Jiddu Krishnamurti died on February 7, 1986, at the beginning of the second year of the second term of Ronald Reagan. This, surely, was a difficult time for this man to lay his head to rest. The juggernaut of American empire, then approaching the apogee of denial, almost certainly weighed heavily on the mind of this reality-based thinker. It could only have been more painful if he had made it to one hundred years old, which would have landed him in the midst of the Clinton years, when all pretense of hewing to the promise of "the great democratic experiment" was abandoned in the neo-liberal curtsey to capitalism. In that intervening decade the United States, having already established footholds far and wide, made its vulgar and largely successful bid to ensure that every flutter of its domestic butterfly wings would project outwardly, in a mighty tremble.
This is not to say that Krishnamurti was a socialist, or some other form of "anti-capitalist." His meditiations concerned more fundamental aspects of human nature, of which decorations like "capitalism" are merely symptomatic.
Perhaps it is outside of the possibilities of Nature that one lifetime can witness the fruition of folly - Krishnamurti would be 126 years old if he had lived to 2011. I would say, however, that History made a mighty effort to compress a full cycle of folly within one. I do not say this lightly. Following the Civil War, which defined the ideological contours of how we would live with unnatural abundance*, there was an acceleration of history never seen before, a compression of cause-and-effect that dazzled any who even briefly thought they'd stepped outside of the maelstrom (and turned otherwise brilliant people into morons - witness "The End Of History" by Francis Fukuyama, which I will not link to here.)
While certainly incapable of appreciating the idea of schadenfreude (when you see that we are all in this together, it is rather difficult to identify an "other" whose misfortune might be entertaining,) I think that Krishnamurti might have rested easier if he had passed in 2011. It is almost a certainty that what he was trying to say would find more resonance now that our temporary abundance is being so unceremoniously ripped away, and as we - all together now - enter an age of decline.
Turning and turning in the widening gyreAs befits a great poet, Yeats was about a hundred years early with his post WWI lament, as these conditions are only now achieving maturity. This is evinced by the remaining stanzas, which I have purposely omitted. Germane to the time of their penning they, still, darkly express an inappropriate optimism - the optimism of apocalypse, of an end, outside of our control, outside of our responsibility. That centre cannot hold, but here I will, perhaps wisely, truncate any indictment of Yeats.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- excerpt from The Second Coming, Yeats, 1919
Turning and turning in the widening gyreKrishnamurti often discussed the nature of thought, and the problem of authority. I read Yeats as a student of K., and to me those first two lines describe the nature of thought very well; "the centre," authority (the rest of the stanza represents the fear of the mind that has never known anything but authority, especially the authority of the self, a condition all of the children of the past 200 years of "civilization" labor under.) As Krishnamurti often pointed out, thought requires a separation of time and space - a fragmentation of the self ("falcon and falconer") - in order to have movement. In that movement there can be a "forgetting" of the holistic reality ("The falcon cannot hear",) and on the fragments is authority borne.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Abundance has unleashed thought, concept, ideology from reality. And so, as the juggernaut of American empire reaches its dubious maturity:
...And thought has made man separate because thought is the result of experience, knowledge, memory and so thought is always limited. It is never complete, it can never be complete because it is based on knowledge and knowledge is always finite, limited. It can expand, it can change but it is still within the field of knowledge. And knowledge is always limited. And we try to change the world through our knowledge. And this experiment to change the world through knowledge has never succeeded....Krishnamurti died 10 months later.
...So it behooves us, and each one of us, to find out why we live this way. And whether it is possible radically to change our whole psyche. If there is not a revolution there, mere outward revolutions have very little meaning. We have had communist revolution, French revolution, other forms of revolution throughout the world and we remain what we are, self-centred, cruel and all the rest of it.
I have finished sirs.
- J. Krishnamurti, United Nations - April 11, 1985
---*I have begun some writing on this, and hope to expand upon this idea in future posts.
**Another subject I plan on elaborating upon.