What is it we are looking for when we find ourselves literally above or beyond what we know with our source? As if we are creating, or in the flow of our highest selves. Not waiting for the world as we find our natural rhythm or spirit that takes us there. It’s like that mountain top experience – where time and space dissolve and you become one with it all again, if only for a moment. What the presence within yearns to return to… as if going within we find ourselves coming home to a place we’ve been a thousand times before. It is in acknowledging this transcendence, we re-discover or find what nurtures us that empowers us in eternity. As if we are here only to refine the spirit within that takes us there.
Nei-yeh — Inward Training and transcendentalism / Wisdom to be shared by All
For the heavens, the ruling principle is to be aligned.
For the earth, the ruling principle is to be level.
For human beings the ruling principle is to be tranquil.
Spring, autumn, winter and summer are the seasons of the heavens.
Mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys are the resources of the earth.
Pleasure and anger, accepting and rejecting are the devices of human beings.
Therefore, the sage:
Alters with the seasons but doesn’t transform,
shifts with things but doesn’t change places with them.
If you can be aligned and be tranquil, only then can you be stable.
With a stable mind at your core,
with the eyes and ears acute and clear,
and with the four limbs firm and fixed,
you can thereby make a lodging place for the vital essence.
The vital essence: it is the essence of the vital energy.
When the vital energy is guided, it [the vital essence] is generated,
but when it is generated, there is thought,
when there is thought, there is knowledge,
but when there is knowledge, then you must stop.
Whenever the forms of the mind have excessive knowledge,
you lose your vitality.
The above translation of the Nei-yeh is by Harold Roth, and excerpted from his book, Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism.
By way of introduction to the text, Mr. Roth writes:
“Nei-yeh (Inward Training) is a collection of poetic verses on the nature of the Way (Tao) and a method of self-discipline that I call “inner cultivation” — a mystical practice whose goal is a direct apprehension of this all-pervading cosmic force. It contains some of the most beautiful lyrical descriptions of this mysterious cosmic power in early Chinese literature and in both literary form and philosophical content is quite similar to the much more renowned Lao Tzu (also called the Tao Te Ching).
The Nei-yeh is a Taoist scripture, believed to have been written in the 4th century BC, making it — alongside the 6th century BC Lao Tzu Te Tao Ching and the 4th century BC Chuang Tzu — one of the earliest articulations of Taoist mysticism.
The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzu, it is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. Though belonging primarily to the Taoist Canon, the Nei-yeh resonates strongly with other non-dual spiritual traditions, Chan / Zen Buddhism in particular.
It is when this spirit of oneness encompasses us, that a sense of prevailing gratitude becomes pervasive in our heart, mind, and actions. This sense of “grace and gratitude” of spiritual awareness begins to occur through us as we rely on the divine presence from within. It is from this acknowledgement our individual spiritual expression finds its home. This connection to the universe through observation of nature, cause and effect, and ancient wisdom is the benchmark of individual spiritual expression.
Henry David Thoreau once said about the practice of yoga, “Free in this world as the birds in the air, disengaged from every kind of chains, those who practice yoga gather in Brahma (as in to preserve) the certain fruits of their works.
Depend upon it that, rude and careless as I am, I would fain practice the yoga faithfully. The yogi, absorbed in contemplation, contributes in his degree to creation; he breathes a divine perfume, he hears wonderful things. Divine forms traverse him without tearing him, and united to the nature which is proper to him, he goes, he acts as animating original matter. To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I am a yogi”. For myself, it is living in a state of constant wonder… of transcendence.
Ultimately conveying that it matters who we are, what we think, and what we do. Are we here to just find comfort in where we find ourselves, or discover a sense of purpose as we learn inwardly who we are and perhaps teach what we come to know? Or as Thoreau would say, “Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. So, live the life you imagined”.
What I am attempting to do here is exploration of the central meaning of Inward Training, this twenty-six chapter/thirteen-part series, by recognizing a few of the key people who developed ways of thought, that added to philosophy and religion over the centuries that brings us to where we are now. Not just simply East verses West, but to explore commonalities and how people came to conclusions that expanded their own vision of the universe, consciousness, and their own role, but to what should be our role in general. Quite a task I know. By comparison, one can look to the teachings of Jesus Christ as if we live two lives. With Jesus representing how we look and act towards the outside world, and to the Christ, as we cultivate our spirit in our own inner world. It is in combining the two, we too can become transcendent.
Looking at key individuals who contributed to thoughts of how we came to be where we are today and trying not to favor one path over another. Who is it we follow? And where is it we’re going and can it matter using this premise of Inward Training as the highest point of empowerment that serves to take us there.
Kind of like the Herman Hesse story of Siddhartha and his journey searching for his own enlightenment not through the eyes of another (his father), but through self-discovery and eventually finding it for himself. Ultimately following a path similar to that of Shakyamuni, the Buddha and in seeing beyond ourselves and where that may lead.
Transcendentalism is considered to be any system of philosophy, including that of Emanuel Kant, holding that the key to knowledge of the nature of reality lies in the critical examination of the process on which depends of the nature of existence… and where does that come from. In that philosophy leads to what we call philosophical speculation to the point of finding yourself in the state of being transcendental, such as thought or language, that is in and of itself considered transcendental that can take you there. It would be Emerson who later suggested emphasizing intuition as a means to knowledge in the search for the divine.
What’s interesting is our popular culture thinks of transcendental meditation and Eastern philosophy and religion starting from the 1960’s when the Beatles went to India and “re-discovered” being transcendental for America. Western philosophical thought also has its roots in transcendentalism. It seems to have always been here, forgotten, and serves to simply re-enforce our universal presence.
In 1781, Emmanuel Kant published the Critique of Pure Reason, an enormous work and one of the most important on Western thought. He attempted to explain how reason and experiences interact with thought and understanding. This revolutionary proposal explained how an individual’s mind organizes experiences into understanding the way the world works. Kant focused on ethics, the philosophical study of moral actions. He proposed a moral law called the “categorical imperative”, stating that morality is derived from rationality and all moral judgments are rationally supported. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong; there is no grey area. Human beings are obligated to follow this imperative unconditionally if they are to claim to be moral.
One could argue that the teachings of Confucius in the updating of the five ancient classics of Chinese history, his version of the I Ching, and first chapters of the Ten Wings, i.e., commentaries, had a similar long-standing influence of what was to be followed in Eastern philosophy and thought based on virtue. Just as what Kant did in the west having a similar result on attitudes, customs and culture. More on Confucius another time. Each created a benchmark for others to follow.
Kant drew a parallel between the Copernican revolution and the epistemology, or branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge with his idea of transcendental philosophy.
He never used the “Copernican revolution” phrase about himself, but it has often been applied to his work by others. Kant’s Copernican revolution involved two interconnected foundations of his “critical philosophy.”
- the epistemology of transcendental idealism, and
- the moral philosophy of the autonomy of practical reason.
For Kant, and his Critique of Pure Reason, it was the idea of the soul as a mental entity, with intellectual and moral qualities, interacting with a physical organism but capable of continuing after its dissolution, derives in Western thought from Plato and entered into Judaism during approximately the last century before the Common Era. (Common Era refers to the beginning of year 1 without referencing Christianity). He reached a similar conclusion as Meister Eckhard had centuries earlier. That our soul is a mental entity that connects with the universe on an on-going basis. As if there is a “universal consciousness” that connects all in nature, including man himself. This is also a fundamental aspect of Taoism.
Perhaps the central and most controversial thesis of the Critique of Pure Reason is that human beings experience only appearances, not things in themselves; and that space and time are only subjective forms of human intuition that would not subsist in themselves if one were to abstract from all subjective conditions of human intuition. Kant calls this thesis transcendental idealism, i.e., moving beyond your physical self to enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time and causation are mere sensibilities; that “things in themselves exist, but their nature is unknowable” leaving us to try to make sense of it all.
I think this is why I am so passionate about the history of the shaman, I Ching, and Taoism. How does one make sense out of what can’t be known? You first look to others who share this passion for attempting to know the unknowable… where it led them… and their conclusions? How did they get from here to there? What is it a philosopher does, and why should it so important for the rest of us? As in asking “what is the underpinning of our own conscious thought and what becomes of our natural inclination to follow this once it gets our attention?”
The meaning of the European word consciousness as we understand it today is often attributed to René Descartes (1596-1650), who used the word “conscientia.”
Others attribute the current notion of consciousness to John Locke’s “Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” published in 1690. Locke defined consciousness as “the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind.” An 18th-century encyclopedia defined consciousness as “the opinion or internal feeling that we ourselves have from what we do.” More on this later in a future entry.
What is important for me, as a historian in Eastern philosophy, is connections over time. How everything fits together that leads one to rational conclusions based on understanding underlying contradictions coupled with cause and effect. As if connecting again with eternity’s wisdom, i.e., with that synergy, the flow of our energy and intuition, as well as, what we have come to know, as if we are transcending time. How it all fits together and continues, but for now this from my manuscript… “My travels with Lieh Tzu” found here on my website.
Wisdom to be shared by All
The sage prefers conversing with those who share his wisdom. While the ordinary man finds comfort in those who looks as he does and avoids anything that does not fit the patterns he has accepted or that may be different from himself. Anything without a skeleton, hands or feet that do not fit the pattern, the beasts and birds of the world have been set apart from man.
Why is this so? The ordinary man who seeks knowledge and wisdom only among those with certain looks, cannot find it as they are as the racehorse with blinders running down the track. Aware only of what lies ahead. Unaware of what may be from side to side that may divert his attention from the finish. He may win the race, but he has missed what is important. And that is what he sees and learns along the way. As with the Tao, it is not the speed in which one finds his final destination. But what is learned in the process and learning to appreciate that which may be different from ourselves.
What is it that separates the others from man? They may differ in shape and voice. However, are they really so different? They wish to preserve their lives as we do and only follow their own instincts in doing so. Male and female mate together, mother and child keep close together.They avoid harm and seek shelter, avoid cold and seek out warmth, they travel together keeping their young protected. They lead each other to water and call out to each other when they find food. Are these things so different from man?
In the beginning, they were man’s equal. It is only when man found advantage could be gained by controlling the others, did he separate himself from all other things. That from ancient times man has been able to converse with animals is not lost upon the sage. The sage shares his wisdom with all those that will listen, man beast and bird. With no advantage given except that which nature provides. How else could it be? 1/27/95