mankind. There is no Eastern thought, or Western thought; there is only the common capacity to think, whether one is utterly poor or most sophisticated, living in an affluent society. Whether a surgeon, a carpenter, a labourer in the field, or a great poet, thought is the common factor of all of us. We do not seem to realize that thought is the common factor that binds us all. You think according to your capacity, to your energy, your experience and knowledge; another thinks differently according to his experience and conditioning. We are all caught in this network of thought. This is a fact, indisputable and actual.
We have been `programmed' biologically, physically and also `programmed' mentally, intellectually. We must be aware of having been programmed, like a computer. Computers are programmed by experts to produce the results that they want. And these computers will outstrip man in thought. These computers can gather experience, and from that experience learn, accumulate knowledge, according to their programme. Gradually they are going to outstrip all our thinking in accuracy and with greater speed. Of course they cannot compose as Beethoven, or as Keats, but they will outstrip our thinking.
So, then, what is man? He has been programmed to be Catholic, protestant, to be Italian or British and so on. For centuries he has been programmed - to believe, to have faith, to follow certain rituals, certain dogmas; programmed to be nationalistic and to go to war. So his brain has become as a computer but not so capable because his thought is limited, whereas the computer, although being also limited, is able to think much more rapidly than the human being and can outstrip him.
These are facts, this is what actually is going on. Then what becomes of man? Then what is man? If the robots and the computer can do almost all that the human being can do, then what is the future society of man? When cars can be built by the robot and the computer - probably much better - then what is going to become of man as a social entity? These and many other problems are facing us. You cannot any more think as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. We are facing a tremendous crisis; a crisis which the politicians can never solve because they are programmed to think in a particular way - nor can the scientists understand or solve the crisis; nor yet the business world, the world of money. The turning point, the perceptive decision, the challenge, is not in politics, in religion, in the scientific world, it is in our consciousness. One has to understand the consciousness of mankind, which has brought us to this point. One has to be very serious about this matter because we are really facing something very dangerous in the world - where there is the proliferation of the atomic bomb which some lunatic will turn on. We all must be aware of all this.
One has to be very very serious, not flippant, not casual but concerned, to understand this behaviour and how human thought has brought us all to this point. We must be able to penetrate very carefully, hesitantly, with deep observation, to understand together what is happening both out there and inwardly. The inward psychological activity always overcomes the outer, however many regulations, sanctions, decisions you may have outwardly, all these are shattered by our psychological desires, fears and anxieties, by the longing for security. Unless we understand that, whatever outward semblance of order we may have, inward disorder always overcomes that which is outwardly conforming, disciplined, regularized. There may be carefully constructed institutions - political, religious, economic - but whatever the construction of these may be, unless our inward consciousness is in total order, inward disorder will always overcome the outer. We have seen this historically, it is happening now in front of our eyes. This is a fact.
The turning point is in our consciousness. Our consciousness is a very complicated affair. Volumes have been written about it, both in the East and in the West. We are not aware of our own consciousness; to examine that consciousness in all its complexity one has to be free to look to be choicelessly aware of its movement. it is not that the speaker is directing you to look or to listen to all the inward movement of consciousness in a particular way. Consciousness is common to all mankind.Throughout the world man suffers inwardly as well as outwardly there is anxiety, uncertainty, utter despair of loneliness; there is insecurity, jealousy, greed, envy and suffering. Human consciousness is one whole; it is not your consciousness or mine. This is logical, sane, rational: wherever you go, in whatever climate you live, whether you are affluent or degradingly poor, whether you believe in god, or in some other entity, belief and faith are common to all mankind - the images and symbols may be totally different in various localities but they stem from something common to all mankind. This is not a mere verbal statement. If you take it as a verbal statement, as an idea, as a concept, then you will not see the deep significance involved in it. The significance is that your consciousness is the consciousness of alI humanity because you suffer, you are anxious, you are lonely, insecure, confused, exactly like others, though they live ten thousand miles away. The realization of it, the feeling of it - the feeling in your guts - is totally different from the mere verbal acceptance. When you realize that you are the rest of mankind, it brings a tremendous energy, you have broken through the narrow groove of individuality the narrow circle of me and you, we and they. We are examining together this very complex consciousness of man, not the European man, not the Asiatic man or the Middle East man, but this extraordinary movement in time that has been going on in consciousness for millions of years.
Please do not accept what the speaker is saying; if you do it will have no meaning. If you do not begin to doubt, begin to question, be sceptical to enquire, if you hold on to your own particular belief, faith, experience or the accumulated knowledge, then you will reduce it all to some kind of pettiness with very little meaning. If you do that you will not be facing the tremendous issue that is facing man.
We have to see what our actual consciousness is. Thought and all the things that thought has put together, is part of our consciousness - the culture in which we live, the aesthetic values, the economic pressures, the national inheritance. If you are a surgeon or a carpenter, if you specialize in a particular profession, that group consciousness is part of your consciousness. If you live in a particular country with its particular tradition and religious culture, that particular group-consciousness has become part of your consciousness. These are facts. If you are a carpenter you have to have certain skills, understand the nature of wood and the tools of the trade, so you gradually belong to a group that has cultivated these special skills and that has its own consciousness - similarly the scientist, the archeologist, just as the animals have their own particular consciousness as a group. If you are a housewife you have your own particular group consciousness, like all the other housewives. Permissiveness has spread throughout the world; it began in the far West and has spread right through the world. That is a group-conscious movement. See the significance of it; go into it for yourself, see what is involved in it.
Our consciousness includes, in the much deeper consciousness, our fears. Man has lived with fear for generation after generation. He has lived with pleasure, with envy, with all the travail of loneliness, depression and confusion; and with great sorrow, with what he calls love and the everlasting fear of death. All this is his consciousness which is common to all mankind. Realize what it means: it means that you are no longer an individual. This is very hard to accept because we have been programmed, as is the computer, to think we are individuals. We have been programmed religiously to think that we have souls separate from all the others. Being programmed our brain works in the same pattern century after century.
If one understands the nature of our consciousness, then the particular endeavour of the `me' that suffers has become something global, then a totally different activity will take place. That is the crisis we are in. We have been programmed; being programmed we can learn - occasionally have an insight - and our brain repeats itself over and over again.just see the actual fact of that: one is a Christian, or a Buddhist or a Hindu; one is against Communism, one is a Communist or a Democrat, repeat, repeat, repeat. And in this state of repetition there is an occasional breakthrough.
So, how shall a human being - who is actually the rest of mankind - how shall he face this crisis, this turning point? How will you as a human being, who has evolved through millennia upon millennia, thinking as an individual - which is actually an illusion - face a turning point, see what actually is and in that very perception move totally in another direction?
Let us understand together what it means to look - to look at the actuality of thought. You all think, that is why you are here. You all think and thought expresses itself in words, or through a gesture, through a look, through some bodily movement. Words being common to each one of us, we understand through those words the significance of what is being said. Yet thought is common to all mankind - it is a most extraordinary thing if you have discovered that, for then you see that thought is not your thought, it is thought. We have to learn how to see things as they actually are - not as you are programmed to look. See the difference. Can we be free of being programmed and look? If you look as a Christian, a Democrat, a Communist, a Socialist or a Catholic or a protestant - which are all so many prejudices - then you will not be able to understand the enormity of the danger, the crisis, that we are facing. If you belong to a certain group, or follow a certain guru, or are committed to a certain form of action, then, because you have been programmed, you will be incapable of looking at things as they actually are. It is only if you do not belong to any organization, to any group, to any particular religion or nationality, that you can really observe. If you have accumulated a great deal of knowledge from books and from experience, your mind has already been filled, your brain is crowded with experience, with your particular tendencies and so on - all that is going to prevent you from looking. Can we be free of all that to look at what is actually happening in the world? - at the terror and the terrible religious sectarian divisions, one guru opposed to another idiotic guru, the vanity behind all that, the power, the position, the wealth of these gurus, it is appalling. Can you look at yourself - not as a separate human being but as a human being who is actually the rest of mankind? To have such a feeling means that you have tremendous love for human beings.
When you are able to see clearly, without any distortion, then you begin to enquire into the nature of consciousness, including the much deeper layers of consciousness. You have to enquire into the whole movement of thought, because it is thought that is responsible for all the content of consciousness, whether it is the deep or the superficial layers. If you had no thought there would be no fear, no sense of pleasure, no time; thought is responsible. Thought is responsible for the beauty of a great cathedral, but thought is also responsible for all the nonsense that takes place inside the cathedral. All the achievements of the great painters, poets, composers, are the activity of thought: the composer; inwardly hearing the marvellous sound, commits it onto paper. That is the movement of thought. Thought is responsible for all the gods in the world, all the saviours, all the gurus; for all the obedience and devotion; the whole is the result of thought which seeks gratification and escape from loneliness. Thought is the common factor of all mankind. The poorest villager in India thinks as the chief executive thinks, as the religious leader thinks. That is a common everyday fact. That is the ground on which all human beings stand. You cannot escape from that.
Thought has done marvellous things to help man but it has also brought about great destruction and terror in the world. We have to understand the nature and the movement of thought; why you think in a certain way; why you cling to certain forms of thought; why you hold on to certain experiences; why thought has never understood the nature of death. We have to examine the very structure of thought - not your thought because it is fairly obvious what your thought is, for you have been programmed. But if you enquire seriously into what thinking is, then you enter into quite a different dimension - not the dimension of your own particular little problem. You must understand the tremendous movement of thought, the nature of thinking - not as a philosopher, not as a religious man, not as a member of a particular profession, or a housewife - the enormous vitality of thinking.
Thought is responsible for all the cruelty, the wars, the war machines and the brutality of war, the killing, the terror, the throwing of bombs, the taking of hostages in the name of a cause, or without a cause. Thought is also responsible for the cathedrals, the beauty of their structure, the lovely poems; it is also responsible for all the technological development, the computer with its extraordinary capacity to learn and go beyond man-s thought. What is thinking? It is a response, a reaction, of memory. If you had no memory you would not be able to think. Memory is stored in the brain as knowledge, the result of experience. This is how our brain operates. First, experience; that experience may have been from the beginning of man, which we have inherited, that experience gives knowledge which is stored up in the brain; from knowledge there is memory and from that memory thought. Prom thought you act. Prom that action you learn more. So you repeat the cycle. Experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action; from that action learn more and repeat. This is how we are programmed. We are always doing this: having remembered pain, in the future avoid pain by not doing the thing that will cause pain, which becomes knowledge, and repeat that. Sexual pleasure, repeat that. This is the movement of thought. See the beauty of it, how mechanically thought operates. Thought says to itself: `I am free to operate.' Yet thought is never free because it is based on knowledge and knowledge is obviously always limited. Knowledge must also be always limited because it is part of time. I will learn more and to learn more I must have time. I do not know Russian but I will learn it. It may take me six months or a year or a lifetime. Knowledge is the movement of time. Time, knowledge, thought and action; in this cycle we live. Thought is limited, so whatever action thought generates must be limited and such limitation must create conflict, must be divisive.
If I say that I am a Hindu, that I am Indian, I am limited and that limitation brings about not only corruption but conflict because another says, `I am a Christian' or `I am a Buddhist', so there is conflict between us. Our life from birth to death is a series of struggles and conflicts from which we are always trying to escape, which again causes more conflict. We live and die in this perpetual and endless conflict. We never seek out the root of that conflict, which is thought, because thought is limited. Please do not ask, `How am I to stop thought?' - that is not the point. The point is to understand the nature of thought, to look at it.
Network of Thought
The Network of Thought Chapter 1 1st Public Talk Saanen 12th July 1981
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