The Metaphysics of Quality says that what sometimes accidentally occurs in an insane asylum but occurs deliberately in a mystic retreat is a natural human process called dhyana in Sanskrit. In our culture dhyana is ambiguously called 'meditation.' Just as mystics traditionally seek monasteries and ashrams and hermitages as retreats into isolation and silence, so are the insane treated by isolation in places of relative calm and austerity and silence. Sometimes, as a result of this monastic retreat into silence and isolation the patient arrives at a state Karl Menninger has described as 'better than cured.' He is actually in better condition than he was before the insanity started. Phaedrus guessed that in many of these 'accidental' cases, the patient had learned by himself not to cling to any static patterns of ideas — cultural, private or any other.
In the insane asylum this dhyana is underrated and often undermined because there is no metaphysical basis for understanding it scientifically. But among religious mystics, particularly Oriental mystics, dhyana has been one of the most intensely studied practices of all.
This Western treatment of dhyana is a beautiful example of how the static patterns of a culture can make something not exist, even when it does exist. People in this culture are hypnotized into thinking they do not meditate when in fact they do.
Dhyana was what this boat was all about. It's what Phaedrus had bought it for, a place to be alone and quiet and inconspicuous and able to settle down into himself and be what he really was and not what he was thought to be or supposed to be. In doing this he didn't think he was putting this boat to any special purpose. That's what the purpose of boats like this has always been . . . and seaside cottages too . . . and lake cabins . . . and hiking trails . . . and golf courses . . . It's the need for dhyana that is behind all these.
Vacations too . . . how perfectly named that is . . . a vacation, an emptying out . . . that's what dhyana is, an emptying out of all the static clutter and junk of one's life and just settling into an undefined sort of tranquillity.
That's what Lila's involved in now, a huge vacation, an emptying out of the junk of her life. She's clinging to some new pattern because she thinks it holds back the old pattern. But what she has to do is take a vacation from all patterns, old and new, and just settle into a kind of emptiness for a while. And if she does, the culture has a moral obligation not to bother her. The most moral activity of all is the creation of space for life to move onward.
The Metaphysics of Quality associates religious mysticism with Dynamic Quality but it would certainly be a mistake to think that the Metaphysics of Quality endorses the static beliefs of any particular religious sect. Phaedrus thought sectarian religion was a static social fallout from Dynamic Quality and that while some sects had fallen less than others, none of them told the whole truth.
His favorite Christian mystic was Johannes Eckhart, who said, 'Wouldst thou be perfect, do not yelp about God.' Eckhart was pointing to a profound mystic truth, but you can guess what a hand of applause it got from the static authorities of the Church. 'Ill-sounding, rash, and probably heretical,' was the general verdict.
From what Phaedrus had been able to observe, mystics and priests tend to have a cat-and-dog-like coexistence within almost every religious organization. Both groups need each other but neither group likes the other at all.
There's an adage that 'Nothing disturbs a bishop quite so much as the presence of a saint in the parish.' It was one of Phaedrus' favorites. The saint's Dynamic understanding makes him unpredictable and uncontrollable, but the bishop's got a whole calendar of static ceremonies to attend to; fund-raising projects to push forward, bills to pay, parishioners to meet. That saint's going to up-end everything if he isn't handled diplomatically. And even then he may do something wildly unpredictable that upsets everybody. What a quandary! It can take the bishops years, decades, even centuries to put down the hell that a saint can raise in a single day. Joan of Arc is the prime example.
In all religions bishops tend to gild Dynamic Quality with all sorts of static interpretations because their cultures require it. But these interpretations become like golden vines that cling to a tree, shut out its sunlight and eventually strangle it.
Phaedrus heard the sound of a car coming closer from behind. When it approached he held out his thumb and it stopped. He told the driver he was looking for groceries and the driver took him to Atlantic Highlands where the car was going anyway. At a supermarket Phaedrus filled the tote bags with all the food he could find that looked good, then found another ride back as far as the junction in the road where Sandy Hook started. He shouldered his bags, now pretty heavy, hoping another ride would come along, but none came.
He thought some more about Lila's insanity and how it was related to religious mysticism and how both were integrated into reason by the Metaphysics of Quality. He thought about how once this integration occurs and Dynamic Quality is identified with religious mysticism it produces an avalanche of information as to what Dynamic Quality is. A lot of this religious mysticism is just low-grade 'yelping about God' of course, but if you search for the sources of it and don't take the yelps too literally a lot of interesting things turn up.
Long ago when he first explored the idea of Quality he'd reasoned that if Quality were the primordial source of all our understanding then it followed that the place to get the best view of it would be at the beginning of history when it would have been less cluttered by the present deluge of static intellectual patterns of knowledge. He'd traced Quality back into its origins in Greek philosophy and thought he'd gone as far as he could go. Then he found he was able to go back to a time before the Greek philosophers, to the rhetoricians.
Philosophers usually present their ideas as sprung from 'nature' or sometimes from 'God,' but Phasdrus thought neither of these was completely accurate. The logical order of things which the philosophers study is derived from the 'mythos.' The mythos is the social culture and the rhetoric which the culture must invent before philosophy becomes possible. Most of this old religious talk is nonsense, of course, but nonsense or not, it is the parent of our modern scientific talk. This 'mythos over logos' thesis agreed with the Metaphysics of Quality's assertion that intellectual static patterns of quality are built up out of social static patterns of quality.
Digging back into ancient Greek history, to the time when this mythos-to-logos transition was taking place, Phaedrus noted that the ancient rhetoricians of Greece, the Sophists, had taught what they called areté, which was a synonym for Quality. Victorians had translated areté as 'virtue' but Victorian 'virtue' connoted sexual abstinence, prissiness and a holier-than-thou snobbery. This was a long way from what the ancient Greeks meant. The early Greek literature, particularly the poetry of Homer, showed that areté had been a central and vital term.
With Homer, Phaedrus was certain he'd gone back as far as anyone could go, but one day he came across some information that startled him. It said that by following linguistic analysis you could go even farther back into the mythos than Homer. Ancient Greek was not an original language. It was descended from a much earlier one, now called the Proto-Indo-European language. This language has left no fragments but has been derived by scholars from similarities between such languages as Sanskrit, Greek and English which have indicated that these languages were fallouts from a common prehistoric tongue. After thousands of years of separation from Greek and English the Hindi word for 'mother' is still 'Ma.' Yoga both looks like and is translated as 'yoke.' The reason an Indian rajah's title sounds like 'regent' is because both terms are fallouts from Proto-Indo-European. Today a Proto-Indo-European dictionary contains more than a thousand entries with derivations extending into more than one hundred languages.
Just for curiosity's sake Pheedrus decided to see if arete was in it. He looked under the 'a' words and was disappointed to find it was not. Then he noted a statement that said that the Greeks were not the most faithful to the Proto-Indo-European spelling. Among other sins, the Greeks added the prefix 'a' to many of the Proto-Indo-European roots. He checked this out by looking for arete under 'r.' This time a door opened.
The Proto-Indo-European root of arete was the morpheme rt. There, beside arete, was a treasure room of other derived 'rt' words: 'arithmetic,' 'aristocrat,' 'art,' 'rhetoric,' 'worth,' 'rite,' 'ritual,' 'wright,' 'right (handed)' and 'right (correct).' All of these words except arithmetic seemed to have a vague thesaurus-like similarity to Quality. Phaedrus studied them carefully, letting them soak in, trying to guess what sort of concept, what sort of way of seeing the world, could give rise to such a collection.
When the morpheme appeared in aristocrat and arithmetic the reference was to 'firstness.' fit meant first. When it appeared in art and wright it seemed to mean 'created' and 'of beauty.' 'Ritual' suggested repetitive order. And the word right has two meanings: 'right-handed' and 'moral and esthetic correctness.' When all these meanings were strung together a fuller picture of the rt morpheme emerged. Rt referred to the 'first, created, beautiful repetitive order of moral and esthetic correctness.'
Interestingly, in the sciences today arithmetic still enjoys this status.
Later Phaedrus discovered that even though the Hebrews were from 'across the river' and not part of the Proto-Indo-European group, they had a similar term, arhetton, which meant 'the One' and which was considered so sacred it was not allowed to be spoken.
The right-handedness was also interesting. He had come across an anthropology book called La Preeminence de la Main Droite by Robert Hertz, showing how condemnation of left-handedness as 'sinister' is an almost universal anthropological characteristic. Our modern twentieth-century culture is one of the few exceptions, but even today when legal oaths are taken or military salutes are given or people shake hands or when a president is inaugurated and agrees to uphold the first created beautiful repetitive order of moral and esthetic correctness of his country, it is mandatory that he raise his right hand. When school children pledge allegiance to the flag as a symbol of this tribal beauty and moral correctness they are required to do the same thing. Prehistoric rt is still with us.
There was just one thing wrong with this Proto-Indo-European discovery, something Phaadrus had tried to sweep under the carpet at first, but which kept creeping out again. The meanings, grouped together, suggested something different from his interpretation of areté. They suggested 'importance' but it was an importance that was formal and social and procedural and manufactured, almost an antonym to the Quality he was talking about. Rt meant 'quality' all right but the quality it meant was static, not Dynamic. He had wanted it to come out the other way, but it looked as though it wasn't going to do it. Ritual. That was the last thing he wanted arete to turn out to be. Bad news. It looked as though the Victorian translation of arete as 'virtue' might be better after all since 'virtue' implies ritualistic conformity to social protocol.
It was in this gloomy mood, while he was thinking about all the interpretations of the rt morpheme, that yet another 'find' came. He had thought that surely this time he had reached the end of the Quality-areté-rt trail. But then from the sediment of old memories his mind dredged up a word he hadn't thought about or heard of for a long time:
Rta. It was a Sanskrit word, and Phaedrus remembered what it meant: Hta was the 'cosmic order of things.' Then he remembered he had read that the Sanskrit language was considered the most faithful to the Proto-Indo-European root, probably because the linguistic patterns had been so carefully preserved by the Hindu priests.
Rta came surrounded by a memory of bright chalky tan walls in a classroom filled with sun. At the head of the classroom, Mr Mukerjee, a perspiring dhoti-clad brahmin was drilling dozens of ancient Sanskrit words into the assembled students' heads - advaita, maya, avidya, brahman, atman, prajna, samkhya, visistadvaita, Rg-Veda, upanisad, darsana, dhyana, nyaya - on and on. He introduced them day after day, each in turn with a little smile that promised hundreds more to come.
At Phaedrus' worn wooden desk near the wall in back of the classroom, he had sat sweaty and annoyed by buzzing flies. The heat and light and flies came and went freely through openings in a far wall which had no window-glass because in India you don't need it. His notebook was damp where his hand had rested. His pen wouldn't write on the damp spot, so he had to write around it. When he turned the page he found the damp had gotten through to the next page too.
In that heat it was agony to remember what all the words were supposed to mean - ajiva, moksa, kama, ahimsa, susupti, bhakti, samsara. They passed by his mind like clouds and disappeared. Through the openings in the wall he could see real clouds - giant monsoon clouds towering thousands of feet up — and white-humped Sindhi cows grazing below.
He thought he'd forgotten all those words years ago, but now here was rta, back again, Rta, from the oldest portion of the Rg Veda, which was the oldest known writing of the Indo-Aryan language. The sun god, Surya, began his chariot ride across the heavens from the abode of rta. Varuna, the god for whom the city in which Phaedrus was studying was named, was the chief support of rta.
Varuna was omniscient and was described as ever witnessing the truth and falsehood of men - as being 'the third whenever two plot in secret.' He was essentially a god of righteousness and a guardian of all that is worthy and good. The texts had said that the distinctive feature of Varuna was his unswerving adherence to high principles. Later he was overshadowed by Indra who was a thunder god and destroyer of the enemies of the Indo-Aryans. But all the gods were conceived as 'guardians of rta,' willing the right and making sure it was carried out.
One of Phaedrus' old school texts, written by M. Hiriyanna, contained a good summary: 'Rta, which etymologically stands for "course" originally meant "cosmic order," the maintenance of which was the purpose of all the gods; and later it also came to mean "right," so that the gods were conceived as preserving the world not merely from physical disorder but also from moral chaos. The one idea is implicit in the other: and there is order in the universe because its control is in righteous hands . . ."
The physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe, Rta is both. This was exactly what the Metaphysics of Quality was claiming. It was not a new idea. It was the oldest idea known to man.
This identification of rta and areté was enormously valuable, Phasdrus thought, because it provided a huge historical panorama in which the fundamental conflict between static and Dynamic Quality had been worked out. It answered the question of why areté meant ritual. Rta also meant ritual. But unlike the Greeks, the Hindus in their many thousands of years of cultural evolution had paid enormous attention to the conflict between ritual and freedom. Their resolution of this conflict in the Buddhist and Vedantist philosophies is one of the profound achievements of the human mind.
The original meaning of rta, during what is called the Brdhmana period of Indian history, underwent a change to extremely ritualistic static patterns more rigid and detailed than anything heard of in Western religion. As Hiriyanna wrote,
The purpose of invoking the several gods of nature was at first mostly to gain their favor for success in life here as well as hereafter. The prayers were then naturally accompanied by simple gifts like grain and ghee. But this simple form of worship became more and more complicated and gave rise, in course of time, to elaborate sacrifices and also to a special class of professional priests who alone, it was believed, could officiate at them. There are allusions in the later hymns to rites which lasted for very long periods and at which several priests were employed by the sacrificer. [A change] came over the spirit with which offerings were made to the gods in this period. What prompted the performance of sacrifices was no longer the thought of prevailing upon the gods to bestow some favor or ward off some danger; it was rather to compel or coerce them to do what the sacrificer wanted to be done . . .
There was a profound change in the conception of sacrifice, and consequently in that of the relation between gods and men. All that came to be insisted upon was a scrupulous carrying out of every detail connected with the various rites; and the good result accruing from them, whether here or elsewhere, was believed to follow automatically from it . . . Ritualistic punctilio thus comes to be placed on the same level as natural law and moral rectitude.
You don't have to look far in the modern world to find similar conditions, Phasdrus thought.
But what made the Hindu experience so profound was that this decay of Dynamic Quality into static quality was not the end of the story. Following the period of the Brahmanas came the Upanisadic period and the flowering of Indian philosophy. Dynamic Quality reemerged within the static patterns of Indian thought.
'Rta,' Hiriyanna had written, 'almost ceased to be used in Sanskrit; but . . . under the name of dharma, the same idea occupies a very important place in the later Indian views of life also.'
The more usual meaning of dharma is, 'religious merit which, operating in some unseen way as it is supposed, secures good to a person in the future, either here or elsewhere. Thus the performance of certain sacrifices is believed to lead the agent to heaven after the present life, and of certain others to secure for him wealth, children and the like in this very life.'
But he also wrote, 'It is sometimes used as a purely moral concept and stands for right or virtuous conduct which leads to some form of good as a result.'
Dharma, like rta, means 'what holds together.' It is the basis of all order. It equals righteousness. It is the ethical code. It is the stable condition which gives man perfect satisfaction.
Dharma is duty. It is not external duty which is arbitrarily imposed by others. It is not any artificial set of conventions which can be amended or repealed by legislation. Neither is it internal duty which is arbitrarily decided by one's own conscience. Dharma is beyond all questions of what is internal and what is external. Dharma is Quality itself, the principle of 'lightness' which gives structure and purpose to the evolution of all life and to the evolving understanding of the universe which life has created.
Within the Hindu tradition dharma is relative and dependent on the conditions of society. It always has a social implication. It is the bond which holds society together. This is fitting to the ancient origins of the term. But within modern Buddhist thought dharma becomes the phenomenal world - the object of perception, thought or understanding. A chair, for example, is not composed of atoms of substance, it is composed of dharmas.
This statement is absolute jabberwocky to a conventional subject-object metaphysics. How can a chair be composed of individual little moral orders? But if one applies the Metaphysics of Quality and sees that a chair is an inorganic static pattern and sees that all static patterns are composed of value and that value is synonymous with morality then it all begins to make sense.
It occurred to Phaedrus that this was one answer, perhaps the basic answer, to why workmen in Japan and Taiwan and other areas in the Far East are able to maintain quality levels that compare so favorably to those in the West. In the past the mystics' traditional low regard for inorganic static patterns, 'laws of nature' has kept the scientifically derived technology of these cultures poor, but since Orientals have learned to overcome that prejudice times have changed. If one comes from a cultural tradition where an electronic assembly is primarily a moral order rather than just a neutral pile of substance, it is easier to feel an ethical responsibility for doing good work on it.
Phsedrus thought that Oriental social cohesiveness and ability to work long hard hours without complaint was not a genetic characteristic but a cultural one. It resulted from the working out, centuries ago, of the problem of dharma and the way in which it combines freedom and ritual. In the West progress seems to proceed by a series of spasms of alternating freedom and ritual. A revolution of freedom against old rituals produces a new order, which soon becomes another old ritual for the next generation to revolt against, on and on. In the Orient there are plenty of conflicts but historically this particular kind of conflict has not been as dominant. Phaedrus thought it was because dharma includes both static and Dynamic Quality without contradiction.
For example, you would guess from the literature on Zen and its insistence on discovering the 'unwritten dharma' that it would be intensely anti-ritualistic, since ritual is the 'written dharma.' But that isn't the case. The Zen monk's daily life is nothing but one ritual after another, hour after hour, day after day, all his life. They don't tell him to shatter those static patterns to discover the unwritten dharma. They want him to get those patterns perfect!
The explanation for this contradiction is the belief that you do not free yourself from static patterns by fighting them with other contrary static patterns. That is sometimes called 'bad karma chasing its tail.' You free yourself from static patterns by putting them to sleep. That is, you master them with such proficiency that they become an unconscious part of your nature. You get so used to them you completely forget them and they are gone. There in the center of the most monotonous boredom of static ritualistic patterns the Dynamic freedom is found.
Phaedrus saw nothing wrong with this ritualistic religion as long as the rituals are seen as merely a static portrayal of Dynamic Quality, a sign-post which allows socially pattern-dominated people to see Dynamic Quality. The danger has always been that the rituals, the static patterns, are mistaken for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the Dynamic Quality they were originally intended to preserve.
Suddenly the foliage by the road opened up and there it was: the ocean.
He stopped for a second by the beach and just stared at the endless procession of waves moving slowly in from the horizon.
The south wind was stronger here and it cooled him. It was steady, like a trade wind. Nothing interfered with its flow toward him over the huge ocean. 'Vast emptiness and nothing sacred.' If ever there was a visible concrete metaphor for Dynamic Quality this was it.
The beach looked much cleaner here than on the other side of the hook and he would have liked to walk for a while, but he had to get back to the boat.
. . . And to Lila.
Where to start with her? That was the question. The rta interpretation of Quality would say that more ritual is what she needs - not the kind of ritual that fights Dynamic Quality, but the kind that embodies it. But what ritual? She wasn't about to follow rituals of any kind. Ritual was what she was fighting.