Hubert Benoit
Zen and the Psychology of Transformation
The Supreme Doctrine

Chapter 5


When man studies himself with honest impartiality he observes that he is not the conscious and voluntary artisan either of his feelings or of his thoughts, and that his feelings and his thoughts are only phenomena which happen to him. It is easy to note this where feelings are concerned, it is less easy as regards thoughts; however, if I look into myself closely, I realise that my thoughts also just happen to me; I can deal with the subject with which my thought is concerned, but not with my thoughts themselves which I have to take as they come to me.

Since I am not the voluntary artisan of my feelings nor of my thoughts I ought to recognise that I cannot be the voluntary artisan of my actions either; that is to say I can do nothing of my free-will.

But these negative observations regarding a real consciousness and will, lead me to conceive the possible advent of these in man, in me, and I question myself concerning the means of realising these possibilities. I question myself with all the more curiosity in that I feel in myself, connected with this lack of mastery of myself, a fundamental distress which my 'moral' sufferings manifest directly and from which my joys only represent a momentary respite.

In the course of my researches for the means of liberating myself I note that the various teachings which admit the possibility of liberation or 'realisation' in the course of life can be divided into two groups.

The greater part of these teachings are founded on the following false theory: real consciousness and will are lacking to the ordinary man, he does not have them at birth; he must acquire them, build them up in himself, by means of a special inner labour. This labour is difficult and long; consequently the result of this work will be a progressive evolution, that is to say that the acquisition of consciousness and will is progressive. Man will surpass himself little by little, slowly climbing the steps of his development, obtaining higher and higher consciousness by means of which he will progressively approach the highest consciousness—'objective', 'cosmic' or 'absolute' consciousness.

This is a theoretical attitude radically opposed to that which Zen doctrine holds. According to this doctrine man does not lack this real consciousness and this real will, he lacks nothing whatever; he has in himself everything that he needs; he has, from all eternity, the 'nature of Buddha'. He needs absolutely nothing in order that his temporal machine may be controlled directly by the Absolute Principle, that is by his own Creative Principle, in order that he may be free. He can be compared with a machine which lacks not the smallest part in order that it should function absolutely perfectly. But the state of man at his birth comprises a certain modality of development which, as we shall see, entails a hiatus, a non-union which divides his mechanism into two separate parts, soma and psyche. In the absence of this union man does not enjoy the prerogatives of his absolute essence which is nevertheless entirely his own. One would be wrong in suggesting that this lack of union is a lack of some thing; the machine is complete, perfect in its smallest details, no part is missing which it should be necessary to manufacture and install in order to make it work properly; it is necessary only to establish a connexion between the two parts that are not joined. Leaving this mechanical comparison for a chemical analogy, let us say that no substance is lacking among the substances necessary for the desired reaction; everything is there; but a contact has to be established in order to set off the reaction. Or again, following another comparison of Zen, there is in man a block of ice to which absolutely nothing is lacking for it to take on the nature of water; but heat has to be generated so that this ice may melt and thus enjoy all the properties of water.

This conception necessarily entails the instantaneous, lightning-like character of man's realisation. Either there is not union between the two parts of man, and then he does not enjoy his divine essence; or the direct contact is re-established, and there is no reason, since absolutely nothing is lacking, why man should not be instantaneously established in the enjoyment of his divine essence. The inner work which results in the establishment of this direct contact, but not the deliverance itself, is long and difficult, and so, progressive. In the course of this progressive preparation man brings himself nearer chronologically to his future liberty, but he does not enjoy an atom of this liberty until the moment at which he will have it in its entirety; all that he has in the course of his work is a diminution of his suffering in not being free. He is like a prisoner who laboriously files the bars of his window; his work is progressive and brings him nearer, in time, to his escape; but as long as this work is not completed this man remains entirely a prisoner; he is not free little by little; he is not free at all for some time, then he is completely free at the very moment the bars give way. The only progressive advantage that this man obtains from his work is an increasing alleviation of his suffering through being a prisoner; he is quite as much a prisoner one day as the day before, but he suffers less on that account because his instantaneous deliverance is getting nearer in time.

One can show the same thing again in another way, that which Jesus used in his interview with Nicodemus. Jesus said that man must die in order to be reborn. It is progressively that the 'old' man, by a process of special inner work goes towards his death, but this death itself and rebirth in another state could only be the two aspects of an inner occurrence that is unique and instantaneous. The 'old' man can be more or less in a dying condition but not more or less dead; as for the 'new man' he is born or he is not yet, but he cannot be more or less born. This unique and instantaneous inner event Zen calls 'satori' or 'opening of the third eye', and it affirms its sudden character.

'At a single stroke I have completely crushed the cave of phantoms.' 'A light contact with a taut wire, and behold, an explosion which shakes the Earth to its foundations; everything that lies hidden in the spirit bursts forth like a volcanic eruption or explodes like a clap of thunder.'

Zen calls that 'to return home'. 'You have found yourself now; from the very beginning nothing has been hidden from you; it was yourself who shut your eyes to reality.'

This radical divergence of view between that which the Orient calls the 'progressive' method and the 'sudden' method has consequences that are capital to the conception and practice of the inner liberating task.

Let us see now in detail how one may, in accordance with the general doctrine of Zen, understand the ordinary state of man, this lack of inner union of which we have spoken, and all the functional consequences of this state.

We must first of all, in order to do that, sketch the state of the man who has attained realisation, who is perfect, enjoying his divine essence. This man is a psycho-somatic organism comprising a soma, or animal machine, and a psyche. The psyche of this man is a pure thought, or Independent Intelligence, functioning independently of all influence coming from the animal machine, not determined by this machine but determined by the superior influence of Absolute Truth; this psyche can be called also Divine Reason or Cosmic Intelligence. A force, emanating from this Intelligence and penetrating the animal machine, unites these two parts of the man in a ternary synthesis joined to the Absolute Principle and participating in its essence. The animal machine contains a certain substance which, combined with another substance contained in the Intelligence, constitutes the Absolute Substance of the total man who has 'realised' himself. The substance contained in the animal machine, substance deriving from Nature which makes this machine, we will call 'negative pro-divine substance'. The substance contained in the Independent Intelligence, substance deriving from 'supernatural' Truth, we will call 'positive pro-divine substance'. The force which emanates from the Intelligence and which penetrates the machine, a force which may be conceived as the true love of man for himself, is the hypostasis, the neutralising or conciliating force which permits the combination of the two pro-divine substances and the appearance of the Divine or Absolute Substance. The negative pro-divine substance can also be called feminine substance (as the ovum of the 'being'); the positive pro-divine substance may also be called male substance (as the sperm of the 'being'); the union of these two substances, thanks to the penetration of a force of Intelligence into the machine, is a sort of inner coitus, an act of love giving birth to the 'new man'.

Let us see now, by reference to this man who has attained realisation, how the natural development of the human-being takes place.


The Independent Intelligence has not yet appeared; the positive pro-divine substance, then, has not appeared. The machine exists but incompletely developed; the brain, and the mentality which depends on it, are in process of construction but are not yet complete. Consequently the negative pro-divine substance is not yet present either, for it is connected with the synthesis of the animal machine fully completed. The mentality not being yet perfected, the child is not yet conscious of the distinction existing between the Self and the Not-Self; he is steeped in the outer world without consciousness of his own limits.


The animal brain is now perfected (between one and two years of age). The machine is complete and the negative pro-divine substance is now present. The mentality is fully constructed as an animal mentality capable of concrete perceptions, that is to say such as it is in the non-human animal. But the Independent Intelligence, that is to say the possibility for the mentality to function under the influence of Absolute Truth, is not yet present; the positive pro-divine substance, then, is not yet present; there is only the negative pro-divine substance, as in the case of the non-human animal. The development of the animal mentality allows of the becoming conscious of the distinction between Self and Not-Self. This access of consciousness necessarily constitutes a traumatism for the subject; he was living until then in the implicit unconscious conviction that the motor principle of his existence was the motor principle of the universe; nothing had autonomous existence in face of himself and so his existence had nothing to fear. Suddenly he becomes conscious that his principle is not the principle of the universe, that there are 'things' that exist independently of him, he becomes conscious of it in suffering from contact with the world-obstacle. At this moment appears conscious fear of death, of the danger which the Not-Self represents for the Self. This entails in the psyche an effective state of war between Self and Not-Self; the subject desires to exist and he desires the destruction of that which exists outside himself and which is not favourable to his own existence. The infant expresses this when he says: 'Me only! Not you!' He affirms himself in saying No. The Self should be understood as everything that is favourable to the existence of the subject; the Not-Self is everything which menaces this existence or which, not showing that it favours it, conceals a possibility of menace. The affective situation so created is very simple: there are two opposing camps, two parties situated on either side of a barrier. The stake is life or death. When the mother of the baby is kind she is part of the Self, she constitutes a formidable defence against death, and the child is calm behind this ally; when she is unkind ('I don't love you any more, you are no longer my little boy'), she is part of the Not-Self, the formidable defence breaks down, and the child howls in the anguish of death (although evidently he has not yet any clear idea of what death is).

In the very simple situation constituted by this fight to the death against the Not-Self, the subject is entirely partial. Lacking Independent Intelligence he has not yet an atom of impartiality, he never puts himself 'in the other man's place'; his offensive and defensive maneuvres are only curbed in their manifestations by considerations of utility, of strategic opportunity. The attitude of the subject before the Not-Self only expresses itself by a No, pronounced effectively or not and with more or less violence according to the manner in which the combat takes place. The causes of the behaviour of the child are entirely affective and irrational.


The Independent Intelligence appears, and only in the case of the human-being, at the period which is called the age of reason. The mentality then becomes capable of abstract, general, impartial perceptions. The subject can 'put himself in the other man's place', he can conceive of a Good that is distinct from the affirmation of the Self over the Not-Self, he can conceive as desirable an event that is unaffected by the issue of his fight against the Not-Self. Apart from the tendency to assure the building up of his own organism appears a tendency towards construction in general, towards participation in the cosmic construction. The subject can conceive the ideas of Good, Beautiful, True, in general, and can feel an urge towards them.

But, at the moment at which the Independent Intelligence appears, all the powerful affective mechanisms of the subject are already engaged in an entirely partial view of his situation in the universe. The abstract part of the human-being appears very late, at a moment at which his animal part is already solidly set up on the basis of a partial and personal mode of life. The thought of the 'Spirit' appears very much later than the animal thought which is radically contrary to it. The thought of the 'Spirit' affirms the Whole, one and multiple reconciled; the animal thought affirms, and can only affirm, the one by denying the multiple that is external to the one. The animal thought cannot rise towards pure thought; pure thought has to descend to animal thought; but, pregnant with impartiality, it turns from the partiality of the animal and reaches out towards the pure concepts which it fabricates (Eros, love of man for God). A chasm separates the two parties; they are going to live side by side without union. In default of this union the subject cannot enjoy an absolute consciousness. The abstract part, isolated from the animal part, only conceives forms without substance, images lacking a dimension. It conceives a universal ideal image or 'divine' image, beautiful-good-true, which in the absence of absolute consciousness projects itself onto the temporal image that the subject makes of himself, giving birth to an ideal, personal, narcissistic image or 'Ego'.

The two parts of man being unable to reunite naturally, man does not participate in the essence of the Absolute Principle, and he sets himself to adore an image that has no reality, the Ego. In default of a proper love of his abstract part for his animal part man only has an ersatz, self-respect, love of his abstract part for an ideal image of himself.

The unconciliated duality of his two parts results in man being possessed and actuated by two different energetic systems which interfere in various ways, supporting one another or counteracting one another.


This dualistic man, without inner unity, but who has, by his absolute essence, need of unity, is going to cheat inwardly and to play within himself a lying comedy in order to give himself the impression of unity. To that end he is going to cheat either by playing upon his concepts to bring them into harmony with his animal part, or by doing the opposite.

The first case can be seen in the man whose Independent Intelligence is weak. In this man the perception of the abstract, of the general, is too feeble to prevent the concrete, the particular, from appearing to him more real. He lives in the concrete, that is to say, from the point of view of time, in duration and not in eternity. Accepting duration he wishes for eventual victory of his Self over the Not-Self, he accepts the momentary check without his 'divine' egotistical image being wounded thereby to an unbearable degree. This man desires to succeed in temporal duration, he seeks his egotistical affirmations in his effective temporal realisations. His abstract part tends towards the same thing as his animal part, it goes in the same direction and only accentuates the claims of the instincts. There is no inner laceration in this man; he rationalises his tendencies; he cheats in putting ideal 'principles' in harmony with his will-to-power, or more exactly in presenting to himself his practical problems in such a way that his reason approves his tendencies.


This man whose abstract part is strongly developed intellectually feels that the abstract, the general, is more real than the concrete, the particular. In the course of his search for success over the Not-Self the particular success is eclipsed by the general idea of success. He does not think in duration but from the angle of eternity; as in fact he lives in duration, and as the intersection of eternity and duration is the instant, he lives in the instant. He is the man of 'at this very moment'. He does not want his victory over the Not-Self finally, but at once; he desires to succeed in the temporal sphere instantly.

But this complete victory over an aspect of the Not-Self on the moment is manifestly impossible; nothing can be done on the temporal plane without duration. In order to avoid feeling rebuffed in the very centre of his being this man must do something; he must 'reason with himself, he must withdraw the pretention that he advanced to such a manifestation of his temporal omnipotence ('these grapes are too sour'). He adapts himself to the limiting conditions of his temporal existence, he pretends to accept them voluntarily, freely. In reality he does not and cannot accept them, he resigns himself to them merely, that is to say that, without accepting them, he acts as though he accepted them.

It is of capital importance to understand this distinction between acceptation and resignation. To accept, really to accept a situation, is to think and feel with the whole of one's being that, even if one had the faculty of modifying it, one would not do it, and would have no reason to do it. Man in his inner unconciliated dualistic state, with a separated reason and affectivity, is absolutely unable to adhere affectively to the existence of the Not-Self by which he feels himself repudiated. He can only pretend to accept, that is to say resign himself. Resignation contains a factual acceptation and a theoretical refusal. And these two elements are not conciliated, and are unconciliable in the inner state of this man; they are unconciliable because they are situated in two compartments separated by an unbridged gap. And this man preserves the necessary feeling of his inner unity by means of a mechanism of defence which blinds him to the theoretical refusal of his temporal state (mental scotomy). He makes himself believe that he accepts, that he is a 'philosopher', that he is 'reasonable'; he acts the part and succeeds in deceiving himself. The 'reasonable' discourse which he holds is indeed rational, is in accordance with the real order of things in the cosmos. But this man is wrong to be right, his rightness in that premature way is a pretence founded on two lies: he cheats in withdrawing an instinctive pretention which continues, in an underground manner, on its original course; and he cheats in declaring that he withdraws his pretention because it is reasonable while in reality he withdraws it in order to avoid seeing himself repudiated by the Not-Self. He is playing the angel, but he is not one.

If the word of the animal part were 'no', that of the abstract part is 'yes'. But this 'yes' is not the absolute 'Yes', it is only a relative 'yes'; it is not the 'Yes-noumenon', but only a 'yes-phenomenon', quite as illusory, from the absolute point of view, as the 'no' of the animal portion. The 'Absolute Yes' is to be attained ulteriorly by the union, in a ternary synthesis, of the relative 'no' and 'yes'.

Ignoring all that, the man congratulates himself on his 'yes', he sees it as proof that he is master of his animal portion, master of himself, whereas he is nothing of the kind. He thinks that he does right in saying this 'yes' more and more often, he believes that he is adapting himself to reality whereas he is only playing with himself the comedy of this adaptation. He splits himself into two personages: the 'yes' personage, the 'angel', has all his preference; he becomes as conscious of it as he can; he says that this is the personage which is he. During this time the 'no' personage, the 'beast', is despised and driven back; the man obscures, as much as he can, the consciousness of it which he is in danger of obtaining; and when he cannot avoid seeing it he says that that is not he. He says: 'I do not know what has come over me; that was stronger than I am.'

This 'no' personage, alone in situ at the very beginning, when the little child was becoming conscious of the opposition Self-Not-Self and rejected the Not-Self with the whole of his being, loses ground thereafter little by little in the measure that the mechanisms of adaptation are built up and consolidated. He is driven back more and more deeply, covered with layers of adaptive mechanisms ever more numerous and heavy, he is suffocated slowly and methodically. The voice which necessarily rebelled against the temporal state is gradually gagged and reduced to silence. Spontaneity is suffocated by shams, by 'reasonable' attitudes.

Sometimes, with beings of feeble instinctive vitality, this suffocation has a happy ending (if one may so call it). The 'beast' although not killed (for it could not be while the subject is not dead), is as though killed; and the man in which this happens is said to be 'civilised' and 'adapted'. One should ask oneself how this thing can be, how this man can come to believe that he accepts his temporal state, this limited and mortal state which is in reality affectively inacceptable, how he can live in this way. He arrives at it, essentially, through the play of his imagination, through the faculty which his mentality possesses of recreating a subjective world whose unique motor principle this time he is. The man could never resign himself to not being the unique motive-power of the real universe if he had not this consoling faculty of creating a universe for himself, a universe which he creates all alone.

The man who is going to interest us now, and who is truly interesting because his existence becomes little by little a drama, is the one whose instinctive vitality is too strong for the adaptive mechanisms to succeed in stifling the 'no', the 'beast'. For a certain time these mechanisms can attain their ends; the subject 'reasons with himself1 vigorously; his imagination, a kind of balancing gyroscope, spins with speed and effect. A very handy adaptive mechanism will often be used; it is the projection of the 'divine image' onto the image of an aspect of the outer world, that is to say the adoration by the subject of some idol (adoration-love of another human-being, or of a 'just cause', or of a 'God' more or less personalised, etc...). This mechanism, which seems to resolve the dualism between Self and Not-Self, arranges everything as long as it lasts.

But the situation becomes serious when all these adaptive mechanisms exhaust their effect, when the idol-making process breaks down or does not succeed in establishing itself, when the 'beast' can no longer continue to withdraw unceasingly its pretentions to overcome the Not-Self; and when the fox, as a result of declaring the grapes to be sour, begins to die of hunger and to hear his 'beast' growl with rage in the depths of his being.

At this moment appears distress and what one calls 'fear of defeat'. Let us examine what happens exactly, at this moment, in the human-being. We are going to show that the expression 'fear of defeat' is incorrect. It is in the abstract portion of the man that the phenomena that we are studying take their departure. But the abstract portion is intellectual, not affective; and so it could not be afraid strictly speaking. The man that we are studying claims, as we have seen, to succeed in the temporal sphere instantaneously, but he claims something that is impossible. In order to avoid feeling repulsed by the concrete occurrence he has to withdraw the presentation of his claims; and so he withdraws it. The abstract portion has no fear of the concrete repulse; let us say rather that a powerful mechanical determinism forbids him to envisage it, to conceive of the eventuality, and that as a result he refuses it. In order to refuse it, in order to repel it, he refuses and denies the conflict with the Not-Self—a combat whose issue could only be defeat, given the total and instantaneous character of this man's pretention. Unable to be sure that the Not-Self will be totally and instantaneously defeated the abstract portion pretends to be ignorant of the existence of this concrete Not-Self and takes refuge in the world re-created by his imagination. The animal portion for a certain time has accepted that his superior friend shall act thus; in effect this desertion in face of the dual between Self and Not-Self has brought certain advantages from which the animal portion has benefitted—the friendship of others, the approval of others, and so a guarantee of certain allies against the Not-Self. But little by little life has disappointed these hopes of reward for having been kind and good; misfortunes, felt as unjust, have supervened; the animal portion no longer believes in these chimeras, it decides that it has been duped and that it has had enough, it no longer wishes to avoid the combat, no longer feels in agreement with a pacific attitude which brings no benefit; it is deaf now to promises of ulterior benefits which never seem to come to hand and it now only wishes to take up arms. Being in this new frame of mind it can no longer feel the defection of the abstract portion otherwise than as an act of cowardice in face of danger, as a frightful collaboration with the enemy. This man is comparable with a besieged citadel, in which the soldiers, who can only feel and act, want to save their skins, and in which the leader, who only thinks, does not wish to hear a word about fighting and orders the laying down of arms. The army of soldiers cannot understand this absurd order, and at the same time it cannot, in the absence of an order or at least of an authorisation from above, fight as it wants to. It feels itself abandoned, dismayed by the abandonment; it feels anguish. And this anguish is not at all the fear of a particular repulse implied in the present circumstances; it is the fear of death, this ancient fear that has been in the depths of the being ever since its first meeting with the Not-Self, the selfsame fear that the baby experienced when his mother seemed to withdraw from him her alliance.

Anguish is then a phenomenon in two periods, and it is of capital importance to examine these two periods into which it can be resolved. It is 'the head', 'the reason', 'the angel' which leads the way; the head pretends to be ignorant of the existence of the dangerous Not-Self and escapes into its dreams; acting thus it implicitly affirms the Not-Self in matter-of-fact reality, it goes over in fact to the enemy's camp. Then the animal portion, 'the beast', is distracted with fear, not with a relative fear of the relative defeat which is impending, but a total fear of the total danger of death which the Not-Self represents for a Self that the desertion of the head leaves powerless. In what one calls, incorrectly, 'fear of defeat' there are then two distinct elements: an intellectual refusal of defeat, and an affective anguish not of defeat but of death.

The erroneous belief implied in the fear of defeat explains how the vicious circle of anguish is closed. Our subject does not realise that he trembles in the face of death and that he does so because his head abandons his organism in face of the menacing general Not-Self. He believes that he trembles before such and such a concrete negative aspect of the outside world (which may be in fact a very little thing, the low opinion of Mr. X, for example). Seeing this concrete aspect of the world as the spectre of death, of total destruction (since in reality it is death which is feared) he sees this aspect of the world as a total negative Reality, as an absolute negative, and consequently as indestructible. And this vision of the obstacle of the world, as indestructible and absolute, evidently reinforces in the abstract portion his refusal to undertake the struggle. The vicious circle is thus closed.

One understands why anguish is fatally the lot of those beings who are, in a sense, the best, the richest, in whom the impartial and abstract portion is very strong and the partial and animal portion very strong also. On the contrary anguish will not be the lot of beings, on the one hand, whose abstract portion is weak and who live in a comfortable egoism ('materialists'); or, on the other hand, of beings whose animal portion is weak and who live in a comfortable altruistic renunciation ('idealists'). Among the former the 'no' triumphs in fact, among the latter the 'yes' triumphs in fact; in both cases the scales have tipped to one side or the other and have come to a standstill. But the unhappy man whose two portions are strong is torn inwardly by the tugging of a 'yes' and of a 'no' which are unconciliated. This man is unhappy but, at the same time, he is invited to the total realisation that is represented by the conciliation of the 'yes' and the 'no'; the others are comfortable but are not invited to this realisation. It is interesting to study attentively the relations that exist between anguish and imagination, for this study will inform us of the exact nature of 'moral suffering'.

Let us recall the two psychological phenomena which are at work in anguish; the abstract portion capitulates in face of reality because, claiming instantaneous omnipotence, it sees the normal resistance of the outside world as insurmountable, unshakable, absolutely forbidding. It escapes by flight into the world of the imagination. The concrete rebuff is thus avoided by the mentality, but, if the concrete rebuff is indefinitely postponed, in suspense, the image of the rebuff remains present to the abstract portion which turns away from the practical struggle for existence. The animal portion suffers then from the fear of death, since the defection of the 'head' leaves it paralysed in face of the aggressiveness of the Not-Self.

One sees clearly the double role played by the imagination in anguish. It plays the role of protector towards the egotistical and revendicative illusions of the abstract portion, and the role of destroyer towards the animal machine by abandoning it to the fear of death. It protects the Ego, which is illusory, and crushes the machine, which is real.

If one looks into it closely one perceives that the anguish is illusory since its causes are illusory (and that the effect of an illusory cause could not be real). Its immediate cause is illusory since that is the imaginative film, an artificial creation of the mind. Its efficient cause is equally illusory. In fact, if the mind turns away from the obstacle of the world and takes refuge in the imagination, it is because it presents to the world an absolute claim; and if it presents this absolute claim it is on account of its illusory ignorance of its divine filiation. Man only seeks to deify himself in the temporal sphere because he is ignorant of his real divine essence. Man is born the son of God, participating totally in the nature of the Supreme Principle of the Universe; but he is born with a bad memory, forgetful of his origin, illusorily convinced that he is only this limited and mortal body which his senses perceive. Amnesic, he suffers from illusorily feeling himself abandoned by God (while he is in reality God himself), and he fusses about in the temporal sphere in search of affirmations to support his divinity which he cannot find there, without realising that he would not be searching for Reality if he did not participate in it by his own nature (for one cannot lack something without any knowledge of that thing).

Anguish is then an illusion since its causes are illusory. Besides this theoretical demonstration we can obtain a practical demonstration of it; we can prove directly, intuitively, the illusory character of anguish. If in fact at a moment at which I suffer morally, resting in a quiet spot, I shift my attention from my thinking to my feeling, if, leaving aside all my mental images, I apply myself to perceiving in myself the famous moral suffering in order to savour it and to find out at last what it is—I do not succeed. All that I succeed in feeling is a certain general fatigue which represents, in my body, the trace of the anxiety-phenomenon and of the wastage of vital energy which has taken place through the fear of death. But of suffering itself I do not find a scrap. The more I pay attention to the act of feeling, withdrawing thereby my attention from my imaginative film, the less I feel. And I prove then the unreality of anguish.

One will understand this still better by comparison with physical pain. If I have a painful gumboil, the more I imagine the less I suffer physically; the less I imagine, on the contrary, shifting my attention from thinking to feeling, the more keenly I am aware of my pain. This is because the pain is real, not imaginary.

We do not mean to say that there is no perception in the course of moral suffering; we say that it has an illusory suffering, which is not the same thing. If a man sees a mirage in the desert one cannot say that he does not see it; he sees, indeed, but that which he sees does not exist. In the same way, when I suffer morally I perceive, but I perceive nothing that really exists.

What then happens in me when I suffer morally? There is, as we have seen, in my feeling, the fear of death; this fear uses up my vitality and so impoverishes my reserve of organic energy; there is in that then an injury inflicted on my organism, on my body. This injury is not the same as that of physical pain; the injury of physical pain affects a part of the body, it affects the body-as-an-aggregate-of-parts. The injury of the moral suffering, loss of energy at its source, affects the body-as-a-whole; which is not indicated in the sensibility of the organism by any precise pain, but by a general discomfort, by fatigue, depression, a lowering of vitality. In the course of the moral suffering there is therefore at the body level, a general depressive discomfort. During this time, at the psychic level, there are unpleasant, menacing images. The moral suffering results from the association of menacing mental images with a depressive somatic condition. The loss of organic energy without counterpart (for there is then no exchange with the outside world) tends evidently in the direction of death; and so the unpleasing images have an inner taste of death and are perceived as external aggressors tending to kill me. Therein dwells the mirage of which I am the victim. I perceive assassins coming in my direction, and I am persuaded of their real existence; yet they do not exist at all, any more than the lake on the horizon of the desert. That is what Zen calls the 'cave of the phantoms'.

Let us remember that, where anguish is concerned, it is the 'head' which leads the way, and takes the initiative in the process. Doubtless an organic depression of physiological origin favours the appearance of anguish (our humour can be gloomy all day as a result of having slept badly); but, even in this case the anguish depends on the mind, for if I shift my attention onto 'feeling' I only feel tired and not distressed.

The man suffering from anguish has his attention turned towards the screen of his imaginative film by which he tries to escape from the dangerous and real Not-Self; and the anguish assails him from behind, coming from the direction towards which he is not looking, on which he turns his back. The inner gesture of which we have spoken above, and by which I shifted my attention from my 'thinking' onto my 'feeling', is a radical volte-face, of one hundred and eighty degrees, by which I turn my back on the imaginative screen and look in the direction from which came the anguish a moment ago; I say 'came a moment ago' because, during the moment at which this volte-face is accomplished, when the image-making mind which holds the initiative of the process is annihilated, the anguish ceases and there only remains from it a certain mental fatigue. The spectre only exists illusorily as long as I turn away my eyes from the place where I suppose it to exist; as soon as I dare to look at this place I see that there is nothing there.

All this does not lead to an immediate remedy for anguish. One of man's errors is to search for an immediate remedy for his anguish, for this symptom, without bothering about the cause of the symptom. Nevertheless the theoretical understanding of the mechanism of anguish is useful for the intemporal realisation which alone can save man from his illusory sufferings. I am not able to consecrate myself to the task of realisation if I have not first perfectly understood the character, equally illusory, of the two affective poles 'pleasure-pain'.

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