I Am Against Positive Philosophy


The tyranny of the positive attitude can prevent us from being honest, with ourselves and others, and the stress of not acknowledging what’s wrong creates conflict inside. But the more half-truths we tell, the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves…

“You ask me if am I against positive philosophy. Yes, because I am also against negative philosophy. I have to be against both because both choose only half the fact, and both try to ignore the other half.

“And remember: a half-truth is far more dangerous than a whole lie, because the whole lie will be discovered by you sooner or later. How long can it remain undiscovered by you? A lie, of course, is a lie; it is just a palace made of playing cards – a little breeze and the whole palace disappears. But the half-truth is dangerous. You may never discover it, you may continue to think it is the whole truth. So the real problem is not the whole lie, the real problem is the half-truth pretending to be the whole truth; and that is what these people are doing.

“The philosophy of positive thinking says: ‘Take everything positively. The negative should not have any space in your approach, there should be no negative part.’ This is making a part, the positive part, almost the whole.

“The same is true about negative people, although there are none who preach the philosophy of negative thinking, because who is going to listen to them? They will say, ‘If somebody is smiling, find out – there must be something he is hiding behind the smile. In fact, he must want to cry or weep. Find out – don’t be deceived by his smiling; find the negative. If he is looking very happy, that means certainly there is something that he is trying to hide behind his happiness.’

“People are so miserable, who is going to listen to such a philosopher? They will say, ‘We are already so miserable, and you are teaching us to search for more misery! Even if a false smile is there, at least it is there. Please forgive us, we can’t go on digging and finding the tears. We have enough tears. And just a smile – although it may be just a mannerism, a formality, just a civilized way of meeting somebody…’

“When you meet somebody and ask, ‘How are you?’ he says, ‘I am perfectly well.’ Now, if you are a negative philosopher you have to find out what this man is hiding: ‘How can he be perfectly well? Have you ever heard of anybody in the world being perfectly well? He is lying!’ But nobody will listen to a negative philosopher. You also say, ‘I am perfectly well. You are perfectly well? – good.’ And you depart in good spirits. What is the point of showing one’s wounds to each other and making each other more miserable than before?

“So there is no school of negative philosophers. But there are more people who believe in negative philosophy without knowing it than there are people who believe in positive philosophy.

“In fact, all these believers in positive philosophy are basically negative. To hide that negativity they believe firmly in the positive philosophy.

“I am not in support of either side. I am in favor of taking the whole truth, and that’s what I would like you to do too: take the whole truth, because the negative is as essential as the positive.

“You cannot create electricity with only the positive pole; you will need the negative pole too. Only with both the negative and the positive pole can you create electricity. Is the negative absolutely negative? It is complementary, so it is not against the positive.”

Osho, From Ignorance to Innocence, Talk #29