RE: MD What is a person?

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Mon Oct 13 2003 - 02:23:01 BST

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    Sam and Paul and all MOQers,

    Sam said:
    To my mind, a person is a stable pattern of values existing at the fourth
    level, an 'autonomous
    individual' - ie one in whom there resides an independent response to
    Quality (DQ) which is not
    mediated through the previously existing static forms (the social level
    static latches). It is
    precisely the ability to respond directly to Quality, and therefore not to
    be 'controlled' - ie
    repeating the static social norms - which marks out the change in level from
    social to level 4.
    dmb says:
    As I understand it, Static patterns can't "respond directly" to DQ and it is
    not possible for there to be such a thing as intellect without the other
    three levels. As Paul pointed out, a fourth level person, by definition, is
    a forest of sq from all four levels. I think the transition from third to
    fourth level static values generally proceeds in a static fashion, when some
    kind of crisis is reached. When the problems of that level can't be solved
    at that level, when it becomes apparent that the next level is something we
    need, a little breakthrough occurs. Or something like that. In any case, the
    important point here is that intellect can't respond to DQ directly. An
    unmediated experience is a mystical experience and, as I understand it, this
    is a state where such static patterns have been put to sleep or otherwise
    clear out of the way.

    Sam said:
    In other words, our sense of self is not ultimate; it is potentially lost in
    'divine union'.
    (Although the Christian tradition would also want to claim some sort of
    ultimate reality to
    personhood; this is one of the key contrasts with Eastern religion, as I
    understand it).

    dmb says:
    Right. The mainstream Christian tradition puts a great deal of stress upon
    the individual's personal salvation and otherwise takes personhood quite
    seriously. Contrasted with the East, where there is no self, the difference
    is quite stark. But most of that is a cultural difference and the difference
    is softened by several degrees when we compare Buddhism and the more
    esoteric mystical tradition within Christianity. As I tried to point out in
    the "letter from Pirsig" thread, both the Buddha and the Christ can be seen
    as metaphors for the letting go of the self, of ego-consciousness, of
    intellect. Not to milk the joke, but I'd like to remind you that this is why
    they all die in the end.

    (Interesting note: A few months back I heard a radio interview with Richard
    Nisbett, who was talking about his book, "THE GEOGRAPHY OF THOUGHT: How
    Asians and Westerners Think Differently....and Why". The thing that has
    stuck in my mind was his observation that one of the main differences was
    the individuality of the West and that it exist on an almost perfect
    geographic continuum, so that San Fransisco and Los Angeles are at one
    extreme end and Toykyo is at the other. Funny that Zen has been so popular
    on the West Coast, huh?)

    Sam said:
        ...In other words, I think the 'dissolving' of identity, which is
    referred to in the
    great religious traditions, in various ways, is the transition between the
    fourth level pattern of
    values and DQ. Whereas I think that you (and Pirsig) see this dissolution of
    personality as being
    the transition between a level 3 stable pattern of values (the 'social
    self', or possibly the ego)
    and the realm of level 4. ...We just place that dissolution at different
    points on the scale.

    dmb says:
    Hmmm. No, I'm pretty sure Pirsig's idea of matches the great religious
    traditions and sees it as, not a transition between the 4th level and DQ,
    but a dissolution of all static patterns. You know, be a dead man and all
    that. The unmediated experience is one that lets go of whatever static
    patterns hold the self together. Its the ultimate emptying out of one's cup
    so that one is naked or transparent or something. So I think it doesn't
    matter which point of the scale, because the whole deal is supposed to go
    away for a while.

    Sam says:
    In other words, I think it is true and accurate to say that there is no
    'thing' - understood
    in SOM terms as a scientifically describable entity - which corresponds to
    the mind. However I do
    think that there is a stable pattern of values - a person in all their
    infinite variety and
    stability, of habits, language, culture and personality - which is both a
    source of independent
    judgement and open to dynamic evolution at a higher level than that of
    society, which can in fact go
    off on purposes of its own.

    dmb says:
    As a fellow Westerner I defininately know what you mean. Nothing is harder
    than giving up the sense of self. And most of the time it would be wildly
    immoral and irresponsible to do so. But, as I understand it, that sense of
    self is exactly the #1 obstacle to "enlightenment". That's why we must die,
    must be "born again" and all that. One of the reasons I liked the film LAST
    TEMPTATION OF CHRIST was that it showed the anguish involved in having to
    give up nothing more nor less than a "normal" life. The most tempting thing
    of all, the temptation that nearly compelled him off the cross was nothing
    more grandiose than a normal family life, with a house, a wife and children.
    Campbell describes this as the temptation of "the blandishments of the
    world". But if desire is the cause of all suffering and the goal is to
    extinguish desire and let go of all attachments, then surely the desire to
    have a normal life is to be extinquished too. Its radical, I know. But I
    think that's what it says.


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