Three Wise Heretics

Barfield, Watts, and Blake:

(I wonder did they follow their own advice?)

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The best way of escape from deep-rooted error has often proved to be, to pursue it to its logical conclusion, that is, to go on taking it seriously and see what follows. Only we must be consistent. We must take it really seriously. We must give up double-think. For inconsistent and slovenly thought can abide indefinitely in error without any feeling of discomfort. —Owen Barfield; History in English Words

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So what will you do with a person who is convinced that the earth is flat? There is no way of reasoning with him. If it is for some reason important that he discover that the earth is round, you have got to play a game or trick on him. You tell him, “Great. The earth is flat. Let’s go and look over the edge; wouldn’t that be fun? Of course, if we are going to look over the edge of the earth, we must be very careful that we do not go around in circles or we will never get to the edge. So we must go along consistently westward, along a certain line of latitude. Then we will come to the edge of the earth.” In other words, in order to convince a flat-earther that the world is round, you have to make him act consistently on his own proposition by making him go consistently westward in search of the edge of the world. When at last, by going consistently westward, he comes back to the place where he started, he will have been convinced that the earth is at least cylindrical … What you must do is make him persist in his folly. That is the whole method of Zen: to make people become consistent, perfect egotists, and so explode the illusion of the separate ego.    —Alan Watts; Buddhism the Religion of No-Religion

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If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.    —William Blake; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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3 comments on “Three Wise Heretics

  1. […] with grim determination to disbelieve God, makes me think he is perhaps on his way to theism… persisting in folly can end in wisdom … but who am I to say such a thing?) This conversation happened before I read much about […]

  2. bgc says:

    I’ve read all of these chaps: Barfield certainly has flashes of wisdom – but I just cannot work out what he is saying overall (despite also reading his biography) (I was shocked to read about his unfaithfulness to his wife and two-timing sexuality as an old man – I imagine C.S Lewis would have been even more shocked to hear of it!); Watts was very clever but became corrupted and ended as a typical 60s self-seeking flake; Blake was a poet of genius with all that implies, but that doesn’t make him wise in a general sense.

    All three of these were – it seems to me – damaged by spiritual pride (especially Watts), which is a fate almost unavoidable for serious heretics – unless they happen to be correct!

  3. […] folly”? I quoted three “wise heretics,” as I called them, on this topic before. Essentially, the idea is that, as Blake puts it, if a fool were to persist in his folly he would […]

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