Mind: Either / Or
Birthday of Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard
Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, poet, theologian, and religious author, who is widely considered to be the father of existentialism. His belief around how one lives as a ‘single individual’ and how their commitments and personal choices have more power over abstract thinking is reflected well in his writings through metaphors, irony, and parables. He had distinct ideas of philosophy, such as the concept of subjective and objective truths, faith as a passion, angst, and the three stages of life’s way. Soren’s work also reflected his passion for Christianity and the related doctrine, and he wrote various theological pieces on the same.
Soren published a lot of his work under pseudo names to avoid hypocrisy and to present distinct dialogue about complex problems under the hood. One such viewpoint included in his Up building Discourses was about science and spirituality. Soren believed that observation of the fact by science to determine objectivity is futile in understanding the subjective inner workings of the world of the spirit. Some of his other works include Either/Or (1843), The Concept of Anxiety (1844), Stages on Life’s Way (1845), and Training in Christianity (1850).
Osho talks about Soren’s philosophy, “Neither thoughts will help to bring you closer to your being nor feelings — but feelings are better than thoughts, closer, but not yet the real thing. First one has to drop thoughts, then one has to drop feelings, so that the inner world becomes totally empty. In that emptiness your consciousness turns upon yourself and the reality is known.
Truth is neither a thought nor a feeling nor an emotion. Truth is the experience of consciousness of itself. Soren Kierkegaard is right when he says: “Truth is subjectivity.” Meditate and go on dropping… there are layers and layers and layers. Man is like an onion — go on peeling. Meditation is the art of peeling the onion. And of course, when you peel the onion, tears come to the eyes — that has to be accepted. It is painful. Go on peeling the onion till nothing is left in your hand — that nothing is reality.
You can call it God, you can call it nirvana, enlightenment, or whatsoever you want to call it. Names don’t matter. But the real thing happens only when NOTHING has happened.”
LIVING DECISIVELY, KNOWING WHAT ONE WANTS, SEEMS EASY. HOWEVER, MY REALITY IS THAT I CAN NEVER MAKE UP MY MIND ABOUT ANYTHING. I CAN ALWAYS SEE BOTH SIDES OF AN ARGUMENT AND CAN NEVER DECIDE WHICH IS RIGHT. SO I AM LEFT HANGING BETWEEN THE TWO. ONE PART OF ME, LISTENING TO YOU, FEELS THIS IS OKAY, BUT IT MAKES ME FEEL STATIC, AS IF I AM ONLY PARTIALLY ALIVE. PLEASE COMMENT.
Mind is never decisive. It is not a question of your mind or somebody else’s mind; mind is indecisiveness. The functioning of the mind is wavering between two polar opposites and trying to find which is the right way. Mind is the wrong thing, and through the wrong thing you are trying to find the right way. It is as if by closing your eyes you are trying to find the door. Certainly you will feel yourself hanging between the two — to go this way or that; you will be always in a condition of either/or. That’s the nature of mind.
One great Danish philosopher was Soren Kierkegaard. He wrote a book, EITHER/OR. It was his own life’s experience — he could never decide about anything. Everything was always such that if he was deciding this way, then that way seemed to be right. If he was deciding that way, then this way seemed to be right. He remained indecisive.
He remained unmarried, although a woman was very much in love with him and had asked him. But he said, “I will have to think about it — marriage is a big thing, and I cannot say yes or no immediately.” And he died with the question, without getting married. He lived long — perhaps seventy years — and he was continually arguing, discussing. But he found no answer which could be said to be the ultimate answer, which had not its equal opposite.
He never could become a professor. He had filled out the form, he had all the qualifications — the best qualifications possible — he had many books to his credit, of such immense importance that even after a century they are still contemporary, not old, not out of date. He filled out the form but could not sign it — because “either/or”… whether to join the service or not? The form was found when he died, in the small room where he used to live. His father, seeing the situation — and he was his only son — seeing that even going somewhere he would stop at the crossroads to decide to go this way or to go that way, for hours…! The whole of Copenhagen became aware of this man’s strangeness, and children nicknamed him “Either/Or,” so urchins would be following him, shouting, “Either/Or!” wherever he would go.
Before he died his father liquidated all his businesses, collected all the money, deposited it into an account, and arranged that every month on the first day of the month, Kierkegaard should receive so much money, so for his whole life he at least could survive. And you will be surprised: the day he was coming home, on the first day of the month, after taking out the last installment of the money — the money was finished — he fell on the street and died. With the last installment! That was the right thing to do. What else to do? — because after this month, what will he do? And because of the urchins and other people harassing him and calling him Either/Or he used to come out only once a month, just on the first day, to go to the post office. But now there was nothing left — next month he had nowhere to go.
He was writing books but was not decisive about whether to publish them or not; he left all his books unpublished. They are of tremendous value. Each book has a great penetration into things. On each subject he has written, he has gone to the very roots, to every minute detail… a genius, but a genius of the mind. With the mind, that is the problem — it is not your problem — and the better mind you have, the more will be the problem.
Lesser minds don’t come across that problem so much. It is the genius mind that is opposed, with two polarities, and cannot choose. And then he feels in a limbo.
What I have been telling you is that it is the nature of the mind to be in a limbo. It is the nature of the mind to be in the middle of polar opposites. Unless you move away from the mind and become a witness to all the games of the mind, you will never be decisive. Even if you sometimes decide — in spite of the mind — you will repent, because the other half that you have not decided for is going to haunt you: perhaps that was right and what you have chosen is wrong. And now there is no way to know. Perhaps the choice was better that you had left aside was better. But even if you had chosen it, the situation would not have been different; then this which would have been left aside would haunt you.
Mind is basically the beginning of madness. And if you are too much in it, it will drive you mad.
I have told you that in my village I used to live opposite a goldsmith. I became aware at first, and then the whole town became slowly aware… and his life became hell. I used to sit just in front of his house, and I became aware that he had a curious habit: he would lock his shop, then pull the lock two, three times to see whether it was really locked or not.
One day I was coming from the river and he had just locked his shop and was going home. I said, “But you have not checked!”
He said, “What?”
I said, “You have not checked the lock!” He had checked it — I had seen him three times pulling it, but now I had created a suspicion, and mind is always ready…
So he said to me, “Perhaps I forgot — I must go back.” He went back, and checked the lock again. That became my joy: wherever he would go…
In the market he would be purchasing vegetables and I would reach there saying, “What are you doing here? You have left the lock unchecked!”
He would drop the vegetables and he would say, “I will be coming back; first I have to go and check the lock.”
Even from the railway station… He was purchasing a ticket to go somewhere, and I went and told him, “What are you doing? The lock!”
He said, “My God, have I not checked it?”
I said, “No!”
He said, “Now it is impossible to go to the marriage I was going to.” He returned the ticket, went home, and checked the lock. But then it was too late to go back to the station — the train had already gone. And he trusted me because I was always sitting in front of his house.
Slowly it became known to everybody, so wherever he would go, people would say, “Where are you going? Have you checked the lock?”
Finally he became angry with me. He said, “You must be spreading it, because wherever I go everybody is talking about the lock, and I have to come back home — sometimes so many times that I forget completely for what purpose I had gone in the first place to the market! The whole day I have been checking the lock!”
I said, “You don’t listen to them. Let them…”
He said, “What do you mean, `Don’t listen to them’? If they are right then I am lost forever. I cannot take that chance. So knowing perfectly well that the man may be lying, I have to come back compulsively to check the lock. I know somewhere that I have checked it, but who knows for certain?”
Mind has no certainty about anything. If you are between the two polarities of the mind, in a limbo — always to do or not to do, you will go crazy. You are crazy! Before it happens, jump out and have a look from the outside at the mind… and that’s what I am telling you continuously.
Be aware of the mind — its bright side, its dark side, its right, its wrong. Whatever polarity it is, you just be aware of it. Two things will come out of that awareness: one, that you are not the mind, and second, that awareness has a decisiveness which mind never has. Mind is basically indecisive, and awareness is basically decisive. So any act out of awareness is total, full, without repentance.
I have never in my life thought again about anything — whether something else would have been better. I have never repented. I have never thought that I have committed any mistake, because there is nobody else who has been left to say these things. I have been acting out of my awareness — that is my whole being. Now whatever happens is all that is possible.
The world may call it right or wrong — that is their business, but it is not my problem.
So awareness will take you out of the limbo. Rather than hanging between these two polarities of the mind, you will jump beyond both, and you will be able to see that those two polarities are two polarities only if you are in the mind. If you are outside it, you will be surprised that they are two sides of the same coin — there was no question of decision.
With awareness you have the clarity, totality, let-go — existence decides within you. You don’t have to think about what is right and wrong; existence takes your hand in its hand, and you are moving relaxedly. That’s the only way, the right way. And that is the only way you can be sane; otherwise you will remain muddled.
Now, Soren Kierkegaard is a great mind, but being a Christian he has no idea of awareness. He can think, and think very deeply, but he cannot just be silent and watch. That poor fellow had never heard about anything like watching, witnessing, awareness. Thinking was all that he had heard about, and he had put his whole genius into thinking. He had produced great books, but he could not produce a great life for himself. He lived in utter misery.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Beyond Psychology
Chapter title: Freedom doesn’t choose, it discovers
23 April 1986 am in
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