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The transcript of the “Metaphysics of Quality: A New Paradigm for Values & Healing” discussion featuring Robert Pirsig with Leland ‘Chip’ Baggett - Part 3



Continued from Part 2...


This is the third tape of the “Metaphysics of Quality: A New Paradigm for Values & Healing” with Robert Pirsig and Chip Baggett.

Pirsig: After you publish a book, the sales, kind of are the thing you start paying more attention to than what you've said… well this is one of these asides that I seem to do better than the actual main thing... After your book is published, authoring, its sales and how it is moving and what's happening all become enormously fascinating to you… so when I heard the news today that the students at Berkeley are picking up on LILA, that they are raving about it. This is just like Christmas for me. It's a wonderful occasion. Okay. I hope it will continue to grow. As they said at Bantam when I made my presentation to them, I said I did not write this book to entertain people. I wrote this book to tell them something. And it looks like the message is getting through.

Okay, now where are we?

Chip: We're maybe at the crossroads. Bob has said that basically in terms of the dissemination of the high level idea, he's pretty well done. The thought is, and part of the workshop is, to look at how that really applies to consciousness and how it applies to psychotherapy and healing. So one thought would be… we've got an experiential exercise designed to basically let you experience Dynamic/static… back and forth for a little while to give you a real taste of what the shift is in terms of subjective experience. And then, to come back to that and we process that and get Bob to make responses. Or both of us depending on what kind of questions they are to that process. And from there lead to specifically then: What's the application in psychotherapy? Does that sound agreeable to you? Or do you want something different than that?

Note: Now follows the exercise which is not transcribed here except for Pirsig's comments.

Pirsig: The multiplicity of minds is accommodated by the MOQ. It says you can have many mental patterns and many people do. The characteristics of the narrator of ZMM are one pattern that was in my mind. The characteristics of Phædrus are an entirely another pattern in my mind. Those two patterns hate each other. Of course, the primary definition, the early definition of schizophrenia was two separate minds, a split personality you see going on. The MOQ will say that you can split a personality in lots of ways. These patterns which we call our minds are the result of separate paths of karmic history that come into our life, events and so on and we don't really reconcile those very much. When you are dealing with your mother when you were a kid you were one kind of kid. When you're dealing with your buddies you were another kind of kid. You never really reconcile these two patterns. So I would say that what you are saying; there can be many minds, is accommodated in the structure of things.

Chip: Now on to insanity?

Pirsig: On to insanity! Now, the moral problem that keeps coming up and I think you are ready for another dose of metaphysics here. I think I've jumped ahead and back and forth a little an so maybe repeating a little of what I said.

One of the problems that the MOQ solves is the problem of evolutionary purpose. There has been this quarrel between those who say life has no purpose and those who say life does have a purpose. And, scientifically the people who say life has no purpose have got the upper hand in this particular metaphysical battle. I don't think they have it right but they have the upper hand. In terms of popularity of opinion. I think if you ask most people they would say life really does have no purpose. If they're educated the way I was anyway. But the MOQ contradicts that and the theory had arrived in his mind several months ago with this statement: "All life is a migration of static patterns of quality toward Dynamic Quality".

Some people who've have read LILA, some very intelligent people say that's the most important statement in the book. There is a lot of groundwork laid for it in the earlier heavy high level metaphysics. But this is a statement that's got a real bite in it, that really concerns all of us. That concerns where mankind is going and where isn't it? Are we just mechanical people who are blindly obeying forces of cause and effect? Or are we something else which has a purpose? The MOQ very much supports the idea of purpose. It says Quality is the purpose... "but it doesn't define it. It had been boiling in his mind ever since that in a traditional substance-centred metaphysics life isn't evolving toward anything. Life is just an extension of properties of atoms and nothing more. It has to be that because atoms and varying forms of energy are all there is. With the MOQ what's evolving isn't patterns of atoms. What's evolving is static patterns of value. And while that doesn't change the data of evolution it completely up-ends the interpretation that can be given to evolution." (LILA, Chapter 11)

Now, I have a quote here where he says: "It seems clear that there is no mechanistic pattern toward which life is heading, but has the question been taken up of whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns?" (LILA, Chapter 11) The groundwork of the MOQ has allowed you to make the statement that life is no longer heading toward a particular pattern which no scientist has ever been able to find in evolution. But it does allow you to make the statement that life is evolving nevertheless toward Quality which is un-patterned.

Side 2 of Tape 3

Pirsig: "It seems clear that no mechanistic pattern exists toward which life is heading, but has the question been taken up of whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns? It doesn't make any sense. It seems to say that all life is headed toward chaos since chaos is the only alternative to structural patterns that a law-bound metaphysics can conceive. But Dynamic Quality is not structured and yet it is not chaotic. It is value that cannot be contained by static patterns...  Because of this different metaphysical orientation Phædrus saw instantly that those seemingly trivial, 'spur of the moment' decisions that direct the progress of evolution are, in fact Dynamic Quality itself." (LILA, Chapter 11)

"That when a bird decides to mate with some other bird that looks a little better and moves on up into a higher level of evolution that was a Dynamic decision. It wasn't a patterned decision, but it was that Dynamic decision that made that species evolve. "Naturally there is no mechanism toward which life is heading. Mechanisms are the enemy of life. The more static and unyielding the mechanisms are, the more life works to evade them or overcome them. The law of gravity, for example, is perhaps the most ruthlessly static pattern of order in the universe. So, correspondingly, there is no single living thing that does not thumb its nose at that law day in day out."  (LILA, Chapter 11)

And I said that bacteria just get around on their cilia. I said that the degree to which life violates the law of gravity is almost a measure of its evolutionary status. I said that bacteria just barely get around on their cilia I said and earthworms get some sense of direction up and down. And birds can fly high up in the sky or lower down but man goes all the way up to the moon. So life is in a sense a violation of a law of physics. An evasion of a law of physics using its mechanisms, its patterns of lower levels of physics to accomplish this end. And I used some other laws, as I remember, the Second Law of Thermodynamics which claims that all life is running down like a clock. It says for example, there is no such thing possible as perpetual motion. This is one of these great things. It can't be done. But if you look at life it IS perpetual motion. It's going on, it's getting more complicated. We're having over-population problems. We're building sky-scrapers higher and higher. If that is not perpetual motion I don't know what is. So the MOQ does allow a purpose to be added to the data of evolution without violating any of the facts of evolution without contradicting any scientific maxims that I know of. I haven't heard yet from the evolutionists on this. I think they are just kind of waiting to… I don't know what they are doing. I haven't heard from any anthropologist on this book. In fact psychologists are the first and most lively people to respond to this book. Chip takes some honours as being one on the top.

Question: In terms of what you were saying a few minutes ago about life... moving towards Dynamic Quality. You said that human aside, that makes our attempt futile in the sense that attempts at trying to keep this and others from vanishing from the face of the earth not only does that illustrate that futility in the sense of that it also raises the issue of would it be more static to try to maintain moving life forward toward?

Pirsig: A good moral question and there we can hang on to that and get it into the question of morals which comes up later on. There are a lot of wonderful, popular issues that can be fitted into the morals of the MOQ. And lets put in …lets put in birth control. That's a beautiful one. Let's put in capital punishment. Let's put in vegetarianism. These are all very popular issues which I don't think a subject-object metaphysics can even talk about let alone solve. But I think the MOQ will give you a matrix in which you can place these moral problems and that's about what I am trying to get to here so let's hang on to that.

So... recapitulating what I just said… "There is no quarrel whatsoever between the MOQ and the Darwinian Theory of Evolution. Neither is there a quarrel between the MOQ and the 'teleological' theories which suggest that life has some purpose. What the MOQ has done is unite these opposed doctrines within a larger metaphysical structure that accommodates both of them without contradiction. (LILA, Chapter 11)

Have I made it clear to you that there are four levels of evolution? I think I have talked about that and you've picked it up from the book if I haven't talked about it. These levels are evolving toward Dynamic Quality and we now make the assertion that this evolution toward Dynamic Quality is a moral process. We can now have a scientific definition of morality. It says Quality is morality. They are identical. The MOQ says that if moral judgements are essentially assertions of value and if value is the fundamental ground stuff of the world then moral judgements are the fundamental ground stuff of the world...

So what Phædrus was saying was that not just life but everything is ethical. There is nothing else. Now, he says that this betterness, this motion to a higher Quality by the evolutionary process is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based. He says the basis of morals is conflicts is evolution of static patterns toward Dynamic Quality. The static patterns that hold one level of organisation together are often the same patterns that another level of organisation must fight to maintain its own existence. Morality is not a simple set of rules but a very complex struggle of conflicting patterns of values. The conflict is the residue of evolution. As new patterns evolve they come into conflict with older ones. Each stage of evolution creates in its wake a wash of problems. And it is out of this struggle between conflicting static patterns that the concepts of good and evil arise. (see LILA, Chapter 13)

So, it says there is not just one moral system. There are many. And each of these sets of moral codes is no more related to the others than novels are to flip-flops it says. There is a morality called the 'Laws of Nature' by which inorganic nature triumphs over chaos. There is a morality called, I'm repeating myself but I'll say it again, there is a morality called 'the Law of the Jungle' where biology triumphs over the inorganic forces of starvation. There is a morality where social patterns triumph over biology; the 'Law'.

This is the basis of the bulk of our Victorian morality.

Then there's a conflict between biological patterns of quality and social patterns of quality. And I brought in the example of Lila because this is a beautiful moral problem that kind of created the dynamic tension of the book. There is a rule in writing that you get your heroes up a tree, throw rocks at them and then you get them down again. Now, Phædrus is caught in an immoral situation with this Lila. And Richard Rigel comes up and he says 'Okay', he says in effect 'Does Lila have Quality?' See? And what he is trying to say is 'Are you engaged in a moral act?' And he's really got him on a spot. And Phædrus uses the MOQ… he's got him up a tree so to speak and we throw rocks at him through these scenes(??) but he gets down in this scenario by way of the MOQ. He says: 'Biologically you bet she has Quality, I enjoyed her all night long you know? But socially you're right, she has no quality whatsoever, she's a whore.' See, these two static patterns of quality are in a war with each other. Throughout our society. And this is a basis of a huge part of what we call morals.

Church of the Minorites by Lyonel Feininger

Now, the MOQ says that's is very important… that's the centre of our moral universe but, boy, there is more morals than that. And it goes on. It says there is another whole class of morals which has nothing to do with this conflict between society and biology. And this is the conflict between intellect and society. And here you have another whole story. And here you get the kind of conflict that has occurred between the Medieval Church which, in its battle against sin, a battle against biological vice, a battle against the destruction of the family, a battle against a crime of every sort, has done an enormously moral job according to the MOQ. Suddenly it is also battling against freedom of speech. And suddenly they're here. The Medieval Church which is the hero of one kind of battle of morality suddenly becomes the villain of another kind of battle of morality which says that the higher level intellect is morally superior than the lower level society. And a huge fight for democracy in this country has been part of that battle. The fight for jury trials, the fight for civil rights, human rights as they are called. Largely a fight for the right of people to think freely and believe freely without being coerced by some system of government, some system of society that says you must think this way, you see?

So I say we have confused here, in the past, in morality two entirely different systems of morality in one. Beyond this there is yet another level of morality. The morality of Art. It says, look, this is good, this is beautiful, I don't care if it's true. I don't care if it's popular. I don't care if it's healthy. It's what I want. It is Art. And this is yet another level of morality. It is a fight between Dynamic Quality to some extent and static quality.

And so, these levels of morality provide a wonderful matrix by which very many quarrels, very many popular arguments that we are having today, can be placed. I found, I must say, that I have tried to use it to grind my own, personal moral axes, you know, moral issues I feel on one side of them. And I have tried to get the MOQ to work for me on my side and usually I can. But I also find it often supports the other guy just as much as it does me. It explains our battle. It doesn't take sides. Typical example of this is I really believe very strongly in population control. I'm very much in favour of choice. And the MOQ, the morality of the MOQ supports me in this view. It says society is more moral than biology. Society has a right to control free multiplication of cells into new bodies. Society is a morally superior group. The other side, however, gets its acts polished too by the same system of morality which says yes, but this life which society is about to extinguish, is Dynamic. See, so the life-people have an argument too. What the MOQ has done in this morality is taken this enormous head-on collision between two moral patterns in our society and placed them in a matrix which can explain them more deeply than they've been explained before.

It says that you've got two different battles here. A battle of Dynamic Quality versus static quality. A battle of social quality versus biological quality. The 'choice-people' are arguing social quality, the right of the living, social society to regulate its population is a moral right. The 'life-people' are saying a human being is not just a carcass. It's a Dynamic entity which can grow and produce new ideas. I think they are both right. Even though they directly contradict each other. Even though they've got to work this out in the courts and in the slogan shouting and sign carrying battles that go on. The MOQ says that they are both right. How is it going to be decided? It's going to be decided, ultimately, by the ballot-box. Which is another moral system which takes precedence over the advocates of these two groups. So what I think the MOQ has done here is it's given us a way to grow in our understanding of morals. These are, as far as I know, scientific principles. It's not saying the church is right or the church is wrong or democracy is right or democracy is wrong. There is a whole spectrum of evolution going on and in the process of this evolution what's good for one level of evolution will be bad for another and so on. So that's really what I had to say about morality in general.

Now into specific: spotted owls to get back to your question. I love examples because this stuff gets so abstract that people kind of drop off and the reason for including Lila is because she is an example of this, of this problem of morality.

Question: It might be in terms of our discussion now that, I don't know about someone else but it might be that a more personal question like, in a group like this that a smoking issue. If something that can be more personal to us here rather than…

Pirsig: Sure, why don't I, having said what I've said, allow some discussion on this problem and stop just lecturing? Does that sound good? What do people think? Can we take an issue called 'smoking' and… 

Comment: You say they're are different morals and values… so now what? I'm kind of caught in now we know there are two different names for… . So now what? What is the metaphysics…(Pirsig: How is it going to be applied?) What is the next step here? Well, let's say your son comes to you and wants to start smoking in your house or a restaurant and there's a sign that says "NO Smoking" in the restaurant. What do you say to your son now? 

Pirsig: Well, I would say, if he is underage "I am the boss in this house and I say: 'No smoking'", and that's it. And if he challenges me, I'll throw him out.

Comment: [What] if he says I have a right to smoke in this restaurant?

Pirsig: That is a public place, I have no control over that. Society has control over that. Society says he can't smoke… [and] society has a right to control individual, biological behaviour. Here is a case of where a guy just has a biological quality like smoking and  resents it when people say: "no smoking!" You know, because I say "I've got this right. I like to smoke. What are you stopping me for?"

Interjection: Society most of the time will though.

Pirsig: Society has a right to control smoking. According to the MOQ. Which is not just the right of the sheriff, but is a moral right based on the higher evolution of man.

Comment: There is one thing I feel your missing in the static and Dynamic relationship and that is the cyclic aspect of the Dynamic and static. Could you have taken in consideration the plant in its early, flexible state and then its old age and then its death. Life and death is a complete cycle. And we as human beings only see the life part of that cycle. So if you take your construct into consideration you have to include, incorporate in the evolutionary movement, destiny, purpose, and incarnation. So is there this sense of our developing a sensory capacity to perceive Quality? And does that evolve throughout the history of human evolution? That's a big E but you have to address it. It won't let you alone...

Pirsig: As I understand it., you are speaking of the entire process of evolution as being violated by life and death. Is that what you're… maybe I'm not getting it.

Comment: Well, let's see what I am not saying. What I hear you saying is that this static and Dynamic are separate things (Pirsig: No, they're all Quality) … and the Quality , the Quality goes through the experience of birth and death.

Pirsig: Sure! I have no quarrel with that.

Comment: …and that becomes experience out of which reflections of…

Pirsig: This word 'experience' is, I suspect, is social experience. Is that what you're speaking of?

Comment: Well, I'm speaking of the whole experience of what 'self' is including the social-Dynamic. Because if you look at the social-Dynamic you have to see it as having evolved to being able to discriminate as to what is moral, what is open ended, what is a dead end. And that is experiential. And out of that, somehow, we glean where it is that we need to guide ourselves in the open matrix, in the Quality aspect as opposed to in the static aspect. That gives us the choices of , you know, our imagination and creativity. And that develops the senses that are evolving to perceive the, you know that totality called Quality.

Pirsig: It sounds to me like we're saying the same thing.

Comment: Well, I'm not quite sure I think that's the case.

Observation: Is he asking if we can guide ourselves in a Dynamic direction?

Comment: Right!

Observation: I am just wondering if that is possible at all.

Pirsig: Can we guide ourselves in a Dynamic direction?

Observation: If you are guiding yourself this would be no longer Dynamic.

Pirsig: This will switch me in Zen. I'm a Zen Buddhist although not socially, not an active member of any Zen organisation. It seems to me the purpose of meditation is to discover Dynamic Quality. People think of Zen sometimes as a lot of tricks. A lot of stunts and a lot of strange things but Zen is primarily interested in Morality and in Good. It says, if you want to study Morality you want to study the Good, get rid of the static patterns and see the DQ that guides the Good. Once you get in tune with it, once you get a hold of it, once you understand it this Dynamic mooring, this DQ will guide you directly. There's an endless confrontation between intellect and this DQ of Zen where intellect is constantly trying to grab it. The central problem I started on all this was the strange conflict called the East-West conflict. It's an ancient problem of philosophy as Jack Hawley, sitting here, can tell you. It's in his book. (5)



The East and the West are like two fish each of which claims has devoured the other. The East says 'we know all about Western philosophy. It's all contained in what we know'. Western philosophy says: 'yes we know about that Eastern stuff, it's all contained in what we know'. And this is the ancient problem of how do you relate these two. Now, in the Zen practice what we do…in the Eastern philosophy they will say that the world is, I think they'll agree pretty much, that the world is primarily moral. A lot of this MOQ will sound, to those who know Buddhism and Hinduism, very much like what they're saying. And they will tell you, in answer to your question that if you want to know what DQ is that should lead your life, now I'm talking culture, Japanese culture, Hindu culture, they say, either become a monk and learn DQ or listen to what the monks tell you and follow the static patterns they give you. They call these two kinds of Quality: dharma. And that is also in Jack's book. Dharma literally means: 'duty'. But not exactly duty to others but, more or less, duty to oneself. And they say, there are two kinds of dharma that you can follow: there is the written dharma which is static patterns of morals which the Buddhist will gladly hand you out on a piece of paper. But they will also tell you there is an unwritten code of morals which you will never discover on any piece of paper but which you can discover by going through meditation or through many other kinds of practices to the centre of your own life and discovering it that way.

So that, I think is how, if one wants to follow DQ, one should do it. I'm happy to learn that a very large percentage of this group knows a lot about meditation. Yes?

Comment: …I'm a person who as far as I know and to the best of my ability searching for DQ and I assert that you wouldn't have to become a monk to do it. And that, if you're really committed to following DQ, searching for it and that's you goal and that's your purpose, what difference would it make how you spend your moments?

Pirsig: I tend to also disagree with the Buddhists on this matter. I don't think you have to be a monk. I think you just play out your life properly. There is another form of… . The monks practice djana yoga, which is translated into Ch'an and Zen. That means meditation practice but there are other kinds of the ancient practices leading to an understanding of DQ. And one of them is just living out your life and doing good deeds you know. You see what's good. Somebody needs something, you help them. That's finding the Dynamic way. You don't have to look up in a book to see whether you ought to help or not. You're going to know you ought to help. Yes?

Comment: It's simply simple in terms of what we are doing the exercises for: watch yourself, pay attention to the inner self and learn what the inner self is and that's the way.

Pirsig: That's the way. Yes?

Comment: I would like to respond to your question. I don't think you have to be a monk. I've been meditating for years and I'm not a monk. I've met people today like yourself who invest their time and their energy in prayer all the time. And I think that if you meet your inner being, your god, your whatever you want to give a name or a title to in your own prayer and you meet yourself…people do it all the time… .

Chip: There's another side to this or another angle because if you take it into, if you use the Dynamics of Quality you could see…now, I really hesitate to do this because we tend to think of morality in Victorian terms and I don't mean it that way but if you follow it in terms of DQ, in terms of being stuck in static patterns rather than Dynamic process then one way of really looking at someone who comes in, who is troubled, into your office, a client for psychotherapy, is look at their relationship to Dynamic and static quality. The difficulty, the trickiness in that, to me which is represented in a television show that came out years ago [1967] with Patrick McGoohan and it's called 'The Prisoner'. 


I don't know if you ever saw this. A sort of an avant-garde, unusual show where he was captured and taken to some island. He didn't know who his captors were or why he was caught or where he was. But the series was his attempt to escape. Every week there would be another attempt. And what would happen is, the geniuses that had him captured knew how to simulate his experience of escaping. So he kept escaping, he thought, even all the way back to London, to his apartment to only find at the end of the show that, no, they had created a replica of his apartment that they wanted him to think that he had escaped to. But that itself was part of the prison. It's a very unusual show and this went on week after week. (6)

Comment: Are you saying that we are all prisoners of life?

Chip: I am but when somebody comes to the office, a client, very often I will have people will say to me, because they've learned the language, well I'm feeling whole today. Well, my sense of wholeness has nothing to do with how you feel today. That usually is a static pattern given the name 'Dynamic'. And so people come in, kind of read their finding they're static patterns in terms of dynamic language. But they are still clinging to a static pattern. And so if you are looking at it from a morality standpoint what do I as a therapist, what is my moral stand? I guess you asked that question.

Pirsig: You've got a moral there. When you are freeing this patient from the static patterns and making his life more Dynamic then you are engaged in a moral act.

Comment: Or, maybe when you are giving a lifeline to the patient who was caught in the Dynamic patterns, back into the static patterns…

Pirsig: A static pattern that he has to have. When you are adjusting this … Maybe, it could be that there is this situation where some patients need to go one way, some need to go the other and by supplying the necessary advice which balances their life properly you're giving them the moral [guidance required]…

Comment: One reaction I have from reading your two books was, they both were very male oriented.

Pirsig: That's true.

Comment continues: So it raises the question of what would all this be about if you had written it from a female perspective? You bring up the East and West split and then I think another major split is male-female. And the biological, societal and intellectual views from that morality… [of] a male-female perspective. Now, a moral question I have myself as a therapist is: "Can I effectively work with women?"

Pirsig: This is a huge question. As matter of fact the one book that I may, work on resulted from a feeling that I was… I was so excited to get into this thing. One of the reasons I had Lila in there and step on the boat is because Lila is in a sense in a separate culture. A separate sub-culture of our society and has different static values which she is entitled to have. And for me to impose male values on Lila is wrong. If they are, in fact, not what fits for a particular situation. It got too hard. I dropped it. I thought I'll do it some other time. I can't get it into this book. This book is already too complicated. But that would be the direction to go. I think, this is a thing that has been fascinating me for years. When I lived in India, I noticed that there was a huge clash. 

I didn't just notice it, I saw it in the form of bodies there. A clash between the Muslims and the Hindus. That ancient clash has been going on since thousands of years. And I also noted that there were two types of family structure: one I would see in a Muslim family and one I would see in a Hindu family. And in the Hindu family what I saw most frequently was a strong mother and a rather good-natured, easy going father. And what I saw in the Muslim family was a family pretty much like my own, a Prussian-German family in which the father was the authority figure and the mother better go along with it. 

And that accounts for why my writing is that way. I don't fight this. I say, this is who I am. But it occurred to me that a lot of ethnic conflict can result from these two different cultural static patterns. Mixing with one another and saying, 'these guys are no good on the other side because they don't have, you know they are inferior to us because they don't live up to our values'. You know, you see this over and over again. You go to the other group and they say, you know, they are inferior to us because they don't live up to our values. 

[I was sailing] the boat that's in LILA... in the border of Belgium and the Netherlands… same thing! The Dutch are saying: 'Ah, the Belgians are just…ah…worthless people you know?' And the Belgians (we were talking to both groups), the Belgians would say: 'Ah the Dutch they'll never go half way you know. They stand up there and are all stiff and you can't reach them. You can't talk to them and they won't do anything for you.' And we began to see that the same thing happened, that the Dutch family is a very male-dominated family. But a Belgian family much less so. They are much more of a warm-hearted, easy going people. The Dutch are awfully hard on themselves. I don't know what culture it is. They keep their windows clean. They keep their streets clean. They regulate their lives everything… But the Belgians are kind of relaxed you know. And maybe we'll do it today or maybe not. Yes?

Comment: They have a separate biological level. The morality of sperm is different than the morality of eggs.

Pirsig: I would say so. It goes that deep. I agree with that. Yes?

Question: Can your concept straighten out issues such as racism?

Pirsig: That's why I dropped it because I don't want to get into that at this point. It's a dynamite issue. Moynihan (7) started to bring up the fact, you remember the question: "Are black families matriarchal and is that a cause of the conflict between whites and blacks?" And there was a fire-storm over it. And he got hell for it. And I have always wondered about that, as an intellectual. Is there any truth in that cause? Is there a parallelism between what happened to Hindus and Muslims between what's happening to whites and blacks in this country? Remember I told you last night that there is this third book which may get into this. The rule for me is truth, you know. As I can understand it. How it will come out... I don't know. 

Comment: I was thinking that there is so much in that respect in my understanding of, and my partner's understanding of racism and the need for people to have others to look down on them... (Pirsig: yes, absolutely) It has nothing to do, necessarily, with family structure. It has to do with feelings of personal insecurity and a need to have, you know, to create victims somehow. And the question I am trying to ask is: Can this be explained or better understood using Dynamic and static quality.

Pirsig: I hope so. I don't know yet. I really don't but I hope so. As I say, you're working in a minefield as you know and it's very important that I not make claims that aren't true, because you hurt people that way. This racial thing is just a nightmare for everybody in this country. I was one of the people who worked, trying to integrate you know back in the fifties and it just tore us to pieces, watching this thing happen. And I said, here's these two groups of fine people hating each other and it just hurt so badly. I said, maybe we can find an intellectual solution to this. Not a solution of 'those guys are no good' or 'those guys are no good' which you can hear year after year after year until we're so sick of it we can't stand it. And I think, maybe, this MOQ can do it. But I don't know. I haven't written it yet but I'll try. Yes?

Question: One thing we have to keep in mind here is the relationship of the individual to the truth. What we historically identify with is the tribal group and that has changed and evaporated(??) and that comes down to family and so on. But really what we are talking about is the universality of the individuality and where that quality is in relationship to this external dialogue that we call 'social life', 'world' etc. Until we keep that reference, which is the foundation of our government by the way, it's the hierarchy upside down. As opposed to power coming downward its that which welds within which can be opened up. And that's the only asset and resource that we have.

Pirsig: Well, solutions, when they are found will come Dynamically. Is that what you're saying?

Comment: I'm saying, they come out of recognition of that Dynamic which dwells within the individual ego. It's not outside.

Pirsig: I say the ego is a static construction…

Comment: I don't mean egotism but I mean that which holds self together in an identity. And the manner and structure of that identity is the complexity out of which we are trying to find out what part of that is real. And I am suggesting that comes out of knowing 'self'; not from the outer.

Pirsig: Well, this gets interesting again because with the Zen people they're saying that the ultimate thing is the self centred on the self. Okay. There we got it. Yes?

Question: But we're also touching on power and change and it does not only involve individuals but groups have power. You know, we haven't touched on the dynamics involved in that, in bringing about change. And I think that is one of the great hurdles when you talk about racism.

Pirsig: The power structures, the power groups?! It's a social problem but it has roots possibly in other more deeper sources. It's clearly that. It's …

Chip interjecting: Yes, my struggle is with sexism, racism. Any kind of dichotomy of 'us and them'. I feel impassioned about the issue but I almost never get involved at that level because something doesn't ring true. Something doesn't seem solvable at the level that we're looking at it. Because it seems to be that we are looking at it at a static level. And I think on a static level it's incompatible. So I don't get excited about, sort of, a political, cultural, social change because I don't trust it. I don't trust that it's anything other than a change from one static pattern to another static pattern. So I don't know what to do with that. Except to go back to the Dynamic state.

End of Tape Three. The next session continues on the fourth tape (transcribed here).


(5) Hawley, Jack ‘Reawakening the Spirit in Work: The Power of Dharmic Management’. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 1993.

(6) Patrick McGoohan plays a man who resigns from a top secret position and is abducted from his London home. He finds himself in a beautiful village where everything is bright and cheerful - the people, their clothes, the buildings, the flowers. But despite this rosy exterior, the village serves a sinister purpose. People are forcibly brought there in order to have their valuable knowledge protected or extracted. Village residents are assigned a number - the Prisoner is Number Six. Chief interrogator and administrator is Number Two, but he isn't the boss - an unseen Number One is the boss.

Failure is not tolerated in the Village, and most episodes feature a new Number Two, though some are privileged to return for a second chance to break Number Six and discover why he resigned. The Prisoner struggles to keep this information from his captors and to find out which side runs the Village and where it is. He strives to discover the identity of Number One, and above all, to escape.

(Six of One Society:

(7) Moynihan, Daniel Patrick, the sociologist who published "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" a.k.a.  the Moynihan Report  in March 1965. It focused on the deep roots of Black poverty in America and concluded that the relative absence of Black nuclear families would greatly hinder further progress toward their economic and political equality with Whites.  The Preface of Moynihan's report is pasted below:


The Preface to the Moynihan Report (1965):

"The Negro Family: The Case For National Action"

Office of Policy Planning and Research
United States Department of Labor

March 1965


Two hundred years ago, in 1765, nine assembled colonies first joined together to demand freedom from arbitrary power.

For the first century we struggled to hold together the first continental union of democracy in the history of man. One hundred years ago, in 1865, following a terrible test of blood and fire, the compact of union was finally sealed.

For a second century we labored to establish a unity of purpose and interest among the many groups which make up the American community.

That struggle has often brought pain and violence. It is not yet over.


State of the Union Message of President Lyndon B. Johnson,
January 4, 1965.

The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations. In the decade that began with the school desegregation decision of the Supreme Court, and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the demand of Negro Americans for full recognition of their civil rights was finally met.

The effort, no matter how savage and brutal, of some State and local governments to thwart the exercise of those rights is doomed. The nation will not put up with it -- least of all the Negroes. The present moment will pass. In the meantime, a new period is beginning.

In this new period the expectations of the Negro Americans will go beyond civil rights. Being Americans, they will now expect that in the near future equal opportunities for them as a group will produce roughly equal results, as compared with other groups. This is not going to happen. Nor will it happen for generations to come unless a new and special effort is made.

There are two reasons. First, the racist virus in the American blood stream still afflicts us: Negroes will encounter serious personal prejudice for at least another generation. Second, three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment have taken their toll on the Negro people. The harsh fact is that as a group, at the present time, in terms of ability to win out in the competitions of American life, they are not equal to most of those groups with which they will be competing. Individually, Negro Americans reach the highest peaks of achievement. But collectively, in the spectrum of American ethnic and religious and regional groups, where some get plenty and some get none, where some send eighty percent of their children to college and others pull them out of school at the 8th grade, Negroes are among the weakest.
The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand is that in these terms the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably been getting worse, not better.

Indices of dollars of income, standards of living, and years of education deceive. The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening.
The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence -- not final, but powerfully persuasive -- is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle-class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post-war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.

The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nation with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would work for most groups in the present, will not work here. A national effort is required that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal government in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishment of a stable Negro family structure.

This would be a new departure for Federal policy. And a difficult one. But it almost certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, after all, the nation's oldest, and most intransigent, and now its most dangerous social problem. What Gunnar Myrdal said in An American Dilemma remains true today: "America is free to chose whether the Negro shall remain her liability or become her opportunity."



(Transcribed by Andre Broersen with minor amendments by Dr Anthony McWatt, March 2012)



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