To Be Non-Mechanical Is To Be Spiritual

an excerpt from a talk by Eugene Halliday

[ Scenario: ]

“If in fact you find yourself in any position – no matter what it is, pleasant or unpleasant,”­

[ Action Response: ]

“if you then look backwards into your experiences and look for similars”,

“and then on the basis of your previous pleasures or pains you select ‘from the present’ a given response”,

[ Result: ]

“insofar as you do that, you are acting exactly as if you were a machine, and you might as well be one.”

[ Alternative 1: ]

“But, if you say,

“When I look at my past experiences I can see the inevitability of them developing in that way,

“Because I was looking backwards,

“So that I can see that at thirty I acted just like that,

“Because at twenty I had an ambition which I hoped to realise by twenty-one,

“And it took till twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-nine,

“And at thirty it wasn’t realised,

“But the inertia of the twenty year old decision carried on,

“And I felt impelled, foolishly, to justify myself, that is, to equilibrate myself,

“­By actually fulfilling this most comical, youthful and foolhardy plan that I had fabricated in the dawn of my awakening mind.

[ Result: ]

“If this pattern of behaviour that is seen at an early stage is willed into,

“and one then becomes egotistically determined to establish it,

“so that one can witness oneself,

“one is actually behaving like a machine.

[ Alternative 2: ]

“But, if, on reaching at a certain level,

“Where it is seen that, to act in the present in the light of the past, is to be entirely mechanical.

“And that the only way to escape mechanics is to wipe out the whole of the past,

“Including every relation you’ve ever had with any other being,

“No matter how personal, how intimate.

“If it is past, it is ‘past time’,

“And therefore to be utterly transcended,

“And one’s life is to be lived now, in the immediate moment.

To do that is to be non-mechanical and is to be spiritual.

“Spirit is precisely this power to see in the present, nothing except what is present.

“In fact if I look at you, and as I actually do look at you, and this is hard to believe even for me, I don’t know who you are.

“I have not the faintest idea who you are.

“There isn’t even a vague reminiscence in me unless I deliberately conjure one up.

“You are entirely new, and because you are new, I am interested.

“I am interested in your viewpoints.

“I’m interested in your feelings.

“I want to know exactly what you think about the universe, about yourselves,

“I don’t want to know really ‘what you think about each other’.

“But I want to know what you think about yourself. Because if you told me about somebody else you would be telling me about yourself, so I would rather get it first hand by you telling me what you think about yourself, and save time.

“If I can keep this entirely new look, all the time, to the extent that I do, I am being spiritual, and I don’t know who you are.

“That in not knowing who you are I can adjust to you absolutely. And I can enquire out of the depths of your soul, if you are good enough to tell me what is in the depths of your soul, what there is there.

“And if you are not that good, I can only infer that there must be some dark secret not yet to be revealed

“But the essential thing of the spiritual, that is, of the ‘free’ life, is that it literally doesn’t have a ‘past’ at all. It has no reference to ‘time’ as past.

“But it says a very peculiar thing: “As every event in a ‘now’ is simply inserted into the ‘now’, at right angles to the so-called ‘time’ line, every form is an ‘eternal’.

“Which means that every form in this room is an eternal.

“Which means that even if I ignore my ‘past’, I still know who you are, as to your ‘eternality’.

“But if I go directly, not to your past, but to your eternality, which is either the height or the depths of the soul, according to whether you are standing on your head or your feet, and penetrate to the meaning of that, I am getting real value, which I am not getting if I try to get into your past.

“And this is tremendously important, because it is the key to all proper relation.

“All real relation is immediate, and now, and felt, and enquiring. It is a quest. The ‘question’ is its instrument. And it has nothing to do with what has happened in the past.

“This means that if there is a married man in the room and he has a wife, he should actually feel he doesn’t know who she is. If he succeeds he won’t be so mad at her. He might even think she is a nice girl, and bring himself into relation with her because he doesn’t know her. He might actually find that he can bring himself into relation with her, precisely because he doesn’t know her, like he used to do when he didn’t know her.

“Whereas if one believes that one knows any particular person, to the extent that one believes so, there is that much less importance – because importance is ‘the carrying in of the will’.

“And if you exhaust the meaning of any given being, by carrying your will into it, and then chalk up the record of the experiences, and believe that those experiences, as recorded, constitute that individual, as you have exhausted the meaning of those records, you have no further interest in the individual.

“Now that if you can actually tell yourself that you really don’t know this person, and that whatever records you have made in the past are simply the records of the observations of an undeveloped being with insufficient data. Then you can relate more fully and more richly in the immediate present.

“And to do this is the meaning of the word ‘spirit’.”