Discussions of deep philosophical issues may seem out of place in a journal dedicated to K-12 education, but actually philosophical viewpoints (and their assumptions) inform all daily perspectives and behaviors. So unless a teacher has grappled with these underlying issues, he or she may be teaching out of unexamined conditioning. Furthermore, the teachers, administrators and staffs of the schools and foundations may turn Krishnamurti's teachings into a 'School' that will eventually become, as these things always do, just another relic of the already outdated New Age movement. The schools and foundations must re-validate K's insights as insights (and not as absolute pronouncements) by putting them to the test in both our personal everyday world and in our highest philosophical thought.

Because Krishnamurti didn't talk about everything, we must move beyond him in the sense of using his insights (and those of others) to examine new issues. This is not the same as adopting a 'perennial philosophy' with Krishnamurti's teachings as one path among many to a universal absolute. (Krishnamurti was against this kind of belief - his 'truth as a pathless land' does not equal 'truth as a land crisscrossed with equally valuable trails'.)

If Krishnamurti's insights are significant, they will help us see the world more clearly and help us resolve deep philosophical issues. The science-religion conflict is one philosophical issue that still needs work as it has yet to be satisfactorily resolved - and the ignoring of science and reason by religious groups is intensifying the conflict between rational secularists and religious extremists. In the science-religion interface, the traditional fact/value stance (science = fact, religion = value), the postmodern position (science and religion as alternative and equally valid worldviews), and the fundamentalist solution (science and every religion or sect other than one's own are wrong) - still reign as the paradigms, and they each have insurmountable problems. The traditionalists don't see the values embedded in science nor the conflict of values in the multiplicity of religions; the postmodernists don't understand the unique 'facticity' and consequent success of science, and the fundamentalists reject all of the wisdom of humankind outside of their own narrow conditioning.

But even more glaringly irrational is the fundamental assumption of all religions and thus of all religious solutions to the science-religion conflict: the belief in the 'sacred' and 'profane' as the fundamental divisions of reality. While science and philosophy may be too timid to actually point out the irrationality of thinking that reality being more than one fundamental ontological category, logic can indicate instantly the absurdity involved. And what is absurd is impossible (outside of reckless and meaningless language). So, a sacred/profane world is a logical impossibility that can be 'believed in' but cannot really be intellectually understood. Krishnamurti was keen on making this distinction between 'belief' (conditioned) and 'perception' (unconditioned), and it is in applying this distinction to intellectual areas Krishnamurti may not have covered that constitutes the 'moving beyond'.

But Krishnamurti did call things 'sacred' (rivers, mountains, life, deep psychological experiences), so with our new understanding of the illegitimacy of sacred/profane distinctions what do we make of his words? In most traditional religions, the sacred is related to God, gods, or some absolute (like Nirvana).

I don't know why Krishnamurti called rivers and mountains sacred, and if we put all his references to sacred things together, we might see some patterns. But on the face of it, why would rivers, for example, be sacred? Aside from historical associations in specific traditions (like Siva and the Ganges), rivers are fundamental features of many ecosystems. So fundamental that bioregionalists (social ecologists) divide the habitable earth into its various riverine watersheds. Rivers and their capillaries, on the surface and underground, support the biosphere - they are a necessary part of life on this planet. We could thus consider 'fundamental' and 'necessary' as sacred.

Modern science has of course described the fundamental and necessary aspects of life on earth. Perhaps its most sophisticated picture is that of the ecological fabric of all material systems. All things interact with other things, and many of these interactions are necessary for maintaining the living and non-living orders. And these orders are complex, hierarchical, directional, sequential, and regular: in a word, lawful.

Natural laws and the materials they guide are the structure of our reality. Maybe this should be considered sacred. There are laws of chemistry and physics, and there are laws of instinctual biology, and there are emerging laws of human consciousness. One of these emerging laws (emerging in our understanding) is the rule not to diminish life unnecessarily. That is, not to destroy the material infrastructure of life (overuse resources), not to poison life out of existence, not to reduce the natural diversity, not to interfere with other species outside of procuring our basic needs. And we obey this rule because we don't know much about this vast web of life, and we should tread lightly where we are ignorant. And we obey it because we are part of this web of life - it is our larger self. And we obey it because it is the reasonable attitude to take, given we are one of many species (and each of us is one of our own vast species) all vying for survival on a resource-limited planet.

Choice, reason, respect, identity are not descriptions of instinct. Humans are only part instinctual animals; the other part is language-facilitated decision-makers. And reason - created over millennia, based on what works within the constraints of reality - is the system we have developed as a species to carry out a post-instinctual path that facilitates our survival and happiness.

Without instincts to keep us in our evolutionary niche as contributing players in the larger environment, we must use reason to figure out what to do. So in this sense, reason could also be considered fundamental and hence sacred. What I'm trying to do here is make a case for human values that are natural, universal, and unarguable. For so long, philosophers have categorically denied values to science (hence the traditional view that attributes facts to science and values to religion) and so we never go to nature to find values. But modern science, especially the biological sciences, has become much more sophisticated, and now we can begin to spot right behavior embedded in the biosphere itself.

Along with the suggestion of looking precisely at 'what is' for guidance, I would also like to suggest looking at the impact of traditional religious values on the course of human history and welfare. The 'alienation' that seems to have plagued humans for all of recorded history - this inability to feel at home in nature, this unstoppable propensity for extreme violence, this almost perverse refusal to understand reality - must come from a very deep place, ubiquitous in most cultures. It must be either genetic or else part of a very widespread conditioning. Because some humans seem to escape it, I would say it comes from dominant traditions starting early on in our civilization.

To me, the sacred/profane tradition fits the parameters. It is old, worldwide, rarely questioned, underlying all overarching worldviews. The sacred/profane tradition not only separates (illogically) reality into two non-overlapping realms but also favors one realm over the other. Not only is the 'profane' world less important, less meaningful, less real, but it is also itself 'profaned.' It has been equated with evil, with everything ignoble, with entrapment and prison. Belief in these designations has allowed us to neglect, pollute, violate and abandon the natural world.

The family nexus is so strong in human biology that a tradition as alienating, violent, and absurd as the sacred/profane one is easily conditioned in each generation. It alienates and cripples us from earliest childhood, throwing us onto the desperate path to escape it, making us vulnerable to the religious solution of salvation-liberation - which itself assumes the same sacred/profane split (material existence is the cause of unhappiness, evil, and ignorance, while touching the sacred is the solution). Beware of buying a remedy from the same folks who slipped you the poison.

Within every human folly is a grain of truth. Perhaps the 'sacred' is our way of designating the important, the beautiful, the meaningful, the fundamental. We don't live in a monotone world where everything is relative. There are important things; there is a hierarchy of value; we are passionate about right behavior. For value to be truly meaningful, it must have some objective stature. In the past we have looked to religious traditions for that stature, but now we see that science and the natural world can provide that meaning. Without a transcendent 'sacred, ' life on earth must be guided by immanent and fundamental natural forces. Religious 'absolutes' will turn out to be part of the natural order - and hence not really absolute at all but rather tangible and accessible, even if sometimes hidden - or else perish as meaningless concepts. And because this natural order is one, whole, there can be no cosmically polar antitheses like good/evil or nirvana/samsara or heaven/earth. 'What is' is a sacred that does not profane.

The traditional 'solutions' to the science-religion conflict have questionable assumptions and don't really help us deal with science or religion. Religious traditions are tearing civilization apart: fundamentalisms, because they are ignorant and violent; moderate traditions, because they are in an unnoticed complicity with fundamentalists in protecting an alienated sacred/profane worldview from critique. And their violence is both material and psychological. If truth turns out to be a pathless land, then the sacred-profane path is just as illusory as the Christian or Hindu or Buddhist ones. Humans will never be able to decide on one religion's values over another - they will fight to the finish over the most narrow and absurd of interpretations. In that there is no tangible evidence with which to decide for or against any religious value, there is no non-violent solution to the conflict of traditions.

Science, on the other hand, is helping us see the values inherent in nature, a nature we all share day in and day out. We are alienated from nature (including our own natural selves, our bodies), and so understanding nature and eventually our identity with nature will undermine our alienation, eliminate our excessive violence, and allow us to live more harmoniously with each other and with the other species that share our world. Without the sacred/profane distinction obscuring our vision, fundamental values of life will jump out from nature. A naturalistic ethic will make up for our lack of instinct, and the thinking animal may yet become the steward of the planet.