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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Shock

… as long as the psychiatric approach is encased within a subject-object metaphysical understanding it will always seek a patterned solution to insanity, never a mystic one … When Socrates says in one of his dialogues, ‘Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness provided the madness is given us by divine gift’, the psychiatric profession doesn’t know what in the world he is talking about…

The Metaphysics of Quality suggests [there is another] solution to insanity … to dissolve all static patterns, both sane and insane and find the base of all reality, Dynamic Quality, that is independent of them all. The Metaphysics of Quality says that it is immoral for sane people to force cultural conformity by suppressing the Dynamic drives that produce insanity. Such oppression is a lower form of evolution trying to devour a higher one.

Once this theoretical structure is available, it offers solutions to some mysteries in the present treatment of the insane … For example … The value of shock treatment is not that it returns a lunatic to normal cultural patterns. It certainly does not do that. It’s value is that it destroys all patterns… cultural & private, and leaves the patient temporarily in a Dynamic state. All the shock does is duplicate the effects of hitting the patient over the head with a baseball bat. It simply knocks him senseless. In fact it was to imitate the effect of hitting someone over the head… without the risk of skull injury that Ugo Cerletti developed [it] …

… but what goes unrecognized .. is the fact that this senseless unpatterned state is a valuable state of existence… psychiatrists of course don’t know what to do with it, and so the patient often slips back into lunacy and has to be knocked senseless again. But sometimes the patient, in a moment of Zen wisdom, sees the superficiality of both his own contrary patterns and the cultural patterns, sees that one gets him electrically clubbed … and the other sets him free from the institution … and thereupon makes a wise mystic decision to get the hell out of there by whatever avenue is available.

“The value of shock treatment is not that it returns a lunatic to normal cultural patterns. It certainly does not do that. It’s value is that it destroys all patterns ... cultural and private, and leaves the patient temporarily in a Dynamic state ...”