Ling wu Chang zi xian.
The spirit's being, long in calm
Jia shen bu bing.
The false body won't become sick.
Qing jing zi ran.
Clear and quiet and according with nature
Xing ting, zhu ming.
Consciousness stands still and life rests within it.
This section from Bao Yi San Feng Lao Ren Dan Jue is a commentary on the reasons why people who meditate should be careful not to allow their minds to wander away from attention on the meditation state. It clearly illustrates some of the complex connections between the mind and the energy, essence, and spirit of the body. I have added my own comments about related concepts in meditation in hopes that it will illustrate how you can avoid falling victim to a confused and scattered mind, and how best to maintain your energy and spirit within your body, rather than allowing it to leak.
The essence not scattered means the spirit will not leave:
in Daoist thinking, the essence of the body can leak out through various functions of the senses. These senses are called the “six roots” and refer to the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the nose, the body, and the intention.
If the eyes stare too long, essence will be leaked through them and the masculine aspect of the spirit will be depleted. If the nose smells nice or foul things, the feminine aspect of the spirit will become startled and aroused or repulsed, making the mind unstable. If the ears are drawn to or shocked by sound, the essence of the kidneys and genitals will be disturbed and leak more easily, making the body weak. If the body is always in movement, the Qi will become tired. If the intention is not reined in, the spirit will become diffuse, jumping around with the intention.
If you can control the functions of the six roots, you can maintain the spirit and essence within your own body. If you can remain quiet and focused on maintaining the essence and spirit within the body, then neither of them will separate and run away from you.
the mind must not be used, the intention must not move:
If you want to maintain the spirit and essence in the body so they don’t leak, you need to stop thinking and you need to stop letting your attention wander.
using the mind will move the intention, the intention moving will make the spirit change:
If you think or react to emotions too much, your mind will start to wander, and if your mind wanders, then your consciousness will not be able to be maintained in a clear and pure state. much of Daoist practice is about learning to stop the racing thoughts and jumping attention so that the spirit becomes clear and open. Only when you can stop the mind can the spirit reveal itself to you, otherwise you will stay bogged down in mundane affairs and not even know that the spirit is concealed.
the spirit changing will scatter the Qi, the Qi scattered will cause the spirit to be forgotten:
When the spirit is unclear, then the energy of the becomes diffuse and will leak naturally out of the body. This is the normal way of life but it is not preferable. If the energy leaks out of the body, you will lose your connection to the spirit. For anyone who wants to meditate, it is important to notice times of mental distraction and excitement and calm yourself down. If you wish to maintain a connection to the mind illuminated (the spirit), then you should maintain a firm foundation in quiet and calm, don’t allow your mind to jump up in excitement unless it is really important to do so, and don’t put yourself in situations where you will be startled or drawn into sensual comforts.
Learning not to enter these situations is a big stage in mastering the quiet and contemplative lifestyle of someone who gains the benefits of meditation.
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Robert J Coons
When we take up studies of any kind, we are presented with several sets of problems associated with the act of learning. One big problem is confusion about the nature of the thing we are studying. For instance, when studying meditation or Qi gong, you might not have a very good idea about what the goals of the study are or what to expect and how to practice in such a way that something good happens.
This type of problem is related to theoretical knowledge and it is very important to have some sort of coherent set of understandings of the basic goals and practices of the study before setting out to gain the benefits of it.
If you start out without a clear idea of the basic principle of the study, then it is very easy to imagine that you are meant to do things and obtain results that are either not part of the study or are not relevant to your current level of practice.
This is a really big problem in meditation, since people who meditate are often trying to obtain some sort of special state of consciousness such as enlightenment or mystical communion.
Neither enlightenment or mystical communion are bad things, but they are also pretty vague concepts, so a total beginner in meditation doesn’t have any context by which to understand those ideas or how they are experienced.
This can lead to a lot of navel gazing, or worse yet, superstitious belief.
It is far better to understand what the most basic elements of the art are before aiming at the highest achievements it has to offer.
Hu Haiya said “there was no immortal that didn’t read books,” and that “you should read books, learn what is true and false, and then come back and study meditation,” I think both of these are really important concepts.
High achievement isn’t predicated on jumping to the highest level in one day, it is predicated on having a very high level of understanding of each individual level of the practice. If you master the basics, then you will learn the intermediate level more completely. If you master the intermediate level, you can learn the advanced level faster and so on and so on.
On the other hand, if you start out wanting to meet with angels and Gods, you will probably actually invite a demon in to disturb your mind (superstition and confusion are two of the biggest demons that plague the spiritual community).
So we know that it is important to be clear about what the basic concepts of your art are, but there is another problem.
Many people who themselves have fairly mediocre understandings of meditation try to explain what little they know with various intellectual models of their own. These models really run the gamut all the way from pseudo-science to mysticism, to new age, to misquoting and misinterpreting the classics, to everything in between. Most of these people are simply grappling with their understanding of very subtle and hard to understand principles, and most of them are nice people, but they still pose a threat to new students who are easily influenced and often take up the false ideas of these confused people as their own.
The fact of the matter is that we don’t yet have a completely accurate scientific understanding of how all forms of meditation work, and we certainly don’t have a scientific method of practice which has been shown to produce results better than traditional practices. When people try to explain meditation with concepts such as Quantum Physics, you should be very careful to ask yourself whether that person is even qualified to be talking about Quantum Physics, or meditation?
In one debate between an Atheist and a popular New Age Meditation Guru who claims that Quantum Physics give us direct insight into the existence of God, it was shown quite clearly by a Physicist in the audience that the Guru in question was terribly confused about his own analysis of the field.
Just because someone has an eloquent and right sounding explanation doesn’t mean that what they are teaching is right or even beneficial. Using falsehood to teach meditation is a very ethically dubious issue and we all need to give this serious consideration so we will know what to do when we encounter such people.
Other people might try to use comments from the classics in order to further their own social, spiritual, or political opinions, but again, we need to be very careful to ascertain whether this person really understands the classics or not, and whether what they are saying has any real connection to the eternal truths discussed in those documents, or whether they are just trying to win people over to their side of a debate.
Many people use quotes from Laozi and Zhuangzi to support their Hedonistic sense of Nihilism and “Do what feels good” cultural attitudes, but when we look deeply at what Laozi and Zhuangzi were actually saying, we find that both of these writers were very against unbridled self gratification.
Still yet, some people who look very reputable, such as some popular Daoist scholars often make vast political statements while using Daoist quotes to promote their own world view. If these people really understand the universal aspect of the classics, it is really a pity that they desecrate their sanctity by twisting their meaning around their own biased and often greedy world views.
The really important thing is that we actually try to take the classics at their own value and don’t try to adjust them into meaning what we want them to mean. It is not only valuable but actually very important to compare classical documents against one another, although typically it is better to do it within the control set of using documents from one major school first and then once you have mastered the concepts of that school, comparing them to others. For instance, someone who is interested in Confucianism might compare Confucius with Mencius and then later go on to read the works of the Neo Confucian scholars. After understanding those works,they might compare Confucianism to Daoism and Buddhism, and then finally perhaps compare these topics to ideas that come from outside of the Ancient Chinese philosophical realm. This type of detail oriented and well organized research is the real way to learn about comparative religions, but it takes considerable time and effort and cannot be adapted into a simple little formula where we put things together in a hodgepodge fashion and construct our own unique sets of beliefs. Beliefs are not useful if they are not based on some kind of substantial understanding of the purpose that the belief serves.
Someone who studies Christianity and understands that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the divine Logos of God stands a much better chance of understanding the fundamental reasons why Christianity and the Old Testament are communicated in the form of symbolic legends about how societies were built and destroyed based on the honest or dishonest words and actions of people. Likewise, someone who understands that return to and emergence from primordial chaos is the root concept of Daoism can much more easily come to understand the lessons contained in the 5000 sutras of the Daoist Canon.
Understanding core principles is really the best way to undertake any study and it serves us much better to put in the serious effort to understand them. Even if this is not as romantic as believing that Laozi will come to you on a cloud and take you away to the heavens, it will ultimately have much better and more tangible results.
He who wishes to cultivate the Dao
must first abandon all activities.
throw away all outside tasks.
the disobedient heart is met with nothingness
after this, sit silently,
look inside at your mind arising,
if even one feeling of a thought jumps up
pluck it out and extinguishing it is the work of commanding quietude.
In a recent discussion between the popular Atheist Sam Harris and Canadian Psychology professor Jordan Peterson, the topic of how we define truth came to the fore of the conversation and remained as a point of contentious debate for most of the length of the podcast.
Ultimately, Harris and Peterson have views of truth which are in opposition with one another and the debate centred around Harris attempting to illustrate to Peterson why a Realist interpretation of facts should be categorized as the truth, rather than Peterson’s assertion that truth emerging from a Darwinian perspective should be interpreted as a pragmatic value by which we ascribe a sense of value to truth, rather than treating it merely as some assertion of things which are factual.
Harris was frustrated by Peterson’s refusal to agree to truth as something which must be nestled in fact, rather than Personson’s concept that fact is in fact nestled within broader truth.
This conversation is very important because it reflects two divergent ways in which western intellectuals think about truth. The way that Harris discusses truth is based on a realist and modernist sensibility that truth can be measured and known, and is essentially the current hegemonic conception of truth prevalent within the science community. This way of thinking asserts that if something can be measured, it can be known, therefore that which is known to be of a certain quality can be said to be true.
Peterson oscillates between a religious or mythological conception of truth which is that which is the origin of good, and a somewhat more post modernist idea of truth as a construct of society and something that is predicated on moral agreements between people, as well as with our own ability to judge the qualities of objects and events with values, rather than merely through a set of facts.
It is important to point out that both Harris and Peterson believe in values, especially in the ethical and moral realm, but that Peterson weights truth as being accordant with value, while Harris believes that there are truths which are essential and intrinsic and thus have no essential value other than that which is ascribed to them (although they have no essential value, they remain true because they exist and can be verified to exist).
This conversation is an important one to have because to current hegemonic materialist view of truth which Harris puts forward is in many ways simply an example of a successful philosophy which has permeated science, but it has the flaw of not giving us any special understanding of what types of ethics we ought to use to govern our society. This means that the realm of science and other pursuits can run a risk of being abused by immoral people or even just by a lack of consideration about risks inherent in learning certain sets of facts (A.I. and the synthesis of Ebola are two things that come to mind).
The problem throughout the entire debate is that Harris is perplexed by what he sees as a needlessly convoluted view of truth that eschews facts in favour of moral considerations of value, so although his basic premise is challenged on a fundamental level, it remains difficult for him to engage with the concept on its own merit and he continually moves back to a point of “micro-examples” in order to verify that there are indeed facts and that facts in his summation should constitute truth.
What I would like to hopefully add to this conversation is that truth as a term can be understood in different fashions in order to achieve different goals. Truth can both be a recognition of things which may be observed and established as existing and having the functions that are native to them, but it can also be used as a way to discuss value and how people should engage with the world. Further to this, there is another type of truth, which neither discuss and which should be brought into the lime light in order to add to the scope of this debate. That truth is anything which is intrinsically real and fixed. This problem of that which is intrinsically real and fixed is something which is impossible to define, since all things within our perception, whether real or not, are not fixed. For instance, the computer I am writing on is sitting on a table which is standing on the floor of a house. Each of these items is real in a physical sense as well as being aspects of human technological development that came about as a result of agreements on certain types of values and also operate based on complex systems in physical and temporal reality which can be speculated about and measured, so in that sense, each of those things is real. Conversely, each of these things exists within a limited time and space and are not fixed in any definite way, at least in the sense of a sense of time which is based on linear development. The computer, the table, and the house will all eventually be transformed into some other object, most likely garbage, or perhaps they will be recycled and processed into different items entirely. What is sure is that the basic existence and use of these items is that they only exist and serve their function within an extremely limited capacity of the time and space in which they are utilitarian, and even if it were the case that the computer were to stay in this place for 1000 years, if there were no person here to use it, then its utility would case to be that of a computer, even though perhaps its function would remain intact during that time.
What I am suggesting is that a physical truth of measurable facts is temporally predicated and definite, meaning that the quality of such a truth is also something which will decay in the same way that the physical artifact does so itself.
A truth based on a moral value or similar assertion is also something which is contained within the temporal realm, although perhaps on a longer chronological scale, since these types of truths have existed for much longer than our ability to measure the qualities of physical reality.
This means that outside of these two temporally contingent truths, which exist in changing and complex systems, we are left with only one other possible type of truth, which is one that cannot be accurately measured or discussed in any way that gives it a value.
This truth is what Carl Jung called the Pleroma and it is a universal, or perhaps something even beyond universal nature of reality which is not distinguished and cannot be fathomed.
Jung suggested that the Pleroma is something which cannot be accessed by Creatura, or the created being (IE: humans) because created being is distinct and as such, in the sense that he is distinct, is outside of the Pleroma which is indistinct.
At the same time, Creatura exists as the entire Pleroma, since nothing can exist outside of it.
This problem, which is discussed in complexity by Jung is treated as the essential assumption of the philosophical aspect of Daoist thought, and it is the thing which all imagery in Daoism bend back toward.
This intrinsic truth of the Pleroma, or the Dao is that aspect of creation which encompasses and contains everything existing and non existing and yet is not any of those things, and it is not knowable. because of its indistinct magnitude, we can only understand it by the traces of itself that it leaves behind in material objects, time, events, and other experienced aspects of reality.
If we take this intrinsic nature of nature as something which is true, but beyond our ability to accurately define, we can see how the truth of that which can be accurately measured as part of the physical operations of reality and the truth of that which can be said to have a value which is not entirely predicated on physical nature both emerge from the undefined nature of nature which pervades and incubates all things without itself being quantified.
In order to illustrate this point, I would like to end this post with the first chapter of the Dao De Jing, which I feel provides an accurate solution to these variant problems of truth:
“The way which may be called the way is not the eternal way,
the name which may be named is not the eternal name.
Without a name it was at the beginning of heaven and earth,
with a name, it was called the mother of the myriad phenomena.
Eternally without desire, observe its wonderful.
Eternally with desire, observe its borders.
These two things are conceived as being different,
but emerge from the same place.
Together their meaning is vague,
vague upon vague,
and the gateway to all wonders.”
I believe that this passage accurately reflects the tension between truths which may be treated as intrinsically related to meaning values and truths which may be fundamentally observed as qualitative. Neither is more true than the other, although it can be argued that qualitative values may be easier to observe than meaning values, they are equally apt to change, especially as we expand our understanding of those values. Meaning values attempt to help us give context to material values and as such serve as a means by which to navigate reality in such a way that we are able to differentiate good from bad. The mere existence of facts does not presuppose truth and the mere existence of meaning does not presuppose truth. Truth is predicated upon both fact and meaning in order to express itself in a way that we can understand. Both fact truth and meaning truth exist as part of the foundation of the complex system of the fabric of our experienced reality and try to help us illustrate the nature of the truth of that reality which is intrinsic and mysterious to us.
Link to the debate below:
Anyone who makes a cursory survey of the classical documents surrounding Nei Dan meditation in the Daoist Canon will quickly come to discover that the actual mechanics of meditation are not very complicated, but there is an absolute wealth of knowledge about how to correctly cultivate and gain the beneficial effects of meditation.
Why is this?
Although the mechanics of Nei Dan are not complicated, learning to affect the correct type of attention and how to control it is key to the early stages of practice.
Beyond this, learning how to interpret the physical manifestations of practice and what they mean is very important.
For instance, Someone who is new to meditation might begin to feel the sensation of their body disappearing into infinite space, and if they did not have any frame of reference for this, might become nervous and afraid and thus not gain the full benefit of the free movement of energy and consciousness in the body.
As another example, many modern writers of Qi Gong in the west have misinterpreted Daoist ideas such as the movement of energy along the orbit running up the spine and down the front of the torso as being something which should be moved with the intention. Classical Nei Dan theory views this type of intentional orbit as superficial and incorrect to the development of a strong and robust energy body with a full reservoir of energy accumulated in the lower Dan Tian.
If it were simply the case, that meditation classics discussed the movement of energy and not the reasons why energy accumulates or how non intention interacts with the spontaneous movement of energy, then it would be even more common for charlatans to gain the popular imagination by offering simple and quick approaches, to what is otherwise a long and involved study.
Nei Dan theory is also complicated because it has developed over multiple generations and at least six major dynasties and into the modern era. This means that the gradual accumulation of collected knowledge on the subject has allowed Nei Dan to proliferate as something much more profound and complex than its humble roots as “Embryonic breathing.”
This extra complexity isn’t added purely for intellectual effect, it was added because over time, people who practiced Nei Dan began to have the diagnostic tools by which they could more accurately record their experiences and pass them along to future generations, in order that their practices might be better organized than those of past generations of Nei Dan practitioners.
The Nei Dan school has one of the richest collection of documents on the theory and philosophy of meditation available in any tradition and the practices of Nei Dan have been very well preserved by each subsequent generation in the passing down of traditional texts and the creation of new ones, each serving to meet the needs of the next generation of practitioners, who would gain the immense benefit that meditation has to offer to body, spirit, and mind.
This post is an attempt to contextualize a section of Carl Jung’s Seven Sermons to the Dead in terms of Daoist thought. Seven Sermons is a profound spiritual and psychological treatise written by Jung in the 20th century and draws on mystical spiritual tradition in order to create the conclusion that the true answers of the spirit and eternity are contained within a complex natural network of primordial powers that are beyond our direct understanding and control, but that by giving them context, we may free our selves significantly of their potential destructive powers. Daoism also views the primordial as grand and beyond the scope of human control, but follows a path back to it and resting in it finds that the primordial is the chaos of creation, which ignites the spirit and is the salvation from the world of gradual death and decay. These two ideas converge and diverge and surely in order to accurately represent the relationship between the two, it would take many years of research and consideration, so this essay and ones to follow which also touch on this subject, should be seen as partial and simply a collection of thoughts which attempt to create a mosaic of meaning and divergence of meaning in order that we can come to better understand and use both perspectives to aid us in the gradual task of becoming embodied consciousness, rather than being drawn into confusion and death.
This is my commentary on the first two paragraphs of Jung’s document:
“The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not what they sought. They prayed me let them in and besought my word, and thus I began my teaching.”
Jung himself referred to the concept of the dead is anything which remained unresolved, unanswered, or unredeemed. In the sense of things that are unresolved, we can say that the dead can be considered as a factor of confusion of meaning for which we are still seeking an answer. Daoism works on the assumption that the most important answer, the unifying answer is not available to us in any intelligible form, but rather is only revealed to us by moving away from what Jung would have described as the “thought desire,” and what Daoists would have referred to as “personal motive.” In Daoism, personal motive leads to peril, since it always finds itself in opposition to the motive of nature, which is grand and all encompassing, thus, when our own goals are in conflict with nature, we are set on the path of destruction. The Dead in this case, are thus those who are still seeking an answer for the question of spirit in eternity. They are dead not because the corporeal form is dead, but rather they are made dead by their motivation being unsatiated by correct understanding. This particular place in Jung’s thinking cleaves a very sensitive line if compared with Daoist thought, since in the context of Daoism, the correct knowledge is not the knowledge which tangibly placates our curiosity, but rather the knowing of what is intrinsic and essential to the very being of nature, which is also our true being. This is further elucidated by Jung later in the essay.
“Harken: I begin with nothingness. Nothingness is the same as fullness. In infinity full is no better than empty. Nothingness is both empty and full. As well might ye say anything else of nothingness, as for instance, white is it, or black, or again, it is not, or it is. A thing that is infinite and eternal hath no qualities, since it hath all qualities.”
Nothingness as fullness and vice versa are comparable to the Daoist concept that emptiness is the root of something and something is the origin of what is empty, but that both empty and full are contained within the void of the Dao. Neither emptiness or fullness can possibly exist if they are not simultaneously accompanied by the other.
When Jung refers to nothing, it is the same as referring to “Wuji” the state of no polarity, and when he refers to having no qualities and all qualities simultaneously, he is referring to “Da Dao” the great way, which simultaneously contains all qualities and yet is not defined by any quality.
“This nothingness or fullness we name the PLEROMA. Therein both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and infinite possess no qualities. In it no being is, for he then would be distinct from the pleroma, and would possess qualities which would distinguish him as something distinct from the pleroma.”
This passage is comparable to the concept that the Dao has no individual being, so no being may have a nature which is distinct from anything, nothing, or all things, and be considered as being in the Dao. The being who becomes one with the Dao is the being who ceases having distinct characteristics from the world. Laozi said “the king who treats the country as his own body may hold the country in the palm of his hand,” and likewise, “Because I have a body, I am in great peril, but if I were to have no body, what peril could befall it?” The Dao and the pleroma have no body, so any aspect of the pleroma manifested as individual has already become distinct from it, and yet as we are bound to see, it also is the pleroma, since the pleroma encompasses all things. Our bodies are not part of the Dao, they are the Dao, even though as distinct, they leave the Dao. This is one of the great paradoxical mysteries of Daoism, as well as Jungian thought.
“In the pleroma there is nothing and everything. It is quite fruitless to think about the pleroma, for this would mean self-dissolution.”
Daoists also believed that it was useless to direct thoughts to the Dao, but instead, that is was possible to cultivate the Dao in silence. Where Jung sees self-dissolution as a negative act, Daoism views it as an ultimately positive act. The self is what stops us from being in harmony with nature, which is the create force behind all things.
“CREATURA is not in the pleroma, but in itself. The pleroma is both beginning and end of created beings. It pervadeth them, as the light of the sun everywhere pervadeth the air. Although the pleroma pervadeth altogether, yet hath created being no share thereof, just as a wholly transparent body becometh neither light nor dark through the light which pervadeth it. We are, however, the pleroma itself, for we are a part of the eternal and infinite. But we have no share thereof, as we are from the pleroma infinitely removed; not spiritually or temporally, but essentially, since we are distinguished from the pleroma in our essence as creatura, which is confined within time and space.”
Creatura in a sense refers to the same thing as the myriad beings. One point of conflict between Jung’s thought and Daoism is that Daoism introduces the concept of a system of nature by which beings may be in harmony and another system by which beings may be destroyed, with harmony as the entry point to the creative, which is close to the Dao. Jung also cites similar ideas later in the text, and it is perhaps fair to say that Jung’s degree of concept organization was not as total as the early Daoists, since he was essentially setting down a theoretical more than natural concept, whereas Daoism’s concept is natural more than theoretical, and thus, its communication is more consistent and total than that of Jung.
Daoists would have also disagreed that we are essentially removed from the pleroma, and instead posited that we may be brought back to the Dao through the observance of simplicity and our own basic nature. Our own basic nature is already of the Dao, and so that distinctness which puts us in conflict with the Dao is unneeded and can be altered simply by returning to non division.
This is a very important central difference between Jung’s thought and Daoist thought, because Jung’s thought pits us against meaning, metaphor, vision, and concept in order to help us grow into beings who are in ownership of themselves, whereas Daoism, at least in the forms which encourage return to the Dao, use negation of personal desires, silence, stillness, emptiness, and non duality as means by which to ignite that in our soul which may be returned to the Dao. In doing so, each school sees salvation as entirely different concepts. To Jung, salvation is in redemption from being “The Dead” incessantly searching for meaning through the confusion of ignorance and the division of the infinite into shattered images of reality which cannot be holistically totalized into one continuous being unseparated. The salvation of the dead is to put these questions to rest and occupy the higher place of a self who has realized what is intrinsic to him or her.
Daoism also seeks to shed death through the discovery of the intrinsic, but the intrinsic in Daoism is the same for all beings, it is the one constant which cannot be defined, touched, or felt, and yet is as palpable to all of us as consciousness itself. So the process of realizing in Daoism does not require abstraction of meaning, but rather an acceptance of the simplification of being to its fundamental root, which does not seek to construct, and is always created by nature itself.
This is where I’m going to leave this exploration, but I will catch up with it in later posts and go through each of the sermons of the Dead, contextualizing them according to my understanding of the central tenets of Daoist thought.
“heaven and earth is not humane, because the myriad creatures are grass dogs,
the sage is not humane, because the common people are grass dogs,
the space of heaven and earth is like a bellowed flute,
void and it doesn’t bend,
moving and it only increases,
speaking too much is poverty,
it is not as good as protecting the centre.”
There are many ways to interpret that Dao De Jing and it is a brilliant work whose meaning and symbolism is difficult to fathom and exhaust, and yet there is a threat winding through it that seems to people to be true, and yet what is true about it is equally open to interpretation as its five thousand characters are.
I wish to take up a moral approach to chapter five of the Dao De Jing as an exercise. I am not dedicated to my interpretation being correct, but rather my interpretation is trying to dig at some aspect of what I find to be true about the passage. The exercise is not meant to define what the author meant when he wrote the chapter, but rather to illustrate one of the many essential meanings the chapter has to me.
I will use ideas from Karl Jung’s Seven Sermons for the Dead, as well as concepts from the Canadian Psychologist Jordan Peterson, and American Art Professor, Camille Paglia, although these ideas will express themselves in symbolism, rather than direct quotation, and so there will be no foot notes included.
Dao De Jing Chapter Five Interpretation Exercise by Robert James Coons:
This chapter discusses the peril of believing in our own ability to teach the truth to others. We can easily fall into the trap of perceiving our own moral beliefs to be a terminal point of an ultimate truth. Regardless of whether this conviction is something we hold as external to our core being, such as a belief in a Deity, or ethical consideration, or something as fundamental as the basic nature of our own consciousness, we are only able to understand that of it which we know, and we do not know, and often do not know of the many dark aspects of it which are hidden from our view.
Because Laozi places the sage as someone who has merged with nature and thus does the most good, simply by doing what nature does naturally, then the sage and nature have no desire to treat other beings in a humane and compassionate manner, because other beings are not even separate from the pleroma, as the pleroma contains nothingness and everything, and is both the smallest and largest part of all things existing and not.
We are left with a problem though, which is that in our action or inaction, there is some consequence, and that nature itself does not change, although anything which is affected in nature changes endlessly and magnifies in stature beyond the original movement that triggers its change.
Since there is no remedy for chaotic change, and because the abyss is always closer at hand than we perceive it to be, all we can do is decide a course and try to maintain it.
If we speak or act, we will always be the recipient of the effect of our action, whether it is good or bad, it will always in some way return to us.
So we thus protect the centre and do not deviate from it.
But what is the centre?
The centre is anything which is true, and so whether the centre is the emptiness of the void, or whether it is holding to a path of moderation and not divesting ourselves of lavish expressions of indulgence, it is still the centre.
There is another centre, which is the centre from which we speak the truth and do true things, but we must know that nothing is inherently true, but rather, the truth is something which is as close to what is real as we can possibly fathom.
So in speaking, we must be fully aware of the potential of our words to have an effect, both good and bad, and recognize that at their root, all binary concepts are singular, so when we speak, we must be careful not to divide too narrowly into our conviction of a belief which we cannot even ultimately define to be truth!
Protecting the centre is knowing what is enough, what is not enough, and what is too much, and not affecting our wishes on others, because what we perceive to be humane and in their best interests are actually our own thoughts of desire to gain something by controlling the course of their reality, which can only yield dire consequences.
When people start to learn meditation, it is important to recognize the individual phases of practice and how to get the best result from them.
Huo zi shi is a concept used especially often by Huang yuanji which refers to the time when the latent energy of the water trigram first springs to life.
“Zi Shi” in traditional Chinese time means the two hour period between 11 PM and 1 AM and is symbolized by the water element and the rise of the moon. Usually in meditation practice, it is considered one of the best time to practice, because the energy of the moon can help bring out the energy of the body more abundantly. I also suspect it is related to the circadian rhythm and the body being better at going into a deep meditation state at that time, since usually people will rest around this time of night.
Daoists used the term “zi shi” to describe the time when the inner yang line appears inside of the kun trigram, changing it to Kan, or water. “Huo zi shi” means the time when “Zi” comes to life and it is a specific idea in meditation, especially in the middle school.
Huo Zi appears during the turbid, chaotic silence of deep meditation. It is when yin changes and yang emerges. It is the chaotic energy of the pre heaven and is the time when the pre heaven “three treasures” of yuan jing, yuan qi, and yuan shen are all mixing together. During this time, even though your mind and body are present, it seems like you have no body, and no mind. Huang Yuanji says it is like not knowing one’s home village, in other words, it is when the mind goes into the void state.
Because of entering into the void, the body begins to follow its own natural cycle and the conscious mind or “Shi shen” (the mind that looks) has been replaced by the pure mind, or “Yuan Shen” (the original mind). This theory can be very complicated, but to put it in simple terms, the “Shi shen” is polluted by emotions (Qing) and when you are in deep mediation, the emotions disappear and are replaced with clarity. Therefore, it is at this time that the mind enters into a state of pure yang energy and the body enters into pure yin energy. Li Daochun said that this is the time when the inner line from the water trigram moves to the inner line of the Li trigram, clearly changing water and fire to earth and heaven, thus propping up and making clear the separation between the pre heaven, unmixed Yin and Yang, and thus allowing the spirit to emerge as pure yang energy.
This kind of practice has many stages and it isn’t a one time thing, nor does it always manifest the same way. The easiest way to understand it is as a concept about how to swap yin for yang so that the broken yin line in your consciousness is repaired by the solid yang line of your body. This is the way that “Xing” and “ming” merge together, at least in the theory of the middle school of Nei Dan.