Sunday, March 25, 2012

Releasing Into the Vastness II

Scott Bradley

I would refer the reader back to the previous post which begins with an extensive quote from Zhuangzi. Here, he suggests we dissolve our sense of an insular self-identity so as to realize a psychological unity with Reality. He calls this "hiding the world in the world". We need not fear the loss of self in death when self unites with the Totality. Becoming "the world" there is no place in the world where self might be lost. The price for such a release is, however, a kind of psychological death in life; the "self" which survives is more an event than an entity 'me'.

Is there anything here to believe? I really don't think so. At least there is no need to believe something definite about Reality. There is only the implied belief that by the application of a certain point of view, one can change one's psychological interface with the world, and this is experientially verifiable. Zhuangzi's vision is not about changing anything else but this. No metaphysical transformation has taken place. No actual ontic fusion with Dao is promised. No eternal destinies have been altered. Everything remains as it is and as it ultimately will be. No salvation is required or achieved. Only one has a new way of being in the world, and this facilitates a happier fulfillment of one's humanity.

The Zhuangzian philosophy is thus quite limited in its scope. It does not explain Reality, nor moor our tenuous existence to any fixed belief.

There are many model points-of-view which Zhuangzi suggests might facilitate such a psychological transformation. One might realize "the equality of all things", "find the empty room", or "descend and be lost amid the masses of men". Yet, however different their apparent content might appear, they all invite this same psychological release into vastness. They are all upaya, skillful means, and should not be taken for definitive statements about the nature of Reality.

If this is the case with the Zhuangzian philosophy, might it not also apply to other religious philosophies, even those which do pretend to know truth? Do they not all seek to lead one to a happier psychological interface with the world? Surely, Zhuangzi would not say otherwise. What he would say, I believe, is that, since no truth is really on offer, the only criterion by which to judge between these view-points is that of effectiveness.

His critique of the human mind which "takes the understanding consciousness as its teacher", for instance, is largely based on its failure to bring us to a place of tranquility and fulfillment, not its logical inconsistencies. He points to these latter only as a means to showing a more effective approach to realizing the same ends.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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