Conflict is ubiquitous. It is a constant in our lives, like an ever-present shadow. Conflict inspires man to do great things… but of these great things, eliminating conflict is not one. Displaying a positive attitude is a brave effort to escape conflict but it is not separable from it. For there is in this very movement of escape renewed conflict.
There is conflict both in the individual and in society. This can be seen and felt psychologically, emotionally and physically. It is a fact. And there is an automatic reaction to conflict because of the immediate need for it to end. Just as the body physically recoils when it feels pain, so does the mind recoil when it suffers trauma.
If the cause of conflict is extraneous, such as fire, then leaping out the way will take care of the matter. But if the cause of psychological conflict is intrinsic then there can be no moving away, just as one cannot physically move away from an ulcer. But the mind tries to escape the trauma anyway… for what else can it possibly do?
In this movement away from conflict our perception is divided. A division is established between the actual conflict and an idealized state of no conflict. The latter does not actually exist… though there does exist the will to manifest. The division between problem (present) and solution (future) is also fictional… but the belief in it does bring some temporary amnesia and distraction to the pain. This belief may be necessary to survive an ordeal. Just that the entire process is built on a piece of fiction, a comforting lie… but which is itself an act of self betrayal that further generates conflict.
What is the mind? To begin, let us just observe what is there to observe… there is an entire world of sentience, that is OUR world. The field of the mind. Categorizing it into components, psychological and emotional etc, is not the point here. There is simply the world we perceive… this is the fact, that which is. We will call it MIND.
What is the self? The mind isolates a center within itself, and separates this center from the rest… so that there is a division between the two. We will call this artificial center the self which then forms a relationship to the world. The center also calls itself the mind, but it is the individuated mind… which is not the same thing as mind. The self is synonymous with thought, because its existence depends on it telling itself elaborate stories.
We have observed above that the individuated mind is its own source of conflict… it creates an illusory division between the fact and the ideal, between conflict and no-conflict. It is effectively a self-sustaining pain machine. Its movement is driven by pain and the antidote is more pain that in turn feeds the system… ad infinitum. In trying to fix itself the machine keeps going round. And for the mind to act upon itself, a psychological split is required… to create a phantom subject and a phantom object connected by the action of ‘fixing’.
Clearly if the self-sustaining pain machine is to cease… then it must cease all by itself, and without any ‘fixing’… without effort. Is this possible? If not then we are doomed; if yes then it has to happen now… spontaneously and not in the future as a solution we work towards. The latter is hope… a source of yet more conflict. While hope can do wonderful things in this world, it too cannot defeat conflict. So the answer is no, the self-sustaining pain machine cannot stop on its own. And therein lies the paradox… because when we see that we are doomed, when we see escape is impossible, then we no longer try to escape… and conflict is not.
Unless we see that the self is a self-sustaining pain machine, to observe it without trying to fix it, without judgment… there is no possibility of it coming to an end. But instead we invest huge effort in the pain machine, in utilizing it for survival and personal gain, for the greater good, etc. Thus our reality becomes a battlefield of ideas, each idea competing with the other… and the idea that offers a better escape will outlive the others. For an idea only exists for as long as the belief that sustains it, and ideas must compete with each other for this belief… which is their life blood.
There is no formal study, no mystery school, that can teach how to end conflict. One can only be shown the irrationality of the individuated mind and conflicting nature of the self. Without understanding conflict, which is the basis of self, the practitioner of magick will only know his craft by its methods and its props… like operating a machine simply by reading an instruction manual. His explanations will continue to require ideas and belief systems, alluring though they may be.
So it is now clear that in order to exist at all, the mind (or self) must practise magick. This gives it the illusion of existing in individuated form. But there is no permanence to this form, therefore it must struggle to survive. The driving force of its existence is fear… because eventually any idea (which constitutes the self) is destined to die. The effort to move away from fear, brave as it may be, is contradictory.
“Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”
~ Aleister Crowley
The outcome or solution lies in the future… and the components of the solution, which is memory, lie in the past. And that is where attention is focussed. The future is fiction and the past is fact, and there is very little difference between the two… one cannot exist without the other. The actual problem, which is conflict, exists in the present moment… and it seems the mind finds it very difficult to remain in the present, to just see the problem.
A mind that is serious will realize that nothing it tries will remove conflict… that there is no path to freedom from conflict. The mind that is not serious, or is not serious for long, soon settles on a new escape plan, a new idea or world view. These are just comforting distractions that ultimately bring us back to step one. It is like the camel that chews on thorns… the taste of its own blood is so sweet that it continues eating.
The individuated mind is not a serious mind as it must maintain the folly of its individuality. The undisciplined activity of the internal dialogue is proof of this. What it can do however is to understand (without effort) that it is not a serious mind, and in doing so will not try to influence this fact. Then it can observe the world without trying to influence it… which ironically is the original goal. Then there is no achievement or success, and no division between the observer and the world.
“You are the world, and the world is you.”
~ J Krishnamurti
The ritual escape from conflict made by the unserious and individuated mind is an act of magick that creates a fictional altered state, or alter. The incessant activity of the mind is forever recreating an alter personality… and the ego or self exists only as a collection or a progression of alters. The transition between altered states can be a slow gradation of ideals and beliefs. In the case of extreme trauma, the mind can create a totally new personality.
These alters are like masks that one adorns… for masks are both temporary and only claim or pretend to be real. So then what remains when one removes these masks? Perhaps the suitable answer to that would be, which of the masks is asking that question?
Given that the mind is unable to remain quiet and aware of its inner conflict, what is there to do? The only freedom is to be aware of this lack of attention; that the individuated mind (self) functions as a very effective escape device. Coercing the mind to stay aware of conflict is again just imposing an ideal through an act of will. So there is no choice but to observe the mind escaping from conflict, over and over, moving restlessly from alter to alter. And when there is no other choice then there is no resistence, and therefore no escape.
The illusion of choice exists only in a distracted mind, for choice is the escape from the present. A serious mind is not distracted and does not see any choices, for these are fictional. To choose requires effort, and this effort needs to be sustained forever… so it is destined to fail. To not choose requires no effort at all, and one’s vital energy and attention are not dissipated.
It might be argued that man’s turmoil has been imposed upon him by an external source, that there have been oppressors long ago responsible for engineering man this way… the trauma being passed down from generation to generation. This puts man in an utterly helpless and victimized situation. But it makes no difference. Just as the creator is known through his creation, and the artist via his art… the oppressor is also known through his craft. By observing his own mind, with its wonderful flaws and glorious quirks of irrationality, man will understand the mind of his oppressor… and he will understand the mind control that has been inflicted upon him. In this way the oppressed is no different to the oppressor. The conflicted mindset IS the mind of the oppressor.
The following is from a public talk given by J Krishnamurti (New York, 25th June 1950).
One must be aware that one is escaping, and see that all escapes are similar, that there is no ‘noble’ escape. All escapes, from drunkenness to God, are the same, because one is escaping from what is, which is oneself, one’s own inward poverty. It is only when one really ceases to escape that one is face to face with the problem of loneliness, of inward insufficiency, which no knowledge, no experience, can cover up; and only then is there a possibility of understanding and so dissolving it. This loneliness, this inward insufficiency, is not merely the problem of people who have leisure, who have nothing else to do in life except study themselves; it is the problem of every one in the world, the rich and the poor, the man who is brilliant and the man who is dull.
So, can inward emptiness ever be covered up? If you have tried and failed to cover it up by means of one escape, surely you know that all escapes are futile, do you not? You don’t have to go from one escape to another to see that psychological insufficiency can never be filled, covered up, or enriched. By thoroughly understanding one escape, the whole process of escape is understood, is it not? Then what happens? One is left with emptiness, with loneliness; and then the problem arises, is that loneliness different from the entity that feels lonely? Obviously not. It is not that the entity feels empty, but that he himself is emptiness; and the separation between the entity that feels empty, and the state which he calls emptiness, arises only in giving that state a name, a term, a label.