Monthly Archives: February 2009


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.

Some kind of whole

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)

Question mark

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 contradictions the mind comes up against — these are the only realities: they are the criterion of the real. There is no contradiction in what is imaginary. Contradiction is the test of necessity.

Contradiction experienced to the very depths of the being tears us heart and soul: it is the cross.

When the attention has revealed the contradiction in something on which it has been fixed, a kind of loosening takes place. By persevering in this course we attain detachment.

The demonstrable correlation of opposites is an image of the transcendental correlation of contradictories.

All true good carries with it conditions which are contradictory and as a consequence is impossible. He who keeps his attention really fixed on this impossibility and acts will do what is good. In the same way all truth contains a contradiction. Contradiction is the point of the pyramid.

The word good does not have the same meaning when it is a term of the correlation good-evil as when it describes the very being of God.

The existence of opposite virtues in the souls of the saints: the metaphor of climbing corresponds to this. If I am walking on the side of a mountain I can see first a lake, then, after a few steps, a forest. I have to choose either the lake or the forest. If I want to see both lake and forest at once, I have to climb higher. Except the mountain does not exist. It is made of air. One cannot go up: one must be drawn.

— Simone Weil


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


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

The aimer and the aim

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)


And I don’t dream, I don’t live; I dream real life. All ships are dreamed ships if we have the power to dream them. What kills the dreamer is to not live while he dreams; what hurts the man of action is to not dream while he lives. I fused the beauty of dreaming and the reality of life into a single, blissful colour.

— Pessoa


This idea — the opposition of imagination to reality, which is also of course the opposition of art to politics — is of great importance, because it reminds us that we are not helpless; that to dream is to have power… Unreality is the only weapon with which reality can be smashed, so that it may subsequently be reconstructed.

— Salman Rushdie


Reality can be dreamed away.

— William Burroughs


The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, ‘Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?’

Zen Stories

Shipwrecks of our understanding

Have you ever considered, beloved Other, how invisible we all are to each other? Have you ever thought about how little we know each other? We look at each other without seeing. We listen to each other and hear only a voice inside ourself.
   The words of others are mistakes of our hearing, shipwrecks of our understanding. How confidently we believe in our meanings of other people’s words. We hear death in words they speak to express sensual bliss. We read sensuality and life in words they drop from their lips without the slightest intention of being profound.
   The voice of brooks that you interpret, pure explicator… The voice of trees whose rustling means what we say it means… Ah, my unknown love, this is all just us and our fantasies, all ash, trickling down the bars of our cell!

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (trans. R. Zenith)