Re: Zen

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 08:41:23 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 08:41:23 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Zen

At 01:09 AM 4/11/99 +0100, Chris Lees wrote:
>Aaron Lynch wrote:
>> But if philosophy Z embraces contradiction, then it could be a
>> more robust competitor in an environment selecting for the least often
>> refuted philosophy. Zen might owe some of its evolution and proliferation
>> to just such a kind of natural selection. Once it establishes its
>> reputation as resistant to conventional lines of refutation, many people
>> may learn not to even try to refute or even criticize it. This again can
>> help it to out-propagate philosophies and religions that do not embrace
>> contradictions, non-sequiturs, etc. Once its reputation is established, it
>> finds more settings in which it can spread unopposed.
>I find that extraordinarily interesting , Aaron.
>There is a saying in the tradition, that any pupil has to prove that he/she
>is better than the teacher, before they can inherit the mantle of authority,
>thus the tradition will always grow stronger.
>Also, there is a well documented account, purported to be a record of the
>exact exchange of words which took place between masters,on each occasion,
>as the 'authentic' teaching was transmitted from one generation to the next,
>stretching right back to the Buddha..
>So, maybe, that record could be looked at in this light: The supreme master
>of one generation, impervious to all the memes that had been thrown at him
>during his stint, then meets a zen student with a new, original meme against
>which the old master has no defence, and so he is defeated and therefore
>to hand over the title.
>I don't, myself, think that zen buddhists focus upon contradictions, or non-
>sequiturs, as something of great merit in themselves. I would say that
there is
>something much more important than that, which gives of the apparent
>illogicalities as a side effect, as it were. For example, a rude gesture at a
>policeman indicates an attitude toward authority, in a direct, risky and
>unambiguous way. By contrast, a written verbal account by a law abiding and
>subservient citizen could say ' I hate the police ', but actually be the
>of their real attitude. So, these apparently opaque and irrational acts and
>statements by zen buddhists, are in fact, conveying important and profound
>memes (?) which cannot be intercepted other than by the cognescenti.
>In other words, a master can judge the maturity of the pupil's achievement
>as they work with the 'meme-eating meme' during their training, by
>them and observing the response. If they are chockfull of memes, as all the
>beginners are, then that will be obvious. If they are 'empty', - as in
Liane Gabora's
>"unbiased conceptual space", - then what would you expect their reponse to
>be ? It will not be a typical cliche, nor anything from the common memepool.

Thanks, Chris.

I think Zen is a rich topic for memetic investigation, and your comments
point to more aspects of this. For example, statements that cannot be
interpreted other than by the cognoscenti are also resistant to critical
examination and refutation. It also implies to the non-convert that he or
she must first accept Zen in order to merely understand Zen. This is
different than for mathematics, where you do not need to first accept a
theorem in order to understand it, or science, where you do not need to
first accept a hypothesis in order to understand it. Zen thus offers
understanding of Zen itself as an inducement to converting to Zen. Other
meme complexes likewise contain promises of rewards that can only be
received if you convert. Many varieties of Evangelical Christianity promise
joy, salvation, and answered prayers, but only if you first convert. Yet
once you convert, the meme complex does certain things to stop you from
dropping out.

--Aaron Lynch

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