Possibly my first book into philosophy and I’m glad I read it because it was always intertwined with technology.

Sometimes ghosts don’t kill us, but ourselves!

The governess is not the heroine of this story. She is the villainess. It is not the ghost who kills the children but the governess’s hysterical belief that a ghost exists.

This book is written in first-person and that provides much reflection

Tate said that the first person is the most difficult form because the writer is locked inside the head of the narrator and can’t get out. He can’t say “meanwhile, back at the ranch” as a transition to another subject because he is imprisoned forever inside the narrator. But so is the reader!

Traveling in a car vs TV

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

Journey > Destination

Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst.

I have arrived and I am always here

The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. They’re not going anywhere. They’re not too busy to be courteous. The hereness and nowness of things is something they know all about. It’s the others, the ones who moved to the cities years ago and their lost offspring, who have all but forgotten it. The discovery was a real find.

Always in a hurry

We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.

Suppress momentary anger

You always suppress momentary anger at something you deeply and permanently hate.

Buddha in both technology and at the top of the mountain

The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha—which is to demean oneself.

Mood and physical discomfort are related

argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much.

Relationship of the machine to the human

It was built into the format of them. Implicit in every line is the idea that “Here is the machine, isolated in time and in space from everything else in the universe. It has no relationship to you, you have no relationship to it, other than to turn certain switches, maintain voltage levels, check for error conditions…” and so on.

Intellect of the modern man vs the past

“My own opinion is that the intellect of modern man isn’t that superior. IQs aren’t that much different. Those Indians and medieval men were just as intelligent as we are, but the context in which they thought was completely different. Within that context of thought, ghosts and spirits are quite as real as atoms, particles, photons and quarks are to a modern man.

Laws are real because we believe in them

“Oh, the laws of physics and of logic… the number system… the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real.”

Ghosts, laws and concepts

Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It’s run by ghosts.

Common sense is a compilation of the past

Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.”

Classical vs Romantic

The romantic mode is primarily inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive. Feelings rather than facts predominate. “Art” when it is opposed to “Science” is often romantic. It does not proceed by reason or by laws… The classic mode, by contrast, proceeds by reason and by laws — which are themselves underlying forms of thought and behavior. In the European cultures it is primarily a masculine mode and the fields of science, law and medicine are unattractive to women largely for this reason. Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.

Consciousness vs awareness

From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it.

Creation and destruction

When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain’s experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts—something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it’s important also to see what’s created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.

Purpose of life…

This is the ghost of normal everyday assumptions which declares that the ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible, but that this is the ultimate purpose of life anyway, so that great minds struggle to cure diseases so that people may live longer, but only madmen ask why. One lives longer in order that he may live longer. There is no other purpose. That is what the ghost says.

Attacking the effects

But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible.

Scientific Method

The logical statements entered into the notebook are broken down into six (1) statement of the problem, (2) hypotheses as to the cause of the problem, (3) experiments designed to test each hypothesis, (4) predicted results of the experiments, (5) observed results of the experiments and (6) conclusions from the results of the experiments. This

When does an experiment fail?

An experiment is never a failure solely because it fails to achieve predicted results. An experiment is a failure only when it also fails adequately to test the hypothesis in question, when the data it produces don’t prove anything one way or another.

The greatest work is always in the mind

An untrained observer will see only physical labor and often get the idea that physical labor is mainly what the mechanic does. Actually the physical labor is the smallest and easiest part of what the mechanic does. By far the greatest part of his work is careful observation and precise thinking.

Nature only provides the data

A lesser scientist than Einstein might have said, “But scientific knowledge comes from nature. Nature provides the hypotheses.” But Einstein understood that nature does not. Nature provides only experimental data.

Observation is temporal

Some scientific truths seemed to last for centuries, others for less than a year. Scientific truth was not dogma, good for eternity, but a temporal quantitative entity that could be studied like anything else.

Why is the number of hypotheses growing?

What shortens the life-span of the existing truth is the volume of hypotheses offered to replace it; the more the hypotheses, the shorter the time span of the truth. And what seems to be causing the number of hypotheses to grow in recent decades seems to be nothing other than scientific method itself. The more you look, the more you see. Instead of selecting one truth from a multitude you are increasing the multitude.

Past was a lot of savage

But this argument, though romantically appealing, doesn’t hold up. The primitive tribes permitted far less individual freedom than does modern society. Ancient wars were committed with far less moral justification than modern ones.

How is common sense created?

The scientific method of experimentation is carefully controlled empiricism. Common sense today is empiricism, since an overwhelming majority would agree with Hume, even though in other cultures and other times a majority might have differed.

Intuition is a prior knowledge

An example of a priori knowledge is “time.” You don’t see time. Neither do you hear it, smell it, taste it or touch it. It isn’t present in the sense data as they are received. Time is what Kant calls an “intuition,” which the mind must supply as it receives the sense data.

Peril of vast knowledge is specialization

The range of human knowledge today is so great that we’re all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them almost has to forego closeness with the people around him.

Schooling != Learning - Mark Twain

The real University, he said, has no specific location. It owns no property, pays no salaries and receives no material dues. The real University is a state of mind.

No wars are fought on confident stable ideas

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

Best instructions are from the people, not the manuals

“and I know how instructions like this are put together. You go out on the assembly line with a tape recorder and the foreman sends you to talk to the guy he needs least, the biggest goof-off he’s got, and whatever he tells you—that’s the instructions. The next guy might have told you something completely different and probably better, but he’s too busy.”

Hindsight is 20/20

“You look back at the last three thousand years and with hindsight you think you see neat patterns and chains of cause and effect that have made things the way they are. But if you go back to original sources, the literature of any particular era, you find that these causes were never apparent at the time they were supposed to be operating.

Why did the Renaissance happen?

The whole Renaissance is supposed to have resulted from the topsy-turvy feeling caused by Columbus’ discovery of a new world. It just shook people up. The topsy-turviness of that time is recorded everywhere.

Using the means to communicate that is most appropriate of that era

To doubt the literal meaning of the words of Jesus or Moses incurs hostility from most people, but it’s just a fact that if Jesus or Moses were to appear today, unidentified, with the same message he spoke many years ago, his mental stability would be challenged. This isn’t because what Jesus or Moses said was untrue or because modern society is in error but simply because the route they chose to reveal to others has lost relevance and comprehensibility.

Copy the life path of others…

This imitation seemed to be an external compulsion. Little children didn’t have it. It seemed to come later on, possibly as a result of school itself.

Can we really eliminate exam?

One student laid it wide open when she said with complete candor, “Of course you can’t eliminate the degree and grading system. After all, that’s what we’re here for.”

Knowledge motivation is free, but requires a lot of self-discipline

So he would come back to our degreeless and gradeless school, but with a difference. He’d no longer be a grade-motivated person. He’d be a knowledge-motivated person. He would need no external pushing to learn. His push would come from inside. He’d be a free man. He wouldn’t need a lot of discipline to shape him up.

Internal motivation - the why - is unstoppable

Motivation of this sort, once it catches hold, is a ferocious force, and in the gradeless, degreeless institution where our student would find himself, he wouldn’t stop with rote engineering information.

Do it any way…

Everyone decided the best way was just to figure you were going to fail and then go ahead and do what you could anyway. Then you start to relax. Otherwise you go out of your mind!”

Removal of grades creates a vacuum

But if the grades are removed the class is forced to wonder each day what it’s really learning. The questions, What’s being taught? What’s the goal? How do the lectures and assignments accomplish the goal? become ominous. The removal of grades exposes a huge and frightening vacuum.

Monotony that creates silence and meditation

Reluctantly I put the book away again and we’re both silent and meditative. It’s just Chris and me and the forest and the rain. No books can guide us anymore.

Quality is an event

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.

Present moment is the only reality

The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal.

Quality is subjective because of experience

In a sense, he said, it’s the student’s choice of Quality that defines him. People differ about Quality, not because Quality is different, but because people are different in terms of experience.

Someone has to forge ahead, and someone has to cleanup

One thing about pioneers that you don’t hear mentioned is that they are invariably, by their nature, mess-makers. They go forging ahead, seeing only their noble, distant goal, and never notice any of the crud and debris they leave behind them. Someone else gets to clean that up and it’s not a very glamorous or interesting job.

Quality unites Relgion, Art and Science

These three areas are Religion, Art and Science. If it can be shown that Quality is the central term of all three, and that this Quality is not of many kinds but of one kind only, then it follows that the three disunified areas have a basis for introconversion.

Absolute to Approximate

The mission of science was now simply to refine these answers to greater and greater accuracy. True, there were still unexplained phenomena such as radioactivity, transmission of light through the “ether,” and the peculiar relationship of magnetic to electric forces; but these, if past trends were any indication, had eventually to fall. It was hardly guessed by anyone that within a few decades there would be no more absolute space, absolute time, absolute substance or even absolute magnitude; that classical physics, the scientific rock of ages, would become “approximate”; that the soberest and most respected of astronomers would be telling mankind that if it looked long enough through a telescope powerful enough, what it would see was the back of its own head!

Nothing “truthful”, only usefulness

One geometry can not be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Geometry is not true, it is advantageous.

No ONE way, more of conveniences

Poincaré then went on to demonstrate the conventional nature of other concepts of science, such as space and time, showing that there isn’t one way of measuring these entities that is more true than another; that which is generally adopted is only more convenient.

General rules are better than niche ones

Poincaré laid down some rules: There is a hierarchy of facts. The more general a fact, the more precious it is. Those which serve many times are better than those which have little chance of coming up again.

Simple facts

Which facts are likely to reappear? The simple facts. How to recognize them? Choose those that seem simple. Either this simplicity is real or the complex elements are indistinguishable.

The subconscious mind works at its own pace

Every day he seated himself at his work-table, stayed an hour or two, tried a great number of combinations and reached no results. Then one evening, contrary to his custom, he drank black coffee and couldn’t sleep. Ideas arose in crowds. He felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. The next morning he had only to write out the results. A wave of crystallization had taken place.

Scientific Method cannot tell you where to go…

Traditional scientific method, unfortunately, has never quite gotten around to say exactly where to pick up more of these hypotheses. Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best, 20–20 hindsight. It’s good for seeing where you’ve been. It’s good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can’t tell you where you ought to go, unless where you ought to go is a continuation of where you were going in the past. Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination — “unstuckness,” in other words—are completely outside its domain.

Searching for the needed facts

As Poincaré would have said, there are an infinite number of facts about the motorcycle, and the right ones don’t just dance up and introduce themselves. The right facts, the ones we really need, are not only passive, they are damned elusive, and we’re not going to just sit back and “observe” them. We’re going to have to be in there looking for them or we’re going to be here a long time.

Difference between a good X and a bad X

The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality. He has to care! This is an ability about which formal traditional scientific method has nothing to say.

How the present moment becomes important…

The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.


Your mind is empty, you have a “hollow-flexible” attitude of “beginner’s mind.” You’re right at the front end of the train of knowledge, at the track of reality itself.

Never be afraid of getting stuck!

The fear of stuckness is needless because the longer you stay stuck the more you see the Quality-reality that gets you unstuck every time.

Be stuck for a long time and then the insight will ring one day suddenly

Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided. It’s the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors.

Self-taught people have the ability to remain stuck and then forge ahead

It’s this understanding of Quality as revealed by stuckness which so often makes self-taught mechanics so superior to institute-trained men who have learned how to handle everything except a new situation.

Why does the old always look better than the present?

strange how old, obsolete buildings and plants and mills, the technology of fifty and a hundred years ago, always seem to look so much better than the new stuff.

Making things == Technology == Art!

But technology is simply the making of things and the making of things can’t by its own nature be ugly or there would be no possibility for beauty in the arts, which also include the making of things. Actually a root word of technology, techne, originally meant “art.”

Inherent ugliness vs acquired associated ugliness

Neither is the ugliness inherent in the materials of modern technology—a statement you sometimes hear. Mass-produced plastics and synthetics aren’t in themselves bad. They’ve just acquired bad associations.

Creator, Owner and User feels no sense of associations

The creator of it feels no particular sense of identity with it. The owner of it feels no particular sense of identity with it. The user of it feels no particular sense of identity with it. Hence, by Phaedrus’ definition, it has no Quality.

Technology = fusion of human and nature

The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is — not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both.

No deep-rooted assimilation

At present we’re snowed under with an irrational expansion of blind data-gathering in the sciences because there’s no rational format for any understanding of scientific creativity. At present we are also snowed under with a lot of stylishness in the arts—thin art—because there’s very little assimilation or extension into underlying form. We have artists with no scientific knowledge and scientists with no artistic knowledge and both with no spiritual sense of gravity at all, and the result is not just bad, it is ghastly.

What is achievement?

The mountains of achievement are Quality discovered in one direction only, and are relatively meaningless and often unobtainable unless taken together with the ocean trenches of self-awareness—so different from self-consciousness—which result from inner peace of mind.

Peace of mind create the right actions

Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all. That was what it was about that wall in Korea. It was a material reflection of a spiritual reality.

Individual values > Social values

Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right.

Traps of value, truth and muscle

As the course description of gumptionology indicated, this internal part of the field can be broken down into three main types of internal gumption traps: those that block affective understanding, called “value traps”; those that block cognitive understanding, called “truth traps”; and those that block psychomotor behavior, called “muscle traps.” The value traps are by far the largest and the most dangerous group.

Fishing or searching for the facts

But the answer is that if you know which facts you’re fishing for you’re no longer fishing. You’ve caught them.

Ego and Quality

If you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to recognize new facts is weakened. Your ego isolates you from the Quality reality. When the facts show that you’ve just goofed, you’re not as likely to admit it. When false information makes you look good, you’re likely to believe it.


Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of the opposite of ego. You’re so sure you’ll do everything wrong you’re afraid to do anything at all. Often this, rather than “laziness,” is the real reason you find it hard to get started. This gumption trap of anxiety, which results from over-motivation, can lead to all kinds of errors of excessive fussiness. You fix things that don’t need fixing, and chase after imaginary ailments.

Peace of mind > fixed machine

Your anxiety makes this easy and the more you read the more you calm down. You should remember that it’s peace of mind you’re after and not just a fixed machine.

Peril of impatience

Impatience is close to boredom but always results from one cause: an underestimation of the amount of time the job will take. You never really know what will come up and very few jobs get done as quickly as planned. Impatience is the first reaction against a setback and can soon turn to anger if you’re not careful.

How to handle impatience

Impatience is best handled by allowing an indefinite time for the job, particularly new jobs that require unfamiliar techniques; by doubling the allotted time when circumstances force time planning; and by scaling down the scope of what you want to do.

Value flexibility

Overall goals must be scaled down in importance and immediate goals must be scaled up. This requires value flexibility, and the value shift is usually accompanied by some loss of gumption, but it’s a sacrifice that must be made.

What to do in times of impatience?

Another one is cleaning up tools that have been used and not put away and are cluttering up the place. This is a good one because one of the first warning signs of impatience is frustration at not being able to lay your hand on the tool you need right away. If you just stop and put tools away neatly you will both find the tool and also scale down your impatience without wasting time or endangering the work.

Meaning of nothing

Any computer-electronics technician knows otherwise. Try to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off! The circuits are in a mu state. They aren’t at one, they aren’t at zero, they’re in an indeterminate state that has no meaning in terms of ones or zeros. Readings of the voltmeter will show, in many cases, “floating ground” characteristics, in which the technician isn’t reading characteristics of the computer circuits at all but characteristics of the voltmeter itself.

Investing in good tools

Here by far the most frustrating gumption trap is inadequate tools. Nothing’s quite so demoralizing as a tool hang-up. Buy good tools as you can afford them and you’ll never regret it… Good tools, as a rule, don’t wear out, and good secondhand tools are much better than inferior new ones. Study the tool catalogs. You can learn a lot from them.

Right comfortable postures for frequently used positions

Avoid out-of-position work when possible. A small stool on either side of the cycle will increase your patience greatly and you’ll be much less likely to damage the assemblies you’re working on.

Perfect art requires a perfect self first

You’ve got to live right too. It’s the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts. You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That’s the way all the experts do it. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn’t separate from the rest of your existence.

The real motorcycle… is ourselves

The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be “out there” and the person that appears to be “in here” are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.

Science does not provide any value by itself

Hutchins had rejected the idea that an empirical scientific education could automatically produce a “good” education. Science is “value free.” The inability of science to grasp Quality, as an object of enquiry, makes it impossible for science to provide a scale of values.

Great insights are gained by studying the little simpler parts

The mythos-over-logos argument states that our rationality is shaped by these legends, that our knowledge today is in relation to these legends as a tree is in relation to the little shrub it once was. One can gain great insights into the complex overall structure of the tree by studying the much simpler shape of the shrub.

Cannot ever go back to the past…

What keeps the world from reverting to the Neanderthal with each generation is the continuing, ongoing mythos, transformed into logos but still mythos, the huge body of common knowledge that unites our minds as cells are united in the body of man.

Perils of dissecting and cutting up knowledge

Walk into any of a hundred thousand classrooms today and hear the teachers divide and subdivide and interrelate and establish “principles” and study “methods” and what you will hear is the ghost of Aristotle speaking down through the centuries—the desiccating lifeless voice of dualistic reason.

Student that asks questions and the rest

In the next sessions the shamed student is no longer present. No surprise. The class is completely frozen, as is inevitable when an incident like that has taken place. Each session, just one person does all the talking, the Professor of Philosophy, and he talks and talks and talks to faces that have turned into masks of neutrality.

Truth vs the Good

Phaedrus reads further and further into pre-Socratic Greek thought to find out, and eventually comes to the view that Plato’s hatred of the rhetoricians was part of a much larger struggle in which the reality of the Good, represented by the Sophists, and the reality of the True, represented by the dialecticians, were engaged in a huge struggle for the future mind of man. Truth won, the Good lost, and that is why today we have so little difficulty accepting the reality of truth and so much difficulty accepting the reality of Quality, even though there is no more agreement in one area than in the other.

Good and the Truth

It’s here that the classic mind, for the first time, took leave of its romantic origins and said, “The Good and the True are not necessarily the same,” and goes its separate way.

Only you can walk the path, nobody can walk it for you

A fragment comes and lingers from an old Christian hymn, “You’ve got to cross that lonesome valley.” It carries him forward. “You’ve got to cross it by yourself.” It seems a Western hymn that belongs out in Montana. “No one else can cross it for you,” it says. It seems to suggest something beyond. “You’ve got to cross it by yourself.”

Culture-bearing book that is reflective of that era - this book is an example of such a book!

don’t carry any suggestion that insanity might be something other than sickness or degeneracy. Culture-bearing books challenge cultural value assumptions and often do so at a time when the culture is changing in favor of their challenge. The books are not necessarily of high quality. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was no literary masterpiece but it was a culture-bearing book. It came at a time when the entire culture was about to reject slavery.