Mencius:  “Participating everywhere in the springtime of each being!” That’s what it is to experience “flood-like qi”.

Scott:  Really? I haven’t been able to figure out what you meant by that.

Zhuangzi:  No one can!

Mencius:  You should talk! But I should think that if one experiences qi as that which “fills the space between Heaven and earth” then it would be easy enough to see how that is also an experience of a oneness with all things and a participation in the joyful arising of all things.

Scott:  And you say you are “good at cultivating flood-like qi”—so, you have experienced that oneness. And you also said that after forty your “heart has not been stirred”—which I take to mean that nothing has “entered your Numinous Reservoir” to disturb your peace—the experience of Zhuangzi’s hypothetical sage. Zhuangzi made no such claims and won’t confirm or deny the realization of those experiences to me. That, by Zhuangzi’s definition, would make you a sage; and by implication, more a sage than he.

Mencius:  Well, yes. But I also make no claim to being a sage. “A sage is something that even Confucius did not claim to be.”

Zz:  But you believe that Confucius was a sage nonetheless, do you not?

Mencius:  I do. Do you not?

Zz:  I do not know. He talked the talk, and made claims very much like yours, but we all get carried away and imagine more of ourselves than we can rightly claim.

Scott: You do have to admit that there’s a lot of ambiguity in your statements—contradictions, frankly. You seem to think yourself a sage, but see sagacity as an unwillingness to make the claim.

Mencius:  Since Confucius did not claim to be a sage, then sagacity would indeed include not declaring oneself a sage.

Scott:  But then why do you claim that he was a sage? Surely, not because he made no such claim. I, too, can declare that I am no sage, but that does not make me a sage.

Mencius:  I know by his life and words.

Scott:  But what do we know of either, except what others said of him? And it’s easy enough to talk a talk while falling well short of the walk—as I am most personally aware.

Zz:  Please don’t take Scott’s objections personally. It’s just that he sees belief as a flight from reality and wishes to meet life with utmost honesty. But he too is sometimes a prevaricator, as are we all.

Mencius:  No offense taken. Neither your opinions nor Scott’s can change the fact that Confucius was a sage.


Scott:  To tell you the truth, I prefer a walk in the woods to these logical exercises to occasion an experience oneness.

Zhuangzi:  So do I! It’s the story of Ziqi and his forest that comes from my heart. But you just have to remember that I was rubbing shoulders with the Logicians and so used their methods. I was mostly writing in dialogue with Huizi especially. So tell me about a walk in the woods.

Scott:  There’s nothing at all profound in it. My guess is that just about anyone, who lets her- or himself, experiences a sense of transcendent belonging when in Nature.

Zz:  And when are we ever not in Nature?

Scott:  True. Nature is everything. However much we think otherwise, we and all the supposedly artificial accoutrements of our manufactured hive are not other than Nature. In every moment and in every direction we turn is an invitation to experience oneness. That’s the beauty of it. It’s just being human. It’s all and always just being human. Nothing is added to the process of life, as you say. But there is something about a rawer and less humanized experience of Nature that makes the experience of oneness easier.

Zz:  Granted. And it’s also when we experience a sense of oneness with Nature that we come up against that which prevents us from complete release into oneness.

Scott: The fixed-self. The self that takes itself as a fixed-identity and fears its own loss. But that too is an opportunity for experimental play. We can imagine releasing our grip on our identity and can thus imagine ourselves into a deeper oneness.

Zz:  What’s there to lose!? Whatever we “are”, we cannot become other than we “are”. Nothing is lost in imagining the loss of our “me”. If the “me” is fixed and real, well then, it cannot be lost. And if it is not, then all we have to lose is our fear of its loss.

Scott:  And losing one’s “me” isn’t the loss of the self-experience in any case. It’s just experiencing it in a different way—an open-ended way that “participates everywhere in the springtime of each being”. It’s a self-experience that comes not at the exclusion of all other “selves” but that actually includes and celebrates the self-ness of all other selves.

Zz:  You like that passage.

Scott:  I love that passage!

Mencius:  And so do I!

Zz:  Meng! Glad you could make it! And your timing was perfect!

Scott:  If surprising me and making me jump out of my skin was the object, it was perfect timing indeed!  But you are most welcome. Take a seat and I’ll get you a glass.


Zhuangzi:  Do you agree that when we create something we also destroy something else? When we carve the jade pendant we destroy the raw jade.

Scott:  Yes.

Zz:  The artisan assigns greater value to the jade pendant, but from another point of view the raw jade had the true value.

Scott:  The logging industry thinks the board feet to be obtained from a two thousand year old redwood are more valuable than the living tree. And some of us disagree.

Zz:  Precisely. And didn’t we agree that from the point of view from Dao those two opposite valuations are equalized? The value of the tree and the value of the boards are equal?

Scott: As an inveterate tree-hugger, I have difficulty with that. Maybe it wasn’t the best example.

Zz:  But that’s precisely why it is a good example. If it doesn’t cut against the grain of your chosen inclinations then it’s of little use. And remember, even when you have equalized these opposing values you can return to your chosen value. Only now you are informed of a broader view—the felling of the tree will not lead you to despair; you have realized that all things are created in the destruction of something else, and all destruction is the creation of something new. You will have had an experience of the Transforming Openness wherein all identities are in flux and nothing is ever lost.

Scott:  So, creation is also destruction, and vice versa; and thus we can see how they themselves negate each other and form a oneness. And that oneness is the sense of Dao.

Zz:  Yes; and you are right to say the “sense” of Dao. This Dao is not “The One”, but the psychological movement that experiences oneness.

Scott:  As Laozi says, “Reversal is the movement of the Dao.”

Zz:  Well, whoever wrote it had something similar in mind, though I admit I’m not always sure what he or they had in mind.


Scott:  Like your writing.

Zz:  Yes; I guess so.


Scott:  So one of the positive outcomes of experiencing oneness is a hope that is also not-hope.

Zhuangzi:  Life is a great hoping—an affirming élan, is it not? “Hope dawns eternal”, as you say. But it also eternally sets. We become ill and hope to recover; and maybe we do. But eventually we do not. The hope that depends on particular outcomes is the mother of despair. Conditional hope and despair are mutually generating opposites; you can’t have one without the other.

Scott:  But they can be united to form a oneness.

Zz:  And when we do that we put an end to the conditionality of hope and return to our intrinsic hope. In their mutual self-negation all that remains is what life itself is—a hopeful affirming.


Scott:  Explain again how we can unite them to form a oneness. I basically get the mechanics of it, but it does seem like a lot of word-play—a kind of trickery.

Zz:  It is word-play and trickery! What is not? I use several mutually generating opposites to show how we can unite them to form a oneness. Which would you prefer I now use as an example?

Scott:  Remind again of the options.

Zz:  Well, there’s self and other, right and wrong, and creation and destruction, for starters. But once we start, it becomes applicable in the case of all our dualistic self-experience. Remember, that’s what we’re doing—moving from our inherent dualism to an experience of oneness. And when we emerge, we have a dualism that is informed of oneness so that our not-oneness is also experienced as a oneness. And it’s all psychological—tweaking our experience, playing with our humanity. We’re not talking Truth and Reality here.

Scott:  That last is so important—it makes the word-play seem more acceptable. Okay, how about self and other.

Zz:  First we want to see how they generate each other. Do you agree that without self there is no other, and vice versa?

Scott:  Well, self thinks of itself as independent, fixed and real; so no, I don’t see that as self-evident, though it’s likely the case. Can we take creation and destruction as an example instead?

Zz:  Sure. I take your point. Shall we refill our glasses first?


Scott:  So our so-called hedonism does not lead us to evil-doing, but quite the contrary, it leads us to a greater fulfilment of the concerns of morality than does morality itself.

Zhuangzi:  Correct. And why are we “hedonists’?

Scott:  We are hedonists because we take the enjoyment of life as the greatest good. And we follow that because that is what life itself is. Life is self-flourishing. And so we harmonize with how life manifests in us. We pursue our own self-flourishing.

Zz:  Right. And we “pursue” it, and are not simply spontaneously it, because we are by Nature warped. Self-consciousness and the dualism it creates is an apparent anomaly in the world, and this requires us to make conscious choices.

Scott:  So the sage is merely a hypothetical?  And complete spontaneity is likewise hypothetical?

Zz:  They are for you, are they not?

Scott:  They are.

Zz:  Well then; that’s what they are.

Scott:  Then oneness is also only a hypothetical? But I know that. It’s only a chosen interpretation of the world where some interpretation is necessary even if it must remain hypothetical. And we choose this one because we discover it enhances our enjoyment of life.

Zz:  Yes. And what’s interesting is that we can experience it—at least in approximation. But if it is only a hypothetical, then experiencing it is not confirming it as factually true, but simply tweaking our own self-experience.

Scott:  It’s cool that we can do that. But then I guess that’s what we must always do. What we take as a “normal” self-experience is really only the one that we have decided on as a species. Taking ourselves as “full and real” is our default tweak. Believing that we are absolutely different than all other things and not in oneness with them is nothing but a similar tweaking of our self-experience.

Zz: And since that leads to fear and alienation, why not try a different tweak? It’s all made-up; so why not make up the most enjoyable interpretive tweak?

Scott:  The self-experience is really essentially malleable. We only experience it as fixed and rigid because there are millennia of our having done so as a species. So a revolution in consciousness—something that many see as the only hope for our future flourishing as a species—is actually feasible, though given the extent of our present rigidity, unlikely.

Zz:  Yes. I share your pessimism. I hope for the best, and my work was an attempt to further it, but in the end it might be hoping too much. That’s what’s so great about being free of all conditional hope. The experience of oneness gives us an unconditional hope. All is well!


Zhuangzi:  People worry that an experience of oneness undermines our sense right and wrong—and we can’t be trusted to do the “right” thing without that sense dictating to us how to behave.

Scott:  There’s an infamous murderous and insane cult leader, Charles Manson, who is reported to have declared, “If all is One, what is evil?” But wouldn’t it be foolish to believe he did evil because he believed that dictum or had had an experience of oneness? Every cognitive justification for an act deemed good or evil is after the fact; it is not the cause of our behavior. Our actions arise from something much deeper than what we say we “believe”.

Zz:  But he was right; “if all is One”, there is nothing evil. The view from Dao transcends such discriminating concerns, which is why I say that the sage does not allow the natural human inclination of distinguishing between right and wrong to rule her; that’s what keeps right and wrong from entering her Numinous Reservoir and destroying her inner harmony. And that’s what allows her to affirm the “rightness” of all things.

Scott:  But that doesn’t mean that within the human sphere there isn’t good an evil. It’s just that we understand that it only exists within that sphere. We are informed by a higher view that relativizes our concern for such things and frees us from being ruled by them.

Zz:  There’s a great passage in “Autumn Floods” that addresses this: The person who says, “Why don’t we make only rightness our master and eliminate wrongness, make only order our master and eliminate chaos?”—that person has yet to understand how right and wrong are inextricably all mixed up and cannot be so clearly divided. The author tells us that that would be like taking yin as our master and eliminating yang—an obvious impossibility.

Scott:  And the irony is that in trying to make only right our master, we in fact make wrong our master. We know what is right by knowing what is wrong. Doing the right becomes an avoidance of the wrong. “Embrace the right, and the wrong shall rule.”

Zz:  Exactly. And that is where spontaneity comes in. Isn’t true goodness that which we do without the mediation of right and wrong? The sage does what is “right”, not because she thinks it right, but because that’s who she is.

Scott:  In the final analysis, morality is for the immoral, which is why within the human sphere we must make use of it. Xunzi is right: Humans are by Nature warped. And that fundamental warpedness—our ability to act outside of instinct—leads to all manner of chosen warpedness.

Zz: Yet even that is to be human and is thus affirmable—from the point of view of Dao, the view from Oneness.


Scott:  So we can recommend an experience of oneness because it makes for greater happiness. We are hedonists.

Zhuangzi:  We are! Why do people find that so . . . “wrong”!?

Scott:  Because they do not trust themselves. Or more likely, they do not trust others. They can pursue their own happiness without falling into a pernicious antinomian oneness, but others cannot be trusted to do so. Right and wrong must therefore trump the pursuit of happiness, lest the others run amok in licentiousness.

Zz:  “Pernicious antinomian oneness”—that’s a new one!

Scott:  A certain Zen “master” was explaining oneness and felt it necessary to assure us that it wasn’t a “pernicious oneness”. Somehow that struck me as so not-a-good-word that it was a sort of epiphany for me. I now ironically fantasize on starting the Church of Pernicious Oneness. Our motto is “By nature warped!” Thank you Xunzi!

Zz:  “Not-a-good-word”—can you explain that?

Scott:  In Zen a “good word” is a word or action that signifies understanding of the un-understandable. In one Zen story a master threatens to kill the cat the possession of which is the object of a dispute between his disciples—if someone cannot say a good word. They all remain silent, and the cat dies. Another disciple who was not present, upon hearing the story from the master, puts his sandals on his head and walks away. “You would have saved the cat!” the master shouts after him. Or do you know the story of Two Words Too Many?

Zz:  I’ve probably heard it, but let’s hear it again.

Scott:  A bunch of Zen masters meet in an inn for a blabber session. But the master thought to be the most enlightened—whatever that means—does not come out of his room to join the word-fest. One master complains, “At least he could give us one word.” Upon hearing this, the most-realized master says, “That would be one word too many.” But the cook, overhearing this, says, “Now there are two rat turds in the rice!” Who said a good word here? Who “got” it?

Zz:  Seems to me there are three turds in the rice. No word is a good word; but words are necessary. That’s my good word. So, you felt that qualifying oneness by reference to right and wrong the master betrayed the experience of oneness. I agree.

Scott: Similarly, to worry about right and wrong when we declare happiness as the greatest good and as the fruit of an experience of oneness is to betray a lack of understanding of oneness.


Zhuangzi:  Yes, there are many ways into an experience of oneness. Even Huizi in his deconstruction of language had his moment, though he didn’t wish to pursue it further. But when it’s all said and done, it’s not that big of a deal, in any case. He lived, he died. His enjoyment of life was pretty much the same as everyone else’s. Nothing was gained. Nothing was lost.

Scott:  That’s the view from the top of the mountain. Somehow the so-called ultimate experience always self-effaces and returns you to the most mundane. I always think of the supposed words of Gautama in this regard: “I gained absolutely nothing from supreme, unsurpassable enlightenment; that’s why it is called supreme, unsurpassable enlightenment.” There is no gap between what we are and the realization of what we are. There’s nothing to become, because we are already unavoidably it in our becoming.

Zz:  That touches on your mantra: “I’m perfect by virtue of my being perfectly who I am, as I am.”

Scott:  Nothing to do; nothing to become; no conditions to meet. It’s already true of me and everyone and everything else. It’s the Great Happening. We feel like we have to “go” somewhere; become something different; realize oneness. But not-realizing oneness is the same as realizing it. It’s always the case. It’s all completely embraced. It’s all good. All is well in the Great Mess.

Zz: Is it? Or do we only imagine it as so?

Scott:  We only imagine it as so. There’s no other choice but to imagine some interpretation of reality or another. But the experience is real enough—whether “true” or not. Every experience lies outside of truth or untruth.

Zz:  And the fantastic experience of a madman is as affirmable as any other experience?

Scott:  It is. Nothing is not the Great Happening. But madmen don’t seem to enjoy life as much as “sane” people. They have settled on an imagined reality that is usually terribly painful. Neither their own flourishing nor that of others is enhanced by their interpretation of the world. And that, from the human point of view, is the highest value—being happy and enhancing the happiness of others. Madness is thus not a particularly appealing imagined reality.

Zz:  And realizing a sense of oneness is an experience conducive to our self- and collective-flourishing. That’s its only value. It’s not realizing the Truth. The great riddle is not solved. Reality is not made whole once again. God doesn’t awaken from his dream.  No hocus-pocus metaphysics are implied. It’s just choosing to experience the world in a certain way.


Scott:  Hi again! No friend this time?

Zhuangzi:  Hi. No. You’ll be in fundamental disagreement with most anyone I bring, and I thought you might be in need of a break from your lessons in “following along with the present this”.

Scott: I am; it’s true. But Xunzi was a pretty big challenge, you’ll have to admit. Huizi was easier.

Zz: Yes, he was. But then we and he are on the same page when it comes to skepticism regarding our ability to know the truth. Still, the greater the challenge, the better the lesson.

Scott:  I suppose so. But, yes, I could use a breather. And anyway there’s something I want to share with you—something that came up during our discussion with Xunzi. It’s an experience, really.

Zz:  Great! I could use a break from pure blabber—though I suppose you’ll have to blabber to share it.

Scott: I will. But I don’t think the blabber can really say it. It was an experience of oneness. It comes from realizing human nature as Nature, not just in an abstract, cognitive sense, but experientially. It’s simple really.

Zz: Of course it is. I really enjoy all this philosophizing and word-play, but the truth is that it must always miss the mark. It can never be what it is intended to covey—experience. And though you can’t talk your way into experience, you can set the stage for a leap. So, tell me more.

Scott:  Everything I am and do is the happening of Nature. That’s what my “the Great Happening” is intended to convey. Every happening, including all my happenings—whatever and however they are—imagined or real, freely chosen or determined, “good” or “bad”—all of them are the happening of the Great Happening. It’s just another way of describing your “the same as the Transforming Openness”.

Zz: “There are many paths to the mountain top, but the view is always the same.”

Scott:  Where’d that come from?

Zz:  The crime novel you’re reading at the moment.

Scott:  Oh. Well, it still says a lot. I get that sense in your writing; there’s lots of ways to imaginatively enter a sense of oneness.


Scott:  So, when we understand human nature as morally neutral, neither good nor evil, but just like Nature itself, affirmable just as it is without moral discrimination, then we don’t have to come up with some ethical principle by which to justify a move toward pan-inclusiveness. It’s only a practical consideration—it’s harmonious with our natural élan, our desire for self-flourishing.

Zhuangzi:  Correct. And that, quite simply, is the view from Dao—taking human nature as Nature.

Scott:  Taking human nature as Nature moves us beyond our addiction to right and wrong, beyond our propensity to see ourselves as transcendent of Nature, and that enables a sense of release into oneness with all things.

Zz:  We are able to see ourselves as both somehow transcendent of Nature and as one with Nature. The view from Dao is really just acknowledging what it is to be human. We typically only see ourselves as transcendent of Nature because we fear to participate in an apparently ceaseless transformation that has no respect for the preservation of identity. Truly realizing one’s unity with Nature requires releasing one’s grip on an imagined fixed-identity taken as transcendent of Nature.

Scott:  And that propensity to take ourselves as “fixed, full and real” is part of our warpedness.

Zz:  True. Human self-consciousness and its consequences would seem to be an anomaly. But then that’s also the warpedness of Nature. If humanity is by Nature warped, then Nature is also warped. But Nature is only warped from the human point of view. From the point of view of Dao, there is no warpedness.

Scott:  I call it the Great Mess because from the human point of view Nature seems warped—it’s not as we would like it to be. To say that All is Well, on the other hand, is to thankfully release into Nature just as it seems to be.

Zz:  And that’s the pan-inclusiveness, the cosmo-centrism, that we have been suggesting is a natural possibility for human consciousness. It doesn’t have to happen, but it can happen; and we discover that—even in its merely incremental happening—it makes life more fun.

Scott:  What could be better than that!? And that’s a great place to stop—my mind needs a rest.

Zz:  Ah, yes; sometimes I forget that you still apparently exist. Bye!