Re: MD Food for thought

From: John Beasley (
Date: Wed Sep 11 2002 - 13:51:04 BST

Hullo Scott,

A belated reply to your post of 2.9.02, in which you say

"John prefers the pursuit of "immediate experience" over metaphysics. On the
contrary, I believe that redemption for the masses lies in nourishing the
intellectual level."

and "As for putting down abstraction, as John does, I think one should
ponder the utter mystery that lies in the ability to abstract. And without
there is no intellectual level."

This has clarified the differences between us, and I think also overlaps my
issues with Wim. I note he has recently affirmed his affinity with your

I argue that abstraction is fine for sorting out all sorts of practical
problems, and is necessary for the intellectual hobbies of philosophising
and constructing metaphysics, or deconstructing them. I enjoy these pursuits
too, so I don't so much want to 'put down' abstraction, as argue that the
dynamic is not to be found, as Bo would have it, only in the intellectual
level, but is clearly found in all levels. Pirsig uses the example of the
hot stove. Bo would have to deny the dynamism of this event because it is
biological, (though perhaps giving rise to some 'philosophical' reflections
later). But I see in Bo's position, and in yours as stated above, a sort of
worship of the intellectual level, whereas Pirsig, who is perhaps at times a
little inconsistent here, seems quite clearly to find the dynamic in all

Where I was going in my comments of the past few weeks, as I hope I made
clear at the time, was to examine where the mystic finds the dynamic. This
also fitted my own weariness with much intellectualising, which was having
the 'hang-over' effect that Pirsig noted. And it was also in the context
(that I find increasingly important) of making human moral development (a la
Wilber) the starting point for 'inquiry'. I found your intellectual view of
human beings as always evolving patterns of value not so much wrong as
insipid. Where is the passion? It's a bit like Wim's recent post on
consciousness. Either consciousness strikes you as fundamentally 'given',
and hence in a way powerfully inexplicable, or you end up as Wim did trying
to sort out what behavioural patterns would equate with consciousness. That
may be a valid enough intelelctual pursuit, but it seems to miss the point
of the experience.

I have no quibble with pondering the utter mystery of the ablity to
abstract. What I understand the mystics to say is that that very ability
grows at the expense of the ability to experience 'what is', here and now.
And the mystic path seems to be to leave abstraction, at least for a time,
and return to immediate experience, as a way out of the increasingly stale
life of the intellect. Aubrey Menen makes this point very clearly in his
'The New Mystics'. Hameed Ali makes it in the sections I quoted in my
earlier post. Tarthang Tulku says the same in his last book, 'Knowledge of
Freedom'. And Pirsig effectively agrees that this is where the mystic parts
company with his metaphysical pursuit. This does not mean that the mystic
returns to an infantile immersion in experience that precludes intellect.
All those I have just quoted, and many others, have written in great
intellectual detail of the mystic path. But the description is not the path.
Talking about consciousness is not consciousness. And the answer to the
staleness of an overly intellectual life is not even higher realms of

If you do not feel this staleness, then fine, my words will have no impact
with you. But to offer the masses the intellect as their redemption is to
give them, as someone else once noted, a stone instead of bread. Or a thirty
thousand page menu. I'm hungry for real food.


John B

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