Friday, August 7, 2015

Anything goes versus the right thing goes

Jung had warned against the vulgarization of Eastern enlightenment concept when being transplanted to the West. His warning has become more salient nowadays when the East has increasingly been assimilated into the West so far as culture is concerned. So much so there is not much difference in mentality nowadays between a University student in Hong Kong and his counterpart in America.

One such vulgarization is the saying that Taoism in practice (or practical Taoism) is defined by some as "anything goes".

If not "anything goes", how shall we, now all belonging to the West, appreciate the Taoist notion of fusing Yin and Yang as in accepting the good and the evil in ourselves (or in society) as a totality? How can we express the conception that both good and evil should be embraced? The following is one such formulation, expressed in a way that I believe, is more consistent with Taoist way of thinking as expressed in Tao Te Ching:

"We experience the self as a union of opposites in a number of ways. If the manifest self is alive in the soul, we are able to meet every situation with the appropriate response. We are kind when kindness is appropriate, and severe when severity is required. We are not afraid of our own dark side, nor are we dominated by it, but express it in a suitable manner. We see the creative spirit in the material world, and enjoy material pleasures. In short, we are unafraid to express all sides of our personality and repress none. Our willingness to be all that we are, and to embrace all of our parts, allows us to experience ourselves as whole beings. We might think of the union of opposites proceeding in this manner as sequential; first one part of the personality expresses itself, then another".

And the author, Jeffery Raff, is not a Taoist but a Jungian who considered Jung belonging to the spiritual tradition. His book is called "Jung and the Alchemical Imagination". The concept of Tao is certainly being expressed much more truthfully here then "anything goes", although Raff was not talking about Tao in the above.

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