LS Re: in nothingness there is a great working

Ant McWatt (
Thu, 27 Aug 1998 18:11:37 +0100

On Thu, 20 Aug 1998 11:59:57 -0500 glove
<> wrote:

> hello Ant and squad
> i really enjoyed the excerpts from your correspondence
with Pirsig. thank > you for sharing them with us all.

Glove, Theo, Troy, Platt, Squad.

Many thanks for your positive comments Glove and Troy.

To answer Glove's e-mails:

In the second paragraph of his March 1997 paper
"Quality", Ant 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."

> > Ant, i have been puzzling (for several days now) over
this exchange between > you and Pirsig and what exactly
Pirsig is getting at when he says these two > (lower
quality and higher quality) are not the same in a static
sense (world > of everyday affairs). at first i thought it
might mean that they are the > same in a dynamic sense
(world of the Buddha?) but then i felt this is a > wrong
interpetation. first of all, Pirsig would have to be a
Buddha to know > that, and while i admire him a great deal,
i dont believe he thinks of > himself as a Buddha.

What Pirsig is getting at and is something I try to explain
on the LS from time to time is that he takes two different
viewpoints when looking at reality:

1. is the static quality, conceptual, world of everyday
affairs view while the other is

2. is the Dynamic Quality, non-conceptual, mystic view.

So, to explain this further, from a static viewpoint the
universe is evolving (in the cosmological sense of
evolution; not Darwinian or any theory that just applies to
biology) from a condition of low quality (quantum forces
only, no atoms, pre-big bang) toward a higher one (birds
trees societies and thoughts).

This viewpoint, being static, is irrelevant to a mystic
viewpoint. The cosmological view of evolution (from which
the four static levels are derived from) are an invention of
Pirsigs based on recent scientific ideas which are
provisional and therefore subject to revision. The
teaching of Buddha (that all you have is immediate
undivided experience) is not subject to revision as you can
never be outside immediate experience. You either
recognise this truth about reality or you don't. It
doesn't mean that you can't use concepts but you must be
aware that they are (fundamentally) unreal. So to answer
Platt's question:

"As for separateness, those who say reality is an
inseparable continuum fall headlong into
self-contradiction. The thought and the language used to
make that assertion depend on separation. Are we to say
that symbolism, analysis, coherence and yes, metaphysics --
all of which are separation dependent -- are unreal?"

Yes, these concepts, as SEPARATE things, are unreal i.e.
these thoughts of separation and metaphysics are
dependent on a thinker, the thinker's experience, what
supports the thinker's existence, where the thinker came
from etc etc. This is one of the points about gravity in
Chapter Three of ZMM where Pirsig shows the absurdity of
thinking that a totally separate thought or law (such as
gravity) can exist outside sentinent experience. Though,
to be fair to Platt, abstractions and people for that
matter, can be relatively independent. It's their
(supposed) complete independence I have a problem with.

Glove, to return to your point that...

"over the last thirty years i have become convinced that
during the past, a series of catastrophies have occurred on
the earth, probably of cosmic origin, and that these
catastrophies have occurred within the history of humankind
and may well be the cause of us being here in the first

shows that cosmological evolution is not a smooth steady
progression but is more like a "two-steps forward, one-step
backward" process (as per Velikovsky). The philosophy
professor at Liverpool University who examines evolutionary
theory certainly has this viewpoint. Life has nearly been
wiped out on this planet at least ten times. However, this
makes little or no difference to the four levels in the MOQ
as it is dealing with a much broader scope overall than
just biology (from sub-atomic particles to thoughts).

As you say Glove the MOQ works as long as it is remembered
that the idea of evolution in it is somewhat different than
conventional neo-darwinism evolution.

Re-reading Theo's 8th August post which I presume is the
"initial post" he is referring to (in his 17th August post)
the example of life nearly been wiped out on this planet at
least ten times is an example of change that is not
always good.

Pirsig's four static levels explain this quite clearly; if
a change is from a social to a biological level (e.g.
football hooligans intent on destruction and violence
overwhelm a police force that is attempting to control
them) then that is an example of a BAD change.
On the other hand, if a change is from a social to an
intellectual level (e.g. a football hooligan attends a
anger therapy group and no longer needs to be controlled
physically at a football match because he realises the
stupidity of his previous behaviour) then that is an example
of a GOOD change.

So, all other things being equal, if a meteor destroys 90%
of life on a planet then that is an example of a bad
change. If life on a barren planet suddenly develops then
that is an example of a good change.

There is nothing complicated about change and the MOQ;
they are reconcilable and have a logical relationship.

Re-examining your marriage example, Theo, I was
reminded of Richard Rigel. Maybe your belief that
"Pirsig's grasp of morality is, at least a little, suspect"
is based on some on some implicit or explicit Victorian
moral codes?

I still can't agree with your idea that a marriage is
purely static, either. I'm sure that sounds wrong. Or if
you are not saying this, then in which way is marriage
Dynamic which adultery is not?



"'Little to say about morality'!? You must be joking Mr
Schramm :- It puts morals up as the very fabric of reality
- a revolution of Copernican proportions."

Bo Skutvik, August 24th 1998.

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