I remember years ago picking up a copy of Krishnamurti’s slim but powerful book Freedom from the Known. Krishnamurti is a complicated figure, as likely to arouse conflict as anyone else, but I think beyond the level of opinion, his articulation of the human condition in relation to what might loosely be its spiritual search is clear and helpful. It is natural to ask what, if any, relationship can be found between Krishnamurti and A Course in Miracles.
In Freedom from the Known, Krishnamurti neatly frames the dilemma.
Truth has no path, and that is the beauty of truth, it is living. A dead thing has a path to it because it is static, but when you see that truth is something living, moving, which has no resting place, which is in no temple, mosque or church, which no religion, no teacher, no philosopher, nobody can lead you to – then you will also see that this living thing is actually what you are – your anger, your brutality, your violence, your despair, the agony and sorrow you live in. In the understanding of all this is the truth, and you can understand it only if you know how to look at those things in your life. An you cannot look through an ideology, through a screen of words, through hopes and fears (15).
As soon as we say that is the truth – whether we are pointing to the Catholic Church or Islam or A Course in Miracles – then we are no longer talking about truth. We can accept this insight intellectually, of course – most of us are quite sophisticated about these things now – but that is different than understanding it at the level of mind, where change is actually possible, and where change must happen, if it is to happen at all.
On the one hand, I think Krishnamurti would have been quite dismissive of A Course in Miracles. It is a clearly Christian text and relies entirely on Christian ideas, images and symbols. To the extent that the course aims to undo all of this – and I believe it does – it still does it in the first place.
Krishnamurti urged his followers to a sort of radical attention. This is not so dissimilar to what quantum physicist and philosopher David Bohm taught in his work on dialogue and creativity. We need to make contact with thought outside the lens of the self: our judgments, our opinions, our feelings and all of that. We have to pay attention to the movement of both the observer and the observed.
Lee Nichol has written clearly and helpfully that this sort of engagement – the radical undoing that facilitates contact with Truth, with Reality – can only happen when one has done considerable work on themselves.
Bohm claims that the ramifications of the ego process – both individual and collective – are at the root of human fragmentation and suffering. At the heart of his dialogue proposal was the prospect that awareness of the movement of ego, willingly engaged in by a number of people simultaneously, might quicken insights into the ego process that could take much longer if approached only on an individual basis.
In other words, we have to work on who we are – we have to make contact with our own ego experience before we can begin to make contact with the Truth that it obscures.
This is very much in the wheelhouse of what A Course in Miracles teaches. Indeed, one could say that what A Course in Miracles is about is simply making contact with all the ideas and opinions and idols that obstruct our capacity to see and know Truth. Truth is given. When we see this, the need for learning is over.
Love is not learned. Its meaning lies within itself. And learning ends when you have recognized all it is not. That is the interference; that is what needs to be undone. Love is not learned because there never was a time in which you knew it not (T-18.IX.12:1-5).
This is what Krishnamurti refers to when he talks about the need to go beyond the level of teachers and ideology and words.
There is no guide, no teacher, no authority. There is only you – your relationship with others and with the world – there is nothing else . . . when we look at what is taking place in the world we begin to understand that there is no inner and outer process; there is only one unitary process, it is a whole, total movement, the inner movement expressing itself as the outer and the outer reacting again on the inner (Freedom from the Known 15, 16).
One of the charges sometimes laid against A Course in Miracles is that it is too dense and metaphysical and thus encourages an ultimately unhelpful intellectual approach. Certainly I have been guilty of this in my own practice. And yet, reading Krishnamurti often feels even more risky in this regard. He is clear what is needed – attention, freedom, courage and so forth – but somewhat less clear in what to do when we can’t seem to bring that about. In many ways, he was an incredibly disciplined teacher in refusing to allow his teaching to be codified or reduced to a system.
I don’t doubt a lot of human beings are okay with that. But others – and I am one – needed a better map. A more practical map. The Truth might be a pathless land, as Krishnamurti observed when dissolving the Order of the Star, but some of us need to pretend there is a path in order to figure out – sooner or later – that here is no path.
I don’t think Krishnamurti is especially helpful in that regard. I speak for myself of course. While I find his writing deeply inspiring and clear, I often fumble in their application. It was not so different from reading a lot of Christian mystics, from Saint John of the Cross to Thomas Merton. One felt such longing to be where they were and believed that such a longing could be satisfied and yet . . .
This was caused Bohm to be frustrated near the end of his life with how his work on dialogue was being received and practiced. Certainly, it is connected to Nichol’s observations. If you have only a vague sense of where you want to go but no earthly idea how to travel or what direction to face or who to turn to for guidance, then you’re going to foment more of the separation and fragmentation that you want to avoid.
This is where A Course in Miracles is especially helpful. It is a course! It is a year-long class that one can take at one’s own pace and return to as necessary. Its sense of order – a text, a workbook, and a manual for teachers – is precisely the sort of framework that can move one to that place where understanding and following Krishnamurti can actually bear fruit.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false (T-16.IV.6:1-2).
Thus, however much one disparages guides and authorities and teachers, one can also be grateful that some helpful ones exist. A Course in Miracles has proven a critical system in helping to clear my mind of the detritus that clouds truth. It is as we dissolve those clouds – according to a sacred rubric, guided by the Holy Spirit – that we begin to understand at last what Krishnamurti was getting at.
To be able to look at this seems to me to be all that is needed, because if we know how to look, then the whole thing becomes very clear, and to look needs no philosophy, no teacher. Nobody needs to tell you how to look. You just look (Freedom from the Known 16).
We must be true to ourselves. We must be honest. And we must be rigorous. If we need help, we need to ask for it. If one teacher does not work, then perhaps another will. Krishnamurti and A Course in Miracles can be a good fit. There are others. You know.