A revolutionary is part of the political world; his approach is through politics. His understanding is that changing the social structure is enough to change the human being.
A rebel, as I use the term, is a spiritual phenomenon. His approach is absolutely individual. His vision is that if we want to change the society, we have to change the individual. Society in itself does not exist; it is only a word, like “crowd” – if you go to find it, you will not find it anywhere. Wherever you encounter someone, you will encounter an individual. “Society” is only a collective name – just a name, not a reality – with no substance.
The individual has a soul, has a possibility of evolution, of change, of transformation. Hence, the difference is tremendous.
The rebel is the very essence of religion. He brings into the world a change of consciousness – and if the consciousness changes, then the structure of the society is bound to follow it. But vice versa is not the case, and it has been proved by all the revolutions because they have failed.
No revolution has yet succeeded in changing human beings; but it seems we are not aware of the fact. We still go on thinking in terms of revolution, of changing society, of changing the government, of changing the bureaucracy, of changing laws, political systems. Feudalism, capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism – they were all in their own way revolutionary. They all have failed, and failed utterly, because man has remained the same.
We have to be rebels, not revolutionaries. The revolutionary belongs to a very mundane sphere; the rebel and his rebelliousness are sacred. The revolutionary cannot stand alone; he needs a crowd, a political party, a government. He needs power – and power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Human consciousness has not grown for centuries. Only once in a while someone blossoms – but in millions of people, the blossoming of one person is not a rule, it is the exception. And because that person is alone, the crowd cannot tolerate him. His existence becomes a kind of humiliation; his very presence feels insulting because he opens your eyes, makes you aware of your potential and your future. And it hurts your ego that you have done nothing to grow, to be more conscious, to be more loving, more ecstatic, more creative, more silent – to create a beautiful world around you.
Hence a Gautam Buddha or a Chuang Tzu hurts you because they have blossomed and you are just standing there.
The world has known only very few rebels. But now is the time: if humanity proves incapable of producing a large number of rebels, a rebellious spirit, then our days on the earth are numbered. Then the coming decades may become our graveyard. We are coming very close to that point.
We have to change our consciousness, create more meditative energy in the world, create more lovingness. We have to destroy the old – its ugliness, its rotten ideologies, its stupid discriminations, idiotic superstitions – and create a new human being with fresh eyes, with new values. A discontintuity with the past – that’s the meaning of rebelliousness.
These three words will help you to understand: reform, revolution, and rebellion.
Reform means a modification. The old remains and you give it a new form, a new shape – it is a kind of renovation to an old building. The original structure remains; you whitewash it, you clean it, you create a few windows, a few new doors.
Revolution goes deeper than reform. The old remains, but more changes are introduced, changes even in its basic structure. You are not only changing its color and opening a few new windows and doors, but perhaps building new stories, taking it higher into the sky. But the old is not destroyed, it remains hidden behind the new; in fact, it remains the very foundation of the new. Revolution is a continuity with the old.
Rebellion is a discontinuity. It is not reform, it is not revolution; it is simply disconnecting yourself from all that is old. The old religions, the old political ideologies, the old human being – all that is old, you disconnect yourself from it. You start life afresh, from scratch.
The revolutionary tries to change the old; the rebel simply comes out of the old, just as a snake slips out of the old skin and never looks back.
The future needs no more revolutions. The future needs a new experiment, which has not been tried yet. Although for thousands of years there have been rebels, they remained alone – individuals. Perhaps the time was not ripe for them. But now the time is not only ripe….if you don’t hurry, the time has come to an end. In the coming decades, either mankind will disappear or a new human being with a new vision will appear on the earth. That new human being will be a rebel.
Excerpt from “The Book of Understanding” by OSHO