Dao De Jing Chapter 4

mandula 020 3x5 17Dao functions through its nothingness.
And cannot be conceived of as full of things.
Profound indeed, it is the model of all things.
Dulling its sharpness,
Releasing its entanglements,
Tempering its light, and
Unifying with the earth,
Clearly, indeed, it remains.
I do not know who created it,
But it is likely that it existed prior to God.


After I post on Monday Lao’s words and Chang’s commentary, I read Lao’s next chapter and Chang’s commentary. During the week, I will re-read the chapter/commentary, open a new Word file and being writing, continuing to let ideas form. I planned this week to begin in earnest on Sunday morning and woke with a dream. Dream 12.16.2012:  I was working on Chapter 4 and visualized Lao’s words on the page realizing that I needed to begin a commentary on this chapter.” Upon waking I recoded the dream and then thought to Skype a close French colleague still living in Hong Kong to read this chapter to him and get his response – he has lived in HK 40 years, speaks 5 languages, and studies the Dao. I did not call Alain but know that this will be done soon.

The Dao functions through its nothingness begins Chapter 4 and is a continuation of the what has been identified by Chang and others as Dao’s central teaching from Chapter 48,

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

Chang’s commentary on this chapter continues exploring dialectical thinking saying that “Nothingness or hsu, does not mean simply empty space. It is identity of form with formlessness. As Lao Zi says, to identify form as form is to conceive of it as full of things. When nothingness is applied to things, things are freed from rigid from.” This was what Giegerich’s dialectics of will and Hegel’s Master Slave dialectics in Chapter 3’s commentary is demonstrating. If we open the will and the Master Slave positions and look into them, Giegerich indicates that we are trying to see moving parts, the internal engine: the inner complexity of the self-contradictory logical life that it is… . Learning to think dialectically is a challenging task and we need to be mindful that Chang’s first commentary states that the Dao De Jing’s Chapter 1 “introduces and summarizes the entire” book.

We ended Chapter 3 commentary stating that we now have what Giegerich terms the Negation of the Negation or Absolute Negation, which if not satisfying is a reinstitution of the original Position on a new level having been enriched by the dialectic negating processes just completed.

Giegerich suggests that, “On this new level the dialectical process begins once more with the differentiated result as its starting point, i.e., as the new Position” that we need to dialectically re-think. Our Commentary 3 ends wondering, how will this dialectically new position will unfold. We are not yet clearly seeing the internal engine of the Master Slave dialectic that Hegel presents.

Hegel’s analysis states that “awareness of myself, of who I am, can only be achieved in relationship to another self-consciousness in being acknowledged by another.” However, because of the ancient world’s master slave reality, this mutual recognition was prevented. The slave sees himself as an un-free object and only when he realizes he has to engage in a life and death struggle with the master does he come to recognize his free will. Self-consciousness for the slave is achieved by the mere act of struggling and coming to the realization that he is willing to brave death. The slave’s selfhood is denied by failing to understand his own freedom, his higher nature, but once he does understand, the slave is equal to the master, who comes to recognize that he as master is “not a mere omnipotent negative power but must deal with the slave on equal footing as another independent self.”

Thus both master and slave realize the interdependence of their freedoms, their mutual “unhappy consciousness” and, as each initially looses itself in the other, they must engage, turn to worship Christ and give up slavery. It is interesting to note that “the master’s selfhood is also denied because the master looses the physical creative act of working on things in the world, which is also part of selfhood.” We will see this issue again when we take up Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism that builds on Hegel’s treatment.

Žižek on The Limits of Hegel is long and involved, we will slowly be taking up some of Zizek’s points. One is that Hegel (1770–1831) read Adam Smith at the beginning of the industrial revolution before its horrors were in full bloom and missed what Marx later develops. The writings of Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Jung were decades into the future and while Hegel had read the Dao De Jing, it is apparent that his faith in the Christian external Other meant he did not understand Lao Zi’s message. Giegerich defines psychology as the discipline of the interiority, and thus our thinking about any position cannot have “something literally outside of itself, a literal Other, and then it ipso facto would be a thinking in terms of external relations between two or more things or persons” like Hegel’s Master Slave dialectics.

Giegerich continues stating, “But for psychology of interiority there is no Other. Or the other that there is is the soul’s own other, its internal other, that is to say, itself as other. The soul is self-relation. It has nothing outside of itself. And conversely, if we think in terms of an other truly outside and vis-a-vis, of a relations literally between two, e.g., of ‘object relations,’ ‘interpersonal relations,’ of a ‘conflict between opposites,’ etc., we have left psychology. We then are in the physical world, in external reality, in the social world of real people, but no longer in the world of the soul” (DAM: 26).

A central failure in Hegel’s analysis is when he states that the “master also fails as a human being until 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.” The process of getting to this recognition, the threat of death is external and unacceptable. As such, Hegel’s master slave dialectic position reaches an Absolute Negation and being a new reinstituted position contains all the sublated moments only on a new more greatly differentiated level that dialectically needs examining.

The result of this new dialectical analysis using Hegel’s Christian reference is to realize that Jesus is not outside on the cross but is inside asking, 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?  In order to Love thy neighbor as thy self, one has to first learn to love thy Self. Loving one’s neighbor or how about one’s workers depends on actualizing Self-love gained by engaging the Other, the Shadow as a free equal part of our Self. In Jung and Giegerich’s views the Other that one has to recognize as being free and equal to our Ego is the Shadow. This task seems a necessary first step in understanding the Dao, the Self, and what Dao De Jing clip here repeated from chapter 3 states is doctrine of man as microcosm. See the earlier post Deep Jesus, Us?.

Dao De Jing Video Clip A3

Ego vs. Self. The ego our ordinary initiator of action, is an ephemeral construction which is formed by factors operating far beneath the level of the source, and which in the unenlightened state of awareness, represents a kind of blockage or impediment to the interplay of fundamental cosmic forces, in other words, because of our identification of ourselves with the ego, what we ordinarily call action or doing, in fact, cuts us off from the complete reception of conscious energy in our bodies and actions.

In the ancient traditions of the west, this idea has been known as the ‘doctrine of man as microcosm’. In Christian and Jewish mysticism, in the philosophy of Plato, and he hermitic tradition, in Islamic esotericism, we find this idea pouring forth in an endless symphony in symbolic forms, and profoundly articulated ideas and in the Dao De Jing it is offered to us as a whisper. The metaphysical doctrine now stands before us in outline, an unformed, ungraspable, pure conscious principle, lies at the heart and origin of all things – it is referred to as the Dao.

This principle moves, expands, descends into form, creating the hierarchically organically ordered, cascading worlds of the phenomena called the 10,000 things or simply the great universe. Man is built to be an individual incarnation of this whole. His good, his happiness, the very meaning of his life is to live in correspondence and relationship to the whole. To be and act precisely as the Universe itself is and moves. The secret of living, according to the Dao De Jing, is to open within ourselves to the great flow of fundamental forces that constitute the ultimate nature of the universe, both the movement that descends from the source and the movement of return. Thus Lao Zi writes, “Empty yourself of everything, let the mind become still, the 10,000 things rise and fall, while the Self watches their return, they grow and flourish, and then return to the source. Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.

Dream 12.17.2012: I was reading Giegerich’s book, Dialectic Analytical Psychology, and was struggling to understand it – it is difficult like the Dao I dreamt. I thought that I would have to go over a cliff of sorts in order to fully realize that dialectic analytical psychology is a way of understanding the Dao De Jing. When I awoke, I felt a needed to get to work and realized that my dreams this past week had entered into this blogging project.

Chang, Chung-yuan (1975). Tao: a new way of thinking. New York: Harper & Row.

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