Dao De Jing Chapter 6

mandula 018 3x5 19The spiritual reality of the void never ceases to exist.
We call it the mystery of passivity.
The entry to the mystery of passivity is the origin of the universe.
Drawn upon, it is never exhausted.


It is the last day of 2012 and I am working on the Concordia Bus 439 Course International Management syllabus and after watching the Up With Chris Hayes Show last Saturday, I am planning to use the full two hours throughout the course. I think Hayes hosts one of the most analytical shows on the air, where he invites four guests to join him for a dialogue on current affairs. One segment last Saturday was A place for state owned banks?, where The Bank of North Dakota (1919) is showcased as the first in the nation and now is a model for others being planned. The ND Bank last week announced it was allowing ND University students to consolidate their existing bank loans at a significantly lower interest rate. As Student loan debt nears $1 trillion it is being considered as the new subprime – for sure, it is a new target for vulture capitalists.

The discussion on the Hayes show reminded me of David Harvey’s Crisis of Capitalism, where he makes an interesting point that home ownership in the US was made a cultural interest supported by the home mortgage interest tax deduction in the 1930s, with a calculated logic that home owners in debt will not strike. The new capitalists’ logic now seems to be to put American students in debt so they will not be able and fearful of joining the Occupy Wall Street protest. Harvey’s interesting historical description of crises since 1970 leading to the current world economic crisis, is that economists missed the issue of systemic risk, which is “the risk of collapse of an entire financial system or entire market, as opposed to risk associated with any one individual entity, group or component of a system” (Wikipedia). Harvey refines this definition using Marxian terminology stating that “systemic risk is the internal contradiction of capital accumulation” and further states that “capitalism never solves its debt problem, it just moves them around geographically.” Harvey ends his presentation saying that if U.S. citizens continue accepting the current Washington political dialogue over our economic crisis, they deserve the smelly CRAP being dished out!

Crisis of Capitalism

Harvey describes the problem well but indicates he does not have ready solutions and, after watching many talk shows, they offer precious little in the way of solutions. However, this Hayes show was the first time I have seen a real left thinker like Harvey as a quest – after all, telling listeners they are being fed crap is not what corporations are paying to hear. The guest was Richard Wolff an economist known for his work on Marxian economics and recently havning written Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It (2010), Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism (2012), Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian, and Democracy at Work (2012). The Hayes show begins with a discussion on An Economy built on contingent labor with Wolff gingerly offering to moderate his leftist views. In this segment on work, Wolff states that the U.S. is not a democracy if it does not have economic democracy in its corporations – all workers, mangers, and owners collectively need to determine work and wage policies.

Work place democracy is a key issue; however, Wolff did not go deep into the systemic problem of corporate capitalism. Wolff was careful in stating his Marxist views and when Hayes wondered what workers would do if working hours were to be reduced in order to share the work as Germany had done to weather the current crisis, Wolff did not respond as I expected. However, he knows the deep issues and here is a clip presenting Wolff’s thinking on capitalism hitting the fan, which no one, he admonishes, is talking about.

Capitalism Hits the Fan

What I expected to see the Hayes show discuss, was the deep systemic failure of capitalism, the one Erich Fromm, a psychoanalytical Marxist, has written about in his book To Have or To Be. We cannot sustain a healthy Earth unless we change the value of defining our selves by the STUFF we consume. Here is how Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard explains what the next 300 years will accomplish; if that is, we survive. The challenge is to Deepen to Daoize the Self.

Communism in Star Trek

Chapter 6 fits here in that The spiritual reality of the void never ceases to exist is an aspect of the Prime Directive of the Star Trek Enterprise to explore this mystery of passivity, by remaining passive when it encounters a pre-warp-drive civilization. A problem with this, it seems, is that warp-drive technology is a product of western civilization’s rational thinking skills, skills for sure we need but which are a complement to the Dao De Jing skills now guiding our entry to the mystery of passivity, the origin of the universe. Chang writes that a central idea in Chapter 6 is the Chinese word ku shen or nothingness and is translated as “spiritual reality of the void.” Chang continues,

The spiritual reality of the void cannot be reached through intellection or intentional action, but only through emptiness and passivity. The deeper the passivity, the higher the achievement of the spiritual reality of the void. Hence, hsuan pi indicates the mystery of passivity. In the original scripts, pi means female, passive, or yielding, in accordance with the basic principle of yoga. However hard one might search for the symbolic meaning of this chapter, one will not really grasp its essence until one has attained one’s own inner awareness through concentration and contemplation. Then one will know how this unceasing reality always remains and how it is never exhausted when one reaches it (18).

Chang citing Chuang Tzu relates this to the state of samadhi in Buddhist philosophy in that “Intellection and reasoning, all consciousness indeed, have vanished, and only the awareness of serenity remains.” A key point is made that it is this “inner awareness of serenity” might be called the origin of the universe. And then it is suggested that “Within the origin of the universe there is a fuller and deeper expression which is itself positive and powerful.” It is this inner exploration of the origin of the universe, the Daoist’s way, that has to be completed before the Enterprise can begin exploring the outer universe. Only after reaching this inner fuller and deeper expression can we access our positive and powerful creative forces the develop warp-drive technology. The Dao De Jing is a warp-drive technology for the inner journey and a key it seems in both warp-drive technologies is negative energy.

Is Warp Dive Possible?

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

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