Over the years, I’ve come across references to life secrets in general, and occasionally Taoist secrets in particular. A few decades ago a woman inquired about our Sunday Taoist meetings, held weekly back then. I told her we mainly shared our reflections on one chapter from the Tao Te Ching. She said she already had the Tao Te Ching down solid and was looking for the Taoist secrets and secret practices. Well, she was obviously too far advanced for us simpletons, 😉
As a young kid, I recall seeing various ‘secrets of life’ advertized in magazines. On low price for the secret to wealth, power, beauty, wisdom of the ages… and so on. Recently, The Secret came out on the market and apparently was wildly successful. Could its success be because it just was promising us exactly what we desire in an entertaining and easily digestible way? My symptoms point of view tells me yes, of course.
This reminds me of the biblical warnings about false prophets who presumably offer some sort of secret. Usually, all you need to do is follow the money, as they say. Is this not the same as life’s deepest pleasures—the only true ones are free. Sure, I enjoy a tasty ice-cream just like everyone else, but my deepest joys are priceless. It is not that they are too expensive; it is that they are not for sale.
Fortunately, it’s an open secret
More to the point, the deepest secrets of life are an open secret—nothing is hidden. It is right in front of us. We can’t see because our needs and fears create in us a blind spot. You could say, all we need to do is open our eyes and look. The trouble is, we usually can only see a reflection of our desires and worries, rather than what is naturally and truly there. Nature ensures that we take these emotions deadly serious. Ironically, this blinds us to the subtler aspects of nature.
On the surface, it seems to be easier to see other people succumbing to this blindness. After all, we’re not blinded by their desires and worries, needs and fears. As objective as these judgments feel, they really tend to be nothing more than a projection of our own needs and fears onto their situation. These judgments we make are actually about ourselves. Not that this is ‘wrong’; this clearly stems from innate social processes…not ‘wrong’, but not helpful either. Jesus nailed this projection to which we succumb, when he said,
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Now, this may sound like “that ye be not judged” says that God will not judge ye. Taken as a whole, in context with the last line about the “mote” and “beam”, I have little doubt he was speaking to the projection process to which we succumb. It seems that back then people didn’t fully realize how much our actions are symptoms rather than causes. As stated here, it implies that if you don’t judge others, you won’t be judged. That puts the cart before the horse. Our judgment of others originates within ourselves, and the way we view the world.
The way to know the secret truly
These projections distract us from the source — ourselves. The judgments we make are essentially ‘answers’ that ease our deepest sense of emptiness and the void. We feel a desperate need to know. Names and words, in general, help create the illusion that we know something. However, the Taoist ‘secret’ lies beyond the words and names. The secret can only be seen without names and words. I suppose that is what makes it truly a ‘secret’.
Seeking questions rather than seeking answers helps de-emphasize the hook words and names have on our mind. Indeed, simply ‘knowing’ the words and names of our native language serve as core answers onto which we cleave, to shield us from the awesome emptiness our cognition is capable of perceiving.
Using Yin and Yang to Pop Preconceptions can be a useful tool for untying some of the knots in which names and words tie the mind. Couplets and the Co-generating Principle looks at this from another angle. Chapter 56 speaks to this. Note: I substituted the original “speak” with “think”. After all, thinking precedes speaking.
Spontaneous ‘in sync-ness’ with emptiness
This void terrifies us; words and names serve as ‘blinders’ to comfort us to some extent. They also disconnect us from the spontaneous ‘in sync-ness’ with emptiness that every other animal experiences. This feeling of disconnect leaves us yearning to reunite, and this drive us to seek answers which give the illusion of union… words and names being the building blocks of any cognitive answers we seek.
When we seek answers, we often get stuck in the answer. In fact, answers blind us to the degree we believe the answers true. If more of our focus is on the ultimate question, that ball keeps rolling and we can’t get bogged down in any particular answer as easily. Therefore, distrusting any answers that feel like they are the answer—the Secret—frees the mind to see the secret better, if that is one’s wish. Whatever danger lies in ‘answers’ is lessened if they are seen as transitions, or placeholders for a deeper ‘knowing’ yet to be. Nothing comes ‘free of charge’ in nature. The trade-off here is at times the disconcerting side of emptiness… of ‘profound sameness‘.