Sunday, February 12, 2012

Following Two Taos

Scott Bradley

The Laozi begins by telling us there are two Taos. There is the Nameless. And there is the Named. The former is "darker than Mystery", it cannot be imagined and thus cannot be named. This 'Tao' is thus a formal name; it stands for what cannot be named and does not in any way identify anything. Only things can be named, and Tao is no thing.

The 'Named' is the mother of all the things which can be named. It is the world of things. In this world the human abides, assigns names and establishes its moral compass.

The Laozi also tells us that these Taos are "the same". There is really but one Tao, but all we can perceive is Tao manifest, the Named. There is Wholeness and there is division. There is Oneness and there is not-oneness. We abide in not-oneness. Thus we discuss Tao.

The Taoist vision is the re-integration of Tao in the human experience. To "return to the root" is to have the Nameless inform and transform the named, namely 'me'. This is necessarily a mystical endeavor since the Nameless is "darker than Mystery" and can in no way be understood or articulated.

The two Taos are reflected in the human experience; there is this 'me' of self-awareness and mediated experience, the named, and there is the utter mystery at the heart of the human experience, the Nameless. We experience this latter as 'emptiness'. We experience ourselves as hollow because, as namers and named, we find no ultimate ground as things. The Taoist vision is the rediscovery of that ground, that is, returning to the root.

The Nameless is thus not experienced as external from oneself, but as the most fundamental reality of oneself. Tao is found within, not without. It is re-connecting with the mystery which is you; and that mystery is the Mystery.

I am Tao, named and Nameless. You are Tao, named and Nameless. There is only one Tao.

The named informed by the Nameless realizes its own namelessness. Only the nameless walk in the Nameless.

How one realizes this re-integration with the Nameless that one is, is a matter for personal exploration. The way one chooses is one's tao. There are as many taos as there are feet to walk them.

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

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