Tuesday 28 February 2023

The PSYOPS are to make people Lie: because this is a spiritual war, and they want us self-damned, not merely killed

Just an observation that seems often to be missed...

For Christians, lying is a sin; yet great swathes of people in many walks of life (especially the ruling and middling classes) are required to lie for their living. 

Yet hardly any Christians even remember that lying is a sin; and even-fewer emphasize it -- much preferring to focus on the spectacular stuff like torture, murder, rape, arson and theft (i.e. sins of which, non-coincidentally, most Christians themselves are innocent). 

Therefore lying is surely (it must be!) by-far the commonest and least repented of all sins

This explains the massive PSYOPS of recent years, which are based on Big Lies; which require systematic dishonesty; and which require more-and-more people to believe, and speak, and act-upon, and defend untruth

Most of the PSYOPS are attempts (apparently successful) to normalize and render invisible untruthfulness - including getting 'everybody' to ignore or deny The Obvious; and to 'forget' the deliberate sins and horrors of Mainstream-approved and -implemented policies. 

In an ultimate sense - thanks to Jesus Christ - sinning 'does not matter' to salvation: so long as it is repented. 

It is because we do not recognize untruthfulness, deliberate misleading, and dishonesty as sins; that they are not repented - and therefore become a form of chosen self-damnation

This is a major reason why, and how, They are winning the spiritual war. 

The Occult Revival versus the materialism of public discourse - its encapsulation and malignant dissemination

I have been reading an interesting series of essays by Colin Wilson, collected under the title of Introducing the occult. These date from after the publication of his hefty and best-selling The Occult: A History in 1971; and constitute introductions, prefaces, forewords and afterwords from a variety of occult-themed books of that era. 

Two things struck me about this. 

The first was that this period, more than fifty years ago, was already advanced into an 'occult revival' with many books being written and bought on a wide range of subjects - and this has continued such that large sections of booksellers (plus other kinds of consumables) are dedicated to these matters. 

At the time, this was regarded as a highly socially significant phenomenon - since it seemed to be strongly in reaction against the dominant scientistic materialism. 

It seemed that such interest in the occult must imply that an acknowledgment of the reality and importance of 'spiritual' matters had emerged and was growing; and that this would inevitably permeate and transform the world.   

Secondly, that this had Not happened. 

The occult revival had grown, many millions of people became more and more interested in one or many of its constituents - and yet this has made No Difference At All to the world of Public Discourse - the world of politics, bureaucracy and mass media that controls more, and ever-more, of Life. 

Politics, bureaucracy and the mass media (i.e. Mainstream Ideology) do not contain anything occult in their functional working, indeed they completely exclude the subject - and have been completely unaffected by fifty years of (what seems like) intensive and extensive interest and activities to do with the occult. 

Mainstream Ideology remains utterly mundane, materialistic, reductionistic; the ideas that control the world (international, national, corporate, institutional...) assume and operate-on-the-basis-of, the most grossly simplistic, mechanical, and top-down-imposed models of human needs and desires. 

Exactly as if the occult revival had never happened at all...

In fact, almost the opposite. It is as if the mainstream Public Discourse had become encapsulated: sealed from all possible influences. 

And if mainstream discourse is encapsulated; then so are Men's minds; because most Men either work inside the System - or are so closely dependent upon The System (e.g. for funding by subsidy or tax allowances; and in legal, 'safety', insurance and employment functions etc.) as to replicate System operations within themselves. 

We moderns have become strange creatures whose 'professional', or 'public' minds are - on the one hand - the only thing that matters (so far as the Public World is concerned); and, on the other hand, creatures in which this professional-public thinking is sealed-off from external influences.  


Instead of occult ideas permeating all of life (as was expected in the 1970s), what has happened is the opposite: that sealed-off Mainstream Ideology has disseminated universally; has permeated and controlled the occult; such that nowadays all occult thinking, writing, believing takes-place within the Mainstream Ideology.  

And not just Mainstream - but on the leftmost edges (that is, the most materialistic, totalitarian and globalist) of the Mainstream. 

In essence; nearly-every occult practitioner, author, lecturer, leader - is already, and increasingly, an activist for the Mainstream Ideology.  

We moderns take this kind of thing for granted - if we notice it at all. 

By now, we have experienced decades of incremental, global totalitarianism via bureaucracy and the mass media - infiltrating, subverting, and ultimately inverting every type of social institution away from its original function to become 'converged' onto the nature and purposes of The System.

This has happened to the established institutional churches of all religions and denominations; and it has happened to the disorganized, entrepreneurial world of The Occult. 

All of the apparently 'Anti-Establishment' and 'counter-cultural' influences of the middle twentieth century - whether the occult, self-sufficiency and environmentalism, sexual liberation, anarchy, drugs... whatever - all of these have been neutralized and excluded, when they have not been enlisted actively into the totalitarian project. 

But it is striking to see, from contemporary writings, how convinced many intelligent and informed people were, just fifty years ago; that the era of narrow materialism and mundane social control via materialist bureaucracy, was coming to an end - when, in fact, it had only just begun... 

Monday 27 February 2023

Lockwood & Co. by Jonathan Stroud - notice and recommendation

I have just read - with great enjoyment - all five novels in the Lockwood & Co. series by the English author Jonathan Stroud

I came across this via watching a recent eight-part Netflix TV series (of which the first three episodes are good adaptations of the first book of the series; the final five episodes a not-very-good elaboration of the second book).

And then discovering that my daughter had an old signed copy of The Screaming Staircase from a decade ago when the author gave a talk locally. This got me started. 

The five-part Lockwood & Co. book-series is recommendable as an exciting story with a satisfying resolution; having particular strengths in terms of alternative-history-type world-building, an interesting and coherent magic system, and a generous helping of humour and high spirits (I frequently laughed out-loud at the quips and comments between the main characters). 

It is essentially 'light reading', and doesn't have any spiritual depth - despite being about death and ghosts; but the author is good at varying the tone between thrilling adventures, and 'cozy' interludes (much as JK Rowling does in the Harry Potter books). 

If I had to say what the Lockwood & Co. series is most like; I would make a comparison with Rick Riordan's modern retellings of Greek, Roman and Norse mythic material (most famously the Percy Jackson series) - which are mostly written for a somewhat younger audience than L&C. Or Brandon Sanderson's 'Young Adult' books such as The Rithmatist published in the same year (but The Rithmatist - a particular favourite of mine - also has subtly-implied but definite spiritual/ religious depths). 

As always when I make a recommendation; the disclaimer: People who like this sort of thing, may find this the sort of thing they like

God's problem - What to do with people Like Me...

If we believe that Men are each different and unique in their ultimate natures, and that some of these Men are naturally Bad - then this presents a problem for God, when it comes to designing a created world for such persons. 

To put the matter more starkly: God's problem (here and now) is that nowadays there are a lot of people like me

God is creator of this world, and has designed the world as a place where Men can incarnate as mortals; and where His hope is that as many Men as possible will chose the path of salvation and resurrection. 

But salvation is not God's only objective - or else we would not live for so many years, and live such varied lives. God is also trying to provide us with the experiences we need to learn spiritually - and for some people (perhaps for most) salvation cannot be achieved until after a significant degree of spiritual development. 

In other words; some people are (in effect) born into this world with natures that tend to reject God and refuse salvation. In fact; my distinct impression is that (at least in The West, but probably all over the world) a very high proportion of Men in recent generations have been of this Bad type. 

I would certainly include myself in this category. I did not spontaneously seek for resurrection to eternal Heavenly life - quite apart from whether it was a real possibility, it was not what I wanted for myself. I only came to desire for myself what Jesus Christ offered after several decades of life on earth, indeed only after becoming (what I thought was) A Christian. 

But, in addition to this, I was also a materialist by natural conviction; I was blind-to and insensible-of God - of whom I had no natural awareness. 

Although as a young child, I spontaneously lived-in and believed a spiritual world; from the age of about five or six I seized upon the idea that the universe and everything in it Just Happened by the accidents of scientific laws; and therefore that there was no objective purpose or meaning to life.

This seemed to me just reality; and I got satisfaction from my own courage in acknowledging this harsh truth which (I supposed) others were too weak to admit. 

So, if I wanted purpose and meaning in my life, as of course I did; then these were something I had to imagine for myself - and these were not usually real to other people. 

Consequently, I tended to regard other people and the resto-of-the-world as (merely) either allies or foes in terms of whether they helped or hindered the illusional system by which I had invented a world to make my life interesting and enjoyable.  

In other words; the behavioral implications of my world view was a kind of selfish hedonism; that is, I must be selfish because my self  was the only source of purpose and meaning; and my aim was inevitably some form of self gratification, in this life and world (because I acknowledged no other). 

I am not saying that the purposeless, meaningless materialism that underpinned my life had things all its own way. There were also instincts and motivations that did not fit with the materialist ideas - and these would sometimes prevail over the selfish hedonism that was the products of my bottom-line assumptions concerning reality. But, to a significant degree, I experienced these anti-selfish, anti-hedonic impulses as a problem - because they interfered with my enjoyment of life. I was often arguing with myself, against the (irrational, as I experienced it) innate resistance I felt, against doing what seemed obviously the most enjoyable activity - over the short-term and therefore most certainly. 

My suggestion here is that this modern world can be understood as God's response to the problem of dealing with very large numbers of incarnating people of a kind broadly such as myself, or even worse. 

It may be that the incarnation of people like me were delayed until now because our innate Badness made us a poor risk for salvation, a high risk for self-chosen damnation. 

As not-very-conscious, mostly-passive spiritual beings dwelling immersed in the environment of God's love - we were probably fine; but to advance spiritually we need to follow the path of Jesus: to incarnate as mortals and seek resurrection by our own free agency.

We have been given this chance - but are perhaps not the best material, and we seem to be immune to many of the environmental features that used to work in encouraging salvation and spiritual growth for earlier generations - features such as churches. 

Indeed, people like me seem not only to be immune to many traditional religious inducements; but they often actively repel us - and are counter-productive. 

And such matters are made even-worse by the fact that a preponderance of people-like-me within the churches; means that the churches have become incoherent, filled with careerist infighting, and themselves covert agents of anti-Christian Badness.  


People like me don't respond helpfully to kind treatment and comfortable conditions - since we interpret all 'good fortune' to be either the random workings of blind 'luck' or scientific law; or else as proving that we are already on the right lines with our life assumptions and plans. 

We are not easy people to deal-with; because our assumptions are self-reinforcing - and irrefutable by most kinds of everyday life. 

The only way to provoke the necessary change seems to be, by a (repeating) process of getting us to experience the consequences of our own assumptions, choices, decisions. 

But this way of learning from the outcomes of past-choices can be - and often is - sabotaged by a habit (or indeed ethic) of projecting blame for all adversity

I have often claimed that Resentment is one of the most dominant sins of these days; and resentment is the obverse side of refusing to accept responsibility for one's own attitudes, choices and actions

If we always blame some other person - or nowadays, some other group (such as the upper classes, men, whites, or some other nation) for the adverse consequences of our own choices - then we will never acknowledge our errors nor learn from from our mistakes. 


I know this from experience because it was a chink in my armour of self-reinforcing evil that I was almost immune to the temptations of resentment; and therefore eventually took responsibility for the bad consequences of my primary assumptions; then became conscious of these assumptions - and that they were indeed assumed and not facts...

And then incrementally discovered that what I really, most-deeply, and intuitively assumed - were things quite different from those of secular, hedonic materialism. 

In broad terms; I regard the world as it is and is becoming; to be the kind of world in which the consequences our our (unexamined, and denied) assumptions are being made manifest, incrementally, and with increasing severity. 

It is a world designed for teaching tough lessons to naturally-Bad people such as me. 

It is a world where we can learn from experience those things we most need; but only if we take personal responsibility for our-assumptions, convictions and actions. 

So long as we try to elude the necessity of blaming ourselves for what is our fault, and instead seek to blame others; then for so long, we will remain trapped inside the Badness of nature which we brought into this world.  

Sunday 26 February 2023

This, more than ever, is a time of spiritual testing - William Wildblood

Many times over the past 10 years I have written that this is a time of testing

Of course, that is always the case in earthly existence but today the work of the past 2,000 years is coming to a head. 

You can tell this because at no other time has there been so little awareness of God

People have always sinned and behaved badly but the culture was always religious. 

No longer. Now even religion is not religious for the most part. 

But that is good because it means we are being forced back on ourselves

We must become spiritually self-reliant if we want to become spiritually mature

This doesn't mean every man is his own pope but every man must make his own connection to God

This is not an easy task because the fallen self within us constantly gets in the way but making your own connection to God does not mean rejecting outside help in the form of scripture, religious teachings, whatever. 

It simply means not depending or relying on that outside help. Use it to illuminate your own soul. 

That is the proper goal of all spiritual endeavour.


Edited from a blog post by William Wildblood - which manages to say a great deal in just a few words:

The self-destructiveness of evil may masquerade as self-sacrificing altruism

One of the fundamental misunderstandings prevalent among intellectuals who deny the divine and spiritual basis of reality; is that they assume evil is ultimately a kind of selfishness. The assumption is that an evil person is one who pursues selfish goals without regard for others.

These secular materialists believe that, although selfishness may take different forms in different people, evil is ultimately self-gratification - aiming at what I want, and what gives me gratification; instead of taking into account what other people want.

This, in turn, leads to the idea that altruism - which entails self-sacrifice supposedly for the benefit of others - is the highest virtue. 

The reason I italicized "supposedly" for the benefit of others; is that the benefit of other people is, in practice, conjectural - and often disputed. 

What happens, in practice, is that everybody claims to be doing what they do for the benefit of others, and constructs rationalizations to 'prove' this - but there is no objective standpoint from which to evaluate these counter-claims. 

Especially since comparing benefit involves trying to balance multiple and incommensurable factors - as when comparing the supposed psychological benefits of supposed-freedom or supposed-equality, with (for example) measurable material disadvantages such as increased death from violence, increased incidence of rape, increased disease and poverty. 

(These examples are relevant because many secular-left political triumphs that have been justified by benefits of 'freedom' or 'equality'; are accompanied or followed by large material disbenefits such as those listed.) 

Because large-scale or mass benefits cannot easily or uncontroversially be measured; it is common to try and discern evil from good on the basis of 'who benefits' from some course of action: in law, such a principle is termed cui bono?

Thus, a great deal of debate concerns who benefits from policies in terms of money, or power - or, less often, some powerful gratification such as greed or sexual lust. 

The idea behind this is that evil is self-gratifying; and the implicit assumption of such reasoning is that those who propose some course of action but do not benefit from it, but who instead lose-out from this course of action, are not motivated by evil...

The idea that those who lose-out must therefore be altruistic in motivation; and, as such, be good.

Yet this is not true; because evil is often self-destructive. 

Indeed, evil is always self-destructive - in the end; because the nature of evil is to oppose Good (i.e. to oppose God and divine creation). 

This means that, since all beings are created by God - and live inside God's created reality; all evil must, sooner or later, oppose its own well-being. 

My point here is that we ought not to be blinded to the operations of evil by the fact that evil people (i.e. people who have affiliated to the side of evil in the spiritual war of this world) may advocate and work-for policies and actions that will harm themselves, and their own well-being. 

Also, that self-destructive behaviour is not thereby altruistic. Just because a person or institution acts against their own gratification and best interests; does not mean they are acting for the well-being of others. 

Often enough - the covert intent is to cause harm to all of divine creation, including themselves. 

In other words; while evil may be selfish and self-gratifying at the expense of others; evil will eventually become merely spiteful, merely destructive, merely negative. 

This is not self-sacrifice; but self-hatred.

Evil hates itself because its-self is a part of God's creation, hence ultimately Good by its nature. 

Attempted self-annihilation, suicide, is therefore the inevitable and only end point for successful evil

Saturday 25 February 2023

When AI is as good as crap-Art

I noticed an item by Vox Day - about how a (supposedly) science fiction story magazine had stopped accepting submissions of work because overwhelmed by 'AI' (i.e. pseudo-AI that plagiarizes human creativity) simulations.

Plus I have seen scores of other recent tales and depictions of 'AI' simulations of visual art, music, academic papers... 

Clearly "They" have now added 'AI' to 'Smart' devices and the 'internet of things' as one of their core (hence Litmus Test) strategies. 

Some people have concluded that this implies 'AI' is now as good as real, human Art and will therefore (sooner or later, and rightly) replace The Arts

(Neglecting that this procedure is, even by its own account, merely a recombinatorial form of recyling.) 

I agree! This AI will indeed replace The Arts...  in the modified sense that what is nowadays accepted as professional and high status Art and fiction (and academic 'scholarship') is crap; and pseudo-AI can easily generate vast quantities of crap: on demand

If the masses continue to be happy with the crap that is consumed as current fiction, pop music, TV and movies; if the intellectual classes continue to be happy with crap literature, sculpture, architecture, scholarship and teaching; if those in authority continue to justify policies with crap science, crap ideology, and the statements of crap-artists; and if crap design and crap construction of stuff is praised, subsidized and given awards... 

Well, then so-called AI can indeed replace nearly-all of purposive human activity in a crap world. 

But even if 'AI' cannot match the crappy non-quality of The Western pseudo-civilization in 2023; it can and will still replace nearly-everything - because AI will be forced upon the masses by the Evil-motivated Establishment whenever this is expedient.

And the Western masses have shown, again-and-again for decades, that they will accept and rationalize any amount of crap fed to them; will hardly notice, and near-instantly forget how things used-to-be. 

Understanding the significance of Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

I have not made any extensive investigation of the reports of Near Death Experiences (NDEs), beyond reading descriptions of such things, by people whose reliability and honesty I am not usually able to evaluate. 

(Except that I am always suspicious of those who attempt to make money or get fame from reporting their purported paranormal or mystical experiences.)

Nonetheless, I have noticed that reports of NDEs have a broad consistency about them - which is in great contrast to the descriptions of 'Heaven' that have also been made over the centuries. 

It seems to me that NDE accounts are attempts to describe various personal experiences of the same objective thing; while instead accounts of 'Heaven' could well be descriptions of many uniquely-personal and subjective experiences.  

My interpretation is that NDEs are a real thing that have actually happened to at least some of those who report them; while those who claim to describe Heaven are mistaken, because they have not actually experienced Heaven, but a variety of other states instead. 

(I do not believe that anybody can experience Heaven without being resurrected, which is not reversible. Therefore all valid accounts of Heaven by mortal Men must be secondhand, and - at best - derived from communication with those who inhabit Heaven. Accounts of being-in Heaven will therefore be wrong or imagined, in some way or another.)

What about NDEs - what do they 'prove' and how can they be explained? 

I think NDEs suggest that our conscious-selves can exist in a spirit form that continues after death. 

This, indeed, is probably what happens in ordinary dreaming sleep; when our spirits likewise almost detach from our bodies and our consciousness stays with the spirit and leaves the body. Hence, our dream-consciousness may then have a wide range of experiences not possible to the body. 

The spirit in sleep does, however, remain attached to the body, however tenuously, as evidenced by the fact we can be woken by things perceived-by or done-to the sleeping body: or else we would be dead. 

And the same applies to Near Death Experiences; because, of course, they may be near to death, but by definition the person does not actually die.  

In sum; Near Death Experiences seem to be some variant of a general phenomenon that also include dreaming sleep, and other types of delirium (e.g. due to pyrexia, intoxication, and many types of illness); happening when there is a near-detachment of our conscious spirit-self from our body.

Such an experience may suggest that a further and complete separation of conscious-spirit from body would be possible; and that then the detached spirit would remain alive, conscious, and purposive - at least for a while.

This is how NDEs are often regarded as evidence for 'life after death' - that is, for spiritual life continuing after death of the body. And furthermore, NDEs suggest that this continued spirit life is - at least initially - likely to be conscious, and the post-death spirit able to make decisions.  

By my understanding of salvation; it is from this post-mortal state of continued and conscious spirit existence following mortal death of the body; that Men are able to choose to follow Jesus Christ to resurrection and eternal life in Heaven - or else to reject that possibility, and choose something else. 

Friday 24 February 2023

Intellect, instinct or intuition? Where best to direct our thinking consciousness? (The meaning of true Romanticism)

When the modern era began (with 'Enlightenment' or 'the age of reason') - the idea and impulse emerged that Men should not passively be ruled by unconscious instinct; but that instead we ought consciously to reason-out our belief and behaviours by our intellect

At first there was the idea that intellect ought to be rooted in 'empirical' - or perceptual - data; which led to the idea of 'science' (broadly defined). 

Thus; for Enlightenment our beliefs and behaviours ought to derive from conscious and intellectual reflection only on information derived from the senses, and from memories of sensory information (including memories encoded in writing and other symbolic systems such as mathematics). 

But a minority of Men became aware that self-styled 'Enlightenment' and 'reason' was - in practice - merely to swap a primordial unconscious passivity to instinct and nature, for a modern conscious passivity to human society

Such conscious passivity is normal nowadays, especially in public discourse; where the mass of Men passively believe... whatever is currently dominant in their perceptual environment - and then call this obedience to human power by the name of science!

Instead of ancient Men being un-consciously in accordance with the natural world; modern Men consciously choose to live in accordance with a Man-made world of ideology. 

The alternative is called Romanticism, which emerged from the middle 1700s when Enlightenment was reaching its height. 

True Romanticism was aiming at something unprecedented in human history: conscious awareness and choice to live by intuition; where intuition is the guidance and knowledge of our real and divine selves

Intuition was already and always there in us, but unconscious - Romanticism is the 'project' of becoming aware-of, and living in-accordance-with, this pre-existent intuition. 

Conscious thinking therefore ought to become directed at becoming aware of what our real-selves are saying, at any given time; and these real-selves were assumed to be attuned to ongoing divine creation. 

But Romanticism soon divided and diverted  into an atavistic and false Romanticism, which became commonest, and usurped the name of Romanticism. 

By this false Romanticism, the task was for Men consciously to return to what had been an unconscious the primordial state of spontaneous harmony with nature. 

In other words; false Romanticism advocated (and still does) that conscious effort and will should strive to direct thinking to knowing and living in accordance with instinct...

And indeed, the ultimate ideal of false Romanticism is that conscious thinking should strive to eliminate itself; so that Men might return to primordial unconscious harmony with the natural world.   

As well as being regressive, it turns-out that false Romanticism is both ineffective, and counter-productive - playing into the hands of the intellect and Enlightenment, and amplifying the power of empiricism. 

In a word: False Romanticism is Impossible

We cannot return to the childhood of our selves or our race. 

Therefore we face a forced-choice between the mainstream-degenerate Enlightenment intellectuality of directing consciousness at perceptual information and its symbolic representations - which has converged upon discovering, believing, and obeying "whatever is currently dominant in society"...

Or else to aim for real Romanticism: which is to direct our conscious thinking at discovering, and living in accordance with, our intuitions. 

Thursday 23 February 2023

Frodo's implausible and reckless secrecy concerning Gollum

Over at the Notion Club Papers blog; I discuss an episode in The Lord of the Rings when Frodo (and indeed Aragorn) behaves in a secretive way, that seems to put the Fellowship of the Ring at needless extra risk.

Geordie versus Geordie's hammer - Beings and continuity through time (Solving the paradox of the Ship of Theseus)

When Time is recognized as part of A Being, then we can also understand how a Being can remain the same Being - even if/when its component elements are all replaced. 

And we can also understand that when an entity is not a Being, and its component parts are all replaced - then what results is no longer the same thing as it was to start with. 

This is the Ship of Theseus paradox from philosophy; but it is more clearly stated by the simpler example of contrasting Geordie the Man, and Geordie's hammer. 

If we suppose that over the course of fifty years every cell in Geordie's body has been replaced (which isn't really true, because some nerve and muscle cells are preserved through the lifespan; but let's assume it)... 

Then, despite that none of his component parts remain from fifty years before - we nonetheless regard Geordie as The Same Person as he was fifty years earlier. 

Whereas, by contrast, we regard Geordie's hammer - which has had three new iron heads and twelve new wooden handles during the fifty years - as Not the same hammer as it was before (even if the replacement heads and handles are always shaped identically to the original). 

Why the difference between Geordie and his hammer? 

Why is the Man regarded as being the same, even if his components are changed, even though he has transformed from child to youth, from young man to old man? Whereas the hammer, which looks and functions identically throughout, is nonetheless a different hammer? 

The difference is that Geordie is a Being, and the hammer is not. 

It is of the nature of Beings that their identity remains, despite whatever repairs, growth, development and transformation that Being has undergone through time - indeed self-repair, growth, development and transformation are actually attributes of a Being. 

Indeed Beings are always changing, they are dynamic; which is one way we recognize they are indeed Beings. 

Being-ness is thus continuous, it never ceases even for a moment. 

There is no paradox here - unless we start assuming that Time can be excluded from our understanding, and/or assuming that Time can be discontinuous (i.e. can stop, and start again - which is another way of assuming that Time can be excluded from the understanding). 

If we try to understand Beingness without reference to Time and continuity, then we are driven to assume that Beingness depends on some unchanged essence. 

If Beingness were wholly material, that would mean that Geordie was no longer himself when all his component parts had been replaced. 

One traditional attempted-solution of this difficulty is to posit an unchanging immaterial spirit, which persists as such even when the body is destroyed, and despite that the soul may change through time (for example, by learning from experience). 

But to say that the real Geordie is something eternal and unchanging, is to render all change to body and soul superficial and irrelevant in a context of eternity. This is to posit a reality in which the eternal essences of all Beings - including all Men - are unchanging. 

And this is (I believe) contradictory to the whole basis of Christianity; which assumes agency, and that our choices matter fundamentally and eternally+. 

(+This tends to lead back to a non-Christian oneness spirituality - where all of reality is assumed to be unified, perfect, unchanging - and all else is illusory. There is no space in such a scheme for God, Jesus or Men as free agents - since all categories entail division, and are thus regarded as ultimately illusory.) 

What of Geordie's hammer? Since the hammer is not a Being - what is it? 

I would say the hammer - as a separable entity with meaning - is a component of Geordie's Being, a part of Geordie's Being. 

The hammer gets meaning from Geordie; but might also be shared by Geordie's friends; or given to another Man (or other Being) - and then would get a somewhat different meaning by becoming part of a different identity. 

In general; not every 'thing' is a Being; and those that are not Beings will get their identity - will be recognizable and understandable and have purpose - from their association with one or many Beings: through being known by other Beings. 

Therefore; if it was possible that Geordie's hammer ceased to be known by any Being (even God) it would simply become assimilated into 'chaos'; that meaningless, purposeless stuff about which nothing can be said (because as soon as something is said of it - it ceases to be chaos).

The un-known hammer - since it is not a Being - would cease to be a part of divine creation.

(But this presumably does not happen, because God - having known the hammer, would always know the hammer.)

Whereas a Being is known to itself, since consciousness (of some kind) is an attribute of Being (other attributes are Life, Purpose, Change*). 

Hence Beings are eternal. 

Even if (as was originally the case, before creation) a Being was unknown to God and had not (or not yet) been included in divine creation, it would nonetheless still continue to be


What all this tells me, is that we should be care-full about how we talk and think about Time - if we wish to avoid incoherence. 

If we start separating Time from Beings (and Being-ness), and start assuming that Time can stop, or is discontinuous; then we create paradoxes when it comes to Being. 

An analogous problem is Zeno's paradox of the Achilles and the tortoise; this incoherence derives from assuming that Time can be understood as discontinuous, and can be broken into discrete segments. 

Similarly; when we try to understand Being, we will run into paradoxes if we try to understand Being in a Time-less fashion.

But if instead we regard Being as a primary aspect of ultimate reality; and recognize that Time is an attribute of Being - then there is no paradox. 

Then Being is understandable using ordinary, innate common sense - something even a child knows, without needing to be told.  


Note: Being is here regarded as a primary category - therefore "A Being" does not, cannot, have a definition. Anything that has a definition is not primary, since it can be further broken down. But Being does have attributes.  

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Nihilistic despair, exploitative package-deals, or lame outsiders - The perceived available options for the spiritually-desperate modern Man

For those of us who believe Thoreau was correct in his assertion that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" - and who believe that this negative condition derives from the mainstream materialist assumptions that this universe (and therefore our life) has neither purpose nor meaning; the various alternative possible ways-of-escape seem to the trapped and desperate like just so many self-interested, manipulative, spiritual package-deals. 

In other words; the typical modern Man lives by a set of fundamental assumptions that mean he has painted himself into a corner of despair, demotivation and disaffection; where nothing that is regarded as real, is relevant or helpful; and everything supposedly real, is impersonal and indifferent to his condition.  

Thus, one who is in such a situation, and who seeks personal purpose and meaning in life, will encounter an array of religious or spiritual packages. Each of these claims to offer - to varying degrees, and in various ways - a way out from the corner of pointlessness and meaninglessness - but at a cost

Meaning and purpose are offered... But only with a price on them. 

To one standing trapped in the corner, that cost is evidence of bogosity, of fraud, of attempted manipulation. 

The cost seems like just another example of the exploitative indifference of The World to the desperate condition of the sufferer. 

There are two types of package deal - traditional religious, and New Age. 

The cost of traditional religions is active church membership - the obedience and service owed to the human institution 'in return for' the (alleged) spiritual benefits. 

The price of New Age spirituality is analogous but different in form; and typically entails buying books and other merchandise, or paying for lectures and workshops. 

Thus - from the perspective of the seeker - personal meaning and purpose have either been monetized, or else entail the quasi-medieval serfdom of time and labour for spiritual benefits.  


What is wanted and needed is disinterested (impartial) help in finding purpose and meaning - a source of help that has nothing this-worldly to gain from the exchange. 

This largely rules-out all professional sources - rules-out all those whose livelihood depends (whether proximally or distally) on getting people to accept a package. 

Yet, of course, all the high status, well-known, 'respected' sources of guidance are professional, and gain from 'converts'! 

The genuinely disinterested are almost certain to be obscure 'losers', and to strike the hard-nosed modern cynic as lame social rejects

Any source of guidance that is obvious and easily available is therefore likely to be regarded as corrupt - and indeed (as of 2023) is indeed likely to be corrupt - since such source must have made a deal with The Evil World in order to attain their position of status, their income, their fame... 

This is probably one of the main reasons why so many ("the mass of") people remain trapped in quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation. 

They are self-trapped by their own unacknowledged and unexamined assumptions - and they reject all possible sources of assistance - either because these are seen to be peddlers of manipulative package deals.

...Or else the disinterested sources of spiritual guidance are regarded as un-respected worldly failures - genuine outsiders whose obscurity and lack of influence seems like clear evidence that such losers cannot possibly have anything valuable to contribute. 

Monday 20 February 2023

Gladiolus Rag by Scott Joplin (performed by Joshua Rifkin)

It is difficult to choose; but Gladiolus Rag may be my favourite of all Scott Joplin's pieces - and this performance by Rifkin is just wonderful.

If you really want to appreciate Joplin, and his unique mood combinations of wistfulness with joy, you need to listen with attention

Gladiolus follows the usual structure of Joplin's rags; which is that there are four themes - each of them repeated. The first theme also returns once (without a repeat) after the second theme and repeat. So we get: AABBACCDD. 

Joplin's best work always has an integrated and overarching mood structure. In this case, Gladiolus has a generally sweet, quiet, lyrical mood; and the bass line tends to wander unusually, compared with the typically solid bass-chord alternations of most ragtime. 

(The usual syncopation of ragtime is between a marching 4/4 in the bass throughout, against the 'ragged' syncopated triplets in the treble - like Maple Leaf Rag, or The Entertainer. But here the solid and typical ragtime marching feel is held-back until the end.) 

The emotional climax of Gladiolus comes in the third theme, which becomes complex in terms of harmony and syncopations, building up-and-up over an (it seems) endlessly descending bass... 

And then the piece ends with a simple forthright theme, as simple in essence as Maple Leaf Rag - yet, in its context, and with its subtly lyrical colourations of the harmony; there is a kind of bursting happiness that is, somehow, also aware of its own fragility. 

Such is the genius of Joplin.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Time is real *because* it is an aspect of consciousness (Time is objectively real, but subjective in origin)

It was thinking about Time that probably began to turn my thoughts towards 'spiritual' matters in a fairly serious way - so that after about a decade of thrashing-around I became a Christian. 

For example; I encountered a book called Ceremonial Time, and then began reading a lot of anthropology of hunter-gatherers, and how they regarded Time. 

And began reading A Question of Time by Verlyn Flieger - which is about Tolkien, and got me onto the Notion Club Papers, also books by JW Dunne, JB Priestly - and indeed the neo-Platonism of Boethius. 

I still continue to think about Time, and have more recently come to regard Time as inseparable from Being - in that Time is included in concepts such as life, consciousness and purpose - which are necessary aspects of Being. 

Even more specifically; I have come to regard Time - considered conceptually, and all actual possible Time - as necessarily intrinsic to consciousness; because consciousness is the cause of all possible meaning, and without consciousness is meaningless, unknowable chaos

People often assert that Time is subjective - hence, they imply, not necessary not-really-real - because it is a product of Consciousness. 

They are implicitly assuming that only things which are independent of consciousness are really-real. The assumption is that only those things that exist when there is no consciousness to apprehend them are truly objective. 

This is, indeed, the standard assumption of science - as well as most other functional systems of modern discourse. 

It is also the assumption of much Christian theology; which posits that God exists prior-to and outside-of Time - that God is not affected by Time - that God is always the same, hence Time has no meaning for God.  

Such ideas crop-up in many attempts to explain how God can be omniscient without impinging on human freedom of agency - because God lives outside of Time, while men live in Time (this is the explanation in Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy - and CS Lewis's Mere Christianity, where it is also used to 'explain' how God can listen to millions of simultaneous prayers). 

All of these are based upon what I would regard as Objective Models of Time which separate Time from Consciousness, and describe Objective Time without any reference to any Consciousness or subjectivity.    

Thus - a separation is assumed between subjective Time occurring in Consciousness; and a putative Objective Time whose properties are modelled without reference to any Consciousness, and may therefore be utterly different from experienced-time. 

Yet, I have come to believe that - because God is alive, conscious, with purpose - Of Course God exists in Time, as do all Beings. 

What, then, sets bounds to Time? What is possible, and what is not possible? 

I think the answer lies in what we can experience - and Not what we can believe

Experiencing is participative - we are involved in it. 

We may believe that No Time, or simultaneity of past-present-future is possible; but we cannot Consciously-experience no-Time - because all Conscious experience involves change, and takes place in time. 

If we are conscious, then there is Time, as intrinsic to being-conscious. 

(If there were no Time, there could not be consciousness.) 

We can experience the past, by observing it; and that past can change us from-now-on as we learn from that experience. But we cannot experience changing the past, because we cannot stand-outside of Time - ourselves unchanged while operating upon events. 

When we experience the past, we are not 'travelling' to another Time, but are participating in the past as it continues in the present

But we cannot know the future - because it has not happened. The future is not a part of the present, therefore we cannot experience it. 

We cannot experience what has not happened; and the future has not happened. 

In sum - I regard Time as objective - which is why there are things that cannot be done, no matter what we may believe. 

But Time is also necessarily subjective, because it requires a Being, with consciousness. (And all beings are conscious - to some degree, in one way or another).  

In other words - and in general - all objectivity is subjective in origin: including Time

Saturday 18 February 2023

Contact with the (so-called) dead - past and present

Seeking contact with the (so-called) dead has a bad reputation among most Christians; due to the high levels of charlatanism, exploitation, inconsistency of information; and scope for self-gratification and/ or self-deception.

There is also the concern that, when real, attempting to contact the dead invites demonic influence. 

Protestants (in particular - for theological reasons) sometimes prohibit any dealings-with, or -about, the dead - even in prayer.  

But almost all societies in history have regarded the dead as part of mortal life; and the modern idea that the death brings annihilation of spirit as well as body - that the dead are dead and gone - is surely a vast and despair-inducing error or sin, due to our metaphysical materialism.

The proper question, therefore, is how - not if - we should have dealings with 'the dead' - at least, those who are not actually dead; because it may well be that those who die while desiring annihilation may, de facto (if not in terms of disappearance) transform into a state without consciousness. 

The first thing I remind myself about, is that 'he dead' are not a homogenous group; but that each departed spirit is unique in his or her nature; and also may continue in a variety of possible states. 

To my mind; a major problem with the kind of attempted contact with the dead associated with 'spiritualism', the use of trance mediums, and ritual-magical procedures; is that there may be contact with demons, or 'ghost'-type spirits who seem to exist in an earth-bound region between moral life and death.  

If such spirits are indeed contacted, there is no reason to assume they will be honest, and many reasons to suppose they are likely to be at least as flawed and mixed in motivations as we mortal incarnate Men - and quite likely even worse 9which is why they are what they are). They are likely to have selfish agendas at least; and may spitefully delight in lying, wreaking misery and harm. 

But, contact with resurrected Men in Heaven is another matter altogether; since these will be wholly Good, living and behaving in harmony with divine creation - and contact will be made only when it is likely to benefit us in our intent for salvation, and search for theosis.

(By theosis I mean our attempts to develop towards higher divinity while still mortals; by learning spiritually from the experiences of this mortal life; such that this learning will be manifested after resurrection.)

Indeed; it is a consequence of resurrection that even those who were very flawed or sinful in their mortal lives, but who attained salvation, become wholly Good in their resurrected Heavenly lives. So that we get the best from contact with the dead - such that the dead are always better than they were when alive.

This may be an element in the idealization of some of the dead. When someone has died and been resurrected they really have become ideal version of themselves! 

So that - if a person was known before death, as well as after resurrection; there will be experienced a qualitative improvement in their nature after death. Likewise, someone contacted after his resurrection who has been known only (for example) as a writer, or via biographies, will be experienced as wholly-Good - even when it is clear that before death, he may have been mostly-bad. 


I regard contact with resurrected Men - who I regard as a type of angel - is not only a Good Thing, but probably an important and perhaps necessary thing for some people; perhaps especially among the old. 

For some people, in some situations, contact with one or more of the resurrected dead may even be their primary spiritual task. 

For a start, it can be a vital source of spiritual guidance

While the guidance of the Holy Ghost is primary; since the Holy Ghost is one personage, this guidance is of general kind, and concerned mainly with the key essential aspects of our mortal existence. 

By contrast; the guidance of those dead who are resurrected Men is very various, as various as those who are resurrected; and may therefore be tailored to our exact nature and circumstances - even down to the minutiae of our lives. 

The main problem is likely to be our own motivations for seeking contact. It is difficult, in the short-term, to eliminate distortions due to self-deception, or demanding self-gratifying or self-affirming contacts or 'guidance'. 

But many of these adverse motivations can be eliminated by maintaining secrecy about our contacts - by not disclosing to others with whom we have contact, and keeping secret their information and guidance. 

Such privacy (which I think ought to be observed for miracles, as well) makes it difficult to 'use' spiritual contacts for selfish purposes - eg. to claim special status or authority because our our contacts.


Another aspect of motivation is concerned with the matter of whose contact is sought. The resurrected dead are typically engaged in the lives of some mortal people, and may be seeking contact with us; and such interest may be conveyed by various means (according to the person whose attention is sought) - by directly communicated thoughts or interest, by synchronicities and so forth.  

Or we may be guided towards particular people among the resurrected dead, by God and via his ongoing work of creation; in accordance with the nature of our spiritual needs. 

We need to be open to the idea f contact with the so-called dead, willing to recognize and act-upon guidance, and willing to participate in the processes of contact - while maintaining intuitive discernment to check that that spirits are what and who they claim to be, and that our conclusions from contact are objective - and not merely expedient.

Friday 17 February 2023

All Institutional Systems - and Intellectual Systems - are having the Life drained from them

It seems to me that all Systems - whether they are intellectual systems such as mainstream-ideology, religions and theology, church doctrines, philosophies, or the ever-multiplying New Age spiritual systems that purport to replace these - are continually being drained of Life

The fact that there is a now a single interconnected nearly-global system (The System) of the international, national; and also the functional (mass media, law, health, education, science, military etc) institutional bureaucracies - actually confirms my contention that the life has been drained from systems. 

Because The System is not merely life-less, but life-consuming

The System - and indeed all systems - subordinate and consume not just humans, but animals, plants and mineral planet/ weather/ climate itself - assimilating Life to System requirements and imperatives. 

And, strictly, The System is not even a true system; because it is parasitic rather than self-regenerating.

(Systems, like organisms, are defined as being substantially autonomous, self-perpetuating, self-reproducing. Whereas some parasites are not, since they depend to various degrees on a host. They would be defined as either sub-systemic parts-of other true-systems, as with symbiosis; or else destructive of true-systems.) 

In other words The System as a whole, predates upon its constituent systems; destroying their autonomy (i.e. their very nature as systems) and extracting their energies. 

Thus The System is consuming itself; and actually shrinking - which is why the trend globally has been to destroy nations, agricultural and industrial productivity, and - increasingly - human/ animal/ plant life and the actual structures of 'the environment'. 

Consider how 'the environment' - which is a top-down defined and actively-managed abstract concept; has replaced the freedom, self-sustenance, and independence of real 'nature' - such that theoretical-'environmentalism' - in all its major manifestations - is in practice always destructive of actual-nature.  

As Christians; we can experience for ourselves how the System aspects of our religion (doctrines and dogmas, rituals and practices, symbolism and structures...) are continually-collapsing: continually losing their power and effectiveness - and it has, so far, been impossible to stop (let alone reverse) this trend. 

Traditions are subject to this trend of collapse, but so are all attempts to re-found and innovate new systems of Christianity.

Any apparent success turns out to be at the expense of Christianity as a whole - and short-lived.

This is happening, I believe, because of changes in human nature - especially of human consciousness; because of a divinely-driven development which is a part of God's plan of salvation and theosis.

Systems that worked well with earlier, and different - kinds of people, now don't work as well - or don't work at all. 

(This seems to apply to all types of Christianity, in the West.)

In so far as Christian systems remain - they are increasingly material and mundane - and less and less spiritual. Thus the power of systems positively to transform Man has now all-but gone (and where it remains is, as I said, continually ebbing). 

Consequently, those who remain inside the Christian (or other religious) systems, and who are actively committed to the systems, have become indistinguishable from the secular in those fundamental respects that matter to The System.   

Whether we like it or not (and many Christians do not like it at all, and resist as strongly as they can) positive support from systems is continually disappearing. One may think he has found a supportive niche - but the chances are high that this niche is already dwindling, will not last for long - and will become assimilated to the general pattern of collapse.

Sooner or later, and in the end;  I believe all Christians will have system-help stripped-away - and be thrown-back onto an individual relationship with the divine and creation. 

He will then need to discover how best to survive, and thrive, on such a basis - or else become drawn onto the non-Christian - which is in practice anti-Christian -  side, in the spiritual war of this mortal world. 

The choice is between joining the self-destroying ideology of The System; or developing for oneself a faith rooted out-with that System.

Note added: One whose faith is rooted out-with The System and its sub-manifestations (including System-linked churches) - can safely make good use of the remnant Good within the waning niches of once-real Christian churches. But if he has rooted his faith within any institutional manifestation of Christianity; then I predict that - sooner or later - his faith will be in-trouble: either becoming Christian-in-name-only and dishonestly corrupted to the side of System evil while in denial; or having faith lost altogether and by disillusion and despair coming to a direct affirmation of System ideology.  

Thursday 16 February 2023

Establishment Systematic Big Lies - such as apparently-delusional victory optimism - have a covert meaning

There is far too much 'gotcha!' smugness in the anti-totalitarian commentariat, about noticing and exposing the gross and monolithic lies of the global totalitarian Establishment. 

Yes, of course They lie grossly, and of course They have constructed an entire system of lies - a fake-virtual-reality, or virtuality as I've termed it. 

But They have reasons for doing this - in particular, each major theme of the virtuality is strategic

People are much too ready to accuse Them of being stupid, or of engaging in random PSYOPS - as if any lie would suffice for their purposes. 

Yes, They are stupid; and yes They are engaging in PSYOPS by getting people to believe and affirm incoherent falsehoods - but that is not the whole explanation; and we need to look behind the specific lies that They have chosen to make the long-term and coordinated focus of their plans. 

Because each of these Establishment Systematic Big Lies has a covert reason, that contributes to progression of the agenda of evil. 

Topically; there us a system of lies relating to the Fire Nation conflict, whereby a fake narrative of imminent victory for the West is being pushed and pushed - regardless of realities. This has now reached such an extremity of ludicrousness that it is vital we try to understand what is its function. 

I think I know its function; and if I am correct it is very evil indeed. 

First of all; although you and I realize that this imminent victory narrative is a Big Lie - the passive and ignorant masses (broadly) swallow it; and the intellectual class functionaries whole-heartedly believe its truth. 

Consequently, I think the function of the imminent victory virtuality is to depict the FN as desperate cornered beasts, who will do anything to escape their fate; and this is intended to provide cover for covert staging of a "fake-pennant" incident -- which will actually be performed by the West, on the West - and will probably use what might be called "Armaments of Large-Scale Wrecking" of one sort or another (probably the obvious kind). 

Given that the realities of the situation are opposite from the virtuality, and the imminence of defeat is the opposite of what Western officialdom and media say - the real-life "cornered beasts" are apparently urgently desperate to escalate their efforts; and (given the natural reluctance of most people when it comes to rapid annihilation) 

...They need a plausible excuse for instant, all-out, and no-holds-barred conflict.   

Therefore I am expecting, imminently, exactly such a "fake-pennant" ALSW on one or more of the Western (so-called-) allies; blamed (by the monolithic media-bureaucracy) on the FN. 

I cannot help hoping this does not happen - even though it would be (as some say) karmic; yet, I think it probably will happen - unless a powerful counter-group arises to expel and discredit the currently most-powerful world leadership class. 

Which seems very unlikely - albeit not impossible. 

But even if the fake-pennant plan does get stopped; this will not do Mankind overall and eventual Good unless the stoppers are well-motivated. 

If the stoppers are just the omni-surveillance/ total-control 'Reset' totalitarians - who want to avoid world war only so as to impose a global slave state and controlled-extermination System; then what eventuates will be merely a frying-pan to fire swap.  

Good outcomes absolutely need Good motivations dominantly driving the actions. And nowadays, Good motivations need to be upfront and explicit...

We should keep that in mind.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

"The head changes its function" - what happens with heart-thinking (Final Participation)

That's what Rudolf Steiner meant when he said "Hearts must begin to have thoughts". 

The head changes its function. It becomes the place where the thoughts the heart has, are reflected back to us, where we can perceive them...

Instead of the head being the place where thoughts originate at the behest of sense-perception. 

Slightly edited from a passage in an unpublished novel called The Intraterrestrials, by Stanley Messenger, 1995-6. 

This may be helpful in understanding the Steiner-derived concept of heart-thinking, and what it entails. 

The existing situation (in this era of the Consciousness Soul) is that the conscious thoughts in our head (our brain) derive from sense perceptions, including memories that derive from sense perceptions. That is, our head-thinking originates from the six senses of sights, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and proprioception (perception of inner viscera). 

Heart-thinking is not like this: it is non-perceptual - it is direct-knowing. Therefore, we 'Just Know' heart thinking - although it can be translated into words, pictures or other perceptions. 

The idea is that in Owen Barfield's idea of Final Participation; the function of head-thinking switches from a basis in awareness of our perceptions, to awareness of our heart-thinking. 

And, primarily, this head-thinking awareness is therefore direct - wordless, pictureless, touchless - a case of Just Knowing what is in our heart-thinking.  

In other words: In Primary Thinking we become aware of what we Just Know. 

Note: if any of the above terminology is unfamiliar or unclear, I suggest doing a word search on this blog, using the search box in the upper left corner of the page. 

Tuesday 14 February 2023

A Philosophical Novel: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig - by Bruce G Charlton, 1992

Note: I am archiving this paper I wrote some thirty years ago (and more than 15 years before I became a Christian) - because it was previously published online only at the moq.org web-pages, which have sometimes been offline. This version - taken from the moq.org transcript - retains many small errors of transcription, punctuation etc - but I can't be bothered to fix them at present. What is intended is usually obvious. 

I first encountered Robert M Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM) aged 17 when it made a colossal impact; and for a couple of decades it was a major influence on my life and thinking - and a broadly positive influence. 

I now see clearly that it was intrinsically inadequate as a basis for life, and leaves the most fundamental questions for a Man of these times not only unanswered but unasked. Yet, I still regard ZAMM as one of the outstanding non-fiction books of my life: a true masterpiece.

Charlton B. A Philosophical Novel: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig Durham University Journal. 1992; 84: 111-17

The purpose of this article is to suggest a way to approach Robert M. Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Enquiry into Values (ZAMM for short). 

In an important sense the book does not require an introduction or gloss as it is specifically designed to induce the reader into its desired way of thought. However, Pirsig’s message is so radical that it can prove hard to hold onto the insights attained from reading the book, and it is at this point that an unpacking of the meaning can be useful. Furthermore, a comparison with the work of other philosophers can be helpful in clarifying just what Pirsig is suggesting.

Pirsig is doing philosophy for moral reasons. He is concerned with the effects of his thinking and writing on ordinary life. The book is intended to be read for this reason, and not just by professional philosophers. 

Which, I presume, is why Pirsig gave his book such a paradoxical and arresting title. If he had called it by the subtitle An Enquiry Into Values it is unlikely that it would have been read outside educational institutions; although the price paid is that it is not much read within them. 

But it is not just the title which makes Pirsig’s book stand apart from the usual academic books. ZAMM is written as a sort of novel, in that it achieves much of its effect by literary techniques such as characterization, plot and suspense.

— What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua — that’s the only name I can think of for it — like the traveling tent-show Chautauqua’s that used to move across America... an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. ( p.7)1’

Pirsig adopts a deliberately 'homespun' tone throughout. even though the book tackles problems of great importance and difficulty. This is perhaps an American trait, and Pirsig is a Midwestern American of a kind seldom encountered in the cultural products with which we are familiar in Britain. We are used to the West Coast hedonists, the East Coast intellectuals and the wealthy Southerners; but the Midwest is known, if at all, only for its football teams. It is not the least of the pleasures of this book that we are given a view of another America, one which Pirsig clearly values.

But why write philosophy as a novel? It is as if in order to say something new, Pirsig was compelled to say it in a new way so as to avoid getting drawn into the old predictable arguments with the old predictable results (objective versus subjective, realism versus idealism, ends versus means, or whatever). He is engaged in supplying us with a different context for our lives. The text must supply the new context, must defeat our tendency to view the new things it says in the same old ways; slotting the new information into old categories. 

Pirsig achieves this context by writing philosophy as a novel. He dramatizes the philosophical process. and in order to follow the drama we must put ourselves into the new context through imaginative identification with the protagonist. In doing this the book’s form reflects its message. The book is about the importance of ‘care’ in all that we do, so an impersonal and ‘objective’ text would not be appropriate.

Philosophical discourse as a narrative is nothing new when we consider the dialogues of Plato, rather than simply the part spoken by Socrates. ‘Philosophy’ as the whole thing and not just one point of view. A digest of Socrates ‘philosophical views’ abstracted from this context misses the point that it is the dialogue in its totality which is what we should consider. Bald conclusions are neither compelling nor correct. What Plato regards as the philosophical life (the best life) is that of the dialogues, and not that of the opinions of Socrates in isolation from that life.

In ZAMM Pirsig tells the story of his former self, a philosophical system builder he names Phaedrus. after the character in Plato’s dialogue of that name. While the Pirsig who narrates the book seems to be fairly breezy and down to earth. Phaedrus was a more tormented, solitary and metaphysical character. Phaedrus goes through a process of system building, but the system is broken apart by its contradictions to lead, via insanity and a complete change in personality, to a better state (post-metaphysical. even post-Philosophical). By the end of the book Pirsig has attained the ability to engage in direct action, without the tortured craving for ‘objective’ foundations.

Pirsig at the time of writing this book is asking himself a whole different set of questions about life from those he asked himself as Phaedrus. He is no longer hung-up on the metaphysical puzzles which previously ‘bewitched’ him (to use Wittgenstein’s word): the hunt for the ‘ghost of reason’; the nature of quality. Pirsig the narrator sometimes puts himself forward as merely the husk remaining after insanity has destroyed the ascetic genius Phaedrus: ‘Just another middle-class, middle-aged person getting along’. However it is the Pragmatic (in both senses) narrator who has got it right, and who leads a better life than the hero of faith called Phaedrus. This modesty is best seen as a literary device; after all it is the present-day Pirsig who wrote the book.

On the one hand Pirsig presents himself as a plain man, but on the other hand to attain this he had to go through the processes described for Phaedrus. Which is, of course, why he describes the tragedy of his former self Phaedrus, rather than simply describing his present way of life for us to admire and emulate. We identify with Phaedrus as his story unfolds, and come to understand how it was that he needed to ask the questions he did, and how deep he needed to dig to believe that the questions themselves were the products of bewitchment. That is how deep the reader must dig, because we too are subject to these delusions.

There are two valid ways of life described in ZAMM: the pre-critical Romantic and the post-metaphysical Pragmatist; and one non-valid (though understandable) way of life: the metaphysical system builder. If as a Romantic you don’t feel drawn towards philosophical speculation but lead your life as an integrated whole without trying to analyse it, then that is fine. The pre-critical or ‘unexamined’ life can be a good one, although Pirsig clearly feels it is fragile, vulnerable. An example of a successful Romantic is portrayed. the abstract painter De Weese. This is how people were (says Pirsig) before Socrates, and sometimes they still are. It is a special kind of moral genius’ who has a natural but unreflective sureness of action: De Weese in his painting, intuitive and undivided.

It is fragile because it cannot answer questions from ‘square’ or Classical critics, questions concerned with analysis or justification. Indeed it can hardly even risk thinking about such things. And it has great difficulty dealing with technology — the ‘motorcycle maintenance’ of the title. For most of us, things can only get better after getting worse; we must pass through the illusions of metaphysics in order to become free of their distortions. Pre-critical innocence cannot be got by trying; instead we must stay with our legacy of metaphysical ‘nonsense’ (another Wittgensteinian term), pushing it as far as it will go until we have seen past it to the clear light of a post-metaphysical state: a state when we realise the futility of becoming entrapped in our own metaphors and mistaking them for inescapable and insoluble paradoxes. We are then less vulnerable, our innocence will not be corrupted by reflection, and we can act with sureness and satisfaction. And technology can become a joy.

It is in this context we can see Pirsig’s description of working on a motorcycle (pp. 296—3 19) with its discussion of gumption. There is reason to suppose that this section forms the most important part of the book for the author, the part where the ‘philosophical’ discussion is cashed out in a down-to-earth example in everyday life.

— I like the word ‘gumption’ because it’s so homely and so forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn’t likely to reject anyone who comes along... I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption. (p. 296)

— The paramount importance of gumption solves a problem of format of this Chautauqua. The problem has been how to get off the generalities.., there’s the kind of detail that no motorcycle shop manual goes into but that is common to all machines and can be given here. This is the detail of the Quality relationship. the gumption relationship, between the machine and the mechanic, which is just as intricate as the machine itself. Throughout the process of fixing the machine things always come up. low-quality things. from a dusted knuckle to an ‘accidentally’ ruined ‘irreplaceable’ assembly. These drain off gumption, destroy enthusiasm and leave you so discouraged you want to forget the whole business. I call these things ‘gumption traps’. (p. 298)

And after discussing the particular gumption traps involved in motorcycle maintenance. Pirsig is able to return to the general discussion, but with a better sense of just how much, and how little, such general principles can help us.

— Maybe it’s just the usual late afternoon letdown. hut after I’ve said it these things today I just have a feeling that I’ve somehow talked around the point. Some could ask, ‘Well, if I get around all those gumption traps. will I have the thing licked?’

The answer, of course. is no, you still haven’t got anything licked. You’ve got to live right too. It’s the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts...

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 towards quality or fall away from Quality together. (pp. 3 18—19)

The philosophical impulse (the desire to analyse, systematize, ‘objectify’ the sense of mystery on regarding the world) is seen, finally, to be a blasphemous response; immoral, a superstitious reaction with the covertly egotistical aim of attaining mastery.

— Why [Phaedrus] chose to disregard [advice from De Weese] and chose to respond to this dilemma logically and dialectically rather than take the easy escape of mysticism. I don’t know. But I can guess... Philosophical mysticism... has been with us since the beginning of history... But it’s not an academic subject...

I think a second reason for his decision to enter the [philosophical) arena was an egoistic one. He knew himself to be a pretty sharp logician and dialectician, took pride in this and looked upon the present dilemma as a challenge to his skill. I think now that trace of egoism may have been the beginning of all his troubles. (p. 225)

Pirsig wants to dislodge objective truth from its status as providing the bottom-line justification for human action. And we tend to feel that he should provide us with an alternative. But even to name the alternative will expose it to attack by philosophers who ask questions which can only be answered in the terms appropriate to enquiries into objective truth, whereas those terms are exactly what are under question. If we really want to understand we must listen, not argue. On the other hand to leave ‘it’ unnamed is to risk being incomprehensible, in exactly the way that Zen koans are incomprehensible (that is irrelevant, incoherent, inconclusive — a series of non-sequiturs). Pirsig does name his alternative as Quality, and takes the bull by the horns, or rather goes between the horns (to use his own bullfighting metaphor for philosophical debate). by refusing to define it.

Much of the book is taken up with this refusal to attempt a definition of the central term, and the reasons for this. How could we define our primary value except in terms of lesser values, and therefore fail to capture it? But, what is more to the point, why do we feel we must define it before we can act well? That is the crux. Instead of practice (how we do our motorcycle maintenance) we get stuck on paradoxes derived from the process of definition and analysis; subjectivity versus objectivity, the real versus the ideal. This is exactly what happened to the debating opponents of Socrates, and what has been happening to philosophers ever since. Why then, says Pirsig, do we keep doing it?

The very notion of first thinking up a philosophy and then applying it to life is at fault. That division between thinking and doing is the whole problem: the idea that the good life is the examined life. Before you start living (or doing) you must sort out certain ‘Philosophical’ problems, and what is more sort them out using terms defined more or less) by Plato et al.

This agenda is woven into our discourse from so far back that we can’t see any other rational way of discussion. Breaking the grip of reason is just what Zen Buddhism is about, and also why Pirsig adopts an historical approach: he is telling a story of how we came to think this way, in order to show us alternatives (places where we could have branched off), and to explain that our present way of thinking is only one of the possibilities (the one that for some reason or another actually happened), and that reason throughout history is a changing concept.

We should see Pirsig’s use of the concept of Quality as a way of short circuiting the entanglements of philosophy which prevent us from living the good life. It is not a name for something, hut a deliberate non-sequitur such as mu or the fourfold negative for Zen Buddhists. Like the off-the-wall answers or unpredictable responses of a Zen master, it means something like ‘think again’; or in a more American parlance, ‘shut up and wise up’.

— Perhaps [Phaedrus] would have gone in the direction I'm now about to go in if this second wave of crystallisation, the metaphysical wave, had finally grounded out “here I’ll be grounding it out, that is, in the everyday world. I think metaphysics is good if it improves everyday life; otherwise forget it. (p. 240)

The search for the nature of Quality digs back and back to the ‘fall of man’: that point at which Socrates (or Plato) demoted Quality (or what the ancient Greeks called arĂȘte) and instead substituted Objective Truth as the greatest good.

It seems to me that Pirsig is a Pragmatist, as that description is used by Richard Rorty in The Consequences of Pragmatism (Brighton: Harvester, 1982):

— Pragmatists think that the history of attempts to isolate the True and the Good, or to define the word ‘true’ or good’. supports their suspicion that there is no interesting work to be done in this area... The history of attempts to do so. and of criticisms of such attempts. is roughly coextensive with the history of that literary genre we call philosophy’ — a genre founded by Plato. So pragmatists see that tradition as having outlived its usefulness. This does not mean that they have a new, non-Platonic set of answers to Platonic questions to offer, but rather that they do not think we should ask those questions anymore... They would simply like to change the subject. (p.xiv)

— Pragmatists are saying that the best hope for philosophy is not to practice Philosophy. They think it will not help to say something true to think about Truth, nor will it help to act well to think about Goodness, nor will it help to be rational to think about Rationality. (p.xv)

Pirsig is also against principles or law’s as a guide to conduct, and in favour of the ‘holistic’ notion of Quality or arĂȘte (the quality of an excellent life). And this notion is not something we should (or can) try to define, analyse or even talk about much. He regards the whole business of looking for foundations as profoundly mistaken, and is trying to substitute for it a different way of doing things. If he is successful we will find the new way so interesting that we will simply forget about our old preoccupations, cease to be tormented by them.

This is a two-stage process, although both stages happen together: first Pirsig attacks the philosophical way of doing things by describing it as a social and historical ‘accident’, then he shows us an alternative way of doing things. The text must succeed at both of these aims in order to effect change. Following Rorty, I regard Pirsig as being engaged in the overthrow’ of capital ‘P’ Philosophy which is (roughly speaking) that enterprise begun by Plato to establish eternal and objective foundations for knowledge.2 He is trying to change the subject of conversation, and the way in which we converse. This links him to the likes of Wittgenstein. but in mood more closely to Rorty himself and to the earlier American Pragmatists such as John Dewey and William James.

— If you want to build a factory. or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting stuck, then classical, structured, dualistic subject-object knowledge although necessary, isn’t enough. You have to have some feeling for the quality of the work. You have to have a sense of what’s good. That’s 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.

It all sounds so far out and esoteric when it’s put like that it comes as a shock to discover that it is one of the most homespun, down-to-earth views of reality that you can have. Harry Truman. of all people. comes to mind, when he said, concerning his administration’s programs. ‘We’ll just try them... and if they don’t work... why then we’ll just try something else’. (pp. 277—78)

So the end of Pirsig’s philosophical quest is a return to the down-to-earth, the particular: a return to practice. Philosophy does not give us the key to a ‘new’ and transcendent way of life. What was a good life before philosophy is still a good one after it. Pragmatism is the hard-nosed, no bullshit, Midwestern version of Zen.

However, it can also be seen from the above passage that even Pirsig does not entirely avoid metaphysical thinking. In talking about Quality, he is almost irresistibly tempted into the business of defining Quality. Just prior to this point in the book there is a somewhat half-hearted attempt to draw an analogy between Quality and ‘reality’:

— The real train of knowledge isn’t a static entity that can be stopped and subdivided. It’s always going somewhere. On a track called Quality...

Romantic reality is the cutting edge of experience. It’s the leading edge of the train of knowledge that keeps the whole train on the track... The leading edge is where absolutely all the action is. The leading edge contains all the infinite possibilities of the future. It contains all the history of the past. Where else could they be contained?...

Value, the leading edge of reality, is no longer an irrelevant offshoot of structure. Value is the predecessor of structure. Its the pre-intellectual awareness that gives rise to it. Our structured reality is pre-selected on the basis of value, and really to understand structured reality requires an understanding of the value source from which it’s derived. (pp. 276—77)

Well.., sort of. But Pirsig is coming close, at this point, to stating that this ‘pre-intellectual awareness’ (value) is Reality (with a capital R): in other words that Quality is the objective truth (the railway track) of the world about which all else is an approximation: coming close, in other words, to epistemology — which is just what he is warning us against. Because how on earth could we understand ‘the value source’ from which our structure is derived, without being able to take a God’s eye (timeless, omniscient) view of Reality, and then compare it with our perception of that reality? The whole discussion makes no sense and is not necessary.

In this passage the notion of quality has become reified by having it located in sentences where it can be construed as having a place in time and space.

— At the leading edge there are no subjects. no objects, only the track of Quality ahead, and if you have no formal way of evaluating, no way of acknowledging this Quality, then the train has no way of knowing where to go. (p. 277)

Of course, this is an analogy, but it is going against the trend of the rest of the book to talk of ‘formal’ ways of evaluating Quality, or even to say just exactly where Quality is situated (i.e. in the track). As Peter Cook and Dudley Moore might say, ‘That could confuse a stupid person’. I am being rather unfair in picking out this portion of the book, because it is one of the few places where ‘Pirsig nods’, but it shows the constant danger, in this kind of writing, of slipping back into vocabularies which inevitably depict things in a way which favours the opposition. In trying to do justice to his opponents’ arguments. Pirsig has allowed them to choose the vocabulary (the metaphors) in which discussion will proceed — in doing this he concedes important ground. You cannot, meaningfully, philosophise about Quality, and that is that.

It is particularly unfortunate that this misleading (although well meant) analogy should appear at this particular point in the book, where Pirsig approaches nearest to a credo, and indeed puts the pragmatic (anti-Philosophical) message most strongly.

— 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. One doesn’t cling to old sticky ideas because one has an immediate rational basis for rejecting them. Reality isn’t static anymore. It’s not a set of ideas you have to either fight or else resign yourself to. It’s made up. in part. of ideas that are expected to grow as you grow, and as we all grow. century after century. With Quality as a central undefined term, reality is, in its essential nature, not static but dynamic. And when you really understand dynamic reality you never get stuck. It has forms but the forms are capable of change. ( p. 277)

We must not be misled by complimentary metaphors like the ‘essential’ nature of reality. There are no essences except those changing ‘forms’ which are ‘reality’ only insofar as they are helpful to us in improving the Quality of our world. With metaphors, as with anything else, ‘We’ll just try them... and if they don’t work... why then we’ll just try something else’.

This is Pragmatism, surely. the same as the way of life outlined by James C. Edwards:

— The sound human life, construed pragmatically. would be tolerant. experimental. optimistic. forward looking, unconstrained by outmoded intellectual or practical patterns. and so forth. It would, according to men like James and Dewey, free us to preserve the good of the past while remaining outside the clutches of its various rigidities; and the sound human life would give us confidence in a better future, a confidence unshadowed by fears of skepticism (and its political correlate, anarchy) or dogmatism (with its offspring, tyranny). The sound human life points towards an ever-increasing liberalism, the wider and wider extension of that conversation among equals which J.S. Mill thought essential to civilisation itself.3

I am well aware that Pragmatism forms a circular justification (‘people who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like’), but that is what every justification boils down to —in argument (or conversation) what we are really trying to do is to persuade other people to enter our favoured circle alongside us.

In this essay I have not been trying to say that Pirsig should be regarded as a canonical philosopher and studied in Universities, although there is no reason why he shouldn’t be. But I would like to suggest that philosophers read Pirsig for personal rather than professional reasons. I am unsure whether there is much to be gained from a specifically ‘academic’ placing of his work. but I am confident that there is a lot to be gained from reading the book: and from listening, not arguing.

However, it does seem to me that the radical nature of the philosophical message in ZAMM has not been sufficiently realised. Nor have Pirsig’s links with writers who, in different ways, have been attempting to round-off the Western philosophical tradition and start something different: for example Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger from the German tradition:

Rorty, James C. Edwards. Thomas Kuhn, William James and John Dewey from the USA; Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida from France; Don Cupitt from Britain, to name but a few. The differences between these writers, I would contend, are mostly differences of their characters. Pirsig is, in this analysis, an optimistic, practical ‘middlebrow’ philosopher writing for a broad audience of non-professional philosophers like himself.

I am not being dismissive here. Whether a writer counts as highbrow (academically respectable) or middlebrow (read by an intelligent lay audience) is a matter of style rather than intelligence, excellence or importance. Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw and Dylan Thomas are middlebrow writers, and are at least the literary equals of equivalent highbrows such as George Eliot, Henry James or Ezra Pound. Not superior, but different. Likewise for philosophers, we need all types and temperaments. There is a long line of brilliant and influential lay philosophers such as Montaigne, Samuel Johnson. John Ruskin and G.K. Chesterton. And I would suggest that Pirsig is one of our best living representatives.


1 Page references are to the 1976 Corgi edition published in London.

2 Small ‘p’ philosophy has been defined as loosely as possible by Wilfrid Sellars as ‘an attempt to see how things. in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest possible sense of the term’ (quoted in Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, p.xiv). Philosophy in this sense is something done by novelists, poets, playwrights, priests, jounalists and critics, as much as, or more than, by professional Philosophers.

3 James C. Edwards, Ethics Without Philosophy: Wittgenstein and the Moral Life (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida. 1982), pp. 225—26. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the influence of this book by Edwards on my essay. The whole approach I have taken with Pirsig was suggested by Edwards’s intense and satisfying unpacking of Wittgenstein’s moral purposes. My interpretation of the nature of Pragmatism was also substantially affected by this book, although derived primarily from the writings of Richard Rorty.


Since I wrote the above essay in 1989, Pirsig has published another hook. Li/a: An Enquiry into Morals (London: Bantam. 1991). My impression (after a single. careful reading) is that the book forms a sort of extended and elaborated commentary on ZAMM. However, it differs significantly in explicitly pursuing a ‘Metaphysics of Quality”, and therefore advocating a different philosophy from that of ZAMM: no longer Pragmatism but something else.

I sent a typescript of my essay to Robert Pirsig shortly after it was completed, and he was kind enough to reply and make some comments (letter dated 18 August 1989). My explanation as to why the hook was written as a novel, he described as ‘exactly right’, as was my point that the philosophical argument in ZAMM ‘continues the philosophy of William James’.

Nevertheless, for reasons explained in Li/a. Pirsig has now come to believe that Pragmatism is incomplete, and that the Metaphysics of Quality is its completion. As he recognizes, ironically, according to the argument I have made in my essay. this Metaphysical enterprise ‘will strike [me] as an enormous “nod”’. Well, perhaps.

Clearly, Pirsig’s views have evolved over the years since ZAMM. I do not yet feel ready to make a firm decision as to whether or not this evolution constitutes progress or merely change. I still maintain that pragmatism undercuts the goal of metaphysics: i.e. to establish objective and eternal Truth rather than that kind of provisional and temporary ‘truth’ which it is best to believe for a given purpose.

On the other hand, it may be the case that when we act, we always (implicitly) act on the basis of a metaphysical system. This system may never be grounded in God-like certainty, but may nevertheless be unshakable without destruction of the individual: a ‘final vocabulary’ as Rorty has called it.

Notwithstanding. the kind of optimistic, wholesome liberal pragmatism which is expounded —with almost complete success in ZAMM looks to me like one of the best ‘philosophies of life’ I have so far come across. It will take a lot to make me drop it.