After the Fireworks

8th July 1968 was a Monday 50 years ago when Robert Pirsig set off from the Twin Cities on his Honda CB77 Superhawk with son Chris riding pillion and friends John and Sylvia Sutherland alongside on their BMW. That road trip to California formed the narrative of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM). You get a clue to the summer holiday timing when Chris finds discarded 4th July firework cases at the Shadehill campsite near Lemmon (SD) on the evening of day 2.

Many fans of ZMM – it has sold many millions – have pieced together such arcane details over the years, from DiSanto and Steele’s Guiebook to ZMM (*1) to the many so-called Pirsig Pilgrims who have dropped in to the DeWeese’s in Cottonwood Canyon, Bozeman (MT) as they’ve retraced the journey for themselves.

Artist friends of the Pirsigs from the days when Bob had worked teaching English composition at Montana State in Bozeman 1959 to 61, the DeWeese’s are signficicant to the chatauqua – the public educational dialogue – within the ZMM story. Bob shifts his metaphors away from his main thread on the mechanics of motorcycles to that of a seemingly mundane self-assembly barbecue for the edutainment of his artistic audience. As well as being a teacher of English rhetoric, Bob had previously also written manuals for early computers and weapons guidance systems. All the while we are reminded that the real object of our maintenance is ourselves. What we are looking for is an operating manual for our minds.

One reason for ZMM‘s success and fanbase was that it caught the zeitgeist of its 1974 publication. It was “culture-bearing” at a time when many were dissatisfied with a post-hippy void left by rejection of the increasing mechanisation of life living with the prevailing military-industrial-complex.

I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust,
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.

(Joni Mitchell “Woodstock” Big Sur, 1969)

Pirsig provided a reflective philosophical dissertation packaged up in a motorcycle road-trip / buddy-movie script on what back to the garden might mean for a generation of seekers after truth and goodness.  Think Easy Rider minus the sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, or Kerouac’s On The Road stream-of-consciousness with added index-cards. Many ZMM fans found satisfaction in the qualitative individual Zen-lifestyle advice they found there. Whether classified on the shelves under philosophy or under lifestyle, it sold millions and still does. But Pirsig was on a more tangible mission to define quality as something altogether more metaphysical, underlying the whole of objective reality.

This is the start of what I’ve characterised as a persistent irony with Pirsig’s work. A Catch-22. I didn’t come to Pirsig until 2001 aged 45 after 25 years as an engineer. When I did, this battle to dissolve the distracting division between things classically objective and romantically subjective was already raging between Pirsig afficionados who at the same time were working to establish his Metaphysics of Quality (MoQ) as a thing – the object of serious academic study. The example of modern-day Stoicism (*2) gives hope to the idea that life-style advice and serious academia are not mutually exclusive when in comes to living philosophy.

[Timely post-note on living philosophy:

 Zen and the Art of a Higher Education – It may seem odd for the university educated or even university educators to welcome a book that seems to view the academy as enemy territory. But properly understood, and more in keeping with Pirsig’s original intentions, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shows how the learning in a lecture hall or seminar room should be preparation for a life of learning on the open road.”

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from LA Review of Books 15 July 2018.
A recommended read on many levels.]

Pirsig himself wrote his follow-up to ZMM in Lila, published in 1991, as his attempt to establish his MoQ more explicitly as a philosophy, though again his message was bound-up in the rhetoric of a “road-trip”. Actually a sailboat trip this time down the Eerie canal system, the Hudson and the Intra-coastal waterway via downtown Manhattan, where the audience for his chautauqua this time are fellow sailors, Robert Redford and a bar-girl Lila he picks-up along the way. Contrasting with the mysterious recluse persona cultivated to market the original ZMM, Pirsig did in fact go out on the road to promote his philosophical ideas on quality in 1993 and 1995. Pirsig himself however never engaged in comparative criticism with fellow philosophers, a practice he once dubbed disparagingly as philosophology. A philosophologist being to a philosopher as an art-critic is to an artist.

The Lila Squad, those that had taken-up the challenge of Lila to set Pirsig’s MoQ in the philosophical canon, formed an on-line discussion  forum whose primary condition for membership was to have read Lila as well as ZMM. 12 years later in 2003 Dan Glover was able to publish Lila’s Child (*3), a consolidated set of interpretations on Pirsig’s MoQ complete with Pirsig’s own annotations.

As I mentioned, I was a latecomer to Pirsig. I had joined the Lila Squad on the MoQ-Discussion (MD) forum only in 2002, the same year I read both ZMM and Lila for the first time. I stayed active thru 2010 though I’d already signed-off my own Pirsig learning aims in 2008 and eventually dropped-off any participation in 2014.

Anyone “debating” Pirsig’s MoQ has their own reasons for doing so. Initially anyone might honestly claim to be curious to learn and/or test understanding. For some Pirsig becomes the professional interest of their career in philosophy and/or education. Given non-acceptance of Pirsig in mainstream philosophy, that represents significant personal investment by those that do so, in order to achieve and maintain such a position.

Now, as Dan Dannett has said, philosophy is a contact sport. Even small differences over otherwise large levels of agreement can lead to quite vicious personal and rhetorical fisticuffs. Everyone has their own good-intentions, but bad-faith easily sets-in as the default position regarding the disagreement and questioning of others. Claims of authority of direct communication with the author, some I’d even characterised as Pirsig’s Bulldogs. Sometimes even expressed agreement is tainted with ad-hominem suspicions of wilful misrepresentation for personal interests. Part of that irony, where relegation of the ego is an explicit aspect of the MoQ.

People pressing each others buttons.  All kinds of dirty tricks, and not just rhetorical ones. There was even one infamous “Sokal” trick of presenting a spoof paper to test the Pirsig “establishment” response. Suffice to say bad feelings linger between certain parties over particular disagreements. Mis-representation and trolling seem part of the fabric of social-media reality in 2018 but ever since on-line mailing lists and internet discussion forums were invented, flame-wars and very public personal attacks have been occupational hazards. These are of course as old as philosophical discourse itself. If I learned anything, it’s that academia is as inter-personally cut-throat competitive as any commercial business.

After a decade of participation I’d learned a lot about philosophical and rhetorical debate generally but the Lila Squad / MD bubble no longer felt like a healthy environment in which to make progress on either Pirsig or philosophy in general. I actually made several acquaintances that have become firm friends and stayed in regular contact, some still in ongoing Pirsig-related contexts and not solely on-line.

One such, in his last post on his own blog relating to Pirsig, back in 2010 wrote (*4): “[We’ve] have had several long-standing disagreements for over seven years now” and an increasing “rudeness” where “we’ve found less and less new to talk about”. In that same piece he goes on to describe the specific point of disagreement – the idea of accepting a “Subject-Object Layer” in order to resolve definitive mis-understandings of the level which Pirsig had called “Social”. Ironically, those defending the Pirsig status quo were actually displaying a more static social view of the ongoing evolutionary dynamics of human intellect, but at some point we all have to stop arguing and live life.

I, and I think I speak for a few others, didn’t stop participating in Pirsig debates because I’d lost interest in Pirsig. Far from it. Pirsig’s MoQ had become embedded in my own world view to the point that I’d lost interest in arguing about that in particular. I’m quoted by others as holding that “Pirsig’s MoQ represents the best framework for the whole of reality I’ve come across” (*5). I still believe that, even though no-one can have the last word, ideas always evolve and anyway, I prefer synthesis to criticism.

Some ex-MD Pirsigian’s continued to plough their own furrows in academic philosophy, so they have personal interest in solving the problem of how to fit Pirsig into the philosophical canon. There are obvious relationships to the Greeks, to Kant and to the US Pragmatists as well as Zen Buddhist philosophies to be explored. None of which we can even attempt here. Still only one person to my knowledge, Anthony McWatt, has successfully made Pirsig’s MoQ the subject of their entire PhD thesis, though gradually more and more academics have Pirsig as a string to their bow. McWatt also went on to create several documentary films, the second of which “On the Road with Robert Pirsig” I’d recommend as an introduction for any Pirsig newcomer with”On the Road with John Sutherland” as probably the best of the bunch for those already interested.

As I suggested, one supreme irony in Pirsig is his rejection of comparative philosophical debate. He’s not in the mainstream precisely because he didn’t like mainstream behaviour – he rejected the academy – and yet, for many, a serious question is what’s the best way to get the essential value – quality – of his work recognised by the mainstream?

One attempt by “established” UK philosopher Julian Baggini in 2006 (*6), to tease out connections between Pirsig and the accepted canon, foundered at least partly because the Pirsigian camp chose to conduct the dialogue by indirect correspondence. The attempt to insulate Pirsig himself from perceived critical intent of philosophology was surely misguided, but in any event it achieved little progress. We can’t fail to notice the parallel in the subsequent rise of the intellectual dark web as a safe-space for constructive dialogue on the publicly disagreeable?

But, there is ultimately that Catch 22 in attempting to fit a novel take on what it means to be rational, using the rationality of established public academic discourse. Pirsig himself noted the exasperation in trying to add something new to mainstream philosophy whilst at the same time manouevring to outflank the entire Western canon. Philosophy is not just a contact sport, it’s war and the Art of War was written by a Zen Buddhist (*7). Good luck to those on that quest.

For many others, the point is that direct and immediate participation  – the radical empirical experience of what matters most in life – is the lesson learned beyond any academic rationalisation. The koans of Zen serve to emphasise that rational responses to life’s biggest questions can be beside the point to actually learning the answers in living practice. Most of us have of course chosen our own balanced selection from the available menu.

Pirsig died only last year, his books still sell and philosophical debate continues 50 years on, if a little more diffuse and less intense than the Lila Squad years. As I noted at the time, his demise prompted a renewed interest in his work and many reflective pieces on what that meant to many different people. Underway since then is a new film project with the working title “Pirsig’s Journey. Pirsig more than once discussed a film project directly with actor-director and mutual-admirer Robert Redford and in later years let it be known that official biographical rights to follow that up lay with his wife, now widow, Wendy (*8). There is a certain perfect circularity that the present film project is targetting the Sundance festival for its release.

====

More information – generally:

My own “Psybertron Pirsig Pages” of Pirsig, ZMM, Lila, and MoQ links and many more Pirsig references in the blog. Including my own personal (and naive) thought journey and the Pirsig Biographical Timeline. [Biographical source materials and correspondence archive with Mark Richardson and extended in his “Zen and Now.]

Henry Gurr’s “ZMM Quality” web site of the ZMM road-trip narrative locations and so much more. (Also via Facebook). [See also Gary Wegner’s ZMM Route Map in Google format.]

David Harding’s “Good Metaphysics” for metaphysics and the MoQ itself.

Pirsig dot org” (temporary holding pages) incorporating key content from Good Metaphysics and “Robert Pirsig dot org” pages of Anthony McWatt (retired). [McWatt-Pirsig correspondence archive also at MSU.]

[Easy Rider, On the Road, Catch-22, Cuckoo’s Nest, Woodstock
– givens inspired by the beat generation?]

More information – the specifics referenced:

(*1) DiSanto & Steele’s – “Guidebook to ZMM

(*2) Massimo Pigliucci’s – everyday stocism as living philosophy “How to be a Stoic“. (See also his blog at “Footnotes to Plato“)

(*3) Dan Glover’s – “Lila’s Child

(*4) Matt Kundert’s – “last post” 2010 Pirsig / MD post.
(Also his 2006 post on Dewey, Pirsig and Rorty.)

(*5) Ian Glendinning’s – retrospective on MoQ Worldview in a picture.

(*6) Julian Baggini’s – Pirsig “interview”.

(*7) Sun Tzu’s – “The Art of War“.

(*8) Wendy as custodian of Pirsig’s story – Tim Adams’ November 2006 interview drew on my existing timeline for much of the story Bob had already shared in correspondence, but in fact Bob makes explicit (jokey) reference: “I told Wendy she should sell [the book / bio / film adaptation rights] as soon as I die.”


Also published on Medium.

16 thoughts on “After the Fireworks”

  1. thank you covering this at the 50th anniversary. when I look at what is present now on MOQ, I no longer see the idea at its infancy but as an idea being applied and expanded at a steady paste. As you mentioned Dr.McWatt’s, there are now several MA’s and PhD’s in multiple languages and several books further expanding MOQ as an extension of American Pragmatism, on Pedagogical applications and even on MOQ and corporate topics. Agreed that online discussions over MOQ do turn quite fierce easily, but I’m very much glad that Pirsig himself annotated Lila’s child and provided comments to some of the articles on MOQ settling some of the confliction points.

  2. Hi Artun, thanks for your comments. I am aware of several other books in multiple languages that extend Pirsig’s MoQ in various directions – too many to mention in this piece – but referenced elsewhere in the blog. Also knew that others had covered Pirsig in Batchelors and Masters level courses and research, but genuinely wasn’t aware of others at Post-Grad / Doctorate level. I’d be very interested in any specific links / connections you can provide. Regards, Ian.

  3. Given your comment : ” even though no-one can have the last word, ideas always evolve and anyway, I prefer synthesis to criticism.” , I’m encouraged to ask whether you’ve considered Pirsig’s claim that the “MOQ “, FH Bradley’s “British Idealism ” and Aldous Huxley’s “Perennial Philosophy” are different expressions of the same philosophical view.

    He is explicit about this in his annotations to “Coppleston”. Yet I’ve been told by zealots that Pirsig must have misled himself since Bradley had been targeted for criticism by William James.

    Those with axes to grind wear blinkers to protect their eyes but they inevitably cloud their vision.

    I find it easier to envisage Social Quality by aligning it with WK Clifford’s concept of “The Tribal Self”.

    “Tribal self”, gives the key to Clifford’s ethical view, which explains conscience and the moral law by the development in each individual of a “self”, which prescribes the conduct conducive to the welfare of the “tribe.” (Wikipedia)

    I also find the levels of static quality match well , though not exactly , with JS Haldane’s levels of abstraction as conceived in “The Philosophy of a Biologist”.

    “It will now be evident enough that instead of beginning the discussion of philo-
    sophy with physical science we might equally well have begun with some other
    branch of science, or, as Socrates in effect did in his discussion of ‘virtue’ and
    knowledge, with religion, by describing the fundamental experience which religion
    embodies. We could then, as Socrates did not himself do, have passed in succession
    to psychology, biology, physical science, and mathematics. These sciences would
    then represent successive stages in which our experience is stripped more and more of
    its actual content by a process of artificial abstraction.

    The question would then remain as to why we apply this process of abstraction,
    and the answer given was that in matters of detail our perceptions are so imperfect
    that we are unable to reach more than abstract or imperfect conceptions. Yet these
    abstract conceptions are of the utmost service, so that we cannot dispense with them.
    They are nevertheless only our own devices, and if, as Descartes and many others
    have done, we regard them as complete representations of experience, confusion
    necessarily results, as shown in detail in the preceding chapters.

    All of these sciences neglect elements in our experience, mathematical interpret-
    ation neglecting most, and psychological interpretation least. On the other hand
    mathematical or physical interpretations are far more frequently applicable in matters
    of detail than psychological interpretation, and in this respect are of very great
    importance. We can count and measure all sorts of aspects of our experience, but
    even when we can add a physical interpretation this by itself tells us nothing about
    biological significance or about values, though it may nevertheless be sufficient for
    many practical purposes where we do not require to see more deeply. From the
    standpoint of philosophy, however, the important matter is to realize that in whatever
    way we may approach philosophy the sciences represent reality only partially, so that
    their results must not be taken for more than this partial representation. ”

    I find no difficulty in seeing the MOQ ,British Idealism , Bohr’s Complementarity and Clifford’s “Mind-stuff” and “Tribal Self” as expressions of the “Perennial Philosophy”. I also find QBism to offer an compatible interpretation of quantum mechanics.

    This should make it obvious that I too am a lumper rather than a splitter. Temperament plays its part in the stance we adopt.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences .

    Cheers
    Bruce

    https://archive.org/stream/ThePhilosophyOfABiologist/PhilosOfABiologist_tgd_djvu.txt
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kingdon_Clifford

  4. Further to my comment yesterday , I’ve found the Pirsig quote referred to and I’ve attached a missing link between Bradley and Pirsig in the form of the preface to JS Haldane’s “Philosophy of a Biologist” which I linked yesterday. The connection between them is striking.

    “As was stated in ZMM there was a time many years ago when I looked through the pantheon of philosophers for resemblances to the MOQ. Since Bradley was always classified as an idealist, it did not seem important to investigate him thoroughly because the MOQ rejects the metaphysical assertion that the fundamental reality of the world is idea.
    But the description of Bradley as an idealist is completely incorrect. Bradley’s fundamental assertion is that the reality of the world is intellectually unknowable, and that defines him as a mystic.
    So It has really been a shock to see how close Bradley is to the MOQ. Both he and the MOQ are expressing what Aldous Huxley called “The Perennial Philosophy,” which is perennial, I believe, because it happens to be true. Bradley has given an excellent description of what the MOQ calls Dynamic Quality and an excellent rational justification for its intellectual acceptance. It and the MOQ can be spliced together with no difficulty into a broader explanation of the same thing.
    A singular difference is that the MOQ says the Absolute is of value, a point Bradley may have thought so obvious it didn’t need mentioning. The MOQ says that this value is not a property of the Absolute, it is the Absolute itself, and is a much better name for the Absolute than “Absolute.” Rhetorically, the word “absolute” conveys nothing except rigidity and permanence and authoritarianism and remoteness. “Quality,” on the other hand conveys flexibility, impermanence, here-and-now-ness and freedom. And it is a word everyone knows and loves and understands—even butcher shops that take pride in their product. Beyond that the term, “value,” paves the way for an explanation of evolution that did not occur to Bradley. He apparently avoided discussing the world of appearances except to emphasize the need to transcend it. The MOQ returns to this world of appearances and shows how to understand these appearances in a more constructive way. ”

    Robert Pirsig. http://web.archive.org/web/20040810175226/http://www.anthonymcwatt.co.uk/Copleston.htm

    “Preface

    The present book represents an attempt to sum up shortly the conclusions which
    we can draw from modern philosophy. My special obligations to British contributors
    to post-Kantian and post-Hegelian thought will be evident, and particularly perhaps to
    T. H. Green and F. H. Bradley, though their names, or those of others who in this
    country have worked along similar lines, are scarcely mentioned in the book itself,
    since it is still somewhat difficult to differentiate their thought from that of their
    predecessors.

    It is usual to classify British post-Hegelian philosophy as ‘idealism’, in contrast
    with what is regarded as the ‘realism’ of those for whom physical interpretation
    stands for a final interpretation of external reality. In this sense, but in this sense only,
    the book may be regarded as idealistic. In a deeper sense it is, as will be seen, wholly
    realistic, since it treats the universe as depicted by the sciences, not as ‘mere
    appearance’, but as the real universe imperfectly depicted.

    What may be regarded as distinctive in the book is the discussion of questions
    relating to the fundamental conceptions applicable in the sciences, and more
    particularly in biology and psychology. It seems to me that such discussions are
    essential if we are to do justice to either the separate sciences or philosophy itself.
    What I have attempted is to meet this need so far as I can, and also to show in the last
    chapter that religion is no mere revelation from without, but enters into the whole of
    our experience as the direct revelation in it of God.

    J. S. Haldane.” https://archive.org/stream/ThePhilosophyOfABiologist/PhilosOfABiologist_tgd_djvu.txt

    I hope this isn’t an inappropriate place to discuss this ?

    Cheers
    Bruce

  5. Fascinating responses Bruce – was logged-out over a long family weekend – I’ll need a little time to digest. Any place is OK to discuss – except maybe Facebook 😉

    I’m aware of those claims in the Coppleston annotations, and I have presumed they’re probably are true, though I’ve never researched those original sources deeply. (As you’ve spotted, I’m not so concerned with who “invented” any given view as I am with the “perennial philosophy” running through so many different views.) I will digest and respond further.

  6. Hi Bruce, you certainly caught the general thrust of my piece. The general “tribal” tendency to polarise every topic in simplistic ways that miss real value – or as you put it “Those with axes to grind wear blinkers to protect their eyes but they inevitably cloud their vision.” (Zealots = my Pirsig Bulldogs)

    Clifford I know only through second hand references, but I buy what you say. And yes, Haldane – viewing reality by stripping away layers of abstraction sounds about right too.

    QBism is new to me. I am researching some aspects of where Bayesian statistical views can be misleading / inappropriate (eg Taleb). When it comes to new views of fundamental physics – I’m currently following Rovelli and Verlinde – very little is indeed “absolute” – fundamental stuff is largely “meta” to what is observed through those layers of abstraction. (Rayner’s flow-based views – like Rovelli’s – are also very much about escaping from illusions created by destructive abstraction.) [All searchable in the blog.]

    I’ll draw McWatt’s attention to the Haldane quote, reinforcing his own words in his MoQ Textbook. Idealism or Realism, of course these are tribal terms bandied about by detractors 😉 Little is fundamental or absolute even in physics and metaphysics, let alone biology and psychology.

    Do you have any public writing on-line Bruce?
    (My email is ian.glendinning@gmail.com – but you’ll find me easily in my @psybertron guise in many places.)
    Regards
    Ian

  7. Thanks Ian
    It’s great to get some positive feedback. Like you I find precedence less interesting than the perennial germination of vital concepts.

    Here’s another couple of links to add to the chain.

    WK Clifford . Here in his essays you’ll find his “Tribal Self” morality , his famous “Ethics of Belief” (which gives takes such a hard-pragmatic stance that William James was inspired to write his defence of Fideism “The Will to Believe”)

    I recommend “On the Nature of Things in Themselves” Page 52.

    https://archive.org/stream/lecturesessaysby19012clif/lecturesessaysby19012clif_djvu.txt

    Erwin Schrodinger

    Note . The second link starts with the note on the epilogue to the first link. Both explicitly endorse Huxley’s “Perennial Philosophy” and the first inspired Francis Crick to search for a ” flexible , non-periodic crystal”.

    ” The mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God). To Western ideology the thought has remained a stranger, in spite of Schopenhauer and others who stood for it and in spite of those true lovers who, as they look into each other’s eyes, become aware that their thought and their joy are numerically one not merely similar or identical; but they, as a rule, are emotionally too busy to indulge in clear thinking, which respect they very much resemble the mystic. ”

    http://www.whatislife.ie/downloads/What-is-Life.pdf
    http://web.mit.edu/philosophy/religionandscience/mindandmatter.pdf

    QBism

    https://www.quantamagazine.org/quantum-bayesianism-explained-by-its-founder-20150604/

    “QBism would say, it’s not that the world is built up from stuff on “the outside” as the Greeks would have had it. Nor is it built up from stuff on “the inside” as the idealists, like George Berkeley and Eddington, would have it. Rather, the stuff of the world is in the character of what each of us encounters every living moment — stuff that is neither inside nor outside, but prior to the very notion of a cut between the two at all.”

    This is a misreading of Eddington who actually champions WK Clifford’s “Mind-Stuff” in his Gifford Lecture.

    Here’s an overview and defence.

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1608.00548.pdf

    I’d also recommend JS Haldane’s son JBS Haldane the outspoken , highly respected geneticist and polymath.

    http://jbshaldane.org/books/1927-Possible-Worlds/index.html

    Science and Theology as Art Forms
    Possible Worlds.

    “We have learned to think on two different lines—one which enables us to deal with situations in which we find ourselves in relation to our fellow-men, another for corresponding situations with regard to inanimate objects. We are pretty nearly incapable of any other types of thought. And so we regard an electron as a thing, and God as a person,[9] and are surprised to find ourselves entangled in quantum mechanics and the Athanasian Creed. We are just getting at the rudiments of other ways of thinking. A few mystics manage to conceive of God as such, and not as a person or a substance. They have no grammar or even vocabulary to express their experience, and are generally regarded as talking nonsense, as indeed they often do.” Possible Worlds.

    Again thanks for the warm response I hope we can enlighten each other in the future . It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

    Cheers
    Bruce.

  8. Hi again ,

    I forgot to quote the opening remark in JBS Haldane’s “Possible Worlds” . I’m sure Pirsig would love it.

    “It is not clear that professionalism is any more desirable in philosophy than in football or religion.”

    And
    no , I don’t have any online writing.

    Cheers
    Bruce.

  9. Here’s another perennialist your website’s search engine doesn’t recognise .

    Briefly , JWN Sullivan is credited with introducing Aldous Huxley to the perennial philosophy.
    He is depicted as “Calamy” in “Those Barren Leaves ”

    http://www.academicroom.com/article/best-companions-j-w-n-sullivan-aldous-huxley-and-new-physics

    Both Haldanes , father and son were also depicted separately in two of Huxley’s earlier novels. (he served for a time as JS Haldane’s lab assistant.

    And the quoted description of Sullivan, by Virginia Woolf , is flattering compared to her take on Mrs WK Clifford. (they had a mutual friend in Henry James)

    I hope you don’t find these comments tiresome. I seldom meet anyone familiar with or interested in perennialism.

    Thanks
    Bruce.

  10. Yes love that Haldane quote. And I see now some previous confusion of mine in relationships between Huxley and Haldane(s). (I have another Haldane interest – wearing a different hat – that I am going to have to re-research and join up some dots.)

    Sullivan had passed me by, fascinating connections between people.

    And – someone else once pointed out I should take Woolf seriously, but never got round to it.

    Not tiresome at all – doesn’t mean I can always respond in detail. I think what I may do is compose a summary post when I’ve read the new Haldane / Huxley et al connections you’ve given me. Thanks.

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