As we watch people down through the years, it is astonishing how much energy the average person wastes in defending his own negative attitudes. We are so willing and ready to protect our right to be wrong, and at the same time, so slow to advance the cause of our right to be right. Nearly always, life begins and unfolds through a series of negative reactions to circumstances. There’s an old saying that we all know is true, that bad news travels more rapidly than good news.
We are more responsive to our instinct to criticize than to commend; we are quicker to condemn than we are to praise; and we are more likely to observe the faults in others than to seek out their good points. All these tendencies seem to rise in deep sources within our own natures. We are not even aware of our own critical tendencies in many instances, and when we are reminded of them, we take it for granted that we have a right to them, that we must have the privilege of objection, that we must claim our birthright of individual thinking because of a tendency to analysis which means simply to take things apart. And by the time we get through taking our friends neighbors relatives and world apart, the collective result results in this kind of a disjointed situation in which we now find ourselves.
So many people have taken the world apart, and so few have attempted to put it together, but we cannot be surprised if it is not the kind of a world we wish it was. If then, this tendency to negative attitude lies at the root of our trouble, is there no way in which we can remedy it? One of the things that perhaps points this up more than anything else, is our personal reaction to situations beyond our personal control. There is hardly anyone who does not become indignant, dismayed, astonished, offended when he picks up his daily newspaper. Yet it would be difficult to prove that any of these emotions contribute to the solution of the problems which the paper unfolds. There is no actual indication that indignation is solutional.
Now some can say that it can be solutional to this degree: that it can cause persons to unite, to rise above personal opinions and attitudes, and can create a kind of aggressive action in some direction or other; that it forms a valuable criticism by which things can be changed, for most leadership is sensitive to the indignation of its following.
Actually however, it is not the indignation that causes this reaction which we hope to achieve, because the problem finally settles down to a simple issue: what is right and what is wrong? And the individual attempting to solve this coming to valid conclusion, and clinging to that which is right, develops a strong natural defensive and offensive organism. He will support the things he believes, he will attempt to correct the faults that are around him, he will unite his resources with groups or movements which are accomplishing ends which he regards as right.
But none of these things are accomplished, actually, by fretting, by fussing, by becoming angry or disturbed. The disturbance is merely a loss of energy. The solution is achieved by the individual’s clearly defining what is necessary and doing it. Now one of the reasons I think why we have a tendency to dissolve in conflicts within ourselves and with others, is because conflict is our only outlet. We do not have any clear concept of solution. The individual confronted with a problem does not see how he can solve it. He does not see any pattern through the application of which the problem can be corrected.
Therefore, he can only stew, he can fuss, he can fume, he can become disturbed, in this way letting off steam, but this is only a manifestation of frustration. It does not lead to the answer. The reason why we do not have more answers is because we do let off too much steam without purposeful meaning or viewpoint. And also, because in most instances, we are untrained to find the answer.
There is an answer to every problem. This answer does not lie in excitement, it does not rest in righteous or unrighteous indignation. It lies in skill, it lies in a disciplined method by which certain ills can be corrected. The application of the proper methodology to a problem must ultimately be solutional.
When we look around us we see the problem and we recognize that we are unfitted to cope with it. Why are we unfitted? Because the sources of our instruction have generally ignored the need for the correction of existing problem. This does not mean that these sources are entirely sterile of constructive ideality, they are not, but like most of our thinking, our educational and cultural perspective jumps over the immediate, passes or bypasses the simple thing that is needed now, and escapes into generalities dealing with large issues but failing to meet the challenge of an immediate problem.
Thus, we may have a strong training on what would be the theoretical course of our political, cultural or economic life, but we are not trained to meet the daily emergencies of our own existence. We are not equipped to do so. We are not given the resources necessary to solve our problem. Nearly everyone who is out trying to solve other people’s problems has problems of his own, which require immediate attention, but he is not able to cope with them, he is not able to meet them with necessary resource ability.
If then, being frustrated, he sees no other clear course of procedure, we find him settle down into the cultivation of negative, fatalistic, and essentially detrimental personal attitudes. He becomes a fusser, he becomes a conscientious objector to everything, he becomes disillusioned cynical, skeptical, and particularly among the intellectual group, he loses faith in the possibility of solution. We see this around us every day where the individual is no longer attempting to plan in terms of solution, but is simply allowing himself to live from day to day in a world that is entirely unsatisfactory to him.
This also of course, brings us to one of the most important considerations that we have, namely, the relative inability of any individual to change the collective pattern of society around him. A few powerful individuals may have considerable spheres of social influence, but even these spheres are strangely circumscribed. The moment an individual in high position attempts an action contrary to the general opinion of his time, he finds himself almost as limited as the private citizen. What is not supported by the average person cannot be attained by his leaders, and the average person today is not supporting. He is so much more against what he does not like than he is for what he does like, that practically every progressive effort of society runs into argument, discord, and confusion.
The individual then, being forced to live any world essentially unsatisfactory to him, but a world which he has not the dynamic to change, a world in which perhaps his own attitudes are minority attitudes, and there is not sufficient support from others to make his projects possible. This individual falls back into hopelessness. He falls back into frustration, he gives up and takes various escape mechanisms as the only possible way to adjust to the pressures of living.
These defeat-isms are evident everywhere today, and we find an increasing tendency to ignore problems, or to regard them as hopeless, or to attempt to adjust to some compromise solution. We have often pointed out that if it is true, that the individual must be the victim of collective pressures, then there cannot be any basic integrity in the universe.
We are also reminded constantly of an increasing number of persons who do not believe that there is any essential integrity in the universe. They do not believe this because they cannot demonstrate it from their own experience. The philosophy by which we live is derived from our own observation and participation in living problems. If therefore, we are unable to perceive law and order in the patterns which particularly affect us, we are not likely to acknowledge law and order in larger patterns more remote.
So today, there is an increasing, constantly increasing intensity of negation. The individual doubts, he no longer holds it to be essentially true that there is a patterned purpose behind life. If this negation continues to develop we are bound to drift into an almost hopeless skepticism. But man himself finds his own drifting increasingly uncomfortable. He discovers that actually, the kind of a universe he lives in is not nearly as important to him as what he thinks about the kind of universe he lives in. It is his own adjustment that must to a large measure determine his relationships with life.
He learns also, of course, that there is only one essential contribution that he can make as a private citizen. And that is, the contribution of a well-ordered conduct of his own. He cannot give to others what he does not have. He cannot demand anything from others with an assurance that he will receive it, but he can bestow of what he is, or of what he has, according to his own insight and understanding.
It therefore, becomes important to the average person to enrich his own potential of interpretation and understanding. Unless he can do this, he cannot hope to maintain a creditable place in the life pattern of which he is a part. We must admit, and we know it is true from continually increasing evidence, that all negative attitudes are essentially destructive to the person who holds them and to those around that person. Negative attitudes must be compensated for in terms of unhappiness, sickness. and premature death. There can be no possible way in which a negative attitude, or a destructive attitude, can essentially and directly contribute to our security. The only way that it can contribute is because we ultimately discover the wrongness of it, and are thereby perhaps impelled to search a better attitude.
Actually, anything that is wrong in our own emotional and mental life will be interpreted ultimately in terms of misery and sickness. We cannot win with negation. We cannot criticize ourselves into health, but we can criticize ourselves into sickness. We cannot hate ourselves into peace of mind, but we can destroy mind and its peace with hate. Every negative attitude, no matter how much we defend our right to it, or how justified it seems to be, must end in a negation in our own natures.
Thus, the person who is a critic gradually destroys his social bridges. He becomes an outcast, and in loneliness and sorrow, watches his life disintegrate. He will insist that his criticisms are valid, that what he says is true, but if it is negative, it does not help. And the individual whose discrimination, whose thoughtfulness, continually lead him into negative discovery, or to the discovery of error, this individual ultimately becomes habit ridden with negation, and loses their power and the incentives to constructive thought.
Nearly all of our psychological trouble today rests with unadjusted persons who have permitted themselves to develop negative mental and emotional habits. And as it is estimated now that within the next generation, at least 1 out of every 5 persons born in the United States will at some time be an occupant of a mental hospital. It begins to be a rather serious situation. And most of these persons – and I have worked with hundreds and thousands of them – who are in these hospitals are persons who have permitted bad habits of mind and emotion to come in and control their lives.
Many of these persons have excellent explanations for why they are as they are. But such explanation do not help. The only explanation that is of any value to us is the explanation of how we stayed sane. The rest of it is not profitable. These individuals who are mentally and emotionally sick can prove to our satisfaction, perhaps, to their own satisfaction, certainly, that they are misunderstood, neglected, afflicted human beings born in calamity and misery, and therefore, fully entitled to fall to pieces. All this however, does not solve anything. And the perpetuation of a philosophy of this kind cannot possibly bring any satisfaction, security, or health to anyone. The answer lies in a positive relationship with life.
Now, in going back over a good many of these horrible characteristic problems, we find that the individual, who has come to these melancholy and morbid conclusions, actually did not have a particularly difficult life. The individual who breaks under pressure is one of a community of persons, most of whom have had equal pressures with himself. It is not the individual who has gone through the most that falls to pieces, it is the individual with the least resource in himself. It is not the person who has gone through the greatest tragedy who is tragedy ridden, it is the individual, perhaps, whose only tragedy has been his own selfishness.
But the person who has the wrong basic perspective gradually cultivates a philosophy of negation. He rationalizes, develops logical and reasonable sequences, to prove to himself that he is a suffering soul. And when his proof is conclusive, he is completely miserable. And this complete misery has about it a nostalgic kind of uniqueness, and we have a competitive attitude in which human beings actually vie with each other as to which one can be the most miserable, gaining a certain distinction from having suffered tremendously.
Years ago, we had a group form, in fact it was created quite a time ago but became prominent about 20-25 years ago, a group dedicated to public confession. These members would rise up in the meeting and tell all their sins. It was a little confusing, and a bit embarrassing, and did lead to a few lawsuits for slander and defamation of character. But the real cause of consternation, was, you would think persons would be reticent to get up and admit the most intimate delinquencies. Instead of this, we found that many of these persons got up and proudly confessed delinquencies which they never had. The only problem came from the competitive instinct to be more delinquent than the previous testifier. Each person who got up had to top all who had gone before him, and took a strange morbid pride in confessing faults that he did not possess.
This tendency is part of the same pattern that we mentioned before: the idea that we cultivate negation far more enthusiastically than we do virtues. But this problem of competitive testimony of misery makes a certain importance in life. It causes the individual to feel a kind of significance, and it nearly always arises in a life not adequately occupied with other and more constructive activities. The complainer is nearly always a person whose life is not actively dedicated to some practical purpose.
This endless complaining, this constant emphasis upon the evils of things, can be defended – lots of persons have tried to defend it, making quite an exhibition – but all of these individuals, defending or not defending, but clinging to this attitude, are less effective as persons than those with other attitudes. And we must assume in nature, that there is a pattern of rewards and punishments which lie within the psychological and biological structure of man.
Instead of assuming that he is punished by some arbitrary penalty in the universe by some god of compensations, we observe that man is constantly rewarded and punished by the chemical consequences of his own conduct. It therefore has to follow, that where nature punishes the individual for an attitude – and it would seem to me that loneliness, sickness, despair, sorrow, and frustration must be regarded as some kinds of punishments – that they are the consequences of actions which nature does not wish to see perpetuated.
We have to assume that nature rewards obedience with security, that is a maximum security under existing conditions, and punishes disobedience with insecurity. As our entire generation is lacking in security, as the average individual is insecure, we must assume that what he is doing, how he is thinking, what he is feeling, these things must be wrong or they could not be punished by a just, natural pattern.
And each person must ultimately make an accounting to his own biology. He must face the result of his thinking and his feelings upon the cell structure of his own body, upon the circulation of the blood, upon the vital organs of his body, and upon his nervous system. If these are whipped by his actions and attitudes, then these actions and attitudes cannot be correct.
Now, underneath all of this, perhaps, lies a deeper problem: namely, that biology and physiology may not have been originally conceived or devised for the purposes to which man has dedicated his life. The individual has gradually become a highly complicated mental, emotional creature. And nature, apparently, regards complication as a fault. Nature does not reward any form of complication. The natural processes are direct and simple, and while we may not understand them all, when we discover a new phase, we are always amazed at its simplicity.
Truth is usually overlooked because of its simplicity.
So man was created apparently for a rather simple kind of life. Now this does not mean that it was intended that he should be an agrarian to the end of his days, or that his entire psychology was built for the time when he lived in a hut the forest. This is not true, but it is essentially true that man was not created to sustain the degree of wear and tear which he imposes upon himself. Man was not created with an equipment to maintain him against World Wars, atomic bombs, crime waves, and the ambitions of leaders, and the tribulations and antagonisms of nations and states. He was not created for such an intensive, negative way of life.
Thus his very so-called advancement, with its continuous emphasis upon tension, pressure and stress, this so-called advancement is resulting in a serious biological complaint which arises out of the bodies of those persons who have exceeded their own resources and their efforts to live. Thus, the answer must lie in simplification, and the conservation of resources, the integration of life upon patterns less intensive, less destructive, than those with which we are daily confronted now,
Nature is again telling us that our ways of life are subject to penalty because they are wrong. Now a great group of persons arises in a culture such as ours, proudly proclaiming the things we do, telling us that these various activities, useful or useless, are indications of progress. That if it was not for this dynamic with which we are constantly rattling ourselves to pieces, we would not be the prominent progressive up-and-coming people that we are.
But are we prominent, progressive, and up-and-coming? As we look around us, it looks more as though we were down and departing in many things. It looks as though we are constantly more concerned as to whether or not our progress can survive, and we wake up with consternation to discover that somebody else discovered the Sputnik! A very grave shock to our egos. And we begin to question whether our present way of life is protecting and preserving the leadership we thought we had. Because in the long run, a world, or a generation, or a nation, or a race of sick people cannot preserve leadership. We cannot rule the world if our own psychic natures are in a state of constant uproar and disintegration.
In our own daily and immediate problems, these same rules hold true. We live in a constant tension. We live in an intensity almost beyond our conception. We think we’re getting used to it. We are firmly convinced that man can adjust to anything. To a degree, man can adjust to anything that is real. Man can adapt himself to all inevitables, because inevitables arise in nature. But man cannot always adjust himself to his own stupidity. This has no valid source in nature and is merely an expression of his own ignorance. An individual who adjusts himself to ignorance will remain ignorant. To adjust ourselves to wrong, leaves us where we were, producing no result that is of any tangible value to anyone.
In then thinking about these problems, we turn and seek resources with which to meet them, to try to understand what constitutes a constructive, active, positive, idealistic pattern for life. How are we going to maintain it against so many difficulties?
One of the things we have to begin to estimate is the nature of difficulty. Most of the difficulties that we are in are directly due to the person we are. Man makes his own difficulties. He doesn’t realize this, and to a degree, he appears to be able to escape the implication. He can sit down and prove, almost to the satisfaction of anyone’s logic, that he is not the cause of his troubles, that his neighbors are the cause, that his world is the cause, that high taxes are the cause.
But actually, the individual is responsible for his own total degree of integration. Actually, taxes are not the cause of his worries or his fears. World conditions are not the causes. The real cause is in the bridge of his own mind. The cause of his trouble is his own attitude toward these problems. If he hates them, he is in trouble. Now, he may say that the thing he hates deserves hate. It may, theoretically, but he cannot afford to hate. It is too dangerous, and nearly always, hatred rises from shallow, inadequate estimation of facts.
It is very difficult to understand things and hate them. We may understand them and regret them. We may understand them and hope that we can change them. We may understand them and realize that they arise from a condition of human collective consciousness which is not adequate. We may observe that too much of our living is from the level of childishness, rather than from the level of maturity. These things may become obvious to us, and we may find certain individuals to be particularly and devastatingly ignorant. We may also observe that the untutored and untrained person lacks the capacity for judgment and kindness and thoughtfulness.
But out of the entire thoughtfulness which we have used, it comes no longer an attitude of hate, but almost a sense of compassion, a great sympathy, a constructive sorrow, for the misfortune of another person whose limitations make it impossible for him to see more correctly than he does. We gain from this a desire to help rather than a desire to condemn, and the moment the instinct to criticize is transmuted into the instinct to help, we are beginning to move on to a positive foundation. Anything that deserves criticism needs help. As long as we approach it on the level of criticism, we will not help. Some people, of course, insist that criticism is a help. But unless it is an essentially constructive approach, unless this criticism is backed by a tremendous depth of understanding and a practical solution to the problem, it merely compounds the dilemma. And to criticize things for which we have no solution cannot be regarded as a good vocational activity.
Thus in the understanding which we develop, our tremendous hatreds, our intensities, gradually disappear. And in their places, we have a thoughtful, perhaps sadness, but most of all, a deep realization that behind and through things that appear to be wrong, our motions which are essentially right, and which will come to their own in due time. In any way that we can help these motions to come true, we are available. But mostly, these constructive motions require a very great degree of personal composure. And when this is lost, the constructive motions are also lost.
To then approach this problem, we have to build a philosophy of living, a concept of life, that relieves us from the need to condemn. We must find a way of internal adjustment that permits us to recognize error and regret it, but not to be confused by it. Also, we must reach a degree in which every misfortune that approaches us becomes a challenge to greater adequacy on our own part. So-called reverse is not dilemma, it is challenge. It is an opportunity to be bigger than we are in order to meet a problem greater than we have previously known.
Every problem is an opportunity for the individual to release solutional power from within himself. Locked within each of us is a potential we know very little about. With every faculty that we now know alert, we are using only a small fraction of our potential life availability. We have at hand countless resources which we do not even know exist, because we have never directly required them to exhibit themselves, we’ve never called upon them.
If then, instead of blocking the mind with negations, we permit a challenge to release its own solution from ourselves, we shall observe that we have much greater solutional power than we have ever known. Once, however, we have admitted a kind of defeatism, the moment we have set ourselves in a crystallized pattern of negation, we lock our lives from the solutional energies within ourselves. Once we have closed our minds to good, or to optimism, or to adjustments, once we have admitted defeat, once we have become cynical and critical, we are no longer concerned with doing anything well.
The only thing we are concerned with is how badly someone else is doing it. We have no sense of being able to step into the situation and solve it. We have, perhaps, no incentive to. If we happen to dislike the individual in trouble, we hope his trouble gets worse, and when everyone’s troubles get worse, the whole world becomes more confused, and our probabilities of happiness are further diminished.
If then, we are confronted, as each of us is today, with a problem almost involving our own sanity, it is very important that we recognize the possibility of further solutional resources within ourselves. We have to realize that man is equipped to meet any natural emergency. He is able to solve the problem of his own survival if he will cooperate with the patterns of energy and consciousness which exist in his own life. It is only when he refuses to cooperate, or fails to do so, that the problems continue to grow and the solutions to become less and less obvious.
When we speak, then, of an of a positive or active attitude toward life, we do not mean the Pollyanna concept of looking at something that is no good and proclaiming it as beautiful. Such is not the attitude at all. The attitude is one of accepting growth as natural, reasonable, and proper, and also recognizing that the principal instrument of growth is challenge. The individual can never become better unless he needs to become better. And whenever a problem is bigger than we are, it reveals the need within ourselves to increase or enlarge our own resources. A problem then is not a dilemma, or a disaster, until we fail to meet it. And our own poor adjustment to it, then, sets in motion consequences which we term: afflictions.
A problem is not an affliction until we have misunderstood it, resented it, rejected it, denied it, or perverted the energies involved in it. Now, we can say that this is hard to accept, because everything in life is constantly presenting us with loss, with disturbance, with perhaps irritation, crisis, responsibilities, worry, all of these things are true. We do have these problems, continuously pounding in upon us, but these are not the problems. The problems are our own acceptances, our own rejections, and our own available resources. If we are overly selfish, we create a whole circle of problems. If we are vain, we create a circle of problems; if we are egotistic, another circle of problems; if we are jealous, we get into further trouble.
It is our own attitude, primarily, which results in a challenge becoming a tragedy. It is only a tragedy when we have misunderstood or confused it or rejected the lesson which it contains for ourselves. To say this means nothing, except perhaps to stimulate a little thinking along these lines. Behind the saying of it, there has to be a total philosophy to sustain it. And that is why philosophy is important. It is a way in which we convince ourselves of our own needs. It is a way in which we rationally sell the truth to ourselves. It is not a substitute for conduct, but it can be a tremendous incentive to conduct. And it also can give us the courage to make decisions that are more wise, more practical, more useful, to all concerned.
Under those conditions, philosophy begins to unfold to us the idea of a universe, in which, what we call good and bad actually have no existence, except in man himself. A universe that is ruled by facts, by truths, by realities, everything is as it is. And if man will accept everything as it is, and understand it as it is, he will find that in this, he has a clue to the directing of his own conduct.
Now we can take the negative attitude, by simply falling into words, that such acceptance would interfere with progress. Man is not supposed to accept, he’s supposed to roll up his sleeves go out and make a considerable amount of excitement, whether it means anything or not. Actually, however, by acceptance we do not mean to sit back and do nothing.
What we really mean, is, that by acceptance, we acknowledge facts and work from those, rather than from prejudices. We have to have some kind of a basic acceptance of value. We have to say to ourselves, either this world in which we live is meaningful, or it is not. Either the universe is honest, or it is not. Either there is a basic integrity at the root of life, or there is not. We cannot carry water on both shoulders in these matters. We cannot affirm one thing one day and deny it the next.
We must either believe that this universe is a planned thing, and that behind it is a creating intelligence and consciousness, able to administer, and administering this vast unfoldment according to lawful means, or, there is not any of these factors. A man is simply a creature of accident, circumstance, and incident. If we take the second position, then we must live by that. Which means, that we must live with total purposelessness, because then nothing is important, and nothing is less important in a meaningless universe than our own rebellion. So that there is no reason why even the purposeless viewpoint should result in pressure. If nothing means anything, anyway, why should we spend all of our time being angry about something, pleased about something else, and miserable in anticipation of a third thing? If nothing is important, then life becomes something so completely ludicrous, ridiculous, that there is no sense in any sense, whatever.
If, on the other hand, there is a purposed existence, then we must begin to accept certain moral values. We must affirm or assume that this world is an unfolding sphere, and that within this unfolding sphere, man is precariously suspended. Largely problemed and burdened by his own inability to understand the greater values of the world, his inability to grasp the total picture of his own existence, and thereby unable to know with certainty the courses of action which he should pursue. He is therefore under the pressure of a continuous doubt, a lack of available certainty.
Lacking available certainty, he turns to the inner part of his own life, supporting it, sustaining it, and enriching it to the greatest degree possible, by recourse to and reference to, the great achievements of other times and other ages. He uses the great philosophies and religions of life as guides and aids to understanding. He seeks to know better and to live according to the teachings of Buddha, Jesus, or Confucius, or Lao-Tze, because he believes these persons have lived well. He tries to draw upon the spiritual experience of his race for courage, conviction, for understanding, for sustaining faith. And gradually, out of his conviction, he integrates a constructive attitude which he must then put to work, proving or disproving it.
It’s interesting, perhaps, to realize that there is a reason why certain great systems of thinking have lived. They have not lived because the Creator was proud of them, that is the human creator. These systems have not survived because of the mere pressure of personality. They have survived only for one reason: that in common experience, they have proven true. That individuals have found in these teachings, religious, philosophical principles, which when applied, are ever true. Which when lived, produce results which are commendable, constructive, and secure. That these teachings are better than the absence of them. That they have given us a stronger personal way of life, a way of life more likely to produce happiness than a way without these teachings and this level of understanding.
Thus, humanity has created its own Saints by recognizing and rewarding those whose ideas have become an imperishable part of human good. And in this way, we begin to sense that man is forever experimenting with value. All of these great teachers have united in certain positive concepts. They have pointed out the importance of a dynamic failure. They have recognized the tremendous importance of a non-aggressive attitude toward life, a completely different perspective from ours.
We live in an economic and political world, continuously aggressive. And yet, we live with religions, churches, on every street corner, practically. Two-thirds of our population is nominally religious. We live in a tremendous religious atmosphere of renunciation, of unselfishness, of impersonality, of the acceptance of evil but not the doing of it, and of the tremendous importance of returning good for evil. These things we affirm, we believe, but we cannot operate them in our daily life because they run headlong into the small, personal prejudices which are more important to us than principles.
Yet therapy lies directly in this level. No one wants to be sick. Very few people can afford to be safe under the existing conditions. And socialized medicine is no solution, in the sense that it will not give back to the individual his proper energies, even if it helps him to pay the bill for his mistakes. In the sense of paying the bill, it does help but it does not solve the problem. The problems lies not in getting well, but in staying well in the first place. And these great philosophies that we have known as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Muslimism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, these great philosophies have been in common agreement. And millions of human beings, hundreds of millions, living under them for the last twenty five hundred years, have discovered as factual experience within themselves, when they have been able to be big enough and strong enough to live these principles, that in the recognition of a non-combative, non-competitive code lies the health and security of the people.
That we are not ever going to attain peace, happiness, serenity, or security by a constant psychic pressure, by constant irritation and agitation. We are going to find the solution to our problems in the integration of our own resources. Assuming for a moment that we will acknowledge with Western man, even though where Eastern man is not entirely of the same opinion, that there are many problems that can be solved with good thinking. That real thoughtfulness and real regard, friendship, thoughtfulness, and affection – simple, direct, sincere – these will solve many problems.
But how are we going to have any of these qualities, simple and sincere, while we remain totally complicated? The victims of pressures from within our own psychic natures, eternally destructive of simplicity, and sincerity, and affection, and regard. How are we going to dislike people often enough and long enough to attain this serenity we talk about? How are we going to complain our way into peace of mind? Or how are we going to scandalize our way into security? We cannot.
And to achieve our ends, we have to begin to reintegrate our own basic standard of values. Before we can permit any positive value to grow, we must, to a measure at least, escape from the pressure of negative value. If we are going to have a beautiful garden, we must first clear the land, for if we leave all the weeds on the stumps there our flowers will not grow well. And after we have planted the garden, if we wish it to become a beautiful garden, we must take care of it. We must see that the plants receive nourishment, and water, and that they are planted according to their own nature, some in the Sun and some in the shade, so that each is given the opportunity to be itself. If we do not use this care and this thoughtfulness, we have no right to resent the universe if our garden does not grow well.
And in our own thinking, in our own living, before we can create a constructive philosophy of life, we’ve got to get the weeds out of our own consciousness. And these weeds are hate, and fear, and doubt, and jealousy, suspicion, egotism, over-possessiveness, over-ambition, envy, and such attitudes as must always reap a whirlwind. All of these actions and attitudes must end in trouble. If we want to be out of trouble, therefore, we must prevent the continuance of these attitudes.
Now, we can’t just simply say to ourselves, let’s stop being jealous. Unfortunately, we have nursed these negatives so long that we can no longer control them. They control us. We are the victim of habits and these habits are those of negation. The only way we can escape from these habits is to understand through them, by giving ourselves a point of view or a perspective acceptable to ourselves. We must sell ourselves something better in order to un-sell ourselves about something worse.
Our new attitude must arise because we have a new and better conviction about value. The moment the conviction is established, that which is inconsistent with it falls away. The only reason we’re in trouble is because our conviction is on a level which causes trouble. When this center of conviction changes to another and better level, the trouble falls away. We cannot escape jealousy and fear and all these pressures simply by denying them, or by attempting to frustrate them violently in our own natures. But we can gradually become educated, we can gradually find out what true learning means. And that learning is really helping to build higher levels of conviction, giving us better instruments with which to estimate values, giving us stronger inducements to see and think straight, and through the straightening out of our own crooked thoughts, relieving ourselves of the pressure of convictions that are essentially wrong.
Thus by degrees, we can create a new level of action, and this new level of action must precede any change in our living. As long as we remain the same, our condition will remain the same. No individual, simply by wishing without doing, will change the pattern of his life. If, then, we wish to get a truly secure position, we have several possibilities.
We all know, for example, the peculiar effect of intelligence upon audacity. It has been observed and noted for a long time that, to get a person who is really a man of action, you’ve got to get a stupid one. When you want to get a real world conqueror like Adolph Hitler, you must get a little man who has never left home. You must get an individual with a closed mind and a comparative lack of capacity to think.
The moment the individual begins to think seriously, he is less sure of himself. Thinking, in other words, does not create egotism, primarily. It has a tendency to create fear. The reason being, that the more we think, the bigger the world looks and the smaller we look. The individual who hasn’t thought at all has a solution for everything and will never know whether it will work or not because he has no way of applying it and no instrument suitable to experiment with his own ideas. But the moment we study humanity, we suddenly realized that the universal panacea is extremely difficult. The more we know about people, the less certain we are what will help them.
Thus we pass intellectually into a kind of uncertainty, an uncertainty which causes the contemplative person to be accused of being non-active. Actually, he may become so, but not necessarily as the result of contemplation because contemplation has, as its real end, the conservation of energy. Its purpose is to recognize that you cannot attack ten thousand problems like Don Quixote de la Mancha lancing windmills, that you cannot go out on a knight-errantry of reforms, simply attacking this evil and that evil and finding that, for every head of evil you cut off, seven more grow as in the Greek myth.
The contemplative person is looking to find the root. He realizes that if he can discover the basic common denominator of trouble, and can attack that, that with one clear decision, one clear discovery, he can uproot 10,000 evils. That behind all of the mistakes we make, there is one basic tendency to make mistakes, that behind all of the wrong thoughts, wrong emotions, and wrong actions that exist in the world, there is a fallacy. And that this one fallacy must be attacked in some way. That the only answer lies not in tearing the leaves off of the tree, one by one, for they will grow again next year. If the tree is a poisonous or injurious, the only way to get at it is to chop it down at the root. Otherwise, you cannot remove it, you cannot end it. So the contemplative life turns away from a non-valid action that we are all guilty of, this action of trying desperately to fight particulars, and causes us to turn to the contemplation of those great general principles which are responsible for all the particulars we do not like.
And as we go further and further into these problems, we realize that error, as we know it, stems from a wrong concept, a wrong premise, a wrong attitude basically toward life. And this wrong attitude, whether we want to admit it or not, is an attitude of aggressiveness, based upon ego, by means of which, man is attempting to dominate something that he should obey. He is trying to be free from law when his only hope is to be free under law. He is attempting to impose himself upon the world, refusing to recognize the fact that he’s totally incapable of wisely administering this world he is attempting to conquer. He is trying desperately to cause the universe to be under the guidance of his mentation, when up to the present time he has been unable to demonstrate that with his own mind he can govern even himself.
So there are basic errors and most of these basic errors root in aggressive egoism, root in this concept that we are right and that we are born to command, when we are probably actually wrong and are born to command only our own resources, which to us is not a glamorous perspective. Out of this, then, man has to reintegrate his way of life. What he is doing is destroying him and he knows it. Therefore, he cannot sustain it and he cannot defend it. He can only tolerate it, and as it becomes more intolerable, he will have more difficulty tolerating it.
What he must have is a way of life, rooted in nature’s purpose in the universal dynamic itself, not in his concept of things. But he says, I can’t do this because I don’t know what it is. The reason he doesn’t know what it is, is, because he has done so much agitating of himself that he has never been receptive to value. Man possesses, of all creatures, the only group of truly reflective powers that we know. Man alone is a contemplative animal. And because he is a contemplative creature, he has a power greater than any other animal that we know. But he doesn’t contemplate.
And because in the production of his contemplative nature, certain other faculties, and certain other propensities were limited. Man finds that he is weaker than the animal in many ways, less intuitive than the animal, less able to depend upon integrity of instinct than the animal, and at the same time, not using the contemplative faculties by means of which his own peculiar existence can be preserved.
To meet this emergency, the individual must reverse certain procedures. One of the things he’s got to do, somewhere along the line, is to break down this aggressive negation, with which he occupies himself morning noon and night. This endless fault-finding, this endless cycle of trying to impose his own ways upon others, and also this tremendous effort to keep up with the silly momentums of his time. If he doesn’t do these things, if he doesn’t make these changes, he will simply go into oblivion with the rest of a foolish generation. He will not win, he cannot, because the final criterion is in his own body, in his own emotional construction which is falling to pieces because of abuse. And this abuse will never be acceptable and will never be the basis of health. And, as man tries desperately to adjust to one group of errors, he develops another, keeping his entire structure in an endless state of tension.
So, an open, constructive or positive attitude in this situation consists in the individual attaining a detachment from negation first, a relaxation, away from criticism away from suspicion and doubt. Not the acceptance of things that are wrong, but the recognition that his power to solve what is wrong lies in the active use of his contemplative faculties. Man’s solutions to his problems must be on the level of man, not on the level of beasts. War is an effort to solve human problems on the level of beasts and it cannot succeed. Each human being has within himself a contemplative power where he must solve his problems by arbitration, rather than by violence. When he neglects the power to arbitrate, when he neglects the contemplation of solution, he destroys his humanity, destroys the uniqueness by means of which he has a reason and justification for survival.
So we say that the person in these problems, in his daily living, must begin to relax away as far as he possibly can from these intensities, recognizing them not as virtues but as hidden vices. Perhaps we would have a tendency to correct some of these difficulties if we recognize them as false, but we do not. We have grown so accustomed custom to them we think of them as virtues, as indispensable parts of ourselves. Our right to criticize is a sacred right, our right to condemn is something that we will fight and die for, and yet neither of these, criticism nor condemnation, solve anything. They merely magnify and complicate the problems of living.
If we can ease down on this a little, and give ourselves a chance to relax and allow the contemplative level to come through, we will find that in a more impersonal attitude, less dominated by destructive intensity, we are in a position to discover workable solution. Intensity destroys our power to solve, anger destroys our power to think, hate destroys our power to love, fear destroys our power of faith. All things needed to solution are destroyed by their opposites, and the individual who has the negative qualities, cannot at the same time sustain the positive ones. He must decide between them, and the amazing thing that he doesn’t realize and has never been able to realize, is that love is a kindlier, happier thing than hate.
We have never seemed to find as much satisfaction in the development of our virtues as we have in catering to our vices. Yet actually, our thoughtfulness, our kindliness, our friendliness, these are the sources of happiness. These are the things which bring us contentment, these are the very conditions we dream about, these are the things men go out in war and fight and die for. Yet in decision, we do not choose to cultivate them. The moment some temptation to be unhappy comes along, we are perfectly willing to sacrifice our birthright of happiness.
Out of the recognition of this situation, we do have the right, if we wish to apply it, of choosing positive and constructive attitudes. We can choose not to gossip, we can choose not to criticize, and we can choose to seek the good in things, realizing always that there is something of good. And furthermore, that the acceptance of the fact of good is the greatest stimulation toward the growth of good. Henry Ford proved, in his work with ex-convicts, that when you have a faith in a man, you have a greater probability of that man maintaining his own self-respect than when you suspect him. The moment you doubt him, you destroy his faith in himself. The moment we suspect, we create suspicion. Whereas, if we have a strong and constructive attitude, we have the greatest and most powerful defense against betrayal.
But someone will say, “I did have that attitude once, twice, three times and I was betrayed. Now I’m a hopeless skeptic. I have done things for people, they’ve turned around and stabbed me in the back.” There are a large number of cliches bearing on this point, but we don’t need to repeat them all. But the answer again lies in man’s ability to detach himself from the things he does.
Almost always, when we are so-called betrayed, we are offended. First, because we feel that our own judgement has been wrong, and that’s an intolerable situation in itself. We can never forgive the individual who has proved that we are wrong, if it is only by failing us in some emergency. Furthermore, we become attached to the things we are doing, we expect results, we demand results. But we live within so small a reference frame, that the only results that we can see must be almost immediate ones. It is difficult for us to imagine that something, the results of which we cannot see, has results. And nor can we be satisfied with the belief that those results may only reach their harvest long after we have gone. We must have the proof of it right now.
All of this, again, being the imposing of our own mind and our own attitudes upon things. We do not do things well, generously, lovingly, and finely because we expect reward. We do these things because they are the law, and we either keep the law, or die from breaking it. The other person’s reaction to what we do is according to his own understanding. We are not responsible for his understanding, but we are responsible totally for our own. And if 5,000 persons fail us every day of our lives, that is no excuse for any human being to become cynical. Let’s face it. Because we must live with ourselves, and if we do not believe in cynicism, then the failure of other persons cannot make us do that which we know is not right. The moment we permit ourselves to fall into this error, this error of being discouraged, it means that our faith in value is not great enough.
This evidence, by the way, is not so remarkable as we might first assume. There are very few persons who have not been given indications of gratitude. There are very few persons who have done great things over a continuous period of time without recognition. There are very few persons whose kind deeds have always gone awry. What we generally again do, is promptly forget the kindnesses that have been done to us, the gentlenesses which have returned to us, and when 50 persons are grateful and one is not, that one is the only one we remember.
If we look back over our lives, we will realize that we have not been the continuous victims of ingratitude. We have been the continuous victims of our own attitude toward it. We have willingly and willfully rejected the kindnesses, which we should have appreciated, in order to nurse the grudges we should have forgotten. Thus regardless of how we approach it, as Henry Ford found out, again, with the criminals or ex-criminals that he took on parole and employed and placed in positions of responsibility. Every one of them did not live up to it, but the majority did. And it would be quite possible to build a philosophy of life upon the one who didn’t, but that philosophy of life would be wrong, because it would forget the dozens and hundreds who proved themselves trustworthy in every way.
The same way, if we are negative and recognize and remember only negation, we can prove it but the proof is not valid, because it is a proof based upon a minority incident. It is the magnification of a particular, whereas the men who did respond and did come through represented a generality, a larger group. And their testimony, 99 to one perhaps, is the more valid. And in life, the hundreds of good things that have come to us are more valid than the few unpleasant remembrances that we cannot get out of our systems.
So, if we take our attitudes and examine life fairly, we will discover grounds for optimism. We will find that this world is not nearly as bad as we have forced it to be by our own thinking. And building a more generous, contemplative relationship with life, we will begin to see that we have been wonderfully blessed and protected through countless emergencies. And that also, if we could maintain and preserve the gentleness of spirit which is our birthright as human beings, we could live victoriously through this span of life, creating good for others and strengthening the integrities in ourselves.
So our positive attitudes must arise from a total picture of our own living. When we shall discover that actually, we have enjoyed much more than we have suffered. And if we have suffered, it has usually been because we were not big enough and not deep enough to find the value, the basic beauty, the deep meaning, the important instruction, in certain experiences. These we have resented. We’ve resented them because we rejected them, and in so doing, have created negation. If we understand these things, we can begin to build a more constructive attitude and a better philosophy. And we will find that the proof of it will lie in its effect upon our total economy as persons.
When the facial expression begins to relax, when the tightness leaves the corners of the mouth, when the nervous, angular motions of the body begin to soften, when we can begin to enjoy the good that comes to others, when we can actually feel a little better when we get up, a little better through the day, as the result of trying, of striving, we will realize that a good attitude is our only protection in life. That without it we cannot survive. Nature tells us this and if we are wise, we will obey nature, and watching nature’s way, will probably discover that we can save ourselves many sorrowful hours, many years of reverse, and many misunderstandings, which are due only to our own lack of perspective.
So beginning to take responsibility for our own condition, and living according to it, we can slowly integrate a really purposeful point of view, one that will help us and strengthen us and give us courage to face the future.
Well, time is up.