If you were told that you were going to be given half an hour’s interview with God, and you had the privilege of asking one question- I wonder what you would ask. You might be given some preparation, too. Because, when you think what is your ultimate question, you will probably do many things before you arrive at it and I know many people would discover that they had no question to ask. The situation would be altogether too overwhelming. But many people to whom I’ve put this problem say that the question that they would ask is: Who am I. And that is something we know very little about. Because whatever it is that we call I is too close for inspection. It’s like trying to bite your own teeth. Or to touch the tip of your finger with the tip of the same finger. And although other people can tell you who you are and do, they only see you from the outside, as you see them from the outside. And you don’t see from the inside. And so the nature of what is that we call eye is extremely puzzling. Because there is some confusion as to how much of us is I. 

 

We talk in ordinary ways about my body. My feet. And when we go to the dentist to have out teeth fixed, we regard him rather as a mechanic. Like you take your car to the garage so you take your body to the surgeon or the dentist or whatever it is to be fixed how the parts changed or something of that kind. And they’re really getting to work on that now. And so the question is when somebody has a heart transplant. That sounds very radical because we say in my heart of hearts. But nowadays most of us seem to feel that whatever it is, that I is, is located in the head. Somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears is the center. And the rest of us is an appendage a vehicle which carries the self around. Now popular speech also reflects the sensation. That I am very different from what we call the other. Other people, other things. Anything that we can become aware of is sort of other. There is an opposition apparently between the knower and the known. And so we talk about facing reality. We talk about coming into this world. As if somehow we didn’t belong. As if instead of being leaves growing out of a tree we were a lot of birds that had alighted on bare branches. And it has become common sense for most people living in the twentieth century today to adopt the nineteenth century philosophy of science. Which interprets the physical universe outside human bodies as being a mechanical contraption which is essentially stupid, unfeeling automatic, Composed of mainly geological elements: rocks gases and so forth. And therefore we feel rather alone and left out of this thing. In contrast with the ideas of Ptolemaic astronomy. Instead of being at the center of the universe. We are on the outer limits of a minor galaxy revolving around an unimportant star. On a small minute ball of rock. And therefore that astronomical way of looking at things is simply overwhelming. It makes us feel not only of no importance but also very much left out. And as a result, that is the common sense of most people living today. 

 

We did of course have a religious view of our nature that we were the children of a loving God who is in charge of this whole operation. But very few people actually believe that anymore. A great many people think they ought to believe it and would like to believe in it but they don’t. Most ministers that I know don’t believe it but they feel guilty about this because they feel they ought to. But it became implausible. There never was a serious argument against it. It simply became unthinkable in comparison with the dimensions of the universe as we now see it. So having lost a way of looking at the world, an image of the world which gave us some sense of meaning, we now have an image of the world which gives us none at all. And so we feel rather inclined to put up a fight against the whole show. Interestingly enough, when in the nineteenth century we switched our common sense from supernaturalism to naturalism, one would think that a naturalist would be a person who love nature. Just as a materialist ought to be a person who loves material but certainly isn’t. With what is called a philosophy of scientific naturalism. Naturalism is used in a negative way. It has nothing to do with being natural it has something to do with being not supernatural, Merely natural. And all sorts of phrases with coined in that epoch which I would call put down phrases. Freud spoke of the basic psychic energy as Libido, which means blind lust. People like Ernst Hegel spoke of the universe as being a manifestation of blind energy. Think of that put down word blind. And therefore we also speak of unconscious mental mechanisms. And the very word unconscious as being the deeper aspect of our psyche is a negative word and a put down word. So is to say what you are functioning as a rational ego with values and with a capacity to love, is simply the epiphenomenon of a purely mechanical process. To bad. So as a result of this so-called naturalism we began to put up the most whopping fight against nature that was ever engaged in. And that fight is an expression of our fury and of a feeling of being left out. So that the technological experiment which became possible as a result of the mechanical Sciences has largely been conducted in a spirit of rage. And the results are evident all around us. Here in Palm Springs. You are gradually getting all the smog from Los Angeles. This great cloud of poisonous gas put up by a city which is exemplary in this whole civilized world for fouling it’s own nest. Perhaps only Calcutta could be a bit worse. Or some such terrible slum. But we have done it by technology. By ruthless beating about of nature without consideration for what the scientist would call our ecology. 

 

Ecology is that aspect of science which deals with the relationship between organisms and their environments. Ecology is the study of the balance of nature. Of the way in which every living being depends upon innumerable other living beings of all species. And also upon inanimate forces. Air, water, temperature, gases, vegetation and all sorts of things. And this is one of the most important sciences that we can possibly study today. Because we are in a position where we realize that we cannot help interfering with the world. To be alive is to interfere. You must interfere. You cannot go back and say: Hands off nature. let’s leave it all alone. Because you’re stuck with it. Especially once you’ve started to interfere in a major way. We have so altered our environment that there is no hope for it but to go ahead. But we can, to some extent, change direction. But the only way that I can see of our effectively changing direction is through a transformation of the feeling that we have of our own existence and of what we mean by I. The reason for this is simply that all kinds of intelligent and even powerful people like, say, Laurance Rockefeller who are interested in ecology and in conservation of our natural resources, they can scream their heads off but nobody pays any attention. There is as yet no really serious program at the government level to do anything radical about the pollution of water, the waste of water, pollution of air and the general ravaging of the United States of America. I’m amazed that congressman can pass a bill imposing severe penalties on anyone who burns the American flag, whereas they are responsible for burning that for which the flag stands. The United States as a territory, as a people, and as a biological manifestation. That is an example of our perennial confusion of symbols with realities. Which is in a way at the heart of the trouble because what we think of as I is much more a symbol than it is a reality. The living organism, the whole mind-body, is much more than anything we mean by I. I largely stands for your personality. Your role in life. And the very word person, as you probably know, comes from the Latin persona. A word originally used for the mask worn by actors in Graeco-Roman drama. That through which sound comes, because the mask had a mega phonic mouth to carry the voice an open air theaters. So when you speak of being a real person, it really means being a genuine fake. Because the personality is only the front. What is behind it? Well of course the organism is behind it. The whole organism. And we must be very careful not to confuse the organism with various symbols that we have for it, because those symbols can be extremely misleading. If we say the organism is the body, what we usually mean by the body, is an impoverished meaning. When we speak of my body that is to say my vehicle, my physical automobile. That is an unenriched meaning of the word body. Because what you really are as a body, as a living organism, is not some sort of separate existence coated by a skin which divides you from the rest of the world. Shakespeare has King John saying to Hubert: “Within this wall of flesh there is a soul counts thee her creditor.” Within this wall of flesh: the skin considered as a barrier. When actually, from a biological point of view, the human skin and all skins are osmotic membranes. You know when you get something by osmosis. By sort of soaking it in. So in the same way one’s skin is a spongy construction full of holes. Full of communicators, nerve endings. And your skin is simply a vibrating membrane through which the so-called external world flows into you and through you. So that you yourself actually are not so much an entity that moves around in an environment. You are much more like a whirlpool in a stream. And, as you know, the whirlpool is constant only in its doing, that is to say in its whirling. And you could recognize individual whirligigs in a stream. But the water is flowing through them all the time. They are never the same but for a second. And so it is also with us. Or imagine it in another way supposing you have a rope and one foot of the rope is made of hemp, one foot of it is made of cotton, one foot of it is made of silk, one foot of it is made of nylon and so on. Now tie a simple knot in the rope. Now move the knot along the rope. And one minute it will be hemp, the next cotton, next silk, next nylon and so on. Same knot. It will be recognizable as a continuing knot, as that knot. The knot in that rope. But the constitution of it will change as it moves. And so our constitution is changing constantly. Imagine for example a university. The student body undergraduate changes every four years. The faculty changes every so often. The buildings keep changing more and more. What constitutes the University of California? It certainly isn’t the faculty, it isn’t the students, it isn’t the governors, it isn’t the administration, it isn’t the buildings. What is it? Why a doing. A behavior. A university-ing process of study and experiment and so on. So it is exactly the same with you. You flow. You are a process. 

 

But how do we draw the line about this process and its relationship to all other processes? We find that a very difficult thing to do the more you think about it. If you really felt with your whole organism, instead of just with that part of it called conscious attention, you would become aware of this flowing fact. And you would get a very strange feeling which at first might frighten you. It is possible of course to have this feeling. And the feeling is like this: You would not be quite sure how to interpret it. You might feel that you yourself were doing everything else that’s happening. That would be one way of feeling. The other way of feeling it would be that you are doing nothing at all. But that everything else is doing you. And you would feel completely passive like a puppet on the end of strings. Although on the other hand if you got the feeling that you were doing it all you would feel like God Almighty. It is very easy for our consciousness to slip into this state of sensation. It can happen spontaneously, like measles. It can happen by training. As when someone practices yoga. It can happen chemically as when certain drugs are taken. And one has to be very careful about this feeling because it’s enormously easy to misinterpret. Either as being omnipotent, being God in the personal, literal sense. Or as being helpless and merely driven. Now what should be understood is that both these ways of feeling are right. Only they must both be taken together. To be simultaneously omnipotent and helpless. These are two poles, opposite poles of one and the same state. Because the message that is coming through, and that we find difficulty in understanding, because it’s contrary to our common sense, contrary to our whole history and conditioning, the message that’s coming through is: you as a living organism and all that is going on in your environment constitute a single process. What in physics we would call a unified field. A single process like a pattern but you know any pattern has all sorts of subsidiary wiggles in it. Like the organism itself is a unified pattern but it’s full of wiggles. All sorts of tubes and organs and bones and nerves and so on. Working in this way. You know the body doesn’t have a boss. We could pitch a big argument. Who is really the top dog in your body, your stomach or your brain? I can argue for both ways. Let’s first argue for the stomach. The stomach is fundamental. That’s what eats and eating is the fundamental thing of being alive. By putting food into the stomach it digests it and from there it goes out and energizes everything else. Obviously the stomach is the most important. The hands, the mouth, the feet all exist to serve the stomach and naturally as a final achievement of the stomach is the brain. Evolving later in the evolutionary process as a gadget up there to scavenge around and find stuff for the stomach to eat, that’s the function the brain. But now let’s take the argument to the side of the brain. The brain says: “Oh no no. I’m not. Just because I arrived late doesn’t mean that I’m unimportant. I was being gotten ready for. Because I am the thing that is the flower at the top of this thing. And this tube with stomachs in it and things below was preparing for me and the stomach is my servant. It is doing all the dirty work and getting energy to put currents through my wonderful circuits. So that by the creation of all the goods of the mind of the Arts and Sciences and religion and philosophy and so on I shall be the true head of man. Well both arguments are right. Because you have a relationship between stomach and brain, which is a sort of polarity. The one exists for the other. It’s like when you prop up two sticks against each other they will stand up so long as they lean on each other. Take one away and the other collapses. So chop off the head and the stomach is finished. Take out the stomach and the head is finished. So this is the way all organic life proceeds. It’s different with mechanical life. Because the mechanism must invariably have a boss. The man who puts the machine together, the person who constructs the computer, who designs it, who asks it questions, who programs it. He is the boss. But organisms don’t have bosses. They are essentially, I would say, democratic arrangements. Where, somehow, in a marvelous way, an enormous company of cells are working together. But that isn’t the way, the body wasn’t sort of: one day a lot of cells all crept to together and said: We are a body. That does sometimes happen in the biological domain, but much rather this: when you watch the gestation of a mammal, you see first of all a very simple little organism. Which swells. And as it swells, it becomes more and more complicated from within. No parts are added, nothing is screwed on, there’s no welding done or anything like that. It bulges and of course it does absorb material, but it transforms it. But all of it works together at once like the legs of a centipede. Like you work all together at once. For, you see, when we come down to it, you think you decide things, but you don’t know how you do it. 

 

How do you open and close your hand? And you can decide I will now open my and do it, but you don’t know how it’s done. And yet in a sense you do know how it’s done because you say I know how to open my hand. But you don’t know in words. You can’t explain it. Still less can you explain how you see, still less can you explain how you are conscious. How are you an ego? Well you don’t know because the springs of being conscious, of being an ego are outside the surveillance of consciousness. They’re somehow underneath. And that lets the cat out of the bag at once, because you see that what is I is something very very much deeper than the superficial consciousness. And what you call I in the sense of the voluntary willing center, ego, has very little to do with it. You are just a watchman on top of the mast or a radar on a ship that is scanning the environment by conscious attention looking out for trouble. Or looking for food. The real you is much too complicated to think about. Supposing when you woke up in the morning, you had to switch yourself on. That is to say, you had to, by an act of conscious attention, to go through your brain and turn on all the synapses necessary for wakeful life. It’d take you hours. Supposing you really had to be conscious of all the details involved in walking or in breathing or in circulation of the blood. You’d never get around to it. So you see when we inspect the physical world with conscious attention the first thing that strikes us is that the physical world is extraordinarily complicated. How can it possibly be organized. But actually the physical world is not complicated at all. What is complicated is the task of trying to describe it in words. Or of trying to figure it out in numbers. Because that is analogous to the task of, say, removing the water from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic with a beer mug. We can only take one mug at a time. And so we say in popular speech you can only think of one thing at a time. That’s not exactly true but what it reveals is that thinking, that conscious thought is a kind of calculus in which we understand things bit by bit. And it leads us into the superstition that things really are bits. Now, when you eat chicken of course you have to bite it. And you take it in bits. And to make it easier to bite you order from the grocer a cut up fryer. But you don’t get cut up fryers out of eggs. Because you see although we can speak of A chicken, AN egg, or A body, it is not actually a bit. It hasn’t been bitten off except for purposes of thinking. Now. 

 

This is beautifully brought out in a passage from Whitehead, which I will read to you. He is discussing the nineteenth century philosophy of science, which I was just discussing, too. And He’s saying in this philosophy: All our impressions of nature are simply products of our minds. Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves. The rose for its sent the nightingale for his song and the sun for his radiance. The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves and should turn them into odes of self congratulation on the excellency of the human mind. Nature is a dull affair. Soundless, scentless, colorless. Merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly. However you disguise it, this is the practical outcome of the characteristic scientific philosophy which closed even the seventeenth century. In the first place we must note its astounding efficiency as a system of concepts for the organization of scientific research. In this respect, it is fully worthy of the genius of the century which produced it. It has held its own as the guiding principle of scientific studies ever since. It is still raining. Every university in the world organizes itself in accordance with it. No alternative system of organizing the pursuit of scientific truth has been suggested. It is not only reigning, but it is without a rival. And yet it is quite unbelievable. This conception of the universe is surely framed in terms of high abstractions and the paradox only arises because we have mistaken our abstractions for concrete realities. He calls that, you see, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. The attribution, in other words, to our bitty way of thinking to the world which we are biting. That is misplaced concreteness. The separations between things are abstract. They are concepts. In the same way, for example, as lines of latitude and longitude are concepts. Even though a Russian poet has recently made a beautiful poem about the world being like a ball carried in a net bag. But you never expect to trip over the equator when you cross it. And although it is something quite abstract and does not exist in nature, it’s extremely useful for purposes of navigation. So in the same way, bit-ing and having words to describe particular events or particular wiggles in the universal pattern are very useful. But they are very dangerous when you confuse things with natural events. Because then you get into this sort of trouble. 

 

The trouble of the sorcerer. The surgeon who is too much of a specialist in one organ runs into that organ and alters it and does what he considers a better mechanical job than the Lord did. But then he discovers to his dismay and the even greater dismay of his patient that the operation has unforeseen consequences in some other part of the organism. Because he didn’t realize the connection. When, likewise, we object to certain insect pests. Oh, we say, get rid of them. D.D.T.. So. Then we found we got rid of something else we didn’t want to get rid of. And worse still that this insect that we didn’t like was doing a job for us in some manner of which weren’t aware and we only become aware of it when suddenly we find ourselves covered with another kind of fly altogether, or with some sort of bacteria which this insect kept down. Watch it, watch it, watch it because nature does not consist of separate things which you can just pull out like parts from an engine. Take the case of bees and flowers. Oh, we always use the bees and flowers to explain fundamental things about life but we’re going to go deeper than sex this time. Fascinating thing about bees and flowers is they are very different looking things. A flower sits still and blooms and it smells, or stinks to be correct. The bee moves about and buzzes. But they are all one organism. You don’t find flowers without bees, you don’t find bees without flowers. They are just as much one as your head and your feet which also look very different. So in that sense you see we are one with the incredible complexity of processes and wiggles upon which we depend. Although to say “upon which we depend” is not quite accurate. Because that separates us from it as if I were hanging onto a beam and depending on it. It isn’t like that. You don’t depend on it, because it depends on you. It’s a mutual arrangement. And it isn’t that one bit of this sort of came first. Although that sometimes happens. But it’s always there in potentiality, what came later. But it’s rather in the same way that, when a flower opens, you see all the different petals extending simultaneously. Especially when you watch a fast motion movie of a flower opening. And so in the same way there is a simultaneous arrival, or evolution, of the human organism and the human environment and thus biologists speak about the evolution of an environment as well as the evolution of an organism in it. In other words, human beings could not have appeared on this planet until its temperature had lowered to a certain degree, until the atmosphere contained certain gases as a result of vegetative development. And then the environment became evolved enough for human beings to appear in it. Evolved enough? I’ll say if something further: intelligent enough for the appearance in it of intelligent beings. For your environment is intelligent. Otherwise you couldn’t be. You see, as Jesus said, you don’t gather figs off thistles or grapes from thorns. You won’t get pears off an apple tree. So you won’t find people except on a people tree. And this planet, this solar system, this galaxy is people-ing in exactly the same way that an apple tree apples. 

 

Put our existence into verb language, as distinct from noun language, and you’re much closer to the point. You see nouns have the difficulty of designating things. Verbs designate process. Now everything is a process, really. When we speak of housing for houses, matting for maps, we’re getting there. The Nootka Indians have a language in which there are no nouns. So they say: it houses. And then they add an adverb to show whether it houses religiously, homeyly or marketingly. And so they see the world as the flow. What is IT that houses.What is it that rains when we say it is raining. You see we always have a funny idea that to get a verb, that is to say, to get action you have to have an agent. Now this is the most ridiculous idea conceivable. How can a noun start a verb? How can a thing start an event? Because there’s no action in a thing. Action can only come from action. Energy from energy. You can’t get energy from a concept. Because nouns are all concepts, they’re abstract, really. It’s only verbs that are concrete. As the world is process. Now, common sense insists that the pattern of the world must be made of something. Because we still think with Aristotle’s common sense. Or with the imagery of the Book of Genesis where God made Adam out of the clay. In other words he made a clay figurine and breathed breath into it and it became alive. And so we constantly think that we are made of flesh as a flesh with some sort of stuff like clay out of which you shape bodies or like you make tables out of wood. Are trees made out of wood? What a ridiculous question. Trees are wood. They’re not made of wood. And it is simply this artifact thing that gives us the idea of the well being made out of something. It isn’t made out of anything. And so when physics tries to investigate what is the stuff of matter, it can’t find any. Because you can never talk about anything except a process. You can describe what a process is doing, you can describe the structure, the nature of the dance, whether it’s doing a waltz or a mazurka or the frog or whatever it is. Then you can describe that melody, shall we say, what it is performing. But there is nothing doing the performing at all. There is no stuff out of which it’s being done because when you examine stuff you just find more pattern. What you mean by stuff is fuzz. When you look at something with a lens and you’re out of focus you see fuzz. But when you come into focus you see structure. Right now the structure is made of all sorts of little lines and things. You can see them and you want to what are they made of. So you turn up the magnification and for a while you get a lot of fuzz but when you’re clear again you see that those little lines are also made of more little lines and more structure. Big patterns have little patterns upon the backs to bite them, and so on. And that’s the way it goes. So. Suddenly you feel rather insecure because stuff has disappeared there’s a famous story about a physicist who understood this so well, but he always went about in the most enormous padded shoes because he was afraid of falling through the floor. Now look what’s happened. Just look and see what has happened to us. If we go through everything that I’ve been saying, we find, first of all, that the thing that we thought was I is nothing more than a social institution. Just like the equator. Or an inch. And to mistake it, to reify it, as Whitehead would say, is the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It’s a strictly a hallucination. And any certain amount of psychological self-exploration shows this to be the case. But what we are is the organism. And what the organism is is a transactional interchange between the organism and the environment. It’s not quite correct to say you’re doing it and it’s doing you because, you see, Whitehead, in describing the scientific philosophy, saying, for example, that blue is entirely our projection on the sky, he’s half right, you see. Those scientists he’s talking about are half right. But the part of it that is left out of consideration is this: True, you with your optical nerves and eyes transform the sky into the blue feeling. But without the sky you wouldn’t have any optical nerves. It works both ways you see. Without the air whose density gives the blue effect. It’s mutual. You do it and it does you. But that’s, as I said, a two-way, a clumsy way of talking about: it’s all one process, a unified process. And furthermore from this process there has disappeared what we thought was solidity. What we thought was common sense, substance and stuff- it’s just pattern. And at once one feels sort of ghostly. As if you could be easily blown away. And that’s why the Hindus call the universe the Maya. Which means the illusion. Don’t forget illusion is related to the Latin word ludere- to play. So the play. Big act. It also means magic. As in a conjuror’s creation of an illusion. It also means creative power. It also means art. Finally it means the divine power. The Maya of the Lord. Lord is a bad translation of Bhagavan. Just the Divine One. Lord means boss and the Hindus don’t do it that way. But now you see, having arranged this general introduction, which I’m afraid will be familiar to some of you who’ve attended my seminars before; but I’ve arranged this general introduction to raise the question: All right. If that’s the way it is. How on earth are we going to arrange a transformation of man’s consciousness so that he’ll know it. Not just in theory but something he feels in the same way as you feel what you take to be I at the present moment, confronting an external world. How will you transform that sensation? Because if you don’t transform that sensation, you are not ever be fit to use technology. We shall continue to use our technology in a hostile spirit towards the external world and we shall wreck the external world. We’re busy doing it now. There is no necessity to abandon technology. We can’t adapt. But we can certainly use it in a different spirit. I’ve just been in the island of Ceylon, which is a garden. A beautiful beautiful place. But it’s completely undeveloped from a technical point of view and it’s in very bad economic circumstances because nobody wants to buy natural rubber anymore. It has no foreign exchange. It is very peaceful. But the change has got to come. So I discussed with one of the high members of the government the possibility that we could set up in Ceylon an experimental station. Which would serve not only India eventually and Africa, but us, too. A an institute of ecological technology. Where we could in that experimental Island work out ways of production, of mechanization, automation and so on which would not ruin the island. And you have to do that sort of thing with a certain dedication because one of the reasons why we make such a mess with technology. is that the shareholders in any given corporation want to make a fast buck. Now there’s nothing wrong, you see, in wanting to be rich. There’s nothing at all wrong in being rich, in fact I think the world without rich people would be extraordinarily boring. Point is, you have to understand what riches are. And they are not money. Riches are land, clothes, food, housing, intelligence, energy, skill, iron, forests, gardens- those are riches. But when you’re concentrating, you see, only on making the buck. Doesn’t occur to you that you’re not really getting rich, you’re just impoverishing yourself. Like, you know, when you’re up up up up up prices, the value of the dollar goes down down down down down. You’re just on a rat race, on a treadmill. The faster it moves, it doesn’t get anywhere. Well it doesn’t even stay in the same place. So it is that kind again, you see, this is another example of confusing the symbol with the reality, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness as Whitehead calls it. So we should devote the rest of the seminar to discussing the various ways in which it is proposed that we bring about or assist the bringing about of that change in our perception and conception of our own existence. So that we can feel ourselves the way we are. As distinct from the way in which we’ve been told to feel ourselves.

MACHINE TRANSCRIPT

ORDER HUMAN TRANSCRIPT

If you were told that you were going to be given half an hour’s interview with God, and you had the privilege of asking one question- I wonder what you would ask. You might be given some preparation, too. Because, when you think what is your ultimate question, you will probably do many things before you arrive at it and I know many people would discover that they had no question to ask. The situation would be altogether too overwhelming. But many people to whom I’ve put this problem say that the question that they would ask is: Who am I. And that is something we know very little about. Because whatever it is that we call I is too close for inspection. It’s like trying to bite your own teeth. Or to touch the tip of your finger with the tip of the same finger. And although other people can tell you who you are and do, they only see you from the outside, as you see them from the outside. And you don’t see from the inside. And so the nature of what is that we call eye is extremely puzzling. Because there is some confusion as to how much of us is I.

 

We talk in ordinary ways about my body. My feet. And when we go to the dentist to have out teeth fixed, we regard him rather as a mechanic. Like you take your car to the garage so you take your body to the surgeon or the dentist or whatever it is to be fixed how the parts changed or something of that kind. And they’re really getting to work on that now. And so the question is when somebody has a heart transplant. That sounds very radical because we say in my heart of hearts. But nowadays most of us seem to feel that whatever it is, that I is, is located in the head. Somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears is the center. And the rest of us is an appendage a vehicle which carries the self around. Now popular speech also reflects the sensation. That I am very different from what we call the other. Other people, other things. Anything that we can become aware of is sort of other. There is an opposition apparently between the knower and the known. And so we talk about facing reality. We talk about coming into this world. As if somehow we didn’t belong. As if instead of being leaves growing out of a tree we were a lot of birds that had alighted on bare branches. And it has become common sense for most people living in the twentieth century today to adopt the nineteenth century philosophy of science. Which interprets the physical universe outside human bodies as being a mechanical contraption which is essentially stupid, unfeeling automatic, Composed of mainly geological elements: rocks gases and so forth. And therefore we feel rather alone and left out of this thing. In contrast with the ideas of Ptolemaic astronomy. Instead of being at the center of the universe. We are on the outer limits of a minor galaxy revolving around an unimportant star. On a small minute ball of rock. And therefore that astronomical way of looking at things is simply overwhelming. It makes us feel not only of no importance but also very much left out. And as a result, that is the common sense of most people living today.

 

We did of course have a religious view of our nature that we were the children of a loving God who is in charge of this whole operation. But very few people actually believe that anymore. A great many people think they ought to believe it and would like to believe in it but they don’t. Most ministers that I know don’t believe it but they feel guilty about this because they feel they ought to. But it became implausible. There never was a serious argument against it. It simply became unthinkable in comparison with the dimensions of the universe as we now see it. So having lost a way of looking at the world, an image of the world which gave us some sense of meaning, we now have an image of the world which gives us none at all. And so we feel rather inclined to put up a fight against the whole show. Interestingly enough, when in the nineteenth century we switched our common sense from supernaturalism to naturalism, one would think that a naturalist would be a person who love nature. Just as a materialist ought to be a person who loves material but certainly isn’t. With what is called a philosophy of scientific naturalism. Naturalism is used in a negative way. It has nothing to do with being natural it has something to do with being not supernatural, Merely natural. And all sorts of phrases with coined in that epoch which I would call put down phrases. Freud spoke of the basic psychic energy as Libido, which means blind lust. People like Ernst Hegel spoke of the universe as being a manifestation of blind energy. Think of that put down word blind. And therefore we also speak of unconscious mental mechanisms. And the very word unconscious as being the deeper aspect of our psyche is a negative word and a put down word. So is to say what you are functioning as a rational ego with values and with a capacity to love, is simply the epiphenomenon of a purely mechanical process. To bad. So as a result of this so-called naturalism we began to put up the most whopping fight against nature that was ever engaged in. And that fight is an expression of our fury and of a feeling of being left out. So that the technological experiment which became possible as a result of the mechanical Sciences has largely been conducted in a spirit of rage. And the results are evident all around us. Here in Palm Springs. You are gradually getting all the smog from Los Angeles. This great cloud of poisonous gas put up by a city which is exemplary in this whole civilized world for fouling it’s own nest. Perhaps only Calcutta could be a bit worse. Or some such terrible slum. But we have done it by technology. By ruthless beating about of nature without consideration for what the scientist would call our ecology.

 

Ecology is that aspect of science which deals with the relationship between organisms and their environments. Ecology is the study of the balance of nature. Of the way in which every living being depends upon innumerable other living beings of all species. And also upon inanimate forces. Air, water, temperature, gases, vegetation and all sorts of things. And this is one of the most important sciences that we can possibly study today. Because we are in a position where we realize that we cannot help interfering with the world. To be alive is to interfere. You must interfere. You cannot go back and say: Hands off nature. let’s leave it all alone. Because you’re stuck with it. Especially once you’ve started to interfere in a major way. We have so altered our environment that there is no hope for it but to go ahead. But we can, to some extent, change direction. But the only way that I can see of our effectively changing direction is through a transformation of the feeling that we have of our own existence and of what we mean by I. The reason for this is simply that all kinds of intelligent and even powerful people like, say, Laurance Rockefeller who are interested in ecology and in conservation of our natural resources, they can scream their heads off but nobody pays any attention. There is as yet no really serious program at the government level to do anything radical about the pollution of water, the waste of water, pollution of air and the general ravaging of the United States of America. I’m amazed that congressman can pass a bill imposing severe penalties on anyone who burns the American flag, whereas they are responsible for burning that for which the flag stands. The United States as a territory, as a people, and as a biological manifestation. That is an example of our perennial confusion of symbols with realities. Which is in a way at the heart of the trouble because what we think of as I is much more a symbol than it is a reality. The living organism, the whole mind-body, is much more than anything we mean by I. I largely stands for your personality. Your role in life. And the very word person, as you probably know, comes from the Latin persona. A word originally used for the mask worn by actors in Graeco-Roman drama. That through which sound comes, because the mask had a mega phonic mouth to carry the voice an open air theaters. So when you speak of being a real person, it really means being a genuine fake. Because the personality is only the front. What is behind it? Well of course the organism is behind it. The whole organism. And we must be very careful not to confuse the organism with various symbols that we have for it, because those symbols can be extremely misleading. If we say the organism is the body, what we usually mean by the body, is an impoverished meaning. When we speak of my body that is to say my vehicle, my physical automobile. That is an unenriched meaning of the word body. Because what you really are as a body, as a living organism, is not some sort of separate existence coated by a skin which divides you from the rest of the world. Shakespeare has King John saying to Hubert: “Within this wall of flesh there is a soul counts thee her creditor.” Within this wall of flesh: the skin considered as a barrier. When actually, from a biological point of view, the human skin and all skins are osmotic membranes. You know when you get something by osmosis. By sort of soaking it in. So in the same way one’s skin is a spongy construction full of holes. Full of communicators, nerve endings. And your skin is simply a vibrating membrane through which the so-called external world flows into you and through you. So that you yourself actually are not so much an entity that moves around in an environment. You are much more like a whirlpool in a stream. And, as you know, the whirlpool is constant only in its doing, that is to say in its whirling. And you could recognize individual whirligigs in a stream. But the water is flowing through them all the time. They are never the same but for a second. And so it is also with us. Or imagine it in another way supposing you have a rope and one foot of the rope is made of hemp, one foot of it is made of cotton, one foot of it is made of silk, one foot of it is made of nylon and so on. Now tie a simple knot in the rope. Now move the knot along the rope. And one minute it will be hemp, the next cotton, next silk, next nylon and so on. Same knot. It will be recognizable as a continuing knot, as that knot. The knot in that rope. But the constitution of it will change as it moves. And so our constitution is changing constantly. Imagine for example a university. The student body undergraduate changes every four years. The faculty changes every so often. The buildings keep changing more and more. What constitutes the University of California? It certainly isn’t the faculty, it isn’t the students, it isn’t the governors, it isn’t the administration, it isn’t the buildings. What is it? Why a doing. A behavior. A university-ing process of study and experiment and so on. So it is exactly the same with you. You flow. You are a process.

 

But how do we draw the line about this process and its relationship to all other processes? We find that a very difficult thing to do the more you think about it. If you really felt with your whole organism, instead of just with that part of it called conscious attention, you would become aware of this flowing fact. And you would get a very strange feeling which at first might frighten you. It is possible of course to have this feeling. And the feeling is like this: You would not be quite sure how to interpret it. You might feel that you yourself were doing everything else that’s happening. That would be one way of feeling. The other way of feeling it would be that you are doing nothing at all. But that everything else is doing you. And you would feel completely passive like a puppet on the end of strings. Although on the other hand if you got the feeling that you were doing it all you would feel like God Almighty. It is very easy for our consciousness to slip into this state of sensation. It can happen spontaneously, like measles. It can happen by training. As when someone practices yoga. It can happen chemically as when certain drugs are taken. And one has to be very careful about this feeling because it’s enormously easy to misinterpret. Either as being omnipotent, being God in the personal, literal sense. Or as being helpless and merely driven. Now what should be understood is that both these ways of feeling are right. Only they must both be taken together. To be simultaneously omnipotent and helpless. These are two poles, opposite poles of one and the same state. Because the message that is coming through, and that we find difficulty in understanding, because it’s contrary to our common sense, contrary to our whole history and conditioning, the message that’s coming through is: you as a living organism and all that is going on in your environment constitute a single process. What in physics we would call a unified field. A single process like a pattern but you know any pattern has all sorts of subsidiary wiggles in it. Like the organism itself is a unified pattern but it’s full of wiggles. All sorts of tubes and organs and bones and nerves and so on. Working in this way. You know the body doesn’t have a boss. We could pitch a big argument. Who is really the top dog in your body, your stomach or your brain? I can argue for both ways. Let’s first argue for the stomach. The stomach is fundamental. That’s what eats and eating is the fundamental thing of being alive. By putting food into the stomach it digests it and from there it goes out and energizes everything else. Obviously the stomach is the most important. The hands, the mouth, the feet all exist to serve the stomach and naturally as a final achievement of the stomach is the brain. Evolving later in the evolutionary process as a gadget up there to scavenge around and find stuff for the stomach to eat, that’s the function the brain. But now let’s take the argument to the side of the brain. The brain says: “Oh no no. I’m not. Just because I arrived late doesn’t mean that I’m unimportant. I was being gotten ready for. Because I am the thing that is the flower at the top of this thing. And this tube with stomachs in it and things below was preparing for me and the stomach is my servant. It is doing all the dirty work and getting energy to put currents through my wonderful circuits. So that by the creation of all the goods of the mind of the Arts and Sciences and religion and philosophy and so on I shall be the true head of man. Well both arguments are right. Because you have a relationship between stomach and brain, which is a sort of polarity. The one exists for the other. It’s like when you prop up two sticks against each other they will stand up so long as they lean on each other. Take one away and the other collapses. So chop off the head and the stomach is finished. Take out the stomach and the head is finished. So this is the way all organic life proceeds. It’s different with mechanical life. Because the mechanism must invariably have a boss. The man who puts the machine together, the person who constructs the computer, who designs it, who asks it questions, who programs it. He is the boss. But organisms don’t have bosses. They are essentially, I would say, democratic arrangements. Where, somehow, in a marvelous way, an enormous company of cells are working together. But that isn’t the way, the body wasn’t sort of: one day a lot of cells all crept to together and said: We are a body. That does sometimes happen in the biological domain, but much rather this: when you watch the gestation of a mammal, you see first of all a very simple little organism. Which swells. And as it swells, it becomes more and more complicated from within. No parts are added, nothing is screwed on, there’s no welding done or anything like that. It bulges and of course it does absorb material, but it transforms it. But all of it works together at once like the legs of a centipede. Like you work all together at once. For, you see, when we come down to it, you think you decide things, but you don’t know how you do it.

 

How do you open and close your hand? And you can decide I will now open my and do it, but you don’t know how it’s done. And yet in a sense you do know how it’s done because you say I know how to open my hand. But you don’t know in words. You can’t explain it. Still less can you explain how you see, still less can you explain how you are conscious. How are you an ego? Well you don’t know because the springs of being conscious, of being an ego are outside the surveillance of consciousness. They’re somehow underneath. And that lets the cat out of the bag at once, because you see that what is I is something very very much deeper than the superficial consciousness. And what you call I in the sense of the voluntary willing center, ego, has very little to do with it. You are just a watchman on top of the mast or a radar on a ship that is scanning the environment by conscious attention looking out for trouble. Or looking for food. The real you is much too complicated to think about. Supposing when you woke up in the morning, you had to switch yourself on. That is to say, you had to, by an act of conscious attention, to go through your brain and turn on all the synapses necessary for wakeful life. It’d take you hours. Supposing you really had to be conscious of all the details involved in walking or in breathing or in circulation of the blood. You’d never get around to it. So you see when we inspect the physical world with conscious attention the first thing that strikes us is that the physical world is extraordinarily complicated. How can it possibly be organized. But actually the physical world is not complicated at all. What is complicated is the task of trying to describe it in words. Or of trying to figure it out in numbers. Because that is analogous to the task of, say, removing the water from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic with a beer mug. We can only take one mug at a time. And so we say in popular speech you can only think of one thing at a time. That’s not exactly true but what it reveals is that thinking, that conscious thought is a kind of calculus in which we understand things bit by bit. And it leads us into the superstition that things really are bits. Now, when you eat chicken of course you have to bite it. And you take it in bits. And to make it easier to bite you order from the grocer a cut up fryer. But you don’t get cut up fryers out of eggs. Because you see although we can speak of A chicken, AN egg, or A body, it is not actually a bit. It hasn’t been bitten off except for purposes of thinking. Now.

 

This is beautifully brought out in a passage from Whitehead, which I will read to you. He is discussing the nineteenth century philosophy of science, which I was just discussing, too. And He’s saying in this philosophy: All our impressions of nature are simply products of our minds. Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves. The rose for its sent the nightingale for his song and the sun for his radiance. The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves and should turn them into odes of self congratulation on the excellency of the human mind. Nature is a dull affair. Soundless, scentless, colorless. Merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly. However you disguise it, this is the practical outcome of the characteristic scientific philosophy which closed even the seventeenth century. In the first place we must note its astounding efficiency as a system of concepts for the organization of scientific research. In this respect, it is fully worthy of the genius of the century which produced it. It has held its own as the guiding principle of scientific studies ever since. It is still raining. Every university in the world organizes itself in accordance with it. No alternative system of organizing the pursuit of scientific truth has been suggested. It is not only reigning, but it is without a rival. And yet it is quite unbelievable. This conception of the universe is surely framed in terms of high abstractions and the paradox only arises because we have mistaken our abstractions for concrete realities. He calls that, you see, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. The attribution, in other words, to our bitty way of thinking to the world which we are biting. That is misplaced concreteness. The separations between things are abstract. They are concepts. In the same way, for example, as lines of latitude and longitude are concepts. Even though a Russian poet has recently made a beautiful poem about the world being like a ball carried in a net bag. But you never expect to trip over the equator when you cross it. And although it is something quite abstract and does not exist in nature, it’s extremely useful for purposes of navigation. So in the same way, bit-ing and having words to describe particular events or particular wiggles in the universal pattern are very useful. But they are very dangerous when you confuse things with natural events. Because then you get into this sort of trouble.

 

The trouble of the sorcerer. The surgeon who is too much of a specialist in one organ runs into that organ and alters it and does what he considers a better mechanical job than the Lord did. But then he discovers to his dismay and the even greater dismay of his patient that the operation has unforeseen consequences in some other part of the organism. Because he didn’t realize the connection. When, likewise, we object to certain insect pests. Oh, we say, get rid of them. D.D.T.. So. Then we found we got rid of something else we didn’t want to get rid of. And worse still that this insect that we didn’t like was doing a job for us in some manner of which weren’t aware and we only become aware of it when suddenly we find ourselves covered with another kind of fly altogether, or with some sort of bacteria which this insect kept down. Watch it, watch it, watch it because nature does not consist of separate things which you can just pull out like parts from an engine. Take the case of bees and flowers. Oh, we always use the bees and flowers to explain fundamental things about life but we’re going to go deeper than sex this time. Fascinating thing about bees and flowers is they are very different looking things. A flower sits still and blooms and it smells, or stinks to be correct. The bee moves about and buzzes. But they are all one organism. You don’t find flowers without bees, you don’t find bees without flowers. They are just as much one as your head and your feet which also look very different. So in that sense you see we are one with the incredible complexity of processes and wiggles upon which we depend. Although to say “upon which we depend” is not quite accurate. Because that separates us from it as if I were hanging onto a beam and depending on it. It isn’t like that. You don’t depend on it, because it depends on you. It’s a mutual arrangement. And it isn’t that one bit of this sort of came first. Although that sometimes happens. But it’s always there in potentiality, what came later. But it’s rather in the same way that, when a flower opens, you see all the different petals extending simultaneously. Especially when you watch a fast motion movie of a flower opening. And so in the same way there is a simultaneous arrival, or evolution, of the human organism and the human environment and thus biologists speak about the evolution of an environment as well as the evolution of an organism in it. In other words, human beings could not have appeared on this planet until its temperature had lowered to a certain degree, until the atmosphere contained certain gases as a result of vegetative development. And then the environment became evolved enough for human beings to appear in it. Evolved enough? I’ll say if something further: intelligent enough for the appearance in it of intelligent beings. For your environment is intelligent. Otherwise you couldn’t be. You see, as Jesus said, you don’t gather figs off thistles or grapes from thorns. You won’t get pears off an apple tree. So you won’t find people except on a people tree. And this planet, this solar system, this galaxy is people-ing in exactly the same way that an apple tree apples.

 

Put our existence into verb language, as distinct from noun language, and you’re much closer to the point. You see nouns have the difficulty of designating things. Verbs designate process. Now everything is a process, really. When we speak of housing for houses, matting for maps, we’re getting there. The Nootka Indians have a language in which there are no nouns. So they say: it houses. And then they add an adverb to show whether it houses religiously, homeyly or marketingly. And so they see the world as the flow. What is IT that houses.What is it that rains when we say it is raining. You see we always have a funny idea that to get a verb, that is to say, to get action you have to have an agent. Now this is the most ridiculous idea conceivable. How can a noun start a verb? How can a thing start an event? Because there’s no action in a thing. Action can only come from action. Energy from energy. You can’t get energy from a concept. Because nouns are all concepts, they’re abstract, really. It’s only verbs that are concrete. As the world is process. Now, common sense insists that the pattern of the world must be made of something. Because we still think with Aristotle’s common sense. Or with the imagery of the Book of Genesis where God made Adam out of the clay. In other words he made a clay figurine and breathed breath into it and it became alive. And so we constantly think that we are made of flesh as a flesh with some sort of stuff like clay out of which you shape bodies or like you make tables out of wood. Are trees made out of wood? What a ridiculous question. Trees are wood. They’re not made of wood. And it is simply this artifact thing that gives us the idea of the well being made out of something. It isn’t made out of anything. And so when physics tries to investigate what is the stuff of matter, it can’t find any. Because you can never talk about anything except a process. You can describe what a process is doing, you can describe the structure, the nature of the dance, whether it’s doing a waltz or a mazurka or the frog or whatever it is. Then you can describe that melody, shall we say, what it is performing. But there is nothing doing the performing at all. There is no stuff out of which it’s being done because when you examine stuff you just find more pattern. What you mean by stuff is fuzz. When you look at something with a lens and you’re out of focus you see fuzz. But when you come into focus you see structure. Right now the structure is made of all sorts of little lines and things. You can see them and you want to what are they made of. So you turn up the magnification and for a while you get a lot of fuzz but when you’re clear again you see that those little lines are also made of more little lines and more structure. Big patterns have little patterns upon the backs to bite them, and so on. And that’s the way it goes. So. Suddenly you feel rather insecure because stuff has disappeared there’s a famous story about a physicist who understood this so well, but he always went about in the most enormous padded shoes because he was afraid of falling through the floor. Now look what’s happened. Just look and see what has happened to us. If we go through everything that I’ve been saying, we find, first of all, that the thing that we thought was I is nothing more than a social institution. Just like the equator. Or an inch. And to mistake it, to reify it, as Whitehead would say, is the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It’s a strictly a hallucination. And any certain amount of psychological self-exploration shows this to be the case. But what we are is the organism. And what the organism is is a transactional interchange between the organism and the environment. It’s not quite correct to say you’re doing it and it’s doing you because, you see, Whitehead, in describing the scientific philosophy, saying, for example, that blue is entirely our projection on the sky, he’s half right, you see. Those scientists he’s talking about are half right. But the part of it that is left out of consideration is this: True, you with your optical nerves and eyes transform the sky into the blue feeling. But without the sky you wouldn’t have any optical nerves. It works both ways you see. Without the air whose density gives the blue effect. It’s mutual. You do it and it does you. But that’s, as I said, a two-way, a clumsy way of talking about: it’s all one process, a unified process. And furthermore from this process there has disappeared what we thought was solidity. What we thought was common sense, substance and stuff- it’s just pattern. And at once one feels sort of ghostly. As if you could be easily blown away. And that’s why the Hindus call the universe the Maya. Which means the illusion. Don’t forget illusion is related to the Latin word ludere- to play. So the play. Big act. It also means magic. As in a conjuror’s creation of an illusion. It also means creative power. It also means art. Finally it means the divine power. The Maya of the Lord. Lord is a bad translation of Bhagavan. Just the Divine One. Lord means boss and the Hindus don’t do it that way. But now you see, having arranged this general introduction, which I’m afraid will be familiar to some of you who’ve attended my seminars before; but I’ve arranged this general introduction to raise the question: All right. If that’s the way it is. How on earth are we going to arrange a transformation of man’s consciousness so that he’ll know it. Not just in theory but something he feels in the same way as you feel what you take to be I at the present moment, confronting an external world. How will you transform that sensation? Because if you don’t transform that sensation, you are not ever be fit to use technology. We shall continue to use our technology in a hostile spirit towards the external world and we shall wreck the external world. We’re busy doing it now. There is no necessity to abandon technology. We can’t adapt. But we can certainly use it in a different spirit. I’ve just been in the island of Ceylon, which is a garden. A beautiful beautiful place. But it’s completely undeveloped from a technical point of view and it’s in very bad economic circumstances because nobody wants to buy natural rubber anymore. It has no foreign exchange. It is very peaceful. But the change has got to come. So I discussed with one of the high members of the government the possibility that we could set up in Ceylon an experimental station. Which would serve not only India eventually and Africa, but us, too. A an institute of ecological technology. Where we could in that experimental Island work out ways of production, of mechanization, automation and so on which would not ruin the island. And you have to do that sort of thing with a certain dedication because one of the reasons why we make such a mess with technology. is that the shareholders in any given corporation want to make a fast buck. Now there’s nothing wrong, you see, in wanting to be rich. There’s nothing at all wrong in being rich, in fact I think the world without rich people would be extraordinarily boring. Point is, you have to understand what riches are. And they are not money. Riches are land, clothes, food, housing, intelligence, energy, skill, iron, forests, gardens- those are riches. But when you’re concentrating, you see, only on making the buck. Doesn’t occur to you that you’re not really getting rich, you’re just impoverishing yourself. Like, you know, when you’re up up up up up prices, the value of the dollar goes down down down down down. You’re just on a rat race, on a treadmill. The faster it moves, it doesn’t get anywhere. Well it doesn’t even stay in the same place. So it is that kind again, you see, this is another example of confusing the symbol with the reality, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness as Whitehead calls it. So we should devote the rest of the seminar to discussing the various ways in which it is proposed that we bring about or assist the bringing about of that change in our perception and conception of our own existence. So that we can feel ourselves the way we are. As distinct from the way in which we’ve been told to feel ourselves.