RE: MD On Faith

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Mon Nov 01 2004 - 03:08:38 GMT

  • Next message: Mark Steven Heyman: "Re: MD On Faith"

    Sam Norton said to dmb:
    You can claim that William James is irrelevant for as long as you like, but
    for as long as your position remains identical in all substantive aspects
    with what he invented I will continue to consider you as walking in his
    footsteps. If you want me to stop why don't you do some reading about him
    and come back to me listing where you disagree?

    dmb says:
    There you go again. I have to read a stack of books to defend a position I
    do not hold. I have to prove the validity of YOUR assertion. On top on that,
    you failed to say anything specific about "all substanstive aspects" and so
    honestly don't even know what you're talking about.

    dmb had asked:
    Have you ever had a mystical experience, Sam? Do you know what you're
    talking about in any first-hand way?

    Sam answered:
    Either my arguments stand up in their own right or they don't. To say 'I've
    had an experience therefore I'm right' or 'I've got letters after my name
    therefore I'm right', those are both philosophically vacuous. Are you
    wishing to employ either of them yourself?

    dmb answers:
    Your arguments seems to be contrarty to the mystical experience and the
    insight it provides, that's why I asked. Its not about authority or
    credentials, its about experience, first-hand experience. I mean, if
    religion is a static portrait of DQ, it only makes sense to have some
    experience with the real thing. Wouldn't the static portrait be
    misunderstood without it?

    As I recall, you can only answer "yes" if the mystical experience is
    something other than the kind described by Pirsig. And that means the answer
    is really "no". Isn't that the truth, Sam? For God's sake, will you please
    be honest and direct for a change?

    Sam asked:
    So what meaning can be given to your claim to be a Christian mystic? You
    haven't read the Christian mystics (at least, you've never given that
    impression) and you're totally unfamiliar with modern theology, your
    language is very dismissive of Christian thinking in general... so what
    makes you a
    *Christian* mystic? That you think you've extracted the kernel of its
    teaching from it's mythology, incorporated it into your own perspective, and
    'graduated' beyond it?

    dmb replies:
    I think we've already established that your idea of a christian mystic (a
    saint) has nothing to do with what I was saying. And I think its rather
    preposterous to assume that such words convey your idea first and foremost,
    especially since mysticism is a central theme in the MOQ and Pirsig doesn't
    use the word that way at all. Again, the position is that the christian myth
    presents a picture of mysticism just as all the great religions do, but
    christianity is the religion of my culture, of the church I grew up in, and
    is the mythological material I'm most at home with. And again, this a
    position, a point of view, not a claim about my achievements or whatever.
    This view is shared by all my intellectual heros; Campbell, Jung, Wilber,
    Watts and others.
    For whatever its worth, none of them cared much for theologians and the
    feeling was mutual, I suppose. And why is it not enough to ask a priest
    about these things directly? Sorry, but everytime you advise me to take up
    theology I will remind you how much it smacks of snotty evasion.

    Sam asked:
    Do you have any clue what you're talking about? Can you point to one
    thinker (before, say, 1600, just to make sure we exclude any SOM/James
    related influence) who supports your assertion that Christianity (as one of
    the world religions) contains a non-theistic mysticism? This is your
    'perennial philosophy' point. Perhaps we could go back to that before too
    long, it underlies your point of view, and my disagreement with it (ie
    differentiation from it) underlies mine.

    dmb says:
    Huh? Now I have to find a christian thinker from the middle ages who
    supports my view. I guess you missed a flurry of posts on the topic of
    philosophical mysticism and the perennial philosophy. I can see that you're
    understanding my terms through the filter of your church, but I'm not. I'm
    just looking at Pirsig and thinkers who make the same claims, but from
    different perspectives. And I think its only fair to assume that I'm using
    them as Pirsig does, rather than the way you do. You're all indignant like
    I've stolen your vocabulary, but this is the MOQ forum and so I think you
    have to take responsibility for the confusion this might cause. Its your
    baggage, not mine, that seems to be getting in the way. I realize these
    kinds of terms originate in traditional christianity, but that is not the
    context in which we are presently discussing them. We're talking about
    faith, theism and mysticism in the context of what Pirsig says. Let's agree
    on that, at least, ok?

    Sam said:
    As I recall what I dismissed was the idea that accepting the Christian story
    'as mythology' made you a Christian. It might be the truth (ie it may be
    true that Christianity is a mythology that is past its sell-by-date), but I
    think it's a logical mistake to say 'I'm a Christian' and also say 'I don't
    believe Jesus was the Word made flesh' etc. (You can substitute various
    other standard expressions of faith there if it makes it easier to
    understand). In other words, if you're post-Christian, why worry about
    admitting it? I can't understand why you want to claim to be Christian when
    you reject all the things that make up being a Christian. But then, I often
    feel obtuse when I'm discussing things with you.

    dmb says:
    I'm not claiming to be an Anglican or a Catholic or anything else and, as
    I've already explained, only mean christian in the broadest (and
    non-theistic) sense. I read a mystical message in the christian myth despite
    your disapproval. And in fact I am offended that, in this context, you claim
    some kind of ownership over what constitutes being a christian. See, from my
    perspective, the requirement that we hold certain beliefs (jesus was the
    word made flesh) is very much part of the problem. If I read Pirsig, Jung,
    Blake, Wilber, Watts and others correctly, the churches are like demons
    standing at the threshold PREVENTING us from knowing who and what we really
    are, to keep us from finding out that each one of us is the Christ. And
    before you dismiss this as bigotry, ignorance, or peculiarly American
    craziness, I would like to point out that this is what I'm seeing in your
    position as its presented here. This is not just a sweeping indictment of
    all religion or just the fundamentalists in America either. Its about you
    and your position, Sam. You have claimed to be a mystic, but then re-cast
    the meaning of the word so that it no longer resembles anything that Pirsig
    describes, or that is described by philosophical mystics of all sorts, and
    instead construed it as a series of tangible actions throughout a life. This
    is just about behavior and personal motives, not union with the ground of
    being. And who's to say the woman wasn't in love just because she failed to
    act upon it. Maybe she just failed to act upon it. Maybe she never loved the
    man she married and only went through the motions in quiet desperation, as
    many have? I found the whole thing quite flimsy, but Wittgenstien is worth
    repeating. Maybe Mark will help. In any case, I'm post-Christian in
    rejecting the "standard expressions of the faith" so much as I am
    post-faith. (In the usual sense of the word) When we have experience, there
    is no need for faith. The christian myths take on a completely different
    meaning from this perspective and I am quite convinced that this is a better
    perspective with which to understand their wisdom. And it not just that your
    position differs entirely, but it actually seems to constitute an elaborate
    system for hiding the central point of religion, to depict DQ, to lead us
    toward an identification with the ground of being.

    Sam concluded:
    Pirsig's conception of the MoQ is incompatible with Christianity. That's why
    I think it needs to be amended ;-)

    dmb says:
    Amend a thought system to include what the author has already rejected? Wow.
    You really don't see anything wrong with that? Honestly? There is certainly
    such a thing as an intellecually creative synthesis and then there is
    smashing a square peg to fit in a round hole. This is exactly the kind of
    self-serving dishonesty that I find so offensive. I realize that I seem
    quite undiplomatic in these exchanges, but I have to tell you that if you
    know all the thoughts I am holding back, you'd realize that calling your
    position incompatible and your approach dishonest is the nicest I can be
    while still telling the truth. This is not about some abstract boogeymam,
    its a very specific response to the posts of the faithful like yourself.

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