Chapter 9: The Fire of Knowing
Societies have been very clever: before you can even hear what your own inner voice is, it imposes a voice on you and tells you that this is your inner voice. Society cannot do otherwise, and there are many reasons why it does this. It is pointless to blame society, because every society has its own problems. Everyone is not able to discover his true inner conscience, and if society also does not give you one, then man will become like an animal. So society can’t just leave it up to you. It can’t be left until you discover it on your own, because the fear is that you will behave like an animal. It is not a certainty that you will be able to find your own real conscience, and what can happen is that then it will be too late even for the society to give you a conscience.
This is why in societies where the impact of religion has become more loose, where education by the family has diminished, and where secular governments have taken over the responsibility for education, not only does the voice of real conscience not arise, but the voice of pseudo-conscience also disappears. Man starts to live in a licentiousness that is almost subhuman. Society is helpless, because you can’t be trusted. So before you can search for your own conscience, society creates a substitute conscience in you. And every society will do this in a different way, because every society has a different understanding, a different belief system, tradition and culture.
One society can’t imagine someone marrying his own first cousin, simply cannot think of it! But another society can do it very easily - not only easily, but they prefer it; they see no problem in it. It all depends on the social beliefs. And the belief systems of a society come from thousands of years of a particular geographical, historical and cultural tradition.
There are people in India, for example in Rajasthan, where there is a tradition that unless a boy is a skilled thief, he cannot get a girl’s hand in marriage. The bride’s family will ask him how many burglaries he has done, how many robberies he has participated in, how many times he has been imprisoned. If the boy has not done any burglaries or robberies or has never been imprisoned, no family will give a girl’s hand in marriage to such a good-for-nothing.
There are societies of thieves where to steal is common practice; being skilled in stealing is a qualification in that society. There are the Pakhtoons on the borders of Pakistan. A friend of mine went on a visit to Pakhtoonistan, and when he returned he told me that when he entered the areas of the Pakhtoons, he was advised never to travel in an open jeep after sunset because the Pakhtoon boys often shoot at the drivers or the passengers. He said, “But I am not in any conflict or fight with anybody, so why would anyone shoot at me?” He was told that it was not a question of conflict or quarrel, it was just for target practice - the youngsters were learning to aim! They see someone driving in a moving vehicle and they just shoot at him. If you can shoot at a bird to learn to aim and to shoot, what is the problem about shooting a man for the same reason? Moreover, if it is a man that you will eventually have to kill, why involve the poor birds in it at all? Why not learn to aim directly, with actual targets? But a Pakhtoon boy will not have a bad conscience about what he is doing because it is not a problem in his society.