Each thing reveals the One,

the One manifests as all things.

(Stanza 22)

To have an experience of non-duality is equivalent to experiencing the equality of all things. But this is impossible if we are not also able to suspend what Zhuangzi calls our “natural inclination” to see some things and good (right) and other things as bad (wrong). His buddy Huizi wants to know how someone could still be considered human if they lack this fundamental human attribute. The question is moot, of course—whatever humans do or can do falls within the definition of human. A psychopath is as human as you or I.

Still, there are practical considerations. Even if we assume that someone who has had a transformative experience of non-duality will naturally do what is right and best for our collective flourishing without considering it right in opposition to wrong, such a one is a great rarity, if they exist at all. Society must exercise the natural inclination to judge between right and wrong if it is to flourish. So too must you and I.

But let us assume that we have experiences of oneness—not as some imagined final and complete salvific enlightenment, but just as everyday incremental inklings. We would then have a sense of the relative nature of ethical discriminations even as we continue to exercise them. How would this change us? Might it not lead us to greater tolerance? And might it not free us from the tyranny of guilt and anger? Could there still be guilt and anger—two natural inclinations that have practical benefits—that do not destroy a deeper and more fundamental peace?

Zhuangzi thinks so. This is walking two roads at once. This is our humanity informed of a broader perspective, the view from Dao. This view does not abrogate our natural inclinations, but simply puts them in perspective so as to free us to exercise them even as we wander unfettered to them.

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