The Role of Taoist Spirituality in Chinese Medicine, Part Two: Indefinable Oneness
By Matthew Bauer, LAc
In my last article,1 I introduced the Taoist concept of the "Gate of All Wonders," the mystical connection between differing realities that might have been the inspiration for China's ancient namesake ("The Middle Land") and is directly related to Chinese medicine's concept of a holistically interconnected universe.
Holistic philosophy stresses that all creation is interconnected, comprising one great whole. This concept has become popular in the West, both with the general public and, to a surprising degree, within modern science.
The fact that modern science is now supplementing, if not replacing, the mechanical view of nature with a holistic view is really quite revolutionary. The concept of a mechanistic universe gained prominence with the theories put forth by such great scientists as Newton and Descartes in the 17th and 18th centuries. From that time on, it had been the dominant view of scientists and the general public. Beginning in the early 20th century, however, a new generation of scientists began promoting ideas that seemed closer to Taoist or Zen Buddhist philosophy than the clockwork determinism of Newton. The great pioneer of quantum physics, Niels Bohr, even incorporated the taiji (yin/yang) symbol into his family crest.
"A human being is part of the whole, called by us as the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself,his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical illusion in his consciousness."
- Albert Einstein
If you stop to think about it, one could say that the concept of special interconnecting gates is central to the theory of acupuncture. Qi circulates throughout every cell of the body, and thus has the potential to get stuck at any point; yet the most common or pivotal "stuck" spots have been singled out and termed "acupuncture points." While the human body has several thousand acupuncture points, only about 360 were designated as "regular" points (those most pivotal), with a few hundred others categorized as "extra" and "extraordinary." To carry out treatment, acupuncturists must select a limited number of points, and will sometimes choose the less common extra points over regular ones. Point selection, therefore, is based on the skill of being able to recognize the most pivotal of the pivotal points at any given time within a dynamic, fluctuating system. By finding and properly stimulating these special spots, an acupuncturist helps his or her patient to pass through the gate, connecting a state of imbalance to one of balance.
Look at it, but you cannot see it. Because it is formless, you call it Invisible. Listen to it, but you cannot hear it. Because it is soundless, you call it Inaudible. Grasp it, but it is beyond your reach. Because it is subtle, you call it Intangible. These three are indescribable and imperceptible. But, in the mystical moment you see it, hear it and grasp it, The Unseen, the Unheard, and the Unreachable presents itself as indefinable Oneness.
Confront this Oneness and you do not see its face. Follow it and you do not see its back. It does not appear bright when viewed at the zenith. Nor does it appear dark when viewed at the nadir. There is nothing which can make this Oneness distinct. When you try to make it clear to yourself, it evasively reverts to Nothingness. Perhaps you may call it the Form of the Formless, the Image of the Imageless. Yet the elusive, subtle Oneness remains nameless.
If you hope to meet it, it has no part you can call front. If you hope to follow it, it has no place you can call behind. Yet it can be observed in the constant regularity of the universe. The constancy of the universe of antiquity is the constancy of the present time. If one knows the Primal Beginning, one may thus know the truth of the eternal Tao.
Bauer M. The role of Taoist spirituality in Chinese medicine, part one: the gate of all wonders. Acupuncture Today, February 2006.
All quotes from The Complete Works of Lao Tzu by Hua-Ching Ni.
Click here for previous articles by Matthew Bauer, LAc.