Is Sherlock Holmes a Zen Master?


Monica Gaylor art Sherlock Lips 221B Org Copy

Artwork: Sher Lock-lips by Monica Gaylor

  Post written by Monica Gaylor. 

Article quotes by Sherlock Holmes / Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

WARNING: This is definitely a Sherlock / Sci-fi Nerd Alert!!!  Proceed with caution.  This is a RED alert! 

Sherlock Holmes – has there been a longer running character?  Not only in his own right have TV shows and movies been made over and over for every generation and many cultures, but he and his ethos have even jumped centuries.  Sherlock’s iconic figure has inspired so many TV shows, movies, stories, and main characters that embody his unique set of qualities and flaws – singular focus, brilliant, logical mind, obsessed with self, socially inept, dogged-workaholic searching for answers, etc. – in new and exciting ways and that have been set in every imaginable time and place.  For example: Mr. Spock, Mr. Monk, and Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson – to name only a few. Can we even know how many creative people were ultimately influenced by this incredible character’s larger than life persona?  And in the real world some would argue that Sherlock / Doyle is the father of scientific crime scene investigation.

Of course, I fell in love with Spock first and Kwai Chang Caine second (both calmer and more self-actualized versions of Sherlock, admittedly), but Sherlock is an older persons crush.  A diamond in the rough.  One see’s the potential.  If only he could harness his incredible mind; he could become the greatest of Zen Masters.  He has his moments; I make my argument:

First:  He has a Mind Palace (Zen Place).  It’s almost meditation; one could even argue perhaps that it is meditation?

Of course it was originally a “Brain Attic,” but I like the BBC’s updated name for it.  It is especially suitable for the generation / time period of McMansions and lifestyle excess.  Like I said, Sherlock moves though time and so does the ethos that surrounds him.  Like most Zen Masters his “Brain Attic” is of Minimalist decor.

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands on it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.  He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.  It is a mistake to think that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.  Depend upon it – there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.  It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.” ~ A Study in Scarlet

Monica Gaylor art Mind Palace Org Copy

Artwork: Mind Palace by Monica Gaylor. 

Second: He gives much attention to detail.  Mindfulness.

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”  ~ A Case of Identity


Third: He is always questioning matters of the mind.  One could argue that Zen-dom Monks (persons) are trying to do the same thing via a different transportation method. 

“My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built.” ~ The Man with the Twisted Lip

“I cannot live without brain work.  What else is there to live for?” ~ The Sign of Four

Monica Gaylor art Man Has Brain Org Copy

Artwork: Man Has Brain by Monica Gaylor

Fourth: He searches for truth and enlightenment.  Fairly self-explanatory.

“What one man can invent another man can discover.” ~ The Adventure of the Dancing Man

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” ~ The Sign of Four


Important side note having nothing at all to do with the question at hand:  It doesn’t hurt that Mr. Spock quotes the above quote in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and in the Star Trek, 2009 reboot.  Later Sherlock Holmes goes on to quote, the same quote, as if said by Mr. Spock in the BBC’s Sherlock.  Seriously, we sci-fi geeks live for this sort of thing.  And, I think that the same thing occurred in the CBS version of Elementary?  I strongly suspect that the powers-that-be know their audience?  (See this article for a “cute” look at a conspiracy theory about how Mr. Spock may be a descendant of Sherlock or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?)

Back to the argument at hand.  Is Sherlock a Zen Master?  

My vote would be yes, but I live in an era of Pop Zen-dom and we take are Zen where ever and when ever we can find it.  

The more elementary answer is that perhaps Sherlock is like the rest of us, who constantly strive and every once in a while we find a blissful moment of satori… maybe while playing the violin… 

Monica Gaylor art One Zen Circle Blk_Wh 221B Copyright

Artwork: One Zen Circle: 221B by Monica Gaylor

I check the mail everyday for my invitation to 221B Baker Street.  It is conceivable that I shall see you there.

Live long and prosper.  Spock lives.


4 thoughts on “Is Sherlock Holmes a Zen Master?

  1. 3kids2cats1divorce May 13, 2016 / 11:20 am

    I never thought of him this way — and I’m another Sherlock Holmes fangirl. 😉

    • Monica Gaylor May 13, 2016 / 12:27 pm

      It was a tongue-in-cheek elementary thought/thing? Moe 🙂

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