Image: ©️Stephen Tanham

The spiritual teacher and philosopher Krishnamurti once wrote:

‘Recognition dulls the mind’.

When I first read it, years ago, I disagreed with his proposition. Surely, I reasoned, the act of recognition is a result of intelligence? We learn to recognise something as an act of shortening the ‘path-length’ of the brain’s logic, as it wrestles to categorise the seen thing.

Take a lighted candle, for example. We might enter a darkened room and have our attention drawn by one. At that stage we might only perceive a diffuse and gentle light coming from a height which is not the floor – but we recognise that ‘container’ of something of interest, even if we don’t have a name for it…

If we have further interest in the object, we might stay with our container and notice that the source of the light is a tall, white stick. The light source appears to be dancing upon it, as though it were alive. The light is not uniform in shape; what initially looked like a sphere of light is revealed as an oval with radiant ‘rays’ of light streaking from it and into our eyes.

A voice may caution us that this streaking effect is a subjective illusion; but, in reality, everything in that narrowing-down sequence is an illusion.

This lightning-fast process is recognition. It’s purpose is to show us the familiar, so that we may be ready to use the object. It’s also vital to the ‘animal’ side of us to recognise that which may hurt us, so, after recognition, we can be prepared to be defensive.

We can, if we train our perception, see the stages above. If we do this, repeatedly, the act of detailed observation of something we think we know can open us up to new riches. This is what Krishnamurti was talking about. He went on to say that the mind is a treasure-house of richness, dulled by the layers of containers that we wrap around perception in order to know and use its usefulness.

We cannot really know what the object is. Its dissection takes place in our minds. We first evaluate what type of object or effect we are looking at, then we look for detail. Finally, we look for purpose. When we have all of these, we ascribe knowledge to what we are looking at. Our primary purpose is to make it useful. We might have been searching for that lighted candle and are now in a position to put it to good use.


Or we might have deliberately set a candle in that darkened room so that we could ‘sneak up on it’ – determined to see it differently. Nothing would have changed, and yet everything would have changed. We wouldn’t be interfering with what was really ‘out there’. But we would be open to changes in the richness with which it is perceived… and if we let that flow, it might alter the out-there/in-here position?

Such a deliberate act of consciousness would have been rightly called magical in days gone by. Perhaps we could do with a bit of magic in our world today?

Perhaps this is why good art captivates us? We know it has no ‘usefulness’ other than to capture our eyes, then our minds and, sometimes, our hearts. That very thought should show us where in perception the higher octaves lie. The fact that we separate ‘things’ at all, rather than seeing them all as continuous shows us an important facet of human consciousness. But a deeper discussion of this should be the subject of a further piece.

Our candle offers no threat. It’s light, streaking into our eyes, has always been symbolic of a much deeper act of recognition.

©Stephen Tanham Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives. The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#Silenti – A Rose Beyond Violence, part two

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), photographed in 1929. Picture source, see end of post

In part one, we examined Krishnamurti’s view that the individual could, with considerable effort, ‘unclip’ themselves from their society (though not broadcast it) and begin to separate out the pieces of their world in order to contemplate violence in a new way…

This would begin the process of giving the objective world (what IS) some initial power over the egoic self, which had grown to assume a role as something it was not capable of, being entirely subjective and without true centre.

We may think that anything that purports to address violence would begin by considering aggression. But Krishnamurti took a different route: he said that it must begin with a new way of seeing.

We might reasonably think that having reached adulthood and tested our vision in both physical and intellectual tussles, we were perfectly capable of seeing without further guidance.

Not so, said the teacher..though he suggested we must be our own teacher in this as in so many real things.

Seeing as we knew, it, he maintained, was the result of our personal history. Not history as we generally know it, but an accretion of ‘stuff’ that clouded every attempt to see out of this fog of confusion we called the self. We are, he said, not a single entity. We have a self that arises in family and with loved ones; a self that arises when we face up to the confrontational challenges in our workplace; a self that reacts as it does not want to when we are forced to do something – the imperatives of survival dictating that we preserve this ‘self’ at all costs. There were many more.

To approach violence and fear, we had to come to know a new type of seeing, one that belonged to a new self, a self that examined the flow of itself without judgment in order to place a watcher on she/he who claimed to watch…

What does this second watcher do?

In order for this entity to exist, it must, in a sense, step backwards from a world that is painted on our eyeballs; a world that triggers us to react with every breath, never having the time nor the energy to truly ‘see what to do’ without thought.

And, arriving at that point, Krishnamurti said, we began to glimpse that our history, reaction, time and fear were all secretly knitted into a fabric dominated by the chief villain of the piece… thought.

Continued in Part Three

Previous Parts:

Part 1,

Picture source.


This is the second in a series of postings related to topical issues in mysticism. They will all carry the hashtag #Silenti. Please feel free to reply or join in, using this hashtag.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.

#Silenti – A Rose Beyond Violence, part one

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), photographed in 1929. Picture source, see end of post

Many people are in a state of shock following a series of electoral surprises that have rocked the political ‘liberal establishment’ on both sides of the Atlantic. Racist attacks are on the increase and long-respected ‘experts’ are frequently mocked. We are in danger of throwing away many of the principles of established civilisation. It’s easy to feel that these uncertain times contain the seeds of extreme violence.

Politics works on the basis that large populations are capable of collective and constructive behaviour. But, there are other perspectives that speak, philosophically, of the effect that a relatively small group of people may have on an era, outside of politics, entirely.

Two figures in this latter mould are G. I. Gurdjieff and Jiddu Krishnamurti. In this series of posts, we look at the radical approach that Krishnamurti took to human freedom, which he said belonged only to the individual who was capable of observing himself/herself to such a level that a process of self-change could be initiated at the levels of mind, emotion and instinct.

Part of this process was to be prepared to completely cast off the conventional ways of thinking about things. Leaving behind beliefs, temperament and conditioning is no simple matter. This was particularly true of the subject of violence, which Krishnamurti viewed as the scourge of modern society, and endemic in our capacity for self-destruction.

Krishnamurti saw violence everywhere around us: outwardly and in our relationships with each other. He saw it in both politics and religion, and may well, had he lived, have seen it in the modern use of technology. All of this, he wrote, produces sorrow, which saps the creativity and coherence of life in society.

How are we to react to violence, which, in this era is even more threatening than in Krishnamurti’s time? Can we look to the experts, the politicians, the priests? His view was that all such respected ‘authorities’ have failed, leaving the individual to find their own answers.

Krishnamurti argued that we are, as human citizens, as fragmented as the societies in which we live, and that there was an unseen and potent relationship in this. He maintained that we were not, individually, in a position to affect society in a religious or political sense, but we did have great potential to turn ourselves into a true individual, in which case there would occur a binding between the actions we subsequently undertook and our effect on the violence we previously abhorred.

In part two, we will look at how the individual may approach violence in themselves, taking apart the pieces so that they can be held up to the inner light of objective consciousness.

Picture source.


This is the second in a series of postings related to topical issues in mysticism. They will all carry the hashtag #Silenti. Please feel free to reply or join in, using this hashtag.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.