“I start from one point and go as far as possible. But unfortunately, I never lose my way. I say unfortunately, because what would interest me greatly is to discover paths that I'm perhaps not aware of ... The harmonies have become for me a kind of obsession, which gives me the feeling of looking at music from the wrong end of a telescope.”
John Coltrane

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

… When you’ve got a Chautauqua in your head, it’s extremely hard not to inflict in on innocent people.

Chapter 1: A Chautauqua

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completley different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.On a cycle the frame is gone … You’re in the scene … that concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing .. you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience is never removed from immediate consciousness.… Unless you’re fond of hollering you don’t make great conversations on a running cycle. Instead you spend your time being aware of things and meditating on them … What I would like to do is use the time that is coming now to talk about some things that have come to mind. We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk.What is in mind is a sort of Chauatauqua … The Chatauquas were pushed aside by faster paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated … I would like … to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question that cuts deeply rather than broadly.

Chapter 2: What Man Is, What Man Does

… On this trip I think we should notice it, explore it a little, to see if in that strange separation of what man is from what man does we may have some clues as to what the hell has gone wrong in this twentieth century. I don’t want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous twentieth century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.

Chapter 3: Ghosts

“Do you believe in ghosts?””No,” I say.”Why not?””Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic … they contain no matter … and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds.”… “Of course,” I add, “the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you’re safe. That doesn’t leave you very much to believe in, but that’s scientific too”…. “One of the kids at YMCA camp says he believes in ghosts” … “What’s his name?” … “Tom White Bear”… I laugh. “I guess I’m going to have to take that back a little,” I say. “I was thinking of European ghosts”…. “Well, Indians sometimes have a different way of looking at things, which I’m not saying is completely wrong. Science isn’t part of the Indian tradition”.
“Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention … It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost … Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past … Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.”

Chapter 4

Chapter 5: Two Realities

The world as you see it right here, right now, is reality, regardless of what scientists say it might be … But the world as revealed by its scientific discoveries is also reality, regardless of how it may appear … What you’ve got here, really, are two realities, one of immediate artistic appearance and one of underlying scientific explanation, and they don’t match and they don’t fit and they don’t really have much of anything to do with one another. That’s quite a situation….

Chapter 6: A Deadly Analytic Knife

…I want to divide human understanding into two kinds – classical understanding and romantic understanding … A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of immediate appearance. If you were to show an engine or a mechanical drawing or eletronic schematic to a romantic it is unlikely he would see much of interest in it … But if you were to show the same blue-print or schematic … to a classical person he might look at it and then become fascinated by it because he sees that within … is a tremendous richness of underlying form.
The romantic mode is primarily inspirationaly, imaginative, creative, intuitive. Feelings rather than facts predominate. In the northern European culture the romatic mode is usually assocated with femininity …The classic mode, by contrast, proceeds by reason and by laws – which are themselves underlying forms of thought and behavior. In the European cultures it is primarily a masculine mode …Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic …Although surface ugliness is often found in the classic mode of understanding it is not inherent in it. There is a classic esthetic which romantics often miss because of its subtlety. The classic style is straightforward,unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is not to inspire emotionally, but to bring order our of chaos and make the unknown known. It is esthetically restrained … Its values is measured in terms of the skills with which this control is maintained.To a romantic this classic mode often appears dull, awkward and ugly … Oppressive. Heavy. Endless grey. The death force. Within the classic mode, however, the romantic has some appearances of his own. Frivolous, irrational, erratic, untrustworthy … Shallow. Of no substance. Often a parasite …This is the source of the trouble. Persons tend to think and feel exclusively in one more or the other and in doing so tend to misunderstand and underestimate what the other mode is all about … and as far as I know … there is no point at which these visions of reality are unified. And so in recent times we have seen a huge split develope between a classic culture and a romantic counterculture – two worlds growing alienated and hateful toward each other … No one wants it really – despite what his antagonists in the other dimension might think……. rationality has been used since antiquity to remove oneself from the tedium and depression of one’s immediate surroundings. What makes it hard to see is that where once it was used to get away from it all, the escape has been so successful that now it is the “it all” that the romantics are trying to escape … Familiarity can blind you too.
… “analytic” description … is another name of the classic platform … I want now to turn [t]his analytic approach back upon itself – to analyze analysis itself …The motorcycle is a perfect subject … since the motorcycle itself was invented by classic minds …… a motorcycle may be divided for purpose of classical rational analysis by means of its component assemblies and by means of its functions … the power assembly may be divided into the engine and the power delivery system … the engine consists of a housing containing a power train, a fuel-air system, an ignition system, a feedback system and a lubrication system … The power train consists of cylinders, pistons, connecting rods, a crankshaft and a flywheel … And so on … Almost any one of the components mentioned can be expanded on indefinitely …There’s certainly nothing strange about this description at first hearing … What is unusual about it is seen when it ceases to be a mode of discourse and becomes an object of discourse. Then certain things can be pointed to.The first thing to be observed about this description is so obvious you have to hold it down or it will drown our every other observation. This is: It is just duller then ditchwater.
Yah-dah, yah-da … That is the romantic face of the classic model. Dull, awkard and ugly. Few romantics get beyond that point.
… the motorcycle, so described, is amost impossible to understand unless you already know how one works.

The immediate surface impressions that are essential for primary understanding are gone. Only the underlying form is left.… the observer is missing. The description doesn’t say that to see the piston you must remove the cylinder head. “You” aren’t anywhere in the picture. Even the “operator” is a kind of personalityless robot … There are not real subjects in this description. Only objects exist that are independent of any observer.… the words “good” and “bad” and all their synonyms are completely absent. No value judgements … only facts…. there is a knife moving here. A very deadly one; an intellectual scalpel so swift and sharp you sometimes don’t see it moving. You get the illussion that all those parts are just there and are being names as they exist. But they can be named … and organized quite differently depending on how the knife moves.

For example, the feedback mechanism … exists only because of an unusual cut of this analytic knife. If you were to go to a motorcycle-parts department and ask them for a feedback assembly they wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about. They don’t split it up that way …
It is important to see this knife for what it is and not to be fooled into thinking that motorcycles or anything else are the way they are just because the knife happened to cut it up that way. It is important to concentrate on the knife itself…. Even the special use of the terms “classic” and “romantic” are examples of … knifemanship … used .. in a bizzare and yet meaningful way.

Chapter 7: The Ghost of Rationality

The application of this knife, the division of the world into parts and the building of this structure, is something everybody does. All the time we are aware of millions of things around us … From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.Once we have the handful of sand, the world of which we are conscious, a process of discrimination goes to work on it . This is the knife….The handful of sand looks uniform at first, but the longer we look at it the more diverse we find it to be. Each grain of sand is different. No two are alike. Some are similar in one way, some are similar in another way, and we can form the sand into separate piles on the basis of this similarity and dissimilarity … You’d think the process of subdivision and classification would come to an end somewhere, but it doesn’t.Classical understanding is concerned with the piles and the basis for sorting and interrelating them. Romantic understanding is directed toward the handful of sand before the sorting begins. Both are valid ways of looking at the world although irreconcilable with each other.What has become an ugrent necessity is a way of looking at the world that does violence to neither of these two kinds of understanding and unites them into one. Such an understanding will not reject sand sorting or contemplation of unsorted sand for its own sake. Such an understading will instead seek to direct attention to the endless landscape from which the sand is taken…. it’s necessary to see that part of the landscape, inseparable from it, which must be understood, is a figure in the middle of it, sorting sand into piles. To see the landscape without seeing this figure is not to see the landscape at all.
There is a perennial classical question that asks … which grain of sand in which pile, is the Buddha. Obviously to ask that question is to look in the wrong direction, for the Buddha is everywhere. But just as obviously to ask that question is to look in the right direction, for the Buddha is everywhere. About the Buddha that exists indepedently of any analytic thought much has been said … But about the Buddha that exists within analytic thought, and gives that analytic thought its direction, virtually nothing has been said, and there are historic reasons for this.When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process … Mark Twain’s experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty … but what is less noticed … something is always created too … a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is….
the ghost of rationality … more and more people see it, or get glimpses of it … a ghost which calls itself rationality but whose appearance is that of incoherence and meaninglessness … This is the ghost of normal everyday assumptions which declares that the ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible, but that this is the ultimate purpse of life anyways, so that great minds struggle to cure diseases so that people may live longer, but only madmen ask why. One lives longer in ordet that he may live longer. There is no other purpose. That is what the ghost says.

Chapter 8: The System

A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself …We are at the classic-romantic barrier now, where on one side we see a cycle as it appears immediately … and where on the other side we can begin to see it as a mechanic does in terms of underlying form … These tools for example – this wrench – has a certain romantic beauty to it, but its purpose is always purely classical. It’s designed to change the underlying form of the machine…. the enormous forces of heat and explosive pressure inside this engine can only be controlled through the kind of precision these instruments give … if the fit of the rod to the crankshaft is precise the explosion force will be transferred smoothly and the metal will be able to stand it. But if the fit is loose by a distance of only a few thousandths of an inch the force will be delivered suddenly, like a hammer blow, and the rod, bearing and crankshaft surface will soon be pounded flat … but all this can be prevented by a few thousandths of an inch fit which precision instruments give, and this is their classical beauty – not what you see, but what they mean – what they are capable of in terms of control of underlying form.
Precision instruments are designed to achieve an idea. Dimensional precision, whose perfection is impossible. There is no perfectly shaped part of the motorcycle and never will be, but when you come as close as these instruments take you, remarkable things happen, and you go flying across the countryside under a power that would be called magic it if were not so completely rational in every way.
It’s the understanding of this rational intellectual idea that’s fundamental. [A romantic] looks at the motorcycle and he sees steel in various shapes and has negative feelings about these steel shapes and turns off the whole thing. I look at the shapes of the steel now and I see ideas. He thinks I’m working on parts. I’m working on concepts.
… I said that a motorcycle can be divided to its components and according to its functions … the components may be subdivided into a power assembly and running assembly … every time I made a further division … I was splitting the cycle up into finer and finer pieces, I was also building a structure.This structure of concepts is formally called a hierarchy and since ancient times has been a basic structure for all Western knowledge. Kingdoms, empires, churches, armies … modern businesses … tables of contents … mechanical assemblies … computer software, all scientific and technical knowledge is so structured – so much so that in some fields such as biology, the hierarchy of kindgom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species is almost an icon…. The overall name of these inter-related structures … is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system.To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as “the system” is to speak correctly … They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose.
People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five wihout question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no “mean guy” who wants to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demand it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather then causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible.
The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systemic thought itself, rationality itself
, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.
If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government.
There is so much talk about the system. And so little understanding…. A person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if your are not. Shapes … are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel … These shapes are all out of someone’s mind. That’s important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone’s mind.
There’s no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There’s nothing else there. But what’s “potential”? That’s also in someone’s mind … Ghosts…. it’s all in the mind … sounds insane when you just jump up and say it without reference to anything specific like an engine. But when you tie it down to somethign specific and concrete, the insane sound tends to disappear and you see … something of importance.

Chapter 9: Scientific Method

… Now I want to talk about methods of finding one’s way through these hierarchies – logic.Two kinds of logic are used, inductive and deductive…. Solutions of problems too complicated for common sense to solve is achieved by long strings of mixed inductive and deductive inferences that weave back and forth between the observed machine and the mental hierarchy of the machine found in the manuals. The correct program for this inter-weaving is formalized as scientific method.
Actually I’ve never seen a cycle-maintenance problem complex enough really to require full-scale formal scientific method. Repair problems are not that hard … When you’ve hit a really touch one, tried everything, racked your brain and nothing works, and you know that this time Nature has really decided to be difficult, you say, “Okay, Nature, that’s the end of of the nice guy,” and you crank up the formal scientific method….
The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you don’t actually know … If you get careless or go romanticiing scientific information, giving it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you.
… that part of formal scientific method called experimentation, is sometimes thought of by romantics as all of science itself because that’s the only part with much visual surface. They see lots of test tubes and bizarre equipment and people running around making discoveries. They do not see the experiment as part of a larger intellectual process and so they often confuse experiments with demonstration, which look the same. A man conducting a gee-whis science show with fifty thousand dollar’s worth of Frankenstein is not doing anything scientific if he knows beforehand what the results of his efforts are going to be. A motorcycle mechanic, on the other hand, who honks the horn to see if the battery works is informally conducting a true scientific experiment….An untrained observer will see only physical labor and often get the idea that physical labor is mainly what the mechanic does. Actually the physical labor is the smallest and easiest part … By far the greatest part of his work is careful observation and precise thinking … They don’t like it when you talk to them because they are concentrating on mental images, hierarchies, and not really looking at you or the physical motorcycle at all. They are using the experiment as part of a program to expand their hierarchy of knowledge of the faulty motorcycle and compare it to the correct hierarchy in their mind. They are looking at underlying form.

Chapter 10: A Genetic Defect Within the Nature of Reason

The formation of hypotheses is the most mysterious of all the categories of scientific method. Where they come from, no one knows.
A person is sitting somewhere, minding his own business, and suddenly – flash! – he understands something he didn’t understand before…. as a result of laboratory experiences, he became interested in hypotheses as entities in themselves. He had noticed again and again in his lab work that what might seem to be the hardest part of scientific work, thinking up the hypotheses, was invariably the easiest …
As he was testing hypothesis number one by experimental method a flood of other hypotheses would come to mind, and as he was testing these, some more came to mind … until it became painfully evident that as he continued testing hypotheses and eliminating them or confirming them their number did not decrease. It actually increased as he went along.If the purpose of scientific method is to select from among a multitude of hypotheses, and if the number of hypotheses grows faster than experimental method can handle, then it is clear that all hypotheses can never be tested … then the results of any experiment are inconclusive and the entire scientific method falls short of its goal of establishing proven knowledge.
About this Einstein had said, “Evolution has shown that at any given moment out of all conceivable constructions a single one has always proved itself absolutely superior to the rest” and let it go at that … “at any given moment” … Did Einstein really mean to state that truth was a function of time? To state that would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science.But there it was, the whole history of science, a clear story of continuously new and changing explanations of old facts … Scientific truth was not dogma, good for eternity, but a temporal quantitative entity that could be studied like anything else…. the scientific truths of the twentieth century seem to have a much shorter life-span than those of the last century because scientific activity is now much greater … What shortens the life-span of the existing truth is the volume of hypotheses offered to replace it … And what seems to be causing the number of hypotheses to grow … seems to be nothing other than scientific method itself. The more you look, the more you see. Instead of selecting one truth from a multitude you are increasing the multitude. What this means logically is that as you try to move toward unchanging truth through the application of scientific method, you actually … move away from it.
.. Through multiplication upon multiplication of facts, information, theories and hypotheses, it is science itself that is leading mankind from single absolute truths to multiple, indeterminate, relative ones. The major producer of the social chaos, the indeterminacy of thought and values that rational knowledge is supposed to eliminate, is none other than science itself….The cause of our social crises … is a genetic defect within the nature of reason itself. And until this genetic defect is cleared, the crises will continue. Our current modes of rationality are not moving society forward into a better world. They are taking it further and further from that better world.
Since the Renaissance these modes have worked. As long as the need for food, clothing and shelter is dominant they will continue to work. But now that for huge masses of people these needs no longer overwhelm everything else, the whole structure of reason, handed down to us from ancient times, is no longer adequate. It begins to be seen for what it really is – emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty. That today is where it is at, and will continue to be at for a long time to come.

Chapter 11: Intuition – A Priori Knowledge

… In a laboratory situation, when your whole procedure goes haywire, when everything goes wrong or is indeterminate or is so screwed up by unexpected results you can’t make head or tail out of anything, you start looking laterally … Lateral knowledge is knowledge that’s from a wholly unexpected direction, from direction that’s not even understood as a direction until the knowledge forcces itself upone one. Lateral truths point to the falseness of aximss and postulates underlying one’s existing system of getting at truth … Drifting is what one does when looking at lateral truth.
… The questions he had asked about infinite hypotheses hadn’t been of interest to science because they weren’t scientific questions. Science cannot study scientific method without getting into a bootstrap problem that destroys the validity of its answers … And so
[he] found in philosophy a natural continuation of the question that brought him to science in the first place, What does it all mean? What’s the purpose of all this?
… If all of human knowledge … is believed to be an enormous hierarchic structure, then the high country of the mind is found at the uppermost reaches of this structure in the most general, the most abstract considerations of all.
Few people travel here. There’s no real profit to be made from wandering through it, yet … it has its own austere beauty that to some people make the hardships of traveling through it seem orthwhile.
In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions … one hesitates even to go near for fear of getting lost in them and never finding one’s way out.
What is the truth and how do you know it when you have it? … How do we really know anything? Is there an “I,” a “soul,” which knows, or is this soul merely cells coordinating senses? … When it is said that something means something, what’s meant by that?
Many trails through these high ranges have been made and forgotten since the beginning of time … Even within a single civilization old trails are constantly closed and new ones opened up … One can see how both the information and formal processes of hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, century after century, repeated with new material, have built up the hierarchies of thought which have eliminated most of the enemies of primitive man … It’s such a powerful, all-dominating agent of civilized man it’s all but shut out everything else and now dominates man himself…. Kant is always superbly methodical, persistent, regular, and meticulous … concerning what is in the mind and what is outside the mind … To follow Kant one must also understand something about
the Scottish philosopher David Hume.. [who] previously submitted that if one follows the strictest rules of logical induction and deduction from experience to determine the true nature of the world, one must arrive at certain conclusions … an empiricist, one who believes all knowledge is derived exclusively from the senses. The scientific method of experimentation is carefully controlled empiricism …The first problem of empiricism … concerns the nature of “substance”. If all of our knowledge comes from sensory data, what exactly is this substance which is supposed to give off the sensory data itself? If you try to imagine what this substance is, apart from what it sensed, you’ll find yourself thinking about nothing whatsoever. Since all knowledge comes from sensory impressions and since there’s no sensory impression of substance itself, it follows logically that there is no knowledge of substance. It’s just something we imagine…. Secondly … one must ask, From what sense data is our knowledge of causation received? … Hume’s answer is “None” … Like substance, it’s just something we imagine when one thing repeatedly follows another.To throw out Hume’s conclusions was necessary, but unfortunately he had arrived at them in such a way that it was seemingly impossible to throw them out without abandoning empirical reasoning itself … This Kant would not do … [and wrote] what is now one of the greatest philosophical treatises ever written, the Critique of Pure Reason… Kant is trying to save scientific empiricism from the consequences of its own self-devouring logic .. “That all of our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt … But though all knowledge begins with experience it doesn’t follow that it arises out of experience” …Kant says there are aspects of reality which are not supplied immediately by the senses. These he calls a priori. An example of a priori knowledge is “time”. You don’t see time. Neither do you hear it, smell it, taste it or touch it … Time is what Kant calls an “intuition,” which the mind must supply as it receives the sense data.
The same is true of space. Unless we apply the concepts of space and time to the impressions we receive, the world is unintelligible … We sense objects in a certain way because of our application of a priori intuitions … but we do not create these objects out of our imaginations … The a priori concepts … provide a kind of screening function for what sense data we will accept …
When our eyes blink, for example, our sense data tell us that the world has disappeared. But this is screened out … because we have in our minds an a priori concept that the world has continuity…. Hume has been saying, in effect, that everything I know about this motorcycle comes to me through my senses … If I say its made of metal … he asks, What’s metal? If I answer … hard and shiny and cold to the touch … Hume says those are all sights and sounds and touch. There’s no substance. Tell me what metal is apart from these sensations. Then, of course, I’m stuck…. Now we’ve a real intellectual impasse. Our reason, which is supposed to make things more intelligible, seems to be making them less intelligible, and when reason this defeats its own purpose something has to be changed in the structure of reason itself.Kant comes to our rescue. He says that the fact that there’s no way of immediately sensing a “motorcycle”, as distinguished from the colors and shapes a motorcycle produces, is no proof at all that there’s no motorcycle there. We have in our minds an a priori motorcycle which has continuity in time and space …
This a priori motorcycle has been built up in our minds over many years from enormous amounts of sense data and it is constantly changing as new sense data come in. Some of the changes … are very quick and transitory, such as its relationship to the road … other changes … are slower: Disappearace of gasoline from the tank … of rubber from the tires … other aspects … change so slowly the seem permanent – the paint job, the wheel bearings – yet these are constantly changing too …
It’s quite a machine, this a priori motorcycle. If you stop to think about it long enough you’ll see that it’s the main thing. The sense data confirm it but the sense data aren’t it. The motorcycle that I believe in an a priori way to be outside of myself is like the money I believe I have in the bank. If I were to go down to the bank and ask to see my money they would look at me a little peculiarly … “My money” is nothing but some east-west and north-south magnetic domains in some iron oxide resting on a roll of tape in a computer storage bin … I say for the sake of convenience that I’ve money in the bank and … that substances compose the cycle I’m riding on … Kant … is concerned with how this a priori knowledge is acquired and how it is employed…. What Copernicus did was take the existing a priori concept of the world, the notion that it was flat and fixed in space, and pose an alternative a priori concept of the world that it’s spherical and moves around the sun; and showed that both of the a priori concepts fitted the existing sensory data. Kant felt he had done the same thing in metaphysics … [and] that as a result of this inversion you get a much more satisfying understanding of how we know things.

Chapter 12: Tat tvam asi

… In all of the Oriental religions great value is placed on the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat tvam asi, “Though art that,” which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened.Logic presumes a separation of subject and object; therefore logic is not final wisdom. The illusion of separation of subject from object is best removed by elimination of physical activity, mental activity and emotional activity. There are many disciplines for this. One of the most important is the Sanskrit dhyana, mispronounced in Chinese as “Chan” and again mispronounced in Japanese as “Zen.” … meditation …

Chapter 13: Church of Reason

… “Church of Reason” …
… The real University … has no specific location. It owns no property, pays no salaries and receives no material dues. The real University is a state of mind. It is that great heritage of rational thought that has been brought down to us through the centuries and which does not exist at any specific location …
The real University is nothing less than the continuing body of reason itself.
In addition to this state of mind, “reason,” there’s a legal entity which is unfortunately called by the same name but which is quite another thing … [it] does not teach, does not generate new knowledge or evaluate ideas … It is just a church building … Confusion continually occurs in people who fail to see this difference … and think that control of the church buildings implies control of the church … They see the second university, but fail to see the first.
… The minister who delivers the sermon and directs the Sunday school … knows that his primary goals are not to serve the community. His primary goal is always to serve God. Normally there’s no conflict but occasionally one creeps in when trustees oppose the minister’s sermons and threaten reduction of funds. That happens. A true minister, in such situations, must act as though he’d never heard the threats …
The primary goal of the Church of Reason … is always Socrates’ old goal of truth, in its ever-changing forms, as it’s revealed by the process of rationality. Everything else is subordinate to that.
Normally this goal is in no conflict with the location goal of improving the citizens, but on occasion some conflict arises … It arises when trustees and legislators who’ve contributed large aounts of time and money to the location take points of view in opposition to the professors’ lectures or public statements.

Chapter 14: A New Expansion of Reason

“Peace of mind isn’t at all superficial .. It’s the whole thing. That which produces it is good maintenance, that which disturbs it is poor maintenance. What we call workability of the machine is just an objectification of this peace of mind … The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you … If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
… “What if the machine is wrong and I feel peaceful about it?”… “That’s self-contradictory. If you really don’t care you aren’t going to know its wrong. The thought’ll never occur to you. The act of pronouncing it wrong’s a form of caring.”… “What’s more common is that you feel unpeaceful even if it’s right…”
… “Technoloogy presumes there’s just one right way to do thing … but if you have to choose among an infinite number of ways to put it together then the relation of the machine to you, and the relation of the machine and you to the rest of the world, has to be considered, because the selection from among many choices, the art of the work is just as dependent upon your own mind and spirit as it is upon the material of the machine. That’s why you need the peace of mind …
… look at a novice workman … and … a craftsman … The craftsman isn’t ever following a single line of instruction. He’s making decisions as he goes along … he’ll be absorbed and attentive … His motions and the machine are in a kind of harmony … the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind’s at rest at the same time the material’s right …
… This divorce of art from technology is completely unnatural. It’s just that it’s gone on so long you have to be an archeologist to find out where the two separated.”… it isn’t just art and tehnology. It’s a kind of a noncoalescence between reason and feeling … the only ones who’re solving it are solving at a personal level by abandoning ‘square’ rationality alotgether and going by feelings alone … And that seems like a wrong direction too … the solution … you expand the nature of rationality so that it’s capable of coming up with a solution…. Sir Isaac Newton … when he wanted to solve the problems of instantaneous rates of change. It was unreasonable in his time to think of anything changing within a zero amount of time.
Yet it’s almost necessary mathematically to work with other zero quantities, such as points in space and time …
So what Newton did was say, in effect, ‘We’re going to presume there’s such a thing as instantenous change, and see if we can find ways of determining what it is in various applications.’ The result of this presumption is the branch of mathematics knows as the calculus, which every engineer uses today.
Newton invented a new form of reason. He expanded reason to handle infinitesimal changes and I think what is needed now is a similar expansion of reason to handle technological ugliness. The trouble is that the expansion has to be made at the roots, not at the branches, and that’s what makes it hard to see.
… The whole Renaissance is supposed to have resulted from the topsy-turvy feeling caused by Columbus’s discovery of a new world. It just shook people up … There was nothing in the flat-earth views of the Old and New Testaments that predicted it. Yet people couldn’t deny it. The only way they could assimilate it was to abandon the entire medieval outlook and enter into a new expansion of reason …
if you really try to … project yourself into his situation, then sometimes you can begin to see that our present moon exploration must be like a tea-party compared to what he went through. Moon exploration doesn’t involve real root expansions of thought .. It’s really just a branch extension of what Columbus did.
… I think present-day reason is an analogue of the flat earth of the medieval period. If you too far beyond it you’re presumed to fall off into insanity … But … each year our old flat earth of conventional reason becomes less and less adequate to handle the experiences we have and this is creating wide-spread feelings of topsy-turviness. As a result we’re getting more and more people in irrational areas of thought – occultism, mysticism, drug changes and the lke – because they feel the inadequacy of classical reason to handle what they know are real experiences.

Chapter 15: What the Hell is Quality?

…Quality … you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But that’s self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about … What the hell is Quality? What is it?

Chapter 16: Teaching Rhetoric

He’d been having trouble with students who had nothing to say … One of them … wanted to write a five-hundred-word essay about the United States. He … suggested that she narrow it down to just Bozeman … She had tried … but couldn’t think of anything to say … “Narrow it down to the main street of Bozeman” … she still couldn’t think of anything to say … “Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman. The Opera House. Start with the upper left-hand brick.” … She came in the next class with a puzzled look and handed him a five-thousand word essay … “I … started writing about the first brick, and the second brick, and then by the third brick it all started to come and I couldn’t stop … I don’t unserstand it” …… She couldn’t think of anything to write about Bozeman because she couldn’t recall anything she had heard worth repeating. She was strangely unaware that she could look and see freshly for herself … The narrowing down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do soe original and direct seeing … he concluded that imitation was a real evil that had to be broken before real rhetoric teaching could begin …
… Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with in on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.”Eliminate the whole degree-and-grading system and then you’ll get real education”.
Grades really cover up failure to teach. A bad instructor can go through an entire quarter leaving absolutely nothing memorable in the minds of his class, curve-out the scores on an irrelevant test, and leave the impression that some have learned and some have not. But if the grades are removed the class if forced to wonder each day what it’s really learning … The removal of grades exposes a huge and frightening vacuum.
What was [he] trying to do, anyway? … He had wanted his students to become creative by deciding for themselves what was good writing instead of asking him all the time … But now this made no sense. If they already knew what was good and bad, there was no reason for them to take the course in the first place.
… You cannot withhold grades and sit there and create a goal-less vacuum. You have to provide some goal for a class to work toward that will fill that vacuum. This he wasn’t doing.He couldn’t.
He could think of no possible way he could tell them what they should work toward without falling back into the trap of authoritarian, didactic teaching. But how can you put on the blackboard the mysterious internal goal of each creative person?

Chapter 17: A Refusal to Define

“How are we supposed to know what quality is” thay said. “You’re supposed to tell us!”… “I don’t know,” he answered…. A few days later he worked up a definition of his own and put it on the blackboard to be copied for posterity. The definition was “Quality is a characteristic of thought and statement that is recognized by a nonthinking process. Because definitions are a product of rigid, formal thinking, quality cannot be defined”The fact that this “definition” was actually a refusal to define did not draw comment. The students had no formal training that would have told them his statement was, in a formal sense, completely irrational…. But then, below the definition on the blackboard, he wrote, “But even though quality cannot be defined, you know what quality is!” and the storm started all over again…. He had two examples of student composition. The first was a rambling, disconnected thing with interesting ideas that never built into anything. The second was a magnificent piece by a student who was mystified himself about why it had come out so well. [he] read both, then asked for a show of hands on who thought the first was best. Two hands went up. He asked how many liked the second better. Twenty-eight hands went up.”Whatever it is,” he said, “that caused the overwhelming majority to raise their hands for the second one is what I mean by Quality. So you know what it is”.There was a long reflective silence after this …… This was just intellectually outrageous, and he knew it. He wasn’t teaching anymore, he was indoctrinating. He had erected an imaginary entity, defined it as incapable of definition, told the students over their own protests that they knew what it was, and demonstrated this by a technique that was as confusing logically as the term itself. He was able to get away with this because logical refutation required more talent than any of the students had…. He singled out aspects of Quality such as unity, vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth and so on; kept each of these as poorly defined as Quality itself, but demonstrated them by the same class reading techniques. He showed how .. unity … could be improved with a technique called an outline … authority could be jacked up with … footnotes … standard things taught in all freshmen composition classes, but now as devices for improving Quality they had a purpose. And if a student turned in a bunch of dumb references or a sloppy outline that showed he was just fulfilling as assigning by rote, he coul be told that while his paper may have fulfilled the etter of the assignment it obviously didn’t fulfill the goal of Quality, and was therefore worthless.

… The student was finally and completely trapped into making quality judgements for himself. And it was just exactly this and nothing else that taught him to write.

… By reversing a basic rule that all things which are to be taught must first be defined, he had found a way out of all of this … The vacuum that had been created by the withholding of grades was suddenly filled with the positive goal of Quality … It was that mysterious, individual, internal goal of each creative person, on the blackboard at last.

In time, however, he wondered why it worked, especially when he already knew it was irrational. Why should an irrational method work when rational methods were all so rotten? He had an intuitive feeling, growing rapidly, that what he had stumbled on was no small gimmick. It went far beyond. How far, he didn’t know.

Chapter 18: Analyzing Analysis Itself

There’s an entire branch of philosophy concerned with the definition of Quality, known as esthetics. Its question, What is meant by beautiful?, goes back to antiquity … The intellectual process was forcing Quality into its servitude, prostituting it…. when Quality is kept undefined by definition, the entire field called esthetics is wiped out … If you can’t define Quality, there’s no way you can subordinate it to any intellectual rule … No more explanations of what art is. No more wonderful critical schools of experts to determine rationally where each composer had succeeded or failed. All of them, every last one of those know-it-alls, would finally have to shut up.
… He had to answer the question, If you can’t define it, what makes you think it exists? His answer was an old one belonging to a philosophic school that called itself realism. “A thing exists,” he said, “if a world without it can’t function normally.The first casualty from such a subtraction … would be the fine arts. There’s no point in hanging a painting on a wall when the bare wall looks just as good … sports … the scores would no longer be a measurement of anything meaningful, but simply empty statistics, like the number of stones in a pile of gravel … Alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee and tobaco would vanish. So would movies, dances, plays and parties … Applied science and technology would be drastically changed, but pure science, mathematics, philosophy and particularly logic would be unchanged.[He] found this last to be extremely interesting. The purely intellectual pursuits were the least affected by the subtraction of Quality. It Quality were dropped, only rationality would remain unchanged. That was odd.Squareness … Absence of Quality is the essence of squareness … he saw now that Quality was a cleavage term … You take your analytic knife, put the point directly on the term Quality and just tap, not hard, gently, and the whole world splits … right in two – hip and square, classic and romantic, technological and humanistic – and the split is clean.
There’s no mess. No slop. No little items that could be one way or the other … here was Quality; a tiny, almost unnoticeable fault line, a line of illogic in our concept of the universe … Hold Quality undefined. That was the secret.”Squareness may be succintly and yet thoroughy defined as an inabiliy to see quality before it’s been intellectually defined, that is, before it gets all chopped up into words … We have proved that quality, though undefined, exists …
… the patient on the table was no longer Quality, but analysis itself. Quality was healthy and in good shape. Analysis, however, seemed to have something wrong with it that prevented it from seeing the obvious…. refusal to define Quality … as an attempt to break the grip of the classical sand-sifting mode of understanding and find a point of common understanding between the class and romantic worlds. Quality, the cleavage term between hip and square, seemed to be it. Both worlds used the term. Both knew what it was. It was just that the romantic left it alone and appreciated it for what it was and the classic tried to turn into a set of intellectual building blocks for other purposes. Now, ith the definition blocked, the classic mind was forced to view Quality as the romantic did, undistorted by thought structures.

Chapter 19: The Quality Event

… “Does this undefined ‘quality’ of yours exist in the things we observe?” they asked. “or is it subjective, existing only in the observer?” … It was a finisher-offer, a knockdown question … the kind you don’t recover from.Because if Quality exists in the object, then you must explain just why scientific instruments are unable to detect it … On the other hand, if Quality is subjective, existing only in the observer, then this Quality … is just a fancy name for whatever you like …… [this] was an ancient logical construct known as a dilemma … which is Greek for “two premises,” has been likened to the front end of an angry and charging bull. If he accepted the premise that Quality was objective, he was impaled on one horn … If he accepted … that Quality was subjective, he was impaled on the other horn … he was impaled no matter how he answered…. [he] went straight between the horns of the subjectivity-objectivity dilemma and said Quality is neither a part of mind, nor it is a part of matter. It is a third entity which is independent of the two.
The world now … was composed of three things: mind, matter and Quality … such trinities are not common or popular. The metaphysician normally seeks either a monism, such as God … or he seeks a dualism, such as mind-matter … or he leaves it as a pluralism … But three is an awkward number. Right away you want to know, Why three? What’s the relationship among them?… eventually he saw that Quality could’t be independently related with either the subject or the object but could be found only in the relationship of the two with each other. It is the point at which subject and object meet.
Quality is not a thing. It is an event.It is the event at which the subject becomes aware of the object … Quality is the event at which awareness of both subjects and objects is made possible.The Quality event is the cause of subjects and objects, which, are then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!The dilemma all the time has this unseen vile presumption in it, for which there was no logical justification, that Quality was the effect of subjects and objects. It was not! He brought our his knife.”The sun of quality,” he wrote, “does not revolve around the subjects and objects of our existence. It does not just passively illuminate them. It is not subordinate to them in any way. It has created them. They are subordinate to it!”

Chapter 20: Mind the Gap

… This Copernican inversion of the relationship of Quality to the objective world could sound mysterious if not carefully explained … at the cutting edge of time, before an object can be distinguished, there must be a kind of nonintellectual awareness, which he called awareness of Quality. You can’t be aware that you’ve seen a tree until after you’ve seen the tree, and between the instant of vision and instant of awareness there must be a time lag. We sometimes think of that time lag as unimportant, but there’s no justification for [it] whatsoever.The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans, The present is your only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality. This …[is] Quality.
… intellectuals usually have the greatest trouble seeing this Quality, precisely because they are so swift and absolute about snapping everything into intellectual form. The ones who have the easiest time seeing this Quality are small children, uneducated people and culturally “deprived” people. These have the least predisposition toward intellectuality from cultural sources and have the least formal training to instill it further into them. That, he felt, is why squareness is such a uniquely intellectual disease.Squares … usually regard Quality, the preintellectual reality, as unimportant, a mere uneventful transition period between objective reality and subjective perception of it … they don’t seek to find out if it’s in any way different from their intellectual conception of it. It is different … Once you begin to hear the sound of that Quality … that nonintellectual reality in its pure form, you want to forget all that word stuff, which you finally begin to see is always somewhere else.
… Romantic Quality always correlated with instantaneous impressions. Square Quality always involved multiple considerations that extended over a period of time … Now we had two different kinds of Quality but they no longer split Quality itself. They were just two different time aspects of Quality, short and long.
… Why does everybody see Quality differently? … “Quality is shapeless, formless, indescribable. To see shapes and forms is to intellectualize. Quality is independent of any such shapes and forms. The names, the shapes and forms we ive Quality depend only partly on the Quality. They also depend partly on the a priori images we have accumulated in our memory. We constantly seek to find, in the Quality event, analogues to our previous experiences. If we didn’t we’d be unable to act. We build up our language in terms of these analogues. We build up our whole culture in terms of these analogues…. It is not uncommon .. for Indian villagers to see ghosts. But they have a terrible time seeing the law of gravity.”Any philosophic explanation of Quality is going to be both false and true precisely because it is a philosophic explanation. The process of philosophic explanation is an analytic process, a process of breaking something down into subjects and predicates. What I mean (and everybody else means) by the word Quality cannot be broken down into subjects and predicates. This is not because Quality is so mysterious but because Quality is simple, immediate and direct.”… “In our highly complex organic state we advanced organisms respond to our environment with an invention of many marvelous analogues. We invent earth and heavens, trees, stones and oceans, gods, music, arts, language, philosophy, engineering, civilization and science. We call these analogues reality. And they are reality. We mesmerize our children in the name of truth into knowing that they are reality. We throw anyone who does not accept these analogues into an insane asylum. But that which causes us to invent the analogues is Quality. Quality is the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon to create the world in which we live. All of it. Every last bit of it.”
“Now, to take that which has caused us to create the world, and include it within the world we have created, is clearly impossible. That is why Quality cannot be defined. If we do define it we are defining something less than Quality itself.”… He was no longer talking about a metaphysical trinity but an absolute monism. Quality was the source and substance of everything.

Chapter 21: Expading Reason

… One thing about pioneers that you don’t hear mentioned is that they are invariably, by their nature, mess-makers. They go forging ahead, seeing only their noble, distant goal, and never notice any of the crud and debris they leave behind them. Someone else gets to clean that up and it’s not a very glamorous or interesting job.
… To discover a metaphysical relationship of Quality and the Buddha at some mountaintop of personal experience is very spectacular. And very unimportant … What’s important is the relevance of such a discovery to all the valleys of this world …… What benefited was reason. He showed a way by which reason may be expanded to include elements that have previously been unassimilable and thus have been considered irrational. I think it’s the overwhelming presence of these irrational elements crying for assimilation that creates the present bad quality, the chaotic, disconnected spirit of the twentieth century…. Religion, Art and Science. If it can be shown that Quality is the central term of all three, and that this Quality is not of many kinds but of one kind only, then it follows that the three disunified areas have a basic for introconversion.
The relationship of Quality to the area of Art has been shows rather exhaustively … Art is a high-quality endeavor. That is all that really needs to b said.In the area of Religion, the rational relationship of Quality to the Godhead needs to be more thoroughly etablished … For the time being one can meditate on the fact that the old English roots for the Buddha and Quality, God and Good, appear to be indentical.
It’s in the area of Science that I want to focus attention [on] … for this is the area that most badly needs the relationship established. The dictum that Science and its offspring, technology, are “value free,” that is, “quality free,” has got to go.

Chapter 22: Truth

… an astronomer, a physicist, a mathematician and philosopher all in one. His name was Jules Henri Poincare … during Poincare’s lifetime, an alarmingly deep crisis in the foundations of exact sciences had begun. For years scientific truth had been beyond the possibility of doubt … The great questions has all been answered. The mission of science was now simply to refine these answers to greater and greater accuracy … It was hardly guessed by anyone that within a few decades there would be no more absolute space, absolute time, absolute substance or even absolute magnitude … The basis of the foundation-shattering Theory of Relativitywas as yet understood only by a very few, of whom Poincare … was one.In his Foundations of Science Poincare explained … It had long been sought in vain … to demonstrate the axiom known as Euclid’s fifth postulateand this search was the start of the crisis… [it] states that through a given point there’s not more than one parallel line to a given straight line, we usually learn in tenth-grade geometry. It is one of the basic building blocks out of which the entire mathematics of geometry is constructed…. Finally, in the first qurter of the nineteenth century, and almost at the same time, a Hungarian and a Russian – Bolyai and Lobachevski – established irrefutably that a proof of Euclid’s fifth postulate is impossible … Lobachevski assumes at the start that through a given point can be drawn two parallels to a given straight. And he retains besides all Euclid’s other axioms. From these hypotheses he deduces a series of theorems among which it’s impossible to find any contradiction, and he constructs a geometry whose faultless logic is inferior in nothing to that of the Euclidean geometry…. Mathematics, the cornerstone of scientific certainty, was suddenly uncertain.
We now had two contradictory visions of unshakable scientific truth, true for all men of all ages, regardless of their individual preferences.This was the basis of the profound crisis that shattered the scientific complacency of the Gilded Age. How do we know which of these geomtries is right?
… And of course, once that door was opened one could hardly expect the number of contradictory systems of unshakable scientific truth to be limited to two. A German named Riemann appeared with another unshakable system of geometry
which throws overboard not only Euclid’s postulate, but also the first axiom, which states that only one straight line can pass through two points .. According to the Theory of Relativity, Riemann geometry best describes the world we live in.
… To solve the problem of what is mathematical truth, Poincare said, we should first ask ourselves what is the nature of geometric axioms.
Are they synthetic a-priori judgements … That is exist as a fixed part of man’s consciousness, independent of experience and uncreated by experience. Poincare thought not … or are [they] experimental verities? Poincare didn’t think that was so either.
… Poincare concluded that the axioms of geometry are conventions, our choice among all possible conventions is guided by experimental facts, but it remains free and is limited only by the necessity of avoiding all contradiction … The axioms of geometry, in other words, are merely disguised definitions.
Then … he turned to the question, Is Euclidian geometry true or is Riemann geometry true? He answered, The question has no meaning.As well ask whether the metric system is true and the avoirdupoise system is false; whether Cartesian coordinates are true and polar coordinates are false. One geometry can not be more true than another; it can only be more convenient.
Geometry is not true; it is advantageous…. This radical understanding of our most basic scientific concepts is not yet complete … now the burden of sustaining the order of the universe rests on “facts”. What are facts?Poincare proceeded to examine these critically. Which facts are you going to observe? he asked. There is an infinity of them.
There is no more chance that an unselective observation of facts will produce science than there is that a monkey at a typewriter will produce the Lord’s Prayer.
The same is true of hypotheses. Which hypotheses?
Poincare laid down some rules: There is a hierarchy of facts. The more general a fact, the more precious it is … Which facts are likely to reappear? The simple facts. How to recognize them? Choose those that seem simple. Either the simplicity is real or the complex elements are indistinguishable … Where is the simple fact? Scientists have been seeking it in the two extremes, in the infinitely great and in the infinitely small. Biologists, for example, have been instinctively led to regard the cell as more interesting than the whole animal; and … the protein molecule as more interesting than the cell … cells and molecules belonging to different organisms have been found to be more alike than the organisms themselves.How then choose the interesting fact; the one that begins again and again? Method is precisely this choice of facts [:] … It’s proper to begin with regular facts, but after a rule is established beyond all doubt, the facts in conformity with it become dull because they no longer teach us anything new. Then it’s the exception that becomes important. We seek not resemblances but differences … But what we ought to aim at is is … the recognition of likenesses hidden under apparent divergences.No, Poincare concluded, a scientist does not choose at random the facts he observes. He seeks to condense much experience and much thoughts into a slender volume …
Then Poincare illustrated how a fact is discovered … now he penetrated narrowly into his own personal experience with the mathematical functions that established his early fame.For fifteen days, he said, he strove to prove that there couldn’t be any such functions. … Then one evening, contrary to his custom, he drank black coffee and couldn’t sleep. Ideas arose in crowds. He felt them collide until pairs interlocked … The next morning he had only to write out the results. A wave of crystallization had taken place … a second wave … produced what he later named the “Theta-Fuschsian Series” … He was about to enter a bus, and at the moment when he put his foot on the step, the idea came to him, without anything in his former thoughts having paved the way for it … he didn’t verify the idea, he said, he just went on with a conversation on the bus; but he felt a perfect certainty. Later he verified the result at his leisure.A later discovery occured while he was walking by a seaside bluff. It came to him with just the same characteristics of brevity, suddenness and immediate certainty … another … while he was walking down the street. Others eulogize this process as the mysterious workins of genius, but Poincare was not content with such a shallow explanation …
Mathematics, he said … doesn’t merely make the most combinations possible according to certain fixed laws. The true work of the inventor consists in choosing among these combinations … and the rules that must guide the choice are extremely fine and delicate. It’s almost impossible to state them; they must be felt rather then formulated.
Poincare then hypothesized that this selection is made by what he called the “subliminal self” … an entity that corresponds exactly with preintellectual awareness. The subliminal self, Poincare said, looks at a large number of solutions to a problem, but only the interesting ones break into the domain of consciousness … on the basis of “mathematical beauty” … “This is a true esthetic feeling which all mathematicians know,” Poincare said, “but of which the profane are so ignorant as often to be tempted to smile.”
… he was not speaking of romantic beauty … He meant classic beauty, which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp … It is the quest of this special classic beauty … which makes us choose the facts most fitting to contribute to this harmony …What guarantees the objectivity of the world in which we live is that this world is common to us with other thinking beings. Through the communications that we have with other men we receive from them ready-made harmonious reasonings. We know that these reasonings do not come from us and at the same time we recognize in them, because of their harmony, the work of reasonable beings like ourselves. And as these reasonings appear to fit the world of our sensations, we think we may infer that these reasonable beings have seen the same thing as we; thus it is that we know we haven’t been dreaming. It is this harmony, this quality if you will, that is the sole basis for the only reality we can ever know.
Poincare’s contemporaries refused to acknowledge that facts are preselected because they though that to do so would destroy the validity of scientific method. They presumed that “preselected facts” meant that truth is “whatever you like” … Poincare did not offer any resolutions of this quandry. He didn’t go far enough into the metaphysical implications of what he was saying to arrive at the solution … When Quality enters the picture as a third metaphysical entity, the preselection of facts is not based on subjective, capricious “whatever you like” but on Quality, which is reality itself. Thus the quandry vanishes.

Chapter 23

Chapter 24: Stuckness

… care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristics of Quality…. Now I want to show that that classic pattern of rationality can be tremendously improved, expanded and made far more effecive through the formal recognition of Quality in its operation. Before doing this, however, I should go over some of the negative aspects of traditional maintenace to show just where the problems are.
… stuckness … A screw sticks … you check the manual to see if there might be any special cause [nothing] … suppose you are inexperienced and you attach a self-locking plier wrench to the shank of your screwdriver and really twist it hard … succeeds only in tearing the slot of the screw … your mind was already thinking ahead to what you would do when the cover plate was off, and so it takes a little time to realize that this irritating minor annoyance of a torn screw slot isn’t just irritating and minor. You’re stuck. Stopped. Terminated … This isn’t a rare scene … this is the commonest scene of all … What you need is a hypothesis for how you’re going to get that slotless screw out of there and scientific method doesn’t provide any … It operates only after they are around…. It’s normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over …… What you are up against is the great unknown, the void of all Western thought. Traditional scientific … [is] good for seeing where you’ve been … for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can’t tell you where you ought to go … Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination – “unstuckness,” in other words – are completely outside it’s domain.
As Poincare would have said, there are an infinite number of facts about the motorcycle, and the right ones don’t just dance up and introduce themselves. The right facts, the ones we really need, are not only passive, they are damned elusive, and we’re not going to just sit back and “observe” them. We’re going to have to be in there looking for them or we’re going to be here a long time …The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one … is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of Quality. He has to care! This is an ability about which formal traditional scientific method has nothing to say.
… In my mind now is an image of a huge, long railroad train … I want to call this railroad train “knowledge” and subdivide it into two parts: Classic Knowledge and Romantic Knowledge.In terms of the analogy, Classic Knowledge, the knowledge taught by the Church of Reason, is the engine and all the boxcars … If you subdivide the train into parts you will find no Romantic Knowledge anywhere. And unless you’re careful it’s easy to make the presumption that’s all the train there is. This isn’t because Romantic Knowledge is nonexistent or even unimportat. It’s just that so far the definition of the train is static and purposeless…Romantic Quality … isn’t any “part” of the train. It’s the leading edge of the engine, a two dimensional surface of no real significance unless you understand that the train isn’t a static entity at all … In the process of examining the train and subdividing it into parts we’ve advertently stopped it, so that it really isn’t a train we are examining. That’s why we get stuck.The real train of knowledge … [is] always going somewhere. On a track called Quality … Romantic reality is the cutting edge of the train of knowledge that keeps the whole train on the track. Traditional knowledge is only the collective memory of where that leading edge has been.
… Value, the leading edge of reality, is no longer an irrelevant offshoot of structure, Value is the predecessor of structure. It’s the preintellectual awareness that gives rise to it …One’s rational understanding of a motorcycle is therefore modified from minute to minute as one works on it and sees that a new and different rational understanding has more Quality … You have to have a sense of what’s good. That is what carries you forward. This sense isn’t just something you’re born with, although you are born with it. It’s also something you can develop. It’s not just “intuition”, not just unexplainable “skill” or “talent”. It’s the direct result of contact with basic reality, Quality, which dualistic reason has in the past tended to conceal…. Let’s consider a reevaluation of the situation in which we assume that the stuckness now occuring, the zero of consciousness, isn’t the worst of all possible situations, but the best possible situation you could be in. After all, it’s exactly this stuckness that Zen Buddhists go to so much trouble to induce … Your mind is empty, you have a “hollow-flexible” attitude of “beginner’s mind.” You’re right at the front end of the train of knowledge, at the track of reality itself … this is a moment to be not feared but cultivated …
… no matter how hard you try to hang on to it, this stuckness is bound to disappear. Your mind will naturally and freely move toward a solution. Unless you are a real master at staying stuck you can’t prevent this …. What’s really been getting you stuck is the running from the stuckness through the cars of your train of knowledge looking for a solution that is out in front of the train…. Normally screws are so cheap and small and simple you think of them as unimportant. But now, as your Quality awareness becomes stronger, you realize that this one, individual, particular screw is neither cheap nor small nor unimportant. Right now this screw is worth exactly the selling price of the whole motorcycle, because the motorcycle is actually valueless until you get the screw out. With this reevaluation of the screw comes a willingness to expand your knowledge of it … in time you will come to see that the screw is less and less an object typical of a class and more an object unique in itself … not even an object but as a collection of functions. Your stuckness is gradually eliminating patters of traditional reason…. What it is has ceased to be category of thought and is a continuing direct experience. It’s not in the boxcars anymore, it’s out in front and capable of change. You are interested in what it does and why it’s doing it. You will ask functional questions …What your actual solution is is unimportant as long as it has Quality. Thoughts … might lead naturaly to solutions of impaction and use of solvents … a screw extractor … to call a friend who knows something about mechanical work … to drill the screw out … burn it out with a torch. Or you might just, as a result of your meditative attention to the screw, come up with some new way of extracting it that has never been thought of before and that beats all the rest and it patentable and makes you a millionaire five years from now. There’s no predicting what’s on that Quality track.

Chapter 25: Peace of Mind

… a root word of technology, techne, originally meant “art”. The ancient Greeks never separated art from manufacture in their minds, and so never developed separate words for them.Neither is ugliness inherent in the materials of modern technology … Mass produced plastics and synthetics aren’t in themselves bad. They’ve just acquired bad associations.
A person who’s lived inside stone walls of a prison most of his life is likely to see stone as an inherently ugly material, even though it’s also the prime material of sculpture, and a person who’s lived in a prison of ugly plastic technology that started with his childhood toys and continues through a lifetime of junky consumer products is likely to see this material as inherently ugly … It’s our habit of assigning Quality to subjects and objects that gives this impression.
… The real ugliness lies in the relationship between the people who produce the technology and the things they produce, which results in a similar relationship between the people who use the technology and the things they use …This is the tat tvam asi truth of the Upanishads, but it’s also reflected in modern street argot. “Getting with it,” “digging it,” … are all slang reflections of this identity … it is this identity that modern, dualistically conceived technology lacks. The creator of it feels no particular sense of identity with it. The owner of it feels no particular sense of identity with it. The user of it feels no particular sense of identity with it. Hence … it has no Quality.
… The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is – not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirt into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footstep on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level …… It can be at a level as simple as sharpening a kitchen knife or sewing a dress or mening a broken chair … and in arriving at the high quality, beautiful way of doing it, both an ability to see what “looks good” and an ability to understand the underlying methods to arrive at that “good” are needed. Both classic and romantic understandings of Quality must be combined.The nature of our culture is such that if you were to look for instruction in how to do any of these jobs, the instruction would always give only one understanding of Quality, the classic … how to hold the blade when sharpening … how to use a sewing machine … how to mix and apply glue … The ability to see directly what “looks good” would be ignored.The result is rather typical of modern technology, an overall dullness of appearance so depressing that it must be overlaid with a veneer of “style” to make it acceptable. And that, to anyone who is sensitive to romantic Quality, just makes it all worse. Now it’s not just depressingly dull, it’s also phony … Quality isn’t something you lay on top of subjects and objects like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Real Quality must be the source of the subjects and objects, the cone from which the tree must start.
To arrive at this Quality requires a somewhat different procedure from the “Step1, Step2, Step3” instructions that accompany dualistic technology …… Peace of mind … That which produces it is good work and that which destroys it is bad work … The reason for this is that peace of mind is a prerequisite for a perception of Quality which is beyond romantic Quality and classic Quality and which unites the two … The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that the goodness can shine through.
… The inner peace of mind occurs on three levels .. Physical quietness seems th easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too … Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering thoughts at all, seems more difficult … But value quietness, in which one has no wandering desires at all but simply performs the acts of his life without desire, that seems the hardest.I’ve sometimes thought this inner peace of mind … is similar to if not identical with the sort of calm you sometimes get when going fishing … Just to sit with the line in the water, not moving, not really thinking about anything …… We’ve all had moments of that sort when we’re doing something we really want to do. It’s just that somehow we’ve gotten into an unfortunate separation of those moments from work … Zen Buddhists talk about “just sitting”, a meditative practice in which the idea of a duality of self and object does not dominate one’s consciousness. What I’m talking about here in motorcycle maintenance is “just fixing” … That is what caring really is, a feeling of identification with what one’s doing. When one has this feeling then he also sees the inverse side of caring, Quality itself.
… Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material relfection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all…. I think that if we are going to reform the world, and make it a better place to live in, the way to do it is not with talk about relationships of a political nature, which are inevitable dualistic … I think that kind of approach starts it at the end and presumes the end is the beginning. Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right. The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outwards from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.

Chapter 26: Enthusiasm

“gumption” … [is] an old Scottish word, once used a lot by pioneers, but which, like “kin,” seems to have all but dropped out of use … it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption.The Greeks called it enthousiasmos, the root of “enthusiasm,” which means literally “filled with theos,” or God, or Quality. See how that fits?… throughout the process of fixing the machine things always come up, low quality things … these drain off gumption, destory enthusiasm and leave you so discouraged you want to forget the whole business. I call these things “gumption traps” …
… As far as I can tell there are two main types of gumption traps. The first type is those in which you’re thrown off the Quality track by conditions that arise from external circusmtances, and I call these “setbacks” … the second .. by conditions that are primarily within yourself … “hang-ups”…. commonest setbacks I can think of: out-of-sequence reassmebly, intermittent failure and parts problems…. internal gumption traps can be broken down into three main types …: those that block affective underdstanding, called “value traps”; those that block cognitive understanding, called “truth traps”; and those that block psychomotor behavior, called “muscle traps”. The value traps are by far the largest and most dangerous group.
Of the value traps, the most widespread and pernicious is value rigidity. This is an inability to revalue what one sees because of commitment to previous values … The facts are there but you don’t see them. You’re looking right at them, but they don’t yet have enough value
… The facts do not exist until value has created them … What you have to do … is slow down… deliberately and go over ground that you’ve been over before to see if the things you thought were important were really important and to … well … just stare at the machine … watch it the way you watch a line when fishing and before long, as sure as you live, you’ll get a little nibble, a little fact asking in a timid, humble way if you’re interested in it … After a while you may find that the nibbles you get are more interesting than your original purpose of fixing the machine … Then you’re no longer strictly a motorcycle mechanic, you’re also a motorcycle scientist, and you’ve completely conquered the gumption trap of value rigidity…. the most striking example of value rigidity I can think of is the old South Indian Monkey Trap … a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddnely trapped – by nothing more thatn his own value rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it.
The next … internal gumption trap … Ego … If you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to recognize new facts is weakened. Your ego isolates you from the Quality reality. When the facts show that you’ve just goofed, you’re not as likely to admit it. When false information makes you look good, you’re likely to believe it …
one way ouf ot this is to fake the attitude of modesty anyway. If you just deliberately assume you’re not much good, then your gumption gets a boost when the facts prove this assumption is correct. This way you can keep going until the time comes when the facts prove this assumption is incorrect.
Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of the opposite of ego. You’re so sure you’ll do everything wrong you’re afraid to do anything at all … You fix things that don’t need fixing, and chase after imaginary ailments. You jump to wild conclusions and build all kinds of errors into the machine because of your own nervousness. These errors, when made, tend to confirm your original underestimation of yourself. These leads to more errors, which lead to more underestimation, in a self-stoking cycle … You sould remember that it’s peace of mind you’re after and not just a fixed machine.Boredom is the next gumption trap … means you’re off the Quality track, you’re not seeing things freshly, you’ve lost your “beginner’s mind” and your motorcycle is in great danger. Boredom means your gumption supply is low and must be replenished before anything else is done. When you’re bored, stop!
… Do anything but work on that machine. If you don’t … the next things that happens is the Big Mistake, and then all the boredom plus the Big Mistake combine … to knock out all the gumption out of you and you are really stopped … it may mean deeper Quality problems are bothering you … you should turn your attention to these problems – that’s what you’re doign anyway … Zen has something to say about boredom. It’s main practice of “just sitting” has got to be the world’s most boring activity … Yet in the center … is the very thing Zen Buddhism seeks to teach.
… Impatience is close to boredom but always results from one cause: an underestimation of the amount of time the job will take …
Impatience is the first reaction against a setback and can soon turn to anger if you’re not careful. … [it] is best handled by allowing an indefinite time for the job …; by doubling the allotted time when circumstances force planning; and by scaling down the scope of what you want to do … this requires value flexibility, and the value shift is usually accompanied by some loss of gumption, but it’s a sacrifice that must be made.
… value traps … There’s a whole lot more of them, of course … Perhaps the best single thing to learn is to recognize a value trap when you’re in it and work on that before you continue on the machine…. Truth traps are concerned with data that are apprehended and are within the boxcars of the train. For the most part these data are properly handled by conventional dualistic logic and the scientific method … But there’s one trap that isn’t – the truth trap of yes-no logic.Yes and no … this or that … one or zero. On the basis of this elementary two term discrimination, all human knowledge is built up … Because we’re unaccustomed to it, we don’t usually see that there’s a third possible logical term equal to yes and no which is capable of expanding our understanding in an unrecognized direction. We don’t even have a term for it, so I’ll have to use the Japanese mu.Mu means “no thing.” Like “Quality” it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination … It states that the context of the question is such that a yes or no answer is in error and should not be given. “Unask the question” is what it says. Mu becomes appropriate when the context of the question becomes to small for the truth of the answer.
… That mu exists in the natural world investigated by science is evident. It’s just that, as usual, we’re trained not to see it by our heritage. For example, it’s stated over and over again that computer circuits exhibit oly two states, a voltage for “one” and a voltage for “zero”. That’s silly! Any computer-electronics technician knows otherwise. Try to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off. The circuits are in a mu state … an indeterminate state that has no meaning in terms of ones or zeros … What’s happened is that the power-off condition is part of a context larger than the context in which the one-zero states are considered universal. The question of one or zero has been “unasked”…. Every laboratory scientist knows that very often his experimental results provide mu aswers to the yes-no questions the experiments were designed for. In these cases he considers the experiment poorly designed, chides himself for stupidity … This low evaluation of the experiment … isn’t justified. The mu answer is an important one. It’s told the scientist that the context of his question is too small for nature’s answer and that he must enlarge the context of the question. That is a very important answer! His understanding of nature is tremendously improved by it, which was the purpose of the experiment in the first place … Yes or no confirm or denies a hypothesis. Mu says the answer is beyond the hypothesis. Mu is the “phenomenon” that inspires scientific enquiry in the first place!
In motorcycle maintenance the mu answer given by the machine to many diagnostic questions put to it is a major cause of gumption loss. It shouldn’t be!
… the psychomotor traps … inadequate tools, bad surroundings … lighting … physical discomfort … too hot … too cold …There’s one psychomotor gumption trap, muscular insensitivity, which accounts for some real damage. It results in part from lack of kinesthesia, a failure to realize that although the externals of a cycle are rugged, inside the engine are delicate precision pars which can be easily damaged by musculare insensitivity. There’s what’s called “mechanic’s feel” … comes from a deep inner kinesthetic feeling for the elasticity of materials. Some materials, like ceramics, have very little … Other materials, like steel, have tremendous elasticity, more than rubber, but in a range in which, unless you’re working with large mechanical forces, the elasticity isn’t apparents. With nuts and bolts you’re in the range of large mechanical forces … a perons with mechanic’s feel knows when something’s tight and stops. A person without it goes right on past and strips the threads or breaks the assembly.
… after all I’ve said about all these things today I jut jave a feeling that I’ve somehow talked around the point. Some could ask “Well, if I get around all those gumption traps, then will I have the thing licked?”The answer, of course is no … you’ve got to live right too … You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally … The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn’t separate from the rest of your existence…. The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be “out there” and the person that appears to be “in here” are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality of fall away from Quality together.

Chapter 27

Chapter 28: The Villains of Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece. Strange that for them Quality should be everything while today it sounds odd to even say quality is real. What unseen changes could have taken place? … Systematic philosophy is Greek. The ancient Greeks invented it and, in doing so, put their permanent stamp on it … The confusion about the reality of Quality had to start back there sometime.
… In the Aristotelian tradition as interpreted by the mediaval scholastics, man is counted a rational animal, capable of seeking and defining the good life and achieving it…. It was now absolutely necessary that he study as he had never studied before to learn the thought of Classic Greece in general and of one Classical Greek in particular – Aristotle … The more he studied, the more convinced he became that no one had yet told the damage to this world that had results from our unconscious acceptance of their thought …
To understand how he arrived at his condemnation of the Classic Greeks it’s necessary to review in summary form the “mythos over logos” argument …
The term logos, the root word of “logic”, refers to the sum total of our rational understanding of the world. Mythos is the sum total of the early historic and prehistoric myths which preceded the logos … The mythos-over-logos argument states that our rationality is shaped by these legends … Thus, in cultures such as ancient Greece, one invariably finds a strong subject-object differentiation because the grammar of the old Greek mythos presumed a sharp natural division of subjects and predicates. In cultures such as the Chinese, where subject-predicate relationships are not rigidly defined by grammar, one finds a corresponding absence of rigid subject-object philosophy … There are endless examples of how mythos differences direct behavior differences and they are all fascinating.
The mythos-over-logos argument points to the fact that each child is born as ignorant as any caveman. What keeps the world from reverting to the Neanderthal with each generation is the continuing, ongoing mythos, transformed into logos but still mythos, the huge body of common knowledge that unites our minds as cells are united in the body of man.There is only one kind of person … who accepts or rejects the mythos in which he lives. And the definition of that person, when he has rejected the mythos … is “insane.” To go outside the mythos is to become insane …
… Quality is the generator of the mythos … Religion isn’t invented by man. Men are invented by religion. Men invent responses to Quality, and among these responses is an understanding of what they themselves are. You know something and then the Quality stimulus hits and then you try to define the Quality stimulus, but to define it all you’ve got to work with is what you know. So your definition is made up of what you know. It’s an analogue to what you already know … It can’t be anything else … The mythos is the whole train of collective consciousness of all communicating mankind. Every last bit of it. The Quality is the track that directs the train. What is outside the train, to either side – that is the terra incognita of the insane. He knew that to understand Quality he would have to leave the mythos. That’s why he felt that slippage He knew something was about to happen.
… The Mythos is insane. That’s what he believed. The mythos that says the forms of this world are real but the Quality of this world is unreal, that is insane. And in Aristotle and the ancient Greeks he believed he had found the villains who had so shaped the mythos as to cause us to accept this insanity as reality.

Chapter 29: Truth Won, the Good Lost

Rhetoric is an art, Aristotlebegan, because it can be reduced to a rational system of order … Rhetoric can be subdivided into particular proofs and topics on the one hand and common proofs on the other. The particular proofs can be subdivided into methods of proof and kinds of proof. The methods of proof are …… For page after page Aristotle went on like this. Like some third-rate technical instructor … no doubts, no sense of awe, only the eternal smugness of the professional academician. Did Aristotle really think his students would be better rhetoricians for having learned all these endess names and relationships … There was nothing in his style to indicate that Aristotle was ever one to doubt Aristotle … Walk into any of a hundred thousand classrooms today and hear the teachers divide and subdivide and interrelate and establish “principles” and study “methods” and what you will hear is the ghost of Aristotle speaking down through the centuries – the desicating lifeless voice of dualistic reason.
… The next week [he] had read the material and was prepared to take apart the statement that rhetoric is an art because it can be reduced to a rational system of order. By this criterion General Motors produced pure art, whereas Picasso did not…. Aristotle … [placed] rhetoric in an outrageously minor category in his hiearchic order of things … This contempt for rhetoric, combined with Aristotle’s own atrocious quality of rhetoric, so completely alienated [him that] he couldn’t read anything Aristotle said without seeking ways to despise it and attack it. This was no problem. Aristotle has always been eminently attackable and eminently attacked throughout history … like shooting fish in a barrel, [it] didn’t afford much satisfaction.
Dialectic… Aristotle’s book had begun with it, in a most mystifying way. Rhetoric is a counterpart of dialectic, it had said, as if this were of the greatest importance, yet why this was so important was never explained. It was followed with a number of other disjointed statements, which gave the impression that a great deal had been left out … The only thing that was clear was that Aristotle was very much concerned about the relation of rhetoric to dialectic.Dialectic generally means “of the nature of the dialogue,” which is a conversation between two persons. Nowadays it means logical argumentation. It involves a technique of cross-examination, by which truth is arrived at. It’s the mode of discourse of Socrates in the Dialogues of Plato. Plato believed the dialectic was the sole method by which the truth was arrived at. The only one.That’s why its a fulcrum word. Aristotle attacked this belief, saying that the dialectic was only suitable for some purposes – to enquire into men’s beliefs, to arrive at truths about external forms of things, knows as Ideas, which were fixed and unchanging and constituted reality for Plato. Aristotle said there is also the method of science, or “physical” method, which observes physical facts and arrives at truths about substances, which undergo change. This duality of form and substance and the scientific method of arriving at facts about substances were central to Aristotle’s philosophy. Thus the dethronement of dialectic …
… [he = the protagonist/story-teller] wasn’t insulted that dialectic had been brought down to the level of rhetoric. He was outraged that rhetoric had been brought down to the level of dialectic…. I think it was Coleridge who said everyone is either a Platonist or an Aristotelian … Plato is the essential Buddha-seeker who appears again and again in each generation, moving onward and upward toward the “one”. Aristotle is the eternal motorcycle mechanic who prefers the “many”.Rhetoric, Plato spells out very clearly, is in no way connected with the Good; rhetoric is “the Bad.” The people Plato hates most, next to tyrants, are rhetoricians.
.. of the Platonic Dialogues … is the Gorgias … In the dialogue, Gorgias is the name of a Sophist whom Socrates cross examines …
he starts his Twenty Questions dialectic by asking Giorgias with what rhetoric is concerned. Gorgias answers that is is concerned with discourse. In answer to another question he says its end is to persuade … All this, which is simply Gorgias’ description of people called Sophists have tended to do, now becomes subtly rendered by Socrates’ dialectic into something else. Rhetoric has become an object, and as an object has parts … the analytic knife of Socrates hacks Gorgias’ art into pieces … the pieces are the basis of Aristotle’s art of rhetoric …
Socrates is not using dialectic to understand rhetoric, he is using it to destory it, or at least to bring it into disrepute, and so his questions are not real questions at all – they are just word-traps which Gorgias and his fellow rhetoricians fall into…. May of the older Sophists were selected as “ambassadors” of their cities. The name Sophistwas even applied without disparagement to Socrates and Plato themselves … What was Plato’s real purpose in this?… Plato’s hatred of the rhetoricians was part of a much later struggle in which the reality of the Good, represented by the Sophists, and the reality of the True, represented by the dialecticians, were engaged in a huge struggle for the future mind of man. Truth won, the Good lost … [this] requires some explanation:One must first get over the idea that the time span between the last caveman and the first Greek philosophers was short. The absence of any history for this period sometimes gives this illusion … there existed civilization in an advanced state of development. They … led a life quite as rich and varied as that in most rural areas of the world today. And like people in those areas today they saw no reason to write it all down … The “Dark Ages”were merely the resumption of a natural way of life that had been momentarily interrupted by the Greeks.Early Greek philosophy represented the first conscious search for what was imperishable in the affairs of men.
Up to then what was imperishable was within the domain of the Gods, the myths. But now, as a result of the growing impartiality of the Greeks to the world around them, there was an increasing power of abstraction which permitted them to regard the old Greek mythos not as revealed truth but as imaginative creations of art.
This consciousness, which had never existed anywhere before in the world, spelled a whole new level of transcendence for the Greek civilization.But the mythos goes on, and that which destroys the old mythos becomes the new mythos, and the new mythos under the first Ionian philosophers became transmuted into philosophy, which enshrined permanence in a new way.
Permanence was no longer the exclusive domain of the Immortal Gods. It was also to be found within Immortal Principles, of which our current law of gravity has become one.The Immortal Principle was first called water by Thales. Anaximenes called it air. The Pythagoreans called it number and were thus the first to see … [it] as something nonmaterial …. Anaxagoras was the first to identify the One as Nous, meaning “mind”.Parmenides made it clear for the first time that the Immortal Principle, the One, Truth, God, is separate from appearance and from opinion, and the importance of this separation and its effect upon subsequent history cannot be overstated. It’s here that the classic mind, for the first time, took leave of its romantic origins and said, “The Good and the True are not necessarily the same,” … Anaxagoras and Parmenides had a listener named Socrates who carried their ideas into full fruition.

What is essential to understad at this point is that until now there was no such thing as mind and matter, subject and object, form and substance. Those divisions are just dialectic inventions that came later … They are just ghosts, immortal gods for the modern mythos which appear to us to be real because we are in that mythos. But in reality they are just as much an artistic creation as the anthropomorphic Gods they replaced.The pre-Socratic philosophers mentioned so far all sought to establish a universal Immortal Principle in the external world they found around them. Their common efforts united them into a group that may be called the Cosmologists. They all agreed that such a principle exists but their disagreements as to what it was seemed irresolvable…. The resolution … came from a new direction entirely … early humanists. They were teachers … Their object was not any single absolute truth, but the improvement of men. All principles, all truths, are relative, they said. “Man is the measuer of all things.” These were the famous teachers of “wisdom,” the Sophists of ancient Greece.

… Socrates … is in the middle of a war between those who think truth is absolute and those who think truth is relative … The Sophists are the enemy. Now Plato’s hatred of the Sophists makes sense. Truth. Knowledge. That which is independent of what anyone thinks about it. The ideal that Socrates dies for. The ideal that Greece alone possesses for the first time in the history of the world. It is still a very fragile thing. Plato abhors and damns the Sophists … because they threaten mankind’s first beginning grasp of the idea of truth.
The results of Socrates’ martyrdom and Plato’s unexcelled prose that followed are nothing less thatn the whole world of Western man as we know it … The ideas of science and technology and other systematically organized efforts of man are dead-centered on it. It is the nucleus of it all.
And yet … Quality is somehow opposed to all this. It seems to agree much more closely with the Sophists.”Man is the measure of all things.” Yes … man is not the source … Nor is he the passive observer … The Quality which created the world emerges as a relationship between man and his experience. He is a participant in the creation of all things …The one thing that doesn’t fit … about the Sophists is their profession of teaching virtue … this was absolutely central to their teaching, but how are you going to teach virtue if you teach the relativity of all ethical ideas? Virtue … implies an ethical absolute … Something is missing.His search for it takes him through a number of histories of ancient Greece … he is reading H.D.F. Kitto’s The Greeks … “What moves the Greek warrior to deeds of heroism,” Kitto comments, “is not a sense of duty as we understand it – duty towards others: it is rather duty towards himself. He strives after that which we translate as ‘virtue’ but is in Greek arete, ‘excellent’ … It runs through Greek life.”There … is a definition of Quality that had existed a thousand years befre the dialecticians ever thought to put it to word traps … “duty toward self” which is an almost exact translation of the Sanskrit word dharma … Can the dharma of the Hindus and the “virtue” of the ancient Greeks be identical? … “That which we translate ‘virtue’ but is in Greek ‘excellence'” … Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching. Not ethical relativism. Not pristine “virtue.” But arete. Excellence. Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teachng Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric… Thoreau: “You never gain something but that you lose something.” … the unbelievable magntitude of what man, when he gained power to understand and rule the world in terms of dialectic truths had lost. He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth – but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude: an understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it.
… Plato and Socrates … are doing exactly that which they accuse the Sophists of doing – using emotionally persuasive language for the ulterior purpose of making the weaker argument, the case for dialectic, appear the stronger. We always condemn most in others … that which we most fear in ourselves…. Plato’s Good was taken from the rhetoricians … the Sophists. The difference was that Plato’s Good was a fixed and eternal and unmoving Idea, whereas for the rhetoricians it was not an Idea at all. The Good was not a form of reality. It was reality itself, ever changing, ultimately unknowable in any kind of fixed, rigid way.
… Plato’s philosophy [was] a result of two syntheses.The first tried to resolve difference between the Heraclitans and the followers of Parmenides. Both cosmological schools upheld Immortal Truth. In order to win the battle for Truth in which arete is subordinate, against his enemies who would teach arete in which truth is subordinate, Plato must first resolve the internal conflict among the Truth-believers …
To do this he says that Immortal Truth is not just change, as followers of Heraclitus said. It is notjust changeless being, as the followers of Parmenides said. Bot these Immortal Truths coexist as Ideas, which are changeless, and Appearance, which changes. This is why Plato finds it necessary to separate, for example, “horeseness” from “horse” and say that horseness is real and fix and true and unmoving, while the horse is a mere, unimportant transitory phenomenon. Horseness is pure Idea.
Plato’s second synthesis is the incorporation of the Sophists’ arete into this dichotomy of Ideas and Appearances. He gives it the position of highest honor, subordinate only to Truth itself and the method by which Truth is arrived at, the dialectic … usurping arete’s place with dialectically determined truth. Once the Good has been contained as a dialectical idea it is no trouble for another philosopher to come along and show by dialectical methods that arete, the Good, can be more advantageously demoted to a lower position within a “true” order of things, more compatible with the inner workings of dialectic. Such a philosopher was not long in coming … Aristotle.Aristotle felt that the mortal horse of Appearance which ate grass and took people place and gave birth to little horses deserved far more attention than Plato was giving it. He said that the horse is not mere Appearance. The Appearances clings to something which is independent of them and which, like Ideas, is unchanging. The “something” that Appearances cling to he named “substance”. And at that moment, and not until that moment, our modern scientific understanding of reality was born…. The good is [now] a relatively minor branch of knowledge called ethics … Arete is dead and science, logic and the University as we know it today have been given their founding charter: to find and invent an endless proliferation of forms about the substantive elements of the world and call these forms knowledge, and transmit these forms to future generations. As “the system.”And rhetoric … once “learning itself”, now becomes reduced to the teaching of mannerisms and forms, Aristotelian forms, for writing, as if these mattered … spelling errors … sentence completeness … misplaced modifiers … [all] to inform a student that he did not know rhetoric .. Of course there’s “empty rhetoric” … rhetoric that has emotional appeal without proper subservience to dialectical truth, but we don’t want any of that, do we? That would make us like those liars and cheats and defilers of ancient Greece, the Sophists – remember them? We’ll learn the Truth in our other academic courses, and then learn a little rhetoric so that we can write it nicely and impress our bosses who will advance us to higher positions.Forms and mannerisms – hated by the best, loved by the worst. Year after yearm decade after decade of little front-row “readers,” mimics with pretty smiles and neat pens, out to get their Aristotelian A’s while those who posses the real arete sit silently in back of them wondering what it wrong with themselves that they cannot ike this subject…. And the bones of the Sophists long ago turned to dust … under the rubble of declining Athens … and Macedonia … ancient Rome and Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire and the modern states – buried so deep and with such ceremoniousness and such uction and such evil that only a madman centuries later could discover the clued needed to uncover them, and see with horror what had been done …

Chapter 30

… Dialectic, which is the parent of logic, came itself from rhetoric. Rhetoric is in turn the child of the myths and poetry of acient Greece. That is so historically, and that is so by any application of common sense. The poetry and the myths are the response of a prehistoric people to the universe around them made on the basis of Quality. It is Quality, not dialectic, which is the generator of everything we know.

… The Church of Reason, like all institutions of the System, is based not on individual strength but upon individual weakness. What’s really demanded in the Church of Reason is not ability, but inability. They you are considered teachable. A truly able person is always a threat … Quality for sheep is what the shepherd says.

… For three days and three nights, [he] stares at the wall of the bedroom, his thoughts moving neither forward nor backward, staying only at the instant. His wife asks if he is sick, and he does not answer … He …is no longer able to feel any urgency about it. Not only are his thoughts slowing down, but his desires to … So heavy, so tired, but no sleep comes … Fear of loathsomness and shame disappear when his urine flows not deliberately but naturall on the floor of the room. Fear of pain, the pain of the martyrs is overcome when cigarettes burn not deliberately but naturally down into his fingers until they are extinguished by blisters formed by their own heat.

… He crosses a lonesome valley, out of the mythos, and emerges as if from a dream, seeing that his whole consciousness, the mythos, has been a dream and no one’s dream but his own, a dream he must now sustain of his own efforts. Then even “he” disappears and only the dream of himself remains with himself in it.

And the Quality, the arete he has fought so hard for, has sacrificed for, has never betrayed, but in all that time has never understood, now makes itself clear to him and his soul is at rest.

Chapter 31

Chapter 32


This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

When you think about it, that’s a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?