285. Fellowship with men (III)
A few days ago, I said that Robert Pirsig thought that Quality is God. This remark requires a little qualification, for I doubt that Pirsig would agree with it. For Pirsig, Quality, as with Heidegger’s Being, stands before everything; so it cannot, technically, be God. When we think about God we usually think about particular attributes: good, omniscient, omnipresent, and so on. Yet Quality, as with Being, is characterised by its priorness to truth and falsehood, good and evil—before, in fact, any dualistic conception you can imagine. For Pirsig, as with Heidegger, categories such as truth and falsehood conceal Quality; dualistic thought attempts to summarise the whole, so it can never capture the whole—and when people come to think that the binary is the whole, then they lose the ineffable and dynamic aspect that characterises reality.
This means that—technically—Quality cannot be God, since God has particular attributes, dualistically understood. However, I would say that insofar as Quality represents reality—the organic whole that can only be understood by analogy—then it could be characterised as God; though to say this is to destroy our ability to perceive it, we fall back into dualism. Yet insofar as what we conceive as God is ineffable, unnamable, and total then Quality and, indeed, Being constitute what, in my view, is as good as God—or the best pointer to the divine we have.
Heidegger, I believe, said that God was dead but Being, or the God of Being, was yet to arrive; he meant that we remain wedded to various dualisms—even in our atheism, atheism is not an engagement with reality or Quality—that prevent us from an appreciation of what must come after the rationalistic and dualistic God, the God of categories, the God that is still present even in the scientific worldview. People cannot see reality because they are still too wedded to categories such as good and bad or true and false that can never encompass reality in entirety.
Symbolically, I think Jung’s hidden God, Abraxas, captures this idea quite well; he is half rooster and half snake—he is dualistic, yet transcends dualism. He stands behind the creator God—the demiurge that works with good and evil and right and wrong—he stands for the totality, the awesome reality that can only be pointed to and not described.
Reality is ever-changing and yet remains the same; the Quality person, the person with a soul, for soulfulness and Quality are synonymous, moves with the changes. Hence the Buddhist saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” To fix God somewhere is to kill God, to kill reality; a reality that is only grasped through analogy; even science itself is an analogy: a mighty analogy that allows use to increase our sphere of power, but it is still an analogy. Ultimately, due to its very fixed and rigid nature, it kills reality and makes the world soulless—mainly through the medium of technology.
Technology cannot extirpate the soul. I thought for a time yesterday why my suburban house, built in the 1970s, is, despite being, nominally, a desirable middle-class home (its market value is excellent), so profoundly ugly and dead. I concluded that it is because it had been built in a rigid way; a few nearby new homes, built to individual specification, not as mass developments, are a little better—though not very much, even the “individualists” follow a contemporary style that is rigid. Wooden huts and treehouses have Quality because they are flexible. They are entirely natural; the wood moves with the elements, you can hear it creak at night. The house breathes. The house has a soul, and it has a soul because it is isomorphic with reality. The same is true of wooden sailing boats; every boat has a name and a figurehead to personify her; every wooden sailing ship has a soul. Yet we live in a rigid world, a world divorced from reality.