A Pair of Worn Shoes

What does this Vincent Van Gogh painting suggest to you, if anything?

Van Gogh, Pair of Shoes, 1886

Please read the article A Pair of Worn Shoes by Ken Wilber that Windhorse recently sent to me.   I am interested in your thoughts about this.

212 responses to “A Pair of Worn Shoes

  1. This painting suggests nothing for me. Not only this one. Also in real life I cannot read hidden suggestions. I never did sit in front of old paintings for hours and trying to figure out the meaning or message. That is not my world. I am a MEST man. Formulas, laws, physical theories.

  2. I got ‘morning light’ as well as well worn boots.

  3. Firstly… Happy new year one and all…

    I haven’t read any of the links but two words came to mind.

    Formidable and spirit.

    Seems to me if you can keep a pair of boots through that much wear and tear you have a formidable spirit.

  4. Please excuse me for going of topic.

    Marty wanted to ask if it is true, if you know, what I’ve read recently on the Italian blog “lareception.”
    From a translation of “Veritas” (I do not know who they are) we understand very well that CST (Church Spiritual Technology) is a senior RTC and that is the true owner of the trade marks of Scn.

    But it is also shown that CST is owned by persons connected with the IRS. That is to say that Scn is in the hands of U.S. government agencies.
    Is it true that?

    Sorry for my bad English.
    Thanks for any response.

    • No

    • Not true.

      It’s worse than that.

      It’s in the hands of a certified sociopath.

      • Mike,
        Thanx much for your read on present misunderstood “mad” being regarded as genius in future. Thanx also for distinguishing between misunderstood “mad” and sociopath. One thought: For long it seems that a duality of white and black Scientology has coexsisted. When I think of Annie Tidman I think of the best of LRH. When I think of the suicide of Quentin and think of DM, I think of the darkside. Question: can black Scientology be rooted out??? Any response is much appreciated.

        • Black Scientology can be rooted out — anyone who is willing to think for themselves rather than blindly following orders/directions/”what is expected and acceptable” will not fall prey to or practice “black Scientology” unless their “thinking” is the thinking of a sociopath.

          Man is basically good, so unless one is being a robot one can determine the rightness or wrongness of any action and choose to contribute to it or ignore it or stop it.

          For example, I see the practice of disconnection used as a control mechanism to be “Black Scientology” — a subject designed to free people, NOT control them. Nobody would agree with disconnection EXCEPT they are told “it is necessary” or “it is for the good of the person” or “its in policy” or “it’s what LRH said” or any number of explanations. They accept them blindly, don’t observe what is obvious, and perpetrate black Scientology as a result.

          It is in the culture of the RCS to NOT think for yourself. And thus to perpetuate black Scientology.

          If people really understood the fundamental concepts of Scientology (even though Miscavige forced everyone to do “the Basics” so few people got it, its not funny as the real principles of the subject ARE contained in those materials — everything, all the way through the highest levels of OT), they could NOT be robotic, mindless followers of “authority” (not even L. Ron Hubbard) or the status quo.

          My 2c on this.

          • What a perfect observation about the “basics campaign” as opposed to the basics books, themselves.
            It brings to mind reading where LRH said that “there is no case gain that is not also accompanied by an increase in self determinism”. (Not an exact quote, but words to that effect).
            Miscavige has actually denied people the full value of what is in these wonderful books by FORCING them to read them as a false “prerequisite” instead of out of their own personal interest for use in their own lives.
            Thanks for shining the light of truth on this subtle little operation.

            • Espiritu,
              Never thought of that aspect of the Basics Campaign before…that Miscavige’s force and insistence about “doing your basics”, would actually cause people to be resistant to doing them! This explains to me my resistance to it and also, how DM, a brilliant sociopath, could cause destruction and shrinkage of Scn by attacking the most basic dissemination action of all: “Read a book”. It seemed like a good thing, that DM was promoting that people get educated in Scn but with the arbitrarily added FORCE and LENGTH of prerequisite, it actually turns people off by overwhelming them.

              • Yeah, Mike really put his finger on the right button there. He also pointed out that when people don’t confront and miss the “other-determined” intention to read these books and just go with the flow, they are less likely to to really GET the data in the books for personal application. And there is a LOT of really helpful and useful information in these books for beings to have…..to make the understatement of the century.

                • Espiritu — yes, this is a very interesting thing.

                  Miscavige takes an action like this and even uses it to hold himself out as being “on Source” — after all, he is insisting that people study the fundamentals of Scientology…

                  But the fact is that he has undermined and invalidated those truths. One could not help but conclude there is something VERY wrong in the RCS after studying those materials — from the information in SOS concerning SPs (psychopaths) to the extensive truths concerning thought, emotion, effort, cause, determinism covered in AP&A, 8-8008 and COHA. Or even the principles of auditing and causation, knowing and not-knowing and so much more in FOT.

                  For anyone to actually duplicate and understand them would mean they would HAVE to depart the RCS. And that is so clearly against the ingrained “think” as to be unthinkable. “It could not mean this, if it did, it would mean the Church is contradicting fundamental Scientology concepts and that just cannot be so. I must be crazy — nobody else sees this so it cannot be true.” And “I dont dare mention my thoughts to anyone as they will turn me in and it will cost me more money to be sec checked. Or maybe they will declare me an undesirable and I will lose my job or family and friends.”

                  And so it goes. Everyone is FORCED to study exactly what tells them clearly they are being duped — and because they are so duped they don’t believe it. And thus it is all invalidated and the “status quo” is further reinforced.

                  For all those “devout” Scientologists who cannot live without having an LRH quote to tell them what they should think or do — it is remarkable that they utterly ignore the most fundamental LRH concepts of all contained in those materials. Especially the “OT’s” who become less and less cause over life, starting with their own, the more they “progress” up the Bridge.

                  This is the “brilliance” of Miscavige. What would once have been the very material that would undermine his insanity is today another status (“I am a Basics Completion” — see Michael Doven e.g.) that is a reinforcement of their inability to think and see.

                  Buy into the bs and its really hard to admit that the Emperor has no clothes because you are standing there stark naked too, adorned in certificates and statuses that merely cover your true state of “Certified Sheeple.”

                  • Mike,
                    Your analysis is true. dm in a fashion similar to any criminal is desperately begging to be caught. Yet, an ever shrinking number of followers is just not getting it. I find it amazing again and again how blind they are.

          • Thanx for your weighty 2c; much appreciated:)

        • I don’t believe Quentin commited suicide.

          • I don’t either. I met him and had dinner with him just days before his death. He didn’t appear to be depressed at all, quite the opposite – interested and excited about his adventure driving across the U.S. He was bright and in PT. He wore in a black T-shirt with a tuxedo print on the front. No tracks on his arms as some reports would have you believe. This was at a time when we were exposing, through the FOIA, the black ops of MKULTRA and illegal drug experiments on unsuspecting mental patients as part of Army Intel’s chemical warfare experiments. And here’s Quentin, LRH’s son, traveling around the U.S. alone and easily accessible. I always suspected it was a hit to send a message to the Ole Man to back the fuck off. It sure had all the earmarks.

            • Thanks for filling in.

            • Quentin was gay, and was afraid of, and dreaded, his father who was homophobic. He was very unhappy. He wanted to be an airline pilot. He didn’t want to be a Scientologist. He just wanted to get away from Scientology and live his own life, and that was unacceptable to his father, the Commodore and Source.

          • I also tend to think Quentin did not kill himself.

      • Spot on Mike. Exact truth.
        It may look like the “Special Directors”, who are non-Scientologist, ex employees of the IRS control the RTC with their veto, but they can be dismissed at any time by the three members of “Board of Trustees”, who are members of the COS with a majority vote. One of those three members (reportedly) holds undated resignations from the other two. And guess who that guy is? Yup.
        This is a very unholy alliance in which the devils all take what they think they are due, especially the most psychotic one..

  5. Heidegger’s response to Van Gogh’s painting demonstrates the datum that art inspires contribution. That wonderfully executed (and small) painting of a worn pair of boots inspired a poetic eruption from the great Heidegger. Inaccurately or not, that was Heidegger’s contribution to the painting. How many perfectly composed academic paintings at that year’s Salon in Paris generated zero comment? Probably a lot.

  6. A journey taken out of need, merit or simple determinism to see it through, lacking the luxury of creature comforts along the way.

    Did the wearer continue on now barefoot or get a new pair?

  7. On the light side, what does this Vincent Van Gogh painting suggest?

    “I’d walk a mile for a Camel.”

  8. Sans background information, this painting inspires in me thoughts of steadfast toil regardless of toil’s meaning, but constant and reliable nonetheless.

    I have always been fascinated with the concept of artistic meaning, and when doing my master’s degree in music composition did quite a bit of research into autobiography in music. One of my favorite composers in this regard is Arnold Schoenberg who holds the record as the most researched and written-about composer. (You would think that honor would go to Bach, Beethoven or Mozart, but not so!)

    Schoenberg was a fascinating character in that he was very outward that all of his music said something about himself and his life; however, he also feared his secrets would also be revealed in his music and felt he also needed to make efforts to obfuscate meaning. He desperately wanted to be understood, yet he feared being understood.

    For those curious about Schoenberg’s music, I recommend listening to Survivor from Warsaw and his Second String Quartet.


  9. Two left boots, slightly different sizes, Mens.
    The laces on the one to the right are less worn
    Boot left side laces appear shorter.

  10. Heidegger’s comments can be misconstrued, and his exuberance and self-assuredness makes it easy to do so. Put simply, his comments were his opinion.

    Heidegger was basically describing his own response to the painting. He was filling in the story; the painting elicited an excited contribution from him.

    Wilber, it seems, a bit annoyed with Heidegger’s gushing proclamation of opinion-as-fact, shows that Heidegger was completely wrong in his interpretation. Wilber then goes on to layer his own interpretation, which is what his essay is about. While Wilber’s interpretation is probably more correct based on the evidence by Gauguin, the fact remains that no one except Van really knows what the significance, if any, the boots represented to him.

    Great art provokes contribution, often passionate, from viewers. What the significance of the boots were to the painter is largely an academic issue and irrelevant to the main point and purpose of the art.

    Thus, all interpretations of what the art is expressing are “correct”, if it is understood that each interpretation is a description by that individual of what the art said to him or her.

    But to the greater question, about art, life, miracles, healing and helping. Short answer: Yes. As in viewing art, each individual interprets his own moments of personal transcendence, using the tools of his education, religious upbringing and understandings, and perhaps most importantly, the medium by which the person achieved the transcendent moment: an auditing session, deep meditation, fasting and prayer, interaction with nature, etc.

    It is what we are all trying to achieve, really. It can get lost in the day-to-day game-playing of life.

  11. I don’t mind the odd ink blot test :D

  12. What this story inspired me to think about was: What would I do if a person like Vincent van Gogh would knock on my door? How could I help him?
    It looks like he had experienced being in a high state of awareness without the gradients and understanding to deal with this state. Since he did care about others, I’d assume he was willing to create real ARC.
    I would understand him and I would let him know that. Concerning his painter friend, obviously his abilty to make himself understood was deficient (in relation to his state and what he saw and felt). Therefore I’d suggest to him to extend his ARC to the person he communicates to and find out what gradient of of his communication can be accepted by the other person or at which points he would become unreal and so step by step enable him to make himself and the dynamics understood. In short, I would validate him and I would train him to deal with his state.
    There are people around who perceive and feel and know, and live a very fine brand of love. Appreciation of such people often exceeds the realm of group think. It is easy for them to feel lonesome or not understood. Some are quite desperate after a while. I feel that people who care about others that much, really deserve to be helped. Be prepared for that the next time you meet one.

  13. Marty & other scientologist, I am currently learning about your actually faith, a journey I started months ago when I discovered this page. It’s here that I learned that there may be more to your faith then what your (former) ‘church’ presents to the common person. ‘Scientology & scientologists’ as I find here is dissimilar to what I saw from your former leader & his organization. I am not planning to become a scientologist, however I suspect by the way people talk here, their are some valuable tools inherent in your faith. Please take the time to read this & let me know what you think about it from the perspective of Scientology & as an independent scientologist.
    Thank you

    This is one of those articles that can send your mind to several different places. First, you have a very intriguing painting, so seemingly simple, you try to decode the possible symbolism within it. However, as with any piece of art, whether it be a painting, poem or a song, your own experiences & thoughts creep into, if not guide your attempts to understand it. Your life, as it has been up until that moment is the lens you see everything through, so to attempt to get into Van Gogh mind is to start from you own.
    As you start to hear the story of the boots, you then start to adapt your interpretation to what you read, incorporating the new information as it presents itself.
    In the end, (if your like me) you have your original interpretation, formed before reading the article & the interpretation you developed as you read the story of Van Gogh & the boots. The latter evolved from the former, yet because of the knowledge obtained, it’s been altered considerably from your independent or personal interpretation.
    The thought or question I have is which interpretation I prefer. My initial view of the painting was based on how the image spoke to me & my life. I, consciously &/or unconsciously made it meaningful to me because my life was the lens through which I perceived it.
    It’s much like hearing a new song that really speaks to you for some reason. Maybe it reminds you of someone &/or something, perhaps it evokes certain feelings or reminds you of an special time in your life. Eventually however, you hear the actual meaning of the song from the artist’s perspective & it’s very different from your own. You may have a clearer, more accurate understanding of the song, however knowing this new information might not enhance the beauty of the song for you. In fact, in some circumstances knowing the story behind the song can detract from it’s beauty, because it’s beauty party came from the original meaning you attached to it.
    That’s the real magic behind art, whether it be a painting, poem or a song, our life experiences can inhance the beauty of the piece. Our personal interpretation can take something as benign as a painting of old boots & make it something into a piece of art that really speaks to us.
    To one person this painting may simply represent ‘a painting of old shoes by a very skilled artist’. The beauty lies in the technique of replicating the imagine with paint. To another person, it’s just a picture of boots that gets a lot of attention & hype simply because it’s a ‘Van Gogh’. To me however, it’s a really powerful & beautiful painting because, despite it’s simplicity or maybe because of it’s simplicity, it still evokes a lot of thought in me. It’s the meaning I’ve attached to it that really makes it powerful & beautiful. In this way, the beauty of the art comes from both the artist & the person viewing his work. It’s the collaboration of the two, who often never met that will determine it’s beauty & impact.
    This is a perfect example that it’s often the meaning we apply to the things & even people around us that makes them what they are. In this way, LRH’s comment (at least one that’s been attributed to him ), “what’s true for you, is what’s true for you” speaks true to me (and I am not even a scientologist). The meaning you attach to art, experiences, people &/or places is their true meaning to you. In this way, by giving things their meanings, we decide what’s beautiful and who or what is truly important in life.
    Thanks for reading,

    • Hi Dwayne,

      I like your interpretation of what this painting means to you because Art, as the quality of communication, is subjective by nature despite being manifestly objective in expression. That you identified the fact that the beauty of the art is derived not only from the artist and the artwork itself, but by the person viewing the artwork as well is exactly correct. The admiration flowed toward the artist and his artwork is what gives the art its value.

      Your ackowledgement of Art as a holonic subsystem of the larger entity that is evident in the fact that artistic expression even exists validates the spiritual nature of man. Man as a spiritual being creates the world and life that he sees – not the other way around.

      • Thanks for reading & replying Scott, I know that my response probably wasn’t what Marty had in mind, but it’s what stood out to me when I started to read the article. I’m trying to explore Scientology as a religious philosophy, as well as a tool to use to help me help others. I work with a lot of ‘at risk’ youths & after reading this blog, I realized that Scientology, as it is practiced here by all of you, may have some tools inherent in it that may add to the tools I’ve already employ. As a student of philosophy (in university), I tend to use philosophic principles to help the teens I work with. The kids I see are good people, many of them are very intelligent, yet they haven’t been given the tools to handle the realities of their life, which are often very difficult lives. The more tools I can give them, the better they will be equipped to handle their lives & reach their potential.
        What I am asking some of you guys is to help me learned about Scientology & help me know if I am understanding & applying it correctly. The last thing I want is to walk away thinking I got it, yet learn latter I was either mistaken or missed the really valuable tools inherent in it. As I’ve said before, I was lucky in the sense I found this page as I found little useful information before this. It wasn’t until I started looking at this page that i realized Scientology as practiced/preached by the “church” & it’s leaders wasn’t really Scientology. All the ‘BS’ & negativity overshadowed any positive qualities. I remember thinking, ‘how can a faith that does all these horrible things to it’s members offer anything actually useful”.
        Anyway thank you again, any help I can get is greatly appreciated. Again, I need to know that I am really understanding your faith, both out of respect to it & all of you.

        • Hi Dwayne,

          I have a friend who got her doctorate in Psychology under Viktor Frankl and has been a practicing Buddhist for nearly 40 years. She told me that as she was progressing through her studies in college that she read a number of LRH’s books and that they helped her understand and identify what was valuable in her other studies.

          When I asked her of what her opinion of LRH was, she said, “Oh he was absolutely brilliant”. I then said, “Would you consider him among the great thinkers in history?” She responded, “Absolutely. And he would certainly rank up there among the great prophets as well.”

          The Scientology Auditor that I go to now obtained a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy before becoming a Scientologist. So I would certainly recommend studying L. Ron Hubbard’s works as a part of your other studies.

          As a final note, many Scientologists do not define Scientology as a faith because it does not require unknowing belief as part of it’s tenets. It is, however a religion in that it is a spiritual betterment activity. If you study it further, you will see what I mean.


        • Dwayne,

          I would suggest you get the book Self Analysis and get to know it well. I think it will stimulate your mind a lot and you will get many ideas for helping those kids as a result.

          It’s available for little cost through Amazon and Ebay.

  14. What I got from the article is that it’s possible to read a lot of inference into a very small amount of data. It’s possible to selectively observe enough evidence to convince yourself that something is “THE truth,” when in fact it has little or no basis in reality.

  15. 2 front of boots with a light behind them seem to be done in oils.
    I Love the data series/serious.
    My couch would have flunked me – fine.

    But what is true is what’s true for me.
    (OKed by Ron)

    On the rim of the world. Thx all (even the recent de-friends on FB) I did scroll thru my ‘friends’ and didn’t see anything/one missing :)
    – It’s OK. Make it easy on yourself. Pull out the ‘Code of Honor’. And a good dictionary and study this afternoon.
    [instead of finding my friends and kids and attacking me. Won't work. I'm solid as a rock - you are wasting your time (may as well sit and rest your bones on the dock of the bay)]

  16. Richard Lloyd-Roberts

    There are many ways to interpret art. I used to paint and display art in Los Angeles. Like Bob Grant, I was asked many times what my art meant. There was never a meaning for me. It was creativity, the effect, how it inspired people.

    I think this post does two things. Marty you are getting people to think for themselves. This post is creativity because you as a writing artist are saying, “take a look, what do you think is there”, what does it all mean?”
    You are getting people to think for themselves. I admire that.

    If I were to add my own personal interpretation of the painting as it might apply to this group as a symbol I would say it says this.

    “Look at us, we are like a pair of old boots, we have come a long way, been used to the fullest extent and now being worn out and no longer useful, discarded and set aside. However we are still a pair of boots, we are still together like old friends who have experienced a long road together. Yes we are a little rag tag and tatty, but we are still of use. We can protect people from harm, like boots we will stop you stubbing your toe. Protect your “sole (soul)” from dangers like nails in the road. We can still do our job despite being well worn and like the artist that created this image we have our story to tell. You will find many meanings when you look at us, you will think “well what does all this mean?” Why are these people over here like a pair of old boots. An in the end it will mean to you what you believe it means. We are free old boots, we think for ourselves now, We don’t need someone to walk us along the road of life. You may join us, we don’t judge where you have walked as we have been judged ourselves and we didn’t like it. We will polish up well and be repaired one day. In the mean time you can still use us to kick some DM butt for now we are independent boots!

  17. This Nancy Sinatra song says it all to DM. Listen to the words.

  18. Great art evokes; that is why it is great.

  19. Gerhard Waterkamp

    I am German born and raised, so I have an excuse to be simple, cut and dry.
    To me this picture symbolizes the beauty of a completed cycle. Obviously somebody walked in these boots for some time. The way the boots are worn out and left placed in an empty space indicates it was a long journey that is now ended.
    We are looking at the material witnesses of that journey.
    If I would put this in the context of this forum, the journey finished would be the participation in the COS. Those boots have us no longer walk in them. While sad in one aspect the beauty is we are done with it, end of cycle of that journey, which opens the door to new things, maybe a journey where we use the Scientology technology to truly help each other.

  20. To me it sings a song, a song of experience, a road well traveled. All in one simple but brilliant painting of a pair of shoes. But now I’m going all William Blake on you.

    The Clod & the Pebble (From Songs of Experience)

    Love seeketh not Itself to please,
    Nor for itself hath any care;
    But for another gives its ease,
    And builds a Heaven in Hells despair.

    So sang a little Clod of Clay,
    Trodden with the cattles feet:
    But a Pebble of the brook,
    Warbled out these metres meet.

    Love seeketh only Self to please,
    To bind another to Its delight:
    Joys in anothers loss of ease,
    And builds a Hell in Heavens despite.

  21. I thought Ken Wilber was difficult to understand until I realized he never forgot a single word or concept from any book of philosophy he ever read and he uses those words and concepts to explain some of his own newly coined words and concepts…(so to understand Wilber I needed to keep looking up words over and over because I have no such photographic memory). Anyway, Nietzsche and then Heidegger thought art higher than truth so Heidegger’s poetic interpretation contributed another aesthetic piece on top of Vincent’s magnificent painting…. in so doing, bringing us all up a little higher.. even Wilber’s interpretation of Gauguin’s story contributes to Vincent’s masterful work of art.

  22. I’ve been dwelling all day in these shoes, and the paintings of Van Gogh in Impartial English Girl comment/link above and I suddenly saw “The Mindfulness of Breading”.



  23. One last thought regards this painting (and anyone with a military background will appreciate this):

    Take care of your feet!

  24. Speaking of boots, perhaps some here would wish to lend a hand to sending a petition with 1,000,000 signatures to the government in India to support programs to end violence against women throughout the world, starting in India. The signatures need to be raised within the next 24 hours.


  25. New corporate Scientology slogan:

    We would be doing great if so many people didn’t hate us.

  26. This is an astounding story – there is nothing I can say that won’t take up a full-blown essay. Thanks for this post, Marty.


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