Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Not-One Is Also One X (Revisited)

Scott Bradley
Original post date: May 14, 2010

Continuing with the discussion from Zhuangzi, Chapter 6...
Hence they were one with what they liked and one with what they disliked, one when they were one and one when they were not one. When one they were of Heaven’s party, when not one they were of man’s party. Someone in whom neither Heaven nor man is victor over the other, this is what is meant by the True Man.
Thus reads the closing summation of Zhuangzi’s treatment in this chapter of the relationship between the Heavenly and the Human. Unfortunately, the meaning is somewhat obscure as evinced by the diversity of renderings in the various translations consulted and by Dr. Ziporyn’s offering of five different possible readings. Therefore, rather than selecting one rendering over another or attempting to explain its meaning in detail, I will attempt to get at the gist of what Zhuangzi seems to be saying. In this, the commentaries of others more qualified may help.

Fung Yu-Lan quotes Guo Xiang’s commentary on this passage: “The true man unifies nature and man, and equalizes all things. To him, there is no mutual opposition in all things. There is no mutual conquest of nature and man.”

A.C. Graham, in a note immediately following this passage, writes: “At the end of Chapter 5, Chuang-tzu took the side of Heaven against man; here he tries to resolve the dichotomy. . . . The reformulation at the end attacks the dichotomy with the paradox that the sage remains fundamentally one with things whether he is being united with them by Heaven or is dividing himself off as a thinking man.”

I cannot pretend that I find these comments particularly helpful, but they do bring one aspect to the fore, namely, that there are three agents involved here: Heaven, the sage, and others. All things are one under Heaven. Humans consciously diverge from this oneness, though the oneness persists in any case. The sage acts as intermediary and, experiencing both the non-oneness of humanity and the oneness of Heaven, brings the two into a greater oneness.

In a personal note on Guo’s comment, Fung Yu-Lan writes: “This is what Chuang Tzu called ‘taking two courses at once,’ as mentioned in the second chapter.” This, I think, gets very close to what Zhuangzi had in mind here. What Dr. Ziporyn translates as Walking Two Roads is a concept central to Zhuangzi’s thinking and he has, I think, applied it here so as to tentatively reconcile Reality and Humanity.

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

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