LS : "In nothingness there is great working" Dainin Katagiri Roshi

Ant McWatt (
Thu, 13 Aug 1998 15:12:53 +0100

On Sat, 01 Aug 1998 19:04:32 +0000 Diana McPartlin
<> wrote:

PROGRAM: Explain the four static levels of the Metaphysics
of Quality, their nature and their moral relationships.

I've had a good look at all the e-mails sent in the LS
debate so far about the four static levels. In this
e-mail, I will make some comments about some statements from
LS members using a few quotes from my correspondence with

Firstly, some basics for the benefit of those members such
as Diana and Don Rosenow who like making-up their own
terminology like ZAMM, ZATAOMM (I need a rest after typing
out that acronym!) and MoQ:

On June 11th 1997 Anthony McWatt wrote to Robert Pirsig
with the following question:

"I notice for Dynamic Quality you always write it in
capitals while static quality is always written in small
case. I can understand why you use capitals for Dynamic
Quality as it's the the MOQ's name for the Tao/Divine but
I'm not so certain why static quality is written in small

On June l8th 1997 Pirsig wrote back to Anthony with the
following answer:

"The term, "static quality' is written in lowercase because
that is the default way of writing everything unless there
is a special reason for capitalizing it."

I was tempted to write to Pirsig to ask him why he
particularly uses "MOQ" rather than "MoQ" but I am not that
pedantic! Moreover, I thought Don's comment about the
"Quality" movement making a difference in the corporate
America of the 80s an interesting one.

Secondly, Troy. The rock does not have inorganic quality,
inorganic quality "has" the rock (re: "Lila does not have
Quality, Quality has her")! However, the question that
comes to mind about your suggestion that every entity is on
all four static levels is:

"Is this view of the four static patterns going to work
better in practice than the view expounded in LILA (where,
for instance, a rock is JUST an inorganic pattern of

The point you make about a rock being a manifestation of
all the four levels is not neccesarily incoherent and from
what Pirsig states below, its correctness depends on how
well this conceptualisation would work in practice i.e.

On November 30th 1997 Anthony wrote to Pirsig
with the following question:

"In chapter 12 of LILA you state that the four static
levels of value patterns are discrete and largely
independent. To the extent that reality is one continuous
whole, I take it you use the four levels as a practical
device (as per subjects and objects) rather than saying
something ABSOLUTELY definite about reality (or Dynamic
Quality) itself?"

On January 2nd 1998 Pirsig wrote back to Anthony
with the following:

"Yes, the four levels are a practical device, a static
intellectual pattern, rather than a representation of
ultimate reality."

Horse wrote that perceiving the four levels as discrete is
mistaken. I would say that from a Dynamic viewpoint he is
correct though from some static viewpoints (such as the
concepts given in the MOQ) he is incorrect.

In fact, an issue which has largely been ignored in this
debate of the four static levels (as well as previous ones)
is that the MOQ perceives reality from two distinct
viewpoints; a static (conceptual/world of everyday affairs)
viewpoint and a Dynamic (mystic/Buddha's) viewpoint.
Therefore, for a complete explanation of how the MOQ
perceives a certain issue both static and Dynamic
viewpoints should be stated i.e.
In the second paragraph of his March 1997 paper
"Quality", Anthony wrote the following:

"Fundamentally Pirsig's term (Quality) is a mystic one, and
refers to the undifferentiated, indeterminate, reality from
which the universe has evolved (or grown) from."

On March 29th 1997 Pirsig wrote to Anthony with the
following comment about the above statement:

"Although this is true at a Buddha's level of understanding
it would be confusing and illogical in the world of
everyday affairs to say that the world is evolving both
from and toward the same thing. I have had some reader
mail that has pointed out that at one place I seem to imply
that Quality and chaos are the same and at another that
they are different, so I haven't been clear on this myself
and have left an opening to attack. To close it up, let us
say that the universe is evolving from a condition of low
quality (quantum forces only, no atoms, pre-big bang)
toward a higher one (birds trees societies and thoughts)
and that in a static sense (world of everyday affairs)
these two are not the same."

On July 14th 1996 Anthony wrote to Pirsig concerning
Dynamic Quality's continual effect on the four static value

"I'm still unsure how the concepts of permanence and change
relate to the MOQ. Am I right in saying that all static
value patterns are continually subject to change from
Dynamic Quality; This reminds me of your description of a
motorcycle in ZMM. Its physical change is so slow that
it's nearly imperceptible but if ignored would render the
bike unusable e.g. you'd run out of oil at some point. Is
this all there is necessary to understand about permanence
and change in the MOQ or is there some other points worth
keeping in mind?"

On July 30th 1996 Pirsig wrote to Anthony with the
following answer:

"Yes, that's right that all static patterns are subject to
change from Dynamic Quality. I would guess there is a lot
more to go into about permanence and change in the MOQ but
I haven't thought about it thoroughly."

Concerning Jonathan's and Theo's doubts about chapter 24 of
LILA (which is one of its most important chapters) Pirsig
added to the above paragraph (on October 6th 1996):

"Yes, Bodvar Skutvik's answer to the question of permanence
and change sounds good to me too. In a sense, static
quality is permanence and Dynamic Quality is change,
although Quality goes beyond that. Conventional classic
scientific thought presumes that atomic particles change in
accordance with internal or external physical forces only.
Quantum theory adds indeterminacy and probability to these
forces of change. The MOO states that these forces of
change are subsets of value. Static quality can also be
equated to "order" and Dynamic Quality to "freedom"."

"In Belgium a lot of progress was made on the final day
when I said that you can't live without freedom (a lot of
agreement in the audience) and you can't live without order
(somc agreement in the audience) but these two terms are
completely contradictory (big wave of constemation) and
that what one had to search for were mechanisms that
managed to interrelate freedom and order in such a way as
to make life bearable. As an example the mechanism of
democracy was given. Another, which I didn't give, is the
practice of zazen, the Japanese term for "sitting
meditation". Zazen is extremely orderly, yet provides an
ultimate freedom: pure Dynamic Quality, enlightenment. The
statement that an individual should follow only the written
dharma before enlightenment is true. But the catch is, it
is a statement, and, as such, is a static pattern. If the
brujo in Zuni had obeyed this principle he never would have
gotten in trouble with the priests. But if he had not
gotten in trouble with the priests, all Zuni would have
been worse off. From a Dynamic perspective a revolution in
Zuni was needed."

As Bodvar correctly points out in his e-mail of 9th August

"Intellect, however, is always out to bash Society and
attacks its patterns relentlessly, marriage is no
exception. This is the essence of Chapter 24: If Biology
isn't controlled by Society we get a greater hell than ever
imagined, and Intellect's (as the top notch without
limitations above) fallacy is to join forces with Biology to
destroy the common enemy: Society."

To add to this, I would say that chapter 24 does not feel
"right" initially is because it's difficult for many people
(especially intellectuals) to perceive that the police, army
and other armed forces of governments can have a positive
effect for society when controlling the biological level
(e.g. crowd violence at sporting events). As long as they
are used for that purpose and not misused by governments to
restrict intellectual rights and freedoms then they are a
force for the Good. It is when this ideal is ignored that a
negative image of them is created.

On February 21st 1997 Anthony sent to Pirsig an article by
Nietzsche titled "On Truth & Lies in a Nonmoral Sense".

On March 23th 1997 Pirsig wrote to Anthony with the
following comment on Nietzsche which, amongst other things,
explains why the Dynamic-static terminology was established
for the MOQ:

"Looking into the details of Nietzsche's diatribes one sees
that his basic fault is his confusion of biological quality
with Dynamic Quality. He thinks they are the same thing.
Yet from your own reading of Zen in the Art of Archery you
know that the "it" of the Zen master in no way resembles the
naked will to power and egotistic self-satisfaction of the
Nietzschean ideal. The main reason for dropping the
Classic-Romantic dichotomy of ZMM and setting up the
static-Dynamic dichotomy of Lila, was to help avoid this
confusion. I think this confusion destroyed the hippies,
many of whom were idealistic people but descended into
biological hedonism from which they had no intellectual
defense. An enlightened person will never make the
confusion because for him the Dynamic Quality, the dharma,
is a reality far more "real" than emotions and egotism of
the biological level; far more real, even, than subjects or

"For a person who is not yet enlightened the way to
avoid the confusion may be to ask of each desire:

`Is this a common ego desire? Is this a common sensual

"If not, then maybe the quality which stimulates the desire
is Dynamic. If it is a common sensual or egotistic desire,
however, then one should wait a few days and see if the
desire weakens or goes away. Sensuality and egotism have a
way of waxing and waning in the manner of the emotions,
whereas Dynamic Quality tends to be steady and patient, in
the manner of Gandhi's favorite Christian hymn, "Lead
Kindly Light". All this is just chatter, however. I am
not attempting to define or even adequately describe
Dynamic Quality here."

Theo, I know Bodvar has already given you a good answer
about your confusion with biology (as per Nietzsche's
basic fault in confusing biological quality with Dynamic
Quality). What I would add is that you seem to be
saying that the biological level is always Dynamic while
the social level is always static. If that was true then
you would have indeed been correct in your assertion about
marriage and adultery. However, if you think about it
carefully, you will realise that the biological and social
levels both have their Dynamic and static aspects and that
your marriage (which is more than just a certificate) will
have a Dynamic aspect to it as well as a static one.

Finally, a quick couple of points.

Platt & Donny: Pirsig ascribes the beginning of the
Q-intellect with Socrates taking of the hemlock i.e. this
was the first RECORDED time that an intellectual good (e.g.
discussing philosophy with the young men of Athens and
asking those in power difficult questions) took precedence
over a social good (e.g. living a conformist lifestyle and
keeping quiet).

Maggie: Firstly, is the Moon an example of an unmediated
(i.e. free of life) inorganic pattern that is experienced?
Secondly, I thought I'd mention that ever since studying in
Liverpool (in 1993), LILA and ZMM have both been in the
philosophy section of Liverpool University's bookshop. I'd
certainly feel uncomfortable if they were found in the
"nuage" section.
Which reminds me: Pirsig recently mentioned that Steve
Hagen's 1997 book "Buddhism; Plain & Simple" (published
by Tuttle) is an excellent book for relating Buddhism to
the MOQ.

"I recommend you get it because it shows the similarities
between the MOQ and Zen Buddhism more clearly than any
other I have seen."

You can't get a better endorsement than that, can you?

Best Regards,



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