I’m referring to a kind of experience, a kind of—shall we say—state of consciousness which seems to be as prevalent among human beings as measles. It’s something that simply happens, and we don’t know why it happens. And although there are all sorts of techniques which claim to be able to promote it, and which are more or less successful in doing so—and sometimes rather less than more—nevertheless, there is this peculiar thing that happens to people. And it’s been recorded as far back in time as we have any recording at all. And that is coming over people the peculiarly convincing sensation that their ordinary sense of individuality—of personal identity—is transcended, and the individual suddenly feels an experience that… actually, it could be described from a number of quite different points of view. But we could add up these dominant characteristics:
That—instead of the ordinary feeling that I, as an individual, confront a world that is foreign to me, that is not me—in this kind of experience I find myself to be of one and the same nature or identity as the world outside me. In other words, I suddenly feel no longer a stranger in the world, but as if the external world were my own body.
The next aspect of the feeling is even more difficult to assimilate to our ordinary practical intelligence. But a very overwhelming feeling that everything that happens—everything I have ever done, everything anybody else has ever done—was part of a harmonious design. That there is no error at all. And that’s the sort of thing I’m referring to.
Now, you see, I’m not talking about a philosophy, I’m not talking about a rationalization, some sort of theory that somebody cooked up in order to explain the world and make it seem a tolerable place to live in. I’m talking about a rather whimsical, unpredictable experience that suddenly hits people, and it includes this element of feeling the total harmoniousness of everything. Now, I realize that those words can carry with them a sort of sentimental feeling, a sort of Pollyanna feeling. There are various religions in our society today which try to inculcate in you the belief that everything is a harmonious unity. You know, things like Christian Science—or the Unity Movement, and so on—they want to make a kind of propaganda for one to believe, and through believing, to feel that everything is harmonious.
Now, to my mind that is a kind of pseudo-mysticism because it’s an attempt to make the tail wag the dog, to make the effect produce the cause. Because this sensation of things being harmonious is somehow never brought about by insisting to yourself that that is so. Because when you do that—when you would say to yourself all things are light, all things are God, all things are beautiful, et cetera—actually, by doing that, you’re implying that they’re not. Because you wouldn’t be saying all this stuff if you really knew it to be true.
So this thing—the sensation of a kind of universal harmony—can not come to us when it is sought, when we look for it as something to be an escape from the way we actually feel or to compensate for the way we actually feel. It’s a thing that comes out of the blue. And when it comes out of the blue—just like hiccups come out of the blue, or something like that—it’s overwhelmingly convincing and it stands as, actually, the foundation for most of mankind’s profound philosophical, mystical, metaphysical, and religious ideas. Someone, in other words, to whom this sort of thing has happened. And as I said before, it strikes us as measles may strike us. Someone to whom this sort of thing has happened can’t restrain himself when it has happened, and he has to get up and tell everybody about it. And, at last, he becomes the founder of a religion. Because people say, Look at that man! How happy he is. What conviction he has. He has no doubts. He seems to be sure in everything he does.
You see, that the wonderful thing about a great human being: he’s like an animal or a flower. See, when a flower buds and the bud goes pop and opens, it has no hesitation or doubts about it. But when a young woman appears in society as a debutante—you know, she’s not quite sure if she’s going to come off—and she appears on the stage of society with some doubts in her mind. Therefore, all appearances of this kind are of a rather sickly nature. But when the bird sings, or the chicken’s egg breaks, the flower buds, there’s no doubt about it at all. It comes forth.
And so, in the same way, when somebody has an experience of this kind he just has to tell everybody about it. Because, you see, he sees everybody around him looking dreadfully serious, looking as if they had a problem, looking as if the act of living were extremely difficult. But from his standpoint—the person who’s had this experience—he feels that they look funny, that they don’t understand that there isn’t any problem at all. That he has seen—from where he stands, you see—that the meaning of being alive is just being alive. That is to say, I look at the color of your hair and the shape of your eyebrow, and I understand that that is the point. That’s what we’re all here for. And it’s so plain, and it’s so obvious, and so simple. And yet, here is everybody rushing around in a great panic as if it were necessary for them to achieve something beyond all that. And the funny thing is: they’re not quite sure what it is. But they’re devilishly intent upon it, after that thing.
And so, to the person in this state of consciousness—which I call ‘mystical’—that all seems very weird, very absurd. But it’s not something that you criticize in an unkindly way. You don’t say, Those damn fools! Those idiots! You say, It’s such a pity that they don’t see it. Because although they are going around in this wildly ignorant pursuit, one of the funny things about it is that they don’t realize that there is a dimension, a sense, in which their pursuit is magnificent. It’s to give an obverse sense to the saying, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Turn that into its opposite. Not forgive them, but give them a blessing because they don’t know what they do. Give them an honor.
In other words, the intensely serious preoccupations and anxieties of mankind appear from this standpoint not to be foolishness, but to be a kind of marvel in the same way, perhaps—as you could say—that the protective coloring of a butterfly, who has somehow contrived to make its wings look like enormous eyes. So that when a bird who is about to devour this beast is confronted by these staring eyes, the bird is a little hesitating—as when you stare at somebody they’re always taken a little bit aback. And so the butterfly appears to stare at the bird. And perhaps, you see, this phenomenon—of the marvel of staring wings of the butterfly—is in some way a result of anxiety. The anxiety to survive, all the problems and struggles of natural selection. Nevertheless, in this intense struggle, we are unknowing poets.
You see, one of the greatest ideas in the world that has ever been produced is, for my thinking, the Hindu idea that the world is a drama in which the central and supreme Self behind all existence gets lost and involved, and pretends—plays—that he, or it, or he/she, or whatever you want to call It, is all the creatures that there are and gets totally involved. And thus, you see, the more involved, the more anxious, the more finite, the more limited the infinite manages to feel itself to be, the greater the artistry, the greater the depth of the illusion which is created. For, you see, all art is—in a way—illusion. The art of the magician is the art of illusion, the art of misdirecting attention so that the magic seems to appear.
And so, in this way, the more there is anxiety, the more there is uncertainty, to that degree the play has succeeded in the same way as, when you are watching an actual play or reading a novel or a movie, the more the author or the actors manage to grip you and to persuade you just for a moment that you are actually involved in reality, the more they have succeeded as artists. You may have a faint recognition in the back of your mind that this is, after all, only a play. When you sit on the edge of your seat, and you’re sweating and your hands clutch the arms of the chair. When the scene so grips you… that is magnificent acting. And so the Hindus feel that the whole arrangement of the cosmos is something exactly like that.
But when, in the reality of actual life, you are sweating it out and you’re wondering whether this surgeon—who’s got to operate on you in a matter of life and death—is a competent man or a charlatan. Or whether the investment that you made is a good thing or whether it’s going to make you lose your shirt. You see? All those matters of terrific crisis are exactly the same as when you’re sitting in the theater, sweating it out there. But now, a far more convincing theater has been arranged. Because, as the Hindus would say, that in you which is It—the basis of you, the thing that is real in you and that connects you under the surface with every other being that is alive—this is the player of the parts, this is the maker of the illusion. This, the player of the game which has got you involved in this mess, and is living it up in the same way as those actors on the stage are living it up to convince you that this is a real situation.
And this is very understandable because, basically, everybody loves to play this game. The game of hide-and-seek. The game of scaring one’s self. Running up behind yourself in the dark and saying, BWOOO! All children like to do this. And this is the most human thing. That’s why we go the play, to the movie, and why we read novels. And our so-called real life is, from the position of the mystic, an extension of the same thing. Because, you see, he is the person who suddenly has realized that the game is a game and that behind all—you see, if the game is hide-and-seek, or if the game is lost-and-found, everything to do with the hide side or the lost side is connected with where we, as individuals, feel lonely, impotent, put down, and so on; all the negative side of existence
I have tried to show you at various times that there’s really one simple principle that underlies everything, and it’s so simple it’s funny. The principle is: all insides have outsides. Because, you see, you don’t know that the inside is inside unless there’s an outside, and you don’t know that the outside is outside unless there’s an inside. Okay. Then you, as you ordinarily feel yourself, are the inside. You are the animate, sensitive being inside the skin. But the inside of the skin goes with the outside of the skin. If there weren’t the outside of the skin there wouldn’t be no inside. And the outside of the skin is the whole darn cosmos. Galaxy beyond galaxy, and everything. You see? And that goes with the outside in the same way that front goes with back. So that if you wake up and understand that, you find that the two are one and the same identity, one and the same Self, one and the same life. So that’s the mystic’s point of view. He finds that out.
Now, if I may switch: what is morals? In the sense in which I am using the term ‘morality,’ or ‘morals.’ It’s a set of rules analogous to the rules of language. Now, it’s perfectly obvious, isn’t it, that we can talk to each other in English only if there is mutual agreement among ourselves as to how to use the language. What words refer to what experiences, and what ways of stringing words together to be meaningful, how to be used. And it’s very much of interest that we don’t have too much trouble in coming to this agreement about language. We don’t find that the police have to enforce grunt [?]. The schoolteacher—yes, for little the school teacher does sometimes have to enforce grammar and say in an authoritative way, and in the old-fashioned schools with the aid of some implement of corporal punishment. You know? You use the correct grammatical forms. But when we grow up into adult life we use these grammatical forms without much difficulty and very rarely do the police have to enforce it.
But it is otherwise—with other arrangements that we have to make—in common, because just as we have to agree in order to communicate about language, we have to agree about, say, the rules of driving on the highway, the rules of doing business, the rules of doing banking, and so on, and so on, the rules of family arrangements and whatnot. And these are actually rules of the same kind as the rules of grammar. But, alas, this is not very often recognized because the authority, the sanctions, the power behind these rules is different from the authority behind grammar.
What I mean is this: if you transgress the rules of grammar people will shrug their shoulders and say, Well, he doesn’t make sense. They won’t summon the police. But if you transgress the rules of driving on the highway, or the rules of finances, someone is likely to summon the police. And so one sees the authority of the state as standing behind those rules. And there are other rules where our society sees standing behind them not the authority of the state but the authority of the Lord God Almighty, so that if you transgress those rules you’re in danger not simply of going to jail but, according to your religious persuasion, of frying forever in hell or, on the other hand, of failing, lamentably, to be a real person.
Now, the problem is this: where the domain of mysticism and the domain of morals come into conflict. You see, throughout all known history of religion the mystics have been suspect insofar as religions have been the upholders of moral rules; the—as it were—the guardians, the authorities. In the same way, for example, as the lexicographers of the Grammarians guard the rules of grammar and expound upon them, so in the same way priesthoods and the lawyers guard the rules of social behavior. But when, into the domain of religion, there appears the mystical experience, then the priests are very, very disturbed.
Now, you all know that—in recent months, in California—there has been a very strange outbreak in the most respectable of all churches, the Episcopal church. Various congregations of the Episcopal church have had a phenomenon called glossolalia, and this means ‘speaking with tongues.’ If you will turn on your radio to any [African-American] revival meeting on a Sunday night, you will hear glossolalia. That is to say, when the preacher starts talking sensibly but the congregation gets more and more enthusiastic and says, Ah yeah! Amen! Yes, Lord! And so on, and it works up the preacher so that, by the time he’s through, he is not talking sense anymore, he’s just lalling. He’s going through glorious nonsense. In other words, he’s become a—all the dry, theological categories have turned into, not only poetry, but beyond poetry, into music, and he’s just saying, Haaaa dedade badede! Haaabele, ba de de de dah, haaaaaa dewahloh! You see? It’s just going like that. And the congregation’s behind him and it’s wonderful. You see, he’s become—at that moment—one, in spirit, with the universe. Because that’s what that stars are doing. The stars above us, the galaxies, they’re not making sense, see? They’re making a colossal display of fireworks in the sky. Haaaa dedade badede! See? It’s going like that.
Well, it so happened that, in recent months, various congregations of the Episcopal church had outbreaks of this. The bishop of California, when all this happened—bishop Pike—wrote an encyclical letter to his pastors and said, With all due regard for everything, you know, we must not be too dogmatic. We must recognize always that the spirit of God may work in mysterious ways that cannot be foreseen. And we should keep an open mind about all these matters. (This was said in a very complicated way across several pages.) Then, finally—when it came to speaking with tongues—in effect, This must not happen in the Episcopal church! Yeah. I mean, in effect, this is what was said. It was said—you know, the iron hand was in a velvet glove—but: this mustn’t happen.