RE: MD Socratic Mysticism and Pirsig:

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Mon Dec 20 2004 - 02:28:55 GMT

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    Sam and all:

    dmb had said:
    Well, yes, its pretty clear that Schleiermacher, James and Pirsig are all
    talking about the same (mystical) experience, but this is not particularly
    modern, does not begin with Schleiermacher and doesn't rest upon Kant's

    Sam replied:
    This is what you need to JUSTIFY not simply ASSERT.

    dmb says:
    I moved Sam's question from the "Kantosphere" thread because if it can be
    shown that Socrates or any other ancient figure was a mystic that would
    demonstrate that it does not depend on Modernity or any of the other Modern

    "Philosophical mysticism, the idea that truth is indefinable and can be
    apprehended only by non-rational means, has been with us since the beginning
    of history." Pirsig in ZAMM, p25

    "In the spiritual traditions of both East and West - I am thinking not about
    particular religions, but about the mystical element to be found in them all
    - we find the claim that eventually one must let go of the activites of
    thought and imagination in order to enter a region of consciousness that
    such symbolic activity cannot reach." Guidebook to ZAMM, p22

    "Then even 'he' disappears and only the dream of himself remains with
    himself in it. And the Quality, the arete he has fought so hard for, has
    sacrificed for, has NEVER betrayed, but in all that time has never once
    understood, now makes itself clear to him and his soul is at rest." Pirsig
    in ZAMM, p354

    "What Phaedrus has been talking about as Quality, Socrates appears to have
    described as the soul, self moving, the source of all things. There is no
    contradiction." ZAMM p349

    "..Phaedrus was clearly a Platonist by temperment and when the classes
    shifted to Plato he was greatly relieved. His Quality and Plato's Good were
    so similar that if it hand't been for some notes Phaedrus left I might have
    thouht they were identical." ZAMM p332

    "I want to say that the ultimat journey taken by Phaedrus and described by
    the narrator was the Mystical self,.. Mysticism is always associated with
    some sort of unitive consciousness, a consciousness experientially united
    with ultimate reality." Guidebook to ZAMM p26

    And in line with this thinking about philosophical mysticism, here is a bit
    of Plotinus, who lived from 205-270. Its from a work called THE ONE...

    "There must be something prior to all, simple, and different from the things
    which are posterior to it, self-existent, unmingled with the things which
    come from it, and yet able in another way to be present with the others,
    being really one, not something else first then secondarily one, of which it
    is false even that it is one; but of this One no descripton nor scientific
    knowledge is possible. Indeed it must be said to be beyond 'being'; for if
    it were not simple, without any composition and synthesis, and really one,
    it would not be a first principle. And it is wholly self-sufficient by
    virtue of its being simple and prior to all things. What is not simple
    demands those simple elements which are within it, that it may be composed
    of them. Such a One must be unique, for if there were another such both
    together would constitute a larger unit. For we hold that they are not two
    bodies nor is the Primary One a body. For no body is simple, and a body is
    subject to generation; it is not an ultimate principle. The ultimate
    principle is unoriginated, and being incorpreal and really one it is able to
    stand first.

    Since substances which have an origin are of some form, and since it is not
    any particular form but all, without exception, the first principle must be
    formless. And being formless is is not a substance; for substance must be
    particular; and a particualr is determinate. But this can not be regarded as
    particular, for it would not be a principle, but merely that particular
    thing which you may have called it. If then all things are included among
    what are generated, which of them will you say is the first principle? Only
    what is none of them could be said to stand above the rest. But these
    constitute existng things and Being in general. The First Principle then is
    beyond Being. To say that it is beyond Being does not assert it to be any
    definite thing. It does not define it. Nor does it give it a name. It
    applies to it only the appellaton 'not-this'. In doing so it nowhere sets
    limits to it. It would be absurd to seek to delimit such a boundless nature.
    He who wishes to do this prevents himself from getting upon its track in any
    wise, even little by little. But just as he who wishes to see the
    Intelligible must abandon all imagery of the perceptible in order to
    contemplate what is beyond the perceptible, so he who wishes to contemplate
    what is beyond the Intelligible will attain the contemplation of it by
    letting go everything intelligible, though this means learning THAT it is,
    abandoning the search for WHAT it is. To tell what it is would involve a
    reference to what it is not, for there is no quality in what has no
    particular character. But we are in painful doubt as to what we should say
    of it; so we speak of the ineffable and give it a name, meaning to endow it
    with some significance to ourselves so far as we can. Perhaps this name 'The
    One' implies merely opposition to plurality. ...But if The One were given
    positive content, a name and significantion, it would be less appropriately
    designated than when one does not give any name. It may be said that
    description of it is carried this far in order that he who seeks it
    beginning with that which indicates the simplicity of all things may end by
    negating even this, on the ground that it was taken simply as the most
    adequate and the nearest description possible for him who used it, but not
    even this is adequate to the revelation of that nature, because it is
    inaudible, not to be understood through hearing, and if by and sense at all
    by vision alone. But if the eye that sees seeks to behold a form it will not
    descry even this."

    dmb concludes:
    I know that's clumsy and long-winded, but Sam asked for ancient example of
    mystical philosophers and I thought it was important to see a substantial
    chunk from an original source, in the original Charokee language. It took
    Plotinus several hundred words to say what Pirsig squeezed into a phrase;
    "the idea that truth is indefinable and can be apprehended only through
    non-rational means". Notice also how Plotinus agrees that 'knowledge' comes
    through a "revelation" that can't be seen with the eye of forms, but only
    through contemplation. Here we see the epistemological pluralism that is
    also connected to this same kind of philosophical mysticism.

    Are we on the same page yet?

    Thanks in any case,

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