RE: MD On Faith

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Oct 31 2004 - 19:10:48 GMT

  • Next message: Erin: "RE: MD On Faith"

    DMB had said:
    Ah ha! I knew I smelled a rat. You haven't studied christianity so much as
    indoctrinated yourself, hypnotized yourself.

    Scott asked:
    I am truly perplexed by this. How you got from what I said to an
    accusation of being hypnotized I just can't fathom, though I suppose you
    will take my inability to fathom it as further proof of my being hypnotized
    (like the psychiatrist interpreting the mental patient). So how about a
    clear explanation of how you came to that conclusion, so I can, just
    possibly, de-hypnotize myself? What rat did you smell?

    dmb answers:
    I was thinking of some passages from Lila. The first comes a few pages into
    chapter 29, where Pirsig is talking about sanity and truth. There he talks
    about the cultural patterns that constitute sanity and the devices employed
    to maintain such patterns.

    "The theater's a form of hypnosis. So are movies and TV. ...You know they
    are an illusion yet you enter the illusion and become part of it and while
    the illusion is taking place you are not aware that it is an illusion. This
    is hypnosis. It is trance. Its also a form of temporary insanity. But its
    also a powerful force for cultural reinforcement and for this reason the
    culture promotes movies and cnsors them for its own benefit."

    Skipping ahead to the end of chapter 30, where he cotinues this theme with
    respect to ritualistic religion he says, "we don't preform rituals because
    we believe in God. We believe in God becasue we preform rituals." And this
    is preceeded, a few pages into the same chapter, by a specific reference to
    christian ritual saying, "It is considered correct to say that until you
    undersatnd that the wafer is REALLY THE BODY OF CHRIST you will not
    understand the mass." He's saying that the ritual only works when it is NOT
    taken symbolically, but actually. Do you see where I'm going with this yet?

    Take a look at how you began this post, the one that asks what is meant by
    hypnotism, indoctrination....

    Scott said:
    'Faith', to a religous practioner, is as undefinable as 'love','reason', or
    'quality'. To some extent, one can get an idea of what faith means to
    practitioners by reading what they have to say about it. You can't
    get it from a definition. Suppose I have never been in love, and never read
    novels or watched movies or TV about people being in love. Should I call
    you "lame", "condescending", "weaselish", "indoctrinated", "hypnotized" for
    not being able to define it in such a way that I could know what being in
    love is like?

    dmb says:
    I bet you still don't see it, eh? Add these passages to the one that says
    all religions "tend to gild DQ with all sorts of static interpretations"
    that "shut out its sunlight and enentually strangle it". Add the one that
    says ritualistic religion is fine for social level people. Add the one that
    says, "enlightenment is distributed in all parts of the world" but that
    "some cultures accept it and others screen out recognition of it." Add all
    this together, plus tons more, and you start to get a very clear picture of
    the difference between social level (premodern) religion and the kind of
    philosophical mysticism presented by Pirsig. And so FINALLY getting to the
    answer, it seems pretty clear to me that your assertions about the meaning
    of faith, and whatever it was that smelled like a rat originally, reveal
    that you are talking about what is meaning to the hypnotized. You're talking
    about what faith means, NOT as a concept, but as a belief that has been
    generated by the practice of ritual. "We believe in God BECAUSE we practice
    ritual", not the other way around, see? And your assertion that the word
    "faith" can't be understood except by those "parctitioners" of the faith.
    This is a clear indication that we are NOT talking about an abstract symbol,
    not an intellectual thing, but a physical and psychological experience. This
    is what I mean when talking of hypnosis.

    From an intellectual perspective, the wafer in mass is only a symbol. At the
    same time, of course, the intellectual description of this distinction need
    not rob the magic entirely. In fact, I think it was Campbell who described
    ritual as "the enactment of a myth". He explains that there is something
    about engaging the body and the voice, the ritual gestures and ritual words,
    that has a way of circumventing the intellect and instilling belief to more
    basic parts of the mind. In other words, he backs Pirsigs assertion that
    ritual preeceeds belief and that such beliefs are of a different order than

    Or if that's all too much, let me just put it this way. Instead of direct
    answers to direct questions, you're basically telling me that I won't
    understand faith until I have faith. I have to believe it first, then I'll
    see it. For a guy asserting empiricism over faith, this seems to beg the
    quetions is a very huge way. The "advice" to approach these questions from
    the perspective of theology strikes me as the same. To the extent that
    theology is the study of God, it begins with the very premise that is in
    dispute, no?

    In case you've lost track, (I've still got dozens of posts left to read and
    may have lost track myself) I'm defending Pirsig's philosophical mysticism,
    his adherence to the perennial philosophy, against "clap-trap", "low-grade
    yelping" and "ritualistic religion". (These are all references to passages
    in Lila too.) Its not enough to distance yourself from the bible-thumping
    low-brows we all know and despise, see? The danger is NOT that you'll be
    lumped in with them. The danger is convincing yourself to believe things for
    which there is no evidence.

    Mystics sometimes report an overwhelming sense of love and there are lots of
    other aspects that could be metaphorically expressed in terms of human
    thoughts and feelings, but is there really anything like evidence for a
    personal god who helps us and judges us? Is that not what remains in the
    most "liberal" theologians? God is still other, right?

    Miles to go before I sleep...

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