The Newsletter for Dangerous Thinkers


Truth Wisdom Reason Ultimate Reality


Issue 20, August 2002

This newsletter is unashamedly devoted to truth, genius and wisdom, which, of course, makes it totally anachronistic and out-of-fashion.   Some people even go so far as to call it "medieval" in nature.  The truths that it points to are subtle, profound and hard to discern.  They aren't the sort of truths that you can hold out in front of everyone, as you can a scientific result or a mathematical proof.  Rather, they are like beautiful diamonds that are buried deep within the mind.  Much personal digging is required if you want to cash in on this wonderful treasure.    But sadly, most people are too afraid to dig, lest their whole minds cave in.  And so this newsletter is really only for the courageous few.  Let the morons endlessly prattle on about how these inner diamonds don't exist.  It is their loss, not yours.  Let them revel in their poverty.  What does it matter to you?  You are a fine young explorer of the spirit!  May you go all the way with your explorations.  May you succeed where others fear to tread!

Welcome to Genius News.


Hakuin Speaks

Living Truthfully The Crippling Effect of Thought Editorial
Self Esteem From the Twilight Zone The Pros & Cons of Having a Guru In The News
Fundamental Matters Quoting Scripture Nietzsche's Breakdown Genius at a Glance
The Charm of Misogyny From the Archives Musical Enjoyment Subscription Information

The -[- symbol will return you to this contents table from each major section.

Hakuion: a self portrait

Buddha means "one who is awakened." Once you have awakened, your own mind itself is Buddha. By seeking outside yourself for a buddha invested with form, you set yourself forward as a foolish, misguided man. It is like a person who wants to catch a fish. He must start by looking in the water, because fish live in water and are not found apart from it. If a person wants to find buddha, he must look into his own mind, because it is there, and nowhere else, that buddha exists.

Question: "In that case, what can I do to become awakened to my own mind?"

What is that which asks such a question? Is it your mind? Is it your original nature? Is it some kind of spirit or demon? Is it inside you? Outside you? Is it somewhere intermediate? Is it blue, yellow, red, or white?

It is something you must investigate and clarify for yourself. You must investigate it whether you are standing or sitting, speaking or silent, when you are eating your rice or drinking your tea. You must keep at it with total, single-minded devotion. And never, whatever you do, look in sutras or in commentaries for an answer, or seek it in the words you hear a teacher speak.

When all the effort you can muster has been exhausted and you have reached a total impasse, and you are like the cat at the rathole, like the mother hen warming her egg, it will suddenly come and you will break free. The phoenix will get through the golden net. The crane will fly clear of the cage.

But even if no breakthrough occurs until your dying day and you spend twenty or thirty years in vain without ever seeing into your true nature, I want your solemn pledge that you will never turn for spiritual support to those tales that you hear the down-and-out old men and washed-out old women peddling everywhere today. If you do, they will stick to your hide, they will cling to your bones, you will never be free of them. And as for your chances with the patriarchs' difficult-to-pass koans, the less said about them the better, because they will be totally beyond your grasp.

Hence a priest of former times, Kao-feng YŁan-miao, said, "A person who commits himself to the practice of Zen must be equipped with three essentials. A great root of faith. A great ball of doubt. A great tenacity of purpose. Lacking and one of them, he is like a tripod with only two legs."

By "great root of faith" is meant the belief that each and every person has an essential self-nature he can see into, and the belief in a principle by which this self-nature can be fully penetrated. Even though you attain this belief, you cannot break through and penetrate to total awakening unless feelings of fundamental doubt arise as you work on the difficult-to-pass [nanto] koans. And even if these doubts build up, and crystallize, and you yourself become a "great doubting mass," you will be unable to break that doubting mass apart unless you constantly bore into those koans with a great, burning tenacity of purpose.

Thus it is said that it takes three long kalpas for lazy and inattentive sentient beings to attain nirvana, while for the fearless and stouthearted, buddhahood comes in a single instant of thought. What you must do is to concentrate single-mindedly on bringing all your native potential into play. The practice of Zen is like making a fire by friction. The essential thing as you rub wood against stone is to apply continuous, all-out effort. If you stop when you see the first sign of smoke, you will never get even flicker of fire, even though you keep rubbing away for two or three kalpas.

Only a few hundred yards from here is a beach. Suppose someone is bothered because he has never tasted sea water and decides to sample some. He sets out in the direction of the beach, but before he has gone a hundred paces he stops and comes back. He starts out again, but this time he returns after he has taken only ten steps. He will never get to know the taste of sea water that way, will he? But if he keeps going straight ahead without turning back, even if he lives far inland in a landlocked province such as Shinano, Kai, Hida, or Mino, he will eventually reach the sea. By dipping his finger in the water and tasting it, he will know instantly the taste of sea water the world over, because it is of course the same everywhere, in India, China, the southern sea or the northern sea.

Those Dharma patricians who explore the secret depths are like this too. They go straight forward, boring into their own minds with unbroken effort, never letting up or retreating. Then the breakthrough suddenly comes, and with that they penetrate their own nature, the nature of others, the nature of sentient beings, the nature of the evil passions and of enlightenment, the nature of the buddha-nature, the god nature, the bodhisattva nature, the sentient-being nature, the nonsentient-being nature, the craving-ghost nature, the contentious-spirit nature, the beast nature—they are all of them seen in a single instant of thought. The great matter of their spiritual quest is completely and utterly resolved. There is nothing left. They are free of birth and death. What a thrilling moment it is!


Gregory Shantz: The truth isn't very hard to find. All you have to do is think about it for a little while. No, finding the truth is relatively easy when you compare it with actually living it. There, that is the part that is difficult.

Matt Gregory: The only thing that makes it difficult is fear for the future.

Dan Rowden: I don't know about all this. If the truth was really so easy to find, people everywhere would know it, but they don't. A=A, for example, seems like the easiest thing in the world to comprehend, but in my experience far more people argue against it ignorantly than understand it.

People have such huge mental blocks due to their attachments, that truth is really not that easy to find; but, having genuinely found it, one cannot really do other than live it, because the finding of it involves its incorporation into every aspect of who you are. If this has not occurred to a large extent, one cannot claim to have found truth at all. Truth is literally life transforming. In other words, the authentic finding of truth involves the transcendence of the ego to a large degree, and the ego, being transcended, no longer exists as a barrier to living that truth; it's no longer there to make living that truth difficult.

The difficulty lies in maintaining this state of affairs and ridding oneself of the residual subtle delusions that drag us back into degrees of ignorance. That is, perfection is difficult to attain.

If one finds living the truth difficult - in general terms - one ought reconsider the theory that one has really attained it.

Leo Bartoli: I certainly wouldn't nominate this piece for Genius News. Living the Truth is a matter of memory, so difficulty with
living the truth says little about whether one has ever 'found' it or not.

Dan Rowden: One cannot live the truth without having found it. Living the truth is not a matter of memory; it is a matter of the transformation of consciousness. Without perfection, however, it is possible for subtle forms of unresolved karma to intrude on that transformation and effectively over-ride it to some extent. Memory becomes an issue when one attempts to re-establish oneself philosophically.

Bryan McGilly: Living is a matter of willing, willing is a matter of grace. Freedom of the will refers to the ability to choose to be empty and free of attachments. The confusion which is the 'difficulty' in living the truth is the result of creaturely entanglements. All willing aside from the relinquishment of willfulness is driven by these entanglements. Who knows where the will comes from, that is not creaturely?

I've found memory too bothersome a method of living truthfully. If people were told that, "living the truth is a matter of memory", they must also remember not to grow restless trying to "remember" an epiphany. Truth, as with water, gathers in stillness, and yet would tend towards the lowest stillness. Why trouble with memory if you are still? Even memory tends towards stillness.

Matt Gregory: It seems to me that one has to live the truth to some extent to even find it, or at least change your life a bit to aid in finding it.

Dan Rowden: One has to change one's life, primarily one's values, in order to pursue truth, but living a life in pursuit of truth is not the same as living directly in its light. That life of pursuit and struggle is what is at times very difficult and accompanied by considerable degrees of angst and suffering (as you know!).

Leo Bartoli: I was speaking of physiological health, not the reflective process itself. One can be a fully enlightened Buddha one day, and the next after a memory-related failure, helplessly out-of-touch.

Bryan McGilly: A fully enlightened Buddha cannot have a memory-related failure. He knows only what is knowable - that is, he knows his original nature. Buddha is sanskrit for awareness, thus a fully enlightened Buddha is the Self Conquerer, having cast aside "this" and chosen "that". Being fully aware, he knows him self and he knows eternal life. The prodigal Son who has returned; the prudent merchant who has sold all of his goods for a single pearl of immeasurable value.

Hence, Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas said, "Seek His treasure that is unfailing, where no moth devours and no worm comes to destroy".

Dan Rowden: Memory is not the issue. One can be a fully enlightened Buddha one day, suffer some kind of brain disfunction and no longer be that Buddha, but its not about memory. Such an occurence means that this Buddha has been reborn as something else and the Buddha thereby ceases to exist, so it doesn't really mean anything to speak of him as a Buddha at all. A Buddha is alive when he is alive and dead when he is dead.

Memory is certainly an issue for those who are not perfect and therefore subject to the residual forms of karma which can "mask" enlightenment. In such cases memory is needed to regain oneself spiritually. One has to reflect upon and remember what one has come to understand about Reality. But for the fully enlightened Buddha or one who is in an unhindered state of enlightenment, memory is irrelevant. And it is so because that enlightenment is not a state where one's mind is continually reflecting upon or harking back to particular reasonings or "facts" about Reality. Such a one does not reflect on the nature of Reality at all and therefore memory in not needed. Enlightenment is not a reflective state; it is an immersed state; it is a state of utter spontaneity.

If one is reliant on memory in relation to one's enlightenment, then one is necessarily still grasping for Reality and one is therefore necessarily not truly (i.e. fully or perfectly) living it.

The sage does not possess wisdom - the sage is wisdom. One has no need of memory in relation to what one is if one is fully awakened to the nature of what one is. Bryan is right, here - a fully enlightened Buddha cannot have a memory related failure with respect to his Buddha-hood because his Buddha-hood is not based or grounded in memory. It is not a memory and therefore it cannot fail as a memory. Buddha is here and now and memory is irrelevant to that.

Leo Bartoli: No real problem with this, Dan, I was refering to the gaining or re-gaining of consciousness, as you describe here, which is the way it goes for the imperfect man who has slipped away and must employ memory. 


Facture: One who perceives the world as unreal is, in modern psychological lingo, derealized. Likewise, one who perceives their own self as unreal is depersonalized.

So it is that enlightenment, being a state of awareness of the illusoriness of reality and self, is a derealized state of mind.

Philosophizing is derealizing. For me, it is difficult to think at all deeply without encountering such a crippling state. So I wonder how those of you here are able to maintain a sense of reality at such depths of thought.

What interests me is what constitutes one's everyday sense of reality, and why derealization is a profoundly disturbing state for most mortal souls, whereas for the so-called enlightened few, able to be experienced as a state of profound peace.

WolfsonJakk: It is only disturbing in the beginning as your mind (emotion) fights the idea of giving up the attachments it holds dear. Like a heroin addict giving up heroin, it is quite painful at first but inevitably it is beneficial to overall health.

For the few that go beyond this initial painful experience, the opportunity to attain this peace becomes more readily available. To deny the truth in this (usually out of fear of this initial phase) is to accept that one is addicted to their attachments. They no longer try to honestly improve themselves in a spiritual way.

Dan Rowden: What Wolf said in response to this has merit. In fact, what he said is basically correct. The key to it all, is, of course, ego. One of the ironic things about the spiritual path is that we are necessarily led there by the needs of the ego but once on it, the destruction of that ego becomes its raison d'Ítre, to the enormous chagrin of the ego, naturally enough!

But as one travels that path and makes progress - should that progress be valid - insight brings with it a dimunition of the power of the ego and the path becomes easier. In the interim, however, the ego basically fights for its life and throws up all sorts of barriers in the form of attachments and emotion and mental blockades. This involves various degrees of suffering and existential angst.

Whether one can work through all of that and come out the other side depends a great deal on the depth of our love of truth; it depends on the degree to which we posssess what in Buddhism is called "Bodhicitta" - which basically mean an uncompromising will to truth.

Without Bodhicitta there's little hope for an individual to pass through these difficulties (or to even want to try). Whether one is condemned to the whims of karma with respect to how much Bodhicitta one possesses or whether one can will it into existence is an interesting question and one which you, and maybe Wolf, would like to explore.

David Quinn: Facture, you might need to explain in more detail what you mean by not being able to maintain a sense of reality. You use the term "crippling state" which seems to indicate that sustained thought leads you to a state of depression or apathy.

In general terms, a crippling state would indicate that a portion of your ego remains unchallenged. It may be the case that you have philosophized enough to see through the bullshit of everything in the world, but not enough to see through the bullshit that occurs in the depths of your psyche. This unchallenged part of you still desires connection with a meaningful world, but because your reason has destoyed all possibility of that, it is easy to become depressed or apathetic. It is only when you can perceive the falseness of this desire and weed out the habitual thought-processes surrounding it, that you can awake to the gaity and lightness of being which characterizes mature spirituality.  

Dan Rowden: Also, enlightenment is not strictly a state of awareness of the illusoriness of reality.  The notion of the "illusory" state of self and reality is an important stage of the path to enlightenment but it is certainly not enlightenment itself because it is not ultimately true to say that self and reality are illusory. It's not ultimately true to say they are real either.


- The Gradual Shrinking of our Will -

By David Quinn

How much freedom do we, as human beings, really have? Do we have any at all? Let's examine it:

To begin with, we had no say over the fact that we were born at all. We were just flung into existence without anyone consulting us in the matter. We also had no say over what type of world we were flung into, nor the properties and laws it should have. All of it was decided in our absence.

The question of precisely when and where we were to be born, and what kind of culture we were to be born into, was also never brought to our attention beforehand . No one sought our advice in these matters. We could have just as easily been born on the other side of the world, in a primitive backwater, than the spot from where we finally did emerge. It was a pure lottery that we didn’t.

We were never consulted over the choice of our parents, nor over the teachers and elders who were to eventually shape our lives.  Anyone could have been there for us. We might have been pushed in any direction. I could have just as easily spent my entire adult life in mental institutions due to damage caused by abusive parents or teachers. Again, it was pure chance that I didn’t.

No one ever asked us what physical features we would like to have, or what our genetic make-up should be, or what sex we would like to develop into, nor even what kind of personality traits we would want to possess. All of these things were imposed upon us by evolution, from without. Plato used to thank the gods that he was a Greek and not a foreigner, and a man and not a woman. In doing so, he was simply acknowledging the fact that he had no say in these matters at all.

We can't suddenly fly up into the air of our own accord and perform a number of summersaults and aerial cartwheels before soaring off to the nearest treetop. Nor can we turn invisible, or suddenly expand to thirty feet in size, or go through walls as though they weren't there. We can't suddenly transform ourselves into a horse, or a bird, or a fish, or a super-intelligent alien. We can't bend our arms at the places where there are no joints.

Our likes and dislikes are not really our likes and dislikes at all. Every single one of them was built into our system long before we had a chance to veto them. Indeed, we have no control over our tastes at all - in whatever field, whether it be in food, art, men, women, humour, philosophy, or whatever. We just like what we like, and dislike what we dislike - end of story.

Mentally, we can't think at the rate of a million thoughts per second, or understand every detail of the universe in single flash, or create objects out of thin air. We are entirely limited by the way our mind functions. We can't change the nature of deductive logic, or gain empirical information about the world without using our senses in some way. We are entirely bound by the fundamentals of logic, consciousness and existence.

So where exactly, in the light of all this, is our will? The more we look into the matter, the less real it seems! And if we were to take this process to the very end and examine all of the many millions of causes that shape every decision that occurs in our minds, we would see that what we call "our will" is entirely a chimera, an illusion concocted by our minds.

Whenever we make a decision, no matter how minor and insignificant it may seem, all of the various aspects described above come into play. Our likes and dislikes, for example, always play a huge part in determining our choices. Our genetic make-up and  upbringing also play significant roles. Our moods and whims, themselves causally created by our genetics and experiences, also play their part. Even our inability to turn invisible or fly unaided to treetops has an influence on our decisions. All of these factors, plus countless more, combine to determine each and every one of choices precisely. In the end, there is no room for us to maneuver at all. It has all been determined from the outset.

Keeping in mind, of course, that there was never any "outset"...........


Gregory Shantz: Is this a good thing to have? Do you need self-esteem to become a wise sage? Educators believe that not having enough self-esteem is a problem for young children at school. Self-esteem meaning self-confidence. They want students to express themselves and not be shy arounder their peers. As a young person I never knew why I should be talking about things, why I was so encouraged by adults to speak, and I've always been puzzled and amazed by people who are able to do this, especially around strangers. I think this is where people begin to develop a "sense of self," and I think that society encourages this because it doesn't know how to value anything other than the self, and the ego. Because what is society but the interactions of people? It is difficult for two people to interact and get pleasure from each other's personality if they don't have a "self" that is different from the other person's. Valuing self-esteem is the valuing of the self, which is the root of all suffering.

Dan Rowden: Self-esteem is just another way of saying "egotism", it just doesn't sound quite so, well, egotistical!

But the fundamental problem with self-esteem is that it is invariably built upon a false idea of the self, and is therefore necessarily delusional.

The Master: "Self-esteem" is such a horridly politically correct term. The Western culture out of its affluence and apathy likes to foster this belief now that "we are all geniuses, we are all super-creative", with mediocrity as the result.

Would it be possible to replace the term with something like "consciousness-esteem", would that be closer to what would be beneficial? Or is the very essence of the idea pointless?  

Dan Rowden: I think one should place value upon oneself as an individual and also upon one's reason, for these things are necessary for the task of uncovering the truth regarding the actual nature of the self. But these are just practical means to an end - the valuing of necessary tools. That is not an esteeming of the self, which is always bound up in ego. It's inevitable, however, that whilst the ego still exists and one is strongly driven on the path by that ego, that one will have feelings about oneself. That may be self-respect and pride of sorts, or it may in fact be a kind of self-loathing. Each is ultimately as false as the other and whilst they are an inevitable part of the path they need to be left behind. In short, one needs to move as quickly (but validly) from the realm of the moral to the realm of the logical because whilst the moral realm is one which provides motivation, it is still based in false concepts.

Without wisdom, one cannot say with any measure of validity what the self even is, let alone whether it should be respected, esteemed or regarded with contempt. One should strive for a measure of neutrality with regard to self perceptions and just get on with the job of doing what is necessary for the attainment of that which has become necessary for us - wisdom.


"Why must happiness be characterized addtionally as a desire when it is already quite sufficiently described under its accepted definitional term as happiness?"


Shardrol: I actually do experience a fair amount of emotion in my life, but not much of it around here (on Genius Forum). I'm still a pretty cold fish in this arena.

Marsha Faizi: What sort of emotion do you experience in your life?

Shardrol: All sorts of things. For example, I have a large emotional attachment to my guru, as you might imagine.

Marsha Faizi: Actually, I cannot imagine it. Have you had the same guru for many years or is this a new guru?

Shardrol: Same guru. I'm not guristically promiscuous. But when I said 'as you might imagine' I was referring to posts in the dim past when you & Dan & David used to tell me that my inevitable emotional attachment to my teacher was an impediment.

Maybe you mean that you can't imagine how that would feel since it's not something you've experienced. What if at some point in your life before you had become as detached as you are now, you stumbled upon a person who not only completely understood your quest for truth but had been through something similar & offered not only a kind of mental companionship but also wisdom & insight. I don't mean offering help in the sense of "let me give you a hand, little girl" but just someone who understood the situation, had been through it himself & offered himself as a resource. Maybe you would never have been interested in such a thing, or maybe you would have listened to what he said but never formed any kind of attachment to him as a person.

I think we have been through somewhat opposite processes. For me, allowing myself to become attached to another human being was a sign of progress. My detachment wasn't a manifestation of wisdom, it was neurotic because it was based on fear. I won't go into a whole song & dance about my personal history but it was my experience that, since early childhood, I had not felt trust for another human being. For me it was a revelation that someone -- anyone -- could not only understand something about me but could help me. My teacher was not the first person I met in this category, but he was the most significant because I experienced him as being different from anyone else I'd encountered. I had heard of enlightenment but I thought it was just a lot of posing, making cryptic remarks & smiling inscrutably. But my teacher seemed to embody a starkness & wisdom I'd never seen before. I wanted to learn how to be like that.

Marsha Faizi: Do you think that your attachment to him which functions in the same way as a desire for truth will lead you to truth?

I am not saying that I find attachment to a guru to be disgusting because I am attempting to insult you. I really do find it to be disgusting that an intelligent human being could think that she requires this person as part of a method toward truth. Such attachment seems no different to me than a romantic/sexual attachment as a method toward knowing truth. Since a guru is a teacher that means that he imparts quite a bit of his thinking to you.

As a teacher, he is an authority figure. I think that I would have a problem with that. If it was merely someone who was instructing me in how to perform a medical procedure, I could definitely cede to his authority in that particular matter. I don't know how to suture. If someone experienced in suturing was teaching me to suture, it would be the right method for learning to suture for me to recognize his authority on the subject and submit myself to acquiring that particular knowledge through him. Of course, I would have no problem with that. Thank God, I would never attempt to sew up a deep wound without ever first learning good technique.

But I think that knowing truth is different from learning a technique through someone else's method.

Shardrol: Truth is truth, however it is arrived at. I actually think it's monumentally egotistical to insist that everything originate in oneself. Presumably you find reading books an acceptable aid. Why is a living person so different?

I think we may be too far apart on this issue to understand each other. But maybe what I really mean is that I doubt I'll be able to say anything that will cause you to consider what I'm doing to be a useful way to go about trying to understand Reality, find Truth, or whatever you want to call it. And I recognize that it's unreasonable for me to want you to see it my way (if only for a moment) & that my sense of futility is one o' them thar emotional reactions that are held in such disdain here.

I think that, to a limited extent, a romantic/sexual attachment can function as a method toward knowing truth, especially in the beginning when there is an openness to the other person that can result in being able to get out of one's deeply-plowed furrows for a while. But romantic/sexual attachments usually bog down in possessiveness. The attachment is usually less than half openness & more than half neurosis-receptors latching onto each other. Forming an attachment to a person who is available in some ways but does not form a neurotic attachment to me is a different kind of relationship. I know a lot of people will say that all gurus do form neurotic attachments to their students, but from my observation this is not the case.

Dan Rowden: Perhaps, Shardrol, you could direct your Guru - or someone who could reliably speak for him - to this site so we could get his perspective on the teacher/student dynamic? I know it's not going to happen, but it's one of those possibilities ya just gotta explore.

Shardrol: What is it you want to know? Am I considered to be a useless source of information of this kind in view of the fact that I'm a participant? If not, I'm happy to answer your questions.

Dan Rowden: I'm curious in that I suspect, probably on entirely prejudicial grounds, that your perspective of the teacher/student dynamic may be far more reasonable than his.

Shardrol: I've known my teacher for 12 years & we've discussed just about everything under the sun, certainly including the teacher/student relationship. During all that time I have studied him for any signs of getting off on being a guru, wanting power over others, etc & I have not found them.

Dan Rowden: Just the label "teacher" is a concern for me. That he accepts it means he's getting off on the role to some extent.

Shardrol: Do you believe that nonexploitative relationships are possible between human beings?

Dan Rowden: No, not really. Even the sage "exploits" those he seeks to influence for the purpose he is enacting (though he does so without ego). However, there can certainly be non-egotistical relationships, but only between enlightened individuals.

I think there's likely to be, or may possibly be, some subtle features to the dynamic that you are both unaware of. I doubt that he's doing any conscious manipulation of you. However, if he's going to use and accept the label "teacher", then I will hold him strongly to account for everything he does.

I find it highly problematic, for example, that he would allow you to in any way perceive him as a natural source of valid information.

Shardrol: I'm not sure what you mean by 'a natural source of valid information'.

Dan Rowden: The label "teacher" denotes such a thing. How could it not? Even a bad teacher is regarded as a natural source of valid information; he's just not so good, for whatever reasons, at imparting it.

Shardrol: I began with this teacher because he seemed to have wisdom. I reasoned that if he really was wise he must know something about how to cultivate wisdom. It turns out he knew all sorts of methods. I tried some of them & they seemed to work in the way he said they would. Gradually I became confident that he knew what he was talking about. So I proved to myself through experimentation that he was a source of valid information. It doesn't have to happen this way but I was a bit scientifically minded.

Dan Rowden: My concern, really, at this point, is that after 12 years why do you still have any need of him as a teacher? You know the issues. You know how to think. He's redundant as a teacher, isn't he? Surely he is.

I can't help but see, as I've articulated to you before, the delusion of authority creeping into any such dynamic, however subtle it may be.

Shardrol: The use of authority in this case is method rather than delusion.

Dan Rowden: Only where his "authority" manifests without the imparting of the perception of authority to those he teaches. This is why I want to know if there is any ritualised form of reverence directed at him and whether he encourages, accepts, expects it, etc, etc.

Shardrol: Buddhism is almost entirely about method, as I have said many times here & elsewhere. Belief in God is method, atheism is method; none of it says anything about the objective existence or nonexistence of God. 'Belief' itself reveals its essential quality of insubstantial transparence & can be used as a tool.

Dan Rowden: Except where an attachment is developed to the tool. Then there is big trouble.

I can accept this fellow as a teacher of Buddhist method without a problem. That just makes him a kind of erudite technician. But Buddhist method is not wisdom and because an imparted method works for someone, that doesn't mean that the imparter of said method is wise to any degree.


A futile defence of postmodernism

(Posted to Genius-L by Gregory Shantz)

Andy Lamey
National Post
Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Stanley Fish is one of the most well-known gadflies in American academia. He once claimed that the postmodern literary theory he subscribed to "relieves me of the obligation to be right ... and demands only that I be interesting." Fish later retracted that statement, but he's remained a pugnacious advocate of postmodernism. In the famous Sokal Hoax, physicist Alan Sokal published a paper "liberally salted with nonsense" (e.g. "physical reality ... is at bottom a social and linguistic construct") in a postmodernist academic journal. Fish, executive director of the university press that published the journal, publicly blasted Sokal for his "bad joke."

Now Fish is involved in another contretemps. In the current Harper's, he attacks journalists who criticized postmodernism following September 11. Writing in The New York Times on Sept. 22, Edward Rothstein lamented that "postmodernists challenge assertions that truth and ethical judgment have any objective validity." Surely the terrorist attacks were indisputably wrong and show the poverty of such relativism, Rothstein and others argued. Fish has responded with a scorching polemic, prompting rejoinders in the Times and The New Republic.

According to Fish, postmodernists don't claim there are "no universal values or no truths independent of particular perspectives." On the contrary. "When I offer a reading of a poem or pronounce on a case in First Amendment law," Fish writes, "I regard my reading as true -- not provisionally true, or true for my reference group only, but true." All a postmodernist says is that "I may very well be unable to persuade others, no less educated or credentialed than I, of the truth so perspicuous to me." Postmodernists don't deny the possibility of objective truth, Fish argues, merely that everyone will recognize it.

If that's true, postmodernism's problem isn't relativism, but banality. Who has ever claimed people always recognize the truth? By Fish's standard, practically everyone is a postmodernist. But his characterization of postmodernism is wildly misleading. Postmodernism attracts controversy because its advocates do deny the possibility of truth and objectivity. When Fish's essay is read alongside what postmodernists have actually said, his defence seems more like an admission that postmodernism's critics have been right all along.

What bothers many critics is how postmodernism defies elementary logic. Consider the statement "Everything is subjective." This idea is nonsensical, anti-postmodernist Thomas Nagel has written, "for it would itself have to be either subjective or objective. But it can't be objective, since in that case it would be false if true. And it can't be subjective, because then it would not rule out any objective claim, including the claim that it is objectively false."

Nagel's criticism is an example of what philosophers call the tu quoque argument (Latin for "you too"). According to it, subjectivism inevitably appeals to the thing it purports to deny -- inevitably contradicts itself. This criticism appears frequently in debates around postmodernism. Indeed, one way to view the history of postmodern arguments is as a series of attempts to evade the force of the "you too" objection, by devising ever more complicated ways of saying "everything is subjective," in the hope that some such formulation can unleash the genie of subjectivism in a non-contradictory way.

Postmodernist Paul de Man, for example, believed literary theory should uphold "a radical relativism": No interpretation of a text is better than another, because language is inherently unstable. He conceptualized his approach in a sentence that used "sign" to refer to language: "Sign and meaning can never coincide." But de Man's theory breaks down when applied to his own words. They are themselves signs, used to mean something. To communicate his method, he has to draw on the property of language he denies it as having.

Similarly, Stanford professor Richard Rorty offers a version of postmodernism which, "drops the notion of truth as correspondence with reality altogether." To Rorty, the idea that language captures objective truth represents an "impossible attempt to step outside our skins -- the traditions, linguistic and other, within which we do our thinking and self-criticism." Claims about what is true are inevitably parochial and relative. But Rorty's statement that "it's impossible to step outside our skins" is itself intended to correspond with reality: Rorty offers it as a fact about all people. But by doing so, he uses language to capture something he takes to be true -- in order to show that language can never capture anything true.

Such tu quoque arguments have been invoked against postmodernist ideas countless times. Yet rather than rebut such criticisms, Fish concedes their force. He writes that anyone who disputes the idea of objective truth is "silly." It's as though Fish realizes nothing can rescue postmodernism from itself, so he denies that postmodernists say what they say. When his defence is through, all that's left of postmodernism is its name. With friends like this, postmodernism needs no enemies.


The following discussion meanders through, initially, the well-trodden territory of the issue of A=A and its broader philosophic implications and validity, to a cursory, yet interesting examination of consciousness and delusion and the discriminative processes of mind which lie at the basis of both delusion and wisdom.

Dan Rowden: A=A is true notwithstanding any possible ontological, epistemological or metaphysical viewpoint. It expresses the raw nature of consciousness.

Non Sum: Please demonstrate.

Dan Rowden: It is certain that there is something rather than nothing at all. This immediately and necessarily brings A=A into reality and this is what I define as consciousness - i.e. differentiation.

It doesn't matter whether one proposes that things are real, illusory, a mix of both or something else entirely, as soon as one acknowledges "things" at all, A=A becomes real, and one cannot deny this acknowledgment.

WolfsonJakk: ...and yet this same differentiation is not as readily apparent on the quantum level. I am conscious of this fact.

Dan Rowden: The quantum realm is irrelevant. If differentiation and therefore identity and therefore A=A was not applicable to the quantum realm, you and I could not even begin to talk about it because it and its contents would not even exist for us.

WolfsonJakk: Also, how does an object become completely separate from it's environment on any level? It doesn't. I am also conscious of this fact.

There is no absolute uniqueness. This is really a very basic principle. How then do you purport that a thing is "this and no other" when in fact it's roots go very, very deep?

Dan Rowden: None of this matters either. A=A does not assert any ontological notion like "separation". It is all about the perception of boundaries, regardless of whether those boundaries are inherently or objectively real or not. You can carve up Reality any way you like, basically, but the truth of A=A exists immediately in the carving itself.

If an object were absolutely separate, how could we even experience it? If objects are not really separate, why do we deem there to be distinct objects? We do so because that's what consciousness is. A=A does not assert that the boundaries we perceive are objectively real; it doesn't have to. No individual "thing" can exist for us without differentiation and the appearance of boundaries, irrespective of the fact that said boundaries are not objectively real.

This is the basis of existence itself - co-dependent origination. Things are dependent on what they are not for their existence because a thing's boundaries are necessary for its appearance as an individuated "thing" and no such boundary can be without that which the individuated thing is not. That these distinctions and differentiations are "products" of consciousness and that things that may exist for one form of consciousness may not exist for another also doesn't matter. We have to be careful not to be suckered by the notion of an objective reality behind or underneath that which appears to us.

All one has to do is roll the concepts together - thing/A=A/existence - to appreciate its universality [i.e. A=A's truth].

WolfsonJakk: I see where you are coming from now. I misunderstood you in that I thought you were implying ACTUAL objective boundaries between objects. A=A makes more sense when seen as a purely subjective truth.

If, as you say, consciousness is based in this delusion, what does that say for consciousness in general? Specifically, what does it say for an individual attempting to "know" the non-subjective Absolute?

Dan Rowden: I'm not sure why you characterise this as a delusion. It isn't. It only becomes a delusion when false notions are projected onto the state of things or inferred about them. In labelling it delusional you are, to my mind, demonstrating that you are somewhat taken-in by the idea of objective existence, because you implicitly see objective existence as that which is genuinely real. But that just isn't so.

WolfsonJakk: Well, for example, a analogy of a sandcastle comes to mind. At no time in its existence will a sandcastle transcend its "sandiness".

Dan Rowden: What I think you're saying is that existence, as we experience (know) it, is a product of our consciousness and we can only know existence from within the bounds of that consciousness - and therefore what we speculate about the nature of existence is limited. But that isn't so. We define existence. It is entirely meaningless to consider a form of existence other than that which we experience and define. In fact, when you stop to think about it, it's actually kinda crazy to think in such terms. I could say that an "alternative" form of existence may be out there somewhere that is outside the bounds of our consciousness and therefore we don't know anything about it (and therefore our postulations about existence which we see fit to deem "universal" or "absolute" actually fail to take into account such realms) - but that would be a foolish thing to say. It's like saying we wouldn't know of its existence because it's outside the parameters of our idea of existence.

You can see that we necessarily bring our definition of existence into everything we postulate. It can't be otherwise. One cannot coherently think about that which may stand outside of the parameters of our consciousness because to do so automatically brings them within those bounds because it automatically makes of them: things (the basis of consciousness).

WolfsonJakk: As an organism evolves and begins the process of consciously differentiating objects, at what point does the ancestors of this organism begin to transcend this delusion of the differentiation of objects? Does the transcendance of this delusion render an organism unconscious or into a new form of consciousness?

Dan Rowden: It's not a delusion, it's what consciousness is. Delusion arises when we begin to infer inherent existence (which begins to occur with the development of the ego - when that happens is a discussion in itself). A person really only begins to "consciously" differentiate objects when he becomes aware of the nature of A=A (one becomes conscious of the nature of consciousness, so to speak). Before that this process happens quite unconsciously. Cows differentiate but they don't consciously know they're doing it. This is something of a key point: one can really only have a delusional relationship to reality where one has the conscious capacity to become aware of the true nature of that Reality. Delusion is actually a "symptom" of, for want of a better word, "higher" consciousness.

In other words, as ironic as it may seem, delusion is a necessary condition for wisdom to arise.

WolfsonJakk: Seeing the Universe as discrete objects seems very delusional to me.

Dan Rowden: It depends on what we intend by "discrete". If we actually mean separate things, then yes, we have a problem, but if we just mean differentitated, then no such problem exists, because that is, in fact, what we experience. If it wasn't, we couldn't begin to talk about "things" at all. This goes to the issue of inherent existence - that is, the notion that things really are separate, stand-alone entities that would continue to exist is everything else went "poof"! That is pretty obviously wrong, or, at least, I find its falsity pretty obvious, but that lack of inherent existence doesn't impact on the points I'm making. Things lack non-inheretency as well.

WolfsonJakk: I have a belief, based on 33 years of circumstantial evidence, that this desk, this building, and the people around me will continue to exist even if I close my eyes or go to sleep or even die.

Dan Rowden: Yes, but that's not something you can know for sure. It might be reasonable to suggest that such things will remain if other necessary causes for them also remain in place, but what if things - as you perceive and differentiate them - were products of some sophisticated holographic mechanism that requires your functioning mind to bring them to life (i.e. were basically projected through your mind)? Can you rule that out? And further, does it make any difference to the essential basis of consciousness and A=A?

WolfsonJakk: Perhaps, it is meaningless to consider a specific, unknown form but it is not meaningless to confirm the distinct possibility of that form's existence. Columbus did not know that America was specifically between Spain and India, but that did not stop he and his contemporaries from speculating on the possible existence of undiscovered lands. They turned out to be correct.

Dan Rowden: It is not in any way possible to even think about a form of existence other than that which we experience and define, because as soon as we do, we do so through the parameters of that very notion of existence and hence any such alternative form is no different to what we know. It's as meaningless as postulating the idea of multiple Totalities.

I'm not arguing the idea that the Universe may contain dimensions that have vastly different physical properties to that which we know. I'm saying that they nevertheless exist in the same way that any other dimensions exist. Existence is a universal idea.

WolfsonJakk: How is it that humans have the unique capacity to be delusional?

Dan Rowden: Because we have the "unique" (that's your word btw; I don't know if we're unique in this at all, but it appears to be the case on planet Earth at least) capacity to reason discriminatively and thereby establish what is true and what is false. Delusion in the human mind centres around the notion of the inherent existence of thing, which is itself centred round the delusional notion of an inherently existent self, which is what we (I) call "ego". This is tied to self-awareness. Self awareness, however, is not, in and of itself, delusional. It all rests on what the self is conceived to be. But it always begins in delusion because this notion of self always begins in the perception of inherent existence - the emergence of ego. The tale of the emergence of the ego is pretty much the same tale as the emergence of "self" awareness and the development of individual identity. Obviously there are a few significant periods in a life where these things seem to occur (e.g. a baby's first expression of self-awareness; puberty etc).

WolfsonJakk: Where is the exact dividing line between being consciously aware of your instinctual brain activites of differentiation or not being aware?

Dan Rowden: The dividing line is where the mind begins to perceive and question the nature of the relationship between self and other. When, where and how that happens in dependent on the individual. Most men hover on the periphery of this "moment", which is to say that most men, at some time in their lives, if not all their lives to some degree, experience a form of existential angst which is grounded in their conscious relationship to this essential matter (in short, men are able to "stand-back" and have something of a personal dialectic relation between themselves and the world - which is why men are given over to a natural "systemizing" and structuring and formalizing etc). It comes down to the term we know as "introspection". When does one begin to be truly introspective? I don't know the answer to that. When one does, I guess. Basically, the more developed the ego becomes, the more this relationship between self and other is crystalized. The more this happens the more the ego is forced to give concretion to itself in a conscious way and thus all sorts of behaviours are born, one of them being - ideation. Philosophy is born of this development - one strives for some perfect principle or system in which the self might be wholly grounded. In certain individual cases, where reason is applied effectively and validly, one moves along the correct path, experiences valid insights and then all hell starts to break loose and one is on the road to being committed to wisdom and the destruction, as opposed to the concretion of the ego.

WolfsonJakk: Also, how then do women fit into this equation?

Dan Rowden: Hmm, I'm not sure if they do!

WolfsonJakk: Would it be the case that women actually have the capacity to become aware of the true nature of that Reality? How do you match your general disregard for women/femininity with this statement?

Dan Rowden: To the degree that a woman's mind is feminine and remains feminine, to that degree she does not have any such capacity. To what extent women are biologically and or sociologically "condemned" to the feminine aspect of mind I do not really know. That questions harks back to something akin to the old nature/nurture debate, which remains open. But this question is very important to the issue of how the mind becomes open to the awareness of its nature and of its relationship to the world, which is why both myself and David Quinn, have, over the years, placed so much emphasis on the issue of the femininity and maculinity of mind. It has somewhat inevitably been interpreted as a man/woman thing - a battle of the genders sort of thing - but it isn't that at all. It is a matter of the aspects of mind and how they relate to introspection and self-knowledge and, therefore, to wisdom itself.

WolfsonJakk: Personally, I see women/femininity as merely followers of their instinct, more or less, i.e. the herd mentality, politics/grooming, self-sacrifice, etc. This element was an essential component in the survival of certain large monkey groups for a few million years versus other large mammal predators. They worked in packs and in unison, not to kill but to survive. It pre-dated the hunter and the rise of the "lone-male", masculine qualities, i.e. the builder/destroyer, the objective calculator, etc.

This relationship of historic roles and current motivational tendencies seems obvious.

Dan Rowden: Yes, it does. David Quinn makes some interesting observations regarding these developments in the section of his "WOMAN - An Exposition for the Advanced Mind" called "The Great Discrimination", which I'll reproduce here by way of a response to your own observation (lazy of me, I know, but I'm working on other things at present so I'm happy to forgive myself my philosophic sloth). David's entire essay is available on Kevin Solway's "Thinking Man's CD-ROM" - the details of which can to be found somewhere here for anyone interested.


Genetics and culture combine powerfully to restrict a female's ability to achieve greatness. Although eminists like to think otherwise, our evolution as a species has demanded that woman play a far different and lesser role than man. At the same time, her role was just as vital to our species' survival.

One of the crucial developments in our evolution was the formation of the tribe. It enabled our ancestors to deal effectively with the many hazards of an everchanging environment. We were not a physically strong species, but we were cunning, intelligent, and could work together to achieve our ends. Indeed, as individuals we submerged ourselves to form integral parts of this larger entity. The tribe can be likened to an organism unto itself, operating as a unit under the same laws as any biological organism trying to survive.

The individual human being, as a constituent part of the tribe, depended for his survival on the survival of the tribe. Within the tribe, the parts specialized into various functions. In particular, the sexual roles divided neatly apart. Men evolved to be the principal defenders of the tribe. They also hunted game and attacked other tribes when necessary. Women's role, on the other hand, was to rear the children, gather and prepare foodstuffs, and generally supervise domestic affairs. Both roles were necessary for the tribe's survival, and both complimented each other to this end.

If the tribe is to perform its function, namely to survive, then it must act as a cohesive unit. Any clumsiness here would be fatal. This cohesiveness evolved as the emotional capabilities of the individual evolved. Emotional cohesion between individuals to form a functional unit had the combined effect of preserving stability and increasing the flexibility of the tribe. Indeed, it was central to our excellent ability to adapt to changing conditions. But the ballast of the whole process, one which lies at the heart of the tribe's strength and cohesion, is the differentiation of man and woman into separate psychological entities and the resultant emotional interplay between them.

The males, through their inquisitiveness, courage, and rationality, open up the possibilities of great change, but it is woman who ensures that all change be kept to a minimum and that which she does allow be kept firmly towards the "common good". Man is by nature wild and adventurous. In him lie the possibilities of great creativity, but also the possibilities of great havoc and discord within the tribe. Hence, woman evolved with the power needed to restrain him.

Women often complain bitterly about the dreaded "patriarchal society" and their oppression under it, but I cannot believe that they are completely ignorant of the vast power they actually possess in society. Indeed, they play an enormous role in the historical process. The role of woman is not only one of reproduction and the rearing of offspring. Equally important is the emotional power the females possess over the males. Women are the preservers of the social organism, and the men are tools to this end. Thus history is as much a woman's story, even though it is true that as an individual she was very much out of the limelight.

Let us be quite clear here. Woman's emotional power over man does not come from the individual woman herself, but from the social fiction she embodies - WOMAN! It is this abstract, ethereal entity which we all worship, not the bags of blood and guts themselves. Of course, one look at the modern specimen with its lipstick, earrings, dresses and bubbly personalities is enough to make this statement seem unnecessary.

WOMAN is a cultural fiction to which all females are drawn, yet it is difficult to state exactly what it is. It appears intangible and out of this world, yet everybody knows its existence and feels its power. It fuses together into one seamless package the elements of purity, authority, otherworldliness, innocence, delicacy, erotica, playfulness, mystery, excitement, and power - and yet it transcends

all these elements to form a vague yet potent something-or-other. Its effect is to transfix men and women alike, causing them to believe it the very heart and soul of life itself. WOMAN is what humanity values most, for in it lie the greatest emotional happiness and comfort. It provides the irresistible illusion of purity and rock-like security. Above all, it promises, or seems to promise, refuge in which humans can attain what they believe to be the highest good - the freedom from all conscience. It is no wonder then that all human purpose, though it be multifarious in appearance, is constantly directed towards it. In truth, humanity stands united under the banner of WOMAN, and the person who rejects WOMAN faces rejection by humanity. The biological females of our species embody WOMAN to a high degree, while the males are left out in the cold. Look carefully into this and you will uncover the essence of all male and female psychology. Women, to the degree they conform to WOMAN, need not do anything at all. They are secure and passive. They need not think, struggle, strive, and despair after this profound psychological peace. But for men it is a matter of life or death!

It is for this reason that the woman's mind is highly undeveloped compared with the man's. For no matter where she is or what she is doing in the world, a woman knows first and foremost that she is in fact - a woman. She lives and breathes in the knowledge that her prime asset in life lies precisely in her being this magical creature. Anything else is almost superfluous, a luxury, an added bonus to an otherwise perfect state of affairs. Man, on the other hand, is completely bereft of such a magnificent power. He must fend for himself, relying upon his wits to etch his way in the world. Thus, out of necessity, man is continually looking at the broader picture, assessing the implications of each situation, thinking out the consequences of his actions, developing a consistent philosophy, and reflecting upon what is actually true. Out of his deluded struggle for acceptance into WOMAN, the priceless treasure of conscience is born. Though he begins by seeking WOMAN, he ends by rejecting HER, and it is here that his relationship to Truth begins.


David Quinn: There is nothing vague or abstract about the concept of the Totality. It specifically refers to the Whole, to utterly everything. It's all very down-to-earth, clear and unambiguous.

If my real nature is the Totality (and it is), then it stands to reason that it can't be any specific "thing" within the Totality to the exclusion of all else. That's why in Buddhist texts, it is said that our real nature has no form or characteristics, and is constantly refered to as "emptiness". It is empty of all form (including the form of formlessness).

I AM: C'mon David, how is this any different than Bible bashing, except of course that you didn't use a direct quote? I mean, you could have said pretty much the same thing using something from your own experience or referring to your own opinions. Who cares what the Buddhist texts say? What relevance do they have when communicating our 'true nature' to another? I'm not trying to pick a fight here. I just don't understand how a seemingly intelligent and supposidly sane being like you was even capable of saying "That's why in Buddhist texts, it is said that..."

Bondi: You fail to see that this is not "Buddhism-bashing". That was an example, not a starting point, "to bash from"... He wrote "That's why in Buddhist texts...", not "In Buddhist texts... so that I say...". It's a petty thing to nag someone with misinterpreting deliberately.

David Quinn: Bondi is right. The reason why I make references to other people's quotes and teachings, such as the Buddha's, is to (a) point people to the very existence of these teachings, and (b) illustrate how I interpret them. I don't have a monopoly on the wisdom of the Infinite. Other people have spoken very well on the subject, so it is only natural that I would direct people's attention to them.

Also, great spiritual teachings seem very ambiguous to the unenlightened and are very hard to understand. By referencing my reasonings to them, I am showing people what I think is the correct interpretation of them. If a person graps my reasonings, he can then go off and study other spiritual people's teachings and see for themselves how it all connects together. It's all about enriching people's thinking and creating the circumstances by which they can make their own spiritual breakthroughs.


Gregory Shantz: Why did Nieztsche go mad? I've heard people say that it was because he thought too much...Or because of syphilis. Did he choose madness because consciousness had become just too painful, knowing what he did?

David Quinn: It could have been syphilis, or from being too burdened by his consciousness, or a combination of the two. But my feeling is that he was ultimately driven mad by his loneliness and deep desire for attention. One of the things that Nietzsche really longed for in his life was a philosophical companion - either male or female. But he never found anyone. Those who did befriend him were mediocre and unable to relate to him. The only two real companions he had were Paul Ree (a mediocre, fawning disciple-type figure) and Lou Salome (a romantic woman who dabbled in philosophy for titillation and fun), and they both deserted him after a time.

If he had had at least one other person who could have related to him, he probably would have held onto his sanity and continued to produce strong works. So it was ultimately despair which ate him up.

Marsha Faizi: I think this is a very likely explanation if he was simply "mad." I think that it is very possible that he was deeply lonely and longed for attention. It can be hard to live with no validation of one's ideas.

I don't believe the syphilis hypothesis. But I do wonder if the madness may have been organic in nature. From the little available that I have read on the subject, his sister cared for him and he was, except for a sentence or two now and then, verbally uncommunicative. Whatever his malady, it was mentally degenerative to an extremely devastating point, like Alzheimer's or organic brain disease.

There are some cases of severe depression that are degenerating to such a degree but it is hard for me to imagine someone in the Nineteenth Century suffering it to the point of incoherence. Of course, if it was something that began some years before the final breakdown and progressed, I reckon that it could become completely debilitating. But to the point of becoming a complete invalid -- well, it is just something that is hard for me to imagine.

I would like to know more about it but there is not much available on the subject.

David Quinn: You could be right. He did suffer severe migraines for many years, which may have been connected to a degenerative brain disease. We can only speculate.

I think he started to go downhill with the publication of Zarathustra. His works subsequent to that were increasingly scattered and little more than rehashes. Beyond Good and Evil was okay, but even here one can discern the oncoming scatteredness and desperation. A far cry from the focus and joyful exuberance of Daybreak and Gay Science. Zarathustra was his spiritual peak, but he obviously couldn't sustain it.

Marsha Faizi: Yet, one of my favorite works is Ecce Homo. I realize that much of it is self parody and, being the last thing that he wrote before he collapsed, it is tinged with what was to come. But I think it is a worthwhile read. I could "identify" with it.

David Quinn: It is typical that people say that he thought too much. The truth is, he went mad because he loved too much.

Gregory Shantz: So, it's good to love a bit, but not too much? His love of attention and companionship did him in? Explain. I don't think it's possible to think "too much."

Marsha Faizi: It is not possible to think too much. It is, however, possible to feel the burden of thinking; the spiritual and psychological weight of alienation because one thinks. This is not simply a matter of feeling "different." A quadriplegic is different. Someone with a harelip is different. A schizophrenic is different. Such persons have no choice in the matter.

The alienation of a thinker is a matter of choice. One deliberately selects to make of himself a monster; to make of himself this terrible thing; this thing that is malcontent; who will not busy himself with what lies upon the surface but scoops up the dredge from the depths to inspect.

One realizes that he has made himself alien to those around him and, yet, longs for some companionship; some validation of his thoughts. One philosophizes with a hammer -- smashing all delusions -- but he yet clings to some hope of validation; the sound of a voice that could say, "I have thought about these things, too."

I think that it can get cold out on the perimeter of thought. Truly cold; nearly palpably cold. Loneliness is nothing compared to the icy abode of one's self-imposed exile.

In some ways, the realization that one cannot undo what one has done is the worst thing. Once you set upon a path to truth; to philosophical introspection; to variance; to solitude; there can be no turning back. There is nothing to which one may return. There is no easy chair before the fire; no cat to purr upon one's lap; no comforting wife nor loving child to take one's mind from his worries.

The burden is the full realization that one is not only alone in the world but that one is alone in thought -- such thought that takes one further from the nest that is the domicile; the feathered warmth of one's mental infancy; to the "airy heights" from which one will not return; from which it is impossible to return.

Yet, from such a height, it still possible to love and to love too much -- because all love is too much. It is not the flight that can kill you but the remembrance of the earth; the sentiment of what could have been or could be.

Nietzsche's great love was love of humanity. If it was love that killed him, this was it.

David Quinn: Nietzsche was a man of great passion, but unfortunately it was split and directed into various conflicting aims. His love of truth was enormous, but so was his love for attention and companionship. This is why a lot of his writing lacks purity. He desperately wanted to be known as a great iconoclastic thinker and to be admired for it. He loved shocking people with his thought and sticking it up people's noses - all of which conflicted with his more sagely goals.

If he had directed his passion more exclusively into truth, he may have held onto his sanity and become an even greater sage. Or alternatively, if he had had less passion overall, then the great split inside him would have been less dramatic, and he may have held onto his sanity and become more mediocre and "normal".

Gregory Shantz: This sounds close to Weininger's appraisal of him in 'Sex & Character'...and uncomfortably close to my own psychology. So how would Nietzsche have been 'more sagely' if he hadn't been the way he was? Would he have written fewer works? How many times can you say the same thing and make it new? The truth is kind of a limited subject, but unlimited at the same time.

David Quinn: If we look at the total number of truly wise books that have been created in history, it adds up to quite a few - perhaps over thirty. And each one of these books addresses Truth in a different way, due to the differing personalities who wrote them and also the differing eras in which they lived. So even though the basic reasonings which lead to the realization of Truth are few in number and are unchangeable, there is still room enough for a person to put his own individual stamp on the proceedings. You only have to look at the vast difference between Keirkegaard's approach and the Buddha's!

So to me, Nietzsche's lack of purity stems from the way he wrote his numerous works, not from the fact that he did write numerous works. If he had written a dozen works of pure wisdom, it would have been a whole lot better. But as you suggest, it might be beyond the scope of a single individual to produce more than three or four high-quality works without beginning to repeat himself.

Dan Rowden: To some extent, I think one can gain a clearer insight into certain aspects of Nietzsche's relationship to society, specific others and the need for validation of his thought being spoken about from his private correspondence. It's really quite revealing. Unfortunately, not many anthologies of his work include much or any of it.

One of the main philosophical failings I see in Nietzsche was the lack of logical grounding in his emergence from the inevitable nihilism of the knowledge of the death of God (objective reality and morality etc). His emergence from that nihilism, given its most potent expression in Zarathustra, had too much emotion attached to it. It was almost like a religious exhortation to the spirit to take flight into the world.

I don't think he could ever quite convince himself of the validity of that exhortation and thereby free himself from the pains of the nihilism. His error, of course, was in not seeing the necessity of valuing and that one does not need any kind of emotional or "romantic" stimulus for the spirit to indeed take flight.

IThe Master: David, you mentioned, "...over thirty books". Could you provide a list of recommended reading, say 5. If possible, make them books that would likely be readily available in a library.

Gregory Shantz: I would personally reccomend "Sex & Character" by Otto Weininger. A university library should have a copy. It's much easier to read in hard copy than on a computer monitor.

David Quinn: Apart from Sex and Character, which is very good, I would also recommend:

"The Moment", Kierkegaard (sometimes known as "Attack Upon Christendom")
"The Banquet", Kierkegaard (found in "Stages On Life's Way")
Kierkegaard's Journals & Papers
"Thus Spake Zarathustra", Nietzsche
The Lectures and Talks of Hakuin
The Zen Teachings of Huang Po
The Anecdotes of Diogenes
Chuang Tzu
The Gospel of Ramakrishna
The Dhammapada
The Diamond Sutra
"Poison for the Heart", Kevin Solway
"The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga", Paul Brunton (A good analysis of the way mind creates reality)
"The Way of Zen", Alan Watts (A good introduction to Buddhism)

Gregory Shantz: How many of you would be leading philosophical lives if you didn't have the validation of others; if no one had come before, if you were totally alone. If no one read what you wrote, or cared. What if you were the first?

David Quinn: That's a tough question to answer, as we are all products of our environment. If I had grown up in the absence of the kinds of influences I had - including those of past and present philosophers - I would have been a different person and one can only speculate how I would have turned out. But what we know for sure was that at some point in history the very first philosopher arose and he managed to cope somehow, enough to get the whole spiritual tradition up and running.

Gregory Shantz: This first philosopher must have had a really hard time, I think. Can you imagine how difficult it would have been for him?

David Quinn: He must have been a great genius. And probably more than one of them, considering that the teachings of a genius in pre-agricultural days would have quickly disappeared into the ether.

Gregory Shantz: One more question: Is imitating others valuable in becoming a philosopher? Isn't imitation feminine? I am thinking of the section in Kierkegaard's Journals & Papers (which I've been reading lately) headed IMITATION, where he writes about the value of imitating.

David Quinn: I reckon it is only natural for people who are initially starting out to imitate their mentors. It's a necessary stage on the way. It creates a framework for the student to begin his progress. But hopefully, if the mentor and student are both high-quality individuals, it will only be a transitory stage and the student will eventually find his own path. After all, that is the very purpose of mentoring - to turn students into mentors.

K949: I would like to point out that I see varying degrees of insanity. From what I've read the most common way of going insane represents some sort of explosion in the psyche- like a dam bursting and wasting all in its path. Nietzsche seems to have broken down rather than exploding - as if the cogs of his head had worn down from abuse and neglect.

I have little evidence for my assumptions other than my experiences in life where I feel most creative and strongest which I use to as a reference to Nietzsche here. Perhaps only an athlete could understand me...I assume most of you are semi-sessile creatures(?).

To the point: one works oneself-- one's spirituality, one's sex-- up so highly, spiraling and deeply that it is this very intensity that wears on the brain. The phrase "walking on a wire" comes to mind, because it is very much like that. One wrong step and the body falls to the dessert floor, shattering into innummerous pieces like stained-glass exploding with the intensity of a supernova.

Is my description obfuscating? Then join the military or force yourself to run three hours a day for nine months in order to understand. Or imagine your cock (or your man's cock) as a 17th century cannon blasting off with the force of the nuclear warhead that was trapped inside by some sloppy obstruction.

David Quinn: There is little doubt that if you overeach yourself, you are bound to crash down to earth with a bang. It happened to Weininger and it happened to Nietzsche.

Weininger was young (he killed himself at age 23) and his level of intensity was almost superhuman. He achieved much in a short space of time, but his down-going was very swift and dramatic. I sometimes wonder what he could have achieved if he had been just a little less intense. He certainly wouldn't have achieved as much as did in his teens and early twenties, but he might have survived the turbulence of those early years and matured into a truly great thinker. He never managed to reach that high level of equilibrium that comes with enlightenment.

In my view, it is just as important to know when to take the foot off the pedal as it is to be intense. It's kind of balancing act between really pushing yourself and taking it easy. The rest periods are important if you want to have a long career as a philosopher.

Matt Gregory: Nietzsche and Weininger may have sought wisdom, but they were also hardcore into academic pursuits. I wonder if that's not what drove them over the edge.

Gregory Shantz: It's funny that you don't hear about Eastern philosophers having mental breakdowns. I know of at least two Western philosophers who have suffered them.

David Quinn: Yes, it is interesting that Eastern philosophers tend to zero in on the very root of existence and try to solve that before they do anything else. Nietzsche and Weininger, on the other hand, were all over the place and rarely applied their minds to the fundamentals in any sustained way.

You can see the results of this in the traditional Eastern and Western canons. In the East, the focus is very narrow and concentrates almost exclusively on the subject of enlightenment. The West is nowhere near as deep, but its purview is broader in scope. You don't find the wide range of psychological and sociological insights in the East that you find in the West. So in many ways, the two complement each other very well.

The ideal for an individual living here and now would be to combine the two. To acquire the deep understanding of enlightenment as well as having a broad knowledge of psychology - which is essentially what Kevin, Dan and myself have been doing over the years. A synthesis of Eastern spirituality with Western realism.

As far as the issue of taking rests are concerned, I fully agree with Hakuin that the quickest and surest way to attain enlightenment is by focusing deeply in a sustained manner on trying to comprehend one's self-nature. There is really no other way. If a person can do this without too much drama, then more power to him. But if he can't - if he can only approach it in spurts or else face the risk of burning out - then he needs to be realistic. He needs to have an understanding of his strengths and weakness and work from there.

By "rests", I'm not necessarily refering to the wallowing in egotistical pleasure (although it can mean that). It could just mean a case of taking the foot off the accelerator a bit and cruising for a while. The momentum of your previous efforts is still carrying you forward, but at the same time you are saving precious energy. And then, when you are feeling more refreshed, you can take off once more.

I know that Weininger would fundamentally disagree with me on this point. He thought that any kind of let-up was inherently immoral, that it shows that you are half-hearted in your committment to truth. But I tend to see things differently. You have to be realistic about who you are and what your level of attainment is. If you drive a car full-bore all day and never turn the engine off at night, the car will quickly burn itself out through wear and tear. It is the same with the human body. Push it hard, by all means, but look after it at the same time.

Also, if you do decide to wallow in egotistical pleasure, then don't be afraid to enjoy it. Let the ego have what it wants. Don't hold back at all. That way the ego will become satisfied more quickly and you can return to the philosophical realm without too much delay. If you go into these egotistical wallowings trying not to enjoy yourself, then the underlying craving for enjoyment will continue to simmer away and it could come back to haunt you later in a more powerful manner. Best to get it out of the system as soon as possible.

The only thing to look out for is possible long-term consequences which could affect your life adversely - e.g. marriage, debt, health problems, etc.

Matt Gregory: My theory about Weininger is that his artistic productivity is what got him. A lot of times, when a person finishes a creative work that he is pleased with and looks at it afterwards and appreciates it, it seems to him to be a greater work than it really is. Even if he were given a better work to compare it to and he acknowledged that it was better, I think he would still favor his own with an artistic justification. I'm not really sure why this occurs, but it seems to me to go beyond simply knowing that he made it and enjoying that fact. It's almost as if the ego were looking at itself and appreciating its own reflection on a subliminal level.

Another danger that occurs with creative activity happens when you feel like you've done something that no one else has done before. This is closely related to the previous point and may even explain in itself the bloated sense of worth of the work. I don't think this is all that bad, but when the person gets confirmation from society that it's something no one has ever seen before and advances the whole field up a notch, then I think it gets to be really dangerous for the artist. First, the work becomes like a sacred object, and more importantly, the artist feels more powerful than he really is, and I think this leads to a manic-depressive type of state. Now the artist feels he can do anything at all, including fix all the outstanding problems in his field (especially something technical like science), which is within the realm of possibility, but, unfortunately, he usually wants to fix them all simultaneously, which leads to impatience and mania.

I think this is what happened to Weininger. I'm sure he felt Sex and Character was a complete success, and I think it led him to overestimate his productive abilities. Some of the things in his notebook (such as the idea of categorizing every existing thing into its metaphysical counterpart) and things that were written about him afterwards (saying to Freud, "I'd rather write ten more books"; not that it was unreasonable for him to reject an empirical study of the sexes, but just going by the fact that he was thinking of writing so many books ahead of time) indicate to me that he did fall into this trap.

Of course, we'll never really know, but that's just my personal theory.


Quotes of quality from Genius-L and Genius Forum

A=A points to the logical capacity of the human mind, the logical property of identity.  A not= notA is really the other side of the same coin - contrast or difference.  That is to say, a given thing conforms to the definition of that thing and a different thing does not conform to that definition.  The law of identity (and the law of difference) is the basis for the "conceptuability" of a concept. (As Otto Weininger says:  It is constitutive for conceivability.  A=A founds a kingdom [of existence] ).  Without a logical capacity a person literally could not experience a thing.  He could not know that a given thing exists in the present, much less recall that something existed in the past. Bob Willis

I accept the fact that there have been no great female geniuses. I think that, with the passage of much time, there will be such geniuses but, by that time, the genders will not be as distinguishable as they are now or they will not be distinguishable at all. There will be no "female geniuses" because there will be no females.

The very idea of a female genius is preposterous. That concept is not unlike the idea of a woman writer. I would rather be dead than to ever be considered a "woman writer" and, if a woman writes, she is automatically considered to be a woman writer. "Woman writers" write about issues that concern women and most issues that concern women are resolutely related to their gender.

I find that to be disgusting. There are no writers who are known as "man writers." A man can write anything about anything. That is what I want, if not for myself, then, for some future writer who happens to be technically female. I have no desire to write about menopause or menstrual cramps or childbirth or breast cancer or my husband. Why must one who is technically female be presumed to have a husband or some other male figure lurking in the background about whom "she" must write -- and, if she does not, then, why is the opposite presumed? "She hates her own gender. She must be a Lesbian. She is an 'Uncle Tom. She has forsaken her sex?"

No man is ever accused of forsaking his sex because he chooses not to write about his penis or about prostate cancer or his wife. He is not accused of being homosexual merely because he does not have a wife or a girlfriend.

I don't want to be "treated" equally. I don't want to be "treated" condescendingly as a "woman writer." I don't want -- and will not accept -- the idea that "one must remember" that women have been ingrained with inferiority -- not in relation to myself; not in relation to any human being who may come along in the future who happens to be born "technically female" but has the desire to write and to think as a philosopher.

The onus that well-intentioned but ignorant men of the Twenty-First Century put on women is every bit as rigid and as sexist as that of well-intentioned but ignorant men of the Eighteenth Century

Female acquiescence to such ignorance is acquiescence to slavery.

In all circumstances, the will of the slave is as culpable as the will of the master. Until the chain of dependency is broken from both sides, nothing will change.
Marsha Faizi

In the stream of experience some thoughts are definite and clear, others are fuzzy and uncertain.  Some memories are sketchy, others are well defined.  The possibility of half defined thoughts does not really detract from the fact that other thoughts can be fully formed and that A=A (or more accurately, what A=A points to) is valid.

There are a good many examples of these half thoughts - deja vu, "the name of that song is on the tip of my tongue", "I've heard that word before, but I can't recall what it means", "is that a well camouflaged insect or a leaf?", the reaction time between seeing something and recognizing it, brain farts, unclear childhood memories, etc., etc.  Without "A=A" your world would be just one great scrambled mess of the above sort of half thoughts, confusion and incoherent vagueness (if not worse). Bob Willis

I value Truth because I want to lead a good life. To lead a good life, I have to do what's right. To be able to do what's right is to also know what is wrong. Right and wrong revolve around what is held to be True (at least for those who think).

To each is given the choice to uphold the torch of Truth, or so we would like to think, but all we can know for certain is whether or not we choose to do so.
Bryan McGilly


WolfsonJakk:  Why do you think these young people latch onto the "woman" issue rather than the larger enlightenment issue? They seem to look up to you, perhaps you could guide them into a deeper understanding of your stance on femininity and its' relation to the Absolute. I believe it would go a long way in moving them away from this mere topical understanding of something I seriously doubt they have much experince with.  

Dan Rowden: I agree with what you're saying, but it's a process and one which people tend to engage emotionally in the first instance. The feminine dimension of mind and its relationship to philosophy and enlightenment tends to be a matter that is, initially, too abstract for people to deal with. Now, that might seem odd given that they're people supposedly interested in philosophy and abstract issues, but the whole "Woman" thing is so powerfully inbued with emotion and attachment that I have found it to be a dynamic unto itself and one which has to be approached differently than most philosophic matters.

However, even the way people engage the issue, which often begins with an "analysis" of women and their relationship to them, has important elements in that it provides a window into our own minds and our attachment to "Woman". So, as unedifying as it sometimes seems, there's nevertheless some merit in these sorts of "discussions".

It's not exactly optimal, but the nature of this particular beast means that this is where most people start in terms of their engagement with those more abstract, and ultimately more philosophically significant, matters concerning mind and its feminine - and masculine - dimensions.




John Stafford: I have no problem considering that there is a boundary to the brain just as there is a limit to our influence in the universe. The boundary-less quality, in my view, is the place where our brain (and every other cell) meets the universe at the quantum level where time is symmetric, and therefore quite confounding to imagine, but still a boundary.

David Quinn: It should be noted that the question of whether boundaries really exist in Nature is a logical question and has nothing whatsoever to do with physics. Accordingly, the answer to it would necessarily apply to all things in Nature, no matter what they are. I'm afraid that the sub-atomic realm has no special status in this regard.

At bottom, the issue is a very black and white one. Things are either separate from one another or they're not. No other alternative is possible. There is ultimately no such thing as a partial separation, for example.

If things were truly separate from one another, then there would be no way they could influence each other. For example, if a tennis ball was truly separate from the rest of the world, then there is no way it could bounce off the ground. Similarly, if the brain was truly separate from the rest of Nature, then consciousness of the rest of Nature would be impossible.

Just the fact that things are influencing each other all the time is evidence (although not proof) that the separation between things is not real. Because things are not truly separate from one another, any boundary which marks where one thing ends and another begins is purely a product of our own imaginations. For example, the boundary marking the point when a sapling ceases to be a sapling and becomes a shrub is obviously artificial.

Since there is no real beginning or end to anything, the whole notion of existence is completely undermined. Only Nature is real; all else is unreal.


Jeff Conrad: What makes music hangout in the brain, especially annoying/simple music?

I got curious about this while trying to decide why beings find music likable. I had compared it in my mind to something that just "felt good" to the nerves of the inner ear, like scratching an itch, but I don't play back, in my mind, the pleasure of scratching an itch or the rhythm of the scratching. Yet, I'll be minding my own business when I suddenly realize the "I Dream of Jeannie" theme is coming out of my mouth and I haven't seen the show in over a decade. I mainly listen to Jazz and Zappa (occasionally classical when I'm trapped into listening to a radio) and part of the benefits of such music is that it is unlikely to be hummed without at least some conscious effort to remember all of the parts. But, the "Flintstones" comes rolling on out for hours before I've realized it and I couldn't swear that I've ever seen the Flintstones as an adult. Has anyone a good theory or, better yet, some 100% truth on the topic?

Leo Bartoli: No great mystery, to recall such a theme is to relive the pleasurable feelings experienced at that original time,
often coincident with a period in the early years in which one was less encumbered by responsibility and undisturbed by his relative unconsciousness.

Jeff Conrad: I guess my post was not very clear. I'm more curious about the "recording and playing back" of music by the mind. Visual art, literature and film don't play back in the mind like music does. If I hear a song for the first time on the way to work and hum it throughout the day, it doesn't make sense that I would be associating pleasurable feelings with it since I heard it while stuck in traffic, very encumbered by responsibility, and hugely disturbed by my relative consciousness.

The mind seems to have its own set of rules when it comes to recalling music. The encoding and decoding processes are much more efficient with music than with dialog or written language and the information seems to linger around forever. Is there a truth that applies to this? There is a lot of overlap of frequencies between brainwaves and music. Perhaps the brain is already familiar with these frequencies and therefore has no problems managing and storing them.

Irena: And [mind] seems to be rather specific about the other senses too like taste

and smells
and sights
and touch

How much appocrypa is there about the sense of smell bringing back a childhood memory? Ok you can't hum that but its still of the nostaligia/recall type of recall. i know people who get a phrase caught in their brain and find for a while they are repeating and repeating it. no associated melody. pick up milk, pick up milk, pick up milk.

Could be music has rythym and so do we - the drum beat of the heart.

Dan Rowden: Simple beats and rhythms more readily create pathways of memory and emotional connection in the brain.

I don't think there's any 100% truth regarding the reasons certain forms of music resonate and return to us at various times, mostly because these are empirical questions; however, the essential reason we enjoy music is certain: it is a form of aesthetic attachment that enlivens the ego, makes us feel happy, content, powerful or even sad and melancholy (which is yet another way to enliven the ego).

Why certain forms of music have these effects more than others probably comes down to matters of mental disposition (i.e. the way our minds work). But most of us have at least some degree of natural attachment to simple beat music because of the primal elements of mind that remain in us.

Still, "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Flintstones" is a bit of worry.........

Music: the brandy of the damned.


All images in this publication are taken/adapted from "The Devil's Gallery"

Editors: David Quinn and Dan Rowden

Disclaimer: editorial opinions expressed in this publication are those of its authors and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of subscribers to Genius-L or Genius Forum.  Dialogues adapted from Genius-L and Genius Forum have been edited for the purpose of  brevity and clarity.  Certain spelling mistakes and typographical errors have been corrected to preserve meaning.


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