I start with Krishnamurti's statement: ...reality cannot come into being...without self-knowledge, self-knowledge which is discovered from moment to moment in the mirror of relationship, so that all illusion is stripped away, so that the ego does not build fantasies, escapes.
How often can we look into that mirror honestly enough for the truth to reflect back and penetrate beyond the defensive barriers of the psyche? Ostrich-like, we hide our faces lest we see, and seeing, be forced to recognize what we are.
Is it because perfection has been over- valued? Is it because the image of the perfect has been so adorned with false attributes, that aspiring to anything that is less than the current accepted standard makes the individual quake with self-doubt? Is the internalized weight of a hypocritical social morality so heavy, that honest acceptance of the dark side of our nature has become a task meant only for the courageous few who dare to look their imperfect reality in the eye?
Self-centeredness, greed, violence, dissent, conflict, tension, inabilities, handicaps... all this that makes up the negative face of existence is part of the ground reality of living. However, human thought has judged it, compared it, and put a value on it that is in inverse proportion to the forces that ostensibly portray harmony or perfection. That harmony has its 'other' face, without which it cannot exist, is a reality the mind seems unable to accept as long as it identifies with wanting to be secure. It appears that because security and harmony are seen as being linked, it is ingrained in our consciousness that any welling up of that which is dark in us, is something to be dreaded.
One movement in consciousness has been the propitiation of various gods, in order to invoke their protection, asking to be spared klesha or misfortune. The hope is that the projected image of what is seen as .good fortune. will continue. Each culture has its own symbols to represent the same hope.
When earthquakes and floods devastate all that has been carefully built up and nurtured, or when human violence destroys collective endeavour, it is difficult to accept this as an inevitable part of life. And yet, is it not unnatural that instead of embracing the shadow side of nature, both out there and within ourselves, we constantly reject it in a one-sided movement towards the light?
Linguistic categories, too, play a vital role in creating and sustaining these binary polarities, which are inherently judgemental. If the mind could put the negative in its proper place, without placing a value on it, there would be a possibility of seeing without comparison, without judgement. But to reach that vantage point, the so-called negative first needs to be accepted totally, on its own terms.
Given such a situation, where the scales are already tilted in favor of the positive, the acknowledgement of the base metal within oneself becomes very difficult. The fact is, if we are human, we are as much base metal as we are the gold that we like to identify with. Defining human existence also means defining conflict, from the smallest unit, the individual, to nations and huge power blocs. We all know from first-hand experience that life's darker movements, spoken and unspoken, continue to exist despite the fact that ordinary human beings, psychologists, philosophers and seers alike have tried to focus on the positive.
In the effort to live life conscientiously, it is possible to stay out of gross manifestations of human negativity. One can eschew lifestyles that seek personal profit at enormous psychological and physical cost to the rest of humanity. For example, corporate, market-oriented modes have led to the growth of cultures based on creating the need to consume, bringing about distortions in human thinking that enter deep into sub-conscious layers of the psyche. It is difficult but still possible to negate these avaricious ways.
In the same way, when seen 'out there', most of us acknowledge the futility of war. The impact of physical death and killing, the laying waste of all that is wonderful, brings up reactions of pain and sorrow. Seeing clearly the senselessness of such wastage, one can follow the ancient path of negation, 'neti, neti' (not this, not this), and physically eschew many such ways of living. However, since conflict, disturbance, wars, attacks and counter-attacks on the big screen of life only reflect, and are a resonance of the devastation that is within us, strife arising from self-centered pulls must be a part of the fabric of living. It is part of us and comes up with as ugly a face as anything we see on the big screen out there. Movements that throw the regulated tenor of existence out of balance come up in all lives, and perhaps with greater frequency than one is usually aware of. No one likes this, no one wants to face it and yet no one is spared it.
As conflict surfaces in our lives, it fragments and destroys what little harmony there might be. Generally, as with a disease or an affliction, we try to get rid of it. Somehow, it must go. We seek resolution, we demand peace. In much the same way as so much medical practice these days attacks the invading organism that causes disease, we set out to attack the cause of the conflict as though it were coming from outside. Modern medicine has only recently begun to accept that manifestations of disease reflect personality and lifestyle. Physical symptoms may be the material correlates of subtler problem areas. They are pointers to who you really are. Similarly, negative situations and states are reflectors too. They show up facets of oneself that do not ordinarily come into the bright light of awareness. Disagreements, clashes, and the inability to tolerate other people's ways of functioning also reveal who we are. The image in the mirror of conflict is one's own. But the message is generally not received; the point is not followed to its source. The face of the mirror is covered over by defense mechanisms, usually consisting of justifications, laziness and busyness. If perchance reflections in the mirror of relationship are pleasant, they bypass the defense mechanism and are received as welcome additions to personal identity. They promote a sense of an expansive, 'all is right with the world' feeling. The only time we get worried in the never-ending process of painting our self-portrait is when we are brought up short by something unpleasant and unpalatable. It is interesting to note in this context that a part of the American response to the events around theWorld Trade Centre crisis was a sense of, 'what is wrong with us that we invited such an attack?'
Somehow, negative inputs that have consequences do manage to penetrate through all fortifications and elicit reactions that carry the full force of what we actually are under the surface of our reasonably socialized selves. It is only then that the mirror reflects a more real face. All the imps jump out from their carefully hidden recesses and vie for a place in the light.
Ignorant of their value, unwilling to acknowledge them, we label them disturbers of the peace and try to wipe them away. Every time a good healthy disturbance is set up by the imps of life, both inside and outside of us, we refuse to acknowledge them as valid elements of our lives. The negative is never owned and accepted. It is easier to label it as fate, as a bad time. Rarely is it accepted as a part of the totality of what we are. The result is, we can never see 'what is' because we onlywant to see 'what should be'.
Krishnamurti says, ...the more we cultivate virtue, the stronger the resistance, which we call the me, the I, the ego. That seems to be the point where growth stops and relationship ends. The defense mechanism gets stronger, the security system tighter and sterility pervades the living tissue of life.
In order to break through this kind of impasse in the process of self-knowledge, G.I. Gurdjieff once made a vow that he would step on the most sensitive corns of everyone he came into contact with. Forced into reacting from where it hurt most, people had the possibility of discovering things about themselves they never thought existed. How does one view oneself when provocation makes one react?
The answer appears to be linked to motives and goals, or what one is working towards. If maintenance of the social order is the primary aim, conflict and dissent are viewed as destructive of all that is considered positive. This is further linked to the power axis controlled by interest groups of all kinds. It depends on which side of a particular fence one is operating from. Under such conditions, collective effort aims at bringing disparate elements and tendencies under the umbrella of the most powerful collective conglomerate, ideological or economic. Social conflict finds resolution through incentives, motivations, restrictions and sanctions. There is no dearth of meticulous diplomacies invented to contain the forces of dissent in social groups.
Even in those situations where, as a response to structural madness, voices of dissent break through in the minds of individuals, there is not much hope. Most psychology bypasses the creative genesis of conflict and works within defined parameters to rehabilitate and 'reintegrate' these people into becoming functional, well-adjusted, well-socialized members of society. These processes, however, often leave radical insights into the nature of existence by the wayside. The essentially creative act of questioning the 'given' is mostly subjugated into subservience to accepted norms. The vision of the 'madman', the different human being, who may have more than a glimpse of that 'reality' but cannot translate it into known categories, is discounted in favour of the dominant reality structure of the society he happens to belong to.
The Djinns are returned to their bottles and the corks shut tight so that nothing disturbs the smooth working of the social organism.
But when the primary aim is not the maintenance of the social order, but rather an understanding of the ways of the self, it is possible to use data from all sides of human nature. Allowing a rush of anger to come up to just under the surface, letting hate and greed reveal themselves without acting upon them, may seem contrary to ideals of what is good, but it is certainly not contrary to 'what is'. To allow all manner of thinking so as to recognize the nature of the mind, is not advocating a policy of self-indulgence. It is giving a chance to the dynamic reality of life to manifest itself, without which there is no possibility of breaking out of a one-sided apprehension of one's nature, a way of being that can only lead to sterility.
Only then, when the validity of the conditioned mind as a guide to the understanding of life is under question, can the negative be used with intelligence as a springboard to greater objectivity. Only on the path of self-knowledge is the dark side of the psyche a welcome friend, an unsurpassable ally, the ugly frog that turns into a prince with one kiss of acceptance.