Monday, June 25, 2012

Quantum Psychology group discussion -- Chapter 1

Today begins the weekly discussion of a chapter from Robert Anton Wilson's Quantum Psychology. As you'll recall, I recently posted about the book and invited everyone to join me in reading it and posting about the chapters in the comments.

In the Introductory Note to the book, RAW writes, "Ideally, the book should serve as a study manual for a group which meets once a week to perform the exercizes and discuss the daily-life implications of the lessons learned."

Eric Wagner suggested that we could attempt to come close to that group experience on the Internet, so let's give it a try, meeting once a week at this blog.

How do you interpret Kafka's parable, and the Zen master's response?




33 comments:

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Well, then, I guess I'll get the comments started.

It seems to be that the "Law" referenced in Kafka's parable MIGHT be the Buddhist "law," the Dhamma, and that both parables emphasize individual responsibility for finding out "the law," rather than relying upon getting "permission" or an "explanation" from an authority figure.

There is a saying in the Dhammapada, "You are your own refuge; Who else could be the refuge?"

magickm said...

The Law maybe interpreted as restrictions that we place on our selves. The door is maybe a place in our selves and not in the outer world. We can not go through the door, because the door is maybe our selves. Thanks Tom for this discussion.

Andrew Crawshaw said...

the zen koan the one about the door? I always inteprated that it has something to do with expectation and the whole "don't lust after reuslts" insight of aleister crowley.

Andrew Crawshaw said...

Though I need to go back and read it in context of the chapter, I think. will do that when i get back home.

Mike Smith said...

I feel like the parable means that certain things in life are inaccessible to you. The door represents a possibility and therefore it exists somewhere. But all the criteria for that reality to flourish never occurred. So you may not enter. By dwelling on this possible future his life wasted away. Unfortunately I am not sure this way of seeing it matches the Zen masters response.

By the way, great fucking plan arranging this.

Thom Foolery said...

The Kafka section brought up all sorts of questions for me. Is the "Law" that he writes about the Law of the Cosmos, a spiritual path with its admonitions and exhortations, or a legal and political system? Each time I read it, I got different imagery and associations. The constant pleading, bribery, and degradation suffered by the seeker at the hands of the guard remind me of the many stories in Zen, Vajrayana, and Chinese martial arts about this insane level of commitment needed to gain admission to the dojo, the guru, etc. Except that this ends with a final rejection and with a slamming door. Ultimate futility in the quest for truth, beauty, justice? A comment on the needlessness of outer gurus or masters?

And then the Zen master slams the door "for real." Get away from me kid, ya bother me! Here's the solution to your existential dilemma -- SLAM! Breaks the cycle of interpretation, cogitation, verbalization.

Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I think it's worth mentioning that Wilson is LYING TO US from the very get-go here!

Simon Moon is a fictitious identity, and there is no "Old Lompoc House" in Lompoc CA. That is a bit of business from an old W.C. Fields movie- "The Bank Dick".

If nothing else, this should give everyone here a bit of perspective on exactly the type of person/author we are dealing with here.

Darn Discordians!

Remember citizens - Trust no-one, stay alert and keep your laser handy. The Computer is your friend!

Anonymous said...

I'm under the opinion that "the law" in this chapter speaks of the inherent limits of human perception, and the confusing aspects of quantum uncertainty that arise from these limits.

I think that it's a very lovely point that RAW makes, extrapolating that this sort of "uncertainty" works on both the sub-atomic level (as in quantum theory) and ALSO in the macro-realm of human consciousness and perception (IE the old lady/young girl illusion.)

There's also something to be said about Aleister Crowley and his view of "The Law", and the self-imposed limitations we humans put on ourselves, our "Will" and the possibilities/potentials of our mortal existence.

fyreflye said...

The Zen Master slams the real door to emphasize that The Law,The Door, The Guard are all products of our own minds, and that the solution to K's koan is to drop your mind and just walk through the door. Don't know if that was RAW's point, though.

Leif said...

I agree with all and none of the above

Fnord

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I love everyone's comments.

What about the second exercise? Not sure I see a consensus emerging.

gacord said...

He would probably never get through the door. His horns wouldn't fit.

Maybe, subconsciously, this could be where MC5's "Kick out the jams" came from. The mere fact that one accepts the door, probably keeps it there.

Finding (or not finding) a consensus, I think, is the exercise.

Anonymous said...

Good Grief! I certainly hope we DON'T find a consensus here!

The last thing we need here is a "Cult of RAW" forming out of Bob's corpus of works!

fyreflye said...

No consensus is possible because everyone's reality tunnel is different. My reality tunnel for the purpose of this exercise was formed as a one time Zen student and current reader of Kafka's fictions and their endless commentaries.
But RAW devised the exercise from outside any reality tunnel. Maybe.

Thom Foolery said...

"No consensus is possible" and yet there are many fascinating similarities between our responses. This self-selecting group sees in "the Law" notions of permissions (and the lack thereof), restrictions, expectations, inaccessibility of "certain things," the inherent limits of human perception. We might have different reality tunnels, but we seem to share affinities as well.

fyreflye said...

Our perceptions of "affinities" is what leads us to believe that we think alike and produces the conflicts that arise when we attempt to communicate; the kind of conflicts RAW hopes to lessen with books like this one.

Anonymous said...

I concur no consensus is possible...

Lets not get ahead of ourselves here fyreflye, RAW was human and just as stuck in his reality tunnel as the rest of us.

Thom Foolery said...

Wonderfully ironic that the consensus we have apparently reached, i.e., that there is no consensus, is its own consensus. It's the infinite regress, strange loop sort of thing that always, in my experience, arises when I delve into these concerns deeply enough, as if being a nexus of Universe looking at and thinking about itself is some crazy cosmic Möbius strip.

Another question I have is whether "affinities" are more problematic than "dissimilarities," in terms of interpersonal communications. Does assuming we are substantially the same have similar or different effects on communication than assuming we are all substantially different? Maybe it's the whole "substantially" that is the problem. Maybe we "are" strange loops rather than static substantial things.

Fascinating conversation folks! Thanks Tom for putting this together.

Eric Wagner said...

I've contemplated this chapter a lot over the past 22 years. I read _The Trial_ and watched the Orson Welles film a number of times. The film begins with the parable of the door of the Law. I suspect the Welles film influenced Bob. I theorized and theorized about this chapter. About 12 years ago I started an online Quantum Psychology group, and Bob participated. The group only lasted a few weeks, and I've fortunately lost his responses, but his response didn't really stick with me.

A fews years later Bob taught a class on QP at MLA. I unfortunately didn't take it, but I later saw his comments on this chapter, which once again I can't find. This time, though, I think I finaly got the point. The roshi makes Simon Moon realize the difference between the physical experience of the slamming door with all the theorizing about the abstract purpose of an abstract door of an abstract law.

phodecidus said...

I remember reading this chapter for the Quantum Psychology course with the Maybe Logic Academy about eight years ago (?). Experiencing this great parable as a sixteen year-old blew my mind, I felt as if RAW intended to lead me through some great threshold of enlightenment, only to slam the door in my face!

Perhaps one learns more from having the door closed than they ever would if the door were left open...

If it were just a door, left open, without a guard, then it would seem like nothing more than an ordinary door and I don't see any fun in that!

Anonymous said...

If the door were open, it wouldn't a door...

It would be ajar!

Anonymous said...

Thom, I would suggest you read some Douglas Hofstadter. He has some very interesting things to say about strange loops and consciousness.

I Am a Strange Loop is a great introductory option, but Godel, Escher, Bach is a lot more in depth on the same themes.

Anonymous said...

Also, reading some Philip K. Dick, Jude Deveraux, Laura Kinsale, and Linda Howard could really help some people here...

Anyone else have some favorite authors that they recommend for further reading?

Eric Wagner said...

I recommend Rafi Zabor's two books, I, Wabenzi and The Bear Comes Home. I think he provides a nice contrast with Dr. Wilson. I used his memoir I, Wabenzi along with Wilson's Cosmic Trigger for an MLA class, and I really enjoyed studying them together.

Anonymous said...

I think this is basically correct interpretation of the Trial (I didn't write it but stole it off the internet). Kafka is writing about the modern law and not about Buddhism.

Now the monk demonstrates what Kafka writes by showing that the student wants a master, and that the result of wanting a master is getting a master, and not becoming enlightened.

Žižek often turns to Kafka's The Trial to consider the notion of ideological interpellation: his point is that what Kafka exposes in his parable of the door of the Law is the way that ideological interpellation exists only after it has been taken up. Through a kind of distortion of perspective, what we do not realize is that the Law does not exist until after us--thus both Žižek's notion of love taken from St Paul and diabolical evil taken from Kant are ways of speaking of that 'freedom' or 'guilt' before the law, before the necessity of following the law (even in refusing or transgressing it). It is this 'distance' from the law that at once enables it--'before being caught in identification, in symbolic (mis)recognition, the subject is trapped by the Other through a paradoxical object-cause of desire, in the midst of it, embodying enjoyment ... as exemplified by the position of the man from the country in the famous apologue about the door of the Law in Kafka's The Trial' (p. 255)--and opens up a certain way of thinking what is 'outside' it in the sense of coming 'before' it--'the true conspiracy of Power resides in the very notion of conspiracy, in the notion of some mysterious Agency that "pulls the strings" and effectively runs the show' (p. 230).

PQ said...

Perhaps I should've avoided reading everyone else's responses as they surely had some influence on my reality tunnel but...

Prior to reading the responses, I already had my answer prepared (I did, I tell ya!). Though I must say it shares "affinities" with what fyreflye and gacord said.

The door is a creation of his mind, he's essentially built it by falling under the impression that he needs to go through something and convince someone that he is worthy of reaching knowledge/nirvana/enlightenment/whatever. And so "his horns can't fit through the door," so to speak.

He never comes to the realization of his participation in this fallacy and so as he dies, the door closes on him.

I also perceive some semblance of the Garden of Eden which is guarded by a cherub and a flaming sword. These are protections against one entering and eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As Joseph Campbell explains, the fearsome beastly guards in Buddhism represent the same thing except the student learns that they are illusions created by his ego. The Buddha underneath the Tree says "don't fear them, come on in."

Maybe Kafka's character will get the point in his next incarnation.

Anonymous said...

I also perceive some semblance of the Garden of Eden which is guarded by a cherub and a flaming sword. These are protections against one entering and eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Great point! I always wondered what ole' Jehovah would have done if Adam walked right up to the Angel Gabriel and his nasty sword guarding the entrance to Eden, after the fall and said "Fuck you buddy, I'm going back in for the tree of life, too! Whatcha' gonna do about it tough guy?"

It would have made for a much more interesting "Second Chapter", don't you think?

Anonymous said...

It's sort of funny that these interpretations bear no resemblance to Kafka scholars' interpretation of The Trial. But I guess you can just make anything up you want without consulting Kafka's bio or social context or anything.

Eric Wagner said...

Umberto Eco defined a novel as a machine for generating interpretations. "F for Fake" warns of the dangers of trusting "experts" too much.

Anonymous said...

I just started reading Quantum Psychology and found the first parable very interesting. I initially thought it was a satire on religion, but after reading everyone's comments I now think that I my interpretation might have been a little bit off.

Andrew Crawshaw said...

I was gonna attempt to ask the anonymous guy if he/she could direct me to some Kafka Scholars, I think that is futile - though, anonymous, if you are still lurking could you point me to some of your favourite. I have only come across a derridean critique. I doubt there is concensus among kafka scholars, I reckon some of them have broached the subjects herein discussed.

acwo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
acwo said...

It seems to me that the doors of law from Kafka's parable reflect a human need to find one right and ultimate answer to everything and the protagonist in the parable seems to get caught in that.

What he do not realize, in my opinion, is that there is no one right answer to anything. The best metaphor for now is that we buid a puzzles in our heads, the map of the world, and it is our job to rearrange the puzzles when new informations come in.