(The) Mystery

In one of the threads the question of mystery has come up, and I recollected that Wim Opdam shared some interesting extracts on the subject not so long ago. So I thought it might be worthwhile re-sharing (in a slightly more digestible form) what Wim previously posted on his thread Is there a reason for withholding information?; while at the same time taking a moment to briefly clarify for the neutral what the word “mystery” means in general.

The word “mystery” - in terms of its etymology - comes from the Latin word mysterium meaning “secret rite, secret worship; a secret thing.”

In its turn mysterium comes from the Greek word mysterion (usually plural: mysteria), meaning “a secret rite consisting of purifications, sacrificial offerings, initiations.”

Meanwhile, the etymology of mysterion is based on mystes “one who has been initiated” - also the root of the word mystic - which in turn is based on the Greek word myein meaning "to close [the lips]” or “to be shut [of the mouth]” (which is related to the English word “mute” and Latin mutus, meaning “silent, speechless”).

Myein, in turn, seems to be based on the Proto-Indo-European root word meue- “to be silent.”

So there seems to be a relationship between the word mystery and secrecy (whose etymology means to be “set apart”), as well as silence.

Probably most people have heard the beginning of the Chinese poem (or treatise) that begins by saying

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Indeed, all religions seem to go back eventually to some unnameable thing, some mysterious void or ground or energy that lies beyond thought. So what did Krishnamurti have to say about this mysterious nameless thing?

The extracts that Wim previously shared come from a series of 12 discussions that K and Bohm had at Brockwood Park in 1975, the audios for which can be found on Youtube (despite the fact that the text-form has never been published in full - for reasons that are discussed on Wim’s thread).

The following two extracts on the topic of mystery are taken from discussions 6 and 7:

K: You see, sir, there’s something much more than all this.
DB: Yes.
K: Would you accept the word mystery?
DB: Well, yes, I should say so.
K: There is something which you cannot talk about. Not… Which you cannot talk about. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
DB: No.
K: I think truth is that. Every religion has talked about that mystery – Judaism said the nameless, Hindus have called it brahman, others, Christians, haven’t gone very deeply into that matter, they called it God. But there is something really tremendously mysterious. And we are trying to articulate it in words.
DB: Well, not really, you know. I think we’re trying just to clear up…
K: I know.
DB: …some of the difficulty of people, of what has to be said… I mean, it doesn’t touch this mystery, as you say.
K: No, it can’t.
DB: It’s merely so that we can communicate more effectively.
K: Yes. No, but if you, as a scientist, accept that there is something mysterious.
DB: Yes, I mean, I should say, you know, that our reason can only…
K: …go so far.
DB: …go, you know, some limited way – yes.
K: Yes… You see, when you touch that mystery, I mean, things are totally different.
Sorry, my body’s just absolutely shaking with it. (Breathes) It’s calmed down.
You see… So reality can never… thought can never touch that. Then what is it that is aware of that? Not conscious of it or… How do you… why do you say there is a mystery?
DB: Well, it’s hard to explain, but I mean, partly because I can see that the whole thing could never be explained, you know, by any thought. In other words…
K: Thought cannot touch it. Then who… then how… what is it that says there is a mystery? You follow my point, sir? You see, the Christians say there is a mystery which you cannot go beyond, which you cannot touch. The saints have said this. I haven’t read them, but from talking to some of the people who have read about the saints, like Aldous Huxley, they say there is a mystery which you cannot… I am not sure they touched that mystery, because they were Christians, they were worshippers of a certain form. I don’t…
DB: Yes, well, you may say there is a mystery because you don’t want to penetrate… You see, it may be – the way I look at it is perhaps thought somehow becomes dimly… a hint… conscious of something.
K: Yes.
DB: And it tries to imitate or to capture it for itself by imitation.
K: Quite, quite. Now, would you as a scientist – trained logically in reason, usage of words and so on – admit there is such a thing as mystery?
DB: Yes. You see, I don’t think even our thought will stand up when probed all the way. It always dissolves, you see.
K: Quite. It cannot probe beyond – yes.
DB: It may extend and extend and extend but eventually it comes to some horizon, you know.
K: Where it cannot…
DB: Yes… You see, I think you can say anything in the field of reality can be explained, you see – we can penetrate more deeply and broadly and there is limitless progress possible there. But the essence is not explained, you see.
K: No, I’m asking a different question, sir. I’m asking you: In talking like this, though you have an intimation of that mystery being a scientist, serious and all the rest of it – you had an intimation, perhaps long ago – in talking now, do you… it’s no longer an intimation but a truth. Sorry to corner you. (Laughs)
DB: Well, yes, it is a truth, this.
K: So it’s no longer an intimation?
DB: I think it’s been a truth for a while in fact, you see, because it’s implied in what we’ve been doing here.
K: Yes – quite, quite. You see – something interesting – being – how shall we say it? – the truth of that mystery makes the mind completely empty. Just a minute. Completely – it’s like something silent. It’s completely silent. Or because it is silent it sees it. Not sees – it’s aware of it. Because it is silent the truth of that mystery is.

DB: I told you yesterday that I saw a quotation from Einstein saying that the… of all the experiences we can have, the most beautiful of the experiences we can have is the mysterious, is the way he put it.
K: Right. (Pause)
All the religions – I mean, not the orthodox priest or the orthodox saints – they’ve all said there is something extraordinarily mysterious, something so vast that the human mind can’t grasp.
DB: And I was saying last time that I think that, as this quotation from Einstein shows, that this is behind the deepest part of scientific research. You see, I think, you know, when I (inaudible) …I just remembered when I was in Berkeley, California, they were setting up a huge magnet to study the atom, you know, the nucleus, and I felt, you know, they were probing something very mysterious.
K: Yes… I wonder if there is anything mysterious. I’m just exploring it; I don’t say there is or there isn’t. I wonder if there is anything really mysterious. Or we may… first of all, as a thing desirable, it is very inviting.
DB: Yes, well, I looked up that word mystery, you see.
K: Yes.
DB: It means, basically, hidden or secret, you see. The word mum and mutter… or mumble, rather, is the same word as mysterious – to keep it secret or quiet.
K: Quiet, yes.
DB: So, some of the religions had esoteric mysteries at their centre.
K: Yes. The Greeks had it, the Egyptians had it, and the Hindus of course.
DB: Yes. But then it says in the dictionary…
K: Even the Theosophists had it.
DB: Yes. In the dictionary it says that the Christian concept of mystery is something beyond human understanding, you see – it was not exactly the same. You see, the other one was something secret, but perhaps you could be initiated into the mystery.
K: Yes, initiated into the mystery.
DB: Then you would understand it, you see.
K: Yes, yes.
DB: But the Christians said you could never understand it.
K: Understand it in the sense experience it?
DB: Well, to give it a rational… comprehend it, rationally.
K: Ah.
DB: Beyond rational comprehension, you see.
K: Beyond rational comprehension – yes. If one sets about to experience that, or to come into that – rather than experience, I prefer the word coming into it.
DB: Yes, I think that they used to say to participate in it.
K: Participate in it – let’s use that, that’s a better word still – participate in it. What is the nature of the mind, or of the state that can participate into something that is totally mysterious?

What do others make of this?

So, it may not actually be possible to say much about this topic, precisely because it is a mystery!

But two things come to mind:

  1. the universe is - or seems to me at least - inherently mysterious. The images that the new NASA James Webb space telescope has begun to take gives us a sense of just how vast and how strange (and how beautiful) our universe is. There are literally an infinite number of other stars and galaxies out there apart from our own, and perhaps even other universes too (who knows?). I read somewhere that there are about 86 billion neurons in an average human brain, which is similar to the number of stars that exist in an average galaxy (100 billion, approx) - so there is marvellous complexity in every direction. And what is the nature of the energy of which matter is composed? To answer this question involves asking impossible questions about the nature of the incredibly small quantum world, and the quantum vacuum - which leads into even more mysteries. And we ourselves - our brains - evolved from this matter and energy, just as did all life on earth. So it is mystery all the way up and down as far as the universe is concerned.
  2. We cannot - it seems to me - talk about this mystery without also talking about the quality of mind that can “participate” in the mysterious. This seems to be K’s main point. The quality of mind needed to meet the mysterious is a mind that is silent, empty. This is the stand out point for me.

The runaway train of thought hopes to be derailed, stopped in its tracks, by Mystery, a giant, indestructible cow, fortuitously straddling the track.

Life seems to be a mystery. What are we all doing here on Earth? What happens when we die?

K, through his extraordinary ability to observe both inwardly and outwardly, seemed to be able to go some way towards a deeper understanding of these mysteries. That’s what I understand, anyway.

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Yes. Although there may be a difference between what we call “the mysteries of life” (such as what happens when we die), and “the mystery” (if you see what I mean).

For instance, the mystery of what happens when we die might - at least in theory - be possible to discover and even know (I am just proposing this). I mean, some Tibetans talk about the “bardo” states we are supposed to experience after death in quite knowing terms (which doesn’t mean, of course, that we need to accept their accounts, which are clearly largely - or entirely - based on Buddhist beliefs and superstitions). K doesn’t talk very much about what happens after death in any detail, but from what I understand he says that consciousness (and its contents) continues after the death of the organism, but not as an individual consciousness (which is rather difficult to visualise). That is, consciousness is like a river that continues to manifest in people as they are born, and which has its own continuity - unless one is able to step out of that river by emptying the mind completely of psychological content (i.e. thought).

Therefore, there may ultimately be no deep mystery about our post-mortal state (just to be clear, I don’t know this for myself; but I am just saying that perhaps death is not the mystery that we think it is - it may be, but it may not be).

Whereas the mystery that K and Bohm seem to be discussing is apparently a mystery that is at the heart of things, an irreducible mystery that nothing will ever clear up or expose, no matter what we do.

In the 1975 discussions sometimes K links this mystery to the notion of “destiny” (as in the destiny of “that young boy”, i.e. how K was not completely conditioned from birth in the way that other human beings are conditioned). Sometimes he links it the mystery to the protective energy he felt protecting him throughout his life - to the energy that the Theosophists talked about in terms of the Maitreya Buddha. K also seems to have perceived his “process” in the same way - as something inherently mysterious that cannot be understood by the mind. When K talked about “the other” he also seems to have been referencing this mystery.

And sometimes - which is quite different - by the word “mystery” K simply seems to have meant the mystery of being, of life, of nature and the universe; the order and infinitude of the universe.

Interestingly enough, elsewhere in their 1975 discussions, K and Bohm make a distinction between the mysterious and the strange. Wim didn’t share this particular section of the discussion, so I can’t reproduce it here (Wim has a transcript of the entire 12 dialogues); but I can give you a gist of what they meant by the word strange.

K said that throughout his life he has been a witness to many parapsychological and paranormal events, and he mentions a few of them to Bohm, as though to see how he would react. He talks about seeing a newspaper slowly shrink in front of his eyes until it completely vanished into thin air; he talks about seeing someone levitate; he talks about a holy beggar who unconsciously caused the water being passed around in a group to taste sweet. All of these things he called strange, but said that they are not part of the mystery (he seems to have agreed with Bohm that these events might, in theory, one day be understood by science, i.e. by discovering new laws of how subtle aspects of matter behave).

You know, it’s interesting that in the same year K had this series of 12 dialogues with Bohm - in which they talk about mystery - K also wrote about this mystery one of his personal journals too (Krishnamurti’s Journal, April 10th, 1975). The “mystery” here seems to refer to the more general, universal mystery that K sometimes talked about.

In the silence of deep night and in the quiet still morning when the sun is touching the hills, there is a great mystery. It is there in all living things.

If you sit quietly under a tree, you would feel the ancient earth with its incomprehensible mystery.

On a still night when the stars are clear and close, you would be aware of expanding space and the mysterious order of all things, of the immeasurable and of nothing, of the movement of the dark hills and the hoot of an owl. In that utter silence of the mind this mystery expands without time and space.

There’s mystery in those ancient temples built with infinite care, with attention which is love. The slender mosques and the great cathedrals lose this shadowy mystery for there is bigotry, dogma and military pomp.

The myth that is concealed in the deep layers of the mind is not mysterious, it is romantic, traditional and conditioned. In the secret recesses of the mind, truth has been pushed aside by symbols, words, images; in them there is no mystery, they are the churnings of thought.

In knowledge and its action there is wonder, appreciation and delight. But mystery is quite another thing.

It is not an experience, to be recognised, stored up and remembered. Experience is the death of that incommunicable mystery; to communicate you need a word, a gesture, a look, but to be in communion with that, the mind, the whole of you, must be at the same level, at the same time, with the same intensity as that which is called mysterious.

This is love. With this the whole mystery of the universe is open.

I´ve only listened to the dialogues six and ten from this series and it seemed to me that they have a special quality, in spite of Bohm´s reluctance at some points, on one hand, because he was well aware that they were to be published and, on the other hand, because sometimes K´s questions involved him in a very personal way.
It also seems to me that the key or a good starting point to enquire into this would be what K wrote in his diary:

If I recall correctly, they agree that almost all of us have come in to the communion or intimation with the mystery, generally as children, but then there is this thing of family, education, society and so on driving us to the field of thought or reality in which we get caught, apparently forgetting or discarding the “other”. Yet, there are those who never forget and then the seeking begins or the research in order to find explanations but, as it is said, mystery can´t be explained and so it always remains a mystery even though this research brings about a lot of discoveries in the field of reality. The mystery as truth remains whereas the intimation or the communion with it gets lost in the way. Wonder whether this loss could be that sorrow shared by humankind and found out once the individual sorrow or self-pity, due to personal experiences and all the rest has been overcome. By overcoming this cosmic sorrow and coming into this intimation with the mystery, according to K, compassion arises but as he says in these dialogues, compassion can´t do anything to help others, only either to talk which he equals to plant the seed for them to enquiry and to ask themselves what he meant or to suggest them to put their house in order, being left afterwards.

I also wonder whether these limits put on compassion to act on others aren´t limits put by this very love or intelligence because, having been caught in the field of thought and functioning from self-centeredness, relying on thought and constantly thinking and thinking, to have a definitive insight of the whole thing which cannot be reversed, without having ordered previously the mess generated by thought in our own brain or mind, could be rather a catastrophe and destroy the body-system since enormous energy is released. All the energy that is caught in the ego or I-thought we are so strongly identified with.

Oh yes, I remember now that they said this. Thanks for bringing this up. I think that K also says somewhere that everyone “knows” this mystery, but, as with children, we gradually lose sensitivity for it, and it becomes just a memory, just an idea.

Personally, I’m not sure that it is worth speculating about the internal structure of compassion too much, and why it permits people to go on living in darkness. For sure, the energy of insight is unlikely to be something that can be imposed on another; and the very explosiveness of this universal energy (perhaps equivalent to the so-called kundalini energy that K sometimes spoke about) is likely to be destructive for a mind and body that have not been sufficiently prepared for it (through living an orderly life, having good health, not being dominated by egotism, etc). But all this - for me at least - is highly speculative terrain, so I prefer not to go there.

What I get from K’s writing and speaking about mystery is, primarily, that it is something for us (as ordinary people) to consider (i.e. something that we shouldn’t rule out as being completely unrealistic, off-limits); and that it is related - fundamentally - to the silence of the mind (i.e. the degree to which our minds can in fact be quiet, silent, empty, still). This is the principle take-away for me.

I don´t know much about this kundalini thing but I think that energy released by overcoming ego is something different and that it could be related to the mankind sorrow too, you know, as when you wear a suit or a tie that is many sizes too small for you, this can create a lot of problems that affect you physically as well as psychologically but if you, somehow, have become used to it, maybe to release you from that enclosure would require what can be considered as a gradual process. Important thing is to feel the suffocation, the urge, and then to find out its source which requires great clarity brought about by “putting order in your own house”. As K used to say, only then you can ask if there is something “else”.

Yes, maybe I was indulging in speculation. The subject is so fascinating, sorry.

I don’t know if you heard this in the particular discussions you listened to, but in a couple of the 1975 dialogues they talk about the importance of suffering - about not suppressing or avoiding suffering - and how this is related to the release of energy. K says (I made a note of this passage, although I forget which discussion it is from):

If I don’t escape from suffering, if a human being doesn’t escape from suffering… that very suffering brings about a great energy… The very word ‘suffering’ has its root in ‘passion’… [Therefore] suffering in the field of reality has a meaning in the sense that it can give - if a human doesn’t escape - a certain quality of energy… If he faces that suffering, and doesn’t deceive himself, there is a certain kind of energy.”

I think K says that he went through this suffering himself when his brother Nitya died, and that this was a very significant moment for him personally.

Yes, yes, this is in these dialogues I listened to, not only with regard to his brother´s death but also during his childhood and not only with regard to suffering, psychological suffering, but also with regard to pain, physical pain. He says that he never resisted any of it. Good point.

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Both ‘kundalini’ and ‘suffering’ are topics in this series of 1975 dialogues.

I myself am currently in the process of converting the provided pdf-file into e- book format.

I will then ask the K-organisation to make this available to everyone.


Not sure about this. In these two dialogues I listened to, K tells Bohm that many people approached him saying that they had had the same experience as K, the awakening of so-called “kundalini”, but K always told them that it wasn´t the same experience at all. I think that the so-called “process” with regard to K was something very particular concerning only to K himself, probably because of the theosophical circles he was involved with and whatever they did with the boy. In his talks, it becomes very clear that the energy released from thought, especially from ego when it is overcome, has nothing to do with these issues, either kundalini or the process, being both different things. Sometimes it is not easy to discern and one wonders to what extent K ended with all of it, actually.

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It was not my intention to go into a dialogue only pointed out that those two items were discussed in those dialogues. It’s because of creating a common source where we are speaking about I’m converting the dialogues into an e-book.

The program I use is not 100% correct so I’ve to control the whole set of dialogues and that costs time.

I don’t think ego is overcome (e.g., good triumphing over evil), but is simply seen for the illusion that it is.

I know, just thinking out loud and writing down a few points I´d like to go into on my own. I listened to these dialogues some time ago and I´d like to listen to the whole series. Can´t help you with the issue of programs but thank you very much for the job you´re doing. Appreciated.

Who said ego is evil?

I think you have just replied to Wim and corrected yourself about Wim’s intentions. Wim just meant that K discusses the kundalini business during the discussions, that’s all. I don’t think Wim had any intention of saying that kundalini is something common, or that K’s process was not unique to him (just to clarify it again).

Yes, I believe this is true. Bohm actually interviewed U.G. Krishnamurti (not to be confused with Jiddu) elsewhere at some point, I can’t remember when (I’ve heard the audio of that interview, which was available on Youtube when I heard it); and U.G. claims to have undergone something similar to K.

But from people who were close to K (who have spoken to me about the matter), I’ve heard that apparently K dismissed this claim of U.G.'s. In the 1975 discussion K mentions that he has seen some of the people who claim to have undergone kundalini transformation, but that he found them to be vulgar people (and I have heard elsewhere that he may have been referring to U.G. here). K’s rejection of U.G.'s claims (about kundalini) may be one reason why U.G. was so antagonistic towards K.

The initials e.g. stand for “such as”. I used good vs evil as an example of overcoming. I probably should have used something else. The point is, if ego has to be overcome, it’s just the next round in the ongoing power struggle. Whereas if the ego is seen for what it actually is…

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Ok, let´s say then: once we can deepen into individual sorrow without getting stuck in it (psychological wounds and so on) in order to reach cosmic sorrow and inquire into it. According to K, movement of thought with a center is just the movement on the surface of a movement that is going on much deeper and yet, they are not different, just a matter of deepness which is a very interesting statement and solves the problem you are posing:

This uses to be our common point of view. Hadn´t seen it this way before. Interesting. Thank you.