Now, I would like to try, this evening, a sort of experiment with you. Let us try the experiment of a game, and the game consists in thinking out the limits of our most wishful thinking. That is to say: we’re living in a world where we suffer and we have all kinds of problems, and let us feel free to speculate as to what would be the most delightful interpretation of all these problems that we could possibly invent. In other words, what I’m saying is this: here we are, threatened with the annihilation of the human race—not only through atomic bombs, but through overpopulation, lack of proper soil conservation, everything you can imagine. Everything my friend Aldous Huxley can think up as a terrible threat to the future of the race. We’re confronted with this very, very seriously. And supposing, for the sake of argument, that the very worst is going to happen: we’re all going to be annihilated and the human race has no future, and everything is as black as it could possibly be.
Let’s take this as a point of departure and then ask the question: if that is true—in other words, if the worst that could happen is going to happen—is there anything that would make up for it? Not necessarily, I’m not asking whether there really is anything that would make up with it, but supposing we could think up something that might, how would we think? Now, it’s not entirely trivial and silly to ask such a question, because very many important discoveries that emerge in the arts and the sciences are the result of people playing quite freely with fantasies. In other words, not so long ago at MIT, one of the professors proposed to his students that they should invent a kind of being which had, say, three fingers instead of five, or could only act with its nose, which had wings and claws and no fingers—or something. He invented all kinds of strange organic creatures and then said: how would you construct machines and furniture and knives and forks and all ordinary everyday appliances for these creatures? And as a result of this pure fantasy, several important discoveries emerged.
And so, in the same way, what I want to do is to suggest the possibility of inventing a cosmology not as a work of philosophy, but as a work of art. The intention of it is—let me repeat this—could we think up something, an explanation of human life and of the universe, which would justify all the problems, all the agonies from which we suffer and make them seem infinitely worthwhile? Could we invent out of thin air an explanation of the universe that would do this? And let us say this simply as a work of art, without asking at first whether it’s true or anything of that kind.
You see, people often accuse religionists of wishful thinking. And when I think over the religions of the world and I hear them accused of being wishful thinking, I really don’t think they’re very wishful. Think of what is promised you if you live a very good life as a good Christian. How are you going to end up? You do the very best, you’re going to go to heaven. And think of the images of heaven which the human imagination has thus far produced. Who wants to go there? Nobody does. It’s infinitely boring. Even the Islamic people, who have a little less inhibition, have thought up their idea of heaven, and it’s really rather dull. Sickeningly blissful forever. And in our kind of half-baked view of what the Hindus and the Buddhists teach, if you get the state of nirvāṇa, you’ll be sort of blissfully suspended in a thin gas forever. It doesn’t sound terribly interesting.
I would say our religions have not begun to be wishful thinking. Why don’t we really do some wishful thinking? Just as a speculation. This is a game. What would we really like to be true about this world? Now, first of all, we’ve got to start from one firm premise. That is, we’ve got to accept the facts of life as they are—in other words: that this world is as beastly as it is. It includes concentration camps, hospitals with people being mercifully tortured to stay alive with incurable cancer, and all these things, you see? It includes all that. It includes the most ghastly horrible things that actually happen. Now, what I want to suggest first of all is: could I invent out of sheer imagination a justification for a world of this kind?
So I could say: however terribly I suffer, and—what is still more difficult—however terribly the people I love suffer, there might be a theory of the world which would make it all more than worthwhile. There might be some sort of understanding to which I could come, and then in retrospect look back on all the things I had gone through, all the terrors and all the horrors, and say: I’m very happy about the whole thing. It all worked out. It is worthwhile, it is wonderful. What would such an explanation have to be? So let’s think it out.
First of all, I think the first thing we would all agree about is that if the terrible things that can happen to us in life are in some way or other to be justified, we would like to feel that we ourselves were responsible for them. By that I mean: we’d like to feel that we’re not simply the puppets of somebody else. We’re not suffering because somebody else has been cruel to us. I think we’d all like to feel that if we suffer, we ourselves are responsible for it. Because the idea of a universe in which somebody else tortures you seems to me more repugnant to our basic emotions than one in which we feel that whatever happens to us happens at our own desire. Of course, this is very difficult to imagine when we are confronted with babies dying of cancer or syphilis, and we would say: how could they possibly be responsible for what’s happening to them?
So let us suppose—don’t we have to think this way—that if these two qualifications are to be fulfilled—on the one hand that I am responsible for everything which happens to me, and on the other hand that the worst things that can happen have a justification which make them infinitely worth going through and experiencing? Then we would have to say, wouldn’t we, that in a way, all the frightening, terrifying things which a human being can undergo are, in a way, a dream. You see, I’m trying to find out what would make it tolerable. What would make it tolerable is the feeling that, somehow, sometime, we could wake up from it. We can all endure nightmares because we can wake from a nightmare. And suddenly find out: what a relief! It was only a dream after all. And then, really, we feel rather happy about it.
You see, just think of this for a moment: that if you could switch on any dream you liked every night when you went to sleep, and you could control it, and you could exploit all the possibilities of fantasy and imagination in thinking what you would like to dream, you would eventually get bored with being so well-controlled and with being so happy. And you would eventually have to—you would want to—have some dreams which you didn’t control, where you’d be surprised, where you would have adventures, where you didn’t know the outcome. It’s curious, isn’t it? We thrill ourselves all the time by going to plays and movies and reading novels where there is terrible suspense. And although we know that it’s all going to come out alright in the end, we pretend for a while, sitting in the theater, that it isn’t. That we don’t know what the issue will be. And how we enjoy that! Do you see how we put ourselves for a while—even though we jolly well know that the author has planned all this to work out alright—that we allow ourselves for a while the illusion of thinking that it might not come out alright? And herein lies the thrill.
Now supposing, in the same way, our whole life was something of this kind: that its anxieties, its tragedies, were the same kind of suspense and thrill that exists in a novel, and that we are undergoing it. What this would mean—wouldn’t it?—would be that we have within us a kind of higher self who is pretending to be the ordinary, everyday person that we are, who is acting it. That we are, in other words, that our everyday life is a dream from which we have the possibility of waking up. So let’s, for the moment, simply assume this—not as a philosophical or metaphysical truth, but simply as an idea of pure fantasy. Supposing we are all dreaming our everyday life, and that there’s a possibility of waking up from it. Now let’s go on to explore what kind of a dream this would be.
Supposing, you see, you were saying to yourself: I would like to imagine the most fascinating form of life in existence which I could possibly conceive. You would first of all want to feel unfrustrated. In other words, you would want to feel that all your movements, all your desires, could move in any direction without encountering a block. And what we mean by the sense of being physically frustrated, of the spirit being bound by the hard confines of matter, is the sense of being blocked. The sense of heaviness, the sense of bodily weight. When we’re terribly tired we feel the drag of our physical weight overwhelming us. And therefore, what we want to feel is lack of obstruction in any direction that we move. So ideally, we would like to feel a world which didn’t resist our will at all, where the wish, the flight of imagination, was instantly fulfilled.
Well, when you think about that for a while you realize that’s not exactly what you would want. Because after a while, being able to accomplish everything wouldn’t challenge you, would offer no adventure. And therefore, to make the creation of a fantasy worth doing, you would like something that you would have to overcome in the course of doing it. You would like some intractable material, something that presented a little difficulty in shaping. And so I think we would all ask, and we would go out of our way, to produce situations where we were confronted with difficulty.
Supposing, for example, you find yourself (or you imagine yourself) in a situation where you can control everything, and you know always, therefore, exactly what is going to happen next. This would not—would it?—be a pleasurable situation for very long. It would be boring. And after a while you would want to get into a situation also where you were not in control, where things would occur to surprise you. But you might want to raise this qualification that I will let things surprise me as long as I can stand it. When I can’t stand it, I’d like to be in control again.
Now, here is the nub of the whole problem of creating a universe as you would wish it to be. You would say: I would like to be surprised, I would like to be out of control—up to a point. But I would always like to be able to call a halt and say: now I take over again, I’m in charge. But, you see, the moment you think this, you would like to add to this problem of being out of control—you see, it’d be all too easy if you could suffer and know: any minute you press the button, you’d recover. Think of this! Supposing you had a “Paradise” button. Any time you press this you could be in bliss. And so you’d start daring yourself: how far could you go out into all kinds of adventures and situations beyond your control and not press the “Paradise” button?
You remember, as kids, on a hot summer day when you were terribly thirsty, how good an ice cream soda would be? And you had just ten cents that would buy it, but you’d put it off and put it off, and you got thirstier and thirstier and thirstier. Because how grand it would be to be maximum thirsty and then have the ice cream soda! You see? And it’s just like that. So we have the “Paradise” button that we could push in my—I’m still talking in terms of my purely invented, fantastic cosmology, or universal order; scheme of things—and we could press it any time.
Now, wouldn’t it be fun to add to this a new dimension: that we had forgotten where the button is? We’ve lost it. We don’t know, and we’re, you see, scaring ourselves in a new way. First of all, we voluntarily let ourselves get out of control of the situation. Then, to add to this, we forget that we’re really in control and that we can press the “Paradise” button. This is a new way of scaring yourself; a new thrill. So we seem, in this predicament, to have lost contact altogether with a place from which we started. But this will only make sense, this will only answer the problem that I posed in the beginning—that is to say, the problem of what kind of cosmology could I imagine that would justify all possible sufferings—if we can wake up, we may have made it as difficult as possible to wake up. But nevertheless, there always remains a point at which we can wake up and recover from the nightmare.
Now, many of you will already see quite easily that the kind of cosmology which I’ve been describing is nothing very new. This is, after all, Hindu philosophy. The idea that every thing, every being, every person in the world is Brahmā, the creator, playing the part. Playing, acting, that he is all these things. The godhead is masked, acting a drama in every single one of us, but forgets for the time being that he is the godhead. This is Vedānta. And also, you know well that not only in India, but all over the world, there occurs to people from time to time a kind of experience that we call cosmic consciousness, or whatever it may be, in which they suddenly see that this is so. They suddenly see that this entire problematic world with its horrors and evils and tortures is a play. That it is simply, as it were, life playing hide and seek with itself, frightening itself, scaring itself, screaming at itself, accusing itself, making itself feel guilty for a great cosmic joke.
Let me read a description of this sort of experience. There are dozens of these things throughout ancient and modern times; people who’ve suddenly had this happen to them. This is the description given by a very famous man, Richard Bucke, who wrote a book called Cosmic Consciousness. Now, listen:
All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city. The next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then. I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure, all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain. The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone; but the memory of it and the sense of the reality of what it taught has remained during the quarter of a century which has since elapsed.
So you see that the version of the world which I could construct or imagine out of fantasy is also very akin to things which people have experienced. And you could call these experiences hallucinations, wishful thinking, anything you like. At the moment it doesn’t matter. Let’s suppose that that’s the way things are. In other words: that we are in charge. That there is, as it were, an inner self, an inner experiencer within us all, which is really in charge of things—which is the basic reality which nothing can overwhelm or destroy, but which is, as it were, amusing itself by forgetting that it’s in charge, by embarking on adventures and becoming subject to the feeling of not being in control. And however far it ventures into being out of control, the basic fact remains in the back of the whole thing that it is in control, and that nothing can possibly happen to you which is not your own will. And we must add to this, to make our fantasy complete, that one day you will wake up.
Now, don’t you think that on those terms, if that were the truth, you could face life with equanimity and say, “Well, there aren’t really any problems. One of these day’s I’m going to wake up from the nightmare. It’s alright!” No matter how deep we go, it’s all an adventure. It’s all scaring ourselves. It’s like children: you know, children just love to scare themselves. Hide themselves in a dark room with the door shut and experience the fright. Or, I remember—you know the nasty sensation you get with a plaster wall on a cold day, running your fingernails up it? I know, as children, we used to do this. Krrewwwk! Just to throw ourselves with how horrible it was. I remember, too, in school when I was a kid, we used to have wooden pens that we wrote with, and we always used to chew them. Some people chewed the ends of their pens until they were like wooden brushes. So one day, they ordered a jar of bitter aloes. It would be deposited on every teacher’s desk. And anybody seen chewing their pen would have it dipped in the bitter aloes. Everybody instantly chewed their pens to get it dipped in the bitter aloes, which tasted absolutely horrible but was wonderful. We all sucked on the bitter aloes and acquired a taste for it in about three minutes. This is like children. Children do this kind of thing. Perhaps because they are nearer to the source of what I’m talking about.
But now, let’s go on to the next important step. All I’m suggesting is that, thus far, I’ve created a fantasy. That this is not the way the world is, but is a purely artistic idea of what it might be like. Now, when we’ve created such an idea, there are certain ways in which we can criticize it. We can criticize a work of art not on the grounds of is this conception true or not true, but is it a good work of art or not? And therefore, the criticism I want to apply to this is based on aesthetic grounds purely. And I think the aesthetic criterium I’m going to apply first is that of simplicity.
This is purely an aesthetic criterion, because there’s something that appeals to us—I don’t know why, but it does—about achieving some sort of result by the simplest possible way without, as it were, making any unnecessary detour. This is one of the great criteria of a work of art. I don’t know quite why. But let’s take a comparison between the conception of the solar system of Ptolemy and that of Copernicus. The Ptolemaic solar system is where everything revolves around the Earth. And in this system, some of the planets have to do something rather complicated. In order to describe the movement of the planets as all going around the Earth, some of the planets have to do things like this: they have to weave back on their own paths. But if you take the sun as the center, nothing has to weave back on its own path. It keeps moving elliptically around the sun in the same direction. In other words, Copernicus’ solar system is simpler than Ptolemy’s.
Today we say Copernicus was right and Ptolemy was wrong. It isn’t quite correct to say that. Copernicus was simpler. And science has in it an aesthetic criterion that those explanations which are simpler are accepted rather than those which are more complicated. Imagine for a moment you’ve got a box with two holes in it, and out of these two holes come each a piece of string. You can never get inside this box. But when you pull the piece of string on the right, the piece of string on the left goes into the box. And when you pull the piece of string on the left, the piece of string on the right goes into the box. Now what, inside the box, would account for this phenomenon? You see? You can imagine all kinds of pulley wheels and gadgets inside the box that would give this result, but the simplest thing you can imagine is that the piece of string simply goes in at one hole and out the other. That would explain it. So the scientist always chooses the simplest. The simplest solution that will answer whatever he has.
So if we apply this criterion to what I’m talking about—that supposing we are all a drama, that there is within us a sort of second self that is pretending to be our ordinary everyday self, and is scaring itself, and enjoying itself with this pretense—on these aesthetic grounds, could some criticism be applied to what I’m saying? Well, I think it could. I’ve taken a step in inventing this idea which is perhaps unnecessary. And that is the step of making a difference between an experiencer and an experience. Also, my fantasy has a complication of assuming something rather supernatural. In other words, it’s a little bit of a strain upon one’s credulity to believe that each one of us is really, as it were, God in disguise. How can this be demonstrated, how can it be shown? That’s a little awkward. Could the theory be simplified? Could it be made easier than that?
After all, what am I trying to prove? What I’m trying to prove, or the problem my fantasy was intended to deal with, is the conflict which we ordinarily feel between ourselves and what we experience. Yeah, this is the problem: the problem of pain. Life hurts. It hurts me. And I feel different from it. How am I going to justify it? So the way in which I tried to solve this problem was by saying: I have another, deeper self than the one I’m ordinarily aware of, and that deeper self wants everything that happens and is really in control of it. That was the solution. Now, then, I criticize this solution and say: it may have in it an unnecessary step: the unnecessary step of a self different from, standing away from and observing, what actually happens and goes on.
Now, look: in our ordinary everyday awareness, yes, we all are a self which observes what goes on and feels different from it and criticizes it. We like it or we don’t like it. Now, what my theory first assumed was a deeper self than our ordinary one which actually digs everything that happens. It is no longer in a position of either liking it or not liking it, but accepts all of it. But now we can see that there’s another possible solution which achieves the same result: that there isn’t any self that observes what happens, different from it. That would achieve the same result as the self which accepts everything. You see what I mean?
Let me go over this again, because this is an absolutely crucial point. You can imagine yourself as a subject, as an ego, to which everything happens. And you can accept it or reject it. You like it or you don’t like it. And so you feel it’s a problem. First idea. Second idea: you can imagine that you’re a self deeper than the ego. A kind of Ātman—Brahmā in Hindu philosophy—which actually is willing the whole thing. This is a little bit of a stress on our credulity. Third possibility, though, which comes out: let’s not posit at all a self on the one hand and experiences on the other, so that there’s a problem; do I like it or don’t I like it, do I accept it or don’t I accept it? But let’s suppose that we’ve introduced a problem where no problem exists. It isn’t a question of whether life experiences something that we’re going to accept or reject. Supposing it’s what we are, and no question arises of accepting or rejecting it? Isn’t this, then, a simpler description than the one I have tried to describe?
What we would have, then, to recover from: we ordinarily experience ourselves as an ego, a mind, a center of consciousness confronted with the problems of life, and absolutely, really basically, unable to deal with them. We can find an out from that by the fantasy that we’re really capable of dealing with them, that we’re omnipotent, but that we’ve put ourselves in this position for fun. But if that solution is (aesthetically speaking) too complicated, there is a simpler solution—aesthetically. And that is that the initial division of ourselves from what we’re experiencing is an unnecessary step.
Now, we know physically that everything that we experience is a state of our own nervous system. That the division between the subject and the object, the self and the world, is quite conventional. At this moment, you can see me standing against the black curtain here, with these flowers behind me, and you can see the backs of the heads of the people sitting immediately in front of you. And you normally assume all that is not you. Somebody, something else. But, as a matter of fact, the whole thing that you’re looking at is deep inside you. It’s a state of your nervous system.
Now, is there somebody observing what’s happening in your nervous system? Is there somebody watching what you see with your eyes? No. What you’re looking at is you. As your eyes are open now, resting upon this scene, you are observing the flesh and blood of yourself. That’s it. And there’s no “you” observing it. This pattern of lights and colors and shapes is the middle of your brain. That’s how the middle of your brain feels; how you feel—and not only through the sense of sight, but through all your fingertips, the drums of your ears, the taste buds in your mouth and your nose. All they’re conveying to you of the external world is you.
Now, if we appreciate what this involves, this is quite a shock. Let’s go back. What did we start—what was the problem we started with? The problem we started with was this: how can I reconcile myself to life as it actually is? How can I make up a theory to try and show that, in some way, what happens is what I want? To try and solve this problem we invented a second self underneath our ordinary self who wants all this, who is one with it. Now I’ve simplified it. I think I’ve shown: we don’t need that hypothesis of a second self underneath our first self. That’s unnecessary.
What we discover is that the world we know and the world we say we suffer is ourselves anyway. There actually isn’t a situation in which the hard facts of life impinge on and hit a person who is separate from them. We think of life as an encounter between a subject and an object, as if these two creatures—the subject and the object—came from opposite ends of God only knows where and met each other, and BANG! they have an encounter. Whereas if we describe human life in the simplest possible way without calling in any souls and spooks and supernatural beliefs, what we find out is quite the contrary: that experience is not an encounter. It is not an “I” meeting with an “it” or a “thou.” Because when I look at you I’m also looking at myself. These are inseparable. Yes, you exist in your own right. But when you look at me and I look at you, what we’re seeing is ourselves. We’re seeing our own nervous system. The more we know of others, the more we know of ourselves. There isn’t any gap.
So that you could say that, actually, you are willing—this is sort of putting it in picturesque language—you are willing everything that happens to you. When you don’t like it, you’re willing “you don’t like,” and you do like it, you’re willing “you do like.” And the people who have the sort of experience that Rickard Bucke was describing here, the cosmic consciousness or whatever, are those who wake up to this fact that you never, at any time, experience anything which you don’t completely will, however horrible.
Now that’s, as it were, a sort of report that comes out of a state of consciousness that is not familiar to us. But it happens to very many people. Not necessarily people who are great saints and sages who’ve practiced yoga and meditation disciplines for many, many years. This is an experience which happens to very ordinary people, children, to people having their teeth extracted because they had anesthesia or something like that. There are all kinds of way in which this may be seen. And we don’t know the laws, if any, which govern how it happens. The sudden recognition, in other words, that the world that is other than yourself, that is outside you, that is not under your ordinary control, that hurts you and fights you, is deep down a hidden aspect of yourself; the unknown other that is you. If we could believe that—if we could really believe it and know it—obviously, nothing would have any terrors for us. We could know that however far we went—into pain, grief, anything—it would be simply discovering ourselves in a hidden form.
Now, first of all, my point is not to say to you we can prove that this is so. My point, first of all, is: imagine this as an answer, and: can you think of a better one? Supposing, on the other hand, you want to be completely hard-boiled, we could invent a cosmology other than joyous. We could think of the disastrous cosmology. What kind of a theory of the universe could we invent that would be as nasty as possible? And we would very quickly find that, if we invented it, it wouldn’t work. In other words: that all would have ceased to exist long ago. Think of the maximum nasty cosmology, and it would’ve collapsed. Think of the middling cosmology that is just so; you know… pfft. More or less works. It would’ve collapsed, too. You have to think of something like this for one that still does actually go on.
And this is not only a work of fantasy that invents this, but also, in addition to this, there are again and again the people who experience this as being the actual state of affairs in one way or another. And I often think of a poem of G. K. Chesterton’s that I read years and years ago called The Song of the Children. It is a sort of fantasy about Jesus and his relation to the adults on the one hand, which was rather stuffy, and his relation to the children on the other. And he says:
He taught them [the adults] laws and watchwords,
To preach and struggle and pray;
But he taught us deep in the hayfield
The games that the angels play.
And had he stayed here for ever,
Their world would be wise as ours—
And the king be cutting capers,
And the priest be picking flowers.
And I feel that this is the spirit which our present day world needs more than anything else: to see that what is truly important in life is what is frivolous. To see that it doesn’t matter two hoots that we achieve a certain success, that we win a certain game, that we live longer than we might live otherwise. What matters more than anything else is that “the king be cutting capers and the priest be picking flowers.” In other words, that we become capable of touching each other, of loving each other, of recognizing in every other, in the strangeness and threat that we feel sometimes when we look into another person’s eyes, and feel—you know how we turn away? You look, in the subway, at the person sitting opposite you, and you meet their eyes for a moment and then turn off—why? What are we afraid of? The thing that you’re afraid of in the other is you. Isn’t it possible? Isn’t it really possible that this stop? That the fear of looking at the other, touching the other, of recognizing yourself in the other be overcome?
And that we understand that what otherness means—on the surface, the other is always the one with whom we’re in contest. When we look in the other person’s eyes—you all played this game—can I look longer until he looks away? Who’s going to win? What’s the relationship between husband and wife? Mostly competition. Always, the relationship between self and other is a contest. But what I mean by the joyous cosmology is seeing that all contests are faked; that it’s a “let’s pretend” battle because there really is no self and no other. And so that when you feel the strangeness of another person, the weird unfamiliarity when you look into their eyes, and feel embarrassed and peculiar, and maybe threatened, what you’re feeling is your own life. And you’re just thrilling yourself with the other person—like climbing up behind yourself and saying BOO! But we could wake up, and we could look and enjoy it.
So shall we have about five or ten minutes intermission? And then, if you want to stay to ask questions, I’ll be happy to try and discuss.
—everything we hear and see is ourselves, or we are it, I don’t see that that explains why it is [???] aware of it, and why it hurts so much.
Did you all hear the question? It’s a very good question. It brings up a crucial difference between the two alternatives that I presented. One: that behind our ordinary everyday self there is a hidden self which is playing these limitations and problems of our everyday life as a hide-and-seek game. And this seems, to the questioner, to be a better explanation to the difficulty than the second position, which is not that there is a self behind the self that has the experiences of the world, but that there is no difference between the self and the experiences of the world. Then she is asking: why don’t we know that this is so?
You see, when we explain or answer the question “Why?” we always cheat. When, for example, you ask of a scientist: why do certain things happen, what he tells you is how they happen. In other words, when he gives you the causes of certain events, all he does is to describe the same events in greater detail, and calls this “why” it happens. It’s only how it happens. So you’re a little bit cheated if you thought it was why. So, in the same way, if, in other words, we are really what we experience but we think we’re different, and we say, “Why does this happen? Why don’t we know?” I can tell you how it happens, but I can’t tell you why. How it happens—yes, that’s simple.
Because when we are little children, our sisters, cousins, aunts, parents, teachers—everybody—tells us who we are. They give us a definition of what it is to be a human being. And this definition is that you are a knower who confronts the known. You are a controller, you are an agent behind acts. That’s the definition of you. We’re all taught this. And even if it ain’t necessarily so, that’s what we believe and that’s what we feel. So this is not so much why, but how we come to feel divided from our experience of the world. I could go on to say how this began to happen. It was a sort of mistaken interpretation of human experience which occurred a long time ago and grew into a habit. It’s caused a lot of damage just in the same way as a single tiny pebble may be set rolling and start an avalanche. Nobody could’ve foreseen that.