Krishnamurti II: Teachings and Gnosis

Krishnamurti’s teachings easily serve as a beginner’s handbook for aspiring Gnostics. In very simple terms he teaches the proper attitude that aspiring mystics should have toward the world, and family, and conventional systems of religion and secular education. In a very simple way he shows how all these institutions: organized religion, education, and the tyranny of the family, all serve to condition a person in such a way as to keep them in ignorance and in fear. Without getting into obscure myths and theologies, he goes straight to the point in explaining how we can free ourselves from our conditioning and open our minds to revelation. But again, I can’t help but get the impression that there is a Gnostic system behind his unvarnished statements. The advantage of Krishnamurti is that he did not hide the truth behind arcane myths and symbols the way ancient Gnostics did. Today one has to be an historian and scholar just to understand ancient Gnostic writings, or what the Catholic Fathers said about them, or what the Bible itself says. In Krishnamurti’s case, one need only know how to read to understand his doctrine.

An excellent example of Krishnamurti’s teaching can be seen in the book Freedom from the Known, which contains a compilation of his lectures. When I first started reading this book its opening words struck me. And today I see these words as an expression of Gnostic thought:

“Man throughout the ages has been seeking something beyond himself, beyond material welfare—something we call truth or God or reality, a timeless state—something that cannot be disturbed by circumstances, by thought or human corruption. … He sees the enormous confusion of life, the brutalities, the revolts, the wars, the endless divisions of religion, ideology and nationality, and with a deep sense of abiding frustration he asks, what is one to do, what is this thing we call living, is there anything beyond it? … And not finding this nameless thing of a thousand names which he has always sought, he has cultivated faith—faith in a saviour or an ideal—and faith invariably breeds violence. … The primary cause of disorder in ourselves is the seeking of reality promised by another…” [1]

In these opening words Krishnamurti brilliantly summarizes the paradox of human existence in a few words. Man inevitably longs for something that is beyond the chaos of human existence; something that is not disturbed or corrupted by human corruption and strife. In Gnostic tradition this timeless, uncorrupted state is known as the “Pleroma.” The Pleroma is the Gnostic symbol of all existence in its original, perfect and uncorrupted state, which exists outside of our space and time. To experience this timeless spiritual reality is to experience gnosis. Krishnamurti does not describe it this way, but I am convinced that he is referring to the same underlying idea: a timeless state where true God and true Reality exist undisturbed by temporal human circumstances.

But not finding the truth, man turns instead to “faith” which in turn “breeds violence” and that the “primary cause of disorder in ourselves is the seeking of reality promised by another.” The day I read these words I realized what my life had been, and what my religious upbringing had been, and why I was so confused, unhappy and paranoid. I finally realized the reality that my Christian faith wasn’t giving me life or bringing me closer to God, or helping me understand why this world is so screwed up. I finally understood that my faith was nothing more than an unfulfilled promise and that my spiritual life was confined in a prison created out of ignorance, false hopes and contradictory doctrines. (I set forth these contradictions in detail in my articles posted at Gnostic Sophistries. For example see my articles under the topic “Jesus: Orthodoxy and Heresy”.)

Krishnamurti was the one who helped me to understand that if I wanted to find the answers, to find “truth or God or reality” then I had to look within myself. No priest or minister can simply hand this to me. All alleged truth only becomes Truth when one has an inward revelation and experience of that truth: this is the inward mystic experience of gnosis. But of course Krishnamurti does not describe it this way. Again, Krishnamurti informs his readers that “The primary cause of disorder in ourselves is reality promised by another.” In Judeo-Christian tradition that promise is the Messianic Kingdom; or in Theosophy it is the New Age as ushered in by the “ascended masters” and their chosen vessel, the “world teacher” or “Maitreya” or whatever. Krishnamurti described the plain truth this way:

“The question of whether or not there is a God, or truth, or reality, can never be answered by books, or by priests, philosophers, or saviours. Nobody and nothing can answer the question but you yourself and that is why you must know yourself. Immaturity lies only in total ignorance of self. To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom.” [2]

Krishnamurti teaches that no saviour or philosopher can answer the most important questions for you. Yet the words above are saving words and are golden gems of philosophical truth. Krishnamurti doesn’t waste time calling himself a “saviour” or a “philosopher.” But his words are in fact the words of a saviour and philosopher. And in truth we all have the capacity to be saviours and philosophers, and priests as well. Through self knowledge we become the saviours of ourselves and each other. Not in the sense that we hand each other the answers; but in the sense that we become sources of spiritual insight. When teachers and traditions are viewed in their correct context, they are sacred friends who provide insights. They never claim to provide THE answers. Only you alone can provide the answers. Whether or not you discover the answers is ultimately a matter between you, yourself and God.

In the passage above Krishnamurti imparts one of the most simple yet important sacred truths: if you want to discover “God, or truth, or reality” then you must look within yourself and you must understand yourself. Krishnamurti was not the first guy to reveal this information and he even admits that “I have nothing to teach you—no new philosophy, no new system, no new path to reality.” [3] Plato and Socrates both emphasized the importance of soul-searching. The ancient oracle of Apollo, at Delphi, had the words “KNOW THYSELF” inscribed above the gateway. And in Gnostic tradition self knowledge was also emphasized. These familiar words from the Gospel of Thomas are always worth repeating:

“When you know yourselves…you will realize that it is you who are the children of the living Father.” (NHL: 3)

And also:

“That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves. That which you do not have within you will kill you if you do not have it within you.” (NHL: 70)

And again in the Gospel of Philip:

“Is it not necessary for those who possess everything to know themselves?” (NHL: 76)

And also:

“As for ourselves, let each one of us dig down after the root of evil which is within one, and let one pluck it out of one’s heart by the root.” (NHL: 83)

And in the Book of Thomas the Contender:

“For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time achieved knowledge about the depth of the all.” (NHL: 138)

These statements above express this doctrine clearly. And this concept is implicit in diverse passages throughout ancient Gnostic texts. An example is in the Tripartite Tractate where we read of the Father that “he alone knows himself as he is” (NHL: 55). The idea here is that we should follow the example of the Father and know ourselves as well.

Another example is from the Gnostic sage Monoimus as quoted by Hippolytus:

“Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you that makes everything his own and says ‘My god, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.’ Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, rests without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him within yourself.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 8.15.1f.)

The point here is that God reveals itself to us in our deepest thoughts, dreams and visions. But this is something that one has to attune themselves to. Most people in the world care about anything but self-understanding. Many people are even afraid of it; and they run away from themselves by seeking the company of others, or other distractions (hobbies, movies, TV, vices, etc.) rather than taking the needed time to listen to and look within themselves. For this reason many people find themselves confused and deranged. And this is why psychiatry is such a lucrative profession in the modern world; because so many people find that they need help to figure themselves out—because they won’t take the time to do it themselves, and they don’t understand that a true relationship with God begins with self-understanding.

The fact that so many people today have no understanding of themselves—and even shun it—is tied to the fact that “orthodox” Christian tradition has omitted this fundamental wisdom. Even the New Testament writings (i.e. the “orthodox” Canon) lack a clear statement or explanation of the value of self-knowledge. Certainly the concept is alluded to in a few specific passages. Paul refers on numerous occasions to “Christ in me” or “in you”; or that the spirit of God or Christ “dwells in you.” In the Gospel of Luke there is an ambiguous passage where Jesus says that the “kingdom of God is within you.” But this is really as close as we get to a very important fundamental wisdom. And this in turn is why “orthodox” Christian tradition is slowly being dashed to pieces on the rocks of its own ignorance. Because so much of early Christian wisdom has been deleted from the Christian legacy by the political church which did not want people becoming Christs and possessing spiritual knowledge themselves. The New Testament we have today is the product of this “church.” And while the NT does contain valuable spiritual and theological insights, the canon is ultimately deficient in that it does not preserve the “fundamentals” regarding self-knowledge. Without self-knowledge, faith and baptisms and doctrines are worthless. Orthodox Christianity teaches that “Faith” is the goal and end-all; whereas in reality faith is only the first step toward greater things. Indeed there is only one passage in the New Testament where the truth is specifically mentioned:

“For when at this time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again those things which are the first oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not solid food. For everyone who needs milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong food belongs to them that are mature (teleion: initiated); even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. …

“Therefore leaving the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us move unto perfection (teleioteta: initiation); not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works (the Law), and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment…” (Hebrews 5:14–6:1f. emphasis added)

In this unique passage the truth is admitted that true Christianity, at its core, is about maturity and discernment, and is an “initiation”, and does not simply revolve around “faith”, baptisms and dogmas. The ability to “discern both good and evil” refers to a matter of one’s inner consciousness and understanding.

Another advantage of Krishnamurti is that he explains in clear terms exactly what the consequences of self-ignorance actually are. His ideas here are most insightful. The crux of the argument is that people must discern the difference between knowledge about themselves (which everyone has) and actually learning about themselves [4]. The knowledge we have of ourselves is rooted largely in the past, from past experiences and education. This knowledge is not a form of understanding, but is a form of conditioning. This kind of knowledge is not a product of the present, but is a product of the past, and is dead. The present reality, our consciousness and awareness is our life. It is the point at which we are aware and alive. But that life can be smothered, or poisoned, by the knowledge/conditioning of the past. This is what keeps our souls, our minds, imprisoned in a state of blindness and death. This is what keeps us from truly learning about ourselves and who we really are, and what reality and God really are. All our knowledge of God and reality comes out of the past which in turn smothers one’s awareness of the living present. We can only really know God in the present and not through the past. The past can provide valuable insights and lessons. But the actual gnosis of God can only be experienced in the present.

Krishnamurti also explains in brilliantly simple terms how that this false consciousness results in self-ignorance and the fragmenting of human consciousness, which manifests in our confused plurality of thoughts. Not knowing ourselves, we become whatever it is that society expects of us. We have one identity at church, another in front of our spouses, another for the guys at the bar. Without exception we get caught in the cycle of hypocrisy which results from having no understanding of why we have become who we are, and why we do what we do [5]. It is only natural that one feels confused and ashamed deep inside—without understanding why. Orthodox tradition claims that this sense of shame is guilt for both disobeying the Law of Moses, and for the crucifixion of Christ. The Theosophists claim that this is caused by a stain on one’s Karma that is leftover from sins that were committed in a past life, in ancient Atlantis or Lemuria! But of course none of these fables have anything to do with the real issues that are rooted within ourselves and our lack of self-understanding—and not what we were supposedly doing back when we were wicked one-eyed giants in ancient Atlantis!

The result of all this confusion is that we humans never achieve a unified state of consciousness. Instead, our minds are divided up into conflicting identities, thoughts, memories and between what we remember and what is forgotten. A part of us is conscious, but that consciousness is a thin layer that covers our subconscious, which is that part of ourselves that we have no knowledge of and do not understand. We also never learn to distinguish between the reality of an object and the false image that our minds conceive of the same object [6]. We never learn how to properly use our minds, let alone achieve total consciousness.

If you can see the reality of what I have described then it becomes easy to see why human civilizations rise and fall, one after the other. Because to this day human society is filled with people who never learn to understand and master their own consciousness. We live out our lives wallowing and half-buried in the filth of our own ignorance. This lack of consciousness, of fullness, is why the human race can reach no consensus or unity on what God is, or what reality is, or on the purpose of our existence, or of our origins and destiny. Collectively we humans remain hopelessly ignorant and in conflict with each other and with ourselves. Our consciousness and sense of ourselves is so woefully limited that the fall of every new civilization is nearly pre-ordained.

Krishnamurti’s lectures were aimed at helping people achieve perfect consciousness, which is another way of saying that he wanted to help people reach true maturity. In that perfect consciousness the mind is at peace. There are no chattering thoughts or seething resentments about the past. The past is dead. The mind is an instrument to be used; but it is not the seat of what we are. The ability of the mind to solve problems is limited; and the mind is not the true abode of where we live. The mind is not the highest part of ourselves. The mind can serve us or it can be the trap in which we lose ourselves; in a maze of our own confusion and ignorance and wrong priorities. When all of these issues are set into their correct perspective, and the mind is at peace, what we find then is Joy and Peace. We may not be able to solve the world’s problems. But we learn that at the core we are spirits of joy and love; and that this is what God is as well. This revelation is a great treasure that cannot be lost; and which no one can take away.

I believe that Krishnamurti’s teaching on the mind and thoughts corresponds to the Gnostic concept of the psychic self (from the ancient Greek psyche: meaning the soul). Gnostic tradition likewise teaches that the mind and soul are not the highest level of human existence or being. Instead, the deepest essence of human being and consciousness was described, symbolically, as the spiritual seed. This represents the deepest part of ourselves that we are seeking to understand, to know, that lays in the depth beyond our deepest thoughts. Only when we get to know ourselves at this depth is there any chance of experiencing true Reality and true God.

Before concluding I want to say again that I in no way mean to say that Krishnamurti’s teaching is “Gnostic” at every point. For example, Krishnamurti has no doctrine of dualism or a trinity of man or natures. I believe his alliance with Gnostic thought is manifest in that his doctrine is truly a doctrine of liberation. Krishnamurti teaches his readers how to bring an end to the tyranny of the past, and how to live in the present—and how to find God or reality in the present. As a writer I will admit that I nowhere in my articles explain these issues nearly as well as Krishnamurti does. My articles are aimed more toward readers who have a background in fundamentalist Bible theology. I try to liberate people by showing how the Bible has no “orthodox” theology. To a limited extent my articles do help people; as many people in the West suffer from fundamentalist brain-washing. (Bible theology is a subject that is so complex that a person can be lost in the maze of “orthodox” dis-information for years. For this reason I believe that a counter-perspective is needed and contributes to the common good of humanity.) But Krishnamurti’s teaching, in this case, is universal. There is very little cultural or theological context in his teaching. He simply presents the truth in this troubled world as it is. The ascended masters may “direct and govern the world” but Krishnamurti is a saviour and teacher who can help us to deliver ourselves from the tyranny of faith and false knowledge.

There is much more I’d like to say regarding Krishnamurti’s lectures and ideas. But space and “fair use” limitations will not allow for further discussion. I recommend that all aspiring Gnostics read Krishnamurti’s lectures as compiled in the book Freedom from the Known, compiled and edited by Mary Lutyens (published by the Krishnamurti Foundation and HarperCollins). Truly this book is a manual on how to be a Gnostic in the here and now.

I would also like to inform my readers that the interpretations above of Krishnamurti’s ideas, and his life, and Theosophy, are mine alone. I recommend that my readers research my sources and decide for themselves. If there are any Theosophists out there who disagree with my opinions and research, then I encourage them to send their comments to the e-mail address below. If I find that such information is compelling, and without ad hominem attacks, then I will post this information as a rebuttal and counter-perspective to this article. —jw


1] Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom From the Known, ed. Mary Lutyens, HarperCollins: NY (1969), pg. 9.

2] ibid., pg. 12.

3] E. Blau, Krishnamurti: 100 Years,, pg. 91; see also M. Lutyens, Krishnamurti: the Years of Awakening, pp. 263, 267.

4] ibid., pp. 22f., 29f.

5] ibid., pp. 30, 105f.

6] ibid., pp. 25, 95f.

By Jim West. Copyright © 2009, 2012. All Rights Reserved.



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