One of the most surprising thing with that has happened to me in my study of Eastern philosophy over the years is to find that as I thought I was studying something that at first seemed wholly foreign to the western world. At the same time, I discovered all kinds of relatively new forms of thought and exploration of man’s consciousness arising indigenously within the Western world which in various ways paralleled the approaches of Eastern philosophy to the problems of human life. Maybe this is related to the curious problem of what is called simultaneous discovery in science, about which some years ago the British by a physicist L.L. White, wrote an article in Harper’s magazine. Showing how for example apparently quite independent investigators in various parts of the world engaged in scientific research hit upon discoveries at the same time. And of course in the scientific world this is usually explained. By reference to what is called the State of the field in other words if in a given field of science say a certain department of physics knowledge has advanced to a certain state a certain level and all the workers in this field off a million with this knowledge through the journals and other sources of information then because they possess information in common they are liable to hit upon the next step in several places at once and so you get simultaneous discovery of new things. However in some ways, the same thing has happened between east and west that is to say that at the same time that the West became aware of Oriental culture. It of itself, apparently developed forms of thought and forms of insight very closely paralleling things that had existed long before in the Asian world and the interesting thing is that these were in many cases developed by people who had no direct knowledge or contact with literature. About Asia and in this way there seems to be a dissimilarity between. What has happened in this case and what happens in the sciences. The apparently anti-metaphysical and even anti religious trends. Of what is called scientific comparison and sometimes logical positivism. Especially as this movement is represented in the early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The work say that he did about 1914. Contains some quite extraordinary parallels to developments that occurred. In Indian philosophy and logic between shall we say two hundred and seven hundred A.D..
And, again in an offshoot of these developments. In the field of linguistics and I’m thinking particularly of the semantic philosophy of Korzybski, and the metal linguistic thought of Benjamin Lee Whorf. There are even more striking parallels to some of the later developments of Buddhist philosophy. In other words the insistence on the distinction between, the actual physical world. And the forms of words, that is to say, of linguistic symbolism grammar, and logic one must recognize that these two things are in a way distinct and that you mustn’t confuse the order of words with the order of reality you must keep clear the distinction as courtships key is to say between the map and the territory Well that’s one development in the West striking a parallel to ideas that have been strongly influential in the east the parallel. Ways of thinking that exist. Between a Chinese Darwinist and Neo Confucian philosophy. And, the growth of ideas in modern biology. Joseph Needham has pointed this out of course and it is remarkable. History of Science and civilization in China. And incidentally he is himself a biologist before he devoted himself to the study of the history of Chinese science before even he was thirty years old he had made some remarkable discoveries in biology and he has pointed out. That the Darwinistic theory of nature and of man, is non-mechanistic, non-theistic but rather organismic, in the same way as the biological theories of people like Court Gilstein, Ludwig Von Bertlanfy. And Woodrow. In England. And also, the man I mentioned a little while ago biophysicist LL White.. And none of these people that I mentioned Goldstein but a man feared cetera and Needham before he began to study Chinese signs none of these people had had any direct contact. With the world of Oriental thought. But I think I should probably also included in this list of people advocating an organismic theory of the world and Whitehead.
So this is a very remarkable and apparently spontaneous occurrence within the West and well of types of thinking which are parallel to things which we find in Asia. The ones which I’ve mentioned are relatively well-known. There are those which are less well-known. And there is a kind of tradition. Existing in the West today. It’s not very popular tradition. Because in the nature of these things they’re not easily popularized because they’re not easily expressed. In the times and in the languages of our mass media. But there is a kind of work which I have come across in the last few years which almost more than the work of the biologists that I’ve mentioned resembles a Western version of Chinese Taoism. Now, before I say anything about it I want to. Stress in what way this kind of thing resembles Chinese Taoism. I’ve often drawn attention to a curious distinction between Chinese and typically Western attitudes to human nature. We’re reared in the West with a rather fundamental mistrust of our own nature. To use a platonic analogy we think of man as. A sort of right on a horse to natured person who has a rational soul in an animal body. And the animal body is regarded as something vital but stupid. In charge of the rational soul, who’s already been seem to be completely independent of those of the animal body. And so the whole problem in the task of human life is to subjugate the animal body to the rational will. And I, again have often drawn attention to the way in which this theory of man has persisted into the whole climate of opinion of modern science. Even though paradoxically enough, the basic philosophy of modern science, especially the behavioral sciences is naturalistic. That is to say it does not admit of there being two quite separate worlds the natural and the supernatural. But one world, at least ideal describable in one language. Simply the world of nature. Although that has been admitted theoretically in practice. The naturalistic scientist is tends to be a person who doesn’t trust the natural order at all. But a person who still carries over in a sort of unconscious and habitual way, the old Judeo-Christian mistrust of man’s animal nature as a province of the world, preempted, at any rate temporarily, by the devil.
Now therefore, it is somewhat alien to the west, and to Western traditions of thought, to see any sanity. In putting trust in the wisdom of one’s own animal nature. Now of course, there were tendencies in this direction that arose in the eighteenth century and strengthened in the nineteenth century mark recall philosophy of nature and later the romantic movement in literature. But these I say, were associated with the work of Rousseau for example with his philosophy of the noble savage the idea that man was by nature free and as a result of the superimpositions of artificial social structures has been found everywhere in chains. And the sudden elements in this romantic philosophy of nature that nowadays we are apt to regard a sentimental. But nevertheless, we are I think beginning to come to a point of view whereby we must recognize. That although human nature is not something which if as it were were not interfered with would be entirely good which is that I think roughly the romantic point of view. But rather to say something like this .The human nature as we find it is a and into play a balance of good and evil, of positive and negative. And that sanity consists in respecting this balance. See this is not a sentimental point of view. It does not ignore the fact, for example, that we live by destroying other organisms that there is inevitable conflict. In life, in its natural state but that this conflict. Is something which subset a higher kind of harmony and therefore has to be trusted or rather has to be supported accepted and contained. And that sanity consists fundamentally in this.
Now then, on the basis of this sort of attitude to human nature, there has been developed. A kind of movement in the West you would hardly call it a movement in any organized sense which seems to have originated in Germany. Some years ago in Germany there was a woman called Else Gindler. And she happened to have a serious case of tuberculosis. Her doctors told her that at that time many years ago. She died at the age of seventy about two or three years ago. That she was a hopeless case there was nothing further they could do for them that she may as well get ready for the end. She therefore took herself. I think the Black Forest. And. Found herself quite little hot where she could live in the forest alone. And she said. If this disease came by itself it can go by itself and she decided to make an experiment, that she would become as vividly aware [as] she could of all the subtle motions that were going on inside her body all the subtle little feelings that she had and she would respond to them.
And so in the quiet of the forest she became silent. And very very responsive to everything that was going on within her in the kind of inner life of her organism. And by doing this after about a year passed, she found herself recovered from the disease. And this so fascinated her that she explored the promptings of her own nature and explored ways of teaching it to other people. And eventually developed a kind of system of instructing others in this art. But nobody was ever able to think up a kind of label, or name for what this is of course. The Chinese would say this is the art of Taoism this is the art that is called in Chinese wu-wei, or non-interference. With the Dow that is to say with the costs of nature. But you see in describing the way that I was again I went about this it you can see at once that noninterference is a highly. A difficult thing requiring a great deal of intelligence you have to be patient you have to be intelligent you have to be sensitive in order to respond to these subtle promptings of the organism itself. A number of people who were students of Elsa Gidler’s came to the United States. And have, in various differing ways in accordance with their own particular personalities and approaches and style shall we say have talked of this kind of method I think particularly for example of Charlotte Silva who works in New York. Who also was a student of Elsa Gidlow. I’ve been looking at on article she wrote some time ago in the Bulletin. Of the generous amount expedient. In which she describes this kind of work is so fascinating because. The work of this kind. Escapes all classification which is in itself a mark of some kind of distinction so everything in this well has to be classified. People want to label you they want to say oh you’re a Catholic or you’re a Republican or you’re a Buddhist or you’re a beatnik or you’re a Zen is or you’re a psychoanalyst on whatever it may be because they feel that when they can put a label on you they sort of dismissed you they know where you are and what pigeonhole you’re in and you can cause them into trouble. And therefore one can be deeply and creatively troubled by some kind of work. Well you can’t quite call it philosophy which is impossible to pin down.
I’ve been familiar with Charlotte Silvers particular interpretation of else again as idea for some years. And in being asked often to explain it I’ve been completely dumbfounded to do so in just a short phrase. It isn’t physical education, it isn’t rhythmic studies, it isn’t dance it isn’t relaxation. It isn’t body culture, or anything of that kind. It’s a fascinating experiment in. Simply becoming ever more aware of one’s physical organism. And learning to trust it. And learning to become in accord consciously. With what. It wants to do. And that wish all that want is ordinarily unconscious. And therefore, it’s something that’s very difficult to explain without actually participating in it, without doing it. But still, it’s always been one of my particular attempts or efforts to describe the indescribable anybody who works with words poet author and so on is really trying to describe the indescribable this is the whole lot of speech and literature. That’s I might introduce this by. A story which shall. Itself I want to tell me about herself and her study with else again. One of the things that Elsa Gindler I tried sometimes to get her students to do. Was to make a drawing of the way in which one feels one’s own body. And when Charlotte first went to study with her. She was full of all kinds of funny ideas and when she was asked to draw how she feels she made a grand drawing of everything about herself that she knew intellectually you see that she had all her bones and muscles and everything was put there in the right position with several people in the classroom and all the drawings were put up along the wall. Charlotte was stunned to see that none of the other drawings looked in the least bit like her own they were all kinds of funny lines and blushes and blobs and indeed one of them was simply a blank piece of paper with a small black spot on it. And she said that else again walked along the drawings making various comments about them and when she came to the one with a black spot she said Oh I see you still have that tension in your left hip. And Charlotte was expecting you see that at the time that I arrived at her she would compliment out on what a really sensitive drawing she had done of our own body. But when she finally approached that drawing, she said nothing passed right on. And that was a great moments that was one of those moments of truth in life moments of conversion when one finds out the difference. Between what you think you feel and how you really feel.
One of the things most strongly in emphasized in this work. Is that we’re all. Brought up. To try and conform ourselves to fix the patterns of what a human being or to be this happens in very many different ways but one of the ways in which it happens is how we ought to move and hold ourselves physically. We talk about postures, what is the right way to sit the right way to stand. How the right way to use one’s hands and so on and so forth and of course it doesn’t strike us that all these things are very stylized. And if they don’t correspond in any way with what our physical organism actually wants to do. The adoption of these stylized postures is going to cause conflict. Between what we try to be and what we are. And since what we try to be has really no special virtue about. A lot of the postures that we adopt have no particular sense to them at all the sort of social rituals. I want to quote from Charlotte Silver’s article in the general semantics bulletin, little story. She says, the other day I visited some friends among the guests there was a couple with their daughter a little girl of eight a thoughtful a very graceful child. While we were talking a little go played in the garden I had the pleasure of watching how through the window. Then she came up stairs and sat down one leg hanging down the other one on the couch. Mother said. But how did how do you sit take your leg off the couch a gal never should sit like that. Little girl took her leg down on which occasion housecoat flew high about honeys. The mother. Helen points got down one can see everything. The child blushed and looked down on a self-imposed house cut down but I asked why what is wrong. The mother looked attack quite shocked and said one doesn’t do that. By this time the atmosphere in the room was completely uncomfortable the little girl not only had her legs down but have them pressed against each other a shoulders a gone up and she held her arms tight against out of the body. This went on, until she couldn’t stand it any longer she suddenly stretched as Elf and yawned heartily. Again, a storm of indignation from her mother by now this all lasted about ten minutes the child had changed completely a gracefulness had turned into awkwardness all her motions were still, her little body was tense, she hardly seemed to be alive anymore. What will happen to this child? She will hold her on a happy pose for a few minutes before she shakes it off the next time my mother will admonished. She will hold it a few minutes longer and so on each time a little longer until at last she will have repressed her naturalness so deeply that she will have forgotten it. The mother will then have reached her go she will have educated had to be socially acceptable as a human being the child will be greatly inhibited, because as the mother will change in this direction she will change in a thousand other directions. End of quote.
And so you see, it isn’t simply in. The social conditioning of the child is not simply a matter of. Training children in the fundamental conventions of moral behavior which perhaps are artificial but certainly necessary for some solace. Social cohesion and agreement about the training of children and all kinds of weird symbolic attitudes which I held to be proper and nice and ritualistically decent. Which produces in all of us, a state of chronic psycho-physical strain and discomfort which after a while becomes unconscious we fail to notice it but our it underlies our Also those are not irritations and frustrations which eventually build up into vast and appalling political idiocies. It’s very difficult to get people to recover from this, because you see, in trying to come back to themselves, to come back to a unity and harmony with their own organisms they still have the cast of mind the tendency to look to authority of some kind to tell them what they ought to be. And Charlotte Silva has often told me that people who come to work with her. Expect to be told what kind of physical posture, what kind of physical feelings they ought to have. She says they want to know how to move, how to stand, how to sit. In order to be exercised they’re quite astonished at fast when they’re invited to become more restful to give up the doing so that they can listen better to what their body has to tell them. We need quiet for self experience quiet and awake ness we need permissiveness to do all the subtle changes which may be needed. But we ask. We ask that. What can one feel of one’s own organism want of happenings within not what one knows of one’s body or what one thinks about it all believe somebody else expects one to feel off it but what one actually a sense is no matter what comes to the fall.
But this is difficult of course because. We expect that we are supposed to conform to a pattern. And that there is somebody who knows. What we ideally ought to be, ought to feel. And this despite, this is the curious thing this is the paradox this despite all the emphasis in the western world. On the value of individuality the value of personal uniquenesses and the differences between man and man. Isn’t it strange that to fulfill this great ideal, this Democratic, personalistic ideal of the Western world. It seems to be very necessary for us to learn from the east. And from things like the East, to learn from the very great differences which exist between one individual physical organism and another. To trust what Charlotte Silver and Elsa Gidler used to call one’s own inner. This is I suppose the most difficult thing. To explain in words because when we just think about it theoretically. All kinds of objections come up to it. And we think that there can only be sanity and only order in society by holding a club over ourselves as if we were naturally organically and physically, little monsters. Really, there is no monstrousness in nature, like the monstrousness of man. We talk about the violent life of the ocean’s depth of the way the fishes eat each other and live in perpetual conflict. At least the fishes stay in the ocean and don’t come up and attack the birds and the mammals and the people on the dry land. But nobody is safe from an. Radioactive fish in the Pacific. Birds, bewildered by turmoil in the skies. Insects ravaged. And upset in the balances. This is not a condemnation of human intelligence but an appeal to human intelligence. To be both intelligent and sensitive. To be temporarily at least, silent. Before the subtle movements of nature, to study them better. To work with the grain of the world instead of against it.