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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… sectarian religion was a static fallout from Dynamic Quality … none of them told the whole truth … There’s an adage that, ‘Nothing disturbs a bishop quite so much as the presence of a saint in the parish’ … The saint’s Dynamic understanding makes him unpredictable and uncontrollable but the bishop’s got a whole calendar of static ceremonies… In all religions bishops tend to gild Dynamic Quality … because their cultures require it … but these become like gold vines that cling to a tree, shut out its sunlight and eventually strangle it.

… once this integration occurs and Dynamic Quality is identified with religious mysticism it produces an avalanche of information … a lot of this religious mysticism is just low-grade ‘yelping about God … but if you search for the sources … interesting things turn up … The logical order of things which the philosophers study is derived from ‘mythos’. The mythos is the social culture and the rhetoric which the culture must invent before philosophy becomes possible … Most of this old religious talk is nonsense, of course, but nonsense or not, it is the parent of our modern scientific talk.

… Digging back into ancient Greek history, to the time when this mythos-to-logos transition was taking place … the ancient rhetoricians of Greece, the Sophists, had taught what they called arete, which was a synonym for Quality … It is said that by following linguistic analysis you could go even further back into the mythos …

Ancient Greek wasn’t an original language. It was descended from a much earlier one … the Proto-Indo-European language … it has left no fragments but has been derived … from similarities between such languages as Sanskrit, Greek and English which have … a common prehistoric tongue … After thousands of years of separation from Greek & English the Hindi word for ‘mother’ is still ‘ma’. Yoga both looks like and is translated as ‘yoke’ … an Indian rajah’s title sounds like regent …

The Proto-Indo-European root of arete was the morpheme rt. There besides arete, was a treasure room of other derived ‘rt’ words: aristocrat, art, rhetoric, worth, rite, ritual, wright, right (handed), and right (correct) … All of these words except arithmetic seemed to have a vague thesaurus-like similarity to Quality … in aristocrat and arithmetic Rt meant first … in art and wright it seemed to mean ‘created’ and ‘of beauty’ … ’ritual’ suggested repetitive order … the word right has two meanings: ‘right-handed’ and ‘moral and aesthetic correctness’ …

When all these meanings were strung together a fuller picture of the rt morpheme emerged. Rt referred to the ‘first, created, beautiful repetitive order of moral and aesthetic correctness.’

… condemnation of left-handedness as ’sinister’ is an almost universal anthropological characteristic … even today when legal oaths are taken … people shake hands … a president is inaugurated … it is mandatory that he raise his right hand. Prehistoric rt is still with us.

There was just one thing wrong with this … the meanings … suggested ‘importance’ … that was social and procedural and manufactured … Rt meant ‘quality’ … but … static, not Dynamic … then his mind dredged up a word he hadn’t thought … of for a long time … Rta. Rta [sanskrit] was the ‘cosmic order of things’ … the Sanskrit language was considered the most faithful to the Proto-Indo-European root …

Rta, from the oldest portion of the Rg Veda, which was the oldest known writing of the Indo-Aryan language … Varuna … was the chief support of rta … [an] omniscient god … [of] unswerving adherence to high principles … The physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe. Rta is both … It was the oldest idea known to man.

Rta also meant ritual … a decay [during the Brahmanas Hindu period] of Dynamic Quality into static quality … then came the Upanisadic period and the flowering of Indian philosophy. Dynamic quality reemerged within the static patterns of Indian thought. Rta … almost ceased to be used in Sanskrit … but under the name of dharma [it] occupies a very important place in the later Indian view of life ……

“The mythos is the social culture and the rhetoric which the culture must invent before philosophy becomes possible”
“The physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe. Rta is both ... It was the oldest idea known to man.”

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