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Peter Pallotta

Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« on: March 02, 2011, 09:42:36 PM »
The famed psychologist/philosopher William James in his book "The Varieties of Religious Experience" (from 1902, I think) described four characteristics of a numinous experience:  

It is Transient -- it only lasts temporarily
It is Ineffable -- the experience can't really be put into words
It is Noetic -- it teaches us something important, or seems to
It is Passive -- is it something that happens TO US, i.e. outside of our conscious control/desires.

James' book was popular and influential right from the start.  I find it interesting that the period in which it was written was such a time of change and of new idas, even in gca.  I have even speculated before -- off line, I think -- that Arnold Haultain's famous "The Mystery of Golf" (published in 1908, but written a bit earlier) owes a big debt to James' book...and I think Haultain in turn influenced a lot of gca thinkers, especially Max Behr...which in turn influenced architecture in America into the 1920s.

Anyway, just thinking and writing. I think Mac at least might find it interesting.

Or maybe Bob Crosby.

Peter
« Last Edit: March 02, 2011, 10:18:19 PM by PPallotta »

Steve Lang

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2011, 10:56:06 PM »
:<)) Pete,

So is gca.com a cult of folks seeking/waiting for a religious golf experieince?
Inverness (Toledo, OH) cathedral clock inscription: "God measures men by what they are. Not what they in wealth possess.  That vibrant message chimes afar.
The voice of Inverness"

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2011, 11:27:39 PM »
Thanks for bringing this up Peter. And Steve for your point as well. To comment with any authority I'd need to have read James (which I haven't), but a couple of things pop out at me, which are not GCA related as far as I can tell. This goes to Steve's point as well.

Assuming the descriptions are direct quotes (and assuming a lot more besides), James appears to have taken great pains to describe things which could be attributed to a god or not depending on whether one believed in one or not. A dream can be all four of those things, as could an instance in which a supernatural god reached out and influenced natural events.

Actually, as I'm writing this I am starting to see the possible influence on Behr. If I'm reading James correctly (a huge if) the importance seems to be placed on having the numinous experience rather than its cause. If that is the case, one could say that (forgive the hopelessly ignorant take on Max) Behr's penchant for creating courses that brought out a certain feeling or emotion, regardless of whether the course was entirely manufactured by man or built over sublime natural features, could very well have been influenced by James.

An example of entirely manufactured would be Behr's Lakeside Golf Club. I'll let those more knowledgeable chime in on his most natural work. I think bottom line, Max felt golf should be a "sporty" game where one might learn about oneself and battle oneself moreso than one's opponent.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2011, 10:07:44 AM »
Hell, I'm shameless bumping this thing because...well just because!
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Mac Plumart

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2011, 10:15:58 AM »
Peter...every time I talk about religion (or metaphysics), the entire threads get deleted.  :(

So, I'll just say this...those four items listed sound an awful lot like that one fabulous round of golf we've all had.

It is Transient -- it only lasts temporarily
It is Ineffable -- the experience can't really be put into words
It is Noetic -- it teaches us something important, or seems to
It is Passive -- is it something that happens TO US, i.e. outside of our conscious control/desires.

transient...like I said it is that one round of golf.  For me it was at St. Ives, Charlie Hoffman did it in the Playoffs, Annika had her 59, etc.

ineffable...shoot, if I could explain it, I'd be able to do it again and again.  Man, you just had to be there.

Noetic...It seemed to teach me a number of things, think about your shot, don't rush, take a practice swing, release the club.  At least it seemed to, I try to do those things frequently but  I  don't get the same results.

Passive...Yeah, it definately was outside of my conscious control.  I was in the ZONE baby.

But like I  said, no more from me on this one...you want the thread to stay up, right?
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Peter Pallotta

Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2011, 10:37:30 AM »
Thanks, gents.

Charlie - yes, I think James did intentionally focus of describing the phenomenon of that kind of religious experience without reference to the traditional belief systems associated with religion.  In other words, he was careful to approach the subject as a psychologist and not a theologian.  And that approach is exactly what I am referring to --

My theory/speculation is that in 1902 this approach by James was describing a situation (and maybe helping bring the situation about) whereby religion/numinous experience was being taken out of the churches -- not denying that it could happen in traditional ways, but speaking to a whole generation of people who no longer made traditional religion the centre-piece of their lives, and instead found the numinous/sacred in other places, e.g. in nature, or in personal relationships, or in mountain climbing.

Or in golf.

And I think that Haultain and then Behr reflected this approach/experience -- and I think this shaped the discourse about golf architecture and, in some way, the golf courses themselves.

Peter
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 01:40:38 PM by PPallotta »

JMEvensky

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2011, 02:26:19 PM »
Peter,as usual ,you've thrown out a 2 cigarette poser.

In keeping with the Best Movie thread,while taking this metaphysics exam,I promise not to look into the soul of the guy sitting next to me.

I'm not familiar enough with the writings of the time,but your theory that James and others were looking to identify numinous(awe inspiring) experiences outside of any organized religion strikes me as sensible.His use of the word noetic,for me at least,would seem to imply searching some place else.

I'm not qualified to comment on how James may/may not have influenced Behr.But,I certainly do believe that the best designed golf courses are the ones which inspire the most religious-type experiences.

Did William James play golf?

Travis Dewire

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2011, 02:47:33 PM »
"James held a world view in line with pragmatism, declaring that the value of any truth was utterly dependent upon its use to the person who held it"

this I guess is a pretty basic definition of the Pragmatic School of Psychology. From a quick read up James was big into free will as well.

I think those 4 quotes fall right in line with pragmatism. Each of the 4 points, is subjective to the individual undergoing the experience.

The four characteristics of a numinous experience can be attached to any event or action, that helps the doer "see the light"
- but the "truth" the see-er has found, is only true to them, no one else. I can assure you my light is different than all yours.

The counterculture movement of the late 60's was deeply rooted in these four characteristics - imo

New ways of thinking, is a driving force of human growth. I would certaintly agree that Behr could have been greatly influenced by James' philosphies. Look at the 60's influence on Steve Jobs. We are always changing and adapting, and discovering new ideas and methods for everything that we do. Where does inspiration for these changes come?




Peter Pallotta

Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2011, 02:59:42 PM »
Jeff - ha, nice reference.

I don't think James played golf. He was lifelong Harvard man/professor, but -- interestingly -- the lectures upon which "Varieties of Religious Experience" were based took place in Scotland...at the University of Edinburgh. 

Haultain -- born in India, son of a British army general there -- was educated in England around that time (before coming to settle in Toronto and joining the Toronto Golf Club....with a golf course by Colt!).  I have to correct myself -- his "Mysteries of Golf" was first published in The Atlantic in 1904.

Travis - thanks, good summary there. Yes, the subjective experience -- I think that's key to what I'm suggesting re golf courses. And if memory serves, the term "cosmic consciousness" may have been coined decades before its widespread use in the 60s by a Canadian pyschologist -- and fan of James' -- named Richard Bucke.

Peter

Steve Lang

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2011, 03:53:28 PM »
:<))

I think i experienced 3 out of 4 when after playing by it.. i had to just go into Hell Bunker at TOC and just stand there.. to soak it in..
Inverness (Toledo, OH) cathedral clock inscription: "God measures men by what they are. Not what they in wealth possess.  That vibrant message chimes afar.
The voice of Inverness"

BCrosby

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2011, 04:09:14 PM »
Peter -

A minor point. Some of the material in Haultain's book dates before 1904. He was writing on the topic as early as 1900. Others might have found even earlier pieces by him. BTW, Haultain had a wide range of interests. Not unlike Hutchinson.

A less minor point. There is a metaphysical thread in golf writing I've always thought fascinating. It is a thread that is under-examined. It runs from Haultain, through John Low (though he was more low key), Darwin, Behr and Dickinson. The most recent writer in that thread was John Updike.

A common feature of those (and other) writers was the belief that playing golf opened the way to different and better experiences. Some went so far as to claim that golf - when played on properly designed golf courses (think Behr) - could make you a better person.  

Today we snicker about all that. Perhaps rightly so. But the metaphysical writers were quite serious about the extra-golf benefits that playing golf could bring. It is a lost dream of golf.

All that helps explain why people felt so strongly about the pros and cons of different golf design principles during the Golden Age. Their debates were often quite acrimonious. For many, it wasn't just a matter of better golf architecture. Though that was part of it. It was also about things that, ultimately, were much more important.

Bob
  

  


Travis Dewire

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2011, 04:11:54 PM »
Peter,

This is something that I try to impart on my brother during my neo-hippie philosophy rants.

Everything is subjective. I play Justin Bieber, you hate him, I think that them he is a God amongst mortals and that he is the greatest musician to ever walk to earth. While all scholarly evidence would say that Bieber is a) not a God, and b) certaintly not the greatest muscian to ever live - if my truth is that he is in fact the greatest, no one could tell me otherwise - it is MY truth

ah individualtiy - and another tangent I go!

But more importantly - golf courses.

You and I go to St. Andrews.

We get there and BAM! You hit all three like that ! The fourth (transient) will only be fulfilled when we leave. The course, the history, the location, Scotland, everything!!!!! You can't put your finger on it - it was like "someone" brought you "here" beyond your power and free will - you know you will never be the same when you leave - because you know being here, and being in this blissful state is only temporary.

I get there, and I go through the motions. I wake up - I tee it up, and play - I finish, we hang out a bit, and then I retire to bed. Same stuff different day.

But yet we are still playing the same course!!!!!

You could even further it by going into the architecture. You and I go on a Seth Raynor tour, and we play 5 great Raynor tracks. I think Charleston is the best, you think Yeaman's is the best. The "truth" that Charles was the best Raynor we played, is dependent soley on me. Yeamans "truth" to being the best we played, is dependent on you. While neither of us are wrong, neither of us are right. We are only our "truths" - nothing more, nothing less.

No one is wrong for liking this course or that course, for this reason or that. No one is right, either. We are only true to our "truths"

If you liked a course, and if every major golf figure and publication told you the course was crap and sucked - would you still like it?

Travis Dewire

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2011, 04:22:55 PM »

A common feature of those (and other) writers was the belief that playing golf opened the way to different and better experiences. Some went so far as to claim that golf - when played on properly designed golf courses (think Behr) - could make you a better person.  

All that helps explain why people felt so strongly about the pros and cons of different golf design principles during the Golden Age. Their debates were often quite acrimonious. For many, it wasn't just a matter of better golf architecture. Though that was part of it. It was also about things that, ultimately, were much more important.


Bob,

What were some of the other matters that the lead golfers were discussing, that was much more important than better golf architecture? Are we talking methods, practices, applications, turf, etc? Or we saying these guys were working on building the game, not just courses? Or did they knew they would be golf architecture icons 100 years down the road, and were planning their legacy more importantly? What was more important than better architecture?

side note:

What is golf? A game. No different than Candy Land
How do you make golf better? Make it more enjoyable from the best player, to the worst, and everyone in between


I love the idea of the metaphysical golf writers - they are definitely on to something. Everyone can say that golf teaches lessons of life, and they'll say, honesty, integrity, etc. You know the PwC commercials. I think golf goes deeper into the human psyche than that.

Golf is supposed to be fun.
Life is supposed to be fun.

How many have fun at either?

Peter Pallotta

Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2011, 04:34:33 PM »
Bob - thanks.

I think that, at the very least, James' book/thoughts -- and the spirit of the times he captured/engendered -- can serve as one of the two bookends to your list, e.g.

William James - Haultain - Low - Darwin - Behr - Simpson (?) - Dickinson - Updike - Michael Murphy.

Murphy seems like a natural bookend to James. Besides writing GITK of course, he graduted in pyschology, and co-founded the Easalen Institute that brought together the eastern and western traditions.

As you suggest, I think there IS a good essy to be written here.  I wish I knew my stuff better and had more time (to get to know my stuff and to write) -- but alas, not to be.

Peter






Travis Dewire

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2011, 04:47:21 PM »
Peter,

Thank you for the thread.

I have been inspired!!!!!!

Travis Dewire

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2011, 04:50:34 PM »
 "It is for the golfer to stamp his law upon the ground. It is no way the business of the architect to stamp his law upon the golfer. But thus it is in most cases. The penal school of golf spells death to that spirit of independence, life and freedom which we are all seeking, and which we should find in all places of our recreation.



Max Behr quote from Ian Andrew's blog

JC Jones

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2011, 04:54:28 PM »
Peter,

This is something that I try to impart on my brother during my neo-hippie philosophy rants.

Everything is subjective. I play Justin Bieber, you hate him, I think that them he is a God amongst mortals and that he is the greatest musician to ever walk to earth. While all scholarly evidence would say that Bieber is a) not a God, and b) certaintly not the greatest muscian to ever live - if my truth is that he is in fact the greatest, no one could tell me otherwise - it is MY truth

ah individualtiy - and another tangent I go!

But more importantly - golf courses.

You and I go to St. Andrews.

We get there and BAM! You hit all three like that ! The fourth (transient) will only be fulfilled when we leave. The course, the history, the location, Scotland, everything!!!!! You can't put your finger on it - it was like "someone" brought you "here" beyond your power and free will - you know you will never be the same when you leave - because you know being here, and being in this blissful state is only temporary.

I get there, and I go through the motions. I wake up - I tee it up, and play - I finish, we hang out a bit, and then I retire to bed. Same stuff different day.

But yet we are still playing the same course!!!!!

You could even further it by going into the architecture. You and I go on a Seth Raynor tour, and we play 5 great Raynor tracks. I think Charleston is the best, you think Yeaman's is the best. The "truth" that Charles was the best Raynor we played, is dependent soley on me. Yeamans "truth" to being the best we played, is dependent on you. While neither of us are wrong, neither of us are right. We are only our "truths" - nothing more, nothing less.

No one is wrong for liking this course or that course, for this reason or that. No one is right, either. We are only true to our "truths"

If you liked a course, and if every major golf figure and publication told you the course was crap and sucked - would you still like it?

Ahh the joys of meta-ethical relativism.  We have another Big World Theorist on our hands.
I get it, you are mad at the world because you are an adult caddie and few people take you seriously.

Excellent spellers usually lack any vision or common sense.

I know plenty of courses that are in the red, and they are killing it.

Travis Dewire

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2011, 05:06:06 PM »
What is that supposed to mean Jeffrey?

I didn't know that consultants were holier than thou philosophers on the side

BCrosby

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2011, 05:15:09 PM »
Peter -

An oversight on Michael Murphy. Definitely a metaphysical.

I started include Simpson. Not sure about him. Ditto MacKenzie.

For the metaphysicals who were also architects during the GA, many saw golf played on good, strategically-designed golf courses (a hat tip to Rich Goodale; no anthropomorphisms for me) as something that opened the way to a higher order self understanding. Or something like that. That higher purpose was for them the ultimate point of good golf architecture.

One of the fascinating things about the Behr/Crane debates was how they teased out those issues and put them squarely on the table. Crane ridiculing them (as most moderns would), while Behr dug in and reaffirmed them.

Bob  

 

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2011, 05:20:43 PM »
My university philosophy tutor, who remains a good friend, is currently working on a book entitled 'A Short History of Metaphysics'.

His last draft came in at 500 pages.

There is a lesson to be learned from this, though I don't know what it is.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

BCrosby

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Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #20 on: March 03, 2011, 09:20:50 PM »
Adam -

I have great sympathy for your tutor. I spent the better part of a year studying Aristotle's Metaphysics. To this day I am deeply troubled that at one point I thought I actually understood him.

It's also the best conversation killer I know of. Not unlike my suggestion at our last green committee meeting that we cut back on watering our course and let it go brown.

Bob

Peter Pallotta

Re: Hey, how about a bit of metaphysics - just to riff GCA on
« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2011, 09:53:31 PM »
Ha!

I took a course with a political theory professor who'd studied with Allan Bloom at Chicago; the class was half full of American graduate students sitting in so as to get one generation closer to Leo Strauss.  It was a full year course, but I think we only managed to get through half of Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War".  Plato seemed like Neil Simon after that...

Peter

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