Sunday, October 28, 2012

Beyond Good and Evil Revisited

Scott Bradley

Transcendence of all moral discrimination is at the heart of both Zhuangzi's and Nietzsche's vision of human liberation. In fact, Nietzsche entitled one of his books precisely this. Yet, as we have seen, he did not in fact truly transcend this discrimination, but instead went to war against conventional morality in an effort to establish a new morality, that of the full exercise of the will to power, self-assertion. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, overturned the moral conventions of his time, exemplified in Confucianism and Mohism, as a means to transcending all conventional morality. Having done so, he was able to "follow along with" each and every morality no matter that they are themselves contradictory. Any one of them will do for someone with no fixed and absolute commitment to illusory "Truth".

Zhuangzi's purpose in transcending morality was simple; Dao, spontaneous arising (ziran) reality, is completely amoral. Should one wish to be utterly identified with this ever-transforming reality, where no discrimination between things exists, then the transcendence of morality is essential. The "Grand Transparency" is free of all such opaqueness.

Many immediately become upset at this proposition; comments on this blog have exclaimed that pedophiles would rejoice to hear it. These are the voices of those still bound by good and evil. Yet perhaps the first thing that needs to be understood about this proposition is that it is not understood as having been inscribed in stone by the hand of God for universal application. It is not a prescription for the world, but for you. And if you cannot trust yourself to live free of the constraints of law, then it most definitely is not for you.

Yet this transcendence is transformative. Today, even as I write, people are being murdered throughout the world because their rights and wrongs differ from those of others. Christians and Muslims, Sunnis and Shia, Muslims and Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants all fight and attempt to destroy one another because they each know good and evil. It is more than a platitude that religion has been the cause of more death and destruction than any other human fixation. The transcendence of good and evil, on the contrary, is a means to peace and harmony.

But this is only secondary. It is not primarily about the world; it is about you. It is a means to bringing peace and harmony to your own heart. And this is the only way the world in its turn might experience the same.

How does it liberate individual hearts? Try it on for yourself. Stop judging and condemning yourself. Forget sagacity, and enlightenment and all the other burdens of this idea of having-to-achieve-to-be-acceptable that weigh down your existence. Understand that there are no conditions to meet, but that Dao is expressed in you just as you are. Affirm yourself.

Not so burdened? Then you are either a sage or someone who has failed in the work of self-examination; and if in this latter you see yourself blessed, it can only be hoped that the collateral damage inflicted on others is minimal.

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

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