In the introduction to steps gregory describes a

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In the introduction to Steps , Gregory describes a student coming to him, very much perplexed by the direction of the course, and asking ―Do you want us to learn what you are telling us? … or is it all a sort of example, an illustration of someth ing else?‖ Exactly the same questions might be asked about Gregory‘s approach to religion: Do you want us to believe in religion in any particular religion? Oh no. Gregory wants us to ―believe in‖ the sacred, the integrated fabric of mental process that envelops all our lives and the principal way he knows that has allowed men and women to approach this (but not necessarily the only way) has been through religious traditions, vast, interconnected metaphorical systems. Without such metaphors for meditation, as correctives for the errors of human language and recent science, it seems that we have the capacity to be wrong in rather creative ways so wrong that this world we cannot understand may become one in which we cannot love. But it is important to remember in this context Gregory‘s commitment to the principle of double description. The richest knowledge of the tree includes both myth and botany. Apart from Creatura, nothing can be known; apart form Pleroma, there is nothing there to know. Gregory, convinced that the artist and visionary sometimes know more than all our science, might have ended with this fragment of prayer embedded in a poem by William Blake: May God us keep From Single vision & Newton‘s sleep! 38 [[p_201]] 38 Letter to Thomas Butts, November 22, 1802, lines 87-88, quoted in Blake: Complete Writings , ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London: Oxford UP, 1966, 818)
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XVIII Metalogue: Persistent Shade (MCB) FATHER: Still awake and working? DAUGHTER: How about you? You‘re a remarkably persistent shade, you know. Sometimes I wish you were properly dead. FATHER: As well you might. Certainly I always argued that the civilization is in trouble unless we can accept the fact of our dying. But such immortality as we have is in our ideas, which is why I left you the chore of finishing this book. DAUGHTER: And a nasty, manipulative trick it was, too. A kind of huge lever to pry me away from other kinds of work. ―But you know what really bothers me as I work on this? It‘s the mediocrity of what gets attributed to ghosts ad séances, as if vivid and splendid people went into a mode of being that thins them out to banality. That‘s what I want to avoid. Incidentally, an excess of piety doesn‘t help. And the I‘m going to close up shop. At least among the New Guinea Manus the Sir Ghost dwindles away and finally floats out to sea, after running everyone‘s life for a generation or so. FATHER: I told you about that psychic that turned up at Esalen, didn‘t I, who would go into a trance and paint and sign mediocre Monets? DAUGHTER: Quite. A friend of mine has a room in her house where Margaret used to stay, where people still report dreams of Margaret. They dream that she comes and tells them to get on with the job, finish the research;, take up some responsibility. She bullies them, as, of course, she would have, but they
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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