IDOLATRY I

“What is an idol? Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol.” –Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “RELIGION AND RACE” (14 January, 1963)

Concern about idolatry may seem tangential to a study of Zhuangzi’s Daoism, but when we understand it as any act that establishes a circumscribed coherence that must necessarily exclude other coherences, it speaks directly to the overall vision of Zhuangzi. Everything said leaves out something else—and that absence becomes the most important thing of all. We cannot say or understand without it being a prelude to idolatry.

Why is the left out the most important thing of all? In a world of ceaseless Yang-ing, it is only Yin that can frame the whole. But Yin is Mystery—the unframeable.

The Daoist appeal for the inclusion of Yin/Dao is a call to openness. It is an appeal to let everything “bask in the broad daylight of Heaven”. Openness is a synonym for emptiness. It is not a void, but a voiding. It has its point of departure, its yang, and it does not eradicate itself. The inclusion of Yin is not the exclusion of Yang.

Taking Dao for Something is idolatry. It is circumscribing (drawing a circle around) Openness. It is simply more Yang-ing. True Openness is an experience, not an idolatrous idea.

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