I would like to begin by thanking David Moody for writing his interesting article, thus giving me an opportunity to note down some of my thoughts on the nature of insight.
Apart from several interesting observations, the article seems to make two key points:
- insight that is required in the field of knowledge is of the same essential quality as the kind of insight with which Krishnamurti was concerned.
- one can create an insight curriculum that can act as a 'ground' for children, so that they may gain expertise in the process of insight itself.
I would like to go into both these issues based on the question, 'What is the ground that allows one to have an insight of the nature that Krishnamurti was talking about?' I really don't know what this ground is. So let me begin by applying the question to insight in the field of knowledge. I will be using examples from the field of mathematics as I am somewhat familiar with this area and will make the sweeping assumption that it is quite similar in other fields of knowledge!
Most of us have experienced flashes, when after struggling for a long time with a given problem everything becomes clear and all pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together. Usually after such an insight one comes away with a complete understanding of the problem and its significance. What is the ground that allows for this kind of insight?
First of all these insights seem to visit only those who are already 'initiates' in that particular field of knowledge. The man on the street is highly unlikely to have an insight in mathematics unless he has already studied some mathematics. Secondly, in the field of knowledge, insight has to do with prior deliberation on a given problem. To illustrate this point, I would like to quote one of the greatest mathematicians of this century, Henri Poincare. His remarks relate to his work on Fuchsian functions (what these are is immaterial!). ...
There was however one (question) that still held out ... But all my efforts only served at first the better to show me the difficulty, which indeed was something. All this work was perfectly conscious. There upon I left for Mont-Valerien, where I was to go through my military service; so 1 was very differently occupied. One day, going along the street, the solution of the difficulty which had stopped me suddenly appeared to me. 1 did not try' to go deep into it immediately, and only after my service did I take up the question. I had all the elements and had only to arrange them and put them together. So 1 wrote out my final memoir at a single stroke and without difficulty ... Most striking at first is this appearance of sudden illumination, a manifest sign of long, unconscious prior work. ... ... There is another remark to be made about the conditions of this unconscious work: it is only possible, and of a certainty it is only fruitful if it is on the one hand preceded and on the other hand followed by conscious work.
As Poincare points out, it seems in the field of knowledge, prior to insight, there has to be intense effort and deliberation on the given problem. It would be impossible to say that all that prior effort had no relation to the resulting insight.
Further, a talented few (those we refer to as geniuses) seem to have such insights more often and more consistently than others.
As an interesting aside, in the field of knowledge¹ insights do not necessarily lead one to truth. Most often they lead to a new model or a new world view which yields a better explanation of-observations and data than the one offered so far. However these are subject to further revisions and reinterpretations. Moreover these insights seem to touch only a part of one's life. The history of mankind abounds with examples (Newton, Cauchy, etc.) of human beings who have had tremendous insight in the field of knowledge but very little into the nature of the human psyche.
Krishnamurti says that it is possible for human beings to have an insight into the whole nature of the human psyche, and the result of such an insight is that the brain no longer functions within the field of 'time-thought'. The kind of insight that K talked about requires no special talent, no prior preparation but seems to demand a state of mind which functions with no expectations including that of having an insight! Moreover he suggests that this insight leads one to be directly in touch with that which is the source of all creation and has a profound effect on one's life. Thus it seems to me the hope that an 'insight curriculum' will serve as a ground for the kind of insight that K talks about may be misplaced.
However, as educators the question still remains as to what role in'sight does have in one's curriculum. I feel it has great value in, and of, itself. From the discussion above it seems that understanding requires space, a tenacity to stay with a problem for an extended period of time; and finally, one needs to break with old ways of seeing before one can come upon something new. Perhaps I would be willing to say that insight in the field of knowledge gives us a hint about the nature of perception, but I would be extremely wary to hope that it would lead to transformation!
¹ In the case of mathematics, so long as we agree on what constitutes the laws of logic, insights dolead to truths which will not alter with time or interpretation.