Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Relationship Between "Spritual" and "Reality"

There is a great spiritual difference between spiritual teachings and religions that place the unmanifested above the manifested, and those that do not.  Just as there are materialistic philosophies which deny anything 'spiritual', there are also anti-materialist belief systems that deny the material in favor of something they choose to imagine as 'spiritual', separate from the material.

In ancient China, all three concepts existed.  There were strictly materialist philosophies that denied anything but the manifest, the "Yi-fa".  There were likewise many movements that wanted to envision the universe as a universe of immaterial 'spirit' and that the manifested world was either an illusion or a corruption, something inferior to the pure and unsullied 'spiritual world'.

But if you study the I Ching and the teachings of the great Sages, it becomes evident that neither of these are a correct reflection of reality.

This same conflict existed in many other places and times, with other names; certain "gnostic" sects in the west claimed that our world was nothing but an illusion.  The institutional forms of Buddhism made similar claims, many of them ascribing a higher position to some 'spiritual' world that the Buddha himself denied.

In The Magician's I Ching, I have detailed the story of the debate between Zhang Shi and Zhu Xi, and Zhu Xi's quest to achieve enlightenment as to the true nature of reality, and how to reconcile the difference between the unmanifested (Wei Fa) and the manifested (Yi Fa).  It is unsurprising that after coming to realization, Zhu Xi would strongly advocate the study and practice of the I Ching, because within it, it uncovers the truth of this relationship.

Some would-be mystics want to conceive of the nature of reality as a kind of top-down hierarchy where the lowest and least important level of reality is the manifested world.  But consider the I Ching: a hexagram contains, within it, the trigrams. Trigrams contain, within them, the Yin and the Yang.  Within Yin and Yang are found the Taiji (the undivided polarity). Within the Taiji is the the Wuji (the boundless), and within that boundlessness is Wu (emptiness).

Without trying to confuse scientific concepts with mystical ones, this can't help but bring to mind the nature of physical reality as we understand it today: how within objects there are molecules, those are composed of atoms, atoms are composed of protons and electrons, within those there are quantum particles, and inside all of this is empty space. Reality is not top-down, it is a whole, and that whole has layers, more fundamental and basic layers, and more complex outer layers.

This is the functioning of reality, and it is essential to understand if you are going to practice a real system of cultivation (because any spiritual practice not based on reality will not get you very far)!  The Manifested (Yi Fa) and the Unmanifested (Wei Fa) must of necessity both exist, they are both real, but the only place where the unmanifested can possibly exist is within the Manifested.  Wei Fa is not 'outside' or 'beyond' Yi Fa, it is only real within Yi Fa.

This is important to spiritual practice, because it means that Wei Fa, for the practitioner, can only be reached through the Yi Fa. You can't reject the body, reject the world, reject reality, and go off into some spiritual wonderland that is somehow beyond all that, because there is nothing to connect to there. You cannot find the Unity of all things by rejecting any thing. You have no tools to connect to the truly 'spiritual' if you ignore your body, your mind, your world, and your interactions with the world. This place, this world, our bodies, our awareness, all the things that exist in the manifested reality are the alchemical laboratory of our self-transformation. Without them, you can go nowhere. 

No comments:

Post a Comment