Week 9: Krishnamurti on Education & Nature
last updated 25.11.10.
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was, by turns a spiritual teacher, philosopher and anti-guru. He travelled the world giving speeches and engaging in dialogues. He founded some seven schools in India, the USA and UK.
Krishnamurti’s writings and speeches span nearly six decades and stretch to many volumes. For the purposes of this module we will delve very selectively into only those works which deal specifically with education in relation to nature, or vice versa. However, in order to make sense of Krishnamurti’s comments, some consideration of key features of his broader thought will necessarily be mentioned. His themes frequently echo those we have met in many of our other theorists, particularly, perhaps Orr, Zerzan and Mathews. Indeed, among Krishnamurti’s speeches and writings, which range so widely across ideas around learning, knowledge, self-awareness, relationships, and much more besides, we can find much with which we will be familiar. However, Krishnamurti’s manner and tone in expressing these ideas differs greatly from both the academic and the polemical styles which you have more often met in this module and more generally in Education Studies. He very rarely refers to other thinkers, and offers thoughts and reflections with little if any basis in forms of established knowledge, research or evidence. Indeed, this is precisely his point. For Krishnamurti, knowledge is of little importance, and we can only ever be our own ultimate source of awareness and understanding. He rejects authority of all kinds, and yet his own voice is seductively authoritative and at the same time elusively mystical.
Krishnamurti is eminently quotable, and these notes are thus peppered with passages from his work. If you decide you want to focus on Krishnamurti for your assignment, you will certainly need to read some chapters from the texts to which I refer here, a couple of which are in the reading pack. Krishnamurti’s extensive collected works are also available online (http://www.jiddu-krishnamurti.net/en/index.php ).
Krishnamurti’s themes frequently echo those we have met in many of our other theorists, particularly perhaps Orr, Zerzan and Mathews. Indeed, among Krishnamurti’s speeches and writings which range so widely across ideas around learning, knowledge, self-awareness, relationships, and much more besides, we can find much with which we will be familiar. However, Krishnamurti’s manner and tone in expressing these ideas differs greatly from both the academic and the polemical styles which you have more often met in this module and more generally in Education Studies. His thinking in relation to pedagogy and ecology explicitly links to religious themes in a way in which Orr, for example, does not; so he often talks of a higher and wider significance to life, and asks of what value education could be if it does not seek to discover this.
In his writing since the early 1950’s, Krishnamurti has offered a distinctive critique of didactic and traditional pedagogy. However, if we would wish to call him a ‘progressive’ and ‘ecological’ educator, he is one of a very particular type.
Krishnamurti (1955, p.11) doesn’t perhaps go as far as Orr in suggesting that ‘success’ is detrimental to the earth, merely that it is empty and shallow; however, his critique of notions of ‘success’ is sustained and central to his writing (one can’t really say his ‘argument’ as this would not be in the spirit of his work). Formal, traditional education hinders man’s comprehension of himself as a connected process. As in other ecological thinkers, the emphasis is on the wholeness of man, and comprehending his existence at different levels including as a part of nature, rather than as separated into different categories (ibid., pp.11-12).
“We have been educated for various professions within a system which is based on exploitation and acquisitive fear… To most of us, the meaning of life as a whole is not of primary importance, and our education emphasizes secondary values, merely making us proficient in some branch of knowledge… without love, which brings an integrated understanding of life, efficiency breeds ruthlessness.” (Ibid., p.13)
“Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult… To be different from the group or to resist environment is not easy and often risky as long as we worship success. The urge to be successful, which is the pursuit of reward whether in the material or the so-called spiritual sphere… this whole process smothers discontent, puts an end to spontaneity and breeds fear; and fear blocks the intelligent understanding of life.” (Ibid., pp.9-10)
“A school which is successful in the worldly sense is more often than not a failure as an education centre.” (Ibid., p.86)
Fear is something he is particularly concerned with: “[a]s long as success is our goal we cannot be rid of fear, for the desire to succeed inevitably breeds the fear of failure.” (Ibid., p.44) ‘Fear’ is the block to social progress. We fear discontent as we fear failure, for, instead, we strive after security and success; so, for Krishnamurti, ‘success’ leads “finally to war”. You might wish to connect Krishnamurti’s reflections on this subject with Orr’s notion of biophobia as a ‘spiritually’ as well as ecologically destructive force at work within modern human psychologies.
Like others of our theorists, Krishnamurti questions the value of technology insofar as it is used by us to destroy one another, and, connected with this, Krishnamurti levels his critique against the notion of technē or ‘technique’ in education. If one works from the whole, understanding creates technique; but the opposite is not true. Starting with technique (in relation to ‘practical rationalities’), one cannot bring about creative understanding. Interestingly, he again foreshadows Orr’s critique of existing patterns of education here (something you may wish to discuss in the session):
“Technological progress does solve certain kinds of problems for some people at one level, but it introduces wider and deeper issues too. To live at one level, disregarding the total process of life, is to invite misery and destruction… [I]t is because we have acquired technical knowledge without understanding the total process of life that technology has become a means of destroying ourselves.” (Ibid. p.19)
Another close parallel with Orr’s critique of current education can be found in Krishnamurti’s approach to vocationalism in relation to this question of technē; “The school should help its young people to discover their vocations and responsibilities, and not merely cram their minds with facts and technical knowledge; it should be the soil in which they can grow without fear, happily and integrally.” (Ibid., p.45)
A distinctive feature of Krishnamurti’s critique of current education, and one which sets him apart from others of our thinkers, and especially from the writings of Callenbach, and perhaps also Zerzan, is his anti-utopianism and anti-‘idealism’. Krishnamurti’s position is problematic. It could be read as an apology for the status quo, for reaction and inactivity; but, a reading which presupposes a desire on Krishnamurti’s part for a new world order infers that in his anti-utopianism there resides a pedagogy of hope. Krishnamurti’s position here is rather like the postmodern inheritors of critical pedagogy, a hope against hope. He writes: “[i]s not the pursuit of a ready-made Utopia a denial of the freedom and integration of the individual?” (Ibid., p.22) Likewise, “[m]erely to have a design for a perfect society is to wrangle and shed blood for what should be while ignoring what is.” (Ibid., p.22-23) And again, “[t]he right kind of education is not concerned with any ideology, however much it may promise a future Utopia” (ibid., p.23); “[a]s long as education is based on cut-and-dried principles, it can turn out men and women who are efficient, but it cannot produce creative human beings.” (Ibid.,, p.24) In marked contrast with the practical future-orientation of much ecopedagogical discourse, especially in the light of the impending environmental crises, Krishnamurti expresses an anti-idealism which could easily be misread. In fact he has something in common with Orr here. His critique boils down to this, that “[t]he idealist, like the specialist, is not concerned with the whole, but only with a part.” (Ibid., p.25) The underpinning of Krishnamurti’s educational vision is his recourse to love and to the self. Rather than turning to ideals or visions, the educator should “understand himself. “Let us not think in terms of principles and ideals, but be concerned with things as they are.” (Ibid.)
For Krishnamurti, our obsession with measurement is a consequence of our striving after an ideal or utopia towards which we mark off steps. “One measures and classifies the child, and them proceeds to educate him according to some chart.” (Ibid. p.26)
“To enclose him in the framework of an ideal is to encourage him to conform, which breeds fear and produces in him a constant conflict between what he is and what he should be; and all inward conflicts have their outward manifestations in society. Ideals are an actual hindrance to our understanding of the child and to the child’s understanding of himself.” (Ibid.)
The role of the educator is, as Krishnamurti himself embodied, questioner, moving the learner towards a greater self knowledge without ever telling or exercising authority over. Only an educator who is herself free of the shackles of convention can help the child to avoid falling prey to conventional ways of living: “The right kind of educator, aware of the mind’s tendency to reaction, helps the student to alter present values, not out of reaction against them, but through understanding the total process of life.” (Ibid., p.30)
“To condition the student to accept the present environment is quite obviously stupid. Unless we voluntarily bring about a radical change in education, we are directly responsible for the perpetuation of chaos and misery” (Ibid., p.31)
Krishnamurti always makes a positive virtue of ‘discontent’: “Discontent may bring what appears to be disorder; but if it leads, as it should, to self-knowledge and self-abnegation, then it will create a new social order and enduring peace.” (Ibid., p.42) Some of Krishnamurti’s phrases very closely resemble the position of Zerzan, for instance in relation to time, language and symbolization, “That which is immeasurable cannot be measured by words. We are always trying to put the immeasurable into a frame of words, and the symbol is not the actual. But we worship the symbol, therefore we always live in a limited state.” (ibid., p.70) Krishnamurti does not, in Orr’s words “make a fetish” of books and reading: like Zerzan he believes that words can come between humans and nature, and that our senses have become deadened to our being in the world,
“[b]y watching and listening we learn infinitely more than from any book… if your senses are not highly awakened you cannot really watch and listen and learn, not only how to act but about learning, which is the very soil in which the seeds of goodness can grow.” (Krishnamurti, 1987, p.72)
Also like Zerzan he eschews the measurement and mathematization of life which has characterized human existence “[f]rom ancient times” (ibid., p.81) though, for Krishanmurti, it is possible really to move beyond the measuring mind here and now, “[t]o live without comparison, to live without any kind of measurement inwardly, never to compare what you are with what you should be” (ibid.). This is characteristic of Krishanmurti’s insistence on the inward revolution preceding any worldly change, a revolution in self-awareness enabled by meditation.
“In meditation there must be no measurement… Only then is mediation a movement in the infinite, measureless to man, without a goal, without an end and without a beginning. And that has a strange action in daily life, because all life is one and then becomes sacred. And that which is sacred can never be killed. To kill another is unholy. It cries to heaven as a bird kept in a cage.” (Ibid.)
So, approaching this conclusion from a very different direction, Krishnamurti espouses a morality not dissimilar to Mathews’ ethic of care, grounded in a vision of oneness.
In direct opposition to the Marxist and ecosocialist lines we have followed from Engels though to McLaren, Krishnamurti claims
“the inner, the psyche, creates the outer according to its limitation; and the outer then controls and moulds the inner. The Communists have thought, and probably still do, that by controlling the outer, bringing about certain laws, regulations, institutions, certain forms of tyranny, they can change man. But so far they have not succeeded, and they never will succeed… The inner always overcomes the outer, for the inner is far more strong, far more vital, than the outer.” (Ibid., p.105)
We might conclude then that Krishnamurti’s critique is radical but ‘non-political’ in the traditional sense. Inward revolution precedes outward change in absolute terms. We might, in a somewhat anachronistic manner, re-read Krishnamurti’s exhortations to a new approach to education as applied to the current ecological crisis,
“Another and still greater disaster is approaching dangerously close, and most of us are doing nothing whatever about it. We go on day after day exactly as before; we do not want to strip away our false values and start anew. We want to do patchwork reform, which leads to problems of still further reform. But the building is crumbling, the walls are giving way, and the fire is destroying it.” (Ibid., p.86)
Krishnamurti consistently emphasizes interconnectedness and the significance of life as a whole. In some respects, this is, of course, standard progressivism, but was expressed at a time when this was particularly unfashionable, and originally in the context of Colonial and immediately post-Colonial India. We are reminded that, “[t]he purpose of education is not to produce mere scholars, technicians, and job hunters, but integrated men and women who are free of fear; for only between such human beings can there be enduring peace.” (Emphases added) (Krishnamurti, 1955, p.15) All true education is learning about the self, “for it is within each of us that the whole of existence is gathered” (ibid., p.17) and we are thus to understand that education of and about the self is thus a universal education. The word Krishnamurti usually uses when referring to a holistic, universal education of the self is ‘integration’ – in this he refers to integration with people, things and nature: “Freedom comes into being only through self-knowledge in one’s daily occupations, that is in one’s relationship with people, with things, with ideas and with nature.” (Ibid., p.46) This is an integrated education.
“Human beings must be integrated if they are to come out of any crisis, and especially the present world crisis, without being broken; therefore, to parents and teachers who are really interested in education, the main problem is how to develop an integrated individual. To do this, the educator himself must obviously be integrated… Teaching should not become a specialists’ profession. When it does, as is so often the case, love fades away; and love is essential to the process of integration. To be integrated, there must be freedom from fear.” (Ibid., p.47)
He connects the question of integration with his critique of technique. “The integrated human being will come to technique through experiencing… people who are experiencing and therefore teaching, are the only real teachers, and they too will create their own technique.” (Original emphasis) (Ibid, pp.47-48) That is, integration allows for technique, but to begin with technique precludes the possibility of real integration with other people, things and nature. The integrated teacher and learner neither dominate nor are dominated, for
“[t]o dominate is to use another for self-gratification, and where there is the use of another there is no love… But if we are merely using the word “love” without substance, then the whole complex problem of human misery will remain… We must begin to understand our relationship with our fellow men, with nature, with ideas and with things, for without that understanding there is no hope, there is no way out of conflict and suffering.” (ibid., p.49)
“Many of us seem to think that by teaching every human being to read and write, we shall solve our human problems; but this idea has proved to be false. The so-called educated are not peace-loving, integrated people, and they too are responsible for the confusion and misery of the world” (Ibid. p.52)
Krishnamurti is writing long before the environmental crises became known, yet his reference to ‘integrated people’ here, again foreshadows Orr’s attack on the unintelligent cleverness of the educated perpetrators of crimes against nature, people who have never learnt to see the world as a whole or to live ‘within’ nature, but who, rather dominate nature for self-gratification in the same way that they dominate each other. Krishnamurti’s relative lack of interest in universal literacy schemes runs strongly counter to current orthodoxy, and to the large-scale (Marxist-inspired critical-pedagogical) projects of the sixties and seventies to bring literacy to everyone in developing world countries in newly liberated Africa, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. But again, in this respect he prefigures the positions of both green anarchists and, to some extent, David Orr.
On the question of ‘the one true revolution’, i.e., the revolution of the self, Krishnamurti sounds very radical – but his radicalism is not of the traditional left or right kinds, but a call for a personal revolution: “With the world falling into ruin about us, we discuss theories and vain political questions, and play with superficial reforms.” (Ibid., p.52) Political revolutions, he claims, never solve our problems.:“[o]nly a profound inward revolution all our values can create a different environment.” (Ibid., p.53)
Understood in the context of Krishnamurti’s critique of utopianism and idealism, we should understand his thinking here as centring on the transcendence of conventional future-orientations in education. The future, he wants us to understand, is now, and we are it. “Eternity is not in the future; eternity is now. Our problems are in the present and it is in the present that they must be solved.” (Ibid., p.53) It is our thinking at every moment which we need to consider and to reflect upon, to become aware of our own thoughts and how they follow one another. The quietude of a critical awareness of oneself is thus at the centre of Krishnamurti’s meditative pedagogy of transformation, and this inward revolution offers us a hope for freedom from the desires to consume, to acquire property, which are driving our planet towards its untimely demise. “Self-knowledge is the beginning of freedom, and it is only when we know ourselves that we can bring about order and peace… To understand ourselves, we must be aware of our relationship, not only with people, but also with property, with ideas and with nature.” (ibid., pp.53-4)
“One of the results of fear is the acceptance of authority in human affairs. Authority is created by our desire to be right, to be secure, to be comfortable, to have no conscious conflicts or disturbances; but nothing which results from fear can help us to understand our problems, even though fear make take the form of respect and submission to the so-called wise.” (Krishnamurti, 1955, p.59)
Jiddu Krishnamurti is profoundly opposed to established authority, for instance in the form of the doctrines of organised religion, political ideologues and the all-knowing teacher. His adoption of this stance stems from the need within his pedagogy for an endless self-questioning and self awareness, which will not admit of uncritical compliance with convention. In this respect, his anti-authoritarianism is amenable to an individualist anarchist reading, though it’s doubtful whether he would have been happy to have been identified as an anarchist (he was once addressed as such and ducked the charge (Krishnamurti, 1997, p.17)). He has a deep disregard for the ‘ordinary’, for conformity, for efficiency, jobseeking and acquisitiveness, “It is called being bourgeois. It is a mechanical way of living, a routine, a boredom.” (Krishnamurti, 1987, p.21)
“The following of authority is the denial of intelligence. To accept authority is to submit to domination, to subjugate oneself to an individual, to a group, or to an ideology, whether religious or political; and this subjugation of oneself to authority is the denial, not only of intelligence, but also of individual freedom.” (Krishnamurti, 1955, p.60)
Again, the positive benefits of ‘discontentment’ are emphasized. Restless discontentment with the current state of one’s being in the world is characteristic of youth, but whilst “[a]ll of us are discontented when we are young…unfortunately our discontent soon fades away, smothered by our imitative tendencies and our worship of authority.” (Ibid, p.77) Clearly in the spirit of anarchism, and like Ivan Illich, Krishnamurti states: “Government control of education is a calamity. There is no hope of peace and order in the world as long as education is the handmaid of the State, or of organized religion.” (Ibid.) Education can play a crucial role in nourishing the flame of ‘discontentment’ .
It is perhaps, not surprising therefore that the anonymous author of an article in the anarcho-primitivist journal Green Anarchy (Anon, 2005) advocates for Krishnamurti as a kind of unacknowledged spiritual green anarchist, thereby aligning him with John Zerzan.
Using the ‘theory’ which has been outlined thus far, Krishnamurti was able to employ the generous benefactions which he received in the service of the education of mostly secondary-age children. To this end he established schools in Ojay, California, in Varanasi, Chennai, Bangalore and the Rishi Valley in India and in Brockwood, very near to us in Hampshire. It is right that we should consider carefully the practical operation of Krishnamurti’s pedagogy, and the conditions he placed on its successful implementation. Among the most important of these are that, in order for his teachings to be implemented in schools, those institutions must be small; and, secondly, that such institutions should be in places of beauty among natural surroundings which encourage the relations with others and the self which he promotes.
On the importance of small schools, Krishnamurti, wrote,
“[a] large and flourishing institution in which hundreds of children are educated together, with all its accompanying show and success, can turn out… people who are technically efficient; but there is hope only in the integrated individual, which only small schools can help to bring about.” (Emphases added.) (Ibid., p.86)
We might want to consider why, in Krishnamurti’s view, only schools with a small number of learners can achieve the integration he desires. There are clearly huge practical implications if this notion of scale is taken seriously and broadened beyond a narrow stratum of ‘alternative’ parents and their children. Yet Krishnamurti clearly imagines his experiments as representing archetypes of a new model of universal small school education. “Right education will become universal if we begin with the immediate, if we are aware of ourselves in our relationship with our children, with our friends and neighbours.” (Ibid., pp.86-7) Friends and neighbours create the basic building blocks of this new schooling, which will challenge the mechanical, conventional instruction he thinks characterises large scale state-run education systems:
“In building enormous institutions and employing teachers who depend on a system instead of being alert and observant in their relationship with the individual student, we merely encourage the accumulation of facts, the development of capacity, and the habit of thinking mechanically according to a pattern; but certainly none of this helps the student to grow into an integrated human being.” (Ibid., p.87)
“Nothing of fundamental value can be accomplished through mass instruction, but only through the careful study and understanding of the difficulties, tendencies and capacities of each child.” (Ibid.)
So, the challenge is to start with yourself, and to work outwards. Self awareness and reflection in meditation leads to the desire to develop autonomous learning, and thus practical opportunities for such practice. Krishnamurti counsels that those who
“earnestly desire to understand themselves and help the young, should come together and start a school that will have vital significance in the child’s life by helping him to be integrated and intelligent. To start such a school, they need not wait until they have the necessary means. One can be a true teacher at home, and opportunities will come to the earnest.” (Ibid.)
Here, then, we see a clear advocacy of ‘education otherwise’, the home-schooling and alternative schooling which has grown gradually in developed Western countries to become far more of a recognisable phenomenon now than it was in the 1950’s when Krishnamurti’s anti-Statist words would have gone very much against the spirit of the age.
Krishnamurti (ibid., p.94) outlines a set of practical precepts which support small schools, for instance in relation to the overwork associated with large classes, the necessity for leisure time on the part of teachers and the importance of direct relationships and attentiveness to individual children’s needs. In addition, well ahead of his time, and mirroring the experiments being made by, for instance, A.S. Neill, & Bertrand Russell, Krishnamurti advocates powerful schools councils, radical democracy and self-government of his small schools (pp.94-5).
“We say so easily that we love our children; but is there love in our hearts when we accept the existing social conditions, when we do not want to bring about a fundamental transformation in this destructive society? And as long as we look to the specialists to educate our children, this confusion and misery will continue, for the specialists, being concerned with the part and not with the whole, are themselves unintegrated.” (Ibid., p.98)
Krishnamurti (1963, p.13) discusses a child’s feeling at ease at school. Part of this is the need to ensure the child feels that she is in a place where people are concerned about her welfare. It is only in this context, within an intimate school setting that relationships might be established via which his aims could be achieved. For instance, the educator should not cultivate dependency – often a side-effect of large scale technocratic education (in this again, he shares common ground with Neill).
“A child who feels secure has his own natural ways of expressing the respect which is essential for learning. This respect is denuded of all authority and fear. When he has a feeling of security, the child’s conduct or behaviour is not something imposed by an elder, but becomes part of the process of learning… Sensitivity means being sensitive to everything around one – to the plants, the animals, the trees, the skies, the waters of the river, the bird on the wing; and also to the moods of the people around one, and to the stranger who passes by. This sensitivity brings about the response of uncalculated, unselfish response, which is true morality and conduct.” (Ibid.)
Within Krishnamurti’s educational settings, the learner must have opportunities for solitude, a key feature of Krishnamurti’s self-centred pedagogy (ibid., p.19). Solitude is the means to see oneself clearly, giving to the mind stability and constancy.
It is only when all these conditions are fulfilled that true love can be ensured. Love is at the heart of the relationship of teacher to learner, and also of learner to nature. Love cannot thrive in a large scale industrial model of school, for it cannot be measured or compared, and in trying to measure love in our relationships we thereby destroy it.
“Love is of the whole earth and not of a particular field or forest. The love of reality is not encompassed by any religion; and when organized religions use it, it ceases to be… In the total development of the human being through right education, the quality of love must be nourished and sustained from the beginning.” (Ibid., p.20)
Krishnamurti writes quite extensively on nature. Some of his work on the subject has been collected in Krishnamurti on Nature and the Environment (Krishnamurti, 1992). Much of Krishnamurti’s ecological ‘critique’ takes the familiar form of, essentially, an anti-authoritarian tirade against meaningless and harmful convention, conformism, compliance, corrupted materialistic values, organised religion, war and environmental destruction. His appeal to green anarchists and deep green eco-pedagogues should be therefore be clear.
Among his last work, his reflections on nature feature prominently, and often take the form of descriptive passages, interspersed with philosophical and spiritual ruminations. Krishnamurti’s last journal (Krishnamurti, 1987) starts with a reflection upon the ancient hills around his place of residence in California, and their fragile ecosystems “wherever you go…man is destroying nature, cutting down trees to build more houses, polluting the air with cars and industry.” (Krishnamurti, 1987, p.14) He calls this ‘madness’ and asks “Do you know the world is mad, that all this is madness..? And you will grow up to fit into this. Is this right, is this what education is meant for, that you should willingly or unwillingly fit into this structure called society?” (Ibid.) The reflections in this text seem to grow out of their environment, out of the Californian hills, they are attentive to the place within which they are set and in each case turn from outward attentiveness to meditative inward attentiveness:
“There is a tree and we have been watching it day after day for several days…If you establish a relationship with it then you have relationship with mankind. You are responsible then for that tree and for the trees of the world. But if you have no relationship with the living things on this earth you may lose whatever relationship you have with humanity” (Ibid., p.9)
“[T]he healing of the mind… gradually takes place if you are with nature, with that orange on the tree, that blade of grass that pushes through the cement, and the hills covered, hidden by the clouds. This is not sentiment or romantic imagination but a reality of a relationship with everything that lives and moves on the earth.” (Ibid., p.10)
“It is our intention… to create an environment, a climate, where one can bring about, if it is at all possible, a new human being…To live is to be related. There is no right relationship to anything if there is not the right feeling for beauty, a response to nature” (Ibid., p.89)
So, he turns for the source of his transformative pedagogical vision to images of unsullied nature, and does so, not scientifically like Mathews, nor even in any academically analytical way like Bonnet, but in the unassuming wonder that one most often associates with religious sentiment.
“So, look at nature, at the tamarind tree, the mango trees is bloom, and listen to the birds early in the morning and late in the evening… See all the colours, the light on the leaves, the beauty of the land, the rich earth. Then having seen that and seen also what the world is, with all its brutality, violence, ugliness, what are you going to do?” (Ibid., p.13)
Indeed, although he opposes organised religion, Krishnamurti remains in essence a mystic whose vision of pedagogical change grows from a highly personal notion of individual self-knowledge and self-transformation. Insofar as his pedagogy calls for ‘attention’ rather than ‘critique’ in a conventional sense, ‘looking’ rather than analysing, it is amenable to a non-interventionist (at times even anti-interventionist, or anti-scientific) pedagogy of nature.
“So, the question is how to bring about the right kind of education so that the mind can withstand all temptations, all influences, the bestiality of this civilisation and this culture. We have come to a point in history where we have to create a new culture, a totally different kind of existence, not based on consumerism and industrialisation, but a culture based upon a real quality of religion. How does one bring about, though education, a mind that is entirely different, a mind that is not greedy, not envious?” (pp.17-18)
In some ways, despite his eschewal of politics in the conventional sense, this makes Krishnamurti one of the most radical thinkers we have considered. Like Zerzan, his rejection of Western, materialist, consumerist values is almost total. Yet his relentless insistence that we can and should only revolutionise ourselves means that the change he advocates is prefigurative, and practically incremental. Again, there are parallels here with anarchist political strategy.
Krishnamurti (ibid., p.60) speaks of a war on nature and on humanity, of mankind’s self-destruction alongside the destruction of the earth. As for others of our theorists, for Krishnamurti, integration of the human into humanity and her integration into nature are inseparable.
“It is our earth, not yours or mine or his… But man has divided the earth, hoping thereby that in the particular he is going to find happiness, security, a sense of abiding comfort. Until a radical change takes place and we wipe out all nationalities, all ideologies, all religious divisions, and establish a global relationship – psychologically first, inwardly before organising the outer – we shall go on with wars. If you harm others…you, who are the rest of humanity, not a separate human being fighting the rest of mankind, are destroying yourself.” (Ibid., p.60)
“One never appreciates the earth unless one really lives with it, puts one’s hand in the dust, lifting big rocks and stones – one never knows the extraordinary sense of being with the earth, the flowers, the gigantic trees and the strong grass and the hedges along the road.” (Ibid., p.71)
Integration into nature is integration into humanity: “If you are in harmony with nature, with all the things around you then you are in harmony with all human beings. If you have lost your relationship with nature you will inevitably lose your relationship with human beings.” (Krishnamurti, 1987, p.107)
So what does this ‘harmony with nature’ consist in? And how can education help to bring it about? His holistic pedagogy shares with that of Bonnett something of a natural suspicion for the pre-eminence of science as contributory to environmental and social crises, and with Orr’s writing, a worry about the misuses of scientific ‘cleverness’; but unlike Bonnett or Orr, he places particular emphasis upon what one might call (individual) spiritual education as an ecologically healing force. “[E]ducation is the cultivation of the whole brain, not one part of it…Science is what has brought about the present state of tension in the world for it has put together through knowledge the most destructive instrument[s] that man has ever known.” (Ibid., p.125) His schools value science no more than any other branch of knowledge, and less than awareness of the self. By implication, his good society has little need for advanced technology and industrialisation – in a sense, it is a future primitive.
Whilst he eschews utopias, in a sense Krishnamurti’s schools do strive to embody a set of Arcadian ideals: they are places of rural beauty, connectedness and earth-awareness, calming human desires and balancing them against the needs of the environment. In the beauty of the pedagogical revelation of nature, Krishnamurti imagines something akin to the realisation of Mathews’ monistic consciousness. The loss or, alternatively, the explosion of self into the cosmos, or nature, described by Mathews is reflected in Krishnamurti’s analogy in this passage from one of his last talks in India in late 1985:
“With the grandeur, the majesty of a mountain or a lake, or that river early in the morning making a golden path, for a second you’ve forgotten everything. That is, when the self is not, there is beauty… Like a child with a toy, as long as the toy is complex and he plays with it, the toy absorbs him, takes him over… We are also like that… We are absorbed by the mountain… for a few minutes; then we go back to our own world.” (Krishnamurti, 1988, p.73)
And he charges that if one doesn’t understand the nature of this question – perhaps the same question posed by ecological educators from Leopold’s “thinking like a mountain” onwards – it’s because one has too much knowledge: rather, one should be simple, for “[i]f you are very simple, deeply simple in yourself, you will discover something extraordinary.” (Ibid.)
Anonymous (2005) ‘Reclaiming Krishnamurti for Anarchy’, Green Anarchy, 20 (Summer) pp. 10-14
Krishnamurtu, J. (1955) Education and the Significance of Life, London: Victor Gollancz
Krishnamurti, J. (1963) The Life Ahead, London: Victor Gollancz
Krishnamurti, J. (1974) On Education, New Delhi: Orient Longman
Krishnamurti, J. (1987) Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal, London: Victor Gollancz
Krishnamurti, J. (1988) The Future is Now: Last Talks in India, London; Victor Gollancz
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