Bringing Sartre into the mix

In my last message I left out one of my favorites, Jean Paul Sartre. He does fit into all of this, rather beautifully in fact. One of the things he has been criticized for is his inability to explain why consciousness exists. When faced with that problem – and he knew it himself – he sort of threw his metaphysical hands in the air and called it a “fracture in the heart of being.”

Why didn’t he realize the cause of the fracture? I think, personally, that his concept of transcendence was too well done. It was so satisfying to say that things transcend toward completeness that he stopped at the point of realizing there are varying degrees of completeness. Had he found this, he would have found the answer to the very anguish he was so brave to face: the completeness of awareness.

The fracture at the heart of being – the birth of the for-itself – occurred so that the for-itself could experience that completeness. In Bahá’í terms it is expressed as, “God wished to be known, so he created the heavens and fashioned the universe.” This dynamic was made possible by the fracture: the distinguishing of seer from seen, thinker from thought. Zen tries to eliminate this gap as if there were something wrong with it: in order to provide a permanent end to the angst Sartre had found. But this fracture is actually a part of the beauty we experience, for between these two is where knowing can happen. Not knowledge, but knowing.

Below are Pirsig’s words from Zen, who was walking over the same mountain as Jean Paul, but because his terminology is different – and because he comes from a different angle – he doesn’t drop things at defining completeness, but wants to understand what it means for something to be complete. He writes:

He noted that although normally you associate Quality with objects, feelings of Quality sometimes occur without any object at all. This is what led him at first to think that maybe Quality is all subjective. But subjective pleasure wasn’t what he meant by Quality either. Quality decreases subjectivity. Quality takes you out of yourself [!], makes you aware of the world around you. Quality is opposed to subjectivity.

I don’t know how much thought passed before he arrived at this, but eventually he saw that Quality couldn’t be independently related with either the subject or the object but could be found only in the relationship of the two with each other. It is the point at which subject and object meet.

That sounded warm.

Quality is not a thing. It is an event.

Warmer.

It is the event at which the subject becomes aware of the object. And because without objects there can be no subject – because the objects create the subject’s awareness of himself – Quality is the event at which awareness of both subjects and objects is made possible.

Hot.

Now he knew it was coming.

This means Quality is not just the result of a collision between subject and object. The very existence of subject and object themselves is deduced from the Quality event. The Quality event is the cause of the subjects and objects [of the fracture!], which are then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of the Quality!

Now he had that whole damned evil dilemma by the throat. The dilemma all the time had this unseen vile presumption in it, for which there was no logical justification, that Quality was the effect of subjects and objects. It was not! He brought out his knife.

“The sun of quality,” he wrote, “does not revolve around the subjects and objects of our existence. It does not just passively illuminate them. It is not subordinate to them in any way. It has created them. They are subordinate to it!

He’s almost written a theology! Islam says it as, “The Divine Face riseth out of the darkness…” Quality becomes a perceptible reality not by descending to the world of matter, or names, or definitions; it is not perceived by becoming an attribute of consciousness; it exists independently of both but it is known by the potential of the two together to manifest it by their interaction.

Man is the worshiper, creation is the shrine, and when he prays at this shrine – not a real “shrine”, mind you – then “at that time the mystery of the famed tradition gleameth out of the darkness: ’A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him, and when I answer him I become the ear wherewith he heareth.”’

The Seven Valleys goes on: “For thus the Master of the house hath appeared within His home, and all the pillars of the dwelling are ashine with His light.” Through the interaction of subject and object in the pursuit of Quality – through man living wholly for the sake of his highest value, by Rand’s language – he comes upon something which is the whole purpose of his life and the very answer to the anguish he feels when apart from It. “The Divine Face riseth out of the darkness…”, something, unnameable, indescribable, unrepresentable, but clear and obvious as the sun, appears before that individual’s eyes and becomes the focal center of his entire existence (“I become the ear wherewith he heareth”). No one needs to tell him he is in love – and that this is his Beloved.

I will not belabor the point. If anyone has further interest along these lines, write me.