RE: MD FW: 'unmediated experience'

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Apr 27 2003 - 02:15:27 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MD FW: 'unmediated experience'"

    Sam and all:

    Sam said:
    Let's try and keep it in MoQ terms. The question is (and it's relevant to
    one or two other debates at the moment) how to recognise Quality, whether DQ
    or SQ. I'm not sure that Pirsig gives any alternative answer, ultimately,
    than the one given in ZMM, ie 'you just see it'. It's a commonplace that
    those who have 'mystical experiences' are unable to describe what has
    happened; when they do, they inevitably use the language and images
    prevalent in the culture that they were raised in - so a Christian with a
    religious experience describes it in Christian terms, a Muslim in Islamic
    terms, and so on. In other words, the experience is incorporated within an
    ongoing tradition of interpretation. Now clearly a tradition can become
    ossified and immune to continual DQ innovation - in that situation there is
    revolution or reformation - but that seems to me to be the point which makes
    the case. Not only do SQ traditions determine the incorporation of DQ
    insights, but the openness to creative engagement with DQ is the primary
    means of assessing the quality of different SQ traditions. So when I say
    that mystical experience is 'irrelevant to theology', I am referring to the
    experience in and of itself, not the (SQ) teaching or innovative language
    which such an experiencer then provides to the tradition.

    dmb says:
    Whew! I'm tempted to break that paragraph up into more managable chunks. I
    disagree with the notion that we "just see it", but getting into that would
    take us off the topic. I'd really like us to focus on the nature and meaning
    of unmediated or mystical experiences.

    I think there are some key phrases in your paragraph that show a certain
    leap of logic. You say typically people are "unable to describe" a mystical
    experience and that in any attempt at a description one "inevitably uses the
    language and images" of one's culture. I'm with you that far. In MOQ terms,
    this is explained by the fact that none of our static forms of expression
    are built for the static world and are not adequate to capture DQ, which is
    not static. This is exactly why try to capture DQ into a metaphysical and
    intellectual description is considered degeneate in the MOQ. It is a case of
    the lower form, intellectual static patterns, trying to get a handle on a
    higher sort of Quality, Dynamic Quality.

    So I agree. The experience is really beyond myths, symbols, words, ideas and
    all that static stuff, but that's all we have, so we use them anyway. But
    you take a leap from there, saying, "the experience is incorporated within
    an ongoing tradition of interpretation" and turn up the heat with, "SQ
    traditions determine the incorporation of DQ". I think this goes too far. If
    it is degenerate to reduce this experience to intellectual forms, how much
    more degenerate is it to insist that religious tradition? Don't get me
    wrong, I certainly agree that the one who has such an experience would be
    best served by really understanding what happened, exploring its meaning and
    integrating it into one's life in a lasting way, but you almost seem to be
    insisting that its just no good unless the church approves. Here again I
    might use the word preposterous in an almost scientific way. ;-)

    In the Theology thread, Sam said: ...I would say this means that mystical
    experience has to be evaluated, and that evaluation is done by a (religious)
    tradition, ie a pattern of SQ that has proved its worth (including a
    potential to remain open to DQ insights). Practial/moral consequences are
    those things which a particular community has held to be valuable
    previously, and those are the things which allow the community to determine
    whether a particular person's experiences count as religious or as
    delusional. That doesn't mean that the community is immune to making
    mistakes (especially if there are questions of social authority involved)
    but I don't think that you can have DQ without SQ; it's a dialectic. This is
    why I think you cannot get away from a religious tradition; it's the only
    thing that prevents the mystical quest becoming a voyage up our own

    dmb says:
    I think this is a stronger version of the same mistake. Tradition determines
    which experiences are religious and which are delusional? Sounds like a job
    for a psychiatrist, not tradition. ;-) But seriously, it seems like you want
    tradition to be some kind of gatekeeper on DQ. That's backward or upside
    down or something. Imagine if Jesus had lived by that standard. Imagine the
    Christ coming back after his temptations in the desert and the religious
    authorities told him he was delusional. Imagine how sad it would be for
    Christianity if they'd convinced him it was just an hallucination. What if
    the Buddha had attributed his enlightenment experience to an undercooked

    Besides all that, why should tradtion be the only way to get at, evaluate or
    describe a mystical experience? Why not intellect? Pirsig says that when
    mysticism is associated with his DQ, it produces an avalanche of information
    as to what DQ is. I mean, mysticism is essential to the MOQ, its at the
    heart of the MOQ. Wilber does a fine job talking about mysticism in
    intellectual terms too. Lots of people do. Its not quite as ineffiable as it
    once was, you know? We have new ideas and words and conceptual categories
    that were not available.

    Long story short, DQ can't be captured by static forms, only refered to by
    description or analogy. i see the relationship between mystical experience
    and religious tradition is about the opposite of what you seem to be saying.
    Personally, I grew up in a Christian religious tradition, but it all seemed
    kind of silly and dead until I had a mystical experience. That's when I saw
    through it for the first time, and am convinced still to this day that
    religious ideas are only really understood when they become transparent,
    when you see what's behind them. It is pretty clear to me that these things
    were NOT transparent to the people who transmitted the tradition and
    therefore they badly misrepresented the true nature of that tradtion, so one
    can imagine my surprise. Which brings us to Jantzen....

    Sam asked:
    Have you read Jantzen for yourself or are you just using my extracts?

    dmb says:
    No. Never heard of her before, at least not that I recall.

    Jantzen says....
    "Instead of referring to the central, if hidden, reality of scripture or
    sacrament, the idea of "mysticism" has been subjectivised beyond
    recognition, so that it is thought of in terms of states of consciousness or

    dmb says:
    I was not clear about this before. (I should proof-read my posts. Sorry
    about that.) Fortunately, this is right on topic. You seem to be using this
    Jantzen quote to support this same contention; that mystical experiences
    need to be interpreted or officall validated by traditional religion. You
    seem to take this "subjectivization" as a loss of religious authority in
    this regard, or something like that. But what I think she's saying is simply
    that mysticism IS the central reality behind scripture and sacrament, that
    the static forms of tradition refer to mysticism. To repeat myself, this
    became apparent to me in a mystical experience and I have repeatedly tried
    to make a case that the mystical experience is what gives rise to religious
    expressions. They reflect the DQ that created them in some way and thereby
    refer back to DQ, like road signs for the soul. Sure, it would be sad if all
    that were missed and the experience were just treated like some kind of
    thrill ride at an amusement park, but I don't know of anyone who has tried
    to say otherwise. I think what Jantzen is saying is that we have a problem
    because the static forms of the tradition have lost their connection to the
    mystical experience, which is supposed to be, and ought to be its central

    Sam asked:
    I'd love to know what kooties are. I've come across several references to
    them recently, and I'm baffled...

    dmb says:
    That was just a joke, of course. Kooties are the fictional bugs or germs
    that girls have until boys hit puberty.

    dmb had said:
    > In short, I think the central importance of the mystical experience to all
    > the great religions can hardly be overstated. I think the mystical
    > experience is the goal of everyone's spiritual adventure. ...
    > And that myth and religion is supposed to support and guide us in that
    > adventure, to awaken in us the realization - Thou art that.

    Sam replied:
    If mystical experience can be induced chemically, eg through LSD or peyote
    or whatever, is there anything wrong with just hooking up to the chemical
    and 'blissing out' for the remainder of a life? If there is something wrong
    with that, then there is something in a religious tradition which cannot be
    reduced to 'mystical experience'.

    dmb says:
    If it is wrong to stay on drugs for the rest of your life, then religious
    tradition can't be reduced to mysticism? Right. And if you're running down
    the hill and your wheels fall off, then there are seven frogs in the oven.
    But seriously, nobody is trying to "reduce" religion to mysticism and nobody
    is suggesting that chronic drug abuse is the proper path to God. Pirsig is
    just talking about what the traditions look like to one who has had the
    experience. He wants to help sort of the low grade yelping and clap trap so
    as to see what its all about. And I think Pirsig example of peyote use is
    perfectly responsible. He did it once, not for the rest of his life. (Anyone
    who tried such a peyote hook-up would likely be dead within a few days.) As
    the myths have it, the hero's journey, one's mystical quest is only
    successful and complete when one returns to the world to share the gift, to
    bestow the secrets learned on those who were left behind.

    Thanks for your time,

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