Authenticity vs. Attachment

Gabor Maté speaks in this interview about the distinction between abstinence and sobriety; essential dignity; teacher plants (‚teacher plants‘ – a shamanic term. They have been with us for very long time, they can help to induce the state of dreaming and visions, heal deep layers of trauma and give us many insights and teachings…Shamans work in voluntary, ecstatic trance states, which alter their consciousness to travel to the realms of the invisible worlds. … In this sense, shamanism is a relationship-based practice of making changes in invisible realms to impact healing, of individuals or communities, in the realm of ordinary reality...) and integration; the loss of essence; the love and shedding the illusion; the liveliness of truth…….

Interview with Gabor Maté

A critic of Dr. Maté writes:

„Gabor Maté is a distinguished figure in the addiction field, the author of „In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.“ Maté is revered for his humane medical work with inner-city drug addicts in Vancouver, centering on the Insite injection center (where users are given works to inject their own drugs) and Portland Hotel (Community Health) Society, which provides housing and lives, really, for the most downtrodden Vancouverites. Thank God there is such a service; bless Maté for his work there.

Maté maintains a human communion with his patients. He does so by describing his own maladies, his ADD and shopping addiction, which he analogizes to severe drug addictions. Fair enough. It is important to recognize our common humanity (although some think that as a successful middle-class physician Maté is stretching this connection). But, for Maté, they are all brain diseases.

Beyond this, Maté has a theory of addiction rooted in childhood abuse. Maté combines his clinical experiences with brain research claiming the source of addiction is in formative brain chemicals. For Maté, the first five years of life (and even the environment in the womb) dictate the likelihood of addiction. He then relates this theoretical point of view to studies connecting stress, abuse and lack of love and attachment to not only life problems (as they have been for some time) but to deficiencies in people’s ability to process endorphins and dopamine—the neurochemicals in our bodies that provide us with both pleasure and pain relief.

Maté then claims that addiction results from deficiencies (lack of receptors) in these neuro-systems that cause people with addictions to self-medicate to replace their missing neurostimulation. In this sense, people are addicted to drugs as replacements for the brain chemicals their own bodies fail to process. Those addicted to things other than drugs are reacting to the same internal chemistry, but with different external stimulants.

It is important to respect Maté’s work with individuals living with addictions. For this reason, people who work with clients from a harm reduction perspective—that is, they accept people as they are, and seek to help those in need—deeply admire Maté. In addition, Maté’s exploring the root causes of addiction may in some sense represent progress out of a deterministic disease concept of addiction because it broadens the range of experiences that can lead to addiction and through which addiction expresses itself.

Unfortunately, however, Maté seems to propose a reductionist vision of addiction, where abuse history and posited biochemical changes are now the essential causes of people’s self-destructive action.“  –Stanton Peele, Ph.D.

Has Peele really got the essence of Dr. Maté’s proposals / insights?

Now, listen for yourself:

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Face-to-Face Synchrony: the human condition


The long history of primate evolution that expanded our social brain, lengthened the period of infant dependence, perfected our empathy and, most important, created the uniquely human way of communicating through the face. Indeed, primates, particularly chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, can show admirable social abilities beyond parental care. For instance, chimpanzees resolve aggressive conflict with group members by consoling behaviour, stimulating oxytocin. Gorillas form coalitions among large groups of unrelated kin in ways that resemble a small human village. But humans are the only species that orients to, and attaches through, the face. Human neonates selectively attend to the human face, humans communicate affectionately in a face-to-face position, and humans are unique in their ability to synchronise via coordination of facial signals without physical touch.

My research group has studied this face-to-face synchrony for years; when partners synchronise their gaze, smile or emotional expression, that spurs coordination of physiological response. For instance, mothers and infants coordinate their heart rhythms during moments of social synchrony, but not during non-synchronous moments; both mother-child pairs and romantic partners show brain-to-brain synchrony of gamma waves during episodes of behavioural coordination but not otherwise. And synchrony of alpha waves in the frontoparietal regions of the brain and gamma waves in temporal regions emerges during ‘support giving’ moments between affiliated partners (romantic couples, close friends) but also among strangers, particularly when the dialogue is empathic. Face-to-face synchrony requires intimacy and intent, invokes reflection and awareness, and obligates significant effort. When parents can validate their infant in a face-to-face exchange during the sensitive period between birth and nine months of age, they orient their child’s brain to the social world and its wonders. When synchrony fails – for instance, when mothers are depressed or when stress is heightened by poverty, war or abuse – the consequences to the social brain can be devastating, and children can develop psychopathology, loneliness, dysregulated conduct or affective disorders that can limit their capacity to engage.

Is there a solution to the human condition? Given that human love is layered over blind forces that react automatically to the slightest sign of danger, is there any chance for redemption, or are we bound to endless cycles of aggression and destruction?

While any random look at human history tells a grim story and gives ample evidence for a hopeless view, I see three types of solutions based on the work of three great thinkers. I call them ‘face’ (the Levinas solution), ‘light’ (the Freud solution), and ‘humour’ (the Kundera solution). Each witnessed fear and cruelty under pressure, and the immense destruction brought by war. Each in his own way tries to free us from the natural way that our brain interprets the world.

The first of these, the ‘Levinas solution’, is based on the work of the 20th-century French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and his recognition of ‘the face’. How can one create an account of the world that describes what ‘is’ (ontology) without resorting to unchanged, abstract, or metaphysical ideas (the work of Parmenides, Plato, and Descartes come to mind)? How can one ground existence in the daily experience of the self-within-the world (as Martin Heidegger does) without placing the self as the cornerstone of all that is knowable? Levinas suggests that the ‘Other’, as presented through the Other’s face, defines unknown territory that cannot be immediately incorporated into the self. That Other, that face, argues Levinas, substantiates the self and, upon seeing the Other’s face, the only possible response is: ‘Here I am,’ fully committed to that person’s wellbeing and safety or, in Levinas’s words: ‘To see a face is already to hear: “thou shalt not kill”.’ Only then can true knowledge – that is, knowledge that can reach the stars, as Levinas says in Totality and Infinity (1961) – be acquired.

I spent countless hours microcoding videos of parent-infant face-to-face interactions, gradually coming to understand that only upon the parent’s attuned face, careful echo and radiant smile can the infant build a bridge to a reality that is often harsh, painful and oblivious. ‘At first was the gaze,’ says the Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos; humans need a loving gaze to start on their life’s road. Looking at your enemy’s face, we hypothesised, makes it impossible to wish him harm.

Several years ago, we put this hypothesis to the test. We developed a dialogue-based intervention for Israelis and Palestinians aged between 16 and 18 years, when group subordination is at its peak. For eight weeks, the adolescents became familiar first with the cultural rituals, then with the immediate habitat, and finally with the family habits and personal preferences, hopes and struggles of each member, creating a common ground where the ‘other’ became familiar and similar. While each session covered a distinct topic (affiliation, conflict resolution, empathy, prejudice), sessions began with coordinated group activities that involved reciting famous poems and holy texts in both languages, face-to-face encounters for a ‘conflict dialogue’ (on a conflict topic of their choice), empathic giving, joint planning or group games involving joint movement and dance. The adolescents were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups. Before and after each intervention they were tested extensively for social behaviour, opinions and attitudes, and hormonal profiles; we also monitored the social brain using magnetoencephalography (MEG).

Our findings on the empathic response were eye-opening. To conduct our study, we exposed our participants to a well-validated set of pictures showing hands and feet in physical pain – examples included a hand burnt by an iron or a foot stuck in a door – which reliably elicit the brain’s empathic response. Before each stimulus, a screen announced the protagonist: ‘This is Danny from Tel Aviv.’ Or ‘This is Ahmed from Kafr Qara.’ Adolescents observed an equal number of stimuli where pain was inflicted on members of their ingroup or outgroup. We found that, for the first 500 milliseconds (representing the brain’s automatic response), the adolescents responded equally to others’ pain, whether their ingroup’s or outgroup’s.

However, after this half-second of grace, the outcomes were different depending on whether our dialogue-based intervention was in play or not. Without the intervention, the brain’s top-down mechanisms began shutting down the neural empathic response to the outgroup, keeping activations only for the ingroup. This later, more cognitive-empathic neural response is critical in order to understand the feelings of others, generate compassion, and form a plan of action. Aborting neural empathy midway doesn’t allow the brain to sustain a fully human response that can activate emotional resonance and practical help.

But adolescents who underwent the dialogue intervention learned to include the Other in their ingroup and display a fully human empathic response to members of the outgroup. The face, as Levinas maintains, indeed compels us, even neurally, to save the Other from pain.

The second solution, from Sigmund Freud, looks to light. From Freud’s immense contribution to human self-understanding, I wish to stress his relentless effort to shed light on our deepest (and ugliest) drives, and his conviction that shining the light of consciousness on those hidden, blind and automatic motivations can rescue us from our cruel and pleasure-seeking nature. What a radical position to suggest that sheer awareness can combat the push-and-pull of the subconscious! While Freud emphasised that the road to light is long and arduous, involves walking in the thickets of defences and contradictions, and requires stubbornness and severity, he was the first to suggest that the ‘way out’ of the human condition is through dialogue. Although I have a hard time accepting his neglect of the face for the couch in this important human dialogue, Freud’s model was the first to offer a carefully crafted route to healing through knowledge, toiled by two.

Freud’s quest for light echoes the ancient Greek ‘know thyself’. But I am also reminded of an old Talmudic verse, probably dated from the same era as Socrates: ‘If you meet the devil, shine on it the light of knowledge. If it is stone, it evaporates; if it is metal, annihilates.’ What a triumph to the human spirit is the belief that the hardiness, nastiness and ‘stone-ness’ of our nature can be overcome by the ‘light of knowledge’.

My third solution, humour, is inspired by the novelist Milan Kundera, a victim of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, exiled to France. Kundera summons the insights on the human condition through the history of the novel, laid out in The Art of the Novel (1986) and Testaments Betrayed (1993). The 400-year journey of the novel, he suggests, is to break the overarching single narrative we form of reality, the one inherited from parents, corroborated by neighbours, tended by culture, cemented by religion, and imposed by totalitarian regimes, which, without a radical shake, would stand to testify for truth. Our brain typically creates a single percept that discards all information not befitting our ‘story’, but the novel upsets this singularity.

And it does so via humour. While truth is dead serious, humour is suggestive, nonsensical, unnerving, contradictory, and functions at multiple nonadjacent levels simultaneously. Humour weaves together a kaleidoscope of images that not only are not neighbours, but have never even resided in the same continent.

Humour is a fine panacea to the pompous ‘together we stand’. Practised to perfection, it knocks precisely those marching soldiers off their feet (letting our ants keep their industrious sisterhood). How easy can it be to march to a humorous idea, fight for an ‘either-or’ programme, or conquer cities in the name of a smiling god? (Kundera began his acceptance speech for the Jerusalem Prize for Literature in 1985 with the old idiom: ‘Man thinks, God laughs.’)

Here’s to three solutions: look at someone’s face with compassion and care; climb the Tree of Knowledge and cherish its multiple branches; and practise a good laugh. These could help tune the environment-dependent, behaviour-based systems comprising the neurobiology of affiliation to a life of lasting love.

While the neuroscientific programme of the human brain is couched in an evolutionary framework, the grand theory of the biological sciences has its limits as a singular window into the human condition. The psychiatrist and neurobiologist Myron Hofer at Columbia University in New York spent his career describing the biological provisions embedded in the mother’s body. He reminds us that, when it comes to human development, an evolutionary viewpoint must be complemented by insights from other fields of knowledge: the humanities, the arts, and clinical wisdom. Hofer maintains that, while evolution is impartial to the individual child, the individual is precisely what matters for human life. The goal of a human programme set to understand how early environments meet or fail the needs of their infants is to enable the individual to benefit from the fullness of the human experience afforded by modern science – long time to maturity, planned parenthood, freedom from infectious disease, literacy and a manageable stress response. Human research, therefore, must translate into brief and widely deliverable interventions that maintain the deepest respect for the individual’s cultural heritage, personal meaning, and life journey.

‘It is time the stone made an effort to flower,’ writes Paul Celan in his poem ‘Corona’: ‘Shine on it the light of knowledge – if it is stone, it evaporates.’

Source: The biology of love

See also: Neuroception – Polyvagal Theory

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Die Kunst, ein Gespräch zu bewohnen

Am 7. Februar 2020 ist es vier Jahre her, dass Roger Willemsen im Alter von sechzig Jahren starb. Willemsen war Interviewer, Schriftsteller, Moderator, Honorarprofessor, Kulturvermittler und Möglichkeitsweitender. Möglichkeitsweitender? Möglichkeitsweitender in dem Sinne, dass Roger Willemsen ein Interesse daran hatte, die Rahmen der Begegnungsformen zu weiten und durchlässiger zu machen.

In der posthum nach seinem Tod erschienenen »Zukunftsrede« »Wer wir waren« sagte Willemsen: »Von den Prozessen der Kultur kann nicht gesprochen werden, ohne zu fragen, unter welchen Bedingungen Bewusstsein heute überhaupt zustande kommt.« Es ist die Frage danach, wie sich das Bewusstsein bildet, aus dem heraus gesehen wird. Wie sich der Blick konstituieren konnte, der sieht, was er sieht und wie er sieht. Es ist die Frage danach, weshalb Möglichkeitsräume kleiner werden, sich gar aufzulösen scheinen und Aussprüche wie »Ich kann mir eher das Ende der Welt vorstellen als das Ende des Kapitalismus« überhaupt erst entstehen.

In den 1990er Jahren interviewte Roger Willemsen geschätzt zweitausend Personen in den Fernsehsendungen »0137«, »Willemsen – Das Fernsehgespräch«, »Willemsens Woche«, »Willemsens Musikszene«, »Das Gipfeltreffen« und »Nachtkultur mit Willemsen«. Als er in den 2000ern nicht mehr zu seinen Bedingungen beim Fernsehen arbeiten konnte, zog er sich aus dem Medium zurück. Den Umbruch markiert jener Punkt, als Willemsen ein »Gipfeltreffen« zwischen Eva Herman und Hansi Hinterseer moderieren sollte und befand: »Das können andere besser. Ihr irrt euch auch unter professionellen Gesichtspunkten. Das kann ich nicht gut. Lasst das jemand anderen machen.«

Nach der schmerzlichen Erfahrung und Erkenntnis, dass sich das Medium Fernsehen in Verbindung mit einem qualitativ hochwertigen Inhalt vom selbigen abwendet und sich quoten- und contentorientiert positioniert, begann Willemsen sich auf das zu konzentrieren, dem er sich verpflichtet fühlte: Dem Schreiben, der Literatur – dem Umgang mit Sprache.

Willemsen hatte ein Verständnis von Kommunikation, das über die linguistische Konstituierbarkeit hinausging. Willemsens Kommunikationsverständnis zielte darauf umfassend zu sein und wesentlich zu werden. Wesentlich in jener Auffassung, dass das sprechende Wesen, verbal oder nonverbal, selbst von Kommunikation durchdrungen, in seiner seienden Existenz selbst Kommunikation ist.

»Die Sprache muss ja nicht gesprochen, sie muss bewohnt werden, und wir haben also nicht uns in der Sprache, wir haben die Sprache in uns auszuprägen«, sagte Roger Willemsen in der Trauerrede für seinen Weggefährten, Freund und Komplizen, den Kabarettisten Dieter Hildebrandt, mit dem er den Dialog »›Ich gebe Ihnen mein Ehrenwort!‹ Die Weltgeschichte der Lüge auf die Bühne« brachte. Willemsens Sicht auf Sprache zielt auf einen Blickwinkel, Sprache nicht bloß als Träger von Informationen zu begreifen, sondern als etwas Weltschaffendes und Welterschaffendes zu sehen. Sprache stellt durch ihre Verwendung im Konkreten Konkretheiten her, d. h. Gefühle und Empfindungen, Assoziationen und Denkzusammenhänge sowie Vergegenwärtigungen und Erfahrungen werden maßgeblich mitbestimmt. Sprache formt den Blick und ist zugleich dessen Sprachrohr.

Willemsen nahm die Dinge und die Sprache wörtlich. Er nahm ernst, und er nahm genau. Das Wörtlich-Nehmen des Gesprochenen bildet hierbei ein Ernst-Nehmen des Gesagten, weil durch das Gesagte und die Art von Betonung und verwendeter Sprache sich Bilder malen. Bilder, die eine Realität erzeugen und dadurch Welt-Bilder entstehen lassen, die möglicherweise selbst einmal Welt werden. Einen Ausspruch und einen Gedanken wörtlich zu nehmen, heißt somit, ihn ernst zu nehmen, in seiner Möglichkeit auf Verschiebung und Veränderung von Wahrnehmung und Bewusstsein.

Roger Willemsen hing, im wörtlichen und bildlichen Sinne, an der Form des verbindlichen Gesprächs, d. h. an einem, das nicht Flüchtigkeit ist, sondern Belastbarkeit und Verlässlichkeit. Das verbindliche Gespräch als eines, das aus einer Überzeugung heraus spricht, verbunden mit einer folgerichtigen Konsequenz und einer zugrunde liegenden Haltung. Einer Haltung, die aus einem ehrlichen, aufrichtigen Interesse am Gegenüber hervorgeht und sich in einem Zuhören des Gegenübers zeigt, sowie dem Einräumen von Zeit, die benötigt wird, um nachdenken und vorspüren zu können, um präzise zu antworten.

»Warum so schnell?«, fragt Willemsen in »Der Knacks«. »Vielleicht der Beliebigkeit wegen, die die Geschwindigkeit produziert? Man lebt geschwind, um unfühlbar zu leben, nichts so stark wahrnehmend wie die Geschwindigkeit selbst. In dieser Dynamik verschwinden die Brüche, in der Beschleunigung wird etwas Therapeutisches frei. Unwillentlich, ohne Dazutun ergriffen, passiv, als Empfangender, als Opfer der Geschwindigkeit erfährt man die Tröstung des Tempos.«

Die Kunst, ein Gespräch zu bewohnen, hat etwas damit zu tun, in einem Gespräch zu sein, sich in jenem auszubreiten, anwesend zu sein und in jenem stattzufinden. Und zugleich, statt zu finden, gemeinsam auf der Suche zu sein. Als ein Suchender nach Erkenntnis. Einer gemeinsamen Suche in einer gemeinsamen Bewegung auf eine gemeinsame Erkenntnis zu. Das Gespräch als ein Ort zum Wirklich-Werden.

Die Kunst, ein Gespräch zu bewohnen, ist somit auch ein Nein-Sagen-Können. Ein Nein-Sagen-Können zu allem, was den Wohnraum namens Gespräch zumüllt und stickig werden lässt, ein Wirklich-Werden verhindert. Und ein Ja-Sagen zu dem Zeitgeben, das benötigt wird, einen Gedanken zu fassen, ihn zu formulieren, mitzuteilen und zu verstehen.

So lässt die Kunst, ein Gespräch zu bewohnen, ein Interagieren entstehen, ein Spiegeln und Erkennen. Einsamkeit kann überbrückt werden, wie Willemsen es nannte, und Zweisamkeit wird hergestellt. Um in der Zeit wirklich zu werden und nicht mit der Zeit. Weil heute schon möglich sein kann, was übermorgen womöglich selbstverständlich ist und morgen noch als angeblich unvorstellbar abgetan werden könnte. Das Glück von morgen schreibt sich aus den Dialogen von heute. Man möchte fast sagen, die Zukunft könnte wunderbar werden, und du bist dafür verantwortlich.

Roger Willemsen

Roger Willemsen, geboren 1955 in Bonn, gestorben 2016 in Wentorf bei Hamburg, arbeitete zunächst als Dozent, Übersetzer und Korrespondent aus London, ab 1991 auch als Moderator, Regisseur und Produzent fürs Fernsehen. Er erhielt zahlreiche Auszeichnungen, darunter den Bayerischen Fernsehpreis und den Adolf-Grimme-Preis in Gold, den Rinke- und den Julius-Campe-Preis, den Prix Pantheon-Sonderpreis, den Deutschen Hörbuchpreis und die Ehrengabe der Heinrich-Heine-Gesellschaft. Willemsen war Honorarprofessor für Literaturwissenschaft an der Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, Schirmherr des Afghanischen Frauenvereins und stand mit zahlreichen Soloprogrammen auf der Bühne. Zuletzt erschienen im S. Fischer Verlag seine Bestseller ›Der Knacks‹, ›Die Enden der Welt‹, ›Momentum‹ und ›Das Hohe Haus‹. Über sein umfangreiches Werk gibt Auskunft der Band ›Der leidenschaftliche Zeitgenosse‹, herausgegeben von Insa Wilke.

Quelle: Hundertvierzehn – Lit. Onlinemagazin des Fischerverlags

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Freedom from the known

This is a presentation given by Cory Fisher (Archivist and Publications Director of the Krishnamurti Foundation of America) at the Explorations Conference 2019. You can watch the full talk above. We selected some highlights:


Why Be Free from the Known?

Why do we ask this question? What kind of mind asks the question: “Why be free from the known?”

To be free from the known could mean many different things, and what it means really depends on the quality of the mind that asks the question. It seems that, ultimately, the question of freedom from the known is in a class of questions different than most questions that we ask about ourselves because it is a question that points directly to the structure of ourselves. So it is not a question of who or what we think we should be, but it is a question of the very structure of what we are and how that interacts with the world. In that sense, it is a very different question than it may appear to be initially.

Along with the scientific and philosophical components to this question, hopefully, there is another component that is more intimate to us. There is somehow something about this question—and I think that’s why we’re all here—that is important to us in our daily lives. There is a reality to this question that goes beyond philosophizing about how one should live, but on the ground, in daily life, what is the activity of our lives.



Quote by Krishnamurti


To start, “We take conflict for granted.” Conflict is something that, in general, seems to be the basis for a lot of the activity of our lives, both internally and externally.

There is a sense somehow that knowledge fills a space between us, and though that could be an evolutionary shortcut that may help us to relate in some ways, it could be a shortcoming that may inhibit us from relating in others. That’s something that I notice is a recurring theme throughout this presentation: What may be a shortcut for the brain in some ways is a shortcoming in others. And that I think is a key component to our question: Is it possible for the brain to be free of the shortcomings of its shortcuts?

To a brain that is evolutionarily built to use these shortcuts to relate to its environment and those around it, knowledge can be very valuable. But the environment and the people in it are constantly changing. There is not anything that is static, except for our knowledge about what we are and where we live.

We know from studying the brain that it tends to see what it expects to see, and this is because the brain is uses its previous knowledge as a way to predict and interact with the world.

If the brain is conditioned to see what it expects to see, does it always see what it needs to see to have the right information to respond directly to what is going on?


You, Me, & the World

Quote by Krishnamurti

Could our personal problems and the problems of the world have a common element? At the root of these problems, there is a brain that attempts to solve them but this brain is caught in what it knows, what it is seen before. Can it actually meet a problem that it is never seen before? The problem may be personal, or may be global—but the question is how knowledge acts in the present, in the world, both personally and globally, and if there is a common element in how knowledge functions.

We’ll unpack it more when we go into knowledge more specifically, in Krishnamurti’s work, there are different classes of knowledge. Some classes of knowledge are functional and absolutely necessary. So there is never at any point a complete denial of the fact that knowledge has a very real place in the life of human beings. But, particularly in regard to how we relate to one another, knowledge seems to be problematic. Not only in terms of ‘yesterday’ knowledge—that you said something to me yesterday that hurts, and I carry that with me, and that informs our relationship—but also in terms of our evolutionary knowledge about who is a part of you and who is not a part of you, or who is allowed in your group and who is not allowed in your group.

So it is not only a personal, short-term kind of knowledge but a really long-term, relational kind of knowledge that we may not even realize is functioning because we are built to be related in this way. As social beings, we have developed to take so many cues and to relate to one another through so many different kinds of information, and that information is stored to make future predictions. Yet, in terms of our direct relationship with one another, this predictive knowledge may overstep its functional boundary and restrict our actual relationship.


Knowledge & Freedom

This slide is not really defining what Krishnamurti meant by these terms, but it is more about pointing out that, when Krishnamurti spoke about the ‘known’ and ‘freedom,’ he’s speaking about them in quite a different way than we commonly do.

We could define knowledge as the sum total of the organism’s software to function in an environment. It is the accumulation of experience. Personal and impersonal. Often in Krishnamurti’s work, the known is synonymous with the past. This suggests a component of how we interact with our world in the present is directly influenced by what we know about ourselves and about our world from the past. All of our experiences from the past are constantly informing how we interact with the present. In this way, knowledge is a physical thing that functions in the world. It lives in the brain and in the body. Therefore knowledge isn’t just a functional, dictionary-like reference; it has a feeling component. And that really comes into play when you realize how it acts in the present, and how it directly affects our relationships.

It is important to reiterate that there are aspects of knowledge that are absolutely necessary to survive. You need to know how to get home. You need to know your name. You need to know who you are related to. You need to know how to eat, what to eat. This is functional knowledge. This kind of knowledge is not called into question in terms of Krishnamurti’s work, and we’ll go into that more when we unpack what knowledge is.

Freedom, in the way that Krishnamurti speaks about it, is an ending—which is not how we commonly look at freedom. Freedom, defined this way, is the end of conflict. I think that’s one of the cruxes of why the question of freedom from the known is so important.  We take conflict for granted as a force in our lives, but Krishnamurti’s proposal is the possibility of ending conflict.

Krishnamurti says freedom is denied by desire. Often, and especially in our society, freedom is seen as an ability to choose what you desire. The more choices you have to avail yourself of what you want or desire is seen as a kind of freedom. This is antithetical to what Krishnamurti is speaking about with regards to freedom, because the freedom to choose is in itself conditioned by what you’re conditioned to choose. It is a subtle but clear distinction: for Krishnamurti, your “freedom” to choose is a direct consequence of how you’re bound to your choices that you’re conditioned to make. So in Krishnamurti’s sense, this is the opposite of freedom.


Quote by Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti’s notion of consciousness is in many ways analogous to what he means by knowledge and the known. This is very different from our common understanding of what consciousness is, and the difference is exactly the difference to our common understanding of knowledge.

In our common definitions of consciousness and knowledge, there is always an assumed entity that consciousness or knowledge belongs to. In Krishnamurti’s work, this is not the case. This assumed entity that consciousness or knowledge would belong to is itself built out of the consciousness and knowledge that it presumes to own.  There is never a distinction between the owner of the knowledge and the knowledge that it owns. That in itself is a whole, a sum total that is itself knowledge. The same with consciousness. So, consciousness itself is the sum total of the content of the movement of your mind, which includes what you think you know, but also the one that thinks it knows.

This distinction between knowledge and the one who knows is what we’ve grown up with and developed through— an entity separate from and aware of what it knows and how it feels, that can act on and deal with what it knows and how it feels. The claim here is that, that very essential distinction is the root of why knowledge can be conflictual and divisive. Krishnamurti suggests this distinction may very well be incorrect but is not seen or observed or understood in this way. So it continues to act and has power not only because of its assumed reality but because of its inability to be directly perceived.


Past & Present

Quote by Krishnamurti

What gives knowledge its power but also what gives memory its utility is the fact that it functions in the present. Knowledge is not a dead thing that lives in the past that you can recall when you desire; it is an active process so deeply ingrained into who you are and how you interact with the world. It functions and revitalizes itself actively in the present.

Again, there is no full blanket denial of the fact that knowledge is valuable. But the reason knowledge is valuable and the reason that memories are valuable is that they actually act in the present. You remember where you live right now so you can go there now—which is a very functional, real, living value to what memory is. But at the same time, this shortcut to memory is its shortcoming. So, you remember what happened yesterday between you and a friend, and that remembrance may color and affect how you relate to them today. And that may, in turn, affect how you relate to them forever. And those memories may not be the best way for us to relate to one another. So there is a value and a danger in how knowledge acts.


Security & Order

Quote by Krishnamurti

The brain constantly seeks security and order: a constant navigation of one’s experience to turn negative experiences into good ones and good experiences into ones that last. There is a constant manipulation of one’s experiences to maintain a certain order. There may be a kind of security that has nothing to do with the manipulation of one’s experience, and that seems to come out of an understanding of the limits of knowledge. To see that knowledge is the factor of your own manipulation of your experience may be a different kind of security that’s founded in something that’s beyond your own limited experience of your past.


What is Freedom?

Basically, by freedom, Krishnamurti refers to the process in which the brain’s responses to contemporaneous events are not necessarily influenced or conditioned by the known, but this is specifically in relation to what is deemed psychological knowledge—freedom from this entity that assumes it has the ability to act upon knowledge and the state of the mind.

Functional Knowledge vs Psychological Knowledge

Quote by Krishnamurti

Often, Krishnamurti talks about the right place for knowledge, which seems to be born of an understanding of the limits of functional knowledge and where knowledge and its action tends to move in the direction that becomes psychological. So memories and ideas are stored as an entity that can then work on ideas and memories and the brain. And this entity, this psychological being, is where knowledge becomes dangerous. Somehow there is a misinterpretation of what action is, especially in terms of my own ability to interfere with my experiences and my mind. And this is essentially what Krishnamurti is pointing out as psychological knowledge.

To zoom in to this entity,  we could say that: what is psychological  is the movement of desire and will, that there is a constant activity of the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure, and the totality of this movement of the mind is what we typically refer to as “psychological.”

So it is not to say that “psychological” is anything separate from physical, but more that there is a subset of knowledge that is rooted in an activity born of desire that is deemed psychological. It is not necessarily not physical; it has more to do with this activity of a ‘me’ that feels it is an actor in the realm of knowledge and experience.

A key component of this actor in the realm of experience and the reason that it has a tendency to create conflict is called many things—psychological time, the factor of becoming—but it is basically this: You have a certain experience, and feel that experience is unsatisfactory, so, out of that sense of ‘unsatisfactory-ness’, there is a projection of what the experience should be or would be or can be and that projection is something that this psychological being can move towards within its own bounds. This movement within the confines of my experience, between what is and what should be is Krishnamurti’s definition of psychological time.

This presumed entity within knowledge “acts” as it projects a future state that it can move towards. Here, what we assume is action is merely a kind of reaction that is born out of what we already know and understand about ourselves.


Freedom Is the End of Becoming

Quote by Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti points to freedom as being the ending of this process of moving from something that is occurring to something that should be or would be occurring. It is the ending of a movement of desiring or any sort of aversion to what is occurring.

“Freedom means the ending of the observer, because the observer is all tradition, established order, social acceptance, morality. It is the ending of the self. The images I have about myself, and then when the brain is free, only then is there supreme intelligence.”

“Freedom is the ending, completely, of becoming something.”

Freedom isn’t a state that’s achieved within which new kinds of experiences happen; it is the ending of the necessity for experiencing at all. It is the end of the necessity for certain kinds of experiences versus others. Often, when we attempt to observe or look, the observer or the looker has some quality of judgment or interpretation of the experience. So what freedom is, is when there is absolutely no critique or preconceived condition upon any kind of experience, moment to moment.



Negation is the denial of this activity of projection altogether. To see that moving towards anything requires that I know something about it from the very beginning. The truth is that in moving towards anything [psychologically], I’m only moving towards my own projection of what I assume is at the end of my goal. This process of negation is to see this whole activity and consistently deny it as it attempts to move. So negation is the denial of reaction against what is.

Choiceless Awareness

There is a possibility of the mind that sees that if it is attempting to move in any direction, it is choosing for or against certain experiences. So that choice in itself is already built into the program. Is it possible for there to be no choice at all? This absence of choice is related to this non-projective movement. There is an active quality to being aware of what is going on, and without choice, there is no movement away or against what is occurring.


This move brings us to what Krishnamurti speaks about in terms of perception, and I think this is one of the most interesting bits and something that is difficult to understand in our common terms because really what Krishnamurti means by perception is that, the act of perception is itself the value of perception. What is perceived is not important. There is something about perception itself that has value in and of itself because it is not related to or dependent on what is perceived.

Freedom and perception really are not two things; they are not one before the other but freedom and perception are themselves one action, and Krishnamurti proposes that real action itself is perception. It is not what is perceived but the very act of perception which is not based on previous knowledge, that has value, and that value itself is because it is an action of itself.


Listen to this audio from the time already selected til the end:



Freedom from the Known: The Krishnamurti Perspective

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mastery model

Modern educational institutions were designed to train children to see and experience the world divided up into parts, thereby disconnecting them from the unified whole (of nature, community, universe) that in truth we all belong to.

Science, art, history, literature, math, music are presented to children as being completely separate from one another. They don’t learn how these are in truth interdependently connected. Children are tested, measured (and compared with each other) for how well they can remember what they were taught. This creates a further sense of alienation and disconnection.

Over time, our consciousness compartmentalises, so that by adulthood we come to see ourselves as individuals separate from the universe. We learn to experience life and see the world divided up into parts, as fed by the media and taught when we were institutionalized (as children).

Think about that. Let it sink in. Most of us were institutionalized as children.


How We Learn to Compartmentalize

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Streets of London…

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Wissenschaft als ‚möglichst getreue Anmenschlichung der Dinge’……

Ursache und Wirkung. — „Erklärung“ nennen wir’s: aber „Beschreibung“ ist es, was uns vor älteren Stufen der Erkenntnis und Wissenschaft auszeichnet. Wir beschreiben besser, — wir erklären ebenso wenig wie alle Früheren. Wir haben da ein vielfaches Nacheinander aufgedeckt, wo der naive Mensch und Forscher älterer Kulturen nur Zweierlei sah, „Ursache“ und „Wirkung“, wie die Rede lautete; wir haben das Bild des Werdens vervollkommnet, aber sind über das Bild, hinter das Bild nicht hinaus gekommen. Die Reihe der „Ursachen“ steht viel vollständiger in jedem Falle vor uns, wir schließen: dies und das muss erst vorangehen, damit jenes folge, — aber begriffen haben wir damit Nichts. Die Qualität, zum Beispiel bei jedem chemischen Werden, erscheint nach wie vor als ein „Wunder“, ebenso jede Fortbewegung; Niemand hat den Stoß „erklärt“. Wie könnten wir auch erklären! Wir operieren mit lauter Dingen, die es nicht gibt, mit Linien, Flächen, Körpern, Atomen, teilbaren Zeiten, teilbaren Räumen —, wie soll Erklärung auch nur möglich sein, wenn wir Alles erst zum Bilde machen, zu unserem Bilde! Es ist genug, die Wissenschaft als möglichst getreue Anmenschlichung der Dinge zu betrachten, wir lernen immer genauer uns selber beschreiben, indem wir die Dinge und ihr Nacheinander beschreiben. Ursache und Wirkung: eine solche Zweiheit gibt es wahrscheinlich nie, — in Wahrheit steht ein continuum vor uns, von dem wir ein paar Stücke isoliren; so wie wir eine Bewegung immer nur als isolierte Punkte wahrnehmen, also eigentlich nicht sehen, sondern erschließen. Die Plötzlichkeit, mit der sich viele Wirkungen abheben, führt uns irre; es ist aber nur eine Plötzlichkeit für uns. Es gibt eine unendliche Menge von Vorgängen in dieser Secunde der Plötzlichkeit, die uns entgehen. Ein Intellekt, der Ursache und Wirkung als continuum, nicht nach unserer Art als willkürliches Zerteilt- und Zerstücktsein, sähe, der den Fluss des Geschehens sähe, — würde den Begriff Ursache und Wirkung verwerfen und alle Bedingtheit leugnen.

Aus: F. Nietzsche, Fröhliche Wissenschaft


„Die Seele ist das größte aller kosmischen Wunder und die conditio sine qua non der Welt als Objekt. Es ist im höchsten Grade merkwürdig, daß die abendländische Menschheit, bis auf wenige, verschwindende Ausnahmen, diese Tatsache anscheinend so wenig würdigt. Vor lauter äußeren Erkenntnisobjekten trat das Subjekt aller Erkenntnis zeitweise bis zur anscheinenden Nichtexistenz in den Hintergrund.“
C.G. Jung


Der Philosoph William James hat diesen Sachverhalt in einer wunderbar anschaulichen Metapher ausgedrückt, im Bild vom ‚strömenden Bewusstsein‘:

“Was zugegeben werden muß ist, daß die bestimmten Bilder der traditionellen Psychologie nur den kleinsten Teil unseres tatsächlichen Seelenlebens ausmachen. Die Ansicht der traditionellen Psychologie gleicht derjenigen, wonach ein Fluß lediglich aus so und soviel Löffeln, Eimern, Krügen, Fässern oder sonstigen Gefäßen voll Wasser bestünde. Auch wenn die betreffenden Gefäße alle tatsächlich in dem Strom standen, würde das freie Wasser doch fortfahren, zwischen ihnen hindurch zu fließen. Gerade dasjenige, was diesem freien Wasser im Bewußtsein entspricht, ist es, was die Psychologen so standhaft übersehen. Jedes bestimmte Bild in unserem Geist wird von dem “freien Wasser”, das es umspült, benetzt und gefärbt. Neben jedem derartigen Bild geht einher das Bewußtsein seiner Relationen, naher und entfernter, das verklingende Wissen, woher es zu uns kam und die aufdämmernde Ahnung, wohin es führt. Die Bedeutung, der Wert des Bildes, liegt ganz und gar in diesem Hof, diesem Halbschatten, der es umgibt und begleitet, — oder vielmehr der mit ihm in eins verschmolzen, Bein von seinem Beine, Fleisch von seinem Fleisch geworden ist. Vergeht er, so läßt er freilich ein Bild von dem gleichen Ding wie vorher zurück, aber das Ding wird dabei neu aufgefaßt und ganz anders verstanden. Wir wollen das Bewußtsein dieses das Bild umgebenden Hofes von Relationen seinen ‚psychischen Oberton‘ oder seine Franse nennen.”

James, William

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