Dao De Jing Chapter 3

mandula 008 3x5 11If no one esteems the best, men will be fee from contention.
If no one values the precious, men will be free from illegal gain.
If men see nothing to desire, their minds will be fee from confusion.
Therefore, the wise guides men by relaxing their minds and keeping their bellies firm;
By reducing their wills and letting their physiques become strong.
He always frees men form the search for knowing and demanding.
This means that the knower dares not act for the known.
When action is through non-action, no one is uncultivated


In thinking about writing this week’s Dao De Jing commentary (12/9/2012 5:00 AM), I realized again that my experiences and journaling throughout the week are at this moment influencing what is being written. In the previous post and now, I am “following my bliss” as Joseph Campbell suggests, trying to tap into the creative energy every individual Lao Zi says we possess. Last week I was aware of the cannabis issue, the idea for the last post just bubbled up and I let it flow. I used several of Terence McKanna video clips discussing the use and legalization of cannabis, which were produced with beautiful art, ending the post with John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon music, accompanied again with beautiful artistic visuals. I purposely did not comment on these video clips, except once, because the idea surfaced that after viewing the post, a viewer might apply the model we developed in the earlier post “The mathematics of faith” and use the Following my bliss to the Dark side of the moon experience to plug it into the equation and carry on a dialogue. So, I will continue to work toward developing an Active Interdependence among blog readers, which I am thinking is an aspect of the John Nash’s governing dynamics. I went to Amazon and e-Bay and Chang’s book “Tao: A new way of thinking” is going for $91 and $49. Seem I have a collector’s item by my side.

Active Interdependence = McKenna’s Unique Thought x Our Dialogue2

In the Mathematic of faith post it was decided to ride one of Christ’s “unique thoughts” like Einstein  rode a beam of light in discovering that as one approaches the speed of light, time slows. So, we began with a unique thought suggested as the fundamental teaching of Christ, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye with never a thought for the great plank in your own eye? From this follows that in order to Love thy neighbor as thy self, one has to be able to first authentically love thy Self. Lao Zi in turn is saying in this chapter that “non-differentiated knowledge is achieved through the action of non-action” (10). Christ is saying the first step is to “remove the planks in our own eye” and Lao Zi’s is saying “by reducing our will” one approaches the Dao, which is the teaching of Chapter 48:

To learn, one accumulates day by day.
To study Dao, one reduces day by day.

Edinger in his interesting book, Ego and Archetype, suggests that Christ’s teaching and let us now add Lao Zi’s clearly establishes Lao and Christ as the depth psychologist 2,500 and 2,000 years before Freud systematically uncovered the unconscious side of the human psyche. Taking the beam out of one’s eye and reducing day by day are similar processes with the same outcome – the realization that the cosmos and individual psyche are identical.

Chang goes on to state that, “increasing knowledge and simultaneously reducing it constitutes the dialectical process of Dao. …Lao is saying avoid learning through contention, through cunning, or through one’s ambitions and desires, as this only leads to confusion. The natural way of learning is simultaneously unlearning… This is what Lao Zi means by wei wu-wei, or to learn yet to unlearn.” The operative idea here is that this is the dialectical process of Dao. Chang chooses to illustrate this by first referencing Hegel’s idea of knowledge:

Knowledge, which is our object first of all or immediately, can be nothing other than that which itself is immediate knowledge, knowledge of the immediate or of what it is. We must act just as immediately or receptively, that is, must change nothing in our object as it offers itself, and must keep conceptual understanding out of the reception” (Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, pp. 153-154.)

Let’s look closer at Lao Zi’s saying “The wise guides men… by reducing their wills…” by continuing to apply Hegelian dialectical analysis to the idea of will, which in the above quotation Hegel says “we must act just as immediately or receptively, that is, must change nothing in our object as it offers itself, and must keep conceptual understanding out of the reception.” Giegerich (Dialectic Analytical Psychology DAP: 2), writes that “dialectic thinking begins with one single idea, notion, phenomenon and then shows its internal contradiction. It makes one conscious of the fact that what from the outside looks like a unitary and self-consistent unity is not unitary, but within itself contradicts itself. It is within itself different (distinguishing itself from itself). In this sense, dialectical thinking is recursive….a stepping backward so as to widen the horizon before oneself.” In Lao Zi’s terminology one reduces day by day.

Giegerich illustrates dialectic thinking with an example to will something – the idea that we have free will. He explains that “The fact that we have a will is the manifestation of human freedom. This is the one side. The other side comes to the fore when we realize that willing or wanting is radically different from wishing. I can wish to win the lottery, but I cannot want this (in the strict sense of willing) because the outcome of the lottery is totally beyond my reach. Willing always entails the will to use the real means necessary to achieve something. A person might wish to go back to school in order to get a Ph.D., but this does not necessarily mean that he or she has the will to do so. To wish such a thing might simply mean to entertain this dream in one’s mind. To have the will to get a Ph.D., by contrast, means to be willing to give up, for several years, much free time and many weekends to spend them for studying hard while others are free to use this time for their relaxation. I am not free; I must sit down and study. In other words, the will to go back to school entails the contradiction between my free choice AND my obedience to the ‘must’ that my choice involves. In willing, I am at once free and a slave. The will is the human capacity to be, within oneself, the unity of the unity and difference, of legislating government and subject bound by the laws prescribed by this government. For the everyday mind, the will is a unitary thing. That is all. It is simple one of the ultimate constituents of the human psyche. But if you open it up and look into it, you see, as a clock, its ‘moving parts,’ its internal ‘engine’: the inner complexity of the self-contradictory logical life that it is and as which it is” (DAP: 3). Thinking dialectically is about making conscious, getting inside an idea, or going under it in order to understand its inner contradictory workings.

Lawrence Cahoone presents another illustration of the seemingly unitary position of the “master and slave” and its underlying dialectics. After viewing it, getting inside this unitary position, going under it, understanding the contradiction, its internal engine, what is being made conscious and what are the implications?

Hegel’s Master Slave Dialectic

Hegel makes that important anti-Cartesian social claim that self-consciousness, my awareness of myself, of who I am, can only be achieved in relationship to another self-consciousness in being acknowledged by another. In the ancient world the relationship between the aristocratic load and the bondsman, the slave, or the indentured servant, prevented this mutual recognition. The limitation on each because of their unequal relationship, prevent each from obtaining true self-consciousness. This is Hegel’s point. That is the slave, sees himself as an un-free object. The master sees himself as free but only abstractly and fails to see that he is an object. So for example, the slave, who suffers more than the master does, the slave’s selfhood is denied by failing to understand his own freedom, his higher nature. The master’s selfhood is also denied because the master loses the physical creative act of working on things in the world, which is also part of selfhood.

So, each initially loses itself in the other and Hegel says they must engage. Hegel is thinking about the ancient Jews, the slaves in ancient Greece and Rome, the revolutions and revolts of salves ending their slavery. At some point historically slave classes must engage in a life and death struggle with the master, the ruling classes, over who can obtain independent self-consciousness. In the struggle, the bondsman comes to recognize free will, how? – the bondsman wins by the mere act of struggle because at the moment the bondsman fights, he and she has recognized his free will by his wiliness to brave death. And once that is true, he is the equal of the master.

The lord, on the other hand, comes to recognize that he is not a mere omnipotent negative power, but must deal with the slave on equal footing as another independent self. And in this act, according to Hegel, both come to realize their combined freedom independence and turn their mutual ‘unhappy consciousness’ to worship the external cross as the unification that they lack. Thus does the ancient world give up slavery in becoming Christian.

Hegel, on the one hand, is giving us social commentary that has to do with the French Revolution, the end of indentured servitude, the development of freedom, the right of the slave to stand up and face the aristocratic lord, face-to-face as equals, and what that means for each one of them. Further, Hegel is making the philosophical point that not just is it morally good to let the slave be free but that the master also fails as a human being, until the master can recognize in the other another free equal person. Only when I freely relate to a free equal do I recognize my free self.

Giegerich comments that “The dialectic process does not begin with Two, but with One, with a Position. There is, at first, no opposition to this position, no alternatives, no ‘dynamic relationship”. Rather, by committedly sticking to his one position that it holds, the mind discovers or is forced to admit, that this position proves to be untenable. It does not hold up. This experience amounts to a Negation of the initial position. If before the position A, the negation of the position results in non-A, a contradiction to the original position. The negation, if tested, again proves to be untenable and is accordingly negated. So we get the Negation of the Negation (not-[non-A]). But the negation of the negation as such is Absolute Negation and as such the reinstitution of the Original Position (=A). However it is now the Position on a fundamentally new level because it is no longer the ‘navie’ (immediate) position of the beginning, as a simply given, but mediated and tremendously enriched by the history of all the negations and as their net result. It has been greatly differentiated, is much more subtle, refined. Nothing has been lost or discarded through the negations. The superseded stages are all still there, however now only as sublated moments within the new Position. On this new level the dialectical process can then begin once more with the differentiated result as its starting point, i.e., as the new Position” (DAP: 3).

So, if we begin with the initial position given by Hegel’s master salve case and realize that it does not hold up, the result is a negation of the position, which itself needs to be examined. And as Cahoone points out, Hegel confounds this negation with social and philosophical commentary about Christianity and the French Revelation, which contributes, I am thinking, to miss-understanding the direction from which self-awareness comes. In the case of the Christian reference, it comes from the symbol of the cross outside oneself and for the master it comes when “he can recognize in the other another free equal person. Only when I freely relate to a free equal do I recognize my free self.” This I suggest does not hold up, given our acceptance of both Lao and Christ’s inner reducing ideas as the source for renewal. We now have a what Giegerich teams the Negation of the Negation or Absolute Negation, which is a reinstitution of the original Position that is on a new level having been enriched by negating processes just gone through. Giegerich then suggests that “On this new level the dialectical process can then begin once more with the differentiated result as its starting point, i.e., as the new Position.” How do you think that will unfold? This Dao De Jing video clip suggests the Daoist Dialectic Analytical Way.

Dao De Jing

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