The Principle of Reciprocity
Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
In meditation, true meditation, we are examining something to see what it is, without any predetermined idea as to what we think it is. If you are arguing inside of yourself, or with someone else, “I think it is this, I think it is that, I think it is the other thing,” you are not meditating and you are not thinking. You are just jumping to a lot of conclusions and letting ideas pass through your capacity of awareness without their meaning anything. But if we are examining something—suppose we found some mechanism out here and we did not know quite what it was and we started to examine it, not caring as to whether it was a flying saucer, a big clock, or a peculiar boat that goes on land or water or something else—we started examining it without caring what it was, without being concerned in advance as to how it should be identified or what we should call it, then our examination is unhampered. We can think about it, we can actually see what this part does, what that part does, how it works, and finally come to a conclusion as to what it is. But a lot of argument, thinking it is this or thinking it is that, according to the popular concept, would not change the facts at all, because it would be what it is regardless of all the opinions pro and con. What do we care what it is until after we find out what its nature is, how it functions? These are vital points if we are going to think, if we are going to meditate, and if we are going to utilize the principle of reciprocity on a constructive basis.
Carrying out the point with respect to meditation a little further, some people imagine that if they are going to meditate they have to sit down on a chair somewhere and probably fold their hands, or go through some particular pattern of motion, and then they are going to try to think of something about which to think; and they sit there for five, ten, fifteen minutes, and they decide that they cannot think of anything to think about. Meanwhile their thoughts have been chasing here and there; they wonder what is happening over here. “Did I turn the oven off? What are the children doing? What was that Mrs. Brown said?” The mind is just flitting everywhere. Little thoughts come into the range of awareness and the individual takes note of them, perhaps does what he thinks is thinking about them for a little bit, and then he decides to push them away and, “I’ve got to think about something to think about.” Did you ever find yourself in that dilemma? Some of you must have, from the smiles I see on your faces. You must know what I am talking about. Well that is not meditating. If you have to think about something to think about, you are not thinking; because if you are alert you will not have to try to think about something to think about. You will observe something to think about; you will have noted something to think about. It will appear naturally in relationship to the environment, or your own experience in some fashion, or what someone else said over here, and you will find that you do not have to sit down and twiddle your thumbs in order to think, because the thinking mechanism is capable of working when you are walking or when you are doing various things.
Some people say, “Well I have to get off by myself before I can meditate. I just can’t think with all this noise or with all this chatter, or with all these things going on. I just can’t think under these conditions.” I have heard lots of people say that, and very seldom have I given any answer, or perhaps if I did I would say, “Well if that is the best way for you, why—!” But, actually, what does it tell me? The individual is just saying, “I don’t think,” period! If he thinks he has to have a certain fixed pattern of environment or circumstance before he can think, then he does not think. He only thinks that he thinks. Now some environments or circumstances will definitely make it better for thinking than others, but if we are thinking we will be observing in the environment that is round about us. If people are talking—are we not interested in people? If people are talking they are revealing themselves, and instead of getting all on edge and nervous and wanting to bite somebody’s head off, we will be thinking while all those around us are just chattering. They will not realize that they are revealing themselves, because they are not thinking; they are just having a little excessive flow at the mouth. It is coming out without any thinking. All right. That is the best possible time to begin to analyze people, to see what makes them tick. Just listen. You may do it without letting anyone know you are listening. That is generally a good idea. And you can begin to find out what makes them tick.
You can study people. And it takes thinking; it takes meditation. You may watch an interchange of words which people may fondly conceive to be conversation. This idea pops out, that idea, and you can hear people expressing their opinions: “Well I just don’t like this.” “Well neither do I.” “Oh, I think it’s pretty good.” “I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me very much.” And the words come out and out and out, and most of the words will not mean anything—just words. And yet if you watch you will find that the person is painting a picture of himself. If you take all of the words and try to make them all have value and significance you will not get any picture. You will get a blob, and then another blob—blobs upon blobs of nothing. But if you are alert, if you have learned anything about human beings and about the principles of reality, you will find that people at these times let the bars down, they start revealing themselves, they start saying and doing things that they do not know they are saying and doing, and just by a little listening, a little alertness, you can start studying people. You can start seeing their strong points and their weak points. You can start examining the pattern of reciprocity as it is working out through the people around you. You can begin to see it and to understand it, so that it no longer irritates you or causes you to say, “Well I don’t like such and such a person. Such and such a person just talks too much,” or, “His or her ideas don’t fit with mine. I like people that fit with my ideas. I don’t want to learn anything new. I just want people that believe what I believe.”
A lot of not liking other people is based upon nothing more than that: “They don’t think like I think, and I don’t want anybody around me who doesn’t think like I think.” If people have different ideas, examine them, take a look at them. See what those ideas have produced in them. And if you watch you will find that sometimes you can ask a question or drop a thought at the right time and change the course of conversation, or make something go home to someone’s mind. That person has at last opened up. People are more or less relaxed and opened up when they are talking like that, and if all you hear is chatter, and you feel inside yourself, “I’ve just got to get away from all these people. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand it. They make me nervous,” what are you doing to yourself? Destroying yourself for no cause, shutting yourself up in some kind of a prison, refusing to consider the reciprocal factors that are at play in life.
What are the reciprocal factors? Do you all know the word “reciprocity”? I think you must surely know that word. The reciprocal factors. People are expressing something, sowing seed we could call it, and something is coming back. The principle of reciprocity. The cycles that are established. A cycle is sent out and it comes back. Sometimes it is not sent out very far, just to the point of the hearer, and some word is answered back; and we say another word, and that prompts another word—back and forth, back and forth. We see this little cycle. But in the larger sense, what is it? What do we observe here? Is there emptiness? Is there indication of thought? Is there a willingness to learn? Or is the mind closed to new ideas? If the mind is closed to any idea which does not fit with the ideas already established in that mind, the person is not thinking. He is not awake; he is asleep. Perhaps you can establish somewhere there a pattern of relatedness in the realm where this person thinks that he thinks. You can begin to find an opening—without any duplicity on your part; we must not be deceptive—but if you look for a point of agreement with people you can generally find one, something where there is a meeting point. But you must look for it, and then, if you can get just a little cycle established, you might even make a suggestion or ask a question, which will open up something new.
If because this person seems to you to be narrow-minded or living in a narrow, self-centered, selfish sphere, and his or her ideas do not particularly fit with yours and you do not see how that person is going to be any particular help to you, you decide, “I don’t like so-and-so; I’d rather not be around so-and-so,” that is based upon the spirit of gettingness, isn’t it? That attitude is, in itself, self-centered, based upon the spirit of gettingness. We are going to evaluate people on the basis of how much they agree with us and how much we can get from them for ourselves. Examining that attitude from the standpoint of the principle of reciprocity, we see that it begets emptiness. It begets emptiness, a feeling of insecurity, a feeling of futility. It makes us lose interest in so many people. And when we lose interest in a lot of people we might begin to decide, “Well the only interesting person I know is me. I’ll think about me.” “I’m the interesting person,” you say, to yourself of course, when you look in the mirror. No, if I were so concerned about imagining that I was the interesting person, I would not have so much interest in you. It would not be any good. You need to have an interest in other people. But you may say, “I don’t like…I don’t like…” What you like and do not like has nothing to do with it, if you are thinking.
If what you like and do not like is governing in the processes of one idea chasing another through your mind, you are only imagining that you think; you are not thinking. And such child’s play, playing tag mentally so to speak, does not produce anything. It leaves one empty and tired. Aimless talking is one of the worst of the energy wasters, just chattering and talking and aimless so-called thinking—ideas more or less playing tag through your mind, through the level of your awareness. You may think you have been thinking, but it wastes your energy. Actually it saps your energy much more than real thinking would do. Real thinking, actually, is not so wearisome as this process wherein people delude themselves into thinking that they think.
Bringing all this up to the point of the principle of reciprocity, we see that if one idea is merely playing tag with another idea, and the ideas pass through the realm of consciousness more or less at random, there is no real sense of control; therefore there is a sense of insecurity. There is no real creativeness; therefore there is a sense of emptiness, a waste. And the person says, “I have been trying to think about something to think about.” He has been trying to do something and he has been doing nothing, and consequently he reaps—you know, “Like begets like; nothing begets nothing.” And when we plant nothing and reap nothing we bewail our lot, and we are inclined to rebel against the principle of reciprocity. We would like to have something for nothing, but it does not work. It simply does not work. You cannot get something for nothing! You have to give some way or other, you have to plant, you have to develop, you have to generate, before you begin to have a cycle of something coming back to you. If you try to reverse the principle of reciprocity, to get something, “and then I will give something,” it will not work. But if you start giving something, thinking, alert, you will not imagine that you are taking something away from yourself, for real thinking is out here. It is in relationship to something external. Oh you may think about your own problems or situations once in a while. That may be forced on you. But do not develop a habit of thinking about yourself, about your needs, or even thinking that you think about all of the things that you need to do, all of the things you need to learn. If you keep your mental processes pinned down on a basis of identification with you yourself, you are not thinking. You are wasting your energy; you are wasting your time and your opportunity; and under the principle of reciprocity, producing nothing, planting nothing, you will get nothing in return. Your wages will be nothing, because you have done nothing. But if you begin to think out here, disassociating yourselves from it, thinking about it on a basis of interest in other people, in circumstances, watching them work out, not tying it up with personal identification, keeping it out here, you begin to find so many interesting things, so many things to think about, and you can begin to analyze, not to come to a conclusion.
Most people think that if they start to analyze they must come to a conclusion right away quick, and if they can come to a conclusion, they think that they have thought enough to analyze. But that proves that they were not thinking, generally speaking, because it usually takes much more than just a little thinking to analyze enough to warrant a conclusion. Some thinking may suggest the possibility that thus and so may be true. All right. Don’t jump to the conclusion. Examine something over here. Approach it from a different angle. If it still looks like thus and so may be true, don’t believe it yet. Start over here and analyze, think, follow it up again, check the factors back and forth, think about it without getting involved, without saying, “Well now, I believe this.” As soon as you say, “I believe this,” you fasten something on yourself. Perhaps it is only partly true, perhaps it is not true at all, and yet you have taken it on yourself, and then, as a consequence under the principle of reciprocity, you complicate things for yourself.
July 8th, 1954