THE CHURCH OF PERNICIOUS ONENESS IV

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.

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