Title: The Psychology of Mans Possible Evolution.
Author: P. D. Ouspensky.
Genre: Non-fiction, philosophy, lectures.
Publication Date: 1950.
Summary: Discusses the concept of voluntary evolution and studies man in view of what he may become. Describes how a man must work simultaneously on his knowledge and his being to find inner unity.
My rating: 8/10
♥ There is a missing link in ordinary known theories, even in those I already mentioned which are based on the idea of the possibility of evolution of man.
The truth lies in the fact that before acquiring any new faculties or powers which man does not know and does not possess now, he must acquire faculties and powers he also does not possess, but which he ascribes to himself; that is, he thinks that he knows them and can use and control them.
This is the missing link, and this is the most important point.
By way of evolution, as described before, that is, a way based on effort and help, man must acquire qualities which he thinks he already possesses, but about which he deceives himself.
In order to understand this better, and to know what are these faculties and powers which man can acquire, both quite new and unexpected and also those which he imagines that he already possesses, we must begin with man's general knowledge about himself.
And here we come at once to a very important fact.
Man does not know himself.
He does not know his own limitations and his own possibilities. He does not even know to how great an extent he does not know himself.
Man has invented many machines, and he knows that a complicated machine needs sometimes years of careful study before one can use it or control it. But he does not apply this knowledge to himself, although he himself is a much more complicated machine than any machine he has invented.
He has all sorts of wrong ideas about himself. First of all, he does not realize that he actually is a machine.
What does it mean that man is a machine?
It means that he has no independent movements, inside or outside of himself. He is a machine which is brought into motion by external influences and external impacts. All his movements, actions, words, ideas, emotions, moods, and thoughts are produced by external influences. By himself, he is just an automaton with a certain store of memories of previous experiences, and a certain amount of reserve energy.
We must understand that man can do nothing.
But he does not realize this and ascribes to himself the capacity to do. This is the first wrong thing that mas ascribes to himself.
That must be understood very clearly. Man cannot do. Everything that man thinks he does, really happens. It happens exactly as "it rains," or "it thaws".
In the English language there are no impersonal verbal forms which can be used in relation to human actions. So we must continue to say that man thinks, reads, writes, loves, hates, starts wars, fights, and so on. Actually, all this happens.
♥ I know that it is not an easy thing to realize that one is hearing new things. We are so accustomed to the old tunes, and the old motives, that long age we ceased to hope and ceased to believe that there might be anything new.
And when we hear new things, we take them for old, or think that they can be explained and interpreted by the old. It is true that it is a difficult task to realize the possibility and necessity of quite new ideas, and it needs with time a revaluation of all usual values.
♥ And here it is necessary to note that all psychological systems and doctrines, those that exist or existed openly and those that were hidden or disguised, can be divided into two chief categories.
First: systems which study man as they find him, or such as they suppose or imagine him to be. Modern "scientific" psychology, or what is known under that name, belongs to this category.
Second: systems which study man not from the point of view of what he is, or what he seems to be, but from the point of view of what he may become; that is, from the point of view of his possible evolution.
These last systems are in reality the original ones, or in any case the oldest, and only they can explain the forgotten origin and the meaning of psychology.
When we understand the importance of the study of man from the point of view of his possible evolution, we shall understand that the first answer to the question, what is psychology, should be that psychology is the study of the principles, laws, and facts of man's possible evolution.
♥ Our fundamental idea shall be that man as we know him is not a completed being; that nature develops him only up to a certain point and then leaves him, to develop further, by his own efforts and devices, or to live and die such as he was born, or to degenerate and lose capacity for development.
♥ What is lying?
As it is understood in ordinary language, lying means distorting or in some cases hiding the truth, or what people believe to be the truth. This lying plays a very important part in life, but there are much worse forms of lying, when people do not know what they lie. I said in the last lecture that we cannot know the truth in our present state, and can only know the truth in the state of objective consciousness. How then can we lie? There seems to be a contradiction here, but in reality there is none. We cannot know the truth, but we can pretend that we know. And this is lying. Lying fills all our life. People pretend that they know all sorts of things: about God, about the future life, about the universe, about the origin of man, about evolution, about everything; but in reality they do not know anything, even about themselves. And every time they speak about something they do not know as though they knew it, they lie. Consequently the study of lying becomes of the first importance in psychology.
♥ To know oneself - this was the first principle and the first demand of old psychological schools. We still remember these words, but have lost their meaning. We think that to know ourselves means to know our peculiarities, our desires, our tastes, our capacities, and our intentions, when in reality it means to know ourselves as machines, that is, to know the structure of one's machine, its parts, functions of different parts, the conditions governing their work, and so on. We realize in a general way that we cannot know any machine without studying it. We must remember this in relation to ourselves and must study our own machines as machines. The means of study is self-observation. There is no other way and no one can do this work for us. We must do it ourselves. But before this we must learn how to observe. I mean, we must understand the technical side of observation: we must know that it is necessary to observe different functions and distinguish between them, remembering, at the same time, about different states of consciousness, about our sleep, and about the many "I's" in us.
♥ Positive emotions are emotions which cannot become negative. But all our pleasant emotions such as joy, sympathy, affection, self-confidence, can, at any moment, turn into boredom, irritation, envy, fear, and so on. Love can turn into jealousy or fear to lose what one loves, or into anger and hatred; hope can turn into daydreaming and the expectation of impossible things, and faith can turn into superstition and a weak acceptance of comforting nonsense.
Even a purely intellectual emotion - the desire for knowledge - or an aesthetic emotion - that is, a feeling of beauty or harmony - if it becomes mixed with identification, immediately unites with emotions of a negative kind such as self-pride, vanity, selfishness, conceit, and so on.
So we can say without any possibility of mistake that we can have no positive emotions. At the same time, in actual fact, we have no negative emotions which exist without imagination and identification.
♥ In school language it is said on the subject of the struggle with negative emotions:
Man must sacrifice his suffering.
"What could be easier to sacrifice?" everyone will say. But in reality people would sacrifice anything rather than their negative emotions. There is no pleasure and no enjoyment man would not sacrifice for quite small reasons, but he will never sacrifice his suffering. And in a sense there is a reason for this.
In a quite superstitious way man expects to gain something by sacrificing his pleasures, but he cannot expect anything for sacrifice of his suffering. He is full of wrong ideas about suffering - he still thinks that suffering is sent to him by God or by gods for his punishment or for his edification, and he will even be afraid to hear of the possibility of getting rid of his suffering in such a simple way. The idea is made even more difficult by the existence of many sufferings of which man really cannot get rid, and of many other sufferings which are entirely based on man's imagination, which he cannot and will not give up, like the idea of injustice, for instance, and the belief in the possibility of destroying injustice.
♥ We must understand now that psychology really means self-study. This is the second definition of psychology.
One cannot study psychology as one can study astronomy; that is, apart from oneself.
And at the same time one must study oneself as one studies any new and complicated machine. One must know the parts of this machine, its chief functions, the conditions of right work, the causes of wrong work, and many other things which are difficult to describe without using a special language, which it is also necessary to know in order to be able to study the machine.
♥ Man lives under two kinds of influences. This must be very well understood and the difference between the two kinds of influences must be very clear.
The first kind consists of interests and attractions created by life itself; interests of one's health, safety, wealth, pleasures, amusements, security, vanity, pride, fame, etc.
The second kind consists of interests of a different order aroused by ideas which are not created in life but come originally from schools. These influences do not reach man directly. They are thrown into the general turnover of life, pass through many different minds and reach a man through philosophy, science, religion, and art, always mixed with influences of the first kind and generally very little resembling what they were in their beginning.
...We will call the first kind of influence, influence A, and the second, influence B.
If a man is fully in the power of influence A, or of one particular influence A, and quite indifferent to influence B, nothing happens to him, and his possibility of development diminishes with every year of his life; and at a certain age, sometimes quite an early age, it disappears completely. This means that man dies while physically remaining still alive, like grain that cannot germinate and produce a plant.