It is strange, indeed, that even in the context, of the Krishnamurti schools, we hesitate to talk about (much less probe into), the very central question of consciousness. A great deal is said about the environment - its ongoing destruction is all too evident, as is the refusal of governments to do anything about it and perhaps for this reason (that it is dying before our eyes) we have, to some extent, arisen from our torpor. The case for consciousness is much less obvious, though clearly there would be no environmental crisis were it not for the direct impingement of our thinking, with its seemingly endless capacity for exploitation.
This, as Stephan Harding pointed out in his last article, Ecological Perception, is largely the outcome of the last 300 years, when the Western rational-scientific mode of thinking gained the ascendancy and increasingly shaped our lives. It would, however, be otiose to presume (as well as rather romantic to feel) that this rational scientific mode of thinking simply emerged 300 years ago. Its origins go back more than two thousand years, to the time of Pythagoras and, later, Plato, who said in effect that the manifest world is the product of a deeper, mathematical order. In other words, things are not what they seem - or not entirely what they seem. And, again, the philosophers chew over the question as to whether sense-perception is primary or illusory, science a deliverer or a monster, etc.
In this seemingly endless corridor of opposites the point at issue (which we generally miss) is that one mode of perception does not replace another, merely displaces or relegates it. Thus, in our modern, thought-driven world the age-old tendency to venerate and glorify has been switched from the saint to the football / film star. Old wine in new bottles for a secular society, itself the product of rational scientific thinking. No aspect of consciousness actually disappears, though it may be substantially thwarted and perverted. Thus, in our times, the emergence of Gaia (the concept of the planet as a living organism) mirrors the collapse of our civilization and is, at the same time, a call for regeneration.
One of our fundamental errors seems to be that we do not understand our consciousness, but merely its superficial and peripheral workings. We, therefore, act from a partial point of view, adding to the confusion rather than helping clear it up. Even if we take an ecological stance, as a global answer to all our problems (not that it isn't relevant to some problems), we are sure to end up in partiality and conflict. There are no quick fixes, particularly with deeper matters.
At some point, then, we are obliged to acknowledge that the central problem with Man is Man himself. And that means tackling human consciousness. We need to know what thought has put together, because, more often than not, in our pretentiousness, we think we are in control, when in fact it is. It is not even, primarily, the content of our consciousness that is in question, rather those deeper predispositions that move us in certain ways without our knowing it. Nor is it a question of denial or suppression, since denial and suppression are also aspects of the content. No, it is a matter of opening up the entire Pandora's Box of human consciousness, as it has existed since Time began - and with which it is synonymous.
Consciousness, like a mighty river, rolls on, constantly addIng to itself. Yet normally we do not see it as such: we see it as 'me' and that 'me' as constant. We are not prepared to take on board the astringent notion that we are nothing but flux, that we have been put together by the consciousness of mankind (including the physical and genetic factors)and that, deep down, we are nothing but that. To study mythological consciousness, for instance, and to see its operation in ourselves as a first unfolding of a general sense of meaning (generally conveyed in story form) is to touch on something visual and primary, which antedates the written word.
Myths of the Origins ('how it all began') are, of course, explanations of a kind, but they are neither literal nor logical, and one's use of the word 'myth' indicates they are untrue. This may be held to be the case, but only if one subscribes to the view that logical and literal explanations are true (in itself a form of reductionism) and that visual-intuitive perception is null and void. There is actually, in terms of consciousness, no justification for this view, because the fact is, simply, consciousness is there, with all its multiplicity and incongruity. And it is perhaps one of the gains of the post-modem world that we no longer look for monolithic Truth (which so easily degenerates into fascism and fundamentalism) but may look for truths as they have been practised and known - for instance, in the culture of native peoples. Tardy and inadequate though this response is, it is nonetheless a step in theright direction.
In other words, consciousness evolves. There is no point, so far as we know, when it did not exist; indeed, its existence is our existence, to the extent that our existence can be separated out. What we mean by evolution is not improvement, the inevitable progression towards a Higher Goal: we mean it in the sense that consciousness grows, expands, proliferates, finds new fields of action. It is almost as if it were an explorer, discovering new lands, redrawing the map. In this way it is always exciting, because it is always at a new frontier. Unstoppable, also, like the Information Superhighway, however much people may regret its construction. This is the sense in which we are all on a journey, and it is of more than merely historical interest to explore and discover how it is we got here. Pushing the argument a little further, one can say that it is an indispensable element of the in-depthenquiry into oneself.
For, as has been often stated, one has to start somewhere. Sitting in silence for ten minutes is excellent, as is direct exposure to the Krishnamurti teachings, or an unprepared session of investigative enquiry. But surely it is important in these schools to make time within the curriculum for the kind of study which, while not enquiry-in-itself, tilts knowledge in that conducive direction. We need to spend a lot more time testing out what Krishnamurti has said - in terms of the known, as well as the unknown. For it is a facile and erroneous conclusion, that because K speaks of the limitations of thought where self enquiry and self-learning are concerned, we should ipso facto stick to set curricula and not make use of the teachings themselves as a means of reorienting our understanding of the known. Implicit in the study of consciousness (indeed, underpinning it and giving it vitality) are such statements as 'You are the World' and 'The human brainis very old'.
We need to take hold of such statements as these and apply them to the field of knowledge. What lies outside the Field of Time we cannot touch; what lies within it, we can and we should. Otherwise, we accept without question what is essentially a time-bound view of things: that knowledge moves incrementally and is limited to 'bytes' that 'I' can absorb. But what if knowledge were an open book, accessible through rocks, plants, trees, birds, animals? What if the pressure to perform (i.e., to absorb and regurgitate, with its attendant build-up of anxiety-neurosis) were actually a block to the free play of the mind, when it feels itself in contact with everyone andeverything?
Where does delight go, when the mind is chiseled down, except out the window, probably for good? As young people mature, they often become cynical. Understandably - their world is closing down. Once this has happened it is difficult, if not impossible, to interest them in a wider view of things. Hence, the necessity, as maturity sets in, to present and sustain a more holistic approach within the parameters of knowledge itself. For what is crucial, now and in the future, is how we see things, not what we know. If we are blinkered we shall have a blinkered outlook, and part of that blinkering is academically imposed. While admitting the necessity for~ qualifications and careers, should we not also devote some time to introducing a re-ordered perspective, one which does not hold knowledge as primary but takes a bee-line to the matrix of knowledge: human consciousness itself?
One does not have to be a specialist to do it, for the curious thing about consciousness is that wherever you touch it the whole phenomenon is present. A kind of alchemy takes place, which throws up the illuminating fact that the whole of consciousness is instantaneously available. It is not a matter of acquiring knowledge incrementally (the building block model of learning, indeed, the universe) but rather a matter of all-round seeing, a cyclical, not a linear process. This reordered perspective demands of students that they change the shape of their thinking to embrace it, and in this process prejudices come out, which are modes of feeling as well as thinking. The mind is exposing its content to itself and to the common scrutiny of the class, an outcome hardly likely to be found where students follow their bent or are forced to study something.
The study of consciousness allies academics to the deeper matter of self enquiry. It is rich and potent in both directions. Indeed, it provides a kind of 'middle ground', where the knowledge and, perhaps, the wisdom of mankind can contribute to the growth and maturity of students, while at the same time leading them, albeit by implication, to that sense of self-noughting which is endemic to enquiry. The dangers implicit in acquiring knowledge are offset by a new view of knowledge itself, where the knower is included as part and parcel of the picture. This shift to a swifter, accelerated ground, itself the locus of a burgeoning intelligence, may not be all that is required of us in our ongoing endeavour to 'live the teachings', but it is certainly a beginning. And the beginnings count.