What we think what we are, we are not

The nature of “what is” can only be experienced in a state of mind that is in direct relationship with what is, in pure awareness. Not-knowing is the actual, constant fact at the bottom of the human mind. In an attentive space of “not-knowing" a completely new kind of action takes place.

What we think what we are, we are not

Perceiving, perception, mind

The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once asked if it was possible to see the truth or falsehood of a statement immediately when hearing it.[1] With such questions he opened the space for a mutual exploration in a group. With this question he likely pointed to a very simple state of mind, which listens without effort or resistance and is therefore capable of immediately coming into contact with the essence of something.

So how do we receive the statement: “What we think what we are, we are not”? What is the spontaneous reaction of our mind when it reads this sentence?

Is it receptive without judgment? Or is there an opinion about it right from the beginning, some form of tendency such as dislike, outrage, acceptance, or tolerance?

Finding a mirror for the quality of our mind

By this examination we realize that such statements can be mirrors for the quality of our mind. A mirror in which we can observe the forces and structure that make up our minds. Undoubtedly, there is an undisturbed state of mind that hears this statement and embraces it in complete silence, and in this silence, as it were, the truth of the statement can be active, or, if it lacks any truth, its lack of vitality will come to light. So, let us explore this statement in depth together: “What we think what we are, we are not”.

When we ask ourselves who we are, thinking will usually present us with all kinds of images and answers. We are this and this person, in that and that life situation. We have these and these interests and belong to this or that group. But isn’t it strange that in order to find out what we are, we have to inform ourselves indirectly about it by the detour of a narration?

This fact suggests that at some level there is no direct relationship within us with what we actually are. This lack of relationship is bridged by the spinning threads of thought. So that thinking sketches an image of what we imagine to be. This self-created image in the mental body becomes the basis of our existence.

And this mental self-image acts within its own mental image of the world. For if we now ask ourselves what the world is, the same process begins. It is thinking that, with all its answers, gradually draws an image of the world in which also the image of our self is found. Again, this fact is an indication of the absence of a direct relationship with the world, or – perhaps a more apt word – with the cosmos and the absolute order that permeates this cosmos.

Every form of the common thinking is a process of abstraction. The thought of a tree is not the tree. The thought of the world is not the world. The thought of oneself is not the self. Any thought, however well elaborated, will never be the tree, the world, or the self.

Pure perception

The nature of what is cannot be encompassed with the old form of thinking. The nature of what is can only be experienced in a state of mind that is in direct relation with what is, in pure perception.

The Greek philosopher Plotin called the aspect of the mind which is capable of pure perception the “Nous”. The Nous, according to Plotin, is the first aspect of being, from which pure perception and consequently also understanding emerge and through which the force of “the One” expresses itself.[2] This force of “the One” is also referred to as the “Holy Spirit” in Christian terminology. 

In a text of the 17th and 18th century Rosicrucians, Nous, the purely perceiving and understanding, is also referred to as the Eye of Wisdom:

“[The] eye of wisdom sees in the highest tranquility the wonders of all movements, and also sees through all the other eyes, which wander in restlessness, and which want to see without the right eye of wisdom, [though] they have received all their vision from it. […] Time and eternity, […] high and deep, exoteric and esoteric is understood by [the Eye of Wisdom]. And yet it is not troubled by them, for it dwells in the centre of Silence, where everything prevails in equality, free from conflict. It owns what it sees. That’s why, dear man, if you want to return to the right understanding and to the right silence, stop your own actions and let God act in you again, then the eye of wisdom will reopen in you […] and you will find all in one.”[3]

In fact, the emergence of this spiritual structure, the structure of a unity between perceiving, understanding and acting (or expression of force) is also at the center of the teaching that Jiddu Krishnamurti put into words throughout his life. He says:

“The first step is the last step. The first step is to perceive, perceive what you are thinking, perceive your ambition, perceive your anxiety, your loneliness, your despair, this extraordinary state of sorrow, perceive it, without any condemnation, justification, without wishing it to be different. Just perceive it, as it is. When you perceive it as it is, then there is a totally different kind of action taking place, and that action is a final action.”[4]

In this way, the first step is the last step. At the same time, however, the emergence of this new aspect of the human mind involves a process, as also Jiddu Krishnamurti repeatedly pointed out. This process is to be compared with a ripe seed, which begins to break through the earth. This first sprout has the same characteristics as a full-grown tree, it has wooden branches and leaves and roots, so it fully understands what photosynthesis is and it lives out of this inward assimilation of light forces. Out of this assimilation the tree’s entire structure is evolving and its interaction with what is, is flowing. Yet the intensity and extent of this expression of force is lesser in the sprout than in the well-grown tree.

Let us return to the saying: “What we think what we are, we are not.”

The old thinking process, with all its abstractions and ideas, resembles a glove with which a very limited aspect of things can be touched. On a certain external, technical level, this glove is certainly useful, but is it also useful when approaching the existential, inner questions of life?

The described new spiritual aspect in man, the eye of wisdom, is free from self-made ideas and images. It has no relation to the old imagination and does not rely on it. So, we can see that as long as we live inwardly with a self-created image of ourselves, identify with it, and as long as all our aspirations are based on it, the direct relationship with what we are, with what is, remains blocked.

A first reaction in us facing this insight could be to say, “Now I must try to have no image of myself.” But this self-projected ideal would be a reaction from the old structure, from the old self-image. In it lies hidden the conclusion “I, that I am this self-image, will change myself in order to be tomorrow another, a better ‘self-image’”. However, this self-image at the beginning of the intention to change is still part of the old imagination. The ideal and its intention are in itself the consequence of the absence of pure perception. But only pure perception, simple awareness, is the door through which Nous, the eye of wisdom, begins to reveal itself. The real question is therefore: What is simple awareness?

To find out what awareness is, we must begin with awareness.

How does our mind receive this statement?

Beginning from the other end

Jiddu Krishnamurti once said:

“In all this movement you must somehow begin from the other end, from the other shore, and not always be concerned with this shore or how to cross the river.”[5]

So, what is awareness?

Does this question not open a space of an attentive not-knowing? Not-knowing is the actual, constant fact at the bottom of the human mind. This is quite a simple truth that each one of us can fathom for ourselves.

The classical Rosicrucians expressed it this way:

“Man was created by God for an eternal Sabbath; he was not meant to act himself, but let God act within himself; he should not take anything with his hands, but only receive of that which was abundantly offered to him by God’s goodness.”[6]

Any form of effort is the activity of thinking that secretly assumes: “I know, so and so it must be”, “there it must go, this ideal I must achieve”. Where the activity of the “I-know” reigns, the simple awareness in not-knowing is abandoned. The emptiness, the receptive vessel is then filled with the assumptions of the “I-know”. In every form of spiritual effort of the ego there is the greed and the desire for an expected spiritual reward. However, to see this old structure of desire in oneself without judgment as what is, is pure awareness. In pure awareness there is no judgement to the end of “this is me” or “this is not me”. Everything is perceived without judgment and in this silence of perception wordless truth is revealed. There is only the truth of what is.

As soon as the fact of not-knowing is unequivocally faced, then asking is a natural fertilization process of the mind, which stands in the truth of not-knowing. And so, it stands in the midst of the immobility, the silence of not-knowing, which is one with simple awareness. It is this awareness that is undisturbed by the movements of the old imagination. The mind then asks and looks out of not-knowing.

In this process, the entire old structure of consciousness with its continuous vivification of self-images is revealed to simple awareness, including all the uncertainty and fear attached to it. In this state, the forces of the One can act in man, although their action might take place in the beginning only in very subtle forms. And this action brings forth insight, understanding and transforms man’s whole being according to the absolute order of the One, that is, the one will that permeates everything.

Jiddu Krishnamurti said in this regard:

“[…] The energy of perception-action is entirely different. And that energy is the energy of creation.”[7]

And elsewhere:

“[Absolute] order is the action of the new.”[8]

Thus, not-knowing, dying to the “I-know” and emptiness are the constant prerequisite for understanding, life and creation.

The blossoming of the unity of perception-understanding-action in man, this opening of the head, resembles a “quantum leap” of consciousness, for it is not the consequence of a striving or cultivation of the old consciousness. It is the result of a handing over, of allowing the truth of what is to be revealed in the pure perception of not-knowing. And it is the beginning of a completely new dimension of life, which wants to be explored ever deeper in silent perception. In this inquiry there is no continuity from yesterday to tomorrow, no accumulation, no conclusion, no becoming “something”, no time; there is only again and again anew inquiry springing from not-knowing, the seeing-understanding of what is, and the resulting timeless flowering in the creative One, which encompasses destruction and construction in glory. This is what the heart of the question for the self conceals and reveals when it is no longer dispersed in personal imagination. What we think what we are, we are not.



[1] Jiddu Krishnamurti, Dialog 10 San Diego, California, USA – 22 February 1974

[2] Neoplatonism and Gnosticism Published Of International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, 1992, State University of New York Press

[3] Secret figures of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th century, first published in 1785, new edition 2019, Bad Münder, Germany, International School of the Golden Rosycross

[4] Book: The first step, is the last step von Jiddu Krishnamurti, 2004, Krishnamurti Foundation India

[5] Meditations, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Shambhala, 2018

[6] Secret figures of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th century, first published in 1785, new edition 2019, Bad Münder, Germany, International School of the Golden Rosycross

[7] Dialogue 13 with Allan W. Anderson in San Diego, California, 26 February 1974

[8] The Whole Movement of Life is Learning: Letters to his Schools, Jiddu Krishnamurti, 2006, Krishnamurti Foundation Trust

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Date: February 4, 2021
Author: K.S. (Germany)
Photo: GL G auf Pixabay CCO

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