We have essentially agreed with Ziporyn that Zhuangzi’s Numinous Reservoir refers to the mind of the sage. It is openness to the whole of the life experience as it upwells within us. Openness amounts to complete affirmation of life just as it arrives. The passage previously quoted tells us that it is consequent to allowing the reasoning mind to come to rest in what it does not know. We can then be the unmediated experience that we are. This is the full extent of Zhuangzian mysticism. We don’t ask and worry about the why of it; we simply enjoy it. In my (approximating) experience, thankfulness is an essential part of this enjoyment.
It is “numinous” (spiritual, mysterious) because it just happens—it is not experienced as made-to-happen by us or any known “source”. But this not to say that it is anything other than the entirely natural. Mystery is what the reasoning mind cannot penetrate, and that is quite simply everything. There is no special something that is numinous—everything is numinous and invites our unmediated enjoyment.
There is that “place” in us, however, that is our most immediate experience of the numinous happening we call ourselves. It is simply the experience of self-arising, self-aware existence. If the mind of the sage is different than our own, it is in how it interfaces with this experience. There’s nothing in the sage that is different from what is in all of us. The sage does not have more qi or extra-mundane anything than we do. She simply has a different attitude than we do. And attitude is as ephemeral as anything else. It changes nothing relative to ultimate outcomes; it just makes for a happier existence. This, at any rate, is how I understand Zhuangzi’s vision. This is not a religion. It’s a philosophy of life.
Since we all share this experience of self-awareness, we can all explore how it manifests in us and how we relate to it. Self is a relationship; we can work on that relationship. We’ll explore some of what this means and involves in the next post.