The Master must have felt what was going on in my mind. He had, so Mr Komachiya told me later, tried to work through a Japanese introduction to philosophy in order to find out how he could help me from a side I already knew. But in the end he had laid down the book with a cross face, remarking that he could now understand that a person who interested himself in such things would naturally find the art of archery uncommonly difficult.
– Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (trans. R.F.C. Hull)
Write on behalf of your double who collides with the walls of life and bounces back into you through your words. He’s nothing without you, just as you’re nothing without him. Nor are they your words in those rare moments when the two of you merge and the ungrammatical ‘I’ is born and dies in the same instant. Twinned image, Narcissus transcending his reflection for a moment: his sentence. So go on, fail as well as you can. God, or the devil, will do the rest.
There were moments in those days when he experienced a concentration of body and mind in which he almost felt he could do anything, be anything. There were moments when he felt he was neither woman nor man, neither mind nor matter nor all of these things at once but somehow free of the differences themselves. He was ears that saw and eyes that heard. He let his thoughts and feelings pass through him like a train, or trail blissfully out of him like smoke: they were no longer his exactly.
The eternal formula, the key to this world and the beyond. (Oh, Robert, why do you use, for things that are so indifferent to you, such highly charged words!). Did Kant, did any other discover it? Can anyone ever find it?!I have never finished reading Kant but I don’t let that keep me awake at night, nor do I feel that I shall die with shame because another man has already grasped the world in its entirety.
There are truths but no truth. I can quite well assert two totally antithetical things and in both cases be right. It’s not permissible to weigh ideas, one against the other — each has a life of its own. Cf. Nietzsche. What a fiasco it is if one tries to discover any system in his work except for the spirit which the wise man chooses as his guide.
Another species is made up of those who loved greatly — Christ, Buddha, Goethe — myself, in those days of autumn when I was in love with Valerie.
These do not seek after any truth, but they feel that something within them is coming together into some kind of whole.
This has something purely human about it — a natural process.
And such people can balance one idea against the other, for that new thing which grows within them has fastidious roots.
– Robert Musil (quoted in Letters from a Librarian)
The opinions which follow have for me various degrees of probability or certainty, but all go accompanied in my mind by a question mark. If I express them in the indicative mood it is only because of the poverty of language; my needs would require that that the conjugation should contain a supplementary tense. In the domain of holy things I affirm nothing categorically. But such of my opinions as are in conformity with the teaching of the Church also go accompanied in my mind by the same question mark. I look upon a certain suspension of judgement with regard to all thoughts whatever they may be, without any exception, as constituting the virtue of humility in the domain of intelligence.
– Simone Weil, Letter to a Priest (trans. A.F. Wills)
The whole concept of EITHER/OR. Right or wrong, physical or mental, true or false, the whole concept of OR will be deleted from the language and replaced by juxtaposition, by AND. This is done to some extent in any pictorial language where the two concepts stand literally side by side. These falsifications inherent in English and other Western alphabetical languages give the reactive mind commands their overwhelming force in the languages. Consider the IS of identity. When I say to be me, to be you, to be myself, to be others — whatever I may be called upon to be or say that I am — I am not the verbal label ‘myself’. I cannot be and am not the verbal label ‘myself’. The word BE in English contains, as a virus contains, its precoded message of damage, the categorical imperative of permanent condition.
– William Burroughs, The Job
The new way of thinking we learn here is not logic. Nor is it illogic. It grows in the gaps between our thoughts. It isn’t thinking exactly, still less feeling. It’s the thinking you’d do if you didn’t have to do the thinking you think you have to do. I look at you you look at me. What do you see? What we do here is rid ourselves of what we see when we look at each other. We try to free ourselves from the disguises we’ve been taught to drop over our faces, the forms that deformed us, the words that perverted us. What’s left in the mirror? Not our own faces exactly. The figures out there walking around the gardens, they are both there and not there. There’s no either-or. They practice letting go of their deformed faces. They wait for them to crack open like the skin of a ripe fruit. They know when it happens by not knowing it. Knowing is what got them into trouble in the first place. So they wait. Sometimes they leave. We don’t stop them. If they return we welcome them. We learn by unlearning, sometimes by failing and failing better. We let our faces peel off until we can see. Those two playing tennis. They’re not playing to beat their opponent. They realise their real opponent is themselves. They realise it’s a matter of life and death and that winning the match has nothing to do with it. See how casual their strokes are. They don’t trust the faces and feelings they brought here. They play over and over until they’re one with the game in a very literal sense… You can stay or you can leave…
Q: You often use silence as a device of terror, a ‘virus’, as you call it, which breaks down characters into meaningless ciphers. What does this silence represent?
A: I don’t think of silence as being a device of terror at all. In fact, quite the contrary. Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing. As you know they have these sense-withdrawal chambers and immersion chambers; there’s one at the University of Oklahoma. Well, they put Marines in there, and they’d be absolutely out of their minds in about ten minutes, they could not endure the silence and solitude because of the inner contradictions which words cover; but Gerald Heard got in there with a full dose of LSD and stayed three hours. Personally I find nothing upsetting about silence at all. In fact it can’t get too quiet for me. I would say that silence is only a device of terror for compulsive verbalizers…
– The Job. Interview with William Burroughs
Should one ask, from this standpoint, how the Japanese Masters understand this contest of the archer with himself, and how they describe it, their answer would sound enigmatic in the extreme. For them the contest consists in the archer aiming at himself and yet not at himself, in hitting himself and yet not himself, and thus becoming simultaneously the aimer and the aim, the hitter and the hit. Or, to use some expressions which are nearer to the heart of the Masters, it is necessary for the archer to become, in spite of himself, an unmoved centre. Then comes the supreme and ultimate miracle: art becomes ‘artless’, shooting becomes not-shooting, a shooting without bow and arrow; the teacher becomes a pupil again, the Master a beginner, the end a beginning, and the beginning perfection.
– Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (trans. R.F.C. Hull)