Some time ago I wrote a post entitled Taking Zen to the Laundromat in which I bemoaned the fact that, though Zen is rich with spiritual insight, it is so encrusted with religiosity I find it difficult to access that insight. It would be nice if we could launder out the religious paraphernalia. Yes, I agree; that's my problem.
Here's another take on the same theme, this time a bit closer to home. Since I have used Zhuangzi as a place of departure for the growth of my own path (a dao), a great deal of my thinking and vocabulary is naturally that of his form of proto-Daoism. Dao, de, qi, yin, yang, Vastness — all these terms belong, in some sense, to a religious tradition. Even though I do not see Zhuangzi's philosophy as strictly religious, Daoism in general quickly became so.
I use these terms, but I don't believe any of them; none of them represent actual realities; they are merely terms descriptive of various aspects of spiritual experience, just as the word 'spiritual' does not, for me, denote the existence of a "spirit" within me. As such, I have for the most part been able to comfortably use them. Yet, there is a tension here (in myself) which I have tried to clarify by stating that I am definitely not a Daoist. In another post ("Faith Crisis!"), I said, "Thanks for the leg-up Zhuangzi (or pseudo-Zhuangzi); I can take it from here!" Taking my dao to the laundromat would be the process whereby I distilled out what I have learned and experienced consequent to my study of Zhuangzi and other traditions so as to free it from any religious matrix.
Doing this would, I believe, bring a great deal more clarity to this philosophy and make it more thoroughly my own. The more I can do this, the more I am likely to receive from Zhuangzi himself, in any case. Needless to say, I have been doing this all along, but I feel there's a long way to go.
I have previously made up a few "sages" (Sue-tzu, Chen Jen, Zhouzi) through whom I have been able to develop my philosophy at a remove — they were not I, and consequently I could somewhat paradoxically learn from them. As a mere devotee, I was also not obliged to embody their teachings; I was less a hypocrite. If I make up a new "sage", he will be a thoroughly modern one, one who teaches that distilled philosophy I mentioned above. All that holds me back is that he would be more "me", and thus, to avoid the hypocrisy this would entail, I wait.
(I apologize for having used "I" 31 times in the post!)
You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.