Thursday, May 6, 2010

Walking in the Nameless, Part 7

WALKING IN THE NAMELESS:
A COMMENTARY ON A PASSAGE IN THE BOOK OF ZHUANGZI
by Scott Bradley

SUMMATION

Teaching
Since this ‘commentary’ has been somewhat rambling and the teachings within the passage scattered throughout, it seems appropriate to try and bring it all together in a simple abridged paraphrase.

Humanity has become estranged from its most essential nature. This is the cause of all its fears, anxieties and general sense of unfulfillment. This essential nature might be called the ‘original nature’ or the “Numinous Platform”. This original nature is the completely unknowable ‘self’ which is rooted in the unfathomable Mystery of existence. Being so rooted, its every activity spontaneously arises; it has no known ‘master’, and is especially beyond the control of the ‘deliberate mind’ of the self-identity. Being unknowable, this original nature, this ‘true self’, has no fixed-identity. It is nameless and when one is re-united with and submerged within it one must likewise be nameless. Indeed, it is the grasping after identity, the desire to ‘be someone’ as expressed in the ego-self, that is the cause of this estrangement.

It is possible, through the cultivation of one’s human experience, to realize union with this unknowable ‘self’. The actual nature of this cultivation is not entirely clear, but a certain dialectic of letting oneself experience harmony with that inner reality, on the one hand, and a harmonizing of one’s conduct with it, on the other, seems to be indicated. A process is suggested, and yet, no deliberate activity can be part of that process. As the end is spontaneity, so must be the means.

Mystery
I have made frequent use of the term “Mystery” in this ‘commentary’ and yet the word does not itself appear in the text. Mystery is at present the central theme in my own philosophy and thus its use here represents an expression of that philosophy as something derivative of the text but not necessarily a direct expression of the teaching of the text itself. As indicated in the introduction, my purpose in writing the ‘commentary’ was two-fold: to better understand the passage itself, and thereby to further grow my own philosophy. For this reason, it seems appropriate to briefly sum up how I understand Mystery in the context of this passage.

All that is is Mystery. It is enough to say that the Source of all is Mystery to understand that all that has arisen from that Source is likewise Mystery. All is Mystery. Yet, there is no Mystery at all, except at the interface of the human mind and “Reality”. It is Mystery only because it cannot be known by the cognitive mind.

Mystery is not-knowing. Not-knowing is much more than the admission of not knowing; it is an experiential relationship with that which is not known. When we speak of the Source as Mystery we are referring to that which seems indicated yet cannot be found. It sustains, yet there is nothing that sustains. Mystery is that which is beyond us, yet we are it, inextricably bound to and in it. Mystery is that inexplicable interface between human consciousness and what it cannot know and is thus a relationship. Here “thankfulness arises” and yet there is no object to which one is thankful. Here “primal trust” is re-discovered, yet there is nothing to trust. Here is a metaphysics without myth—an experience of and reverence for the Ultimate without objective content.

The Source is Mystery. All that arises is Mystery. We are Mystery. There are not many Mysteries. There is only One Mystery. We are Mystery. Our Numinous Platform is the expression of that Mystery. It is the unknowable ‘self’. It is “that which is sustained although there is nothing that can sustain it.” It is through surrender into and complete union with this unknowable self, this Numinous Platform, that one partakes of the experience of Mystery. It is then that one realizes the Mystery that he is. Mystery is not other than our self, it is our most fundamental self.

This is the experience of “walking in the nameless.” It is “our homeland of not-even-anything, the vast wilds of open nowhere.” It is to “drift uncommitted beyond the dust and grime, far–flung and unfettered in the great work of doing nothing in particular.” It is “to roam in the far-flung and unconstrained paths of wild, unbound twirling and tumbling.” It is to establish ones “footing in the unfathomable and roam where nothing at all exists.” It is “roaming in the homeland of nothing at all.” It is to “wholeheartedly embody the endlessness and roam where there is no sign . . .”

This experience of being Mystery does not issue in the realization of some content, some new understanding of the ‘mystery of life’, some great and final apprehension of Truth. On the contrary, it is the glorious freedom of having no such moorings at all. It is the freedom of drifting, wandering, roaming and meandering with no-fixed-identity and no-need-to-know.

Finally, it needs to be said that self-with-identity and the ‘deliberate mind’ that serves its needs cannot become one with Mystery though they have no other root. To “walk in the nameless” one must likewise be nameless. The cost of freedom is your ‘self.’

Note: If you would like to read, print or download all 7 parts of this miniseries as one document replete with footnotes, here's the link to Google Docs.

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