Monday, 29 June 2015

The Mad King's Idol from Wisdom of The Idiots by Idries Shah

The Mad King’s Idol

There was once a violent, ignorant and idolatrous king. One day he swore that if his personal idol accorded him a certain advantage in life, he would capture the first three people who passed by his castle, and force them to dedicate themselves to idol-worship.

Sure enough, the king’s wish was fulfilled, and he immediately sent soldiers on to the highway to bring in the first three people whom they could find.

These three were, as it happened, a scholar, a Sayed (descendent of Mohammed the Prophet) and a prostitute.

Having them thrown down before his idol, the unbalanced king told them of his vow, and ordered them to bow down in front of the image.

The scholar said:

“This situation undoubtedly comes within the doctrine of 'force majeure’. There are numerous precedents allowing anyone to appear to conform with custom if compelled, without real legal or moral culpability being in any way involved.”

So he made a deep obeisance to the idol.

The Sayed, when it was his turn, said:

“As a specially protected person, having in my veins the blood of the Holy Prophet, my actions themselves purify anything which is done, and therefore there is no bar to my acting as this man demands.”

And he bowed down before the idol.

The prostitute said:

“Alas, I have neither intellectual training nor special prerogatives, and so I am afraid that, whatever you do to me, I cannot worship this idol, even in appearance.

The mad king’s malady was immediately banished by this remark. As if by magic he saw the the deceit of the two worshippers of the image. He at once had the scholar and the Sayed decapitated, and set the prostitute free.
(from Wisdom of the Idiots a collection of Sufi stories by Idries Shah)


A topical reading is that a Constitution, whether Irish or American, is an idol.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Adelaide University's version of The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior. You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants — all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel..
(from the ebook version of The Road to Wigan Pier put out by Adelaide University, Australia)

There’s a word missing there from this oft quoted passage and that word is nancy. Not the nancy Archbishop, or the nancy comrade but the Nancy poets. He is referring to Auden and Isherwood, grouped together with MacNeice and Day-Lewis; all of them Oxford chums only the first two being genuine ‘homasegsshuals’ in that languid Oxbridge pronounciation. They (Auden and Isherwood) took off to America in 1939 in a move which the likes of Orwell an ex-policeman who took a bullet in the Spanish War could only regard as 'windy’.

Adelaide University has offered us an expurgated version of the ‘Road’. It might be amusing to construct a la Orwell an account of why.

I have been wondering why a sort of Jobsworth of limited imagination considers it to be meritorious to meddle in the manner of mediaeval heresy sniffing. The colonial and the post-colonial mentality is one of eternally looking over one’s shoulder and aping what their present or former masters are at. It’s a symptom what that Tory, Hilaire Belloc, wrote: Always keep a hold of nurse/for fear of finding something worse. They are keen to show they are up to the minute on orthodoxy. Pull out a word and push the rest of the sentence up and it’s as though it never existed. In future departments of government may dedicate themselves to this task. Must take a note of that to use elsewhere.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Breadski Brothers at a Supermarket near You

In our house we bake four different kinds of bread. My wife bakes a standard soda with buttermilk, my daughter does the Rachel Allen version with egg and oil and seeds added. I do a plain yeast and a sourdough. My starter came from one of those German carpenter journeymen that come through Connemara regularly. I’ve passed it on.

We like bread and hardly ever buy any in, occasionally Tesco’s batch which toasts well to a board like firmness. With peanut butter and Marmite. Yes, try it! Due to a foul up on the catering front and late evening shopping my gude wife came home with a loaf 400 gms. wt. by The Breadski Brothers that describes itself as THAT BREAD, The White One with the sunny semame seeds, from the smartest bakers in town. It would be too tiring for me to reproduce the varying typography. The loaf was sliced and in a little cardboard tray and it had a booklet with it. My response was ‘Polish bread’ as a joke but it is made by Poles in Castlebar, Co.Mayo or so they claim. The booklet commences with a short story of how Mark and Martin overcame adversity in the village of Krasko in the old country. These are sound people whose dedication is unquestionable. There’s a face on this bread, the face that it had before it was baked. Then we are presented with the science and the sociology. All the packaging is recyclable and as an extra added bonus there will be a donation to a charity, Mary’s Meals, as a percentage of the price of every loaf of THAT BREAD. They tell us on the booklet that up to 50% of all bread bought in Ireland ends up being uneaten or wasted. They thoughtfully sell you only 400gram loaves so that you end up wasting less. Two slice packets are available for the target consumer who likes to know that each slice has 63 calories. There are photos of the Breadski Bros. on the cellophane wrapper with that slightly surprised look that the perfectly bald have. The web site :

Ethos, Pathos and Logos - all 400 grams. It worked well as a referendum but how was it as bread? Very thin, greyish probably from the Rye flour added, with a close texture, no crumb and underbaked like that frozen stuff that supermarkets with in-house ovens offer. It must be toasted to finish it. The taste is reminiscent of the vile baps that the Subway folk use. If you were to tell me that it comes over from America as a franchise I’d believe you.

The good news is that buttermilk is available everywhere.

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
(Psalm 104)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Augusine and the Advaitic Jnani

Via Siris
whose range on the internet is vast and deep I read the reflections of Cynthia Nielsen
on the continuing struggle of St. Augustine to maintain his new sense of himself after his conversion. How different it is from the advaitic (non-dual) sadhana. It is true that each has its own snares, gins and pitfalls. Augustine’s way can induce extreme battle fatigue particularly for an intellectual fixed on the illusion of an ego that requires eternal maintenance. The advaitic sadhu has likewise the gnostic lure of feeling that one is already there, home and dry with a cup of cocoa. My penny catechism reminds me that presumption is ‘a foolish expectation of salvation without making use of the means necessary to obtain it’.
Conversion, though of great psychological importance for the seeker, changes nothing. Nature (the Gunas) is still acting, ancient inclinations (vasanas) are operative and there is no definitive final experience qua experience that resolves quandry. Even among the advaitins there is discussion about what the scriptural description of the man of steady wisdom entails. Must the body be shed or is freedom (mukti) available for the living sage. I believe that there are perfect masters for whom the struggle is over and only the inertia of their actions is operative. They are jnanis (knowers of the truth). Their physical presence is like a scorched rope that has not the power to bind.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Deep Sleep - A Half-Realisation?

-Everybody sleeps, the ignorant sleep, Cartesians sleep, egoists sleep: why then do advaitins regard the state so highly? We are here talking of deep dreamless sleep. The doubt is expressed:

It has been said that the self does not see (in the state of profound sleep) on account of unity; as in the case of the couple, and that it is self-effulgent. Self-effulgence means being Pure Intelligence by nature. Now the question is, if this intelligence is the very nature of the Self, like the heat etc. of fire, how should it, in spite of the unity, give up its nature, and fail to know? And if it does not give up its nature, how is it that it does not see it in the state of profound sleep? It is contradictory to say that intelligence is the nature of the self, again, that it does not know. The answer is, it is not self-contradictory; both these are possible. How? -
(commentary on Brh.Up. IV.iii.22)

That last sentence is to introduce Sankara’s response to the doubt - if there is self-effulgence how am I not aware? It seems more like pure blankness.

Sankara does not deny that there is a sort of absorption or what I have called ‘a dark samadhi’. This is just the point - we know we have been in that state when we awake. That innate self-luminous aspect of consciousness is never lost. This is what makes Deep Sleep (sushupti) a natural experiment that displays the true nature of consciousness in a state where there is no danger of falling into the normal pattern of seeming to have an awareness of a content of consciousness. The Bhamati of Vachaspati Misra regards Deep Sleep itself as a sort of half -realisation which seems to miss the point or even two points. One is that unless a state is accompanied by conscious awareness it can have no transforming effect because we have not made our own of it. Contrary to that is the valid demurral that the secret workings of enlightenment may be opaque to us. For Yeats of course working by the old rule (cf. below) awareness is from horizon to horizon and there is never any corner that is not lit. Yogis say that they never dream. Rest for them may be a pure physical quiescence.

The other point is that none of this matters because an experience cannot be the basis of realisation, half or full. Enlightenment comes from a grasp of the underlying form of any experience whatever.

Like the wild fowler said:
- I fired at him once and I missed him. I fired at him again and I hit him in the same place and knocked a hat-full of feathers out of him.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Per Amica Silentia Lunae by W.B. Yeats

When Yeats wrote the word subconsciousness he put it within quotes as ‘subconsciousness’ to mark it as questionable. In his book on the sources of poetry Per Amica Silentia Lunae in the section Anima Mundi: II he writes:

 If you suspend the critical faculty, I have discovered, either as the result of training, or, if you have the gift, by passing into a slight trance, images pass rapidly before you. If you can suspend also desire, and let them form at their own will, your absorption becomes more complete and they are more clear in colour, more precise in articulation, and you and they begin to move in the midst of what seems a powerful light. But the images pass before you linked by certain associations, and indeed in the first instance you have called them up by their association with traditional forms and sounds. You have discovered how, if you can but suspend will and intellect, to bring up from the ‘subconscious’ anything you already possess a fragment of. Those who follow the old rule keep their bodies still and their minds awake and clear, dreading especially any confusion between the images of the mind and the objects of sense; they seek to become, as it were, polished mirrors.

According to the old rule all consciousness is permeable because of the unity of being and adepts move freely through its domains. Ritual as the enactment of a symbol draws one into their purlieus. W.H. Auden was indulging himself in a little bladder whacking when he wrote:

To get The Last Poems of Yeats
You need not mug up on dates
All a reader requires
Is some knowledge of gyres
And the sort of people he hates

Auden is a sort of a political poet, “all out of shape from toe to top” the unfair judgement of Yeats on him yet the question hangs in the air: can you read Yeats's poetry waiting on understanding, can you abjure the knowledge of gyres knowing that revelation is at hand?

Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a great memory passing on from generation to generation. But that was not enough, for these images showed intention and choice. They had a relation to what one knew and yet were an extension of one’s knowledge. If no mind was there, why should I suddenly come upon salt and antimony, upon the liquefaction of the gold, as they were understood by the alchemists, or upon some detail of cabalistic symbolism verified at last by a learned scholar from his never-published manuscripts, and who can have put together so ingeniously, working by some law of association and yet with clear intention and personal application, certain mythological images. They had shown themselves to several minds, a fragment at a time, and had only shown their meaning when the puzzle picture had been put together. The thought was again and again before me that this study had created a contact or mingling with minds who had followed a like study in some other age, and that these minds still saw and thought and chose. Our daily thought was certainly but the line of foam at the shallow edge of a vast luminous sea: Henry More’s Anima Mundi, Wordsworth’s “immortal sea which brought us hither ... and near whose edge the children sport,” and in that sea there were some who swam or sailed, explorers who perhaps knew all its shores.

Per Amica Silentia Lunae available at Gutenberg - amica

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A One-Way Ticket

My imaginary friend has a possible existence. There could be someone out there in the world at large who corresponds to this person of my dreams. It is not unthinkable that the world might be such that this person exists. I am, as it were, a noetic neighbour of this individual. Some French philosopher has likely called this ‘voisinage’. Can this intimate distance be retained when my personal possibilities are considered. I could have been black, a woman or a contender, instead of which, I’m not. That is a different possible world in which this present identity does not exist. At one and the same moment I demand that I am and I am not what I am. Some French philosopher has likely called this ‘flubbertage’.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Existence alone. (Ch.Up. VI.2.1)

O good looking one, in the beginning this was Existence alone, One only, without a second. With regard to this some say, “In the beginning this was non-existence alone, one only, without a second. From that non-existence issued existence."
(Chandogya Upanisad: VI.2.1)

I have written already about the common features of the thought of Parmenides and that of the satkaryavada thesis of the non-difference of cause and effect.
It is said that there are no proofs of the existence of God offered in Vedanta but that verse is surely an intuition about contingency. If there are no individual separable things that have existence in the initial stage prior to their creation then Existence or Being itself must be there. The idea is that out of nothing, nothing can come. There never is a complete void, the sarva sunya of the Buddhists that Sankara controverts in his commentary.

For the Buddhists imagine that the reality before creation is merely an absence of existence. But they do not stand for any other substance opposed to existence, unlike the Naiyayikas who hold that existence and non-existence mean ‘things as they are’, and the opposite of them , (respectively)

The Naiyayikas take this existence of things/non-existence of things in a logical polar way. Having the concept of the existence of anything implies having the concept of its non-existence. The Buddhists view is an ontological one. For them there can be pure non-existence of whatever subsequently comes into existence.

For the Advaitin the primary intuition about a thing is - ‘it is’. Then adjoined to that is - ‘it is this’.

Even now it is surely Existence. But now it stands qualified by name and form, and also as an object of the word and the idea ‘this’. Therefore it is termed as ‘this’. But before creation, in the beginning, this was only an object of the word and idea ‘Existence’. Hence it is emphasized that ‘in the beginning this was Existence alone’. For as in deep-sleep, so also before creation it was not possible to grasp this as possessed of name or form. As someone, after rising from deep-sleep, realises that in deep-sleep the thing that existed was mere existence, i.e. he realises existence alone, similar was the case before creation. This is the meaning.

Wnen I read this the other morning it occurred to me that in meditation when for a brief moment we are conscious but without thoughts and then move into some reverie, there is a similar transition. In one sense those thoughts were not there before but their consciousness was. Part of the point of meditation is to move the awareness away from the contents of consciousness and identification with that to consciousness as such or the standpoint of the Witness (Saksin).

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Adventures in Grace by Raissa Maritain

I’m reading Adventures in Grace by Raissa Maritain (pub.1945) which I got for €1. The stamp on an inner page indicates that it came from the break up of a library of a Jesuit hall of residence. It was a popular book in its day in the category of light spiritual reading. I find it insipid and trite yet it it is interesting as an illustration of the halo effect. Jacques so loved her that he took her slight apercus to be on the same level as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. She would not have thought of herself like that. Was this the ‘amour fou’ that she was trying to avoid, an illusion that would come between them and the true, as she understood it, unitive vision? The crazy all consuming human love that might displace the love of God was Jacques’ attempt to understand Raissa’s journal entry which he read after her death in 1960. James Araj in
amour fou
explores what may have been a formative element in their decision as a couple to enter into a ‘celibate’ marriage. Araj who is steeped in the thought of Maritain wonders at the philosopher’s confused attempt to make sense of a spiritual stance he may not have been aware of at the time when she wrote it in April 1924. The treatment of the issue by Araj is sensitive yet firm.

When ‘Adventures’ came out in 1945 Raissa would have been 62 and yet she feels no differently about the deathbed conversion of her father in 1912 which she claims to have been presaged by:

As he often did with me, he would put it in a humorous way: “Who is a little girl three or four years old, knowing French, Russian and German, and who’s been married for 5 years?” It was naturally myself, and this meant that he understood that the life of the spirit begins from baptism.

Perhaps or maybe an echo of what he might have been hearing from her, ‘I feel my life has just begun’ etc. To me it seems ironic teasing.

Likewise her treatment of Bloy and Peguy the two writers who were so great a personal influence is bland and uninformative.

When, on reading Leon Bloy, one becomes aware of features which are thus typical of a particular period, one feels at first a certain disillusionment. But this impression passes, or at least, is seen in its merely relative value, and the essential, one might say the ontological value of Bloy’s work, appears in all its granduer.

I’ve always felt that ontology requires glue and screws, a few tacks won’t do.

Thursday, 11 June 2015



Abdullah ben Yahya was showing a manuscript, which he had written, to a visitor.
This man said: “But this word has been incorrectly spelt."
He at once deleted the word and wrote it in the manner of which his guest approved.
When the man had left, Abdullah was asked: “Why did you do that, considering that the ‘correction’ was in fact accurate, and you wrote the wrong word where the original word had been right?”

He answered: “That was a social occasion. The man thought he was helping me, and thought that the expression of his ignorance was an indication of knowledge. I applied the behaviour of culture and politeness, not the behaviour of truth, because when people want politeness and social interchange, they cannot stand truth. Had I stood in relation to this man as teacher to student, matters would have been different. Only stupid people and pedants imagine their duty is to instruct everyone, when the motive of the people is generally not to seek instruction, but to attract attention.”
(from the collection of Sufi teaching stories Wisdom of the Idiots by Idries Shah)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Exploding Orchids

Did I read it or am I making it up? Are there such things as exploding orchids or sentences and book titles which looked at a certain way give a different reading, one antithetical to the probably meant. Today I saw in the book shop The Subjugation of Women by John Stuart Mill. For a moment I wondered if there were any useful tips in it. Probably not. If his companion Harriet Taylor had written a book called The Subjugation of Men now that would be a manual like the one written along the lines of dog training which was a hit a few years ago.

A few days ago John Fletcher entitled a blog post:
On Opposing Monstrous or Irrational Beliefs in Liberal Democracy in
I rejected the idea that belief in Liberal Democracy was monstrous or irrational. Fletcher though is working up to declaring war on those resistant to the full spectrum liberal program. What that war would entail I await with interest to find out. I have a certain sinking feeling that the norms of Liberal Democracy will be set aside for the greater good.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Christina's Noble Suffering

I think the argument from evil needs to be balanced by an argument from good. Christina Noble though horribly abused by a care system run by a religious order turned her pain into the energy behind her goal of rescuing abused and abandoned children in Vietnam and elsewhere. The film last night on RTE was about this. She was aged 10 when her mother died and she and her 2 sisters and a brother were all dispatched to separate orphanages. Her brother Sean ended up in the infamous Letterfrack reformatory. At a certain point he discovered that his sister Christina was in a school in Clifden which is nearby. He managed to get there and knocked to enquire about her only to be told that she had died the previous year.

In moments of low comedy which are inseparable from Irish productions Christina was shown ranting outside The National Centre for Excellence in Furniture Design and Technology. which the defunct reformatory at Letterfrack has been for 20 years at least. Such was the vile feng shui of the place that it will always be what it was for her. There was also an meeting with a Joycean revenant The Citizen in a public house in Dublin. Plus ca change yiz ‘ll geh.

The reality show reunion of the family in Austin Texas was awkward. Some things are too real for reality shows. They had not met as a unit for 50 years.

RTE player : In a House that Ceased to

Monday, 8 June 2015

I can't go on

There was a time when ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ was my motto with books but now I recognise that I won’t have to pass an exam on this; it’s not Henry Esmond. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain put years on me. I felt chained by the ankle to a Guardian editorial, it would be ok. when we got to the salt mines. Humourless bien pensant worthiness. I left her at Chap. II smiling bravely. “Just popping out for a minute, shan't be long”.

Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow was another book that I abandoned in the bush. It’s as though Bellow set himself a task of writing about something he knew nothing about on the basis of some ancient National Geographics. A lot of bellowing. Herzog was a similar demented savant but didn’t have to carry the novel on his own. I enjoyed that.

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis became a hymn to science, a vapour that refused to condense. It was episodic and somewhat like an engine with more gears than are feasible. Let’s go back to Meridian.There was a nicer sort of evil there and you knew who to hate. It was a small town but it contained the world.

I’m not sure about The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand. There is the sense that all those characters were at college with Menand’s great great grandfather and that their collective enlightenment was to result in Homo Menandis. My pause at page 179 may be a reculer pour mieux sauter or baulking. Life!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Coleridge on Shakspeare and Milton

May 12, 1830:
Shakspeare is the Spinoistic deity - an omniscient creativeness. Milton is the deity of prescience; he stands ab extra, and drives a fiery chariot and four, making the horses feel the iron curb which holds them in. Shakspeare’s poetry is characterless; that is, it does not reflect the individual Shakspeare; but John Milton himself is in every line of the Paradise Lost. Shakspeare’s rhymed verses are excessively condensed, - epigrams with the point everywhere; but in his blank dramatic verse he is diffused, with a linked sweetness long drawn out. No one can understand Shakspeare’s superiority fully until he has ascertained, by comparison. all that which he possessed in common with several other great dramatists of his age, and has then calculated the surplus which is entirely Shakspeare’s own. His rhythm is so perfect, that you may be almost sure that you do not understand the real force of a line, if it dows not run well as you read it. The necessary mental pause after every hemstich or imperfect line is always equal to the time that would have been taken in readin the complete verse.
(ftom Table Talk)

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Unleashing the Rolling Thunder of the Liberal Agenda (whilst ironing your underwear).

John Fletcher's leisurely development of his ideas on philpercs.commonstrous
shows up the hidden assumptions that emanate from a political culture that is based on the barely democratic majoritarian (first past the post) electoral system. If in the British or American system you won by a majority of 62% to 38% as in the Irish same sex marriage referendum you would now be considering the possibility of unleashing the rolling thunder of the liberal agenda. Some enthusiasts at CenCom ie. The Irish Times, proposed just that. Let's tackle the 8th.Amendment (abortion ban) was the rallying cry. However there is a difference between a measure sold as a cost free feel good vote for Stephen Fry and famous nice people and abortion. Not feel good. No. Wise heads realise that 38% in a proportional representation system is a lot of orphans looking for a good home. Why they might pull in a few final seats in 5 seater constituencies. It is also recognised that a mere 13% shift could have yielded a different result even with all the media, all the political parties, academics, the great and the good, and the famous nice people on the same side. Fianna Fail cute hoors and the prudent burghers of Fine Gael were busy ironing their underwear for the campaign.

John Fletcher feels that the elders of the Church of Reason have spoken and there's an end to't. I myself have never felt that belief in liberal democracy was monstrous or irrational. I am firmly committed to that position and nothing that John can say will sway me from it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Pirsig Vs McKeon

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is after all a novel. There are biographical elements in it but Pirsig is not restrained by a correspondence theory of truth. Never mind the truth feel the quality! By the power invested in the internet certain of his central stances are brought into question. I learnt that although he had lots of E.C.T. and his short term memory was affected his long term memory remained intact mostly. Therefore the basic error of regarding what he calls Aristotelian substance and form as a dualism set against ‘Eastern’ non -dualism cannot be accounted for by mental fog. It may be that intelligence measured as a capacity for organising and retaining vast quantities of information is unsuited to true philosophical understanding. Being a bit stupid and puzzled by everyday assumptions is more adapted to that goal. Pirsig’s rejection of Advaita Vedanta on the basis of rigorist mayavada was hasty. The ironic thing is that a conflation of the aporetic aspects of Aristotelian and Advaitic philosophy might, I believe, be more fruitful for an understanding of the problem of Quality. Add in a soupçon of Maritain’s development of connaturality in Degrees of Knowledge and the mystic broth is just right.

Be that as it may and I will come round to it in time, I also found out that our hero’s nemesis, the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Methods at Chicago University was Richard McKeon. Was he fair to him? In trying to discover that I read in some of his essays on Rhetoric. That was his specialisation and he knew everything about it, in several languages yet his powers of communication were limited even by academic standards. He is stupefyingly dull. As I read I thought to myself ' he can’t go on with this level of abstract information, soon he will offer examples of how it might work in living discourse’. The similarity of the mental apparatus of McKeon and Pirsig may be the key to their antipathy. I find the case of McKeon dispiriting , the early effort in attaining mastery of his subject stultified by the later failure to attain its objective.

Then there was the Great Books program, an enthusiasm of his of which I am the beneficiary having bought a lot of them very cheaply in perfect condition, never cracked, never ‘pounded’, withal a beacon to guide one through the fog of the inconscient.

Homo Habilis: Fettling the Mortice Chisel

If, like me, your grinder is the basic sort with a flimsy fixed rest you may find it very difficult to produce a perfectly square smooth bevel on your chisels. They will be fine for the average work of paring if the edge is honed. For mortice chisels however that are designed to be self-jigging anything less that absolutely square will cause twisting and leading and the horrible leaning mortice that is wider than the chisel. My solution may sound like a counsel of despair. File your bevel. In a couple of minutes you will get a perfectly square even slope right to the tip. Raise the tip on the oil stone to create a slight secondary bevel. Use a straight lath clamped to the side of your stile to sight your chisel. Chop. No steering required.