When I talk in academic and scientific circles about mystical experience, I have to be very careful of my terminology. And so I alter the phrase ‘mystical experience’ and call it ‘ecological awareness’ because it really amounts to the same thing. But the terminology is much more acceptable in the scholarly environment because, after all, mysticism is a dirty word associated with mist and vagueness. On the other hand, there is this difficulty that—in our universities today—ecology has not quite come of age as a science, although its importance is vastly recognized. Ecology—being the science which studies the relationship between organisms and their environments—is a multi-disciplinary science and, therefore, its existence on any campus today runs afoul of departmental politics.
You notice, you see, that all our universities are based on the idea that there are departments of knowledge. And if you trace the history of universities over several centuries, you will see that the classification of departments keeps changing. There was a time in the Middle Ages when, for example, theology was the queen of the sciences and, therefore, had high rank as a department—as today the department of physics or chemistry would have—but now it has almost completely disappeared. There is a department of—yes, maybe—of the history of religions, which occupies an obscure set of rooms in the philosophy building or something like that, which is way off at the edge of the campus. But you cannot keep these departments fixed because, as between, say, biology and physics, we develop a science of biophysics. As between biology and chemistry, we develop a science of biochemistry. As between physics and mathematics, we get mathematical physics. As between physics and astronomy, we get astrophysics. And the formations keep changing, and this has very difficult political consequences for the simple reason that the faculty members and chairmen of departments are jealous of their positions. And they’re always apt to say—when these new hybrid departments start out—that these people are dabblers. In other words, they should get a thorough grounding in biology, zoology, botany, bacteriology, and all those separate departments before they should dare venture into such a thing as ecology, which involves all those different sciences and more.
What is not generally understood, however, is a most peculiar thing, and very difficult to explain. In the academic world—you know how students have to go through prerequisite courses? They’re supposed to take this before they take that. Well, it’s been found out, increasingly, that this is completely unnecessary. That, for some reason, as time goes on, students develop the ability to absorb bodies of knowledge for which it was thought they had no prerequisites. In the same way as—let’s say, in the childhood of anybody now aged roughly fifty—it was very difficult to understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and you always had to have a demonstration on a blackboard, and all sorts of diagrams. But now young people get this idea instantly, they have no difficulty in absorbing it anymore than we had difficulty in absorbing the notion that the Earth was spherical. We were no longer embarrassed. Our common sense was no longer offended by the thought that people living in the Antipodes would be hanging upside down. In this sort of way, common sense, a feeling for knowledge, adjusts itself. And more and more it becomes obvious that there have to be ways of linking together the departments of knowledge. It’s almost as if the established departments—like physics, chemistry, history, anthropology, and so on—were like huge paving stones, and it’s always between the paving stones that the little things begin growing. So the growing edge is in the interstices between the departments.
Now, therefore, ecology becomes of absolutely primary importance in the modern world because, as so many of us have often said, Western man is equipped with technical powers such as have not been seen in known history, and is using those powers to alter his environment, but doing it in a way and in a spirit that may, instead of altering the environment, merely destroy it; what I call “Los Angelization instead of civilization” is taking over, and we are fouling our own nest. And, therefore, I approach this whole matter because of my interest in the Chinese and Japanese philosophy of nature, wherein there is not this sense of hostility between the human organism and its environment, but rather a sense of being one with it and collaborating with it. And thus it’s been my particular interest to see in what way this Far Eastern attitude to nature—based originally on the philosophy of Taoism—is applicable in a technological civilization. Because there is one school of thought that says, “Of course, we’ve got to press technological progress as far as possible,” and we, therefore, get a proliferation of so-called growing communities, which are very evident here in California and remind some of us of the growth of cancer cells rather than the growth of anything of a biologically healthy nature. And this is called progress, and people say you can’t stop progress. Don’t be sentimental! And, on the other hand, there are the people who really do want to stop this. And I find that—to some considerable extent among young people who are, shall I say, digging the drop-out scene—there is a very definite wish to, as it were, join the American Indians, to get rid of concrete, to go back to green grass. As Gary Snyder put it the other day: “When you want to go from Sausalito to Big Sur, don’t take the freeway. Don’t even take the side roads. Find an old trail and walk it. Because the journey will be worth taking then.” And he feels, for example, that all the state park rangers should busy themselves with opening up trails so that more and more young people can walk, and have stations a day’s walk apart where they can rest for the night, or where there are congenial farmers and friendly people with homes who will accommodate them. And so we will set up, as it were, a whole network of communications and culture entirely apart from the freeways and the suburban subtopia that sprawls all over the place. Because, like any good Indian—American Indian, that is—they sit around waiting and watching because they know that one of these days this whole industrial civilization is just going to disappear into gas and will leave them as they were in the beginning. You see, these are two completely extreme points of view. And I want to explore, rather, the possibility that there is a middle way: that technology is not a purely unnatural manifestation, that it is a perfectly proper development of human capacities, but that it has to be used in the right spirit and with the right care in such a way that we do not disturb, irremediably, what are called the balances of nature.
The idea that there are balances of nature, that no species, for example, should get so out of hand as to become top species and really dominate all the others—as human beings are trying to do—goes back, of course, to the fundamental Chinese notion of nature as the balancing of two forces, called the yang and the yin—or, in Japanese, inyo. The whole of the Book of Changes—which is a very, very ancient text fundamental to Chinese ways of thinking and to Chinese logic—is based on an analysis of the processes of nature in terms of the relative balancing of these forces. Perhaps “forces” is not quite the right word. It is—you see—obvious to a Taoist, to Buddhists, to Hindus, that this universe is a single system of energy, but there is no way of defining and putting your finger on that particular one energy. And even energy is not quite the right word to use because energy indicates something in motion, and we do not know or realize motion except in relation to stillness and vice versa. So, whatever energy-stillness is, fundamentally, cannot be thought about, defined, or talked about in any way. It is basic to everything that we both experience and don’t experience. It bears somewhat the same relation to our everyday life as the diaphragm in a loudspeaker bears to all the sounds that you hear on the radio. Every sound—of the human voice, of all kinds of musical instruments, of airplanes, of automobiles, and so on—anything you can hear on the radio is actually the vibration of a diaphragm. But the radio does not proclaim this fact. The announcer does not come on first thing in the morning and say, “All the sounds that you will hereafter hear are vibrations of a diaphragm, including this sound, and not the actual wind in musical instruments and human vocal cords.” No, because wherever any circumstance is constant, we tend—in the course of time—to ignore it. We rule it out of all practical politics because it is basic to everything. It’s as in an equation: when you get two terms that are identical on either side of the equation, you can just cancel them out. They make no difference. But, in a way, this is a very difficult point because, obviously, it is highly important that the diaphragm be there because otherwise there wouldn’t be any voices or music. And yet, the diaphragm as such makes no difference to the distinctions between voices, and musical instruments, and so on. From a logical point of view, it is absolutely meaningless to talk about anything which is common to everything, which is the substratum, or ground, of being.
But the categories of logic do not embrace all knowledge. And it is possible for human beings, once again, to become aware in a certain way of this substratum. Not, however, as an object—not as something you can take out and look at—but nevertheless to be very strongly and almost sensuously aware of it and, in so doing, regain a new sense of one’s own identity, one’s own being: not as one of many things, one little event among many events that are all coming and going and temporary, but a sense of one’s actual self as being this single energy field—which can’t be, however, defined or identified—and, through realizing that, to take away the frantic anxiety that we have to secure ourselves as separate organisms, and to fight with other organisms, and play these elaborate games of one-upmanship, and—above all—to overcome the anxiety which leads us to regard nature itself as our enemy that has to be conquered and subjugated.
I shall, of course, return in later sessions to the nature of this realization, but I only want to say in passing that there’s a very peculiar thing about it, namely, that the realization I’m speaking of is not something like a belief. It is not an idea for the simple reason that the fundamental energy of the universe cannot be embraced in an idea. It cannot be embraced in a concept, in a form of words, in an explanation, because it eludes all classification. Because it is the which than which there is no whicher, and therefore is not in any class. Secondly, if you try to catch hold of it and somehow possess it, you are doing what is called in Zen “putting legs on a snake.” Because there is no need to possess it: you are it, and if you try to possess it you imply that you’re not. So by trying to catch hold of it you—as it were—push it away; although you can’t really push it away because the very pushing is all it, you see?
So there are people who are divided into two schools of thought: those who believe that by exerting their energies to get hold of it they can achieve something, and the opposite people who think that by doing nothing at all one achieves it. But both are wrong because both the attempt to get it and the attempt to try not to get it are actually attempts to get it! And there is no need to. But nevertheless, by going into this—by meditation and so on—it is possible to realize that we are identical with the fundamental energy of the universe, that that is our real self—and although it doesn’t make a difference because all differences are, in a way, made by it, therefore it makes no difference to differences—nevertheless it’s completely basic. You see, it’s as if what has happened to us is: supposing you’re a gambler, and you’ve got involved in a game where you’re playing, actually, for peanuts, and you are immensely wealthy. When you get extremely absorbed in the game, even though you’re only playing for peanuts, you can lose your temper and you can be anxious as to who’s going to win, who’s going to lose, am I going to lose my peanuts, you see? Whereas you really have nothing to worry about at all, but you got so absorbed in the details of this game that you’ve forgotten the larger context in which the game is happening. So, in exactly the same way, every individual is so absorbed—myopically, with his mind—in the details of his birth and death that he’s completely forgotten the context in which birth and death is occurring. And so, just as the chicken—when you put his beak to a chalk line—can’t get off it and is hypnotized, so we have been systematically and progressively hypnotized by our whole upbringing into the sensation that we are only this particular ego in this body. And we believe that and feel it so firmly that the context in which all this has happened is completely repressed.
Now, therefore, I want to propose a few things, first of all, in thinking about this, and I would ask you to listen to what I have to say, temporarily postponing the question “What are the practical consequences? What should we do about it?” I want to start with a consideration of our ancient ideas about the relation of the individual to the world in terms of fate and free will—or determinism and free will—because if we actually were aware of all the information that is coming to us through our senses, we would have a very curious sensation which would bug us because we wouldn’t be able to find words for it. It would be like this: you would first of all realize that if you didn’t be so selective—in other words, if you didn’t pay attention to this detail and that detail, but were just simply aware of it all in general—you would get the funny feeling, in the first place, that you were just a puppet, that you were automatically responding to all kinds of physical and social influences around you, and that you couldn’t help yourself. You might object to that, or you might alternatively enjoy it. You might get a sensation that you were just floating. You didn’t have to do anything, you didn’t have to think about any problems, you didn’t have to worry about what you ought to do, you would just feel yourself responding, and that would be a very pleasant feeling if you liked it. But, on the other hand—depending on your personal constitution—you might feel terribly threatened by it, and you would interpret this sensation as a feeling of un-reality. Have you ever suddenly felt that you were dreaming everyday life, that it wasn’t quite real, and it spooked you? So you say, “Gee, it ought to be happening!” See? And I feel like I’m going around in a dream. Because occasionally, our mind slips. It’s like the tuning dial of a radio: it occasionally wanders off and you get another station. And so, in the same way, our minds occasionally slip into another way of seeing things, and people get accidental illuminations, and psychoses, and all sorts of funny things.
But you would get this as a preliminary sensation, and you would interpret it as feeling that you are a puppet on the end of strings being manipulated by events only because of your previous background, wherein we have—all of us—been conditioned to believe that part of our life is not under our control and part of it is. There is this distinction between the voluntary and the involuntary. The voluntary: what we do; the involuntary: what we have to accept passively. The borderline between them is not at all clear. Breathing, for example, is something we have to go on doing, and yet you can acquire the sensation that you are doing the breathing and controlling it according to your will. It’s a very vague distinction here. But if you took in all the information—see, you can feel yourself making a decision out of the blue. You say, “I’m going to do that!” Like that, you see? And you don’t have any awareness of anything that leads up to it. It just happens, you see? And because that awareness is screened out you interpret this act of making a decision as a different kind of act from breathing or from growing hair. Well, actually, it isn’t different, but we think it’s different because of unawareness. When you make a decision it happens—as the Chinese say, zìrán; shisen—“of itself,” “naturally,” “spontaneously.” But we feel that there are things that happen of themselves in contrast to certain things that I do, and that is because of incomplete awareness.
But then, if that awareness were to change—and you were to realize that everything is happening of itself, including your decisions—because of your background, you would then veer over to the opposite point of view: everything is happening involuntarily and I am left out; I am a puppet, I simply have to obey. You see? But this would be incorrect. The point is, rather, this: we don’t have a system of nature which is either deterministic or voluntaristic. The relationship of the individual to the environment is not one of the individual as some little thing in the environment, which is moved by the environment and responds to the environment passively. Nor, oppositely, do we have a situation in which the individual is a center of activity that, all of its own, to some extent alters and changes the environment. Both of these opinions are based on lack of awareness or ignorance—ignore-ance—that the behavior of the individual and the behavior of the environment are the same process. And you can look at the process from two points of view. You can look at it from the point of view of “It’s all happening to me,” or you can look at it from the point of view “I’m doing it.” These are just two poles of two ways of looking at the same thing.
If, for example, you realize that your neurological organization is creating the external world—in other words, there is no such thing as light, weight, heat, color, shape, except in terms of the human nervous system or some other animal nervous system—then, from that point of view, you can see your nervous system as evoking the whole universe. But you can take an opposite point of view which is equally true, which is that the human nervous system is something in the external world and is entirely dependent on sun, and air, and light, and temperature, and so on and so forth. Both points of view are true, but we have not yet—especially in the West—become aware of a logic which can integrate them. And so, when we first come to experience this thing as being so, we tend to interpret it in terms of our old logics and our old ways of thinking, so that one person may say on feeling this, “I feel as if I’m just floating around, passively responding to the operations of nature,” and another person going to the opposite extreme will interpret this experience as saying, “I suddenly realize I’m God. That I actually govern and control everything that happens.” These are two ways of looking at exactly the same thing. The point being, then, that there is just the one process which is equally the behavior of the organism and the behavior of the environment; that you can look at this process from many points of view, define it in many ways, but you can’t really split it up.
And so, the consequence of this—although I’m not going into this at the moment in any full way—is to learn to act and behave in terms of this vision of the world. Not as your acting upon the world, not as it acting upon you, but as the unfoldment of a process which, as you understand it, you become more intelligent and act more intelligently. Intelligence is a function of the degree to which you realize that your behavior is one with the behavior of the rest of the world. The more you realize that, the more one would say you appear to be better in control—although you’re not actually controlling it. The difficulty—the essential difficulty—that lies in the way of most people seeing this is the fixed notion that the world consists of separate things and separate events. As Teilhard de Chardin put it: “The only real atom is the universe.” The word ‘atom,’ you see, in Greek, is ἄτομος. ;Ἄ: ‘non.’ τομος: ‘cut.’ The uncut. It’s the same idea as in Lao-Tzu: “the uncarved block.” There’s a great symbol of naturalness. What cannot be further divided? And so de Chardin says it is the universe that is the only real atom. Because if you take anything out of the universe and separate it, you will find that it is raveled at all of its edges. It is not, in other words, cleanly divisible.
But this is something which is left out of our ordinary awareness, because in our ordinary awareness we overlook the connections that go between so-called things and so-called events and make them, actually, nothing but aspects of one event. It’s as if we were looking at everything through a sort of Venetian blind where intervals are ignored and cut out. Our senses are, of course—as we know—screening devices. The eye responds to a very narrow spectrum of the various forms of light vibrations. We do not see x-rays or cosmic rays. Likewise, our ear responds only to a rather narrow spectrum of sound. We keep screening out. And, therefore, not only do we screen with our senses—with the organs of sense—we also screen with the thinking systems by which we interpret what we sense. It’s a further act of screening. And so, as a result of this, there are gaps. And these gaps are symbolized by the fact that we ignore space.
We think—as we all sit around here in this room, you see—that the spaces between each of us as we sit here is nothing at all; it’s not important. But actually, it’s tremendously important. The spaces between people—and space as a marvelous thing in itself—is as important as, for example, the intervals between tones in music. It is the intervals and the hearing of the intervals that enables you to hear melody. And so it is the space between everything which, instead of being something that divides, it joins. But we ignore it and don’t see that space—like the diaphragm in the radio—space is that in which everything happens; and without space, no happening. It’s fundamental but ignored. And there are many other things besides. All kinds of mutual influencing constantly going on, but this is ignored because, for one reason—for two reasons. One: we don’t have time to bother with it. We don’t think it’s important. And we don’t think it’s important because we have been trained to regard only certain things as important. And that’s why in the process, say, of mediation as it’s understood by Buddhists and Taoists, you stop valuing and putting a price on all the various things that you could be aware of. You stop thinking and you are simply aware, and it suddenly strikes you then that everything is equally important. And you start being amazed at things that you never were amazed at before; absolutely fascinated. You hear the sound of water, and that’s quite as important as anything I’ve got to say! Only, you don’t translate it, see? The wisest thing I heard in Japan when I was last there, from Morimoto Rōshi: he said, “the sound of the rain needs no translation.” We were talking about translating Buddhist texts into English. He said, “You don’t need to do that. The sound of the rain needs no translation.”
So when you get that perspective and you realize that the divisions of one thing from another are all conceptual: cut out the concepts and see it afresh, and there are no divisions. There are connections. It doesn’t mean that—in the continuum of the physical world—that there are no lines, that there are no solids and spaces, and all this kind of thing. It doesn’t mean, in other words, that if you saw the world correctly it would all become a homogenized mass. A lot of people think that that is nirvāṇa, you know? It doesn’t mean that at all. It stays just exactly as you see it now, but it has a completely different sense to it in which all the wiggles in this world are not separated, but it’s a continuous wiggle.
I’m greatly interested in the philosophy of wiggles because this is a wiggly world. Look at the hills. As you fly—as I’ve just been flying, getting some perspective of nature from an airplane—and it’s clouds and mountains; all wiggles. But just every now and then one sees these little squares and rectangular patterns and things, and you know that’s human beings busy trying to straighten things out.
They somehow disapprove of wiggles because wiggles are difficult to control, they’re slippery. And you want to put that thing there, and say “Now! Now, come on!” But you see, the trouble with a wiggle is: how do you count wiggles? How do you count the wiggles in a cloud? I mean, formally speaking, is one wiggle a smooth curve—like that, does that constitute a wiggle? Or—supposing it has bumps on it—are those each a subordinate wiggle? And how many wiggles does the bump have? It has lots when you start looking at it in a magnifying glass. It goes on for ever. So: wiggles of the world, unite! You’ve nothing to lose but your names!
So, you see: this great continuous wiggliness—for purposes of being controlled and managed—is broken down into what we call things and events. But these are no other than conventional—that is to say, socially agreed—divisions between the various forms of nature. But nature is really formless in the sense that it’s all one form. Not in the sense that there are—nothing that we could stick the name ‘cloud’ on—but that the name… naming the cloud a cloud does not separate the cloud from the sky, actually. Just as, when you pick up water in a sieve, you don’t succeed in separating the water into strips like you would if it was cheese going through a sieve. So, all our categorizing leaves the world undivided. In fact, it is simply a way of being able to talk about it in order to agree how we are going to control it and what we’re going to do with it.
Now, this is a point that is so fundamental that I do want to be sure that it’s clear. To say you see that there really are no things and no events is, to most people, shocking and startling; it’s an affront to common sense because we feel—you know… damn it, this is a shoe! [Alan slaps his shoe] And it’s a thing! It’s there! You see? And that, actually, this isn’t a shoe at all. You know, a ‘shoe’ is a noise. And if this is a noise at all, it’s this sort of noise, you see? [Alan slaps his shoe again] You can use it for a hat, or it has all sorts of possibilities. But it isn’t the shoe.
Yeah. Yeah, right. So, if you see that the idea of separate things is an abstraction—let’s call it that—then this most of all applies to you as an organism: you are not a separate thing. You are, first of all—you can look at it from two points of view. On the one hand, a living organism is something like a flame. A flame, although it appears on a candle to be constant, is a stream of gas. And a flame is never the same for two microseconds. It’s a constant flowing of energy. Or, take a whirlpool in a stream: it appears to have a constant form, but it’s flowing all the time. So, in exactly the same way, all our bodies appear to have constant form, but we are a flowing of energy. So we keep coming in and out. Also, it isn’t only in this way that we’re the constant flow; that you cannot say “I’m a separate event,” but it’s also because every thing that could be called—could be recognized—as a wiggle or a unit of any kind in this world has its existence only in relation to all the rest of them.
This is the principle that, in Buddhist philosophy, is called jiji muge (事事无碍): ‘the mutual interpenetration of all things and events.’ This is very important. I’m sure some of you have recently read in, say, the Scientific American, about holograms: a method whereby you can take a small square out of a photographic negative and, by the use of laser beams, reconstruct the whole negative out of which it was taken. Because the little part is nurtured and comes to be in a field of forces in such a way that all the lines of force within the little part imply the lines of force of the total photograph when it was taken. It can be reconstructed. Maybe Wynn can explain this more accurately than I can. But this is essentially the hologram. Because, you see, every part—anything that can be designated as a part of something—implies the whole just as the whole implies the part. Thus, a clever anthropologist can take a jawbone and can reconstruct from the jawbone, through all his anthropological knowledge, the beast or man to which it originally belonged. He’ll say, “A jawbone like this, you see, implies this kind of a skull,” and so on and so forth.
So, every single thing in this world exists only in relation to the whole system, to all the other things, because—the important point to realize here is that existence is relationship. Relationship is another word for existence. There is no yang without the yin. It is the relationship of yang and yin that enables yang to be possible and yin to be possible, solid to be possible and space to be possible, up and down, life and death, being and non-being. It is a relationship. So that, for example, if I have a drum but there is no skin on the drum, it doesn’t matter how hard I hit it, it will make no sound. Because the sound is the relationship of the drum skin and the hand. And you can carry that principle all the way along; that, in other words, if I shout in a completely non-resonating environment, I will make no noise. In other words, if I shout in a vacuum, there is no sound because I have to make waves, you see? And I can’t make waves if there’s no water.
So, existence is relationship all the way along. And fundamentally, then, the relationship of all of us together, of all society, constitutes every one of us. We are—as individuals, as personalities—what we are in terms of a human community and of an interlocking complex of communities. And you may remember when you were children—I remember it very vividly how my personality changed in relation to each community that I went into. In other words, I was one boy at home, I was a completely different boy among my peer group in school, I was another boy altogether when visiting my uncle, and I realized I had all these different personalities in relation to different communities. And eventually, I put them together in some sort of way and integrated. But I feel, still—although I’ve got it more or less together—I like to come on differently in different sets of people and play the joker. Which, instead of playing a fixed role, and you can say, “Well, is that always you? Can we rely upon you always to have this sort of behavior, mannerisms, and reactions?” I say, “No, I’m not going to get fixed up in that. I’m going to play tricks!” But you did notice that, you see, when you were a child, because—you see—you were being defined all the time by the groups you were in. And so you are what you are, as a person—that is to say, as playing a role in life—in relation to the groups with which you move. And that is a little model of the fact that everything is what it is in its place.
Now, for example, it has been a sort of convention of scientific thought hitherto—especially in the kind of science of the 19th century—to try to understand anything and say what it is by a process of analysis. You understand it by asking, “What is it made of? How is it composed? How was it put together?” And so you dissect it. You get your microscopes out and you try to dissolve it down to the smallest possible component parts. And that gives a certain explanation of it, you see? But what is equally important is to look in the other direction. What anything is is defined not only in terms of what it’s made of, but of when it is and where it is: its context in time and space. Just as the meaning of a word is dependent on the context of the sentence, or the paragraph, or the book in which it is found. So, likewise, we, with our rather myopic way of looking at things.
Because analysis—the ability to analyze and to think analytically—comes from great skill in dividing wiggles. See, you may think that this is a very, very fine wiggle. You see? But I can make wiggles so little that you can’t keep track of them, because you’re not as sharp as I am, see? I’m going to make wiggles and we’re going to have a little competition: who can make the smallest wiggle and keep track of them? Because that’s a test. If you can keep track of them and you can prove it to someone else. Of course, if you get down so small [that] nobody can keep track of you, then they don’t know whether you’re a charlatan or not. But if you can keep track of the wiggles and prove to other people that you kept track of them—see, this is the whole game of scholarly one-upmanship: if you can keep track of it. It’s the same with certain kinds of music, you see? You can do very complicated rhythms, and they’ll believe you if you can do it again. It’s not enough to do it once, they say, “Do that again! Or was that a fluke?” That shows, you see, that you’re in control and you’ve been able to count out the beats.
So, through the analytical mind—which pays attention to the details—we have got great skill in doing that. But you do that at the expense of neglecting completely the other side of things: in what context does every individual wiggle happen? See? That’s just the other side of it. It’s very important to define the wiggle, but you can’t define the wiggle unless the wiggle has an environment. The outside of the wiggle is just as important as the inside. So, in the same way, everybody has an outside and everybody has an inside. We identify ourselves with what is inside—we say, “That’s me”—and thereby ignore the fact that what is outside you is just as much your outside as what is inside you is your inside. And that’s always overlooked.
And, I mean—when I talk about your outside I don’t mean just the surface of your skin. I mean everything outside your skin, that’s your outside. And if that isn’t functioning in a certain way, the inside doesn’t function either. They go together. It’s like when a snake moves: the snake makes a curl, and so one side of it is convex and the other side is concave. Which side moves first? Why, they both move together. And so, in the same way, the inside world and the outside world are not different—in the sense that they’re not separate. They’re different, yes: one’s inside, the other’s outside. But they’re not separate. They move together. Only, we’re unaware of it—in the ordinary way—through a kind of psychological myopia of fixing on, of being hung up on certain ways of looking at things.
There’s a Buddhist word—kleśa (क्लेश) in Sanskrit, bonno (煩悩) in Japanese—that we normally translate ‘attachment’ or ‘defiling passion.’ The exact translation of kleśa in modern American is ‘hangup.’ It’s a perfect word for it: to have a hangup. And so, to be hung up on a fixed way of looking at things that the world is only divided in this way, and that way, and the other way is to fail to see what I’ve been describing, then, as the going-togetherness, the inseparability of all insides from all outsides and vice versa, and of all organisms from their environments and vice versa.
You can get this very clearly when you realize that, if you get hung up on the viewpoint of separateness, then even your body is not a unity. You are just a mass of cells. And if, then, you take in physics: you’re not even cells, you’re molecules. Not even molecules, just atoms. Not even atoms! Just subatomic particles; wavicles, or whatever. And you disintegrate everything into that, and you realize that there are vast spaces between all these tiny little wiglets—whatever they are; wavicles—huge spaces. Y’know, if a molecule in your body was magnified to the size of a tennis ball, the nearest one would be quite a way away. Well, what ties all this together, you know? How can you look at that as a unity? Well, it’s tied together by space, fields of force, gravitation.
And so, in exactly the same way, look at us behaving around here from a larger level of magnification, and you could very easily see that we are just as tied together as the molecules in our hands, and that generation after generation—you know—we come and go. You look at the leaves coming on the trees in the spring, and you can say—you can describe this in so many different ways. You can say “These are new leaves. Last year’s leaves fell off and have fallen into the ground, and now a new generation of leaves come which are quite different.” And if a leaf had an ego—you see—it would say, “Wowee! I’ve come into being! I’m new.” But from another point of view you could just say, “The tree is leaf-ing again.” This is something the tree does, like every so often a man gets up in the morning and he shaves: he’s shaving. See? And he stops doing that; the next morning, he’s shaving again. Now, is the shaving as if something that has an ego? And that every day’s shave is a different shave? It is, from one point of view. It is different, but it’s also shaving; it’s the same.
It’s because we’re so fascinated with the individual details of people that, generation after generation, we say they’re quite different. But somebody who really was from Mars and didn’t understand people would say they keep on coming, they’re just the same ones coming back. So every year’s leaves are the same old leaves coming back, see? They die, they are re-absorbed, and they keep coming back. The thing keeps doing it again, but there are these spaces in it, you see? It’s like the troughs between the crests of a wave. And we say—where there are those spaces we don’t see anything—so we say, “That’s finished!” So, when you die you think, “Well, that’s finished. Too bad!” But, you see, what you are—really—is the energy field, and it keeps doing you! It keeps people-ing. And it’s you who keep people-ing. Who else is responsible? Only, of course, we mustn’t admit that we’re responsible for this because the whole game is to pretend you aren’t. See? It’s happening, but it has nothing to do with me; I’m not in control of this.