Now, you see, this has characteristically—through the ages—been the attitude of priesthoods, of the guardians of law and order—or, as they say in the Episcopal church, everything should be done decently and in order. The guardians of this kind of thing have always been afraid of the spontaneous manifestations of the spirit. And not only of things like mysticism, but also of things like falling in love. They’re very, very dangerous happenings. And so, here an absolutely astounding paradox comes about, and it goes like this:
We know, on the one hand, that human love is only genuine when it is felt in the depths of the heart. And we know that this is true whether it be the love of man or whether it be the love of God. We’re always looking for the genuine article, you see? We don’t want someone to love us because they’re forcing it. We want them to love us because they really do, in their heart. Now, you see, when you go back to the study of the history of the Hebrew religion underlying the history of Christianity, you will find this problem in this way: that you’ve got two traditions constantly compensating one against the other, playing each other off in the history of the Hebrew religion—the priestly tradition and the prophetic tradition. The priesthood is always concerned with the external observance of the laws. But the prophetic tradition is always concerned with do you really mean what you do? They constantly condemn as a hypocrite—and, you see, in this sense, Jesus is the greatest of the prophets—they constantly condemn as a hypocrite the person who obeys the law without meaning it. Maybe this man does not commit adultery, but the prophet says if he has looked at a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery in his heart. So that if you really obey the law, you obey it with your feelings and not just outwardly. For as Jeremiah says, The day will come when no man shall anymore say to his brother: ‘Know God.’—that is to say, know the law of God—but they shall all know me, for I will write my law in their inward parts. The ideal, in other words, is people who do not simply obey and do the right things, but who want to do the right things, whose desires are transformed. For the heart—to write the law in the heart—means to change one’s desire.
So, you see, what this comes to, then, is a peculiarly paradoxical situation that you are required, by law, to be completely honest. And more than that; you are required, by law, to be loving, and honestly loving. You must love God and love your neighbor honestly, not forcing it, not pretending to it, not being a hypocrite. You must really feel it. Now that, you see, is where the astonishing conflict occurs between the mystic and the moralist. For the moralist knows that he has to be more than a legalist. He has to be more than one who insists that the outward observance of the law be kept to. Luther said that the law which requires that inward compliance is the most terrible thing. He based a great deal of his philosophy on an attack on the idea that one’s own inner feeling could be commanded. Because, you see, the moment you subscribe to the idea that your inner feeling should be commanded, you let yourself in completely for hypocrisy. If, you see, you tell another person that you love them because you know you’re supposed to love them and, in fact—in your heart—you don’t love them, you’re a liar. And therefore, the more you insist on that lie, the more you feel it’s your duty to make your feelings over and to love that other person, the more you get yourself deeper, and deeper, and deeper into trouble. Because here, if anywhere, the truth will out. You will not be able to sustain the pretense. You will not have sufficient energy to go on pretending and making a kind of mock of the feeling of love. And you have at last, then—if you’re honest—to say, I don’t. It doesn’t matter whether this is to some other human being or whether, in a religious situation, you have to sit back and look at the Lord and say, Lord, I don’t love you. I think you’re a bore. You’re demanding, you’re authoritarian, you’re domineering. And probably I ought to love you, but I’m sorry—I don’t.
Now, we think—you see—that an honest expression of our feelings would be disruptive of law and order. It wouldn’t; not in the least. Actually, it would be contributive to it. Because if I say to somebody, Look, I’m not doing this for you because I love you or because I like you, I’m doing it for you because the book says I must. Now, that puts it up to the other person, who has to look within himself and say, honestly, Ought I to accept this favor from this person, or ought I to go about seeing how I could provide myself with these conveniences? He may say, I understand you don’t like doing this, but excuse me—I’m in a terrible jam and I will be most beholden to you if, for a little while yet, you will go against your feelings and help me out. See? That’s a nice way of doing things. That’s the kind of real understanding that we have to have.
I was associated once with somebody—in a business way—who was a complicated person who pretended, always, that he was a great idealist and that he was doing whatever he did for the benefit of mankind, for the furtherance of mutual understanding, for unselfishness and love between human beings. Actually, his dealings were ethically of a very shady character and I couldn’t get on with him because he wouldn’t come clean. If he had said, Look, I’m in a kind of a jam. And in order to get around this problem we have to manipulate things thus and so. And I know this isn’t very ethical, but that’s what we have to do. I would have said, Well, I’m entirely in agreement with you. But then he wouldn’t’ve come on with this sort of pious line that was so sickening and offensive. He would’ve come on in a human way and we would’ve understood each other.
You see, now, how real honesty is a genuine basis of morals. Real honesty is always not pretending that you’re feelings are other than they are. We know, as we deal with situations practically, that we may have to do things that go against our feelings, and it’s the same with helping people—when you have to—whom you don’t like and you don’t want to help, but on the whole it’s rather necessary to do so. But don’t ever be dishonest in playing that you’re feelings are not what they are.
Now, from this standpoint we can perhaps understand something about the deep relationship between morals and mysticism. If we go back, you see, to the experience that I described as mystical we see that it is the vision—I tried to put it, fumblingly, in the sense of the rightness, the harmoniousness of everything that you are from one moment to another. That, in other words, human behavior—its ups and its downs—is no different in principle from the behavior of the clouds, or of the wind, or of dancing flames in the fireplace. As you watch the pattern of the dancing flames they never do anything vulgar. Their artistry is always perfect. Ultimately, it is the same with human beings. We are just as much a part of the natural order as flames in the fire or stars in the sky. But this is only apparent to the person who is honest in the sense in which I have spoken. In other words, the person who is tied up with trying to pretend that his feelings are other than what they actually are—he can never see this, and he’s always a troublemaker. He is the original hypocrite. The person who is unbelievably destructive is the person who pretends that he is a model of love and rectitude and justice, and, in fact, isn’t. Because nobody really can be. But then, superior altogether is the kind of person I would call the ‘loving cynic’ who knows, of course, that everybody has his weakness and his price and so on, but isn’t contemptuous for that reason.
Incidentally, may I be so bold as to recommend a book? Memories, Dreams and Reflections by C. G. Jung: Jung’s autobiography. The life story of a man who, in my opinion, was a superb human being in this particular sense of thoroughly knowing his own limitations, and of having a certain humor about them. A man who understood how to integrate into his whole being the devil in himself and the monkey in himself.
So then, in the metaphysical sphere the mystic is the one who feels that everything that happens is in some way harmonious, is in some way right, is in some way an integral part of the universe. Now, when we transplant or translate that into the moral sphere, the sphere of human conduct, the equivalent is this: there are no wrong feelings. There may be wrong actions in the sense of actions contrary to the rules of human communication. But the way you feel towards other people—loving, hating, et cetera, et cetera—aren’t any wrong feelings. And so to try and force one’s feelings to be other than what they are is absurd and, furthermore dishonest.
But, you see, the idea that there are no wrong feelings is an immensely threatening idea to people who are afraid to feel in any case. And this is one of the peculiar problems of our culture: that we are terrified of our feelings. Because they take off on their own and we think that if we give them any scope, and if we don’t immediately beat them down, they will lead us into all kinds of chaotic and destructive action. It’s so funny that we, in our Western culture today, say that kind of thing. We, who do more chaotic and reckless kind of action than anybody ever did.
But if, for a change, we would allow our feelings and look upon their comings and goings as something as beautiful and as natural and necessary as changes in the weather, the going of night and day, and of the four seasons, we would be at peace with ourselves. Because what is problematic for Western man is not so much his struggles with other people and their needs and their problems, as his struggle with his own feelings, with what he will allow himself to feel, and what he won’t allow himself to feel. He’s ashamed to feel really, profoundly sad, so much so that he could cry. It is not manly to cry. He is ashamed to loathe somebody because you’re not supposed to hate people. He’s ashamed to be so overcome with the beauty of something—whether it be a natural landscape or a member of the opposite sex—that he goes out of his mind with this beauty. Because all that kind of thing is not being in control, old boy! Not—kind of—having your hand on the wheel!
But it is because, you see, we don’t go with that that we are not in control, that we try to pretend that our inner life is different. So I think this is the most releasing thing that anybody can possibly understand: that your inner feeling is never wrong. That’s to say, what you feel—it’s never wrong that you feel that way. It may not be a right guide to what you should do. In other words, if you feel that you hate someone intensely, it isn’t necessarily the right way of dealing with that feeling to go out and cut his throat. But it is right that you should have the feeling of hating, or of being sad, or frightened, terrified—whatever it is.
For, you see, when a person comes to himself, he comes to be one with his own feeling. And that is the only way of being in a position to control it. It is in exactly this way that the sailor always keeps the wind in his sails. Whether he wants to sail with the wind or whether he wants to sail against the wind, he always uses the wind. He never denies the wind. Well, it’s in exactly that same sense that a person has to keep going with his own feeling. Whether he wants to act as the feeling obviously suggests or act in a different way, he has to keep the feeling with him because that’s his own essential self. But when he attempts simply to sail against the wind, he’s lost himself. He’s become just a kind of empty mask which hasn’t got any real life behind it. And all its protestations of love and good will are hollow.
So, you see, it is in the most basic, simple situation: a mother has a child. She got it by accident. You know? And she thinks, Oh, heavens. Now I’m all tied up full of responsibility, and I can’t stand it. So I really didn’t want to have it, and I—uh-oh-oh… I mustn’t think that thought! All good mothers naturally love their babies. And so, when she gets the baby, she says, Darling, I love you, but her milk is sour and the baby gets the other message, and the baby’s mixed up. And it will be much better if that mother said to the baby, Listen, you’re a pest, and you’re a nuisance, and I didn’t want to have you around. Well, then they understand each other and everything’s clear. There’s no confusion, there’s nothing mixed up here. And, too: when you feel somebody is a pest and a nuisance, and you really let it go and you tell them so, you’re apt—in a while—to get a sense of a kind of humorous feeling about it. That you can begin from telling them that they’re a damn nuisance, and I wish you’d just disappear and get lost. After a while you say, Yeah, you old bastard. You know? And it begins to have a kind of affectionate feeling to it.
So, to sum up: what the mystic primarily feels is the divinity, the glory, of whatever is. And when we apply that to the moral sphere, what is is what one feels genuinely. And this must always be admitted, always allowed. It doesn’t mean to say—let me emphasize this—it doesn’t mean that we always are therefore compelled to act upon the basis of what we feel. That is to say, to kill the person we hate. Hatred does not necessarily lead to violence. It is unacknowledged hatred that leads to violence. Honest hatred can be expressed in much simpler ways. But the expression, the recognition, the acceptance of what is honestly felt is the moral equivalent of the vision that whatever exists is a manifestation of the divine.