MD The centrality of mysticism

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Aug 02 2003 - 21:31:34 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MD Does she or not?"

    Matt and all "poor, degenerate pragmatic materialists":

    Matt said:
    I don't simply dismiss religion and mysticism out of hand. How could I,
    formally having taken Pirsig's word so seriously? ...What I'm confused about
    is the force of something like "correspondence to the cosmic order of
    things." Sure, its poetic, but...seems to be more misleading than anything
    else for us poor, degenerate pragmatic "materialists".

    dmb says:
    Yes. Its a confusing and monsterous phrase. Let's kill it. But I'd like to
    point out that those are the kind of phrases we're likely to re-encounter if
    you insist on reading "correspondence theories" into comments about
    creativity and spirituality. I mean, a large part of what I'm trying to say
    here is that such criticism don't make sense there. Correspondence theories
    and their rivals revolve around epistemological disputes. I was talking
    about art and the divine. The criticism you raised can rightly be applied to
    discussion of realism, idealism and other creatures of SOM, but it just
    doesn't make any sense in discussions of mysticism. Which brings us to your
    next point...

    Matt said:
    Oh, and, again, I know I'm misreading Pirsig. Rarely do I not note my
    disagreements with the word of Pirsig. ... I think our disagreement about
    the misreading is that you think it rips the heart out of Pirsig, whereas I
    think it renders him philosophically palitable.

    dmb replies:
    Whoops. I forgot. In your pragmatic dictionary, "misreading" is a good
    thing. I meant to say that I think you've misunderstood Pirsig.
    Disagreements and intentional misreadings are something else. Its easy to
    make a case that mysticism is very much central to the MOQ. But to be more
    specific, let me first make the case that your misreading, um, I mean
    misunderstanding, of this point leads you to dubious conclusions...

    Matt said to Jonny:
    The pragmatist sees the relation between static patterns and DQ as that
    between the dead past and the hopeful future. We hope old, crappy static
    patterns will die off and be replaced by new, better patterns. But these
    patterns are created, they do not always exist in what came before. I think
    the notion of a "perrenial philosophy" is empty.

    dmb says:
    The "perrenial philosophy" doesn't necessarily exclude evolutionary
    theories, and your reference to it in this context hardly makes sense. I
    think you've misunderstood that too. But what I want to point out here is
    what you said leading up to that. The distinction between static and Dyanmic
    Quality is flatened to the difference between stale and fresh, obsolete and
    functional. While newness and novelty are sometimes associated with DQ, the
    distinction goes way beyond that. You're really just talking about static
    quality and leaving the DQ of it. You're only talking about what's been left
    behind in the latest wake of DQ, as opposed to what was fresh in the olden
    days. Obviously, since DQ and sq are the first and most primary division in
    the MOQ, this is no small thing.

    Pirsig from the beginning of chapter 9:
    "American Indian mysticism is the same playtus in a world divided primarily
    into classic and romantic patterns as under a subject-object division When
    an American Indian goes into isolation and fasts in order to achieve a
    vision, the vision he seeks is not a romantic understanding of the surface
    beauty of the world. Neither is it a vision of the world's classic
    intellectual form. It is something else. Since this whole metaphysics had
    started with an attempt to expainn Indian mysticism Phaedrus finally
    abandoned this classica/romantic split as a choice for a primary division of
    the MOQ."

    Pirsig from the end of chapter 9:
    "With the indentification of static and DQ as the fundamental division of
    the world, Phaedrus felt that some kind of goal had been reached. This firt
    division of the MOQ now covered the spectrum of experience from primitive
    mysticism to quantum mechanics. What remained for Phaedrus to do next was
    fill in the gaps as carefully and methodically as possible."

    Then after much methodical gap filling, in chapter 30, Pirsig writes:

    "He thought some more about Lila's insanity and how it was related to
    religious mysticism and how both were integrated into reason by the MOQ. He
    thought about how once this integration occurs and DQ is identified with
    religious mysticism it produces an avalanche of information as to what DQ
    is. A lot of this religious mysticism is just low-grade yelping about God of
    course, but if you search for the sources of it and son't take the yelps too
    literally a lot of interesting things turn up."

    And as he concludes the 32nd and final chapter, Pirsig writes:

    "Maybe when Phaedrus got this metaphysics all put together people would see
    that the value-centered reality it described wasn't just a wild thesis off
    into some new direction but was a connecting link to a part of themselves
    which had always been suppressed by cultural norms and which needed opening
    up. He hoped so. ... Phaedrus hoped this Quality metaphysics was something
    that would get past the immune system and show that American Indian
    mysticism is not something alien from American culture. Its a deep submerged
    hidden root of it."

    The quotes from chapter nine basically tell us that he ejected the
    classic/romantic split and adopted the static/Dynamic split in order to
    include American Indian mysticism. (As well as other platypuses.) The quote
    from chapter 30 tells us that identifying one of those terms with religious
    mysticism produces an avalanche of understanding. And the final quote the
    author declares his hopes about what he wants the reader to see in his MOQ;
    "a connecting link to themselves" and a "hidden root" of American culture.

    It seems to me that all the pragmatist rejection of metaphysics,
    correspondence theories, foundations or seemingly any kind of truth claim
    whatsoever, are just an extension and even an exaggeration of the very thing
    Pirsig seeks to overcome. It is part of that cultural immune system that
    suppresses things like mysticism. (I think it does so without really
    understanding what they're rejecting, but that's another story.) I don't
    mean to suggest the postmodernists are out there rounding up the mystics to
    burn them alive, it just doesn't register on the radar. Presented with it,
    the cleveland harbor effect takes over and eyes start rolling - but only at
    what it SEEMS to be, not what it really is. Its just as true in the culture
    at large. Its the kind of thing that is rejected before it is ever seriously
    investigated. And so it seems with the kind of criticism you tend to present
    here, Matt. It seems that when I write about DQ and mysticism, you mistake
    it for a correspondence theory or some kind of foundationalism. These are
    the kind of criticisms one might level against epistemological claims or
    other philosophical truth claims. This strikes me as a misapplication. It
    might make a good point in a different neighborhood, but they are all but
    irrelevant to mysticism. That's what makes me think you've misunderstood
    Pirsig on that central point and, in the larger context, that's why I think
    its so ill-conceived to mix Rorty and Pirsig.

    Thanks for your time,

    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Aug 02 2003 - 21:32:17 BST