What is thought?
Can the brain ever be quiet?
1st Scientists Seminar, Brockwood Park
June 08, 1984
A: Some of the unresolved questions in the area of brain research lie in perception, memory and the nature of intelligence. You, Krishnamurti, have explored these questions without any scientific background and yet have indicated that thought is limited. You have also indicated that there is an intelligence beyond the ordinary functioning of the brain. As long as there is psychological conditioning, which is the self, this intelligence cannot act.
I would like to introduce you to Dr.Shainberg, he is a psychiatrist from the United States. Dr.Peat is a physicist, writer and film maker from Canada. Professor Bergstrom is a neuro-physiologist at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Professor Varela is a neuro-biologist at the Max Planck Institute for brain research in Frankfurt. I am a neuro-biologist and teacher at Brockwood Park.
One important instrument in the understanding of the brain has been thought. I was wondering if we could discuss whether thought can help us to understand the brain, and the complexity of life.
K: Do I start right off?
A: If you wish.
K: Sir, can one understand one's own brain and the activities and the complexity of the brain without operating on animals, dead bodies and so on? Can one observe the very complex structure and nature of the brain in oneself, rather than seek it externally, outside? Is that possible? I feel it is possible if one can watch very carefully, objectively, without any bias, the reactions, the biological responses and the inward urges and temperaments and idiosyncrasies, the whole complexity of human existence.
To approach this very, very complex problem, if one has a complex mind then it is not possible to understand complexity, but if one can approach it very simply. I mean by simplicity, without compulsion, without will, without a direction, motive, just to watch the whole operation of one's own activities and so on. And then I think it is possible to examine, or to observe the activity of one's own brain without seeking it externally.
C: What do you mean by understand?
K: By observing, I don't mean understand. By watching very carefully the complexity of oneself. What is the operation of thought, how thought arises, what is the cause of it, the origin of thought and the activities both externally, technologically, the moment of thought and the limitation of thought.
B: When you say, is it possible to understand the brain, do you mean only thought and psychological reaction, or do you mean things like the fact that I can see the glass. Perception, do you mean, as well?
K: Yes, perception, surely.
B: And the use of language?
K: Surely. Linguistics, all that. The whole complexity of human endeavours, actions and feelings, all that, imagination, the whole content of that.
B: And learning.
B: Watching and being able to learn something new. Being able to learn and work in a totally new situation.
K: Would you call it learning? What is there to learn by just watching?
E: Well that seems to me precisely where there seems to be a fundamental distinction between merely observing, not merely, observing, completely observing...
K: Yes, without 'the me'.
E: ...without 'the me', and a notion of creating a way of understanding how that observation comes to be, which is traditionally what western thinking has done, including science, creating what one can call a model, a process, a theory, a law, whatever. Now would that endeavour be out in the approach you are proposing?
K: I don't quite understand 'out', what do you mean?
E: Would not be pursued, would be left behind. That actually coming up with a theory or a model that would explain how does it come that we see what we see.
K: Theory or model. Is it necessary to have a theory and model to see what is actually going on?
E: I wouldn't say it is necessary to see what is going on. But it seems to be necessary, as far as I can understand it, to understand why do I see what I see. If one has the inclination of asking the question beyond the seeing, why do I see what I see.
K: Why do you see what you see, why do I feel what I feel.
E: Yes, why do I see blue when I see blue. Very simple questions like that, which are the ones that I have been concerned with as well.
K: Yes, I understand. Is it we have all called that book, 'book'.
K: And I accept that. We accept it, all of us. That thing is called a book. And that thing is called a table. But a computer can't call it a table immediately.
E: But then you can ask yourself a question why the computer can't and we can. How are we made different?
K: Because we have got the capacity to see anything, four legs, or two legs, or one leg, a table, instantly.
C: But what is that capacity?
E: This is the point.
C: What is the capacity to do it, and then what is the relationship of that capacity - in other words, what is the relationship of your capacity to say, 'That is a book', to your capacity to say, 'It is a table'? What is your capacity to see it is a table?
A: Well perhaps I think we should go to the very beginning question. You introduced the question of observation somehow, which was different from theorising about something. I think perhaps it would be good to clarify what we mean by observing something.
K: Shall we do that sir?
E: I felt that he clarified it very well. I felt that I understood what he meant by observing.
C: Well can you tell me what you think he meant?
E: All right, I'll try! I think he meant by observing completely bracketing a preassumed understanding and going into a mode of not being self-centred but of being with the object or with the movement without any precondition. To the extent that that is possible then there is an experience, there is an observation.
K: Sir, does that imply to observe there must be no conditioning?
E: Yes, I think I understand that.
A: We have to go slowly here because somehow you mentioned an observation without 'the me'. It doesn't seem for me so clear because whenever I am looking at something there seems to be the separation between my observing and something. There seems to be this division in the brain.
K: Is that our conditioning?
A: It seems to be one of them. Why is that?
K: There is the see-er and the seen.
K: The observer and the observed, the thinker and the thought, the experiencer and the experienced.
B: Well turning it the other way from what Professor Varela was saying, I would like to know what you think the relationship is between the theory and observation?
A: Well this is precisely where I wanted him to move.
K: I don't think there is any theory.
B: Well, all right. You accept therefore that the endeavour you are proposing would be a radical departure from what has been all of the models of knowledge from the west.
K: Yes, sir. I may be wrong.
B: No, but this would not have anything...
K: In observing why should I have a theory about it?
E: Well it seems to me - may I try just for a moment?
K: Yes, please.
E: When I look at that question it feels that there is something inside me that by itself is inquisitive about why is it, how come this is the way it is. Isn't it interesting that the paper is white and book is blue, isn't it interesting, why isn't it red?
K: Oh, there is a red book there.
E: Yes, but why is that red and not this one red?
K: We have called that red.
E: Yes, but why have we called that red? What is the process from which that comes about?
K: Yes. What is the process?
E: That is the natural inquisitiveness that leads one into building this sort of theory, which eventually, for example, might allow me to build a machine, which would have a mind, with big quotation marks, with thoughts which could say, 'Oh, that is a red book and that is a blue book', just at the same time when I would say it.
E: I would consider that interesting. That is what interests me in science.
K: That is not very interesting though.
K: Go on sir!
E: I find it interesting.
K: All right sir, go ahead. I thought you said that was not very interesting.
E: No, no, I find it interesting. That is why I said when you asked do we need a theory at all, I said not really, but there is this inquisitiveness that seems to constantly come up of asking the question of how is it like that, how can we understand that, how can we have an image, a representation of the process where that comes up?
C: I don't think you are saying enough. I wish you would say more. It is not just the theory is good because you are inquisitive but the theory also functions to establish for you and for me the interrelationship between these issues, therefore you are not just looking - because this will ultimately come down to our question of what is the relationship of theory to observation - but your theory function is a way to help you to distinguish red, white and blue and why you are seeing it, and therefore you have an interdigitation of many different aspects of your curiosity.
E: We are talking about perception and it is not clear if we are talking about perception as psychological perception. But if we just ask how you see the glass and Krishnamurti has said it is possible to explore the whole mechanism of seeing the glass of water by one can observe oneself doing it. All neuro-scientists would say that is nonsense, that can't be possibly be true. There must be many levels of operation which are purely mechanical, which we never can have any direct experience of, at the level of the eye and the optic nerve. And Krishnamurti seems to be saying something different but I am not sure if I understand that he is saying something much more radical than that. Is it possible to be aware of every level of the process?
D: Coming back to the original question about the brain, understanding the brain as such, or dissecting it. So if we see from the point of view of the brain surgeon, there exists as a matter of fact two kinds of brain. The whole brain, which sees red or blue and so on; and then the other brain is the brain which consists of the parts, the cells, synapses, molecules and so on. And the physiologist looks, and there comes the theory, experimenting, dissecting, theorising and so on, looks at the brain which consists of the parts, an assembly of fragments. And then the other way - now I am coming to the original question - we had to face as physiologists also that brain which perceives, which is only one me, or whatever the individual calls itself, and that is another way. I always think that we have to distinguish between those two. And the first will be the theoretical brain, with fragments, parts and so on, and the other will be the human brain.
D: And therefore I think we can really know about brain without dissecting it.
E: That we cannot?
D: That we can study the brain as a whole.
K: Why do we divide the brain at all?
E: Yes, that's the question.
K: Why not treat it as a whole movement?
C: I don't have anything against that. That doesn't resolve the issue of whether we need a theory for the observation.
K: No, wait sir
C: Because I can have a theory which is a holistic theory, which deals with the brain as a totality.
K: Not a holistic theory, but, it is so.
A: But I think the theory comes into being in order to organise the certain facts that you have. You have to give certain coins and logic to the facts that you are accumulating. And I think Professor Varela said something very interesting, you take for example a child. From the very beginning it seems this natural tendency to discover things and to attribute meaning to things.
D: But a theory cannot be holistic, there are always parts, a collection of parts.
E: Oh, that's a touchy one, I don't agree. That would take us in another direction.
K: By collecting all the parts you make the whole?
E: No. Of course not. I agree absolutely but what I mean by holistic theory is a theory that has built in itself the awareness of its fragmentedness.
K: All right.
E: Which is quite a different thing.
K: Can we put it this way: one is aware that we are fragmented human beings - right? Those fragments, we are trying to bring all of them together, and that doesn't make the whole.
A: How is one to proceed then?
K: You see the obvious.
A: It doesn't follow from that.
K: I mean, spokes. You collect all the spokes of a wheel and the spokes don't make the wheel, you have to put it together - right? I don't quite see the difficulty in this.
B: To put the wheel together you also need some technical knowledge as well as the perception of the whole.
B: And where does the technical knowledge come from?
K: Is that what we are trying to do? Technical knowledge, how to put the brain together?
B: No but you say to understand the brain, the technical knowledge is not really important.
K: I didn't say that, sir.
E: I said, can we?
B: Can we, without the dissection, without opening the hood of the car and seeing all the parts inside.
E: For my part I can say that for me is a fascinating question because there is nothing that I would like more than to be able to ask the questions about how knowledge works, without having to disrupt an animal. It sort of pains my heart that we have to carry on with this knowledge by disrupting life. I don't like it. As a matter of fact I don't want to do it anymore.
K: No, sir.
E: But still the inquisitiveness is there.
K: Now wait a minute, sir. Where shall we begin, we have put some many things?
D: There is one reason why we should know a little bit about brain cells and so on, and that is the diseases and so on, and that must be one of the reasons why they began to fragmentize this.
A: Perhaps we could come back and stick to one question. We started by saying that can the brain understand itself, what does that mean really? And is it possible that thought can understand the brain? I think we should stick to that somehow.
K: Would you say, sir, the brain is the centre of thought, feelings, physical responses, biological responses. And also the brain is the centre of one's 'consciousness', fears, pleasures, anxiety, all that, sorrow, the whole of that consciousness, if you will accept that word, is in the brain. It is not out there.
B: I am afraid I would have to disagree.
K: Oh, delighted!
B: I don't think that thought or consciousness is in the brain. That this is precisely one the greatest mistakes...
K: Wait sir. Thought is outside.
B: It is neither outside nor inside, there is a quality of relationship which thought...
K: Wait a minute. Then we have to enquire what is thought. Can we begin with that? Would you agree?
E: Yes, let's do that.
K: Let's do that. What is thought? What is thinking?
B: Do you want us to answer?
K: It is a discussion.
B: OK. I would say that thought belongs to a form of action which is related to separating precisely, to separating a unit from its context. That any separation of a unit from its context is a form of cognition or thought, at a fundamental level. Therefore the thought cannot exist without the relationship between that which is distinguished and that which it is distinguished from.
C: Wait a second. Would you say that thought is an event that arises de novo, or is it some sort of process event which articulates the separation and arrives at the awareness - in other words the arrival of thought is the articulation of the separation of thought?
B: It is an emergent quality.
C: So it is not de novo separation, it is an emerging of that.
K: It is emerging.
C: Yes, but emerging not a separation at the instant but...
B: ...it is imminent in the action.
K: It is emerging, being born.
C: That is an important distinction.
K: Yes. sir. Being born all the time.
K: From where?
B: What is the source?
K: Wait, wait. Thought is being born, emerging, growing, coming and going - right? From where?
C: Wait a minute, that may be the wrong question: from where, because you have already defined a definition.
K: No, no.
C: You have separated out process, you have made a distinction, by saying where you have got a definition.
K: No, I want to know the cause. Put another word if you like.
C: I would prefer: what is the action that arrives in thought?
K: Wait, sir. Then you have to ask what is action?
B: What is this movement?
K: Yes, what is this whole movement?
E: OK. When I inspect that question for myself, in myself, the only answer I can get to is, it's an unlimited frontier, that is, the moment I am in thought I have obscured for myself that which I am asking. Therefore the source of movement, or the source of thought is an unlimited space which is beyond thought.
K: I wonder!
E: About what? What do you wonder?
K: I wonder what is the relationship between thought and action? That's what we are discussing, aren't we.
E: Yes. But thought occurs, thought happens. I find myself in thought.
C: Therefore it is action.
K: Sir, you just now said thought is born, comes into being - right? It must have some causation.
E: Yes, but in order to see the causation I have to put myself out from thought.
K: We will see. Sir, we ought to enquire whether it is possible to observe the causation without the observer, who is the outside - right?
E: Right, absolutely. And the question as you phrase it.
K: Wait. So can one observe the cause without the observer? Can the causation be observed without the outsider or the observer, the witnesser, which means the observer, the person who perceives, is not the observed the observer?
C: Say that again.
K: I can't repeat it. I'll put it another way. There is a perception of you sitting there and I sitting here. When I see you, you have been introduced to me and so on, I remember all that memory of it, it is the observer. Can I look at you without the observer? Without the knowledge of you? You understand? Of course I can.
A: I think we have to go slowly there, it is a great step.
E: Yes, you can.
K: Of course. Therefore the observer is the observed.
K: There is no separation. There is separation only when there is the observer different from the observed.
E: So that is an observation.
K: That is real observation without the observer. The observer is the past, memory, knowledge, experience. All the observer is the past. Can I look at something without the past? Of course it is possible.
D: I don't know
K: Just a minute, let me finish. And then what is action? You understand?
E: What is action for that...
K: What is action. Leave that for the moment.
K: What is action? When there is no observer - right? - what is action?
A: I would like to come back to the question. You see why are we normally doing this separation between what we observe, the brain is normally doing that anyhow. So perhaps one could say it might be normal for the brain.
K: That may be our tradition, that may be our education, that may be we have been told from childhood that is different from you, you are different from me.
C: Yes, but when you were introduced to him your perception of him at that instant was the observation without the observer. Then now when you look at him, you've got the memory.
K: I begin to accumulate. The brain begins to accumulate the knowledge about him. He says he won't operate anymore, so I say, 'By Jove, is he...' you know all the rest of it. Forget. No, my point is to put it much simpler: not to record.
C: But you did record.
K: I did but that is very simple.
C: You didn't record, then you did record.
K: No sir. No. Just a minute. In my relationship with you, with you all, I have recorded - suppose I have recorded - then that record becomes the observer; but if there is no record there is only seeing, observing.
C: Suppose we say the brain is recording.
K: I see. No, sir, is it possible not to record? I know the mechanism of recording.
C: But we have agreed that it is possible to observe without recording.
K: Is that a theory or?
C: Yes. It is possible.
K: No, the moment you say it is possible you have made it a theory.
B: I think we have to agree it is a theory for us.
C: I don't think we are being honest.
K: Of course, sir.
C: We are just saying yes, but we don't really believe that, no.
A: You see for example I don't know what you would say. Normally in science there is a person doing science and to a certain extent one could say that this division between the observer and the observed is necessary to a certain extent. Right? When you are dealing with some experiment with outside world. So now it doesn't necessarily follow that psychologically we are doing exactly the same.
K: I understand, sir. After all as a human being with the result of fifty thousand years - right? - tremendous accumulation of knowledge, experience, all that, I am that. And that is looking at something else, so separating itself constantly.
E: Yes, but also you see this is precisely the point that this separation has to be sustained by an ongoing process which has constant breakdowns. And at the point of those breakdowns there is that closing the gap. So in my perception of you right now I am constantly having gaps or flashes of this observer, and he's cranky, he's gappy.
K: I say why is this contradiction all the time.
E: No, no, this is precisely the point. Why do we have to see contradiction there? It seems that both things are there.
K: One can explain it.
E: I was actually going back to something you raised. That it seems we have both of them, observation with the observer and...
K: At one level, yes. If I met you again tomorrow I can't re-introduce, it would be silly. But at that level it is necessary - right? But at a deeper level, why should I carry all the memory of meeting you, why should there be a recording of it at all. I meet you, finished.
E: You have just answered the question by saying if you did one without the other, if you just met me without accumulation then tomorrow we would have to go through it again.
K: Sir, that is insane.
E: Therefore both of them are necessary.
K: Yes, at one level.
C: I have never heard you use those words 'level'. What do you mean by levels and what is the relationship between levels in your terms?
K: I think it is fairly simple.
C: Well I am stupid. I don't understand!
K: I am stupid probably.
E: That makes two of us!
K: Sir, I need to know how to write a letter - right? There knowledge is necessary, to drive a car or anything. Physically to do anything I must have a great deal of information, knowledge and accumulated memory and so on. Right? Psychologically, if you don't like to use that word, inwardly, why should I accumulate? Why should there be accumulation?
A: Yes but if I understood what you were saying, Francisco and you, even when you say that the brain does not record there is still a process of recognition, you see, which necessarily must involve certain levels of memory.
K: We said that. We said that.
A: So what do you mean by, when the brain does not record?
K: Is that possible first of all psychologically not to record? You understand my question? You say something brutal to me, why should I record it? This recording is the self.
B: Suppose I said that to see anything there has to be a great accumulation. You could say there could be no perception without the accumulation and accumulation includes the actual structure of the brain that has evolved over millions of years, that is in a sense a form of memory. Matter has formed in certain connections and that is preserved over a very long time. So I could say that there is no perception without so-called accumulation of memory and knowledge.
K: Of course, sir, we agree, we have stated that.
B: So without it there is no perception and this is something that always continues. And is this different from psychological recording?
K: That is what we are asking.
A: That is an important question to clarify.
K: Sir, we made it clear just now, didn't we?
K: That we need knowledge - if I am a carpenter I need a great deal of knowledge. The quality of the wood, the grain and the instruments, and so on and so on. That is necessary. I don't object to that. That is so, otherwise we can't live. But at the inward level, inward - forget the word, throw the word out! Inwardly.
C: What is inward?
K: The feeling, the psyche - you should know! You are a psychologist.
B: Is there a connection between the two? Are you pulling the two apart and saying that is the psychological, that's the practical?
K: No, no. I see knowledge is necessary, and also I am questioning whether inwardly, psychically, psychologically - any word you use - inside the skin as it were, why should there by any recording at all?
K: Just a minute sir. This recording inwardly is the divisive process. The divisive process is the self, 'the me' and 'the not me', which is creating havoc in the world - right? That's all. Let me finish!
Is the mechanism which has gone on for centuries, 'the me' and 'the not me', can that mechanism stop, so that there is no me inwardly? 'The me' being the self and all the rest of it, that's all. This has been not only a question for the scientists, but for the religious people, the serious ones, not the phoney ones. The real religious people have said, can there be no self at all, and live in this world, not go off into monasteries or run away to some kind of fanciful entertainment. Actually live without the self. That's all. Which requires a further statement, which is: is it possible not to record inwardly, psychically, and all that? I say it is possible. You may say, 'You are a nut, you are crazy', but that is all right, we will discuss it.
D: There is I think a stage in the development of the child, you see very, very early child, possibly a child can have this.
K: You see it already in the child. Give him a toy and you try to take it and he says, 'It is mine'.
D: But I think before that stage, a child at one or two years, but then comes the time when 'it is mine', but I think they live together, they are one with the mother and so on, so there might be...
K: Sir, I have read somewhere, or been told, I am not a reader, I have been told by scientists who are looking at the babies that the babies already know when a visitor is friendly to the mother or not.
K: Already, you understand, sir?
K: By the atmosphere, by the feeling, by the mother's shrinking, or seeing the mother.
D: That's true.
E: But in your question, one of the reasons why it has so many sides to it, as a brain researcher, as a scientist, it seems reasonable to say that the brain is organised so as to construct a stable world, therefore to solidify, to be caught, in your words. That is what it is there for.
K: I understand, sir.
E: I mean this is what his history has been. Now it is only when it comes to human beings where this question is posed. Then we can ask ourselves the question, is this no recording possible, as a swimming against the current of natural history, as it were.
C: Of evolution.
E: Of evolution. Because natural history goes the other way. And at the moment the possibility arises and is impossible to unlearn evolutionary wise so as to come to the state of living in the world without recording, without self, and yet be a functional human being, able to brush your teeth.
K: Of course. I said that.
E: Yes, I know. My feeling is that is a question that can only be answered by exploring it from actual experience of human beings. And the history seems to say, yes, it is possible. We have examples and we know people who seem to have done that. Now from a point of view of what that implies for the brain is a fascinating point.
K: Therefore could we put the question differently? The brain has evolved through time, centuries, a million years, or forty million years, or whatever it is, forty thousand. And it is probably at its highest level, as much as it can. And that involves time, duration. What is time? Right? Unless we understand what is time I can go on indefinitely - right? People have asked too, is there an end to time, not science fiction, actually. Right? Now what is time, apart from the clock? Cut that out. Time is the past and the present and the future. So time is contained in the now, all time. So the future is now.
K: No, sir, it is not a theory.
E: No, I understand.
K: The future is now and the past is now - right? Then what is action? If action is, 'I will do', the future, or 'I have done', it is not action. Action is now. The very word 'act' means now - right? So can the brain which has evolved - you follow my question - go on, sir.
E: The description of saying the brain has evolved, is already the trap.
K: We said that, it is a fact. I am not denying that. But if there is no radical revolution psychologically I will tomorrow be exactly, modified, as today.
C: I would like to come back to where we were at the very beginning of this because I see a connection here, which is the fact that at the level at which you talked about, the so-called inward level...
K: Leave the word 'level', I said cut it out!
C: ...inwardly, there is an action. Now at the beginning we talked about the fact that imminent in that inward action is thought, and imminent in that movement of action is thought which separates. Now that's where time gets - that's where the twist comes.
K: Yes, sir, that is what we are saying. We are saying thought is limited.
C: Yes, but what I am trying to get at is the fact that in the inward level, and I will keep that word for the minute, out of the inward level comes thought. Now the question is what is the relationship of that movement, that action to thought?
K: I don't quite follow you.
C: In other words, the state of observation without the observer, the action is imminent within a thought.
K: No, sir. The observer is the observed. We agree to that - right? It is not a theory.
C: But imminent in that...
K: Sir, just wait a minute, sir. The observer is the observed. That is a tremendous fact. It is not a theory. It changes the whole way of living. There is no division as the observer and the observed, therefore no conflict. That's a theory, but to live that way, which means total eradication of conflict, upon which the brain has evolved. You follow?
K: So when the observer is the observed and no conflict, there is a radical change in the brain. You follow?
K: A whole mutation takes place, if I can use that word.
E: Yes, but your mutation implies time.
K: No, mutation is, biologically as well inwardly there is a radical revolution, because the brain has lived for forty thousand years on conflict.
E: Now can I ask you what is the connection now between that possibility...
K: You see I wouldn't use the word 'possibility'.
E: All right. What would you use?
K: When you use the word 'possibility', it means it may be possible.
E: Yes, OK that actuality.
E: And the question you posed at the beginning: can I observe my brain?
E: Without tearing it apart.
K: Yes and without books. All these books.
E: How do these two things relate?
K: Would you state that question again?
E: OK. You said at the beginning, I would like to say that I investigate my brain without tearing it apart, by seeing 'what is'.
K: Yes. By seeing exactly 'what is'.
E: And now you have also said, there is the actuality of the ever-present nowness of the non distinction where the observer is the observed.
K: Sir, do you realise what that means?
E: I do and I don't! It comes and goes.
K: To you it is a theory. Forgive me, I am not being personal. It is a theory.
E: Well. sometimes it is not.
K: Ah! Either it is, or it is not.
E: It comes and goes.
K: No, it can't.
E: Why not? It is glimpses that do not persist.
K: Sir, make it simple. When you see something dangerous, it is finished. You don't go and say, 'I'll go and play with something dangerous', it is over.
E: No, but you can see the car coming and get out of the way.
K: No, but you can't each time you see a car coming keep out of the way all the time.
E: Sir, are you telling me it is not possible to learn by having a glimpse of something. When you have the glimpse you are there, and then something else happens that takes you off. But there is a possibility of building on the continuity of the glimpse. Why does it have to be a black and white.
K: Don't put it as black and white. That means total division.
E: That's what I understood.
A: I think what you are saying in one's life time one sees certain things one discovers something and then that becomes again a memory from which one acts.
E: Which is not the thing itself.
A: Yes, but I think what you are saying that the moment when you have an insight into that it is obviously not memory somehow.
E: It is actuality.
E: But then it becomes memory, then it becomes actuality again.
K: Back and forth, back and forth.
E: Back and forth.
E: How is it then?
K: Sir, look, I am not a philosopher or anything, I will put it very simply. I have been going north for the last forty thousand years. You come along and say, look that goes nowhere, go south, or east, or west. The very movement of moving away from north to south, in that second, moving, in that movement the cells of the brain have changed, because it has been accustomed to going there - keep it simple.
E: So you are raising: is that at all the case? Is that available to human beings?
K: Oh yes, if they pay attention.
E: Yes, but this is precisely my point that in my own experience...
K: They don't.
C: Why don't they?
K: Sir, that is simple enough. They have so many interests, so many. First of all that they have to earn a livelihood, not that we don't have to. They have a dozen problems.
C: You came in and you have been introduced to Professor Varela, you were introduced to him.
K: And to you and to him and him.
C: And tomorrow you come along and you say to me, 'Oh, hello, how are you today?' implying that you have remembered. So now what is the relationship between that and this other?
K: Sir, we have made that clear.
C: No, we haven't because are you in that state at that moment, it seems to me you are caught by something else.
K: I recognise sir that it is necessary that constant being introduced is silly. I see that is necessary, but inwardly it is not necessary.
C: What is your relationship to me at that moment that you are recognising me and seeing it is not necessary?
K: It is not necessary.
C: But at that moment what is the state?
K: I don't quite understand.
C: In other words at the moment there is recognition what is the action - is there a state of action without the memory also going on?
K: I don't quite follow this.
A: Well perhaps what he is saying, the very fact that you recognise somebody implies memory.
K: Of course, I have said that, sir.
C: But what is the action then at that moment of the memory?
K: What do you mean by action, sir?
C: Is one able to observe without memory while using memory? While seeing the relevance of memory but not being trapped by it.
K: I see it is relevant to have memory of a certain kind. Inwardly why should I have the burden of memory? You say something to me flattering, why should I carry that, it is silly.
E: So here is our man, walking for forty thousand years to the north, and then you come along and say it is possible to walk south. And for the first time I turn around...
K: At that moment there is...
E: Yes. But now the observation, this is not theory, the observation of both the world, the natural world and in myself, is that I turn south and say, no, I have to go north. Well maybe I can go south. There is this kind of process until one finds a permanent or reorientation.
K: Now, why? Why? I'll show you in a minute. Why do we do this? I have been going north and you come and tell me, look don't go that way, it is stupid, go east. And I am not quite convinced. I am not quite sure whether you are right because I have been used to going north.
E: That's right.
K: Wait. I have been used to that, and you say to me go east. I wonder if he is right. Let me look at this. There is this attraction to north, which I have been going on for forty thousand years and also I listen to you, there is some logic in what you say, reasonable, seems sane, and I turn but the attraction goes on, which means what? I have not really listened to what you have said. Whether you are really serious - you understand? Whether you mean what you say. It's your, not theory, it's yours, you understand in the sense you have found it. So what you are, the quality of your voice, the quality of your being, says, go east. And I say, by Jove, I have listened to you very, very carefully and then I go east, I forget north. It depends whether you are speaking the truth or a theory. Not you personally.
E: No, no, I understand.
K: I mean somebody says go north, I say, my dear chap what do you know about it?
E: No, no, granted. But again I go back to the observation that that kind of complete communication...
K: That's all.
E: ...but that kind of complete communication...
K: Complete communication then I forget north.
E: Why doesn't it happen?
K: Because we have never - it is really simple, sir. Going north you have found security.
C: But that's not true.
K: Yes, sir. Don't reject it. Look at it a bit more closely. Sir, to change a habit, physical habit, which is fairly simple, but a psychological habit demands much greater energy.
C: OK. Then look, let's go at more concretely, what is it that would break the habit of memory?
K: No, sir, no, no. Memory is necessary - right? To write a letter, to read a book, to drive a car, linguistic communication, all that is necessary. But inwardly why should there be all this memory carried on: what you said to me, why you hurt me - you follow? All that stuff, throw it out.
C: That's too simple. That's simplistic, just throw it out, we don't.
K: It may sound simplistic but it is not.
C: We don't.
K: Why. That is the point he was raising. Because first of all, sir, you come and tell me, I have been going north for the last forty thousand years, and you come and tell me, go east. I don't believe you. Who are you to tell me? What do you know about it? I begin to doubt, I begin to question, I become cynical, so I have shut it off, all communication. But if you are really serious, in the sense that you have gone east, your whole being is different. I don't know. It is no longer a theory, it is a fact. I think we are cursed with theories - sorry!
E: I go back and look at the history of many of the greatest and most alive spiritual traditions, and all they have been concerned with is precisely coming up with skilful means to constantly open up, reopen up that communication because human beings seem to be incapable of actually sustaining that communication except in the most extraordinary cases.
E: The only way I can say of why, is to become again a biologist and say there is just too much past.
K: Yes, sir.
E: And it takes a long time for a change to occur.
K: Look, sir.
E: There is no way we can change that fast.
K: I know that argument. So we have taken forty thousand years and now another forty thousand years.
E: Well maybe less.
K: All right, twenty thousand years! You don't say that to a person who is suffering.
K: No. Exactly. A person who is frightened, lack of security, would say we can't wait twenty thousand years.
C: Wait a second. You just said that I am going north and I don't change because I am finding security in the north, but I am not really finding security in the north.
K: I think I am.
C: But I think I am.
K: That's it.
C: That's it. OK. Now what is the understanding of the false security? In other words how am I going to understand that it is false security?
A: Where does understanding come into the whole thing to see what is false?
C: You tell me I am going north and you say go east and I say, this is fine by me. I don't believe that's any better. Why should I listen to you that that is better?
K: You don't.
C: That's right.
C: Because both seem - I don't know why!
B: I will tell you what I think, why one listens at least for glimpses, and then frightens back, is because north causes pain.
K: Going north, why?
B: Because the security is constantly based on this sense of struggle, which is painful. Therefore that is what allows the communication of the alternative to happen because you say, that seems better. It is as simple as that.
K: But would you grant that human beings want security?
K: The brain can't function at its highest energy if it is not secure. Right? So where is there security? Wait. Either it is an illusion, or in a bank account - right? Or in my relation to somebody. I want in my relation to somebody, I want to be secure. No change. For god's sake remain as you are, and no living being can remain what they are, so there is conflict. And in spite of that conflict I say I must have security in her, or in him - right? Or I seek security in god, in some faith, in some belief - right? That is all illusion. So I seek security in illusion, in relationship, in the bank account, or in the nation, in my tribe - right? My brain is wanting security.
A: The brain wants security in memory and thought but why is that?
K: Of course. Of course. It must have security. And now the professors, the scientists come up with new theories, new problems, new issues, and the politicians, you know what they are doing. And you come along, oh, so many gurus, you follow, I am lost. So I say, my god where am I going to find security - right? So another theory comes along and I say, yes, I will hold on to that, it sounds reasonable - right? So the brain is always searching for security somewhere - right?
C: The same perspective but slightly different in the sense that the brain is not only searching for security, but the brain is offering itself security in the process of the actual insecurity.
K: Yes, sir. Agreed. Add that to its...
C: But that is essential because it means that we are stepping on our own toes all the time.
K: That is what I am saying. You invent god and then worship god.
E: So it like somebody building up a Hollywood state and then forgetting it is built, and living happily ever after.
E: I think we have the same question. This is precisely the point, we are so used to that which we can understand, it is crazy, it is completely crazy.
E: But it is like a body which has been falling for twenty thousand metres and five metres before the ground he cannot say, stop! He can say, it is stupid that I am falling, but there is this mass of inertia and so on. And the experience of man's past has been that that kind of complete communication of completely grasping the craziness of keeping on going north, has to go through that flicker and if the learning is stabilising that flicker until one internalises that. It might take a - I don't know, a life time, or whatever.
K: That's the whole point. You say going north has taken time.
E: Oh, a long time.
K: A long time. And also you need time to go east. So you think - not you - we think time is necessary to change. Yes, yes.
C: No, I don't think that. No. I don't think that. I think we need to come to an awareness. The thing I object to in what you are saying is that you are implying somehow or other that we can see it, and I am saying that we are so caught by stepping on our own toes we will never get out of it, we have to somehow come to terms with what we are.
K: Yes, sir. Just a minute.
C: We are stepping on our own toes, that's our nature.
K: Yes sir, but wait a minute. Somebody like me, or X, comes along and says, just keep quiet for a minute. Please keep quiet. Just listen. But we can't keep quiet - right? There is chattering, telling me you are right, you are wrong. And I say for god's sake keep five minutes quiet!
C: Do you know the story of the scorpion and the turtle? The scorpion comes along and he says to the turtle, 'How about taking me across this lake?' The turtle says, 'Do you think I am a nut. We are going to get out in the middle there, you are going to sting me and we are going to drown'. 'Why would I do that?' says the scorpion, 'We will both drown'. So the turtle says, 'You are right, we will both drown, get up on my back.' So they get out into the middle and the scorpion stings the turtle and he says, 'What did you do that for?', and he says 'That's my nature'.
A: But I mean where are we now? We started with the question can we understand the brain.
K: Let's begin again! First of all I would like to ask: do we see thought is limited? Whatever it does it is limited. And I don't know why you accept it so quickly!
E: That is something that I have been exploring myself.
K: Which means our experience is limited, our knowledge is limited, now or in the future. Therefore our memory is limited and without memory there is no thought, so thought is limited. The sequence. So whatever it does is limited. Technologically, psychically, or inwardly, it is limited - right? And limitation must inevitably cause conflict, division - right? And therefore is it possible for thought to operate where it is necessary and not operate in other directions? You understand?
D: Is there something which is not limited?
K: Maybe, we don't know but you can only find that out if thought has its proper place and no other place.
A: But I think the confusion arises when you say thought might be used in one place and in the other place not. You introduce a certain fragmentation in it.
K: No, sir. Thought is necessary, I am speaking to you. There I must know English and you know English. If you spoke French and I spoke French, then we would be speaking the same, or Spanish, or Italian - right? So knowledge is necessary to speak in English - right? Of course. Has knowledge any place in the psyche?
A: It helps to a certain limited extent to understand oneself.
D: May I say that in Finnish, the Finnish language has a word ? and it would be in English rote, as knowledge. But then understand in Finnish ? is to embrace. In the Finnish language to know would be to go along a road and not to know anything else but then this understanding in Finnish, is embrace, go around, and therefore I objected when you said knowledge and understanding would be the same. But the brain has two ways: the knowledge is really to go a particular way, to search and search, but then this understanding, that is a function of the brain also, it is to embrace. That might clarify.
A: What I was saying was that even knowledge has in itself a certain understanding that might be limited, might be so.
K: Would you use a different word?
A: A different word?
E: Or intuition.
K: No. Intuition is a bit doubtful, because having desires you can...
A: Could we say then the understanding coming out of memory and thought is to a certain extent mechanical?
K: Let's use the word 'insight'. I have an insight going north is futile, and the insight says goes east and I move. There is no interval between the movement.
E: Again we keep coming back exactly to the same point.
K: That is what I am saying.
B: Yes, but sir, you asked a question a moment ago: can we have thought to take its proper place, there. That is to say we are respectful for what it is. Now when you say I have the insight to go east and I do it, to be respectful to thought is also to realise that it is in the nature of thought to obscure that insight, to fill it with thought.
K: Of course, then it is not insight.
E: And continue to go north.
K: It is not insight.
B: Well it was for a moment and then it was occluded.
K: I understand, you are repeating the same thing.
E: Well we are all going around the same subject because I am trying to see - let me put it this way, the question I have: what is the basis from which you are saying that in that insight all thought would be put into its right place without the flickering. What is the basis for that?
K: It is now five minutes past one. Shall we stop?
E: We can pick it up next time, from there, please.
K: Anywhere you like, sir.
So first of all we ought to discuss what is insight, the word. To have sight in something. An insight implies no memory, no time, quick perception, instant perception.
A: Yes but the perception has to display itself through...
K: Wait, wait. Instant perception. Have we got that? Have you got that? Say for instance, I see something instantly and that perception never changes. I see the futility of all religions, organised. That's over, I don't belong to any religion. There is no going back to the temple, or to the church, or to another guru, it is finished. I recognise those are all forms of entertainment really, so I don't want to be entertained, it is finished. Wiped out. There is not any kind of temptation to go and investigate, to look, I understand it. And this is a fact to me because I have done it. I am not boasting or anything, it is so. Right? Take any factor which human beings cling to, this terrible nationalism. I say to be a Hindu, to be a Muslim - right? So I have finished with it. I don't go back and say, 'Oh, let me play with nationalism a little bit.' So can one move that way, all through life?
Do we stop, sir?