From Horizontal to Vertical
Birthday of American Philosopher Ralph Emerson
Born on 25 May 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher, lecturer, essayist, and poet. He was the leading exponent of the transcendentalist movement of the 19th century. His philosophies and ideologies were disseminated through a multitude of published essays and over 1500 lectures across the United States. His theory of transcendentalism aided the ideas of individualism, freedom, and the affinity between the soul and nature.
Emerson was seen as a champion of individualism and eradication of social pressure in every sense. He discounted the theory of God being separate from the world, aligning divinity and reality in the process. His opinions are delineated and explained well in his essays titled Nature, Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, The Poet, etc published in his first two collections – Essays: First Series (1841) and Essays: Second Series (1844). Emerson’s contribution to the growth of individualism and realist spirituality remains illustrious.
Osho talks about lines written by Emerson, “There is a famous saying of Emerson: ‘Say what today wants to say and then tomorrow say what tomorrow wants to say, and don’t be bothered about consistency.’
This is what I call sannyas: living joyously in infinite inconsistencies, without trying to choose, without trying to impose a pattern on life, living moment to moment, not with a plan but ad hoc. Whatsoever this moment demands accept the challenge and respond. Don’t say ‘I have to behave in this way’; there is no ‘have to’. You are free to behave in this moment as this moment requires you to… not according to the past, not according to any character, not according to any mind, not according to any plan. That’s what I mean by ad hoc: improvise in this moment, for this moment. It has no message for tomorrow. When tomorrow comes we will respond again. This is a life of responsibility. A responsible man can only be inconsistent, an alive man can only be inconsistent. Consistency creates mediocre minds. And when one can get free of that imprisonment, one starts growing the great mind, mind with capital M. That’s what other religions call god: mind with capital M. The mind with a small ‘m’ has to go…
Start from this very moment and you will find great freedom. Only free people live, only freedom knows the taste of life.”
I AM ALSO GETTING OLD. WOULD YOU TELL ME A FEW LAWS FOR MIDDLE AGE ALSO?
Amrito, everybody is getting old. Since the day you were born, you have been getting old — each moment, each day. Childhood is a flux, so is youth — just old age never ends, because it terminates! That is the unique quality of old age, that it brings you to ultimate rest. But you want a few laws for middle age…You are a man of medicine, you should know better. As far as I am concerned, I have never been a child, never a youth, and never become old and never will die. I know only one thing in me that is absolutely unchanging and eternal. But just for your sake…
There are many laws about middle age, because all over the world people become old. And many thinkers have been thinking, what is this old age? The first law is ‘The Nevers’ Last Law; obviously about old age, the law can be the last: Never speculate on that which can be known for certain. You know perfectly well you are getting old, now don’t speculate on that, that will make you more miserable. The law is beautiful, never speculate on that which can be known for certain. In fact, in life, except death nothing is certain; everything can be speculated upon, but not death. And old age is just the door to death. Middle age is when you begin to exchange your emotions for symptoms.
Lendel’s Law: You know you are getting old when a girl calls “No,” and all you feel is relief.
Old age is when you start to turn out the lights for economical rather than romantic reasons!
Old age is that period of life when your idea of getting ahead is staying even.
Old age is when you can do just as much as ever, but would rather not.
Old age is a mysterious experience, but all these laws have been found by the Western mind. I have not been able to discover anybody in the whole literature of the East talking about old age. On the contrary, old age has been praised immensely, because in the East it has been thought that you are not old. If your life has simply moved on the horizontal line, you are only aged. But if your life, your consciousness, has moved vertically, upwards, then you have attained the beauty, the glory of old age.
Old age in the East has been synonymous with wisdom. These are the two paths: one is horizontal, from childhood to youth, to old age and to death; another is vertical, from childhood to youth, to old age, and to immortality. The difference in quality of both the dimensions is immense, incalculable. The man who simply becomes young, and old, and dead, has remained identified with his body. He has not known anything about his being, because being is never born and never dies; it is always, it has been always, it will be always, it is the whole of eternity.
On the vertical line the child becomes young, but the youth on the vertical line will be different from the youth on the horizontal line. Childhood is innocent, but that is the point from where these two different dimensions open up. The youth on the horizontal line is nothing but sensuality, sexuality and all kinds of other stupidities. The youth on the vertical line is a search for truth, is a search for life — it is a longing to know oneself.
A man on the vertical line cannot be called young if he is not meditative, and the same is true about old age. On the horizontal line, old age is simply trembling, afraid of death; I cannot think of anything except a graveyard, and darkness which goes on becoming darker and darker. It cannot conceive of himself except as a skeleton. On the vertical line, old age is a celebration; it is as beautiful as man has ever been.
Youth is a little foolish — is bound to be; it is inexperienced, but old age has passed through all the experiences — good and bad, right and wrong — and has come to a state where it is no longer affected by anything concerned with body or mind.
It is a welcome! old age on the vertical line is keeping its door open for the ultimate guest to come in. It is not an end, it is a beginning of a real life, of an authentic being. Hence,
I continuously make the distinction between growing old and growing up. Very few people have been fortunate to grow up; the remainder of humanity has only been growing old. And naturally they are all moving towards death. Only on the vertical line does death not exist; that is the way to immortality, to divinity.
And naturally, when one becomes old on that dimension, he has a grace and a beauty and a compassion and love. It has been noted again and again… There is a statement in Buddhist scriptures that as Buddha became older, he became more beautiful. This I call a true miracle. Not walking on water — any drunkard can try that. Not turning water into wine — any criminal can do that. This is a true miracle: Buddha became more beautiful than he was in his youth; he became more innocent than he was in his childhood — this is growth.
Unless you are moving on the vertical line, you are missing the whole opportunity of life. But here our whole effort is to block the horizontal line and open the blocked vertical line. Then every day you are coming closer to life, not farther away. Then your birth is not the beginning of death, your birth is the beginning of eternal life.
Just two different lines and so much difference. The West has never thought about it; the vertical line has never been mentioned because they haven’t been brought up in a spiritual atmosphere where the real riches are inside you. Even if they think of God, they think of him outside. Gautam Buddha could deny God — I deny God. There is absolutely no God for the simple reason that we want you to turn inwards. If God is — or anything similar — it has to be found inside you; it has to be found in your own eternity, in your own ecstasy.
To think of oneself as a body-mind structure is the most dangerous idea that has happened to people. That destroys their whole grace, whole beauty, and they are constantly trembling and afraid of death, and trying to keep old age as far away as possible.
In the West, if you say to an old woman, “You look so young,” and she knows she is no longer young, she will stand in front of the mirror for hours to check whether any youthfulness has remained anywhere. But she will not deny it, she will be immensely happy. In the East, nobody says to an old woman, “You are young”; on the contrary, old age is so respected, loved, so that to say to somebody, “You look younger than your age,” is a kind of insult. I am reminded of one incident that happened life…
I was staying in Chanda — a far corner of Maharashtra — with a very rich family, and they were very much interested in an astrologer. They loved me and I used to go at least three times per year. That was their quota, and I used to stay there for at least three or four days each time. Once when I went there, without asking they had arranged with the astrologer to come and to look at my hands and tell some things about me. When I came to know about it, everything was fixed; the astrologer was sitting in the sitting room. So I said, “Okay, let us enjoy that too!”
I showed him my hand; he pondered over it and he said, “You must be at least eighty years old.”
Of course, one of the daughters of the rich man freaked out, “This is stupid. What kind of astrology…”
At that time I was not more than thirty-five — even a blind man could have measured thirty-five and eighty! She was really angry, and she told me, “I am finished with this astrologer. What else can he know?”
I said, “You don’t understand. You are more Westernized — educated in the Western style. You have been to the West for your education — you can’t understand what he was saying.”
She said, “What was he saying? It was so clear there is no need to understand; he was simply showing his stupidity. A thirty-five-year-old young man, and he is saying that you are eighty years old.”
I said, “Be patient.”
And I told her a story about Emerson…
A man asked Emerson, “How old are you?”
Emerson said, “Near about three hundred and sixty years.”
The man could not believe… and he had always believed in Emerson that he is a man of truth! What had happened — a slip of the tongue? Or had he become senile? Or is he joking?
To make things clear he said, “I did not hear what you said. Just tell me how much…?”
Emerson said, “You have heard it — three hundred and sixty years.”
The man said, “I cannot believe it. You don’t look more than sixty years.”
Emerson said, “You are right in a way: on the vertical I am three hundred and sixty, and on the horizontal I am sixty.”
Perhaps he was the first Western man to use this Eastern expression of horizontal and vertical.
Emerson was immensely interested in the East, and he had a few glimpses which bring him closer to the seers of the UPANISHADS. He said, “Actually I have lived sixty years; you are right. But in sixty years I have lived as much as you will not be able to live even in three hundred and sixty years. I have lived six times more.” The vertical line does not count years, it counts your experiences. And on the vertical line is the whole treasure of existence — not only immortality, not only a feeling of divineness, but the first experience of love without hate, the first experience of compassion, the first experience of meditation — the first experience of the tremendous explosion of enlightenment.
It is not a coincidence that in the West, the word `enlightenment’ does not have the same meaning as in the East. They say that after the black ages, dark ages, came the age of enlightenment. They refer to people like Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jaspers as very enlightened geniuses. They don’t understand that they are misusing a word, dragging it into the mud. Neither is Bertrand Russell enlightened nor Jean-Paul Sartre nor Jaspers. Enlightenment does not happen on the horizontal. Even in his old age Jean-Paul Sartre was still running after young girls. Bertrand Russell changed his wife so many times, and he lived long on the horizontal — almost a century. But even in his old age, his interests were as stupid as young people.
The East understands that the word `enlightenment’ has nothing to do with genius, has nothing to do with intelligence, it has something to do with discovering your real, authentic being. It is discovering God within you.
Amrito, you need not be worried about laws. Those laws are all on the horizontal line.
On the vertical line there is love, no law; there is the growing experience of becoming more and more spiritual and less and less physical, more and more meditative and less and less mind, more and more divine and less and less of this trivial material world in which we are so much enmeshed. On the vertical line, slowly you feel desires disappearing, sensuality disappearing, sexuality disappearing, ambitions disappearing, will to power disappearing… your slavery in all its aspects disappearing — religious, political, national. You become more of an individual. And with your individuality growing clear and luminous, the whole humanity is becoming one in your eyes — you cannot discriminate. There are great experiences on the vertical line;
on the horizontal line there is only decline. On the horizontal line the old man lives in the past. He thinks of those beautiful days, those Arabian nights when he was young; he thinks also of those beautiful days when there was no responsibility and he was a child running after butterflies. In fact, for his whole life he has been running after butterflies — even in old age.
Mulla Nasruddin was passing along a street…And he saw a beautiful young woman so he gave her a good nudge. The woman was shocked, because Mulla was old; all his hairs were pure silver white. The woman said, “You should be ashamed — all your hairs are pure white. You are the age of my grandfather — you should have been dead by now. You are showing your ugliness….
Mulla said, “Listen, my hairs are white, that’s true, but my heart is still black — dark black.”
On the horizontal line, that’s what happens — your hairs will become white, but you don’t become white. In fact, on the contrary: as you grow old, you become more and more infatuated by desires, because now you know that ahead there is only death. So you enjoy as much as possible, although enjoying becomes difficult, physically you have lost the energy. So the old man on the horizontal line becomes cerebrally sexual; he is continuously thinking of sex. Psychologists have been watching thousands of people, and they have concluded that every man thinks of a woman at least once in three minutes. Just check it! That will show you on what line you are — horizontal or vertical. And each woman thinks of a man one time in seven minutes…
The old man is continuously thinking of the past — this is the psychology. The child thinks of the future because he has no past; there is no question of thinking of the past — no yesterday. He thinks of days to come, the whole long life. Seventy years gives him space… He wants to become big enough quickly to do things that all the big people are doing. The old man has no future — the future means death; he does not even want to talk about the future… ahead there is only darkness and nothing else. The child thinks of the future, of the golden future; the old man thinks of the golden past. But this happens only on the horizontal line. On the vertical line, the past is golden, the present is golden, the future is golden; it is a life of tremendous celebration.
So rather than being worried about the laws of old age, think about which line your train is moving on. There is still time to change trains; there is always time to change trains because from every moment that bifurcation is available. You can shift, shift from the horizontal to the vertical; only that is important.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Invitation
Chapter title: Still time to change the trains
4 September 1987 am in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium
Osho has spoken on notable Psychologists and philosophers like Adler, Jung, Sigmund Freud, Assagioli, Wilhelm Reich, Aristotle, Berkeley, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Laing, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Russell, Sartre, Socrates, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Hidden Splendour
- The Wild Geese and the Water
- This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
- Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
- Beyond Enlightenment
- Beyond Psychology
- Dang Dang Doko Dang
- The Discipline of Transcendence
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
- From Bondage to Freedom
- From Darkness to Light
- From Ignorance to Innocence
- The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
- From Personality to Individuality
- I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 4
- Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1