Re: MD Socratic Mysticism and Pirsig

From: Phaedrus Wolff (
Date: Sun Dec 19 2004 - 04:32:04 GMT

  • Next message: Mark Steven Heyman: "MD Mysticism or Cosmic Debris?"

    Hi dmb,

    I should leave this alone, but I have one comment, that I think goes along
    with what you are saying. The difference between (most) Christianity and
    Hinduism is that Hinduism accepts, and works into their religious beliefs
    all religions.

    This might be considered an 'Intellectual' religion(?)

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "David Buchanan" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Saturday, December 18, 2004 9:51 PM
    Subject: RE: MD Socratic Mysticism and Pirsig

    > Sam, msh, Chin and all:
    > Sam said:
    > I would want to argue (along the lines of MSH's recent post) that
    > bus-driving can be a mystical experience if it is done in the right way,
    > can seeing your hand after a stroke, or seeing your beloved afresh after
    > years. These are all wonderful examples of Quality breaking through our
    > static patterns.
    > dmb says:
    > I read this sort of thing all the time around here and I wouldn't disagree
    > with it exactly, but I think the notion has to be highly qualified. As I
    > understand it, when trying to express mystical insights there is an
    > on the simplicity of it all. We often hear the idea that what we seek in
    > some far away secret but is right in front of you, right here, right now.
    > There is an emphasis on the no-big-dealness of it all, the perfect
    > ordinariness of it all. But I think this is not to be construed to mean
    > there is no such thing as enlightenment or that there are no illusions to
    > overcome. This is not to be construed to mean that we're all Buddhas
    > we can notice pretty things or otherwise reduce profound metaphysical
    > to Hallmark cards, you know? Yes, the underlying DQ breaks through and we
    > get a glimpse of something powerful and amazing. I certainly don't mean to
    > discount the worthiness of such moments, but I also think it safe to say
    > that Zen-like bus-driving is certainly something, but its not the same
    > experience as eating peyote with a bunch of Indians or learning Sanskrit
    > penetrate the mysteries of the East. And there is no contradiction at all
    > asserting that both are real, but are not to be confused one with the
    > I mean, it just matter of degree, really, but the magnitude is such that
    > can't rightly be compared to another. If those brief moments of beauty are
    > peek at what's behind the surface, then a full blown mystical experience
    > a good long look at it. I mean, people don't drive buses in order to
    > a vision from the Great Spirit. Further, it seems to me that its too easy
    > say that just about anything CAN be mystical, IF its done the right way. I
    > mean, that's a pretty big "if". And finally, because of Sam's preference
    > ONLY devotional mysticism, I think he's giving too much credit to these
    > devotional kinds of activities or zen-like practices at the expense of
    > mystical REALIZATIONS. I think the idea behind all the allusions to
    > simplicity, directness and ordinariness in the context of a larger system
    > that is very much aimed at enlightenment, is that "it" is right there, but
    > it isn't. Its right in front of you, but you can't yet see it. Its not
    > faraway paradise, but this world is transformed into heaven. As Jesus says
    > in the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, the kingdom of heaven is spread out upon
    > the face of the earth, but men do not see it. But, consistent with
    > mainstream Christianity, it seems that Sam would deny that there is even
    > such a thing as enlightenment?!?....
    > Sam continued:
    > ....................What I object to is the metaphysical baggage that gets
    > tacked on to it all, so that our lives get distorted through its
    > In other words I see the Jamesian approach as saying you've got to tune
    > yourself in to get THIS experience (as described by William James etc) and
    > if you don't have THIS experience then you're a benighted good-for-nothing
    > stuck in conventional thinking, and you'll never understand the truth
    > life - that Quality is THIS particular set of static intellectual
    > Whereas if you do tune in to THIS experience then suddenly all will be
    > clear, you'll be enlightened (aka you'll get to share those static
    > intellectual patterns) and peace and harmony will rein etc. I see this as
    > case of arrested spiritual development, or if I'm feeling rude: 'spiritual
    > masturbation', as it seems to correlate quite well to the physical sort -
    > so far as I understand either ;-)
    > dmb says:
    > I detect more than just a whiff of resentment in that, Sam. You seem to
    > it as a personal insult that there could be such a thing as a mystical
    > experience beyond the romanitc surface of things. You seem to deny the
    > existence of enlightenment as if it were a personal threat to you. And its
    > not quite as restrictive and exclusive a thing as you like to portray it.
    > And while its true that philosophical mysticism is "a particular set of
    > intellectual static patterns", as are all philosophies, the experience
    > itself is negatively defined as a vision that goes beyond all such sets. I
    > mean, sure, we could say that the Buddha was a spiritual athlete and was
    > some kind of genius for breaking new ground, but he was the oppostite of
    > elitist, if that's what you're suggesting. That doesn't mean mystical
    > visions come to everyone who drives a bus well either, however. Sometimes
    > that just makes them a good bus-driver and not a mystic, you know? In
    > these are not very realistic ideas at all and most people can't even drive
    > well, let alone make a religion out of it.
    > Sam said:
    > Mystics are those who know the tradition so well that they are free to
    > develop or change it; or, to bring out and make explicit those Qualities
    > within the tradition that had previously been hidden. It's what Pirsig
    > about when he describes the welder, or when he describes the art of
    > motorcycle maintenance - the motorcycle and the mechanic are one, and
    > is a complete fluidity, a complete absence of constraint - but it is
    > *specifically* built on all that has gone before...
    > dmb says:
    > I think we agree on the basic idea that evolutionary movement can't be
    > achieved without static patterns from which to lauch but, again, I see you
    > dismissing the non-devotional kind of mysticism as if it didn't exist. You
    > can disagree and dislike and disrespect it if you like, but denying its
    > existence is a little absurd. But I wanted to talk about the basic
    > we share with respect to INTELLECTUAL static patterns. In fact, I've used
    > the same sort of metaphor to make the same point with respect to
    > intellectual mechanics instead of the mechanics of "tradition". It seems
    > me that mastering the cultural forms well enough that we can begin to get
    > creative can be done any number of ways. You seem to be suggesting that
    > very specific cultural forms can do the trick. That it combination with
    > devotional, ritualistic bias leads me to conclude that we have very
    > different ideas about what constitutes mastery and creativity. It seems
    > in our time, as adults, we should be about mastering the intellectual
    > and pushing the envelope there. I mean, do we really need to spend a
    > lifetime in the church to get socialized, for it to preform it social
    > functions upon us and such? How long does that really take? Shouldn't we
    > have that down in early adulthood? Don't we then begin to master the forms
    > of the rational world, the arts, the get a sense of the life of our
    > and learn to play creatively in these too? Not that we leave those earlier
    > masteries behind, but we start adding to them at a certain point, no? And
    > this is where philosophical mysticism might become appealing. This is
    > the earlier, more naive, beliefs of childhood can start to take on more
    > depth in the light of other belief systems, other religions,
    > anthropological and historical ideas. If one grew up with christianity,
    > process may lead one to exclude dogma, faith and theism, but it still
    > enriches and deepens the meaning in ways that are more important that
    > things. And personally, I don't think this lessens the importance of
    > christianity at all. I think the idea that it still holds truth, a truth
    > that is expressed everywhere and is also intellectually respectable is a
    > vast, vast improvement over a strictly traditional christianity. See,
    > has taken his own advice. He's not being destructive in a degenerate way,
    > he's offer something better. He's hostile to sectarian views and theism in
    > general, but unlike most secular humanists he also knows that there was a
    > baby thrown out with the bathwater. His equation of DQ and religious
    > mysticism leaves no doubt as to how central it is to his whole view, but
    > also makes it very clear that this should be understood within an
    > intellectual framework, not a traditional one. Its just more playful, open
    > and dynamic even if its not any more true. And again, this is not to
    > third level stuff, but to work with it at a certain level. Are we not
    > philosophers?
    > Asked what kind of ritual or meditation he liked to use, Campbell answered
    > simply, "I underline passages in books."
    > Naturally, I underlined that particular passage in that particular book.
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