This post contains excerpts from Robert Pirsig's book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.

The words are all his, the editing choices are all mine, the consequences of reading are all yours.

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Religion

What’s wrong with insanity is that she’s outside any culture … a culture of one. That’s what had to be reconciled … At a hospital they’d just start shooting her full of drugs and tell her to adjust … they wouldn’t see … that she is adjusting …… is the adjustment … [it] isn’t necessarily a step in the wrong direction, it can be an intermediate step in the right direction … the problem of ‘curing’ an insane person is like the problem of ‘curing’ a Moslem … or ‘curing’ a communist … or ‘curing’ a republican … You’re not going to make progress by telling them how wrong they are … The important thing was to support her delusions and then slowly wean her away from them rather than fight them.

The catch here, that almost any philosopher would spot, is the word ‘delusion’. It’s always the other person who’s ‘deluded’ … Delusions can be held by whole groups … as long as we’re not a part of that group. If we’re a member … [they] become a ‘minority-opinion’ … A person isn’t considered insane if there are a number of people who believe the same way … then it’s a religion.

… It sounds quite blasphemous to put religion and insanity on an equal footing for comparison, but his point was … to illuminate insanity … The current subject-object point of view of religion, conventionally muted so as not to stir up the fanatics, is that religious mysticism and insanity are the same. Religious mysticism is one of those delusions that isn’t called insane only because there are so many people involved ……

The Metaphysics of Quality … says the subject-object people are almost right when they identify religious-mysticism with insanity … Both lunatics and mystics have freed themselves from the conventional static intellectual patterns of their culture. The only difference is that the lunatic has shifted over to a private static pattern of his own, whereas the mystic has abandoned all static patterns in favor of pure Dynamic Quality …

“Religious mysticism is one of those delusions that isn’t called insane only because there are so many people involved ...”