Some years ago I began to receive letters from readers of my books. All these letters contained one question: what I had been doing after I had written my books, which were published in English in 1920 and 1931 and had been written in 1910 and 1912.
I could never answer these letters. It would have needed books, even to attempt to do this. But when the people who wrote to me lived in London, where I lived after 1921, I invited them and arranged courses of lectures for them. In these lectures I tried to answer their questions and explain what I had discovered after I had written my two books, and what was the direction of my work.
In 1934 I wrote five preliminary lectures which gave a general idea of what I was studying, and also of the lines along which a certain number of people were working with me. To put all that in one, or even in two or three lectures, was quite impossible: so I always warned people that it was not worth while hearing one lecture, or two, but that only five, or better ten lectures could give an idea of the direction of my work. These lectures have continued since then, and throughout this time I have often corrected and rewritten them.
On the whole I found the general arrangement satisfactory. Five lectures were read, in my presence or without me; listeners could ask questions; and if they tried to follow the advice and indications given them, which referred chiefly to self-observation and a certain self-discipline, they very soon had a quite sufficient working understanding of what I was doing.
I certainly recognised all the time that five lectures were not sufficient, and in talks that followed them I elaborated and enlarged the preliminary data, trying to show people their own position in relation to the New Knowledge.
Hearing new things
I found that the chief difficulty for most people was to realise that they had really heard new things, that is, things that they had never heard before.
They did not formulate it for themselves, but in fact they always tried to contradict this in their minds and translate what they heard into their habitual language, whatever it happened to be. And this certainly I could not take into account.
I know that it is not an easy thing to realize that one is hearing new things. We are so accustomed to the old tunes, and the old motives, that long ago we ceased to hope and ceased to believe that there might be anything new.
And when we hear new things, we take them for old, or think that they can be explained and interpreted by the old. It is true that it is a difficult task to realize the possibility and necessity of quite new ideas, and it needs with time a revaluation of all usual values.
I cannot guarantee that you will hear new ideas, that is, ideas you never heard before, from the start; but if you are patient you will very soon begin to notice them. And then I wish you not to miss them, and to try not to interpret them in the old way.
New York, 1945.