by P D Ouspensky
Egg or Bird?
Please keep revising in your memory what I said in the first lectures, because many things I said were not fully developed. I gave only hints, a general idea, of things we have to study; so it is necessary to recall the order of things and their relative importance. Some things I said were essential for the understanding of further ideas, while some I brought in merely in explanation of other things.
But first I would like to stress again one important point. This system belongs to the class of systems which regard man as an incomplete being and study him from the point of view of his possible development.
Ordinary psychology is very far from reality. The man it studies is an imaginary quantity. Man is not what he is supposed to be. We ascribe to ourselves many qualities we do not possess. We are not conscious. If we are not conscious we cannot have unity, cannot have individuality, cannot have an Ego or 'I'. All these things are invented by man to keep the illusion of consciousness. Man can be conscious, but at present he is not. It must be recognised that man lives below his legitimate level. There are also other things man may attain; now I speak only of what belongs to him by right but that he does not have.
This system turns everything we know, or ever thought of, upside down. It cannot be reconciled with ordinary psychological ideas. We have to decide how we are to see man: as an egg or as a bird. And if we see him as an egg we must not ascribe to him the properties of a bird. When we see him as an egg, the whole psychology becomes different: all human life becomes the life of embryos, of incomplete beings. And for some, the meaning of life becomes the possibility of passing to another state. It is very important to understand what is a complete being and what is an incomplete being, because if this is not understood from the beginning it will be difficult to go further.
For example, let us compare a horse-and-carriage with an aeroplane. An aeroplane has many possibilities that a horse-and-carriage does not have, but at the same time an aeroplane can be used as an ordinary carriage. It would be clumsy and inconvenient and very expensive, but you can attach two horses to it and travel in an aeroplane by road. Suppose the man who has this aeroplane does not know that it has an engine and can move by itself. And suppose he learns about the engine: then he can dispense with the horses and use it as a motor car. But it will still be too clumsy. Suppose now that the man studies this machine and discovers that it can fly. Certainly it will have many advantages which he missed when he used the aeroplane as a carriage. This is what we are doing with ourselves. We use ourselves as a carriage when we could fly.
But examples are one thing and facts are another. There is no need of allegories and analogies, for we can speak about actual facts if we begin to study consciousness in the right way.
If we return for a moment to the analogy of an aeroplane, what is the reason why our aeroplane cannot fly? Naturally the first reason is because we do not know the machine, how to work it, and how to put it in motion. And the second reason is that as a result of this ignorance the machine works at a very slow speed. The effect of this slow speed is much greater than if we compare a horse-and-carriage with an aeroplane.
To follow the ideas and methods of the system fully, it is necessary to recognise and agree upon two points: the low level of consciousness and the practical absence of will and individuality in man. When these are accepted, it is very useful and necessary to learn the right use of two ideas, two words, 'useful' and 'harmful', because it is rather difficult to apply these words to a psychological state and find what is useful in the psychological structure of man and what is harmful in it.
If you regard man from the point of view of his possible development, it becomes clear that what helps his development is useful and what hinders it is harmful. It is very strange that it is necessary even to explain this, but unfortunately our ordinary thought, particularly when it meets with serious problems, does not use this idea; somehow we lose the understanding of what is useful and harmful.
Our thought has acquired many bad habits, and one of them is thinking without purpose. Our thinking has become automatic; we are quite satisfied if we think of and develop possible side-issues without having any idea why we are doing it. From the point of view of this system such thinking is useless. All study, all thinking and investigation must have one aim, one purpose in view, and this aim must be attaining consciousness. It is useless to study oneself without this purpose. There are reasons to study oneself only if one has already realised that one does not have consciousness and one wishes to attain it; otherwise it becomes just futile.
Attaining consciousness is connected with gradual liberation from mechanicalness, for the ordinary man is fully and completely under mechanical laws. The more a man attains consciousness, the more he leaves mechanicalness which means he becomes more free from accidental mechanical laws.
The first step in acquiring consciousness is the realisation that we are not conscious. But this illusion cannot be changed alone, for there are many others. The worst of them is the illusion that we can 'do'. All our life is based on this illusion. We always think we are doing when, in reality, we are not doing anything everything happens.
Another illusion is that we are awake. When we realise that we are asleep, we will see that all history is made by people who are asleep. Sleeping people fight, make laws; sleeping people obey or disobey them. The worst of our illusions are the wrong ideas among which we live and which govern our lives. If we could change our attitude towards these wrong ideas and understand what they are and why they are wrong, this in itself would be a great change and would immediately change other things.
Self-observation cannot be impersonal, for we are personally interested in the right work of our machine. Right work of the organism is profitable for us, wrong work is harmful. One must have a simple commercial attitude to one's life and inner functions, and one must know what is profit and what is loss, so one cannot observe oneself quite impartially like some historical events that happened a thousand years ago. When a man adopts this 'commercial' attitude to himself he is ready to begin practical self-study, for practical self-study means study of the most mechanical things.
Some functions in us can become conscious, others can never become conscious. Instinctive functions, for instance, have no need to become conscious; but there are many others our whole life is filled with them which it is very important to make conscious or, if they cannot become conscious, to stop or eliminate them, for they are really harmful. They are not merely mechanical in the sense that they are automatic; they are due to the wrong work of the machine which has gone on for a long time. So they have already caused definite harm; things have become broken or twisted or strained.
Study whatever you find in yourself, whether it is real or unreal. You cannot study only what is real: you have to study what is there. It is not an obstacle to self-study if you find nothing real: one must study oneself and study obstacles.
The chief obstacle to the attainment of consciousness is that we think we have it. One will never get self-consciousness so long as one believes that one has it. There are many other things we think we have, and because of this we cannot have them. We think we are one, indivisible. We think we have will, or that if we do not always have it, we can have it. There are many aspects to this, for if we do not have one thing, we cannot have another. We think that we have these things, and this happens because we do not know the meaning of the words we use.
There is a definite obstacle, a definite reason, why we cannot have consciousness as we are. This chief obstacle in the way of development is lying. We do not know what 'lying' means because we have never studied this question seriously. Yet the psychology of lying is really the most important part of the study of the human being. If Man could be described as a zoological type, he would be described as a lying animal.
I shall leave out all external lying and take only a man's lying to himself about himself. This is the reason why we are in the state in which we are now, and why we cannot come to a better, a higher, a more powerful, more effective state of consciousness. According to the system we are now studying, we cannot know truth because truth can be reached only in objective consciousness. So we cannot define what truth is; but if we take it that lying is the opposite of truth, we can define lying.
The most serious lying is when we know perfectly well that we do not and cannot know the truth about things, and yet never act accordingly. We always think and act as though we know the truth. This is lying. When I know that I do not know something, and at the same time say that I know, or act as though I knew it, it is lying. For instance, we know nothing about ourselves, and we really know that we know nothing, yet we never recognise or admit the fact; we never confess it even to ourselves. We act and think and speak as though we know who we are. This is the origin, the beginning, of lying.
Lying must stop. Lies can produce only more lies. Only when you know the chief types of lying will you be able to observe them. Struggle with them comes later. Many things are necessary in order to struggle with something in ourselves; for a long time we can only study. When we know the general arrangement and classification of things in ourselves, only then does the possibility arise of struggling with something. Such as we are we cannot change anything because man is a very well balanced machine balanced in the sense that one thing conditions another. Things look disconnected, but in actual fact they are connected because each thing is balanced by many other things.
When we understand this and follow this line, and when we try to connect this idea with everything we think, everything we say, everything we do, we will begin to remove the obstacles which lie on the way to consciousness. But the psychology of lying is much more difficult than we think, because there are many different kinds of lying and many very subtle forms hard to discover in ourselves. In others we see them comparatively easily, but not in ourselves.
You know that you cannot know the truth; and if you say you know, or can know it, it will be a lie, because no one can know the truth in the state in which we are. Do not think philosophically; take it in relation to facts. People speak about everything as though they knew. If you ask a man whether there are people on the Moon, he will have an opinion about it. And so with everything else. We have opinions about everything, and all these opinions are lying, particularly about ourselves. We do not know about states of consciousness, or the different functions, or the speed of functions, or their relation to one another. We do not know how our functions are divided. We know nothing, yet we think we know about ourselves. All we have is opinions, and they are all lies.
You must know the value of an opinion.
The first lie we tell ourselves is when we say 'I'. It is a lie because in saying 'I' we presume certain things: we presume a certain unity and a certain power. And if I say 'I' today and say 'I' tomorrow, it is supposed to be the same 'I', when in reality there is no connection between them. We are in this present state because of certain obstacles or certain facts in ourselves, and the most important fact that we do not understand is that we have no right to say 'I', for it will be a lie.
When you begin to observe yourself you will see that it is really so: there are 'I's in you which do not know one another and never come into contact. For instance, begin to study your likes and dislikes and you will see that you can like one thing one moment and like another thing another moment, and the two are so opposed to one another that you will realise at once that those 'I's never meet.
If you observe your decisions you will see that one 'I' decides and another has to carry out that decision, and this one is either unwilling to do it or never heard about it.
If you find one thing you do not lie to yourself about, you are very exceptional. Being surrounded by these lies, born and educated in these lies, we cannot be any different from what we are; we are just the result, the product, of this lying. We can study ourselves only in the conditions in which we find ourselves, because we are the result of these conditions. We cannot study ourselves apart from our conditions.
One thing all our 'I's have in common is that they are mechanical. To be mechanical means to depend on external circumstances.
Analogies cannot be complete because they cannot be carried on indefinitely. This too is a limitation of our mind or, if you like, a limitation of our consciousness. So the comparison with a machine cannot be carried on in every direction. But man is a machine in quite a real, quite a definite sense: he cannot produce any action from himself; he is only a transmitting station, and as such he is only a machine. If a man could have an idea or could do something without external causes acting for him, then he would not be a machine, or would not be completely a machine. As he is, he is completely a machine, particularly in the state of consciousness in which we are. And the fact that we believe ourselves to be in quite a different state makes us even more mechanical.
Our machine is not even working rightly, so if a man wants to create favourable conditions for the possibility of inner growth which is in him, he must first become a normal machine because as he is, he is not a normal machine. When we hear about mechanicalness we often think that, although man is a machine, not all his functions are equally mechanical, nor are all human activities equally mechanical. Everybody finds something that he thinks less mechanical, according to his views or tastes. In reality all human activities are equally mechanical: there is no difference from this point of view between scrubbing floors and writing poetry.
Generally speaking, it must be understood that a complete revaluation of all values from the point of view of their usefulness is necessary. Without revaluation we can never move from the point at which we are. We have many wrong values we have to be brave and start on this revaluation.
There is a very good Eastern analogy which deals with the creation of 'I'. Man is compared to a house full of servants, without master or steward to look after them. So the servants do what they like; none of them does his own work. The house is in a state of complete chaos, because all the servants try to do someone else's work which they are not competent to do. The cook works in the stables, the coachman in the kitchen, and so on. The only possibility for things to improve is if a certain number of servants decide to elect one of themselves as a deputy steward and in this way make him control the other servants.
He can do only one thing: he puts each servant where he belongs and so they begin to do their right work. When this is done, there is the possibility of a real steward coming to replace the deputy steward and to prepare the house for the master. We do not yet know what the real steward means or what the master means, but we can take it that the house is full of servants and the possibility of a deputy steward describes the situation. This allegory helps us to understand the beginning of the possibility of creating a permanent 'I'.
From the point of view of self-study and of work to attain one 'I', we must understand the process by which we may come from this plurality to oneness. It is a complicated process and has different stages. Between the present state of plurality of 'I's and the one controlling 'I' we wish to attain, there are certain stages of development which must be studied. But first we must understand that there are certain formations in us without knowing which we cannot understand how we eventually come from our present state to the state of one 'I' if it is at all possible for us.
Although a great many of our 'I's are disconnected and do not even know one another, they are divided into certain groups. This does not mean that they are divided consciously; they are divided by circumstances of life. These groups of 'I's manifest themselves as rôles that a man plays in his life. Everybody has a certain number of rôles: one corresponds to one set of conditions, another to another set, and so on. Man himself seldom notices these differences. For instance, he has one rôle for his work, another for his home, yet another among friends, another if he is interested in sport, and so on. These rôles are easier to observe in other people than in oneself. People are often so different in different conditions that these rôles become quite obvious and well defined; but sometimes they are better hidden or even played inside without any external manifestations.
All people, whether they know it or not, whether they wish it or not, have certain rôles which they play. This acting is unconscious. If it could be conscious, it would be quite different, but one never notices how one passes from one rôle to another; or, if one notices it, one persuades oneself that one is doing it on purpose, that it is a conscious action. In reality the change is always controlled by circumstances; it cannot be controlled by man himself, because he himself does not exist yet. Sometimes there are definite contradictions between one rôle and another. In one rôle one says one thing, has certain definite views and convictions; then one passes into another rôle and has absolutely different convictions and says absolutely different things, without noticing it, or else thinking that one does it on purpose.
There are very definite causes which prevent man from seeing the difference between one rôle or mask and another. These causes are certain definite formations called buffers. Buffer is a very good name for these appliances. Buffers between railway carriages prevent clashing, diminish shocks. It is the same with buffers between different rôles and different groups of 'I's or personalities. People can live with different personalities without them clashing, and if these personalities have no external manifestation, they nevertheless exist internally.
It is very useful to try to find what buffers are. Try to find how one lies to oneself with the help of buffers. Someone says 'I never argue'. Then, if one really has a good conviction that one never argues, one can argue as much as one likes and never notice it. This is the result of a buffer. If one has a certain number of good buffers, one is quite safe from unpleasant contradictions. Buffers are quite mechanical; it is like a wooden thing which does not adapt, but it plays its part very well: it prevents one from seeing contradictions.
In Lecture 5 I explained the division of man into seven categories. This division, connected with the idea of man's possible evolution, gives a very good method for understanding the differences or divisions of many things.
For instance, from the beginning we take different manifestations of man in different fields of activity in religion, science, art, and so on and try to look at them from the point of view of this division into seven categories.
You will see at once that if there are seven categories of man there must be, correspondingly, seven categories of everything that belongs to man. We do not know about Men 5, 6, and 7, but we know the difference between Man 1, Man 2, and Man 3, and so we can easily understand that the religion of Man 1, whatever it may be called, will be a primitive religion, simplified in all senses. Sentimental, emotional religion, full of illusions and imagination, will be the religion of Man 2. And religion composed of theories, words, and definitions for everything will be the religion of Man 3. These are the only kinds of religion we know, although if men of higher levels exist, there must also be religion of Man 5, religion of Man 6, and religion of Man 7.
It is the same with art there is art 1, art 2, and art 3, and we know nothing else. But there are some works of art remaining from very old days which evidently belong to men of higher consciousness. If we find such works of art, we shall see that we do not understand them: they are beyond our level. From this point of view all ordinary art, art of Man 1, 2, and 3, is called subjective art, for it is based only on a subjective understanding or subjective feeling of things.
In science it is even easier to understand the difference. Certainly Science 1, 2, and 3 is all we know. It uses man's present state of consciousness and present functions as an instrument for getting certain results. Science Number 4 will begin with improvement of instruments. If you have to work with any particular branch of science, you have a certain instrument for this work and get certain results. But suppose you can have a better instrument; you will immediately get better results. So Science Number 4 is connected with improving the instrument of knowing, with improving man's functions and state of consciousness.
The numbers refer essentially to the centre of gravity at moments of important decisions. Man 3 would act from theory, Man 2 on the basis of emotional likes and dislikes, Man 1 on the basis of physical likes and dislikes.
There are two sides of us that must be developed knowledge and being. In speaking about these, it is necessary to start from the beginning. Try to think of how you look at yourself, what your attitude to those two ideas was before you met this system. We are all in the same position. We want knowledge, but we do not realise that there are obstacles in ourselves that prevent us from acquiring this knowledge.
I will start with myself. Before I met the system I read a great deal and made many experiments. From these experiments I got interesting states, understood several laws, and I naturally wanted a continuation of these states. But I saw that for this, more knowledge was necessary. Then I met this system. In the system, particular stress was laid on being. According to this system no more knowledge is possible until one's being is changed.
Soon after we heard about knowledge and being, our groups divided into two camps. The first camp thought that the whole thing was change of being; that with change of being we would get more from the knowledge we already have. The second camp (to which I believe I alone belonged) said that even in our present state of being we can get much more knowledge than we have, that we are not so saturated with knowledge that we cannot absorb more.
Later I understood that both are necessary. Take an example of two men: one knows the four laws of arithmetic, the other does not. Naturally, the first will be in a better position, although their level of being is the same. The more a man knows about mathematics, the better is his position in a certain profession. So knowledge can increase even with the same being. And he may know more not only in mathematics; he may know many other things, have more psychological knowledge.
On the other hand, you notice that you give two people knowledge (I am speaking of psychological knowledge), and one gets it, while the other cannot. Evidently his being is not prepared. So people are not in the same position in this respect.
The relationship between knowledge and being is a very big question. I want you to think about it and follow what I have just said. Try to find your own examples. Knowledge can lead very far. The question is, can one take it? Can one absorb it? One kind of knowledge we can get, another kind we cannot, so we cannot speak in general about it. For instance, take psychological knowledge: such as we are we can learn very much, and certain things can become much clearer.
But at every moment a man's knowledge depends on his being. This is what we do not understand. A man can get only as much knowledge as his being allows, otherwise his knowledge will be just words. If knowledge is given to several people, one of then gets it, others do not. Why? Evidently because their being is different.
Being is you. It is what you are. The more you know yourself, the more you know your being. If you have never learnt that you have being, the being of all people will be the same to you. Someone who has never heard of self-remembering will, if you ask him, say that he can remember himself. This is one being. Another knows he does not remember himself this is a different being. A third is beginning to remember himself this is a third being. This is how it must be taken.
We understand the difference of objects, but in ordinary thinking we do not understand the difference of being. What do we learn in this system? First that we are not one: that we have many 'I's, that there is no central 'I' in control. This is the state of our being. The result is mechanicalness we are machines. If we manage to be less mechanical, less divided in ourselves, if we manage to have more control of ourselves, it will mean that our being has changed.
When I met this system it showed me that change of being was necessary because we are not what we think ourselves to be. If we were what we think we are if we had consciousness and will, if we could 'do' then only knowledge would be necessary. But we all think of ourselves differently from what we are in reality. And it is exactly this difference between what we are and what we think we are that shows what is lacking in our being. So two things are necessary: change of knowledge and change of being.
We think we are constantly changing, but we are not. We are in one room, running from one corner to another. In one corner we think we are one thing, in another we think we are different. We cannot change just because we have gone from one corner to another. What looks like change is change through imitation, change of conditions, likes, and dislikes.
This state of consciousness in which we are now always moves up and down. 'Down' means we are nearer to sleep, 'up' means that we are nearer the possibility of awakening. We are never in exactly the same state from moment to moment, but these small changes only mean marking time on the same spot.
So you see evolution of man is quite possible, but it is possible only by changing knowledge and changing being; and changing being means acquiring consciousness. It cannot come by itself; it cannot just 'happen'.
Self-observation is connected with certain definite practices. If you just start observing how things happen, you will miss many things; but if you try to struggle against some of the things you see, for instance against small habits, you will at once begin to see many things which ordinarily you do not notice. Everyone has many small habits of walking, of moving their hands, of sitting, standing, speaking in a certain way. This struggle is not for any particular results but merely for self-observation. Perhaps later you will find that you have to get rid of certain habits, but at present this struggle should be merely for self-study.
At the same time, if we want to develop consciousness and improve our functions, almost from the very beginning of self-observation we are advised to stop some of our functions which are not only useless but definitely harmful. For instance, in observing yourself, particularly in observing the emotional function, try to stop all expression of negative emotions. Many people's lives practically consist of that; they express negative emotions at every possible moment, on any occasion, whether suitable or unsuitable; they can always find something wrong in everything. The chief tendency in Man 1, 2, and 3 is to express immediately all his negative emotions. If he makes an effort to stop this expression, it gives him material for observation, and he sees himself from quite a different angle. If he makes serious efforts in this direction, very soon he will become convinced that he has no will, because it is a most difficult thing to stop this expression of negative emotions. At the same time it is necessary.
Another useless function is talk. We talk too much. We talk and talk and talk, and we never really notice it. Generally we think we talk very little, much too little, but particularly those people who talk most think they never talk. This is a very useful subject for watching. You will see how your day passes, how many mechanical things you say in certain conditions, how many other mechanical things you say in other conditions. Or you will notice that you just talk and talk because it gives you pleasure, or fills your time. It is necessary to watch it and stop at least some of this unnecessary talk. Talk, imagination, lying, and expressing negative emotions are in fact our chief functions.
We must try not only to study these ideas in the form in which they are given, but also to apply them in connection with different problems. They give good keys for the solution of many of them.
All that you have learnt, all that you have heard about the possibility of development, all refers to being. First of all, development of being means awakening, since the chief feature of our being is that we are asleep. By trying to wake up, we change our being; this is the first point. Then there are many other things: creating unity, not expressing negative emotions, trying not to identify, trying to avoid useless talk all this is work on being. It is true that in this way you acquire certain knowledge: but if it is simply intellectual knowledge, it is of little use. Being is power, power to 'do'; and power to 'do' is power to be different.
We know what knowledge means. We know that knowledge is relative and depends on our capacities. Actually, in our present state, we can acquire a sufficient amount of knowledge to start with. But very soon we realise that in order to acquire more knowledge, deeper or larger knowledge of things we really want to understand, we must change our being, for our present capacities for acquiring knowledge are very limited. So even from the point of view of acquiring knowledge, we come to the necessity of changing being, otherwise we have only words and will not know what they mean.
Ideas by themselves cannot produce change of being; your efforts must go in the right direction, and one thing must correspond with another. You make an effort on one line and you must make an effort on the other line. You can change nothing without a system; even with a system it is difficult.
'Work', in the sense we use this word in the system, means work for acquiring knowledge and for the study of change of being. You must have some clear objective and work for it: so 'work' includes acquiring knowledge and self-control in order to reach your objective.
When you once realise what powers man can acquire, you will realise that they can be acquired only by man's own efforts. What can be developed in man is consciousness and will, and they can be developed only if man realises that he does not possess them. When he realises that, he will see that they can only be got, not given. Man is created in the only way he can be created. All that can be given is given; no more can be given. Otherwise it would be the same as to take a man from the street and make him a general: he would not know what to do. This is a subject for discussion. We cannot be given these qualities; we must earn or buy them. This is the only way to acquire them.
Real knowledge, objective knowledge, is knowledge which comes from higher mind. Such knowledge shows us how to study the Universe, and also how to study the one in relation to the other. With objective knowledge it is possible to know the real world by making use of the principles of relativity and scale and by knowing the two fundamental laws of the Universe: the Law of Three and the Law of Seven.
The approach to objective knowledge is through the study of objective language. The study of this system begins with the study of a new language using such expressions as centres, divisions of man, identifying, considering, self-remembering.
The next step is study of oneself, the study of the human machine, and the understanding of man's place in the Universe. This knowledge of oneself is both an aim and a means.
But if a man wants to develop, knowledge alone is not sufficient; he must also work to change his being. Only change of being is so difficult it would be almost impossible if knowledge were not there to help him. So knowledge and being must grow side by side, though the one is quite separate from the other. Neither knowledge nor being separately can give right understanding, because understanding is the resultant of a simultaneous growth of knowledge and being.
Growth of knowledge means a transition from the particular to the general, from details to the whole, from the illusory to the real. Ordinary knowledge is always a knowledge of details without knowledge of the whole, a knowledge of leaves, or the veins or serrations of the leaves, without knowing the tree. Real knowledge not only shows a given detail but the place, the function, and the meaning of this detail in relation to the whole.
From the very beginning of the system you are given certain ideas and told certain things about the human machine; for instance, about different states of consciousness, about the fact that we live in a state which goes up and down, sometimes nearer to self-consciousness, sometimes nearer to sleep. When you heard this you were also told to prove it for yourselves. If you only hear about these things, or read about them, they remain merely words. But when you begin to verify them for yourselves, when you understand each function in yourselves and find out your own feelings and sensations connected with each of them, then it becomes knowledge.
Being is something quite separate. You can make all possible efforts in your present state, yet you will feel that there is more to be got out of your knowledge, but your being is not adequate. So it is necessary to work on being, make it stronger, more definite. Then from the same words you will be able to extract more knowledge.
Any moment you understand something, your understanding is a combination of your knowledge and your being. Understanding is the result of experience: a certain experience in being and a certain experience in knowledge.
Instead of looking for definitions, try to find illustrations. The being of a man is all that he is. Many things enter into being. You can be more conscious or more asleep, more divided or more whole, more interested in some things and less interested in other things; you can lie more or lie less, dislike lying or lie without any embarrassment; be more consistent or less; have a feeling of mechanicalness or not; you may have no great conflicts in yourself or you may consist of conflicts; have comparatively few negative emotions or be immersed in negative emotions. Generally, state of being means a greater or lesser constructiveness of actions. When one thing contradicts another too much, it means weak being. We do not realise that if a man is very inconsistent it makes his knowledge unreliable. Development of one line only, either knowledge or being, gives very bad results.
Being includes all your power to 'do'. Knowledge is only auxiliary: it can help. But in order to change our being and this is where knowledge comes in we must first realise and understand our present state. As we begin to understand the state of our being, we begin to learn what to do with ourselves.
If knowledge develops beyond being, the result will be a 'weak Yogi', a man who knows everything and can do nothing. If being develops beyond knowledge, the result is a 'stupid saint' a man who can do everything but does not know what to do.
If you compare this system with others, you will find that it is precisely in the importance it gives to this idea of being that it differs from other systems, philosophical and otherwise. Other systems are concerned with knowledge or conduct. They assume that, such as we are, we can know more or behave differently. In religious systems, 'faith' and 'conduct' are generally regarded as being voluntary. One can be good or bad it is arbitrary.
But this system has the idea of different levels of being. On our present level of being there is one knowledge, one conduct, one faith, all determined by being. But first comes knowledge how little we know.
You begin to study yourselves: you realise that you are machines but that you can become conscious. The machine starts on a certain level of being. All it can or cannot do is dependent upon this level. Try to understand what is meant by being, levels of being, change of being. The system says that everything forces, energies, different kinds of activity, all depend on the level of being. At the same time the slightest difference in the level of being opens up new possibilities for knowledge and for 'doing'. All our powers are determined by our level of being.
There is a slight difference between people, but it is not enough to measure being. All normal people are born on the same level in comparison with Man 4, and people on the same level have the same possibilities. We cannot attain anything without special training. The slight differences between people are differences in functions, but real difference of being is difference of state of consciousness. Difference in functions is a one-sided difference.
By observing yourself and other people, you can understand that there are Men 1, 2, and 3 who are not at all interested in the possibility of development or in acquiring knowledge, or in anything like that. Then there are those who have the possibility of a certain understanding, but it moves from one thing to another it is not a directed interest. Then there may be directed interest, the beginning of magnetic centre, meeting with influences C, and so on. So Man 1, 2, and 3 can be very different he may be nearer to possibilities of development, further from these possibilities, or even without any possibilities.
On the level where we are, we can judge about people's knowledge, but not about their being. We can see without mistake who knows more. But about being, mistakes are easily possible. Suppose you meet someone who knows more than you do but you suspect that his being is lower. You will be wrong, because it is not your business to judge his being. Leave his being alone, and try to learn from him. We are not capable of seeing levels of being higher than our own; we can judge about the level of being only on the same level as ours or lower. It is important to remember this principle.
This system is not a system of knowledge so much as a system of thinking. It shows how to think differently, what to 'think differently' means, why it is better to think differently. To think differently means to think in different categories.
One thing is in our way we do not know what it means 'to know'. We must try to understand what 'to know' means; this will help us to understand what it means to think in new categories.
To serve a useful purpose, to have any weight, a teaching must come from men of a higher mind than ours, otherwise it will not help and we will remain on the same level. If a teaching comes from a higher level, we can expect something. If it comes from the same level as ours, we can expect nothing. We have enough material for evaluation. We can ask ourselves: was it invented on the same level as ours or on a different level? If the amount of material we have does not enable us to judge, we must wait. But only we ourselves must judge. If I say anything about it, you cannot verify it. It is useful to think about this; only you must find answers for yourselves.
Understanding is relative. We can understand many things on our own level: only then can we move on. We cannot jump. Certainly with the help of this system we can understand better about ourselves and about life than with any other system I know. If we can say that we got from it what we could not get in any other way, then we must continue to study it. We must have a valuation. After a very short time one can tell.
Personally, I learnt very much from this system in a short time and, with its help, I even began to understand things I had met with in other systems and had not understood. For instance, take 'sleep' in the New Testament. People do not notice it, yet it is constantly spoken of there; it is constantly said that people are asleep but can awaken, though they will not be awakened without efforts. The system explains not only itself but also what is true in other systems. It explains that if people want to understand one another, understanding is possible only among people who are awake.
In ordinary life everything is in a hopeless tangle; people are not meant to understand one another in ordinary life. If that were meant, people would be created differently. Man must complete himself by his own efforts. We can realise this if we realise the nature of will and consciousness. Capacity to understand is connected with this. If people begin to work with the aim of gaining consciousness and will, they will begin to understand one another. In life, with the best of intentions, there are only blunders. People are machines: they are not made to understand one another.
People have never understood one another, but in our time the situation in life is becoming more and more complicated and dangerous. At the same time, such as they are, people serve the purposes of the Moon and the Earth. But of this we will speak later.
The difficulties are likely to increase with time, but only up to a certain limit: beyond this limit it becomes an impossibility. It is important to realise, not in theory but through seeing facts, that people do not understand one another. If people have machine-guns [to say nothing of nuclear weapons Ed], it is more dangerous. And they have 'machine-guns' in many senses. So each misunderstanding becomes more deep and more complicated.
It is necessary to think differently, and this means to see things that we do not see now, and not to see things that we do see now. And this last is perhaps the most difficult, because we are accustomed to see certain things: it is a great sacrifice not to see things we are accustomed to see.
We are accustomed to think that we live in a more or less comfortable world. Certainly there are unpleasant things, such as wars and revolutions, but on the whole it is a comfortable and well-meaning world. It is most difficult to get rid of this idea of a well-meaning world.
And then we must understand that we do not see things themselves at all. We see, like in Plato's allegory of the cave [see The Republic Chapter VII Ed.], only the shadows of things, so what we see has lost all reality. We must realise how often we are governed and controlled not by the things themselves but by our ideas of things, our views of things, our picture of things. This is the most interesting thing. Try to think about it.