Are we living in Illusion?
The great metaphors from all spiritual traditions — grace, liberation, being born again, awakening from illusion — testify that it is possible to transcend the conditioning of our past and do a new thing. — Sam Keen in Hymns to an Unknown God.
To live beyond the fear of what we think we cannot control. To be in command of our own destiny. Are we here just marking time, or is there an ultimate or universal plan to it all? It is to me our greatest challenge. Do we build walls around our thoughts to keep others out, or find comfort from what we think we know from within? Perhaps we are to simply live within what we ultimately know, but forgotten. To remain as if the earliest shaman as he looked to the stars for clues as to what could possibly be known and to what could never be known. To be conditioned by our memories and be challenged to find the spontaneity to do new things. Before returning for the sake of what our ancestors, the ancients, once taught us.
In Taoism, there is even something called Upper Heaven and Lower Heaven, and living within the grace we have always known. But that’s a story for another day. For now, I want to follow what is found in my own version of the Book of Lieh Tzu that is entitled, My Travels with Lieh Tzu, in it I wrote the following as a preface…
It is said that each of us is granted two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live after that. To perchance awaken midstream in our lives, as if we have been re‑born; given an opportunity to find and follow our true destiny and endeavor. That our ultimate task is not only to discover who we are but where we belong in history. Is not this the ultimate challenge? To simply rise up, traveling as one with the prevailing winds. Becoming one with the angels, or dragons, as they manifest before us. Letting our spirit soar. Freeing our mind, heart, and soul to go where few dare to wonder.
I know my task as a writer will be complete when my writing is as indefinable as my subject. Just as I know my task as an individual, as I exist in the here and now, will be to simply tell the stories that I have learned along the way. That we each have a story to tell. As we free ourselves of attachments and ego and baggage we have clung to as we try to find our way. That the ultimate travel is the travel of our spirit. That the ultimate giving is to share our gift with others. To become one with the ages. To bring forth the stories, myths and legends that tell the way. To stay interested in life, as I am in reality here only for an instant before moving on.
My task only to look for constant renewal. Finally, true expression of self is in losing myself through expressing the voices of the past. That I am here to relay that the fears and hopes of humanity rest not in where we find ourselves in the here and now, but in reality, to find and reflect our inner nature waiting to be re‑discovered and built upon again and again.
That all true learning is self-learning of who we ultimately are to become. That once we have awakened so that we can see beyond ourselves, then have not we found our spirits traveling the winds through eternity. This being so, could there be a more ultimate way of travel than to be found traveling with Lieh Tzu? ##
The preface above is what I wrote in January 1996 after completing my own personal version of The Book of Lieh Tzu. As if understanding could only manifest from within, after it had traveled through me. The Book of Lieh Tzu was viewed as a primer, a book of elementary principles, for those wanting to gain understanding of the meaning of Taoism. Its contents have been used and built upon for thousands of years by precepts who wanted to learn how to follow the way of virtue.
To be able to be found in intense study, gaining a glimpse of our highest self and what that might mean. Taoism was not a stand-alone concept and was to be seen as complimentary to shamanism, Confucianism, and even to some extent Chan Buddhism as all matured together over thousands of years in China.
Something to be built upon from one generation to the next. The Tao, or Way of Virtue as it was to become known, simply became the way to awaken from the illusion we live each day and to re-discover the grace that connects us to the universe we have always known but forgotten. I wrote the following a year earlier in January 1995 as I began my own Travels with Lieh Tzu, in earnest.
Finding the Common Thread
Knowing the Way is simply coming to know what is native within ourselves. Growing up it becomes what is natural and in maturity becomes destiny.
Set your will on the aim of what is your internal truth. Outwardly knowing the highest speech is to remain quiet, just as the utmost doing is doing nothing.
Looking beyond the surface of what is brought up around you. Finding the substance to know the true way and never matching yourself against the world as you are bound to overreach your true objective.
Remain as Lieh Tzu with his own mentor Hu Tzu and not question what has yet to come forward. Just as Hu Tzu’s integrity is questioned unwittingly by the visiting shaman who ultimately flees in panic, know that your own vitality is centered only on the path you have chosen to follow. Old beings and dragons do not question where they go. They simply arrive at the place meant for them to be. Not dreaming when they sleep and with no cares when they awake. Always in the end, returning to the place of their ancestors.
Just as Chuang Tzu says that the Perfect Man breathes from his heels, the common man breathes from his throat. Be the one whose breath comes from knowing the true aims of heaven and know that immortality is now within you to come to know and find.
As Lieh Tzu left Hzu Tzu to spend three years on his farm living simply, coming to know detachment and freedom of all things, so must you. Your destiny is in the clouds with dragons. Simply doing by being. 1/23/95
Finding the common thread is ultimately about moving beyond life’s limitations, finding the spontaneity that is truly ourselves and relearning how to fly. Letting go and knowing why we are here. Adding to the wisdom of the ages and to where we will someday return and knowing this will always be enough.