Monday, January 2, 2012

No Scripture

Scott Bradley

There is a considerable amount of literature of a spiritual nature available to us. As those with an interest in the path as envisioned by Taoism and related philosophies we naturally turn to the ancient documents which articulate those paths. It is worth considering, therefore, what those documents represent for us in relation to our own journeys.

I can only speak for myself, of course — and this is what I wish to say: I have no scripture. There is no document which I consider to be the definitive word on anything. I do not follow a prescribed path. However helpful and apparently correct a particular teaching may seem to me to be, it carries no inherent authority; it is proof of nothing.

The proof is in the pudding, and that pudding is my own journey. And the proof of my pudding is no more authoritatively applicable to others than are the documents that help to inspire it.

I frequently refer to proto-Taoist literature and use it as a means to self-instruction (at your expense). I quote chapter and verse. But I want to make it clear that when I believe what I read it is not because it is written, but because it resonates with me. Authority rests in me. Just at it rests in you.

Hermeneutics is the 'science' of interpretation of documents hard to understand. A responsible hermeneutic makes every effort to understand what an author intended. This is no easy task, for it is a most inexact science. But it is only when one has come to a necessarily approximate understanding of what a passage says, that one is truly free to accept, dismiss or co-opt it.

All three of these options are available to us. Co-option is the use of a passage to make a point which the passage itself did not intend. I do this; but when I do, I try to remember to make it clear that I am doing so.

If there is an orthodox reading of this literature, I am most certainly guilty of heterodox views. But since I am not a member of an orthodoxy, my heterodoxy is actually no such thing at all. I would like to say I am a 'free thinker', but I can only truly say it is this to which I aspire.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. True indeed. I hold on to nothing written or give anything any authority. These texts are read only for inspiration they may hold.

    As what we attempt to learn or write about precedes us even doing so it is apparent that they can not hold it.

  2. Poems, epics, sagas, stories, parables, history, argument. A library is a sacred place. Yes, inspiring, but there is a continuity well worth chewing on. There have been minds greater than one's own. IMHO.


Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.