|The next platypus to fall is 'substance.' Like 'causation,' 'substance' is a derived concept, not anything that is directly experienced. No one has ever seen substance and no one ever will. All people ever see is data. It is assumed that what makes the data hang together in consistent patterns is that they inhere in this 'substance.' But as John Locke pointed out in the seventeenth century, if we ask what this substance is, devoid of any properties, we find ourselves thinking of nothing whatsoever. The data of quantum physics indicate that what are called 'subatomic particles' cannot possibly fill the definition of a substance. The properties exist, then disappear, then exist, and then disappear again in little bundles called 'quanta.' These bundles are not continuous in time, yet an essential, defined characteristic of 'substance' is that it is continuous in time. Since the quantum bundles are not substance and since it is a usual scientific assumption that these subatomic particles compose everything there is, then it follows that there is no substance anywhere in the world nor has there ever been. The whole concept is a grand metaphysical illusion. In his first book, Phaedrus had railed against the conjuror, Aristotle, who invented the term and started it all.
But if there is no substance, it must be asked, then why isn't everything chaotic? Why do our experiences act as if they inhere in something? If you pick up a glass of water why don't the properties of that glass go flying off in different directions? What is it that keeps these properties uniform if it is not something called substance? That is the question that created the concept of substance in the first place.
The answer provided by the Metaphysics of Quality is similar to that given for the 'causation' platypus. Strike out the word 'substance' wherever it appears and substitute the expression 'stable inorganic pattern of value.' Again the difference is linguistic. It doesn't make a whit of difference in the laboratory which term is used. No dials change their readings. The observed laboratory data are exactly the same.
The greatest benefit of this substitution of Value' for 'causation' and 'substance' is that it allows an integration of physical science with other areas of experience that have been traditionally considered outside the scope of scientific thought. Pheedrus saw that the 'value' which directed subatomic particles is not identical with the 'value' a human being gives to a painting. But he saw that the two are cousins, and that the exact relationship between them can be defined with great precision. Once this definition is complete a huge integration of the humanities and sciences appears in which platypi fall by the hundreds. Thousands.
One of the first to fall, he was happy to note, was the one that got all this started in the first place - the 'Theory of Anthropology' platypus. If science is a study of substances and their relationships, then the field of cultural anthropology is a scientific absurdity. In terms of substance there is no such thing as a culture. It has no mass, no energy. No scientific laboratory instrument has ever been devised that can distinguish a culture from a non-culture.
But if science is a study of stable patterns of value, then cultural anthropology becomes a supremely scientific field. A culture can be defined as a network of social patterns of value. As the Values Project anthropologist Kluckhohn had said, patterns of value are the essence of what an anthropologist studies.
Kluckhohn's enormous mistake was his attempt to define values. He assumed that a subject-object view of the world would allow such a definition. What was destroying his case was not the accuracy of his observations. What was destroying his case were these substance-oriented metaphysical assumptions of anthropology that he failed to detach from his observations. Once this detachment is made anthropology is out of the metaphysical quicksand and onto hard ground at last.
Phaedrus found again and again that a Quality-centered map of the universe provides overwhelming clarity of explanation where all has been fog before. In the arts, which are primarily concerned with value, this was expected. A surprise, however, came in fields that were supposed to have little to do with value. Mathematics, physics, biology, history, law - all of these had value foundations built into them that now came under scrutiny and all sorts of surprising things were revealed.
Once a thief is caught a whole string of crimes is often solved.
In any hierarchy of metaphysical classification the most important division is the first one, for this division dominates everything beneath it. If this first division is bad there is no way you can ever build a really good system of classification around it.
In his book Phaedrus had tried to save Quality from metaphysics by refusing to define it, by placing it outside the dialectical chess board. Anything that is undefined is outside metaphysics, since metaphysics can only function with defined terms. If you can't define it you can't argue about it. He had demonstrated that even though you can't define Quality you still must agree that it exists, since a world from which value is subtracted becomes unrecognizable.
But he realized that sooner or later he was going to have to stop carping about how bad subject-object metaphysics was and say something positive for a change. Sooner or later he was going to have to come up with a way of dividing Quality that was better than subjects and objects. He would have to do that or get out of metaphysics entirely. It's all right to condemn somebody else's bad metaphysics but you can't replace it with a metaphysics that consists of just one word.
By even using the term 'Quality' he had already violated the nothingness of mystic reality. The use of the term 'Quality' sets up a pile of questions of its own that have nothing to do with mystic reality and walks away leaving them unanswered. Even the name, 'Quality,' was a kind of definition since it tended to associate mystic reality with certain fixed and limited understandings. Already he was in trouble. Was the mystic reality of the universe really more immanent in the higher-priced cuts of meat in the butcher shop? These were 'Quality' meats, weren't they? Was the butcher using the term incorrectly? Phaedrus had no answers.
. . . That was the problem this morning too, with Rigel. Phaedrus had no answers. If you're going to talk about Quality at all you have to be ready to answer someone like Rigel. You have to have a ready-made Metaphysics of Quality that you can snap at him like some catechism. Phsedrus didn't have a Catechism of Quality and that's why he got hit.
Actually the issue before him was not whether there should be a metaphysics of Quality or not. There already is a metaphysics of quality. A subject-object metaphysics is in fact a metaphysics in which the first division of Quality - the first slice of undivided experience - is into subjects and objects. Once you have made that slice, all of human experience is supposed to fit into one of these two boxes. The trouble is, it doesn't. What he had seen is that there is a metaphysical box that sits above these two boxes, Quality itself. And once he'd seen this he also saw a huge number of ways in which Quality can be divided. Subjects and objects are just one of the ways.
The question was, which way was best?
Different metaphysical ways of dividing up reality have, over the centuries, tended to fan out into a structure that resembles a book on chess openings. If you say that the world is 'one,' then somebody can ask, 'Then why does it look like more than one?' And if you answer that it is due to faulty perception, he can ask, 'How do you know which perception is faulty and which is real?' Then you have to answer that, and so on.
Trying to create a perfect metaphysics is like trying to create a perfect chess strategy, one that will win every time. You can't do it. It's out of the range of human capability. No matter what position you take on a metaphysical question someone will always start masking questions that will lead to more positions that lead to more questions in this endless intellectual chess game. The game is supposed to stop when it is agreed that a particular line of reasoning is illogical. This is supposed to be similar to a checkmate. But conflicting positions go on for centuries without any such checkmate being agreed upon.
Phsdrus had spent an enormous amount of time following what turned out to be lousy openings. A particularly large amount of this time had been spent trying to lay down a first line of division between the classic and romantic aspects of the universe he'd emphasized in his first book. In that book his purpose had been to show how Quality could unite the two. But the fact that Quality was the best way of uniting the two was no guarantee that the reverse was true - that the classic-romantic split was the best way of dividing Quality. It wasn't. For example, American Indian mysticism is the same platypus in a world divided primarily into classic and romantic patterns as under a subject-object division. When an American Indian goes into isolation and fasts in order to achieve a vision, the vision he seeks is not a romantic understanding of the surface beauty of the world. Neither is it a vision of the world's classic intellectual form. It is something else. Since this whole metaphysics had started with an attempt to explain Indian mysticism Phaedrus finally abandoned this classic-romantic split as a choice for a primary division of the Metaphysics of Quality. The division he finally settled on was one he didn't really choose in any deliberative way. It was more as if it chose him. He'd been reading Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture without any particular search in mind, when a relatively minor anecdote stopped him. It stayed with him for weeks. He couldn't get it out of his mind.
The anecdote was a case-history in which there was a conflict of morality. It concerned a Pueblo Indian who lived in Zuni, New Mexico, in the nineteenth century. Like a Zen koan (which also originally meant 'case-history') the anecdote didn't have any single right answer but rather a number of possible meanings that kept drawing Phaedrus deeper and deeper into the moral situation that was involved.
Benedict wrote: 'Most ethnologists have had . . . experiences in recognizing that persons who are put outside the pale of society with contempt are not those who would be placed there by another culture . . .
'The dilemma of such an individual is often most successfully solved by doing violence to his strongest natural impulses and accepting the role the culture honours. In case he is a person to whom social recognition is necessary it is ordinarily his only possible course.'
She said the person concerned was one of the most striking individuals in Zuni.
In a society that thoroughly distrusts authority of any sort, he had native personal magnetism that singled him out in any group. In a society that exalts moderation and the easiest way, he was turbulent and could act violently upon occasion. In a society that praises a pliant personality that 'talks lots' — that is, that chatters in a friendly fashion — he was scornful and aloof. Zuni's only reaction to such personalities is to brand them as witches. He was said to have been peering through a window from outside, and this is a sure mark of a witch. At any rate he got drunk one day and boasted that they could not kill him. He was taken before the war priests who hung him by his thumbs from the rafters till he should confess to his witchcraft. This is the usual procedure in a charge of witchcraft. However he dispatched a messenger to the government troops. When they came his shoulders were already crippled for life, and the officer of the law was left with no recourse but to imprison the war priests who had been responsible for the enormity. One of these war priests was probably the most respected and important in recent Zuni history and when he returned after imprisonment in the state penitentiary he never resumed his priestly offices. He regarded his power as broken. It was a revenge that is probably unique in Zuni history. It involved, of course, a challenge to the priesthoods, against whom the witch by his act openly aligned himself.
The course of his life in the forty years that followed this defiance was not, however, what we might easily predict. A witch is not barred from his membership in cult groups because he has been condemned, and the way to recognition lay through such activity. He possessed a remarkable verbal memory and a sweet singing voice. He learned unbelievable stores of mythology, of esoteric ritual, of cult songs. Many hundreds of pages of stories and ritual poetry were taken down from his dictation before he died, and he regarded his songs as much more extensive. He became indispensable in ceremonial life and before he died was the governor of Zuni. The congenital bent of his personality threw him into irreconcilable conflict with his society, and he solved his dilemma by turning an incidental talent to account. As we might well expect, he was not a happy man. As governor of Zuni and high in his cult groups, a marked man in his community, he was obsessed by death. He was a cheated man in the midst of a mildly happy populace.
It is easy to imagine the life he might have lived among the Plains Indians where every institution favoured the traits that were native to him. The personal authority, the turbulence, the scorn, would all have been honoured in the career he could have made his own. The unhappiness that was inseparable from his temperament as a successful priest and governor of Zuni would have had no place as a war chief of the Cheyenne; it was not a function of the traits of his native endowment but of the standards of the culture in which he found no outlet for his native responses.
When Phaedrus first read this passage he felt a kind of eerie feeling - a feeling he might have had if he had passed in front of a strange mirror and suddenly seen a reflection of someone he'd never expected to see. It was the same feeling he got at the peyote meeting. This Zuni Indian was not exactly someone else.
This was not just an isolated tribal incident going on here. This was something of universal importance happening. This was everyman. There is not a person alive who is not in some way or other in the kind of situation this 'witch' was in. It was just that his circumstances were so exotic and so extreme one could now see it, by itself, out in the open.
The story was of a struggle between good and evil, but the koan it raised was, 'Which was which?' Was this person really good or was he perhaps also evil?
At first reading he might seem a model of goodness, a lone, virtuous man surrounded by wicked persecutors, but this was too facile. Circumstances of the story argued against it. One of his tormentors was 'probably the most important and respected person in Zuni history.' If his tormentor was so evil why was he so respected? Was the whole Zuni culture evil? That was ridiculous. There was a lot more to it than that.
Phaedrus saw that the question was thrown off by a connotation of 'witch.' This word alone loaded the case against the priests since anyone who calls someone else a witch is obviously a bigoted persecutor. But did they really call him a witch? A witch is a Druid priestess reduced by legend to an old crone who wears a pointed black hat and rides a broomstick in front of the moon on Halloween. Was that what they were calling him?
In his koan-like recycling of the event in his mind Phaedrus came to think that Benedict had given the event an interpretation that didn't do it justice. She was finding stories to support her thesis that different cultures create different personality traits, which is important, and undoubtedly true. But this man was more than just a 'misfit.' There was something deeper than that going on.
'Misfit' is one of those words that seem to explain things but does not. 'Misfit' says only that something is not explained. If he was a misfit why didn't he leave? What persuaded him to stay? It certainly wasn't timidity. And why did the citizens of Zuni change their minds and make this former 'witch' their governor? There's no indication that he changed or they changed. She said he turned 'an incidental talent to account' in order to satisfy his need for social recognition. Probably so, but Zuni or no Zuni, it takes stronger social forces than a good singing voice and a need for social recognition to turn a misfit and torture victim into a governor.
How did he do it? What were his 'powers'? Was there something special in the way Pueblo Indians think that after ten thousand years of continuous culture they would let a drunkard and a window-peeper get away with this?
Phaedrus did not think so. He thought a better name for him might have been sorcerer, or shaman, or brujo, a Spanish term used extensively in that region that denotes a quite different kind of person. A brujo is not a semi-mythical, semi-comic figure that rides a broomstick but a real person who claims religious powers; who acts outside of and sometimes against the local church authorities.
This was not a case of priests persecuting an innocent person. This was a much deeper conflict between a priesthood and a shaman. A passage from the anthropologist, E. A. Hoebel, confirmed Phaedrus' idea:
Although in many primitive cultures there is a recognized division of function between priests and shamans, in the more highly developed cultures in which cults have become strongly organized
churches, the priesthood fights an unrelenting war against shamans . . . Priests work in a rigorously structured hierarchy fixed in a firm set of traditions. Their power comes from and is vested in the organization itself. They constitute a religious bureaucracy.
Shamans, on the other hand, are arrant individualists. Each is on his own, undisciplined by bureaucratic control; hence a shaman is always a threat to the order of the organized church. In the view of the priests they are presumptive pretenders. Joan of Arc was a shaman for she communed directly with the angels of God. She steadfastly refused to recant and admit delusion and her martyrdom was ordained by the functionaries of the Church. The struggle between shaman and priest may well be a death struggle.
For weeks Phaedrus returned to these questions before he saw that the key lay in the war priest's statement that his 'powers had been broken.' Something very grave had occurred. The priest refused to return to a priestly office after return from the penitentiary. What had occurred had been enormous.
Phaedrus concluded that a huge battle had taken place for the entire mind and soul of Zuni. The priests had proclaimed themselves good and the brujo evil. The brujo had proclaimed himself good and the priests evil. A showdown had occurred and the brujo had won!
Phajdrus began to suspect that Benedict missed all this because she was trained in the 'objectivity' of science by Boas. She tried to show only those aspects of Zuni culture that were independent of the white observer.
This explains why the brujo is analyzed only in terms of relations within his own culture, although by her own accounting he was very much in contact with the whites. It was the white man to whom he sent for help and who saved him. It was the white anthropologists, presumably, who took dictation of all his songs and stories and made him well known in books of which his tribesmen could not have been ignorant.
Phaedrus concluded that the real reason the people of Zuni made the brujo governor had to be because of this. The brujo had shown he could deal successfully with the one tribe that could easily wipe them out any time it wanted to. It wasn't just a sweet singing voice that made him governor of Zuni. He had real political clout.
Sometimes you can see your own society's issues more clearly when they are put in an exotic context like that of the brujo in Zuni. That is a huge reward from the study of anthropology. As Phaedrus thought about this context again and again it became apparent there were two kinds of good and evil involved.
The tribal frame of values that condemned the brujo and led to his punishment was one kind of good, for which Phasdrus coined the term 'static good.' Each culture has its own pattern of static good derived from fixed laws and the traditions and values that underlie them. This pattern of static good is the essential structure of the culture itself and defines it. In the static sense the brujo was very clearly evil to oppose the appointed authorities of his tribe. Suppose everyone did that? The whole Zuni culture, after thousands of years of continuous survival, would collapse into chaos.
But in addition there's a Dynamic good that is outside of any culture, that cannot be contained by any system of precepts, but has to be continually rediscovered as a culture evolves. Good and evil are not entirely a matter of tribal custom. If they were, no tribal change would be possible, since custom cannot change custom. There has to be another source of good and evil outside the tribal customs that produces the tribal change.
If you had asked the brujo what ethical principles he was following he probably wouldn't have been able to tell you. He wouldn't have understood what you were talking about. He was just following some vague sense of 'betterness' that he couldn't have defined if he had wanted to. Probably the war priests thought he was some kind of egotist trying to build his own image by tearing down tribal authority. But he showed later on that he really wasn't. If he'd been such an egotist he wouldn't have stayed with the tribe and helped keep it together.
The brujo's values were in conflict with the tribe at least partly because he had learned to value some of the ways of the new neighbors and they had not. He was a precursor of deep cultural change. A tribe can change its values only person by person and someone has to be first. Whoever is first obviously is going to be in conflict with everybody else. He didn't have to change his ways to conform to the culture only because the culture was changing its ways to conform to him. And that is what made him seem like such a leader. Probably he wasn't telling anyone to do this or to do that so much as he was just being himself. He may never have seen his struggle as anything but a personal one. But because the culture was in transition many people saw this brujo's ways to be of higher Quality than those of the old priests and tried to become more like him. In this Dynamic sense the brujo was good because he saw the new source of good and evil before the other members of his tribe did. Undoubtedly he did much during his life to prevent a clash of cultures that would have been completely destructive to the people of Zuni.
Whatever the personality traits were that made him such a rebel from the tribe around him, this man was no 'misfit.' He was an integral part of Zuni culture. The whole tribe was in a state of evolution that had emerged many centuries ago from cliff-dwelling isolation. Now it was entering a state of cooperation with the whites and submission to white laws. He was an active catalytic agent in that tribe's social evolution, and his personal conflicts were a part of that tribe's cultural growth.
Phaedrus thought that the story of the old Pueblo Indian, seen in this way, made deep and broad sense, and justified the enormous feeling of drama that it produced. After many months of thinking about it, he was left with a reward of two terms: Dynamic good and static good, which became the basic division of his emerging Metaphysics of Quality.
It certainly felt right. Not subject and object but static and Dynamic is the basic division of reality. When A. N. Whitehead wrote that 'mankind is driven forward by dim apprehensions of things too obscure for its existing language,' he was writing about Dynamic Quality. Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things, completely simple and always new. It was the moral force that had motivated the brujo in Zuni. It contains no pattern of fixed rewards and punishments. Its only perceived good is freedom and its only perceived evil is static quality itself - any pattern of one-sided fixed values that tries to contain and kill the ongoing free force of life.