The Trouble with Routine
So let's come back to the realization that any activity which is repeated, which is directed in the narrow sense, any method, any routine, logical or illogical, does affect the brain. We have understood that very clearly. Knowledge at a certain level is essential, but psychological knowledge about oneself, one's experiences, etc. becomes routine. The images I have about myself also obviously become routine, and all that helps to bring about a shrinkage of the brain. I have understood all that very clearly. And any kind of occupation, apart from the mechanical... no, not mechanical... I would say that the mind is all-inclusive. When it is all-inclusive, of brain, emotions - all that; when it is totally whole, not divisive in itself, there is a quality which is universal.
…is there a way of being open to it and is there a function of the mind through which the whole of it can become accessible?
I think there is. We may come to that presently if we can stick to this point: We are asking now, can the brain renew itself, rejuvenate, become young again without any shrinkage at all? I think it can. I want to open a new chapter and discuss this. psychologically, knowledge that man has acquired is crippling it. The Freudians, the Jungians, the latest psychologist, the latest psychotherapist, are all helping to make the brain shrink. Sorry! I don't mean to give offence....
Is there a way of forgetting this knowledge then?
No, no. Not forgetting. I see what psychological knowledge is doing and I see the waste; I see what is taking place if I follow that line. It is obvious. So I don't follow that avenue at all. I discard analysis altogether. That is a pattern we have learnt, not discard analysis altogether. That is a pattern we have learnt, not only from the recent psychologists and psychotherapists but also through the tradition of a million years of analysis, of introspect, or of saying, `I must', and `I must not', `This is right and that is wrong'. You know the whole process. I personally don't do it, and so I reject that whole method. We are coming to a point, which is direct perception and immediate action. Our perception is generally directed by knowledge, by the past, which is knowledge perceiving, and with action arising, acting from that. This is a factor of shrinking of the brain, of senility. Is there a perception which is not time binding? And so action which is immediate? Am I making myself clear? That is, as long as the brain, which has evolved through time, is still living in a pattern of time, it is becoming senile. If we could break that pattern of time, the brain has broken out of its pattern, and therefore something else takes place.
Well, you are saying that the brain is the pattern of time, and perhaps this should be clarified. I think that what you mean by analysis is some sort of process based on past knowledge, which organizes our perception, and in which we take a series of steps to try to accumulate knowledge about the whole thing. And now you say that this is a pattern of time, and we have to break out of it.
Each time I dip into Krishnamurti's dialogue's it's like discovering a new continent. Like a Columbus, I'm so dazzled by outlying islands that I can't fathom the totality just over the horizon. Each fragment gives me so much to chew on I just stop, unable to go any further until I've had a chance to metabolize what I've found.
This dialogue with David Bohm and G. Narayan, Principle of the Rishi Valley School in India, took place in June of 1980. Once again, I'm shocked both that I never had any inkling of what these two were up to in all these years, and that what I find here resonates so deeply with concerns I've had since at least 1980.
I remember sessions in graduate school at that time when established artists with international reputations would insist that one could limit what a work of art meant simply by choosing to see it from a reductivist perspective. I chafed at this, and it's taken me thirty years to begin to put together a framework that establishes why I rejected that outlook. I've also had an instinct, going back as far as I can remember, to want to treat every situation as something unprecedented – as much as possible within the constraints of what I used to call a pull towards stereotypical responses, and which now I would call the pull of our conditioning, re: Krishnamurti and Bohm.
This dialogue – please take the effort to immerse yourself in the rhythms and structure of the whole thing, their dialogues are a lesson in what they are discussing. The cranky, awkward style, from our usual perspective, is an antidote to the kind of easy feeding they reject. – This dialogue took place at a point when neuroscience was in between the old paradigm, and more recent shifts in perspective and understanding of the brain's plasticity. Krishnamurti is speaking out of a pure intuition. We can see in some of his "lapses" and exaggerations that he was not schooled in the sciences. Bohm was a physicist of the highest quality with a tremendous urge and capacity to see outside of any narrow impositions of his chosen "field." Together they are reaching conclusions that only now are finding scientific verification. At the same time, they are fully aware of the limits of any such verification and are practicing a rigor of truthfulness to what is unknowable that shows us how we can step out of the limitations of the reductivist tendencies of the scientific method.
Simply put Krishnamurti is saying that knowledge, especially knowledge of the self, limits our train of thought and digs behavioral and conceptual ruts that stagnate and then atrophy our brains. To me this fits in very well with what I know of cognitive therapy, that patterns of thought build up creating behavioral ruts that can only be wiped clean by presenting them to our awareness for what they are. That in practice these channels appear and are accepted and taken for granted faster than we can discern them. We find ourselves caught in the old trap and whatever we do just brings us back around to where we started. Over time this process becomes more and more seamless and with faster and faster connections so that we eventually find it impossible not only to break free but even to be aware that any other way is possible.
For me the breakthrough in disassembling patterns of depression that had existed for my entire conscious life until I was fifty was to write down and capture the harsh judgments I was making about myself, write them down, and then through this act of putting them outside of myself to be able to see that they were ridiculous, unfounded, and profoundly prejudicial. This led to an immediate and progressive lightening of my outlook as I began to build new pathways that replaced the one's I could now acknowledge for what they were and reject as untrustworthy.
Krishnamurti is making a case for a much broader conclusion. One that ties in directly with action without striving. That all recurring patterns of thought, habits of mind, blind conditioning, lead us to prejudge our situations and act within narrowly circumscribed channels of stereotypical behavioral responses. That while repetition of physical acts can and does build up our abilities, as in exercise, or a physical practice of any sort, even carrying out the tasks that make up Craft; repetition of a conceptual routine deepens the ruts in our thinking and leads to an inability to see beyond an ever diminishing circle of possibilities.
Sound familiar? This could be a way to talk about our situation without continually harping on civilization! It could be much more accurate to say that it is this pattern of behavior that seeks out an increasingly regimented way of thinking and acting that is the source of our difficulties. This does parallel the aspects of civilization I find most disturbing quite closely if not totally. By focusing more directly on this mechanism we can begin to avoid the collateral damage and incredibly muddled vocabulary surrounding the language of civilization. This allows us to isolate the harmful aspects of civilization while allowing us to see what is of enduring value in civilization's mental and physical artifacts.
There remains the depth of our habituation which fights this insight and attempts to fold it back into our habitual responses. How do we "deschool" ourselves? To throw Illich into the conversation, since he was dealing with many of these same issues just from a different angle. How can we use a bit of insight that is itself a form of self-knowledge to wean ourselves from the pursuit of self-knowledge that leads us to prepackage our relationships to ourselves and the world?
We come back to action without striving….