dawei

[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 47

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@ OldDog

 

Thank you! You gave interesting answers to my questions, except for this part:

 

Quote

so as to allow us room for interpretation

 

That is: did Lao tzu not only deliberately use allegorical language, but did he do so because he wanted to allow us room for interpretation?

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46 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

he wanted to allow us room for interpretation?

 

I fear we may be talking about two different things in terms of room for interpretation. I think in writing effectively a writer may make certain assumptions about his audience ... their general level of understanding based on literacy, education, cultural background, etc. With those assumptions in mind the writer is free to express himself with some assurance his writing will be understood. Again, he will use the devices cited above. Is this deliberate, yes. Is there room for interpretation, within some limits, probably. Again, within the assumed ability of the audience. Can Laozi have known that two thousand years later readers from a far removed culture would get the message. Probably not.

 

On the other hand, may we assume that because Laozi was not exhaustively explicit in his message ... choosing to write volumes to make a point ... that we may attribute to him and the message anything we want. I don't think so. 

 

Somewhere between these is the wiggle room. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to recieve the message, do the best we can to understand it and decide if it has meaning for us. 

 

Worst case ... he scribbled down a few vague notes so the guard at the pass would let him by. 

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19 hours ago, OldDog said:

Alchemical symbolism. Early taoist tradition included alchemy. Originally the language was quite literal. After the mixing of various elements and substances was given up, the terms took on symbolic meaning. Granted there is not a lot of this in Laozi but some interesting interpretations of Laozi can be uncovered if you compare to early Neidan texts. Writers like Cleary, Reid and Pregadio have done some pretty good comparative work along these line. Check out Reid's Ho-Shang Kung Commentary.

 

My interest in alchemical interpretations of the Tao Te Ching is marginal, nevertheless I like to know what texts of Lao tzu, Chuang tzu and the like probably refer to alchemical matters. What book gives the most likely answer to that question?

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1 hour ago, wandelaar said:

What book gives the most likely answer to that question?

 

Wandelaar, during the last year, I had resolved to look into other writings other than Laozi in order to expand my understanding of daoism. I also have had an interest in the Yijing, which I also consider to be daoist, fully aware that there are those who will argue that. Through various articles, blogs and websites, I was ultimately led to two books which I can recommend.

 

First and foremost is The Thread of Dao by Dan G Reid. This book provides an excellent overview of what he calls proto-daoist writings, particulary the Guanzi texts. In translating the Guanzi texts he draws frequent comparison to Laozi and to lesser extent Zhuangzi. This book allowed me to view Laozi in the context of a broader scope of daoist activity and provided the ability to see deeper into the meaning of Laozi and Zhuangzi.

 

Second is The Seal of The Unity of the Three by Fabrizio Pregadio. This book which refers more to the Yijing than Laozi is a translation of the Cantong qi. While usually considered to be a Neidan text, Pregadio demonstrates how it can be more generally viewed as a text that brings a unified understanding of cosmoslogy, daoism and neidan. Again, in the translation, frequent comparison is drawn to the more familiar Yijing and to lesser extent Laozi. 

 

Like you, my interest in alchemy has been marginal. So, if I was going to devote time to reading other writings, I wanted to pick ones that gave me the bigest bang for the buck. These two books filled the bill. I have to say, I firmly believe that when the time is ripe ... that is, when the person is ready ... the universe conspires to provide one with what is needed for the next step. That was the case with me having stumbled on these two books.

 

I am sure there are other writings ... and, I am sure there are others on this site more qualified than I to make recommendations. However, I think these two books can be as useful to you as they have been for me.

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Thank you OldDog! I will see if it's something for me. According to this interview the books of Dan G. Reid may very well be useful to me:

 

 

But one more question: what is the difference between early Taoist alchemy and early Taoist inward training? I already read the book of Harold D. Roth Original Tao on the connection of early Taoism and  the Nei-yeh, so that subject is already covered to my own satisfaction. Does the work of Dan G. Reid add something specifically alchemical?

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2 hours ago, wandelaar said:

Does the work of Dan G. Reid add something specifically alchemical?

 

You found the same reference from dawei that ultimately prompted me to buy it, although it was already on my list. Reids book is less alchemical than Pregadio. Reid focuses on similarities of early daoist writings, while Pregadio does a lot in terms of breaking down a lot of mystical references. 

 

I'm not well read enough or practiced enough to answer the later question. 

 

 

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On 9/16/2018 at 12:50 PM, wandelaar said:

Here is a free pdf from Pregadio:  

 

I took your recommendation and downloaded this pdf ... and read it. It contains everything and more that was in his translation of the Cantong qi. This pdf is valuable in that, in its brevity, he distills the Cantong qi and other sources down to their essence and relates the multiple sources into a consistent narrative of waidan and neidan practices. If on approaches from the perspective of philosophical Daoism, as was my case, then the reading has some really great insights. So, I would recommend this pdf to you as a way to gain the insights/understandings and economize on the time to read the Cantong qi translations and other works. It's almost the Cliff's Notes version.

 

Thanks for recommending. I will hang on to this and no doubt refer to it often. 

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Yes - I have been searching for a short introduction to Chinese alchemy, and the pdf from Pregadio is the best thing I found. Sadly it only appears to exist as a pdf and not as a physical book. Maybe I will print it out myself and in that way make a real book of it.

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34 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

Maybe I will print it out myself and in that way make a real book of it.

 

You know, being old school, I have thought of doing that a few times. It's hard to break the habit of wanting to own it so you can hold it in your hands as you read and annotate freely. But then at some point you end up with a lotta books that you don't have a lot of room for. Then the dilemma of what to do with them. 

 

Lately, I have come to value pdfs and ebooks. With the right reader you can annotate to you hearts content, highlight, underline, post sticky notes. Really handy when you are on a site like this and want to make a point ... copy/paste.

 

What is ownership anyway? Once you have really absorbed the material ... don't you own it? 

 

I had a professor once tell me that its not how much you know but knowing where to find it when you need it.

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A book is here to stay for decades or maybe even hundreds of years. And it doesn't make you dependent of computer technology, the internet or e-readers. Lately I even find that my CD's and DVD's on which I did burn collections of e-books are beginning to give errors or even have become completely unreadable within the space a only a few years time. So I definitely prefer real books, even when I already have pdf's of them.

 

There is also the problem of overkill - one can find thousands of pdf's (books and articles) on almost anything. But it's humanly impossible to sensibly navigate such an amount of data. One good and well researched book on a subject is much more useful than a collection of a thousand e-books on the same subject.

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16 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

So I definitely prefer real books, even when I already have pdf's of them.

 

Fair enough. 

 

I have just taken to not purchasing a book unless it really has some strong appeal. 

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