“The problem in front of us all is how to live in a world that is being increasingly dominated by negative forces ..."
Reversing Negative Attitudes - JG Bennett Talk given at Leighton House, Kensington, London November 7, 1972 (excerpt of a transcription)
“When some of us met a month or two ago at Shantock, I said that I would like to work with a number of people who had already experience of our work, and who would like to follow a program, a program of eight or ten months that I could propose and that we could meet seven or eight times during that period. Of course, I think those of you who were not there have been told about this and understand that these are not meetings at which I shall put forward some general ideas or give lectures, and they are not meetings at which we shall spend a lot of time in discussion. They will be much more technical meetings in which I shall give you certain technical material for yourselves to work with and I am assuming also that if you do wish to go on with this it is because you are aware of the need to……… and no commitment that I am asking of you except that you shouldn’t come again unless you have carried through the program, which you are obviously free not to carry through.
The problem in front of us all is how to live in a world that is being increasingly dominated by negative forces; how to become possible channels for transmission of positive forces. How not to get oneself caught into the stream of negativity. It seems easy enough to decide in one's own mind that this is what one wants to do and intends to do, but it is necessary to stop and ask oneself whether we are capable of making the decision to put aside, with every means available to us, negative attitudes in our thoughts and in our speech and in our behaviour towards other people. It is easy enough to do this selectively……… to put aside the negative attitudes that we have no mind to, but it's not easy to do this where there are certain ingrained attitudes that have almost become part of our nature, to judge certain kinds of activity in the world, to allow oneself in one's attention to dwell on negative things. It is a very severe discipline indeed to set oneself uncompromisingly to put aside every form of negativity, as far as it's in one's power. To check if one finds it in oneself any criticism or judgement even of things that are clearly and objectively harmful to individuals or to mankind, but not to put ourselves, not to allow ourselves to be in the position, and the state of judging, criticizing, finding fault, even allowing oneself to contemplate negative attitudes towards any kind of situation. I say this is a very severe, very severe discipline and in principle it is not possible to do positive things negatively. By this I mean it is not possible to say: "I won't be negative." Because this is simply putting one negative in front of another. It is possible to say there are certain attitudes which I accept, which I wish and must have in myself and when I find myself drawn towards attitudes that conflict with this I will put those other attitudes in their place. This is a constant day and night discipline if one is to do it, because it is useless to be positive under certain circumstances and then allow oneself to read the newspapers and begin to have negative attitudes and judgments, or to hear things said on the radio or seen on the television which have a negative flavour to them and allow oneself to react in some way, either identifying with the negativity, or identifying with its rejection. But if we are not going to do this, if we’re not going to set such an undertaking in front of us, what is the value of all the rest? What use can we be in the world if we add to the negativity instead of diminishing it? And if we have the primary decision in ourselves that we see this to be something right for us and that we wish to commit ourselves to it, can we take the further step of achieving discrimination in this kind of attitude, in seeing that it is not a matter of a sloppy sentimentality which forgives everything and turns its back on what is evil. It is something very different from that. It is a fundamental necessity for man to learn how to love his enemies, but one must love one's enemies in a robust way, not in a weak way. One must love them, that is by participating, by entering into and understanding, bringing into this the healing, the positive. Simply to say: "I refuse to look at what is harmful and destructive," this is in reality just one negative put in front of another, and if I say: "I refuse!" – this is a negative thing. If one is working on oneself to eradicate one's own defects, it proves from experience, that it is not enough to say: "I will stop myself from thinking this kind of thought. I will stop this bad habit in myself." It is invariably necessary to say something different from that. The presence of that fault in me, the presence of that bad habit in me is to be for me a reminding factor that I am to do something which excludes it, something positive that excludes it. For example, if I talk to people and they ask me to help them to overcome a habit like the habit of smoking. How does one set about this, to stop smoking? One can avoid every kind of temptation. One can make up one's mind that whenever one sees or is offered a cigarette one will say: "No!" to it. This doesn't work. What one has to see is that the desire to smoke is itself a force, and this force can generate an energy, and this energy can be turned to useful account. And I can say I can transform my desire to smoke into a much stronger awareness of my own presence. I can transform this desire to smoke into self-remembering. Out of this desire to smoke I can find energy to build my inner body. That way I turn this desire to smoke to account for myself. It has to be the same with negativeness. If you agree with me and you are prepared to look at this as a possible programme, I want you to set yourselves for a period of time until we have our next meeting.........”