Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thoughts on the Tao Te Ching 71

Poem 71

Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.

The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.


Humility is a virtue much to be prized according to many religious and spiritual traditions, though the great Greek philosopher Aristotle denied that it could ever be one because it actually sets itself against some of our most fundamental impulses like ambition and pride for example.  Instead Aristotle exalted "greatness of soul," what he termed wonderfully in Greek as "megalopsychia," which was for him where all moral values converged - a mean, as all virtues were essentially - between the extremes of vanity on the one hand and pusillanimity or extreme timidity on the other hand.

Again, a great soul, or as we say, a humble person, would acknowledge that not-knowing is true knowledge.  It is a Socratic epistemology insofar as one's starting point is always the acknowledgement of one's ignorance and then the gradual digging down or climbing up step by step in the pursuit of that knowledge. In keeping with our Taoist poet's analogy, there are far too many sick people in the world, that is, those who presume to know; those who think they have all the answers.  That is all ego stuff, that, in actuality.

When we realise we are sick, in sustaining our Taoist metaphor, we are on the way to healing.  How true it is that when we get a diagnosis for any illness we may have, that we are on the way to a certain type of healing - please note, I do not say cure here, as curing of illnesses is an entirely different matter.  Most counsellors, tharapists and even a growing number of medical doctors acknowledge that healing is more important than cure.  

I like the call of the Master or Mistress - the Teacher is both Masculine and Feminine in Taoism, maybe even beyond all sex, but that is a matter for another place and time.  In keeping with the sentiments of this wonderful Taoist poem, let us agree to heal ourselves of all improper and inappropriate knowing.


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