J-P. Sartre: The other is hell

Osho on Notable People

Osho speaks on Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic (21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980).

He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre says,

The other is hell.”

This man is not a psychoanalyst, but it has happened often that painters, poets, novelists, dramatists, artists, have come to discover something which the so-called experts, who are supposed to discover it, go on and on and never find. Now, Freud never found out that the other is the hell – neither did Jung, nor Adler, nor the whole company that has followed them. Jean-Paul Sartre, in this small statement, says something so tremendously deep and profound, that it is a revelation – the other is hell. Why? – because you want to merge, melt, so that the two-ness disappears and you become one, unified… so that you can see out of the eyes of your beloved, and you can smell, and you can taste, and you can hear, not as a separate being, but as one with the person you love… so that both your centers jump into each other and become one center.

That is where Sartre’s profound insight comes in. He said, “The other is hell.” There is no way. The other remains the other, continues to remain the other. Whatsoever you do, everything fails. And it is not the fault of the other. The other is also trying to do everything possible, but you remain the other. Both are trying, but they are going to fail because what they are desiring is impossible. Their alonenesses are their very being.

No trespass is possible, you cannot trespass the being of another person. And it is good, because if people were able to trespass other people’s beings, then there would be no hope for humanity. Then there would be no hope for real freedom to exist, ever. … Because why should only one person trespass? – many can trespass you. Once it is possible, then many people can trespass you. Your purity, your sanctity, your individuality, will lose all meaning.

Sartre is right. He has understood the point, that the other is going to remain the other, and the loving heart wants to become one with the beloved. It is going to fail. And that is the misery of lovers. Nobody knows misery more than lovers. Nobody knows suffering more than lovers.

So when he says the other is hell, he is saying many things. He is saying there is no other hell – only that one experience: when you come so close, where you feel just one step more and the paradise is yours, but that one step you cannot cross.

The goal is in front of you. You are standing at the door, but somehow you cannot even knock on the door. It is there, waiting, not only waiting, welcoming, but somehow you are paralyzed. There is some invisible circle around the other person which you cannot cross, and at that moment you will become aware that the same circle is around you. The circles, when they come close, touch each other, but only at the circumferences of the circles. More than that is not possible. To turn back from the doors of paradise is hell. There is no other hell.

The stubborn reality of the other, that it is going to remain other, becomes your failure, becomes the other person’s failure too. And you cannot remain stuck at that point. Try to understand: in existence, in life, nothing remains static; either you go forward or you move away. Forward you cannot move – the invisible wall hits your head and there is no way – and nothing remains static, you start moving away… and the painful memory of failure, the painful memory of reaching so close and yet losing it….

The nearest you can come is in love, but love becomes anguish; ultimately love becomes anguish. Hence, blessed are those who have never loved, because they will never know that the other is the hell. To protect you from this experience all societies have tried, in some way or other, to prevent love happening – marriage is good. And of course, living with somebody for years, you start having a certain companionship, a certain need for the other. The other becomes a habit.

If your wife goes away for a few days, you are at a loss. You wanted her to go for a few days at least, and when she goes then you are at a loss. You cannot find where your shoes are, you cannot find anything you want in your own house. Suddenly the wife is missed – and you think it is because of love? No, she had become a habit with you, she had taken every care in her hands; without her you are at a loss as to what to do. Even fighting with her had become a routine part of your life. Now there is nobody to fight in the house. You go from one room to another – even the fight is missed. You come home late, nobody quarrels… you just go to your bed. And the quarrel every night has become such a routine part of you that you cannot fall asleep without it. It is just like a teddy bear.

I sleep with three pillows: one on each side and one under my head. While I was traveling in India I had to carry all three pillows, and I use very big pillows, perhaps the biggest size, so one very big suitcase was just for the three pillows. Whenever I used to stay with somebody, and he would open my suitcases and in one suitcase – and it was a big suitcase, the biggest suitcase available – only three pillows! He would say, “What! This big suitcase and you are carrying just three pillows…?”

I would say, “I cannot sleep without those two. Those two are absolutely part of my sleep. If somebody takes one of my pillows, then it is difficult for me to sleep. I will miss him the whole night.”

The wife was wanting to go just for a rest for a few days. She is wiped out – I think that is the exact expression, wiped out – by all these children and this husband. A time comes when it is all too much. But when she goes on a holiday, she starts missing the kids, their noise, their fight. She starts missing the husband. Whom to nag? Nagging is such a power trip, and such a joy. And the poor fellow cannot do anything, the wife is so powerful. And she knows that outside this man is a lion; that gives more joy in nagging him, and proving him to be just a rat – nothing else. You may be a lion in the outside, but when you come home, then keep your tail down, and remember that here you are not a boss.

She starts missing… with whom to fight? She starts missing all the care she takes; now there is nobody to take care of. Small things start coming to her memory: in the morning she brings the newspaper to the husband…. She had never liked it; the very idea of the husband sitting in front of her, hidden behind the newspaper… she knows why he is reading the newspaper, just to avoid her, so she is not seen. But now, away from home, she starts thinking about whether somebody has given him his newspaper or not. And how is he going to find his shoes… and the clothes? And he is bound to do something stupid in the kitchen. The house may catch on fire – anything is possible…”What have I done? Why have I come here? And there is nothing to enjoy….” All those dreams that she was having at home have all flown away. Now she is hankering just to be back as quickly as possible. They have become habits to each other.

This is not love. But all the societies have tried this simple formula to protect you from the experience – which is terrible in a way but which can also become a transformation. It never became a transformation for Jean-Paul Sartre. I feel sorry for the man. He had come very close when he said the other is the hell. But even in coming that close, to that insight, he is still missing something more significant. His emphasis is still as if the other is responsible for being a hell. No, the other is not responsible. He is not yet seeing the other part, the other half: that you are also the other, from the other side. Are you creating hell for the other person? You are not creating hell. Then be a little more understanding: the other is also not creating hell. Don’t dump it on the other.

It is simply a natural phenomenon that you can come closest in the experience of love, but only closest. You cannot be welded into one being.

Your aloneness becomes for the first time crystal clear. No matter what, you are alone. And all the fiction that there may be somebody who is just made for you, there may be somebody who will fill this gap, this emptiness in you…. Nobody can do it; not because nobody wants to do it, no, everybody would love to do it, but it is just not possible in the very nature of things. And it is good, I repeat, that it is not possible in the very nature of things, because if it was possible then there would be no necessity for religion – no need of religion.

You ask me, “Is there any essential need of religion for man?” Yes, but it comes only after you have experienced that your aloneness is absolute.

You cannot deceive yourself by friendship, by love, by money, by power. You cannot go on deceiving yourself for long. A moment is going to come when you will see all your efforts have utterly failed: you are still as alone as you have always been. This is the moment when religion comes in. Religion is nothing but a one hundred and eighty degree turn – from the other to yourself.

You have tried the other; it does not work. The other is not responsible. The other has not created the universal law. The other is as much part of this universal law as you are. If your understanding goes a little deeper… Sartre was just on the brink where he could have turned towards himself, but he stopped there: The other is hell. He condemned the other, but he didn’t turn to give a try to himself.

You have given a try to many people in your life, reaching to the farthest person, trying to bring him close to you. You succeeded in bringing him very close, very close, and at the last moment, just one step more… and it has failed. The human mind says, “Perhaps this is not the right person. Find another person. Go on finding another person.” The mind goes on giving you hope: “If it has not happened with this woman, this man, it may happen with somebody else. Perhaps you were trying with the wrong person.” The mind goes on finding consolations, excuses, explanations, rationalizations, but all those are futile. Those rationalizations, explanations, excuses, consolations, will keep you away from religion.

Sartre could have become one of the religious men, which is very rare: a very ordinary phenomenon, but very rare, because nobody tries the ordinary; everybody is after the extraordinary.

Religion is when love has failed.

Osho, From Unconsciousness to Consciousness, Ch 27, Q 1 (Excerpt)

Related excerpt Being and Nothingness

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