17) Ralph Waldo Emerson / Who might have influenced him – how he us – and his essay Nature

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about Emerson in context… what occurred before him that influenced him… how he used the flow of universal thought to create New Thought and Emer1transcendentalism… and our world today. How Emerson changed who we are and yet to become in the universal sense of man’s role both in nature and our own.

How did Emerson become so influential and have such a lasting influence of American thought and ideals? His ideas that became known as transcendentalism not only changed the direction of budding “American” values and thought in the 1840’s and 50’s to ultimately change the world. His “New Thought” served as the confluence of understanding how the universe – and man’s ultimate role in it fit together as one. The idea of moving beyond what we think we know and freedom to enter into what I like to call “the spirit of wonder” … and what can take others there was his forte. For Emerson, the discovery or adding to the knowledge – the wisdom we each possess – seemed to strike directly into his core. What was the “innate nature of man”. What is it that defines us and more importantly when we have an idea of what that is, then how do we become this? Emerson was able to take the next step that few had the sense to go but would if they knew how.

When thinking about the times in which people live, I try to think about what influenced them in their own thinking and writing. What I would have been doing at the time. Who would have influenced my own writing had I been the ultimate storyteller of the day… the chronicler of events on behalf of the universe – so to speak. Opening both my conscious and unconscious (what we Emer2innately know without thinking) mind to universal thought that transcended what may have been taken for granted as the status quo, and my role in challenging authority that always seems present and so self-serving. It’s why I loved the writing of Patrick Henry of “Give me liberty or give me death” fame, or my dear friend Chuang Tzu of the famous butterfly dream who loved to challenge the structure, status quo, and authority embedded in Confucian thought in ancient China.

 Even the character in the movie “Braveheart” who went to his death shouting FREEDOM, along with so many more throughout history who chose to brave the storm. I would have always been alongside shouting “ya me too”! It’s as if Emerson was there too.

All three would have been known and admired and had tremendous influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson as he became the premier writer, essayist, and orator of his time. Emerson knew that we shape our actions through our thoughts and Emer3most importantly how we share them with others, so why not know the role we are here to play.

Illustration of Emerson’s transparent eyeball metaphor in “Nature” by Christopher Pearse Cranch, 1836-1838. For Emerson the eyeball was to be absorbent not reflective, as if to absorb all one finds in nature.

What was he thinking? Who is it that influenced him and us as we move through our day? For myself, Emerson’s role in history was/continues to be to take us to places we would not otherwise go by discovering and knowing ourselves and deciding to stay present there within.

Emerson used spirituality as a major theme in his famous essay, Nature. Mainly to convey his thoughts of his day. He believed in re-imagining the divine as something large and visible, which he referred to as nature; such an idea is known as transcendentalism, in which one perceives both God and themselves as one as we become one with our surroundings.

Emerson exemplified what was to become known as transcendentalism, stating, “From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind, postulating that humans and wind are one.” He seemed to always be asking… “Who is it that will take the next step with these principles I am here to relay going forward?”

I often think of the aspect of nature as our own involvement as to how we (each of us) evolve. I often see myself in meditation rising a thousand feet in the air as if prepared to travel on the breeze or wind asking only… where do I go today as if I have seen and done it all before returning to the places and companions I’ve always known and lived and loved. Seeing reflections of ourselves not only in the present, but as our eternal nature over time. 


Dreaming the impossible dream

What was Emerson reading that influenced his thinking and writing as if he too was traveling on that wind as well. He devoured all philosophies, thoughts, and ideas that were available to him, as if there was a need to continue this flow of ideas – this wisdom and a freedom of thought that needed to be better understood, expanded on, and most importantly put into action.

Plato, Master Eckhardt, Kant, Confucius, the Bhagavad Gita, and so many more over time whose voices deserved to be repeated as a reminder of our collective responsibility to Nature… especially our own. That freedom, virtue and nature are one and the same. That freedom depends on the quality of attention that we bring to our interactions. Only to the extent that we can be fully engaged and present with ourselves, with our children, and with each other, are we free. It was as if Emerson had been designated by those before him to tell and convey universal truth. Giving us and others the comfort to go there. Permission to rise up as say – even to shout – there is a better way. He transformed us into what we could become by following the innate nature and virtue within who we have always been and that there is nothing to fear in going there. It was here – to this place – that Emer17we are destined to follow when we too rise up to become our true selves, to become present, and catch the winds of eternity.

It would be Emerson who provided the benchmark – the cornerstone for all who would follow in what would become known as “New Thought”. It was from his writing and ideas that Emilie Cady, a homeopathic physician and author would write Lessons in Truth, A Course of Twelve Lessons in Practical Christianity that is now considered one of the core texts of Unity teachings. It is the most widely read book in Unity and has sold over 1.6 million copies since its first publication.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was an Italian philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Emer5Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought. Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract, written in the 1750’s, is a corner-stones in modern political and social thought.

It was Rousseau, Emerson was inspired by and thinking about, when expounding on Rousseau’s writings on “the inherent rights and responsibilities of Man” and his desire to express this idea to thousands in speeches he gave across early America. He was a master orator and spoke eloquently about this passion for man’s eternal intent to find himself. For me, to connect with Emerson I must go back to his take on human nature and thoughts of the undefined – of what becoming transcendental meant to him. Having freedom to be “undefined as such”, so that we may define ourselves in conformity with our essence, our true nature. First and foremost, Emerson was all about showing the way for others. With Emerson we could all aspire to become the sage, once we find our innate nature and go there.

What was it that took Gandhi, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., to Emer6places they would not have otherwise gone as they inspired millions to seek freedom for themselves so that they too could find and nurture their eternal virtue and nature? It was by showing the way. It was the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, New Thought, and transcendentalism that had taken them there. When we think and speak of Joseph Campbell and the “hero’s journey and discovering our bliss”, looking to our source and search of our soul – it begins with knowing our history of who we have always been but forgotten. It is as if Emerson was leaving a trail, he himself had found to follow and knew the way forward knowing our past would continue to evolve into something greater beyond who we are at the present moment. He spoke to the vibrations intoned by those who had preceded him that remains constant, never-ending, and resides in nature… as the natural rhythm – that our collective universal soul sings to.

I go back to Lao Tzu and the basic premise behind the Te Tao Ching that exemplified man’s connection to nature and our responsibility to it. I am drawn to something I wrote almost twenty years ago from a verse in my own published book about the Tao Te Ching that helps to expand on this idea of connection between universal nature we find in both our surroundings and innately within ourselves. From the book I wrote about the Tao Te Ching in 2000 that was published in China in 2006:

Verse 63 – Becoming a Sanctuary to all you meet

The sage acknowledges and understands that there is nothing that is not in keeping with the Tao.

Especially true is that the Tao resides in each of us. Thus, in showing the way the sage is good at saving and directing those around him, while abandoning no one. Emer7Since the sage in essence is simply the embodiment of the Tao, abandoning or leaving behind another person could or would never enter his mind.

The Sanctuary within Oneself   TianHou Palace Temple  Qingdao

The sage’s surroundings are illustrative of how he sees his place in the ten thousand things. As though he is seen creating a sanctuary that reflects his innermost sense of who he is yet to become. Kind and reflective, still yet expansive, he competes with no one and no one competes with him. His strengths and weaknesses have become razor sharp as he uses them to cut through what is perceived to be truth and falsehood. While he remains on the edge pushing others to places, they would not otherwise go, he leaves no foothold for those who would follow except by accepting and following the Tao.

When he himself becomes the sanctuary for others to take refuge and follow, finding the comfort only found in the expression of the Tao, he is reminded that he who searches will find it and those who don’t only escape to wait until another day. (written June 2000)

Emerson referred to nature as the “Universal Being”; he believed that there was a spiritual sense of the natural world around him. Depicting this sense of “Universal Being”, Emerson states, “The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship”. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of transcendentalism in his 1836 essay “Nature. Excerpts are below.

Introduction of Nature

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres (the tombs containing relics of martyrs or even perhaps a structure or recess in some old church in which in Eucharist was deposited with ceremonies on Good Friday and taken out at Easter in commemoration of Christ’s entombment and Resurrection) of the fathers. 


Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (before the April 2019 fire)

It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?


To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.


Libra Constellation

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood. When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects.


Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes;

Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.


Monet’s Water Lilies

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? this zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

“More servants wait on man
Than he’ll take notice of.”

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man. The useful arts are reproductions or new combinations by the wit of man, of the same natural benefactors.

Beauty Of Nature

A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.

The ancient Greeks called the world cosmos (kosmos), beauty. Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping. This seems partly owing to the eye itself. The eye is the best of artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light, perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what character soever, into a well colored and shaded globe, so that where the particular objects are mean and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose, is round and symmetrical.


View from Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province in China 

 And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful. And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its own beauty. But besides this general grace diffused over nature, almost all the individual forms are agreeable to the eye, as is proved by our endless imitations of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion’s claw, the serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms of many trees, as the palm.


Language is a third use which Nature sub-serves to man. Nature is the vehicle, and threefold degree.

1. Words are signs of natural facts.

2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.

3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.

1. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation.


The I Ching – The beginnings of language in China

Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Just as the ancient idea of the balance found on opposite sides of the ridge pole. In the end, nature taught that it was “complimentary opposites” that created the balance needed for all to prosper and survive. 

Right means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit  primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature.

Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children. Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.


In view of the significance of nature, we arrive at once at a new fact, that nature is a discipline. This use of the world includes the preceding uses, as parts of itself.


Following the Path Qingyang Mountain

Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals, the mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day by day, whose meaning is unlimited. They educate both the Understanding and the Reason. Every property of matter is a school for the understanding, — its solidity or resistance, its inertia, its extension, its figure, its divisibility. The understanding adds, divides, combines, measures, and finds nutriment and room for its activity in this worthy scene. Meantime, Reason transfers all these lessons into its own world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind.

Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths.Our dealing with sensible objects is a constant exercise in the necessary lessons of difference, of likeness, of order, of being and seeming, of progressive arrangement; of ascent from particular to general; of combination to one end of manifold forces. Proportioned to the importance of the organ to be formed, is the extreme care with which its tuition is provided, — a care Emer14pretermitted (neglected or omitted) in no single case. What tedious training, day after day, year after year, never ending, to form the common sense; what continual reproduction of annoyances, inconveniences, dilemmas; what rejoicing over us of little men; what disputing of prices, what reckonings of interest, — and all to form the Hand of the mind; — to instruct us that “good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed!”

Heroic Idealism

Thus is the unspeakable but intelligible and practicable meaning of the world conveyed to man, the immortal pupil, in every object of sense. To this one end of Discipline, all parts of nature conspire.

A noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, whether this end be not the Final Cause of the Universe; and whether nature outwardly exists.


View of the sunrise  Huashan Mtn

 It is a sufficient account of that Appearance we call the World, that God will teach a human mind, and so makes it the receiver of a certain number of congruent sensations, which we call sun and moon, man and woman, house and trade. In my utter impotence to test the authenticity of the report of my senses, to know whether the impressions they make on me correspond with outlying objects, what difference does it make, whether Orion is up there in heaven, or some god paints the image in the firmament of the soul? The relations of parts and the end of the whole remaining the same, what is the difference, whether land and sea interact, and worlds revolve and intermingle without number or end, — deep yawning under deep, and galaxy balancing galaxy, throughout absolute space, — or, whether, without relations of time and space, the same appearances are inscribed in the constant faith of man? Whether nature enjoy a substantial existence without, or is only in the apocalypse of the mind, it is alike useful and alike venerable to me. Be it what it may, it is ideal to me, so long as I cannot try the accuracy of my senses.


It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted or that may be, and facts that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and endless exercise.


Raising Spirits    Big Wild Goose Pagoda   Xian

 And all the uses of nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope. Through all its kingdoms, to the suburbs and outskirts of things, it is faithful to the cause whence it had its origin. It always speaks of Spirit. It suggests the absolute. It is a perpetual effect. It is a great shadow pointing always to the sun behind us.

The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.

Of that ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that thinks most, will say least. We can foresee God in the coarse, and, as it were, distant phenomena of matter; but when we try to define and describe himself, both language and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and savages. That essence refuses to be recorded in propositions, but when man has worshiped him intellectually, the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.

Man the Reformer / Prospects

In inquiries respecting the laws of the world and the frame of things, the highest reason is always the truest. That which seems faintly possible — it is so refined, is often faint and dim because it is deepest seated in the mind among the eternal verities. Empirical science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly contemplation of the whole. The savant becomes unpoetic. But the best read naturalist who lends an entire and devout attention to truth, will see that there remains much to learn of his relation to the world, and that it is not to be learned by any addition or subtraction or other comparison of known quantities, but is arrived at by untaught sallies of the Emer18spirit, by a continual self-recovery, and by entire humility. He will perceive that there are far more excellent qualities in the student than preciseness and infallibility; that a guess is often more fruitful than an indisputable affirmation, and that a dream may let us deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.

For, the problems to be solved are precisely those which the physiologist and the naturalist omit to state. It is not so pertinent to man to know all the individuals of the animal kingdom, as it is to know whence and whereto is this tyrannizing unity in his constitution, which evermore separates and classifies things, endeavoring to reduce the most diverse to one form. When I behold a rich landscape, it is less to my purpose to recite correctly the order and superposition of the strata, than to know why all thought of multitude is lost in a tranquil sense of unity


By 1dandecarlo

16)  Joseph Campbell – Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and take the next step in creating a new one.

(The content here follows the “World Religions” program I gave on Sunday, March 31st, 2019 at Unity of Springfield).

What is it that is waiting for us or perhaps what are we waiting for? It was Joseph Campbell, who made famous the idea of “following our bliss”. He was a strong believer in the psychic unity of Jos1mankind and its poetic expression through mythology. What is to become of the story of our lives. For myself, it is when we see, or think of our weaknesses becoming our greatest strengths. It is what I saw as an eleven/twelve-year-old in the movie Lawrence of Arabia, a movie following the life of T. E. Lawrence – Thomas Edward Lawrence, (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) who was a British archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer. The movie was an epiphany that shaped who I was to become. Ultimately leading me to China, Confucius, Lao and Chuang Tzu and my writing. Beginning with the idea that our perceived Jos2weaknesses allowed to be nurtured can mature into our greatest strengths (a man had fallen off his camel and was going to be left to die. Omar Sherif’s character says “it is written that the man should be left behind”. Lawrence goes back, retrieves the man and returns with him alive saying nothing is written until we write it for ourselves). That allowed to flourish, our endeavors are what can lead to our ultimate destiny. Through the movie Lawrence of Arabia, T. E. Lawrence and his exploits rose to mythical proportions and seemingly immortal. His too was a great story worth telling.

I often feel like I can see people rolling their eyes, or saying… “that’s just Dan”.  But metaphysics, becoming transcendental through our everyday activities, and some sense of moving in the direction of enlightenment, is ultimately who we are and what we are here to embrace.


Man within the Circle of Life  Shaanxi Museum – Xian

Enlightenment is always grounded in our own direct experience of mind and “where we are doing it from” (our life), no matter what those activities may be.

When we trust our creative energy, we encounter a supreme kind of enjoyment – an amazement at the natural unfolding of life beyond our ordinary way of looking at things. All the meditation and mindfulness in the world you may do, is only meant to match your highest vibrations, your endeavors, with your ultimate destiny. Nothing more – nothing less just to be present for your own awakening. True happiness is an inside job. To become greater than who we see ourselves being at the moment. To go there. It’s who we are… it’s what we are here to do. Lawrence of Arabia took others places they could have gone themselves, but didn’t only because they feared going there.

Joseph Campbell made use of the idea that the whole of the human race can be Jos4seen as engaged in the effort of making the world “transparent to transcendence” by showing that underneath the world of phenomena lies an eternal source which is constantly pouring its energies into this world of time, suffering, and ultimately death. To achieve this task, one needs to speak about things that existed before and beyond words, a seemingly impossible task.  The solution to which lies in the metaphors found in myths. These metaphors are statements that point beyond themselves into the transcendent. Writing and expressing events, of people, and thoughts of the past convey and tell us the way forward. I often think of John C Fremont, a surveyor, who mapped the way west in the 1830’s across the continent Jos5ultimately to California. His maps showed the way for thousands…  

(image from Wikipedia)

For Campbell, The Hero’s Journey was the story of the man or woman who, through great suffering, reached an experience of the eternal source and returned with gifts powerful enough to set their society free or change the course of events that mirrored his or her vision. I am reminded again of the Sioux holy man, Black Elk and the grandfathers, and what was to be his ultimate fate. Could there be a greater purpose in our endeavors and this become our own final destiny that defines us and serves as a guide for others? Could there ever be a Final Chapter… or do we return again and again to keep adding to the wisdom we have always known? Could this be our ultimate purpose – to look to those who guide us and become the guide for others as well?

I was most intrigued and interested in Campbell’s book series on The Masks of God, that continued his life-long passion of studying the world’s mythological traditions. In one volume he looks at Asian mythology as it developed over the course of five thousand years into the distinctive religions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and Japan that followed my interest in Chinese history and philosophy.


Following the path Shaanxi Museum

The Masks of God is a four-volume study of world religion and myth that stands as one of Joseph Campbell’s masterworks. On completing it, he wrote: “Its main result for me has been the confirmation of a thought I have long and faithfully entertained: of the unity of the race of man, not only in its biology, but also in its spiritual history, which has everywhere unfolded in the manner of a single symphony, with its themes announced, developed, amplified and turned about, distorted, reasserted, and today, in a grand fortissimo of all sections sounding together, advancing to some kind of mighty climax, out of which the next great movement will emerge. It is in becoming one with this energy we, ourselves, come forth as our ultimate selves.”

It is this basis that is Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. That man – we are – the manifestation of God’s energy. It is moving to that point of “participation in divinity” that is our goal. It is why we wake up and face each day. It is this realization of wonder… of first being a part of something bigger than oneself, to becoming or having a sense of power to shape our world is why we are here. We see this in nature and the continuing flow of energy and keep coming back to this idea. That there is something much bigger than the human Jos7dimension.

In the West we think of God as the source, in the oriental or Eastern way of thinking, however, God is the manifestation of the energy found in nature. Therefore, it is only natural that this “divine energy already resides in each of us. Seeing God as not the source but as the vehicle… that the level of energy determines the character of the God within each of us. It is the source of the energy that is the mystery. It is in internalizing this ‘flow’ we become our authentic selves.”  For myself, this explanation of how we each relate with and to a “divine presence” is what defines us, as well as, those and what we have always known but perhaps forgotten. 

It is when “the hero within each of us” returns from a soul-searching visioning process that serves to peel away the “self or ego” (shown above) to discover both the divine and human nature within each of us that truth can reveal itself.


Letting our light shine Shaanxi Museum – Xian

The two being as different as night and day, life and death, even to the I Ching and yin verses yang. It is the journey we all eventually take when we can see beyond what we think we know what is true – to travel to find for ourselves what is – beyond basic assumptions. When we have an insatiable need to know our purpose and who we really are. This is what comes of Campbell’s hero who returns after discovering his true identity to create something better than what existed before.

He/she becomes the agent of change that serves to illuminate the world again and again. This is what explains the power of myth that he illustrates transcends our own continuing from generation to generation.


Helping others to take the next step   Shaanxi Museum – Xian

It is in our own “waking consciousness” that is seen as those not prepared for the journey that we each eventually must take. That we get lost in what I call “delusions” – an inconsistency between the wisdom or “flow” as I call it and our present circumstances. That true understanding begins with taking things back to their source and internalizing how things begin and end within us.

Moving beyond Campbell to the moment – There seems to be a new level of consciousness that emerges with every generation. A new blend of what was with what will be, maybe as Donovan sang as… “We are simply trying to catch the wind”. The question becomes where are we going when we do. As if we set out on becoming someone different from ourselves we think we know, as if we move from simply being spiritually awake to spiritually mature… What our memories keep reminding us is that being free of fear is not a matter of never feeling it, but of stepping out  of our comfort zone and challenging ourselves with what we think will occur when we do. We can feel it and know it is a natural phenomenon, also an impermanent one, which will have it’s say and be gone. When we become present Jos10in the flow. That it is in seeing beyond the illusion of fear that we grow to our full potential. As Stephen Covey says, “A moment of choice is a moment of Truth. It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”

Dragons drinking from the flow of eternity / Shaanxi Museum / Xian

What if it is as FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of USA) told the country during the depression of the 1930’s… “There is nothing to fear – but fear itself”. It’s like saying there’s no there there. Perhaps only an illusion that fits our notion of what is real that may never have existed in the first place, or may occur in the future. It is in seeing beyond fear to shape future events to fit our vision of what can be that shapes us. This is why knowing and understanding history is important. We don’t want to re-invent the wheel – only better serve ourselves and humanity by taking the next spin. What the metaphysician does giving purpose and meaning to our efforts as this manifestation of spirit, i.e., God’s energy. As we find ourselves dancing on the edge of mystery.

Joseph Campbell continues, “We want to think about God. God is a thought, God is an idea,  but its reference is to something that transcends all thinking. I mean, he’s Jos11beyond being, beyond the category of being or non-being. Is he or is he not? Neither is nor is not.

Transcending ourselves / Shaanxi Museum

Every god, every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense: it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery. He who thinks he knows doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows.

And our way of thinking in the West largely is that God is the source of the energy. The way in most Oriental thinking, and I think in most of what we call primitive thinking, also, is that God is the manifestation of the energy, not its source, that God is the vehicle of the energy. And the level of energy that is involved or represented determines the character of the god. There are gods of violence, there are gods of compassion, there are gods that unite the two, there are gods that are the protectors of kings in their war campaigns. These are personifications of the energy that’s in play, and what the source of the energy is. What’s the source of the energy in these lights around us? I mean, this is a total mystery”.

There is so much of Campbell on UTUBE and his books it’s hard to describe his genius. His life’s work. But for now, I want to finish with an excerpt from his interview with Bill Moyers that appeared on PBS. The 1988 PBS series, mythologist and storyteller Joseph Campbell joins Bill Moyers to explore what Jos12enduring myths can tell us about our lives. In each of six episodes –“The Hero’s Adventure,” “The Message of the Myth,” “The First Storytellers,” “Sacrifice and Bliss,” “Love and the Goddess,” and “Masks of Eternity” — Moyers and Campbell focus on a character or theme found in cultural and religious mythologies. Campbell argues that these timeless archetypes continue to have a powerful influence on the choices we make and the ways we live.

I recommend watching all… Released shortly after Campbell’s death on October 30, 1987, The Power of Myth was one of the most popular TV series in the history of public television, and continues to inspire new audiences. Below is an excerpt of episode 6: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth — ‘Masks of Eternity’.

BILL MOYERS: Well, then, what is religion?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, the word religion means religion, linking back, linking back the phenomenal person to a source. If we say it is the one life in both of us, then my separate life has been linked to the one life, religion, linked back. And this becomes symbolized in the images of religion, which represent that connecting link.

BILL MOYERS: Your friend Jung, the great psychologist, says that the most powerful Jos13religious symbol is the circle. He says, “The circle is one of the great primordial images of mankind, that in considering the symbol of the circle, we are analyzing the self.” And I find you, in your own work throughout the course of your life, coming across the circle, whether it’s in the magical designs of the world over, whether it’s in the architecture both ancient and modern, whether it’s in the dome-shaped temples of India or the calendar stones of the Aztecs, or the ancient Chinese bronze shields, or the visions of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, whom you talk about, the wheel in the sky. You keep coming across this image.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes, it’s an ever-present thing. It’s the center from which you’ve come, back to which you go. I remember reading in a book about the American Jos18Indians, called The Indian Book, by Natalie Curtis, it was published around 1904, her conversation with a chief. I think it was a chief of the Pawnee tribe. And among the things he said was, “When we pitch camp, we pitch the camp in a circle. When we looked at the horizon, the horizon was in a circle. When the eagle builds a nest, the nest is in circle.” And then you read in Plato somewhere, the soul is a circle. I suppose the circle represents. totality. Within the circle is one thing, it is encircled, it’s enframed. That would be the spatial aspect, but the temporal aspect of the circle is, you leave, go somewhere and come back, the alpha and omega. God is the alpha and omega, the source and the end. Somehow the circle suggests immediately a completed totality, whether in time or in space.

BILL MOYERS: No beginning, no end.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, round and round and round. The year, well, this is November again, you know, and we’re about to have Thanksgiving again. We’re about to have Christmas again. And then not only the year, but the month, the moon cycle, and the day cycle. And this is we’re reminded of this when we look on our watch and see the cycle of time, it’s the same hour, the same hour but another day, and all that sort of thing.

BILL MOYERS: Why do you suppose the circle became so universally symbolic?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, because it’s experienced all the time. You experience it in the day and the year, just as we’ve said, and you experience in leaving home, going on your adventure, hunting or whatever it may be, and coming back to home.


Indonesian depiction of Prithvi in ancient regal attire  at the Indonesian National Monument

And then there’s a deeper one also, that mystery of the womb and the tomb. When people are buried it’s for rebirth, I mean, that’s the origin of the burial idea, you’re put back into the womb of Mother Earth for rebirth.

BILL MOYERS: And Jung kept returning to that theme of the circle as being the sort of universal symbol.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, Jung used it as a pedagogical (instructional) device, actually, what he called the mandala. This was actually a Hindu term for a sacred circle.

BILL MOYERS: Here is one of the pictures (below).

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s a very elaborate mandala. You have the deity at the center, with the power source, the illumination source, and these are the manifestations or aspects of its radiance. But in working out a mandala for oneself, what one does is draw a circle and then think of the different impulse systems in your life, the different value systems in your life, and try then to compose them and find what the center is. It’s kind of discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, finding a center and ordering yourself to it. So you’re trying to coordinate your circle with the universal circle.

BILL MOYERS: To be at the center.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: At the center. The Navajo have that wonderful image of what they call the pollen path. And when you realize what pollen is, it’s the life source. Jos14And it’s a single, single path, the center, and then they were saying, “Oh, beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to the right of me, beauty to the left of me, beauty above me, beauty below me, I’m on the pollen path.”

Navajo pollen path

“So, the little cosmos of one’s own life and the macrocosm of the world’s life are in some way to be coordinated. Well, for instance, among the Navajo Indians, healing ceremonies were conducted by way of sand paintings, which were mostly mandalas, on the ground and then the person who is to be treated moves into the mandala. There will be a mythological context that he will be identifying with, and he identifies himself with that power”. Campbell adds, “this idea of sand painting with mandalas and used for meditation purposes appears also in Tibet in the great Tantric monasteries outside of Lhasa. For instance, they practice sand painting, cosmic images and so forth indicating the forces of the spiritual powers that operate in our lives”. (the end of interview)

Through my own journey and experience, I have been to Lhasa, and have seen this “Circle of Life” mandala firsthand. Both as the primary symbol and actual re-creation done by the monks at the famous Sera Monastery.

The Sera Monastery has three colleges and thirty-three houses. It is the second Jos15biggest monastery in Tibet. The two things that got my attention were first, the afternoon debates in the courtyard. The daily debating is a class to practice and test the monk’s mastery of Buddhism. The second was the Circle of Life, or Wheel of Life, depicted here that describes Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

The Wheel of Life can be interpreted on several levels. The six major sections represent the Six Realms. These realms can be understood as forms of existence, or states of mind, into which beings are born according to their karma. The realms also can be viewed as situations in life or even personality types—hungry ghosts are addicts; devas are privileged; hell beings have anger issues. In each of the realms the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara appears to show the way to liberation from the Wheel. (A Bodhisattva is a person who has attained prajna, or enlightenment, but who has postponed Nirvana in order to help others attain enlightenment).  But liberation is possible only in the human realm. From there, those who realize enlightenment find Jos16their way out of the Wheel to Nirvana. It is one of the most common subjects of Buddhist art.

Mandalas are works of sacred art in Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism. The word “mandala” comes from a Sanskrit word that generally means circle – hence the concept of circle of life. There were several to be found here at the Sera Monastery. A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe. Joseph Campbell understood the meaning of immortality and through his efforts helped to show us the way of our own hero’s journey – for ourselves.

By 1dandecarlo

15)  Black Elk – Speaking for eternity’s sake and the story of the Lakota Sioux

(The content here follows the “World Religions” program I gave on Sunday, March 10th, 2019 at Unity of Springfield).

I hardly know where to start as we travel with Black Elk to both the inner and outer world. I am speaking for an hour about a subject I could teach a full semester of college and only scratch the surface. When I make a presentation like this – I try to think as if I am still teaching at the university level as I did in Black ElkChina not too long ago. Much of what is known about Black Elk, his life, and his vision, has been relayed in the book Black Elk Speaks written by John G Neihardt. The pictures and most of the story below are from his book. I recommend it highly for further reading about the life of Black Elk.  The illustrations are done by Standing Bear, who was a good friend of Black Elk and had first-hand knowledge of events and lived through much of the Lakota Sioux history with him.

I begin with the foretelling of the loss of a culture and way of life of an indigenous people as things swung beyond their control to that which was to destroy them. Perhaps Black Elk’s role was to prepare them as best could be done. He spoke to what he called “the grandfathers” who resided in the sky as he relayed and foretold the future of his people. His is a sad story of a Sioux medicine or holy man destined to convey life on the American plains – as greed for what he called the “yellow mineral” – or gold that was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the white man’s insatiable hunger that destroyed all that once could be held as sacred. There are so many parallels as I tell the story of Black Elk with awe and wonder. 


Black Elk under the Tree of Life

Even a review of his life story, Black Elk Speaks in Whole Earth says “If a religious text of powerful import occurred in the twentieth century, it was Black Elk Speaks. If both Eastern (Buddhist/Taoist) and Western (Judeo-Christian/Muslim) are to be challenged and grounded in new theology, a major source will be Black Elk Speaks”. Even Joseph Campbell, whose story will appear next here, speaks eloquently about the influence of Black Elk and the tree, or circle of life.

It is as though Black Elk’s story can be told on two levels. First, as simply the story of a man who lived as a culture was to forever change, how he was attempting to save it and ultimately try to assimilate it into something new.

Or how he was “taken by spirits” as a dream that foretold events of his people and of a history that was forthcoming. From a spiritual standpoint – where the story he had to tell was one that had been conveyed to him by his “grandfathers” i.e., spirits who resided in the heavens or sky. Who can say? But he is and tells a great story… and more importantly the universe had opened his “memories” to who he had always been. Something I can certainly relate to. He often referenced “the long-hairs” … his contemporaries who lived and who had fought the white man along-side him before and during their arrival on the Great Plains.


Black Elk meeting the Grandfathers

It is to his memory I let my own hair down as I tell the story – I now so feebly try to channel and convey. When the white man came and took the children away to put them in “white Christian schools”, the first thing they did was cut the boy’s hair and forbade the children from speaking in their native tongue. Initial interest in Black Elk was in having his account of the famous “ghost dances” that the Indians saw as a path back to the old days. That story is told briefly in a few minutes.

Black Elk was a Medicine man or Holy Man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. He was of the heyoka tribe and a second cousin of Crazy Horse. Black Elk participated, at about the age of twelve, in the Battle of the Little Bighorn of 1876, and was wounded in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.

Black Elk married his first wife, Katie War Bonnett, in 1892. She became a Catholic, and all three of their children were baptized in the Catholic faith. After her death in 1903, he too was baptized, taking the name Nicholas Black Elk and serving as a catechist (a person appointed to instruct others in the principles of the Catholic religion as a preparation for baptism). He continued to serve as a spiritual leader among his people, seeing no contradiction in embracing what he found valid in both his tribal traditions concerning Wakan Tanka, and those of Christianity. He remarried in 1905, to Anna Brings White, a widow with two daughters. She bore him three more children and remained his wife until she died in 1941.

Toward the end of his life, he revealed the story of his life, and a number of sacred Sioux rituals to John Neihardt and Joseph Epes Brown for publication and told that he was guided throughout his life by visions, in which he was encouraged and exhorted to help his people. 


Black Elk in the Other World

His earliest and guiding vision concluded with the sight of the whole world as one, the hoops of many nations united in one hoop, with one mighty tree sheltering everyone as the children of one father and one mother.

Early life and visions – Black Elk was born into the Oglala Lakota of the Sioux Nation in December 1863. When he was three years old, his father was wounded in the Fetterman Fight, known among the Sioux as the Battle of the Hundred Slain, organized by Chief Red Cloud. This was a winter when hunting was poor and snowfall was heavy. Nonetheless, the tribe moved westward, away from white encroachment.

When Black Elk was four years old, he began to hear voices when no one was present, which reportedly frightened him. At the age of five, he had a vision in which two flying men appeared to him, singing a sacred song to the accompaniment of the drumming of thunder. He kept these voices and visions to himself.

In the Native American way of life, young men traditionally go alone into nature for a period of time, fasting, sweating, and practicing traditional religion in the pursuit of a vision (a “vision quest”) at the time of initiation into adulthood. However, at a much younger age, Black Elk received a vision without effort on his part. This seems to point to Black Elk having been chosen by the Ancestors for a special mission.

Black Elk 3

Black Elk leaving walking on clouds to visit the Six Grandfathers

Meeting “the Grandfathers” – At the age of nine, Black Elk had a vision following the instruction of voices telling him to “hurry because his Grandfathers are waiting.” His tribe was moving camp at the time, but Black Elk became so sick that he had to be carried. Arms, legs and face swollen, he was laid to recover in his parents’ teepee. At this point, looking through the teepee’s top opening, he viewed the same men from his earlier vision beckoning him to follow them to his Grandfathers.

As in a dream he was then led by horses, and was taken to a teepee in which the six Grandfathers were waiting. Each of the grandfathers told Black Elk something about themselves and the Native peoples’ destiny, and each gave him a symbolic object. He was told by the sixth Grandfather that he would receive his power, important for the great trouble to come to his nation.

The vision progressed to four ascents, each one getting progressively steeper and more difficult, which they climbed together. Black Elk reported seeing fighting, gunfire, and smoke, and his people fleeing “like swallows.” However, the vision ended with the sight of the whole world as one, the hoops of many nations united in one hoop, with one mighty tree sheltering everyone as the children of one father and one mother. He was then instructed to go back empowered and restore his people.

When Black Elk regained consciousness following this vision, his parents told him that he had been near death for twelve days and the medicine man, Whirlwind Chaser, had cured him. Black Elk was afraid to share his vision, believing he could not adequately convey his experience.


Black Elk at the center of the Earth

However, Whirlwind Chaser told his parents that there was something special about him, leading Black Elk to believe that the medicine man knew he had received such a vision.

When Black Elk was eleven years old (1874), his people were camped in the Black Hills of present-day South Dakota. The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, had specified the area of the Great Sioux Reservation to be all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River and additional territory in adjoining states. This included the Black Hills. The treaty stipulated that the land was to be “set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of the Lakota.

However, after gold was discovered, the U.S. Government violated the treaty and took control of the region. General George Armstrong Custer moved into the Black Hills. Sioux chiefs at that time included Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse. With the latter two more resistant and distrusting of the Europeans than Red Cloud was. Crazy Horse, a powerful warrior, was the first chief to come from Black Elk’s family, which had a tradition of holy men. Crazy Horse became a chief due to special power received through a vision. For some time the Lakota tribes moved around on the Great Reservation, mainly in South Dakota and Montana. Unable to freely practice their traditional way of life, they began practicing the Sun Dance, which was feared by the white man.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn – In June 1876 Black Elk’s people relocated to a big camp on the shores of the Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn River) in Montana Territory. The encampment was unusually large and included people from various Lakota bands (Oglalas, Brules, Sans Arcs, Minneconjous, and Hunkpapas), Northern Cheyenne, Blackfoot, and a small number of Arapaho. The size of the village is unknown, though is estimated to have been 949 lodges, with between 900 to 1,800 warriors. While Black Elk was swimming on the afternoon of June 25, word came that U.S. Cavalry were approaching.


Custer’s defeat

Pandemonium ensued as General Custer attacked. The battle continued until sundown when the Indians drove the soldiers into the hills and resumed the following day. This historic battle, in which George Armstrong Custer was killed, is famously known as the “Battle of the Little Bighorn,” or “Custer’s Last Stand.” It was a remarkable victory for the Indians, in which the attacking troops were essentially wiped out. Black Elk reported that he did not regret participating in the battle “because the Indians were in their own land, doing no harm, and were attacked without provocation.” The Indians danced and sang all night. Before the battle Custer had been told to wait for re-enforcement. He was very ambitious and thought of running for President as other famous civil war generals had done. He was after glory and defeating the Sioux would pave the way going forward. He was badly outnumbered by the Sioux and his defeat was the product of ego and poor judgment. The battle was called Custer’s Last Stand, but in truth it was the Indians…

Using his visions After the battle, Black Elk who was about 15 years old, and his family moved to Canada to join Sitting Bull. At this time, he began receiving and using visions to remove his people from impending danger. The voices of his spirit guides also led them to bison and other animals for food.


The bison hunt

By the time he was 16, Black Elk began to feel uneasy. He had received a great vision years earlier and shared it with no one. Though his spirit guides continued to assist him and his people in their daily lives, he began to fear the time that they might soon confront him, demanding to know why he had done nothing with his vision.

Finally, at the age of 17, Black Elk shared his vision with the medicine man, Black Road. Black Road advised him that he must perform the duty he was given in his vision. He instructed him to first hold a horse dance. With the re-enactment of his vision through the ritual as guided by Black Road and assisted by his parents, Black Elk was then considered one of the medicine men.

Black Elk 1

The Dog Vision: Butterflies and Dragonflies

At the age of 18, Black Elk began to feel that he should join the Oglala, and perform the duty his vision entrusted to him. This was a difficult period of time for him, as he lamented the suffering of his people as they were forcefully relocated again and again as their allotted lands were shrunk by the government. He had been able to help individuals, but not his tribe as a whole. Black Elk moved to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Performing a lamentation ritual, he received confirmation of his earliest vision, with the mandate to help his people.

At the age of 19, Black Elk began healing the sick. At this time, he began to share more in detail the aspects of his vision. He understood that he could not be empowered to fulfill each aspect until he revealed it to another and acted it out.

Traveling – At this time, Black Elk heard that Buffalo Bill Cody was hiring Indians to use in his Wild West Show. He decided to join, thinking that it might afford him the opportunity to learn  some of the white man’s “magic.” 


Picture of Black Elk during Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show

Traveling to the big cities of Chicago, Omaha, and New York depressed Black Elk. The way of life without relationship to nature convinced him that the whites were actually lacking in knowledge and had no secrets to share.

Buffalo Bill took his show to England, where they had an audience with Queen Victoria. From London, Black Elk went to the city of Manchester. Buffalo Bill returned to the U.S. without him.

With other Sioux who remained, he worked in another western show (Mexican Joe’s) which traveled to Germany, Italy, and Paris. While in Paris, he became involved with a girl. Becoming homesick and ill, the girl’s family took him in and nursed him back to health. During this illness, he had a vision of his home, riding on a cloud over the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge Reservation. Awakening from his vision, he was informed that he had been near death for three days. He returned to America soon after that.

The Ghost Dance – Upon Black Elk’s return home, he discovered that both his sister and his brother had died in his absence. His father died soon after. Though he lacked power when he had left his homeland, it came back to him upon his return. He soon heard rumors of a man among the Paiutes, Wovoka, who taught of ways to save the Native Americans, bring back the buffalo, and rid their lands of the white man. Three Oglala men went to investigate and returned with news of the Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance soon spread from Wovoka’s home in Nevada throughout all lands west of the Mississippi River, though it was adapted tribe by tribe.

The Sioux had always favored the Horse Dance that include four maidens blackelk12representing the four directions (north, east, south, and west), and as with Black Elk’s dream – four chiefs in each of the four quarters of the universe. The Standing Bear drawings depict the chief riders of the four directions as personified in the Horse Dance. The picture depicts the Horse Dance (Chief) of the West.

A dance was held at Wounded Knee Creek, which Black Elk witnessed. There were similarities to his vision, such as the circle dance and the flowering stick. He believed perhaps Wovoka had received a similar vision to his. Black Elk began to join in the dances, during which he experienced visions similar to his first vision. After this, he began to make holy shirts, which he believed would protect the lives of those who wore them.

Soon, however, Black Elk received a vision while dancing, which he interpreted as a sign that he had made a mistake in forsaking his great vision for the lesser ones he had received while ghost dancing. Government agents began to crack down on the Ghost Dance, and warned Black Elk’s encampment. Fearing arrest, they moved to a Brule encampment on Wounded Knee Creek.

Massacre at Wounded Knee – While there, they received news of Sitting Bull’s death, which came during an attempted arrest. Soon the Minneconjou Chief Big Foot arrived at their encampment, suffering from pneumonia, with 400 people who had escaped to the Badlands when Sitting Bull was killed. Starving and freezing, they surrendered to soldiers who brought them to Wounded Knee.


Wounded Knee – The first shots

The presence at Wounded Knee of the highly respected Chief Big Foot scared the soldiers, who feared an uprising. The cavalry had received orders to disarm the Natives before sending the “more troublesome” ones to Omaha via train. During the attempt to disarm, a scuffle ensued. Though the details are not clearly known, shots were fired and a battle began. Having largely given up their weapons, the Indians, including many women and children, sought shelter in a ravine. They were killed while fleeing blackelk14 (018)and seeking shelter.

This picture depicts Black Elk on horseback wearing a Ghost Dance shirt. In his left hand he holds up the sacred bow that protects him and the retreating women and children from the hail of bullets as he covers their retreat as they are running for their lives.

Hearing the shots, Black Elk, accompanied by about 20 others rode toward them. Witnessing the massacre, they rode into the fight. It was over, and men, women, and children lie dead or dying in the snow. A blizzard the following day covered their bodies, freezing them into grotesque shapes. The following day Black Elk went out with a Lakota war party. He was wounded, but determined to continue the fight, until an older warrior convinced him to live and help his people.

End of the dream – The month following the massacre at Wounded Knee, in January 1891, Black Elk joined an attack at Smoky Earth. Stealing the soldiers’ horses, the warriors retreated into the Badlands. Chief Red Cloud, fearing the suffering that followed their victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, convinced them to surrender. Black Elk felt this final surrender was the end of a dream, the end of his nation, and a sign that he had failed to live up to the command of his vision. After the Wounded Knee Massacre and the Sioux’s final surrender, Black Elk married and began to raise a family. He converted to Catholicism approximately ten years later and became a catechist. The reservation Indians were not allowed to meet in large groups and were forbidden to practice the native religion. However, as a catechist, Black Elk had the freedom to help his people with money, group gatherings, and prayer.

Unable to fulfill his vision, Black Elk opted to serve his people, though in a “white man’s way”. He lived this way for nearly 40 years. In 1930 he was interviewed by John Neihardt, an acclaimed American poet. Seeming to have expected his visit, connecting with him in a special way, he entrusted him to share his story. Though they needed an interpreter (Black Elk never learned to speak English), a bond of trust was formed. After sharing his life story over a period of several interview sessions, Neihardt and Black Elk, dressed traditionally for the first time in decades, ascended the 7,242 foot Harney Peak in the Black Hills, where he offered a prayer to Wakan Tanka for his people.


Black Elk’s spirit journey home

For the following twenty years, Black Elk remained a devout Catholic, walking to church every Sunday even when he was dying of tuberculosis. He raised a large family, with descendants living on his property on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He lived his life as best he could following the dream that had been his life’s work. In a vision while still in Europe Black Elk kneels on a cloud that hovers over the tepees of the Oglala Sioux, his long hair unbraided. He is seen only by his mother, who later tells him that she had dreamed he had returned on a cloud.

He passed from this life in August 1950.

By 1dandecarlo

14)  To be eternally awakened – as if you can hear the songs of your grandfathers and listen to voices of the universe.

For those who follow me here – first thank you. We have finished Inward Training, and now are ready to move on to the next step. As someone whose 141passion is exploring the universe of thought and wisdom, it seems the nuances found in how it all comes together as if there is a grand master plan, is what I am here to explore. It is as if I AM so that I can illustrate who WE ARE in and through the thoughts and words that flow through both me and you.  As a continuum of the transcendental that is in and flows through everything found in nature. Once found it becomes our guide as to who we are yet to become. It’s writing something then afterwards asking ourselves… where did that come from.

I wrote To be eternally awakened almost twenty-five years ago, as a part of an as yet unpublished manuscript entitled “My travels with Lieh Tzu – Interpolations along the Way”.

To be eternally awakened

How can we know who we come into the world to become?  Perhaps there is a 142heritage of those we might call metaphysicians. As we learn to trust our instincts and the spontaneity given to us as each moment unfolds. If it is as Lieh Tzu says: “To live and die at the right time is a blessing from heaven and not to live when it is time to live and not to die when it is time to die is a punishment from heaven, then is not our destiny predetermined?

Why should some be favored over others? Why should some get life and death at the right time and others live and die when the time is not right? Know that it is neither other things nor ourselves that gives life when we live and death when we die as our destiny unfolds. Nor 144that wisdom or our endeavors can lead the way.

145Could the unfolding of our life’s events be but an endless sequence that comes to pass of themselves by way of heaven? Indifferent to the turn of events coming forward as the unbroken wheel or circle of life. Coming in, living each moment to its fullest then going out again. Could this be the way of heaven?

With no offense to heaven and earth the ultimate cardinal rule. How could the sage not go along? Continuing to clear his mind and open his heart only for eternal truths yet to unfold. His wisdom finding no time to question. Just as the demons are thwarted as they can find no footholds to follow. Each person 146finding truths solely for himself in silence and serenity. Without attachment, only the peace found as heaven escorts us as we go and welcomes us as we come back again.

Embrace only those things that assist in the awakening of your eternal spirit. If our destiny can be foretold as we travel from one lifetime to the next, then should we not remain awake to the events that show us the way? Living the proper way, can death matter as we are simply waiting to be born again. 6/11/1995

I am reminded of my visit last October to Huashan Mountain and what is known 143as Lao Tzu’s Blast furnace, on a small peak to the west of the summit of the South Peak that is by tradition, the place where Lao Tzu was to have made pills for immortality.  There is a legend that says the monkey king was shut in the furnace for wrecking too much havoc in heaven.

(The above six pictures are all from Huashan Mountain located near the city of  Huayin in Shaanxi Province, considered to be one of five sacred mountains in China.)

Enhancing the flow – as we acknowledge ourselves with/as the conduit of universal energy. Who are we… once we begin to see beyond human emotions and ourselves?  Perhaps for myself – it is continuing as a storyteller. Refining my own journey by telling the stories of the past to others. Conveying a chronicle of how thought and philosophy endures over time. 


Singing into eternity    Wuhou Temple  Chengdu

Similar to what came to be known as “The Songs of the South”, a series of ancient Chinese poems first compiled in the second century AD. Its poems, originating from the state of Chu and rooted in Shamanism. The earliest poems were composed in the 4th century BC and almost half of them are traditionally ascribed to Qu Yuan. With even my own initial interest in ancient Chinese writing and poetry all those years ago resembling that of Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279) and Han (206 BC – 220 AD) dynastic eras.

As we begin to learn to tell our own story through what could be described as thoughtless action, along with the stories of those who preceded us. Who were they? Who are we? What was their eternal message they would have wanted to be conveyed as universal flow of energy that serves to connect us all together? Always teaching that there is no separation between anything the ancient Chinese described as “the ten thousand things”. Beyond thoughts of religion, even philosophy, except as a means of awakening our spirit that travels as if unknowingly through time with nothing in our knapsack, but an eternal quest for freedom, tranquility, and wisdom. What more could serve to define us? Who is it that gets the final say and word except 148time, ourselves, and eternity itself – and in the end can it have mattered just the same?

I am reminded of what was called “the beat generation” of the 60’s and flirtations with transcendentalism which I seemed to have caught the tail end of… Coming from SW Missouri and Joplin, it’s not hard to understand why it seemed to pass me by. Seeing beyond myself was easy, knowing how to express it became my lifelong journey. Being closer to the end than the beginning, I can now see where it all might end or lead. With a beard and long hair others may see me as just being an “old hippy” I take that as a compliment, but in reality, having a sense of coming from a much older indefinable generation. As if I am on a sabbatical just coming and going through time observing and adding my own comments to report back what I have learned along the way. Or as Alan Watts would remind us… we are all simply finding our way back home to our source – as though our presence records the depth of our spiritual nature.


Buddha under bohi tree Sichuan Museum

When we truly awaken to this truth, we don’t just experience “being present” we begin to recognize presence as the tangible substance that becomes our true essence. It is the road or path we take in getting there that remains our challenge.

With natural tendencies toward being a universalist, maybe as exemplified by Plato, Rumi, Emerson or as Lao Tzu, Siddhartha,  or Chan Buddhist, simply because it is my pleasure to serve the eternal spirit in the best way I know how. As if entering the flow that is never-ending…  Attributing to the world agape – continuing with my mouth wide open, as in wonder, surprise, or eagerness with my own life visioning process combining all I have gathered to Black Elk 3date.

As if aspiring only to be a sponge, never being born or as if I will never die, ultimately to return to live again with dragons, or even as Black Elk described them… the Grandfathers.

Black Elk depicted here as leaving his parents to join the Grandfathers. Drawing by Standing Bear.

Constantly tapping into my soul and the innate wisdom I have learned from my traveling companions. Expressing as who we are in the universal flow as pure conscious as if streaming, undivided from all that ever was. How is it we chose to go forward?

There seems to be an internal truism, formula, even a mantra within that guides us… singing to our subconscious. Always only transcendent, finding our own innate natural rhythm through the words of eternity we speak. Bits and pieces flowing by and through us with the sole purpose of getting our attention telling us to wake up 1410and express them maybe a little better this time than before. Acceptance of who we are the first step in the journey we are here to continue. When this mantra becomes us – our spirit guides appear and we instinctively know to follow.

Putting this into words – first and foremost, we accept and release all doubt as to our origins and continue on an evolutionary path with no hindrance or allow anything from stopping our eternal growth. We release our life energy in only positive and perfect divine ideas, imagination, and wisdom of the ages that flow through us. I remain receptive as if waiting patiently for life’s full expression. I listen, formulate, and articulate from within divine ideas and follow-up with divine action. I manifest and relay this conscious receptivity to my indigenous natural environment. My ideas come from ancient beginnings that are simply waiting to be expressed as or with their own beneficial presence and nature. Everything I do on the outside reflects my inner true nature. The universal presence expresses as myself.

Inner cultivation/bliss, freedom to choose in thrust and trust of universal expression 1411is my choice. Awareness and mindfulness add to a sense of expansion of freedom of my soul and spirit’s eternal enfoldment. With this, we have a willingness to go there as the unlimited dimension of expression of ourselves. Listening – focusing – intuition – with unprecedented purpose and freedom as our signature as we engage. The universe expresses through us as continually emerging spiritual energy in and of changing consciousness. With this we follow a thread that exists among many threads through eternity. Always in transit we return again and again and again, or as the Hindus might say to a place beyond name and form that leaves any thought of theology behind.

That we are here as an extension of the universal flow of divine energy to articulate a vision that is not singular, is ever-present and re-occurring. It seems to be our tendency to look for role-models. For the Taoist its Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man.  I am reminded again of the Sioux medicine/holy man Black Elk whose Black Elk 1vivid memories of a vision of his people’s suffering and an end to a way of life they had lived for hundreds of years. Ultimately becoming a catholic catechist, as if this was the only avenue left to him to fulfill his dream. I am such a big fan of Black Elk, that my next entry here will be devoted almost entirely to him.

The Dog Vision: Butterflies and Dragonflies in the dream of Black Elk, they represent the Lakota people. Drawing by Standing Bear .

Learning to modify and adding to what is existing narrative – to contribute to an undestractable attention to reality – to what is. To define and expand the vision already articulated as universal love. Perhaps even referencing the writer Hemann Hesse the German-born poet, novelist, and painter who stressed in his best-known works, that included my own favorite Siddhartha, that exploring our search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality is why we are here.

Or as the character Larry in Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, who wanted to think out his thoughts to the very end. Continuing that if he ever acquires enough wisdom, he wanted to be wise enough to know what to do with it. Finally, thinking maybe when he was through… he would have something people would be glad to razors edgetake and build on for themselves. The title The Razor’s Edge, is taken from a translation of a verse in the Katha Upanishad (the  Upanishad is the legendary story of a little boy, Nachiketa – the son of a sage, who meets Yama (the Hindu deity of death). Their conversation evolves to a discussion of the nature of man, knowledge, Atman (Soul, Self) and moksha (liberation), with the book beginning as: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to ‘enlightenment’ is hard.” As if trying to relay the “perfection of wisdom”. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson credited Katha Upanishad for the central story at the end of his essay Immortality, as well as his poem Brahma.

For myself, it is thinking of the soul, our eternal spirit, traveling through time as if it’s in a never-ending movie. As it continues – it gets tired and falls asleep or returns home (as if dying). When re-awakened as a new life beginning where it left off, it remains ingrained with where it has been to date. With seldom the ability to FGremember, but with an unconscious knowing of where it has been and the journey it still needs to take. Wanting our progress to continue, as if returning to the same movie before falling asleep again as we are continually guided back to our source. Ultimately, it comes down to what takes us there. Maybe even as Forest Gump told us… “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

Another story I wrote almost twenty-five years ago, as a part of an as yet unpublished manuscript entitled “My travels with Lieh Tzu – Interpolations along the Way.”

A Visit with Old Friends

Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your 1412surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennia, but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?

You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without due consideration of how they should do so themselves. That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they ultimately are to become and need IChing24someone or something to keep them steady.

As you finish your account, knowing glances abound as others have come and gone and relayed similar stories. All want to know if you are planning to stay with your old friends or return to your writing in hopes that perhaps one in a thousand may too come forward to learn the proper way. You are amused in that it is known that the sage gives his work to others so that his own power does not diminish as he grows old. Otherwise grappling with confusion when his own knowledge runs out.

Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/1995

By 1dandecarlo

13) Nei-yeh — Inward Training / Finding our bliss, becoming our authentic selves and The Great Learning

In trying to find our own way we often find ourselves in what can be called the “predicament of culture” – the feeling of pervasive off-centeredness that occurs A131when we are confronted with an unavoidable overlay of distinct meaning systems and compelled to choose among or reconcile different and often contrary sources of personal and cultural identity. Who are we… when conscience mind gets in the way of unconscious action – becoming one with the tranquility of simplicity?

In many ways this seems to be where we find ourselves today. For myself, it’s as if the “rules” have already been put in motion by the status-quo. Maybe it is as Joseph Campbell said that we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one waiting for us. Moving beyond the rules that others play by. The constant struggle to conform with accepted norms by others content to live in their own fixation. How appropriate for the final entry… Chapters 25 and 26 of 100_4877Nei-yehInward Training.

What can bliss be but peace of mind. Becoming universal and transcendent… all the while seeing the way others strive to conform with the status quo, when all should be questioning it. Ultimately looking to Confucius and how people for thousands of years have attempted to live by and up to norms others set for them.

For me it’s about discovery and bringing things back, or returning to the middle. Out of harms way. Looking to and honoring both East and West by spending time with the great metaphysicians of the day and seeing the transparency of universal life flowing through them and even myself. Acknowledging our origins means we find comfort, our own bliss, by simply returning to who we have always been and will be again. From where does our vital energy originate, does it matter, and should we be prepared for what may be inevitable just the same.

Nei-yeh — Inward Training


The vitality of all people inevitably comes from their peace of mind.


I Ching – Yin and Yang         The Eight Immortals – Xian

When anxious, you lose this guiding thread;
when angry, you lose this basic point.
When you are anxious or sad, pleased or angry,
the Way has no place to settle.

Love and desire: still them! Folly and disturbance: correct them! Do not push it! Do not pull it!
Good fortune will naturally return to you, and that Way will naturally come to you. So you can rely on and take counsel from it.

If you are tranquil then you will attain it; if you are agitated then you will lose it.


That mysterious vital energy within the mind: one moment it arrives, the next it departs.


The Sage Shaanxi Museum  Xian

So fine, there is nothing within it; so vast, there is nothing outside it. We lose it because of the harm caused by mental agitation.

When the mind can hold on to tranquility, the Way will become naturally stabilized. For people who have attained the Way, it permeates their pores and saturates their hair. Within their chest, they remain unvanquished. Follow this Way of restricting sense-desires and the myriad things will not cause you harm.

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 A134quite 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.

The Great Learning: 大学; was one of the “Four Books” in Confucianism. The Great Learning had come from a chapter in the Classics of Rites which formed one of the A137Five Classics. It consists of a short main text attributed to the teachings of Confucius and then ten commentary chapters accredited to one of Confucius’ disciples, Zeng Zi  who lived from 505-436 BC. The ideals of the book were supposedly by Confucius; however, the text was written after his death. The Four Books” were selected by the neo-Confucian Zhu Xi during the Song Dynasty as a foundational introduction to Confucianism and examinations for the state civil service in China. Confucius, who incorporated ideas from Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou and others, compiled and edited the Book of Rites, Book of Documents, Classics of Poetry, and the Spring and Autumn Annals. Confucius’ student, Zeng Zi wrote the introduction and exposition of The Great Learning. Confucius taught 3000 pupils; of which 72 mastered the six arts as follows:

1) The Rites — The cult of the ancestors and the ceremonies mark the passing of the A136seasons and the different stages of a man’s life. The rites are the backbone of society and are indispensable to the proper functioning of the world.

2) Music — The Rites are always associated with music, as the principle regulating the relations between men, and between men and the universe. Music and dance are considered to afford access to supreme beauty and to wisdom.

3) Writing— Like dance, writing reproduces the dynamic and the movement of the world. It is practiced in an atmosphere of contemplative withdrawal, using objects imbued with symbolism.

100_35624) Mathematics — The science of numbers is the origin of exact measurement and of wealth and prosperity.

5) Chariot driving — The chariot has an important place in war, in hunting and in the parades that express the power of the nobles. (This was the period of the Zhou and Warring States Period of China).

6) Archery — Archery forms part of a man’s physical training and, as in the case of chariot driving, allows talent to be tested through competition.

The Great Learning developed from many authors adapting to the needs and beliefs of the community at the time. The Cheng brothers, Yi (1033–1107) and Hao  (1032–1085) both utilized the Great Learning’s philosophies. Their ideas met with strong official opposition, but were reconstituted by Zhu Xi. Cheng’s idea was that it was identical with nature (following the Tao), which he believed was essentially good and emphasized the necessity of acquiring knowledge. During the Southern Song Dynasty, Zhu Xi rearranged the Great Learning and included it in the Four Books, along with the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius and the Mencius. Zhu Xi developed the Chengs’ Confucian ideas and drew from Chan Buddhism and Taoism. It is obvious that over time there was a confluence of thoughts and ideas that made sense that pointed everyone in a similar direction.

My daughter Katie and I visited the Temple (park) dedicated to Zen Zi in Jiaxiang with some of my students in 2012. Tradition says that Zen Zi’s descendants were one of the four ancient families responsible for keeping Confucianism at the forefront of Chinese culture and philosophy for over two thousand years.


Zeng Zhi Temple

Li Ao, a scholar, poet, and official, used and brought attention to the Great Learning. He adapted several ideas competing religions into his form of Confucianism. After the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the Great Learning became a required textbook in schools and a required reading for imperial examinations. The Dais divided the book into five sections. This included the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Evolution of Rites, the Yili, and the “Etiquette and Rites” .

There is a popular commentary by Han Yu and Li Ao who both used The Great Learning. Li Ao incorporated a lot of Buddhist and Taoist ideas into his work. Zi Si  – Confucius’s grandson – is said to have taught Mencius and written the Doctrine of the Mean. He may also have written the beginning of the Great Learning. Ma Yung also edited the Great Learning in the Han dynasty, giving his views of the general meaning.

Principal teachings of the Great Learning

  • Achieving a state of balance and refining one’s moral self – such that it is a reflection of the Way (Tao).100_2971
  • Ample rest and reflection such that one achieves peace of mind. When one is calm and reflected, the Way will be revealed to them.
  • Setting priorities and knowing what is important is essential in one’s quest for moral refinement, for it allows one to focus on that which is of the greatest importance and that which is in line with the Way as outlined in Confucian teachings.
  • One must bring his affairs and relationships into order and harmony. If one 100_3047hopes to attain order in the state, he must first bring his own family and personal life into order through self-cultivation and the expansion of one’s knowledge and the “investigation of things.”
  • Each and every man is capable of learning and self-cultivation regardless of social, economic or political status. This, in turn, means that success in learning is the result of the effort of the individual as opposed to an inability to learn.
  • One must treat education as an intricate and interrelated system where one must strive for balance. No one aspect of learning is isolated from the other and failure to cultivate a single aspect of one’s learning will lead to the failure of learning as a whole.

The main text

What the Great Learning teaches is: to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence.  大學之道在明明德,在親民,在止於至善

100_3085The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbed nature may be attained.  知止而后有定;定而后能靜

To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end. 靜而后能安;安而后能慮;慮而后能得

Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in The Great Learning. 物有本末,事有終始,知所先後,則近道矣。

100_2958The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the world, first ordered well their own States.  古之欲明明德於天下者,先治其國

Wishing to order well their States, they first regulated their families. 欲治其國者,先齊其家

Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. 欲齊其家者,先修其身

Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts.  欲修其身者,先正其心

Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. 欲正其心者,先誠其意


Protective Dragons Confucius Temple

Wishing to rectify their sincerity they made sure of their knowledge.  欲誠其意者,先致其知

Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.  致知在格物

Things being investigated, knowledge became complete.  物格而後知至

Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. 知至而後意誠 

Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. 意誠而後心正 

Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. 心正而後身修


Stone carving from Han Dynasty  Confucius Mansion   Qufu

Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. 身修而後家齊

Their families being regulated, their States were rightly governed. 家齊而後國治

Their States being rightly governed, the entire world was at peace. 國治而後天下平

From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything.  自天子以至於庶人,壹是皆以修身為本           

It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well ordered.    其本亂而末治者,否矣

It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for, and, at the same time, that what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for. 其所厚者薄,而其所薄者厚,未之有也

Meaning of “Investigation of Things”

The text sets up a number of controversies that have underlain Chinese philosophy 100_3029and political thinking. For example, one major controversy has been to define exactly the investigation of things. What things are to be investigated and how has been one of the crucial issues of Chinese philosophy. One of the first steps to understanding The Great Learning is to understand how to “investigate things”. This did not consist of scientific inquiry and experimentation, but introspection, building on what is already “known” of “principle”. True introspection was to allow the mind to become all knowing with regards to morality, relationships, civic duty and nature.

The Confucius College of Qufu

Today, there is a school in Qufu called the Confucius College that I am very familiar with that teaches 100_3581students who come from throughout China to study the above “arts of ancient China”. Qufu has always been the center of learning the ancient arts. Calligraphy and martial arts (which takes the place of chariot driving) are the most popular among students today. I have taught classes here on weekends. The school attempts to continue the traditions of ancient Chinese culture, the value of community and family, and our responsibility to acknowledge and respect history.

The Great Learning is significant because it expresses many themes of Chinese philosophy and political thinking, and has therefore been extremely influential both in classical and modern Chinese thought. 


Confucius Temple   Qingdao

Government, self-cultivation and investigation of things are linked. It links together individual action in the form of self-cultivation with higher goals such as ultimate world peace as well as linking together the spiritual and the material. Basing its authority on the presumed practices of ancient kings rather than nature or deities, the Great Learning both links the spiritual with the practical, and creates a vision of the Way (Tao) that is different from that presented by Taoism per sea. However, the incorporation of the I Ching, both Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and Chan Buddhism with Confucius have been moderating influences over time.

Confucius while he lived, traveled from city to city espousing enlightenment, proper 100_3380ways to govern, and family filiality, but few would listen. His primary “claim to fame” you might say, was updating the five classics of Chinese history, the Analects, and his own version of the I Ching. Defining the way you should live your life became the benchmark that proved his longevity. How those who would follow him were to shape history using him as a pretext to legitimatize their own take as to how things should proceed is what made him immortal. It would be when emperors tied their own authority to govern by and through “the will of heaven” augmented by the teachings of Confucius that we would know how to act accordingly. It was if a natural flow of people and connecting events would tie everything together.


Stele erected in Qufu dedicated to the Yellow Emperor

Qufu was to become the center of the universe in showing this divine connection. Beginning in pre-history when the inventor of the I Ching, the Yellow Emperor in 2700 BC was said to by from Qufu. The Yellow Emperor was credited with an enormous number of cultural legacies and esoteric teachings. While Taoism is often regarded in the West as arising from Lao Tzu, Chinese Taoists often claim the Yellow Emperor formulated many of their precepts.  The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, which presents the doctrinal basis of traditional Chinese medicine, was named after him.

Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, who codified the “Book of Rites” five hundred years before Confucius was from Qufu… as well as Confucius himself. Continuing in that tradition, it is also my home when I am in China too.


Image of Ji Dan at the Temple dedicated to him in Qufu

It is as if my writing takes me back when I’m not there. The following is an entry from my unpublished manuscript, “My travels with Lieh Tzu” in the chapter entitled, Confucius.

Defining Virtue

What sort of man follows Confucius? Four men who served him are looked upon as examples. The first, superior in kindness, the next better in eloquence, the third stronger in courage, and the fourth exceeding in dignity.


Following Confucius  Han Dynasty stone carving in Linyi

All a cut above Confucius in their endeavors. Yet they chose to serve him, why is this so?

What is virtue, but that which springs forth from one’s eternal chi or soul?  How can one man judge another when he has his own journey he must follow, his own destiny to find? What is there to possibly come to understand and know except the inner workings of ourselves  and the loving kindness that subsequently follows?


Carving of Confucius in Qufu

Confucius explains: “The first is kind, but  cannot check the impulse to act when it will do no good. The next is eloquent but knows not when to speak. The third is brave, but is impulsive and knows not when to be cautious, and the fourth is dignified, but cannot accept others opinions when it is their turn to  speak.  Even if I could exchange the virtue of these four, why would I, when they are less than my own? This is why they have chosen to serve me without question?  Each person must learn their own way in the world.  Can mine possibly be better than the path another has chosen to follow?”

Have not those who have decided to follow the ways of Confucius done so without questioning right and wrong, benefit and harm? Letting everything play out to its rightful end to discover their own true destiny. Since the establishment of government destroys the path for all but the true sage is it not best to find the way to govern properly for the benefit of all. Looking you cannot find it, listening you cannot hear it. In the end, there is nothing to be found again and again.    3/14/95




By 1dandecarlo

12) Nei-yeh — Inward Training / The transcendental flow of spirit… simply “doing by being” as in knowing that you will always be enough.

Have you ever thought or considered that Divine Mind, our intuition, or thought originates for one source and that all sentient beings possess it? Sentient beings are composed of the five aggregates, or skandhas: matter, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness, i.e., us.


Far Horizons  Huashan Mountain

Before going forward its important to say that if you are happy with where and as you see yourself – that’s okay. It’s important to realize that you can follow another religion and still be a Buddhist… or not.  It is not my intent here to denigrate, or  dismiss the merits of another person’s faith or path. It is the freedom to choose what works for each of us that contributes to manifesting our soul’s growth, our opening doors, and defining from within what path we follow. It was several entries back, when we discussed Eckhart, Emerson, Fillmore, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and others, who professed that the key to our becoming transcendental was our freedom to use our intuition, our inner spirit, as our guide. That we are all connected by and through a universal divine presence as spirit. That our “spiritual home” lies both inward and beyond the horizon where we know the only thing that exists is an extraordinary sense of bliss, tranquility, and profound peace of mind. To a place where heart and mind are in unison with the divine and with this you will always be enough.

122My favorite cartoon back in the 1960’s was when a Wizard would say “Trizzle trazzle trezzle trome, time for this one to come home”. Referring to Tudor Turtle who always fancies himself doing some job or going somewhere he is as yet unprepared for. Mr. Wizard gives him the magical chance to do so, but when thing get to hot, Tudor always wanted to return home. With each journey he learned that all roads lead back to where he began.

Separation only occurs when we look to that which lies outside ourselves to a place that hides our light, or inner vision. The flow we have always known, but may have forgotten.  That the universal mind that is eternal rests in all things. As if matters of the spirit were more important than worldly power and possessions. How is it that one taps into, or retains a spiritual atmosphere of serenity so that you forget all cares and fears in order to become filled with a 123deep sense of peace and tranquility? 

The Shanmen, or Gate of Three Liberations, is the most important gate of a Chinese Chan Buddhist Temple. This is Luohan Temple in Chongqing.

It is tapping into this divine wisdom, that guides us to a place pre-determined by something beyond our own present thinking that enables us to become one with the universal flow and connect with the ethereal and our purpose.

The prayer wheels in Lhasa and Chongqing at the Buddhist temples and 124monasteries I visit on my trips to China and Tibet seem to serve to take me to another place. Hidden behind or inside the cylinders are sūtras (Buddhist scriptures)… One in Lhasa read “I will act for the good and the welfare of all living beings, whose numbers are as infinite as the stars in the sky, so that, following the path of love and compassion, I may attain to perfect enlightenment.” In spinning the wheel, or cylinder, you become one with it and it becomes you – in a communion of spirit that becomes everlasting, as if you have connected again with eternity.


Dan’s attendance at Confucius festival

I’ve now gone through this “metaphysical discussion” following the trail left by those inspired by Lao Tzu and many others, and Inward Training looking both to the East and West – to almost it’s end, without hardly mentioning my namesake, Confucius. Confucius family name was Kong. My close connection through traveling and teaching in Qufu over the years led my friends there to give me the name… Kongdan. Hence – The Kongdan Foundation.  Many years earlier, when I began on the internet, my moniker or email name was and 126continues to be Dantzu, as a tribute to my Taoist companion’s Lao, Lieh, and Chuang Tzu.

I am standing at a place called “Confucius Hill” in Qufu (2012) where Confucius gathered his followers and gave instructions and lectures that later became his most famous teachings. The Yellow Emperor originator of I Ching in 2700 BC and Ji Dan who updated the Book of Rites 500 years before Confucius were from Qufu as well. I lived and taught in Qufu for many years as if walking in step with dragons… even now it seems I am still the teacher with a narrative and impelling history. As if I am here to convey thier stories with an obligation to update them as well.

I have always been more of a Taoist than Confucian. I abhor structure and authority by nature that see adhering to the status quo as essential. Without growth and change we suffer consequences of our ego.  But now, as I further my own sense of self-awareness, I feel the pull of both Tibetan and Chan Buddhism in my thoughts, mind, and heart as well. With this it becomes easy for me to see the connection between all three – Buddhism, Confucius, and Taoism with my friend’s Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu leading the way. It is as if I had to walk in Confucius and the others footsteps in Qufu, before I could fully understand their role in basic fundamental 127Chinese thought and philosophy, and I have done that.  My writing is emblematic of my inner consciousness as if never-ending and never staying the same, as if on an eternal pilgrimage. It is as George Harrison sings… I am like a fish with the river running through my soul.

They say all true writing is autobiographical, that is certainly in my own case. One of the first lines I wrote many years ago was… what you write is who you are to become. Another was… It is through you Dan we speak. Little did I know how true that was to be. What was it that pulled me to Qufu? Qufu has a well-recorded history of over five thousand years. On my first visit in October 1999, twenty years ago I knew I had been there before. The similarities and patterns I experienced were deafening, as if I was there to fine-tune knowledge and wisdom that had been gained up to the point of my entering the picture and 128beyond. As if I was directed to the place where my own “flow” was meant to continue as I returned to my origins. 

When in Jining on that initial visit, an hour south of Qufu, I had a picture in my mind of an iron horse from the Han Dynasty from two thousand years ago.  I sensed that I was here when it was first made all those years ago. My friends took me to what looked like an old barn with stone tablets from that period during the Han Dynasty.  The time I was talking about.  They showed me a small iron horse (depicted here) and I confirmed that this was it.  I had been here before. Many times, over the next ten to fifteen years, as I traveled in Qufu and Shandong I often felt I had been and seen these places before. It was as if I was being reminded, entering again, and capturing the flow of who I have always been and of my purpose now and will be again and again. 

Nei-yeh — Inward Training


For all the Way of eating is that: overfilling yourself with food will impair your vital energy and cause your body to deteriorate.


Harmonious Completion      Wuhan Temple  Chengdu

Over-restricting your consumption causes the bones to wither and the blood to congeal. The mean between overfilling and over-restricting: this is called   “harmonious completion.”

It is where the vital essence lodges and knowledge is generated. When hunger and fullness lose their proper balance, you make a plan to correct this. When full, move quickly; when hungry, neglect your thoughts; when old, forget worry.

If when full you don’t move quickly, vital energy will not circulate to your limbs. If when hungry you don’t neglect your thoughts of food, when you finally eat you will not stop.

If when old you don’t forget your worries, the fount of your vital energy will rapidly drain out.


When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, when you relax your vital breath and expand it, when your body is calm and unmoving:


Maintaining the One      Wuhan Temple Chengdu

And you maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances,
you will see profit and not be enticed by it, you will see harm and not be frightened by it.

Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive, in solitude you delight in your own person. This is called “revolving the vital breath”: your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.

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 1211century 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.

Maintaining the One has always been the central core to traditional Chinese 1212thought, philosophy and religion. Combining these three internally has always been the objective in Eastern thought.  It would be the essence of Chan and later Zen Buddhism that would define the way to life in the light of Sakyamuni Buddha. Ultimately looking to, or becoming what we call a Bodhisattva ourselves, or in Taoism following the path of the Three Pure Ones described earlier. It would be those who followed Confucian ideals who re-shaped history in his name. That how we connect from within with our origins becomes the hallmark of success. Ultimately the Tao and Chan Buddhism came about through mindfulness and are about self-realization and as Chuang Tzu says “When you have got at the idea, forget about the words.”

Chan Buddhism developed in China (especially during Song Dynasty 960-1279) as a re- affirmation of the importance of meditation practice as the signal achievement of unwavering attentiveness and responsive virtuosity (knowledge and proficiency).


Buddha at Longmen Grottoes

The fruition of Chan practice is a fluid harmony of body and mind as if a paradox that reaches out through all four limbs – benefiting what cannot be benefited and doing what can’t be done – as if beyond knowing and seeing. Building on the prevalent Chinese Buddhist conviction that all beings have/are Buddha-nature. However, practice was not advocated in Chan as a means to enlightenment, but rather as the meaning of demonstrating it. It is only in denial or ignorance of our own true nature that enlightenment can be regarded as something to seek, a destination at which we might one day arrive. In Christianity, it would be called the I am that I am… I’m already there. In sharp contrast with more scholastically-inclined schools of Buddhism, Chan did not see dispelling ignorance of our own true nature as something to be accomplished by studying canonical texts and commentaries. On the contrary, in keeping with the Buddha’s claim that the wise “do not hang onto anything, anywhere” and “do not enter into the mud of conceptual thinking” (Sabhiya SuttaSutta Nipāta III.6), Chan came to insist that we cannot read or reason our way out of conflict, trouble and suffering. And, in contrast with more ritually-defined schools of Buddhism, Chan also came to deny the merit of seeking help from supramundane sources. Dispelling ignorance of our own Buddha-nature does not involve cultivating or acquiring anything; we need only end the relational paralysis that prevents us from conducting ourselves as enlightening beings. This does not require special conditions or implements. It does not require extensive study or training. It can be accomplished here and now, in the midst of our own day-to-day lives.

Chan originated in and actively propagated what could easily be viewed as anti-philosophical sentiments – a view arguably supported by the apparent illogic of 1213many of the “encounter dialogues” that purported to record the interactions of Chan masters and their students, and by the four-fold phrasing that came to be used in Song dynasty China to characterize Chan distinctiveness.

Ink painting by Fan Kuan during Song Dynasty

 For myself, in trying to sort out the differences between Chan, Tibetan, and Zen is challenging to say the least. There are elements I have found in Chan that seen inherently connected to my own path, while I am still a Taoist at heart… while knowing staying in the flow is what ultimately takes me there. I am still a student and open to this wisdom of the ages.

The four-fold phrasing described above seem to fit for now. They are: 1) a special transmission outside the scriptures (jiaowai biechuan, 教外別傳); 2) not established upon words and letters (buli wenzi, 不立文字); 3) directly pointing to the human heart-mind (zhizhi renxin, 直指人心); and 4) seeing nature and becoming a Buddha (jianxing chengfo, 見性成佛). This could easily had been said by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his famous book tour in the 1840-50’s promoting “Nature”, intuition, and freedom of thought… reaching our own conclusion about things considered as universal or transcendental.

There seems to be appeals to the importance of immediacy, rather than reflection, and assertions about the limits of language and the ultimate irrelevance of thinking to the realization of truth in Chan Buddhism. It was the Sixth Chan Patriarch, Huineng (638–713), who famously proclaimed that throughout Buddhist history, those transmitting the true Dharma established “without-thinking” (wunian, 無念) as the core doctrine and should be engaged as enacting insights and inferences of considerable philosophical significance –a body of philosophical evidence rather than exposition and explanation. What I would call – doing by being. This sounds like where I have been forever, or at least a very long time.


Sixth Chan Patriarch, Huineng

What the anthropologist James Clifford (1988) has referred to as the “predicament of culture”—the feeling of pervasive off-centeredness that occurs when we are confronted with an unavoidable and unprecedented overlay of distinct meaning systems and compelled to choose among or reconcile different and often contrary sources of personal and cultural identity. For me, it is as if you never find yourself in shoes that seem to fit the place where you find yourself at the moment, either seen as an anomaly or enigma.

But it was through collaborative projects of translation and textual exegesis that Buddhism came to be woven so thoroughly into the fabric of Chinese culture that the emperor of Song China, Xiaozong (1162–89), would compare the three teachings of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism to the legs of a bronze ding: a ceremonial vessel associated with political unity and power and cultural authority that would be useless if any one of the three were to be removed.

1215Ceremonial Ding at Luoyang Wangcheng Park, the site of the ruins of the Capital City of Zhou Dynasty from 11th century to 221 BC – over a thousand years). (Picture taken by Dan in October 2018)

Four years before I went to Qufu in 1999, I wrote the following story before I ever had an inkling of going there. All I had even known about Confucius was what I had read and had never heard of Qufu, but that was about to change.  It was as if my writing leads me to where I am, and more importantly to my own role and who I am supposed to become.

                                 Finding Confucius

Just who is this man known as Confucius and what of his obsession with knowledge?  Can he possibly equal the things brought forth by Chuang Tzu who can see through all to its true origin?


Songyang Temple south of Luoyang

While Confucius may help guide those responsible for maintaining the overall scheme of things in their dealings with others, can he possibly know the true underpinnings of all there is to know that lead to logical conclusions?  Can thoughts and ideas expressed outside the true essence of the Tao have any real significance?

Looking for differences to trap unseemly paradox and analogies that can confuse those not serious about finding and true way of virtue.


Mount Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)   Anhui Province

Who can be true to his own thoughts? Swaying this way and that by the Confucian suspicion of speculation without practical or moral relevance or by the comfort found in the seeming irrationality of the Tao.

The three tenants of higher consciousness, Buddhism, Confucius and Taoism always present.  Ultimately pushing everything to higher ground.

Moving all to places they would otherwise miss. Just as the seasoned traveler who breaks the mountain’s ridge to see the vast panorama spread before him. Every direction simply leading to destinations previously seen and known but forgotten.

Everything crystallizing over time. Can one move forward knowing the paradox found in all things that are allowed to advance in their own way? Knowing that Confucius is forever weighing benefit and harm and distinguishing between right and wrong.


Dragon image at entrance of Qingcheng Mountain

Can there be a moral relevance to all things considered practical as found in the analytical comfort of knowing the results lie in the search for truth and knowledge? Can one following such a course of action be taken seriously? Who can know? Is not the ultimate to be born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian and die a Buddhist? Where can all this possibly lead? Who can possibly say?   3/5/1995 (From my manuscript… “My travels with Lieh Tzu” found here on my website).

It is often the case that what I wrote more than twenty years ago I didn’t fully appreciate or understand. Returning to it now, I can see meaning that were hidden and just waiting for my return. Telling me the difference between knowledge, experiencing human frailties (my own and others), and wisdom to be gained that shed light to what meaning of the words were meant to be. Ah – the dragons seem to be pleased as if my work continues in earnest.



By 1dandecarlo