Saturday, December 09, 2006

The common meaning of De is virtue and in the Dao De Jing it was interpreted as to obtain by Wang Bi. That leaves us with De as ascension, a meaning that can be found in the ancient dictionary Shuo Wen, but one that has never been used to define the meaning of De in the context of the Dao De Jing. I find, however, that it ties in well with the overall relationship of the Dao and the De and may have been a meaning overlooked by many commentators. If the De is what is obtained by the thing from the Dao, there is nothing that is not part and parcel of the Dao. Thus the description of the De as a bridge between the myriad of creation and the Dao fits in well with the notion of De as ascending. This is because in De we have what is obtained by the thing of the Dao as well as the possibility of ascending back into the realm of the Dao. A bridge is never a one-way avenue; if you can cross it one way, it necessarily has to let you cross it back. If the created had no recourse back to the source of creation, then existence would be rendered meaningless. In the obtainment of the De, temporal things have in them the spark of the eternal. In the ability of De then to ascend back to the realm of the Dao, the relationship is thus made complete.

That being said, there is another point worth bearing out in the relationship between the Dao and creation, which is that there is no teleology involved. In the process of creation, the Dao does not control what is created; there is no ultimate goal. Chen Gu-ying explains:

“The Dao creates things but there is no conscious effort nor ultimate objective involved. That is why we see (in chapter two) ‘there is growth without possession, action without dependence.’ Growth here explains the creative capacities of the Dao. Without possession and without dependence describe the lack of any purpose in the process. In the entire process of creation, there is a complete naturalness; the growth of each and every thing is completely free.” (page 177)

There is no emotional attachment between the Dao and created things. Lao Zi substituted the notion of a personal or anthropomorphic deity with that of a more impersonal creative force. This in essence was the direct opposite of the mandate of the right to rule by the “decree of heaven” that the Zhou Dynasty used to usurp the Shang. There is no favoritism in the notion of the Dao, it treats all things in a similar fashion. In chapter 79, Lao Zi writes

“The Dao of heaven is unbiased…”

This line sums up the general theme of creation without purpose in the Dao De Jing. Wu Yi explains the line:

“Bias in this line depicts a closeness or solicitude, but the essence of Dao is the self-so. It has no particular fondness or affection for myriad of created things. It treats all things equally without discrimination.” (page 534)

The importance of the relationship between the Dao and the De is that it is eternally manifest in creation. The eternal Dao is thus not only transcendent, which would make it completely inaccessible to the things it created, but also immanent within things. The Dao as merely a transcendent notion would be meaningless, but with the De as the bridge back to the realm of the eternal, we see a starting point that allows for the Dao to become a stable base.


Blogger Twlogos said...

Let's go on to to discuss.

12:31 AM  

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