Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Way Without Grace II

Scott Bradley

In this morning's post, we saw Kierkegaard's argument for the necessity of grace for a human being to apprehend the truth. Being in a state of "untruth" (sin), we are incapable of realizing truth. This is analogous to our inability to climb out of our subjectivism to see ourselves objectively. The subject cannot be objective. Grace is the 'divine' intervention which is absolutely necessary for the inherently incapable to become capable.

But this is really just Christian theology and is far removed from Daoist and, ostensibly, Eastern thought generally. The differences between these are so profound as to render them irreconcilable. (The East may be able to absorb the West, but the West cannot absorb the East without the loss of its essential belief in revealed, objective truth.)

However, the reason I chose to address this issue is that one frequently hears those who subscribe to an Eastern perspective speak of grace and its derivatives as part of the spiritual experience. The Universe "moves" and "guides" us. It "has a purpose" for us. Things "happen for a reason". So what? — apart from a certain degree of inconsistency and muddle-headedness, what difference does it make? Hopefully, my concern isn't with orthodoxy. It isn't. My concern is simply to clarify what is Philosophical Daoism's point of departure because it is that from which everything else flows.

In order to experience the philosophy of life that it espouses, we need to apply its presuppositions to life. If life is a casino, and I decide to play craps, I need to know the rules. Those rules do not apply to blackjack, nor do they tell blackjack players that their rules are wrong. Blackjack players need to follow blackjack rules to profit from choosing and playing blackjack. Craps players need to follow craps rules to profit from playing craps. Philosophical Daoists need to understand Daoism's perspective to fully benefit from pursuing that path. Christians need to understand the Christian perspective to benefit from that path. And this latter was precisely what Kierkegaard wanted to accomplish in the face of nominal, state Christianity, on the one hand, and Hegelianism (which "explained" everything), on the other. If you want to be a Christian, he said, then be one; live it out in life.

Philosophical Daoism is essentially monist; there is One Reality. All things are one cloth. Dao does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. All things arise without having been made to arise. There is one, contiguous ontological Reality. Philosophical Daoism is non-dual. Creation requires a Creator, and a Creator requires that there be two. The Creator cannot be Its creation — ever. If there are two, one can act upon the other in grace and guidance. If there are two, one can be separated from the other. If there is one reality, there is no divine intervention. Nor is there any essential difference between one thing and another; Dao is all things and all things are Dao.

Daoism is the way of nature because it recognizes no separation between nature and ultimate reality and it is nature that we are and with which we interface.

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

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