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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?