Help needed with a new publication

edited August 2012 in The CenterTao Lounge
I wonder if I might ask a favour. I've been keeping a journal since 2008 and, after two major operations for cancer, decided to write up extracts from it to share with others. The format I eventually hit on was after the style of Enlgish translations of the Tao Te Ching but I don't know whether what I've produced appears over pretentious or contrived. After a couple of pages of introduction, there currently 170 poetic-prose stanzas. Has anyone got time to look at it and give me an opinion please?


  • Why not put some of your work on this thread. I, and others I expect, at least have time to check out a pithy sample. Just a thought...
  • Thanks for the invitation, Carl. I'm copying the introduction and first 20 stanzas below. Open to all feedback.

    Sweet and Bitter Waters

    Notes of explanation

    What I've tried to encapsulate in the inadequate medium of words are not statements of fact, though sometimes that may appear to be the case. My 'openings' are expressions of an intuition that is felt rather than known. The style of the text is designed to speak to the heart rather than the head. That's why I've written them in poetic-prose and make a use of metaphor, allegory and paradox. Only when the heart hears will readers need to use rational thought to express to others what they experience within themselves – if they really feel this to be appropriate, necessary or even possible. If you don't agree with something or find a passage to be difficult or obtuse, don't struggle with it. Let it rest in stillness on your mind. If it still doesn't make sense, move on. In a few years time I myself may not agree with some of the thoughts expressed here or I may want to express them differently. As scientist, Rosalind Burnell, says in Quaker Faith and Practise, this is simply my working hypothesis.

    I use four significant terms: 'The Way', 'The One', 'The Self' and 'The Enabling'. The first three are terms widely used in translations of ancient texts in reference to what may be thought of as 'divine'. 'The Way' is a common translation of the Chinese word Tao. It is also a term Jesus used in reference to himself, and before they became called Christians, the early disciples called themselves 'Followers of the Way'. I added a fourth term, 'Enabling', which, in my view, expresses the way in which 'divinity' functions. The idea of an Enabler rather than a Creator I believe is novel and, for me, critical to my personal understanding of the nature of the divine. It seems to me that evolution proceeds on the basis of what can be, not what some supernatural being decided will be (See 13, 18, 24 & 30 below). This appears to indicate not a process of intervention, which would require force, but an enabling that is totally without violence. This idea agrees with Jesus's teaching in Matthew chapter five about a non-violent God. The Beatitudes, I believe, show not only how those who are faithful to the teaching of Jesus should behave, but what is the very nature of the God Jesus preached. This portrayal of a totally non-violent God accords beautifully with the Tao of the Tao Te Ching. It is not in the nature of the Tao to force things, but to bring things to pass by enabling the energies that exist in nature. Our role is simply to co-operate.

    In mystical thought, all three terms, The Way', 'The One', 'The Self' and 'The Enabling', refer to that variously described as: the 'Atman' or 'Self' of the Upanishads, the 'Christ within' which Paul referred to in Colossians chapter seven, the 'Friend',used by the Sufi poet, Rumi in reference to Allah and, of course, the Tao and the Constant of the Tao Te Ching. My use of the terms has none of the overtones of the interventionist God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam but may be interpretted as 'God' if you wish. The most appropriate reference is to what Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr call, The 'True Self' or what George Fox described as 'that of God in every man'.

    I also refer to the 'Self' and 'The True Self' (traditionally expressed in capital letters). This reference is used in contrast with 'the false self', which is invariably expressed in the lower case. The 'false self' is the individual self-awareness that develops around the ego. It is derived from experiences of internal and external influences. These include genetic and emotional pre-dispositions, the pressure of basic instincts, life experiences, and family, peer and cultural influences. It's 'who I think I am' not who I truly am. Much is blamed on the ego, but my view is that the ego's role is to provide a sense of self-identity and it does this by discernment and differentiation. However, that role can easily be perverted by prejudices and preferences arising from culture. Therefore the self-identity that the individual evolves is invariably a 'false self'. That doesn't mean it's a bad self, but simply that it's not a true self. Only inasmuch as we experience 'The True Self' do we see the 'false self' for what it is and are able to reduce its influence on our behaviour. (154)
    The old brain and the new brain (160) are references to the limbic system and the cerebral cortex. The limbic system is part of the most primitive area of the brain also called the reptilian and mammalian brain. From it arises most of our base emotions: fear, anger, desire and sexual urges, etc. Our instincts, known as 'the four Fs', arise from here too: the instinct to fight, flee, feed or mate. They are triggered by the five senses. The new brain is the cerebral cortex in which the processes of reasoning and intuitive creativity take place. A large part of human behaviour problems arises from having a primitive brain, evolved to meet basic survival needs, in tandem with more recent brain evolved to be rational and creative. We have now reached a point in our development when we can co-operate with nature in evolving our own consciousness. If we don't do that, the trajectory of our current path will lead to our self-destruction.

    When I refer to 'Sages' I mean those who recorded their wisdom, both in the distant past and recently. The term 'wise' refers to those who, having broken free of doctrinal constraints, continually seek and maintain a personal experience of the ineffable. The word 'you' is a reference to myself, not to other people. My journal is a collection of reminders to myself rather in the style of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. So when you come across a statement that addresses 'you' ,imagine it's the 'you' that's talking to yourself about yourself. In common usage the word 'realise' means to understand or perceive. More often than not I use it in its original sense, 'to make real'. In psychological speak, perhaps to 'actualise'.

    The language I use is occasionally archaic, which is to reflect that the thoughts expressed are ageless, and their truth has withstood the ravages of time and human deviousness. You will find the ideas here expressed in many different scriptures and spiritual works. Although I quote from my sources extensively I have not shown the sources. There is only one ultimate source of wisdom and by not disclosing the sources that's what I infer. Some 'opening's have several iterations which may be amplification, simplification or just plain repetition. I wondered if I should edit these to create some sort of coherence, but decided to let the work take its own course, in accordance with the principle of 'enabling'. After all, each journal entry was made in a different context and maybe that lends something different according to its place in the whole. Often a statement is not universally true and much is understated or left unsaid to allow readers to derive meaning from their own circumstances. The whole work is an attempt to express wisdom ancient and modern which brings meaning to those of us who live in the chaos of the 21st century. Little is original. These passages are simply the crumbs I've gathered “from under the table of the Sages” (17).


    You cannot see the One or touch it.
    You cannot point to it or speak of it.
    It has all wisdom
    But you cannot ask its advice.
    It has all knowledge
    But you cannot learn from it.
    Though you can see where it has been,
    You cannot see where it is going.
    Yet when you experience it
    You realise it.
    When you realise it
    You have found yourself.


    Knowledge of the Way is not higher knowledge.
    Higher knowledge is always gain.
    Knowledge of the Way is always loss.
    It is the knowledge of the babe
    Not a fully grown person.
    It is not a knowledge to be learned,
    But to be unforgotten.

    You do not find it by climbing up,
    But by sinking down.
    It is to know as every child knows,
    As every plant and every creature knows.

    To know the Way,
    Stop rationalising
    And look within.


    There are those who follow the Way
    without knowing it.
    They do what is natural to them
    For the Way is not about words,
    But action.

    How much better than those
    who know the Way
    And follow it only that they may be observed.

    Most blessed are those
    Who, in their actions,
    Follow the Way consciously
    for love.


    Words are only words.
    Meaning is something else.
    To confuse words with meaning
    Is like thinking the flavour is in the food,
    Instead of on your tongue.


    No two fires are the same.
    Every flame is unique.
    Yet everyone recognises what a flame is
    And enjoys the heat.

    The fire does not create
    Its own light.
    It is the light of the sun
    Being given back.

    The wise don't copy others
    but produce their own wisdom
    by the sacrifice of their lives.
    They know that the light they have
    Is not theirs.


    Both the mountain and the valley
    receive the same blessings from heaven,
    Yet the mountain is bare
    and the valley fertile and lush.

    Neither the mountain nor the valley
    Hold on to their gifts of grace.
    They yield them up to the Way
    From which they came.

    The sun rises and sets
    On the male and the female alike,
    Yet it is the female who brings forth
    the gift of the next generation.


    There is much to be learned from scriptures,
    And much to be forgotten.
    Just as in evolution, the body sheds
    That which no longer makes it fit to survive,
    So regenerated minds shed that
    which it is no longer fit to think.


    You would not confuse the water
    With the well from which it is drawn.
    Yet they are not mutually exclusive.
    The one gives expression to the other.
    Doctrine is not experience of the Way.

    The Way is not found in words.
    It does not arise from the operation of the head
    But from the operation of the heart.
    Therefore its fruits are not words,
    but love and compassion.


    There is only one being,
    And it expresses itself in our being.
    To be conscious of this
    is to know the One.


    Life has little to offer
    Those who refuse to die,
    But to die successfully,
    One has to know how to live.


    To follow the Way
    Is like dissecting an onion.
    Much has to be discarded to find the heart.
    And at the heart of the heart,
    One finds nothing.


    Religion is a surrogate mother.
    Her role is to bring children to adulthood.
    Her failure makes them cling to her
    Long after they should have left home,
    Or depart from her in bitterness and anger.

    The wise seeks not
    That which is to be belonged to or believed
    But the realisation of that
    they already are.


    The Enabling is like a mighty river.
    High in the mountain
    It's source seems insignificant.
    Fed by many tributaries,
    It will cut a ravine – if it can.
    It will spread out across a flood plain – if it can.
    It will form a lake – if it can,
    And, if it can, plunge down a fall.
    But always it finds its way back to the ocean.

    The Sages were like mighty rivers.
    They did not struggle against the Enabling
    But allowed it to direct their paths.
    They ever contemplated the return.


    The lens of the ego
    Has been ground by trouble.
    The unenlightened see only what it allows.
    The wise have put aside
    Their warped lenses
    And see all things anew.


    Little is the space
    within the skull.
    When the mind is beset
    By fear, regret and unrequited hope,
    The space is further diminished.

    The Way fills all the universe.
    It cannot be diminished
    by space or time.

    Stand on a hill,
    Let your consciousness soar
    as the buzzard soars
    And let the universe fill you.


    Be frugal in keeping
    And ruthless in discarding.
    What was precious
    In one generation,
    May be dangerous
    In the next.
    We still treat with salicylic acid
    But not with tortoise brain with honey.
    We no longer bleed,
    But transfuse.

    Those who hold on
    To that which should be let go
    Look foolish among the wise
    And are a threat
    To those who are not.


    In the One
    The multitude of things
    become manifest,
    Yet it holds on to nothing
    With a grasping hand.

    The wise are happy in their poverty.
    Though surrounded by plenty
    They own nothing
    So have nothing to lose.

    All the wise hold dear
    is a bag of crumbs
    Gathered from under the tables of Sages.
    It is the most precious thing they hold.

    The Way has no destination in mind.
    Its path cannot be plotted.
    It cannot be surveyed.
    It does not force its route

    With simplicity and patience
    It finds a course,
    Enabling to be what can be,
    Though a million years in its becoming.

    Thus the wise have no ends
    And need no force to achieve them.
    They live in peace
    Who are as the Way
    From which all things arise.


    To overcome the ego
    Keep your mind on the Way.

    To attend the ego's false self
    is to look down.
    To attend the Way
    Is to look out.
    To attend the ego's false self
    Is to feed the ego.
    To attend the Way
    Is to starve the ego's false self to death.


    The aim of consciousness
    Is not the aim of the body.
    The body seeks survival,
    Consciousness seeks transcendence.
    That is why the mind must rule the body.
    Not to do so
    Is to let the body rule the mind;
    The slave to rule the master.
  • It reads well. In my view, one core purpose of writing or reading on this subject is for affirmation. That makes the 'reading well' aspect of your writing all the more important, eh.

    Due to my unbelief in free will, either proclaimed (as in the West) or implied (everywhere else), I try to level the playing field, so to speak. I look for that 'mysterious sameness'. Similarity = reality; difference = illusion.

    Hmm… So is a lack of belief a belief itself? It can be if there is passion present in the unbelief. Passion is the give away. That's why avowed atheists are 'true believers'… a nice irony.

    Most spiritual affirmation (if not all) incorporates implied free will, which partly arises from our species' hierarchical instinct (this drives our perception of layers, differences, which as I said are illusion in story format—thinking—driven by instinct).

    I see this implied free will (the 'should, could, would') to varying degrees in your stanzas. Of course, that's not a problem per se. It's more just an issue for me. I am guilty of this too; language is a layering of difference, so any writing/speaking/thinking is bound to be 'guilty of illusion and half truth'.

    I see only two influences that make us all the way we are: genetic and circumstantial. All the rest is more cultural fabrications to make society run smoother, i.e., cultural story to share so everyone feels they are part of the 'whole'.

    Oh, I'm such a kill joy, aren't I.
  • Many thanks for your interesting and supportive comments, Carl. I can't agree about there being no free will, that's just where I am at present. It's not something I observe in myself. However, my view is that which enables me to do whatever I choose to do comes from one source, as does the enabling of the choice, and that's the mystery. Although I am part of that enabling, the enabling preceded me and will still be enabling long after my 'use by' date has expired.

    I'm doing quite a lot of editing and plan to publish as an ebook on Amazon this month.

    I've had an encouraging response from elsewhere. More comments will be most welcome from anyone who has the time.

  • I can't agree about there being no free will, that's just where I am at present.
    Yes, and naturally so. It has to be the most powerful of all human 'ideas', I guess I'd call it. I suppose it is firmly connected to "I am". If I think I exist, then "I" is the word that nails down that perception (gives identity cognitive form): "I do", "I am", "I think", "I love", "I hate", "I write", "I choose", ... and so on. That surely is the basis for perception of free will. If one believes they exist, free will follows naturally from that perception. What a curious thing, thinking. "i am" in constant awe of "I am".

    I wish you success on your book. It reads well so that gets you to first base anyway!
  • In Seventeen, you wrote "Though surrounded by plenty / They own nothing / So have nothing to lose. "
    If you wrote ''Though surrounded by plenty / They do nothing / So have nothing to lose'', it will be better. Because Tao Te Ching stress we do nothing, not we own nothing. Futher more, you can not understand ''we do ning'' by literally. it means you do nothing at first and observe and then understand the law of nature and do something to solve the problem at last.
  • I take your point, Peter and thank you. The Tao Te Ching is only one of the influences in this work. There are also strong currents flowing in from the Bible and the Upanishads and many other sources, such as Ken Wilbur, Joe Campbell and Meister Eckhart, and this stanza relects the teaching of Jesus on ownership. Both aspects call to the truth within me and it's sometimes difficult to decide which aspect should be expressed. In the end I just 'go with the flow.'
  • Thanks for your comments and further encouragement Carl. I've been reflecting on 'free will' in the light of your comments my thoughts on 'enablement' and I guess there is a connection there. I can do nothing without the 'enabling', therefore, where, or maybe 'what', is the'I'? On one level, there is what I experience, which is the form. On the other there is the reality behind the experience, which is the truth. Thinking I have free will helps me deal with the practicalities of day to day life. Knowing that I haven't, enables me to rest in the 'enabling'. Am I getting near?
  • edited January 2013
    [cite]Posted By: weobley[/cite]
    Thinking I have free will helps me deal with the practicalities of day to day life. Knowing that I haven't, enables me to rest in the 'enabling'.

    Is it really necessary to "think I have free will" to act? Consider an infant, a sparrow, an ant...they act, yet without the added 'baggage' of thinking they have free will. They just act. Since I gave up my belief in free will, I actually find I act much more freely. Somehow the ideal of free will creates a zone of conflict, a tug of war, that "I" can contend with "myself".

    I wouldn't say I "know that I haven't free will". I just see no evidence of it, and if you find any, let me know! It seems to be mostly a figment of our imagination. It a sparrow, ant, or infant could imagine (think), it would think it had free will. I do notice that we use the ideal of free will as a kind of judgment wedge to put down other people, i.e., "they should __(you fill in the blanks__". It is a curious phenomena for sure.
    Am I getting near?
    Geez, I have a hard time knowing how "near" I am. Who? I imagine you will end up doubting free will if that more indistinct and shadowy outlook serves to help you accomplish your private ends.

    By the way, here is some in depth background on free will.
  • I've read most of the above and feel it's definitely worth publishing. You're writing from your own self-knowledge, and what you're saying is the truth in my own experience. As regards "realise", yes, it is to make real in one's own experience. I refer to it as Primary Subjectivity (the subjectivity of the "I" within), while Secondary Subjectivity is the subjectivity of the ego with its morass of ego-complexes behind it from which come all of our prejudices, opinions and beliefs.

    As regards Carl and 'free will', I have to agree with him! 'Choice' is one of the great false gods of the West. In order to make a conscious choice one first has to be conscious, but when one is truly conscious there is no longer any need for a choice: one simply accords with the Way out of one's own true nature. Just as a mother breast feeds her child without any first, never mind a second thought. A choice isn't necessary or relevant.

    But DO publish. I've always said that the world (ie: the unnature-al which has been imposed on the purely nature-al Beautiful Earth by man) needs as many teachers as can be produced. You clearly know your self that when one is in accord with the Great Way then one is both one with the manifestation (or womanifestation) AND the mystery of the Way: one becomes it with no separation. You may or may not be "enlightened" as the greatest sages of the world have been or are now - me either - but you are illuminated as you couldn't communicate the truth that you do otherwise. Even if you inspire just one person to begin the great inner quest, or to advance further along it, your work will have been worth it.
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