RELIGIOUS-MINDEDNESS II

Religious-mindedness is essentially uncritical belief. It is an un-self-aware flight from our actual existential, human experience. It is in this sense inauthentic—it does not live life as it actually presents, but as it wishes it to be. There can be authenticity in belief, but it requires the honesty that also embraces the accompanying doubt. Since doubt is usually taken as the contradiction of belief, this is not the kind of belief typically espoused. The consequence is inner conflict and denial.

We all have our beliefs, needless to say. Most of these more closely resemble “trust”. We believe it is worthwhile getting out of bed in the morning and to get on with the business of living. Though we likely do not first contemplate our reasons for doing so, we likely have some fundamental sense that it is. This is life being and doing itself—living. Trust is living. Living is trust. Ultimately, there is no raison d’etre—a reason to be—other than the apparent fact that we are. Belief is adding to life; trust is living it.

Any belief in fixed, objective “truth” is religious-mindedness. This statement must therefore also be religiously-minded—unless it can be upayic—unless it can self-efface and allow a return to doubt.

The surest sign of religious-mindedness is closed-mindedness; they are essentially the same. Open-mindedness is the opposite of religious-mindedness and its cure. Radical open-mindedness describes the essential mystical experience advocated by Zhuangzi and most other philosophies of his stripe. Another name for it is “emptiness”. Emptiness is release from everything grasped and into all things. Emptiness is release into vastness, which is the fullness of all things because it does not cling to any one thing. This enables Zhuangzi’s “soaring”.

If religious-mindedness and open-mindedness are opposites, can they not be “united to form a oneness”? Of course. This is open-mindedness. Open-mindedness in the real world is just this dialectic—a perpetual process of self-effacement by way of inclusion. Belief in the hypothetical sage who requires no such dialectic can easily lead us into religious-mindedness. For this reason we are entreated to discard the sages and worthies. If they exist, just let them be.

Get real. Be real. Be honest. That’s the sum of it.

This blog is steeped in religious-mindedness. This entire project has its religious aspect. And the only “cure” is for me to admit it and to unite it with its opposite so as to form a oneness. This is realizing open-mindedness—approximatingly so. Failing of that, I can unite with that . . . and that . . .

RELIGIOUS-MINDEDNESS I

Anyone acquainted with my writing will know that I have an issue with what I call religious-mindedness. This is not so much directed at religion per se as it is toward what purports to be non-religious and yet is. Dogmatic atheism is as religious as any religion. Rationalism is religiously-minded. And most New Age philosophizing is utterly steeped in it.

Before exploring what this means and why I find it counter-productive, it would probably be best to mention one reason why it is likely so important to me. I once became a born-again Christian. Though admittedly assisted by LSD, the experience so deeply affected me that it took many years to wear off. When it did, I was pretty much inoculated against any further outbreaks.

I hope the reader will forgive me this biographical note; but doing this kind of philosophy necessarily has a personal context, some of which needs sharing. It is intended to provide the reader with that “grain of salt” that evinces the relative character of what is said here. In a word, it helps us both avoid: religious-mindedness.

Identifying the personal nature of this perspective also serves as an opportunity to make clear that this is not about the right dao versus a wrong dao. What works best for the individual is that person’s right dao. Some do well in belief; others cannot believe. This dao is for one (me) who can’t believe and who requires a different strategy by which to address our inherent need for a guiding dao. And needless to say, at best it can only provide some raw materials for the evolution of other daos just as it is itself so evolving.

“Daos are made by walking them”, says Zhuangzi. And there are as many daos as there are pairs of feet to walk them. “Truth”, opines Kierkegaard, “is subjectivity.” It ultimately comes by way of choice, not objective certainty.

JUST ANOTHER DAO: A Review of Roth’s Original Dao: Inward Training (Nei Yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism

This is a must for anyone who practices traditional Daoist meditation and who wishes to better understand the roots of that tradition. The translation of the Inner Training chapter of the Kuanzi alone is worth the price of the book.

The depth of Roth’s scholarship is clear, and all in all I think he makes a good case for the provenance of Inner Training as representative of the earliest advocacy for “Daoist” meditative practice. I do, however, think he gets carried away in his desire to sum up all of Daoism under the rubric of those who practiced breathing mediation rather than as defined by their philosophies. This stands if all who were of Daoist temperament made strong advocacy for this practice. Sometimes he must make a very long stretch in his attempts to demonstrate that they do. Sometimes his own advocacy seems to exceed his scholarship.

My real concern is that I understand Zhuangzi as making a radically different statement than that enunciated in Inner Training. The latter declares its belief in a metaphysical Dao that is real enough to “unite” with, and a ch’i (qi )that one can “accumulate”. All this leads to “understanding” the nature of Reality. Its Daoism is a very serious project of spiritual attainment. It is steeped in belief. Zhuangzi would have had none of it. His entire philosophy turns on believing in no such things. His call for radical non-dependence includes both the eschewal of all metaphysics and any dogmatic advocacy for a technique.

Yes, Zhuangzi speaks of meditation and ch’i. He also makes use of Confucius without being a Confucian, Mozi without being a Mohist (usefulness versus uselessness), and Logicians without being a Logician. When it comes to understanding Zhuangzi, it’s best to first get a sense of his spirit of intellectual anarchy lest one become entrapped by literalism.

Perhaps Zhuangzi cannot be taken as a proper “Daoist”, at all. Or perhaps I’ve got him wrong.  It doesn’t really matter; what matters is what works best for me (and you).