It May Be Suggested ...

(Also pub. in The Middle Way, November 1965.)


It may be suggested that awakening to what we are, or disidentification with a phenomenal object endowed with spurious subjectivity and freedom of action, can only occur as a result of a state of equilibrium between the positive and negative aspects of duality whose imbalance constitutes bondage.

In general the positive (yang) element is in excess of the negative (yin) element, for to this end are we conditioned from birth and by our unbalanced system of education. Religion tends to accentuate this imbalance, and thereby becomes an important factor in our bondage. The Negative Way of Ch'an-Taoism (and of Zen in Japan) almost alone systematically seeks to redress this imbalance, and that is the totality of method and practice in the pure forms of Ch'an, sometimes called 'the practice of non-practice'. If we study the ancient accounts of sudden awakening, which is the sole aim of the Supreme Vehicle (Shresthyana), I think we will find that this restoration of equilibrium is the factor which results in sudden liberation from supposed bondage - which seems to be a psychic inhibition - as it is the aim of the technique applied by the Masters.

The religious Ways are predominantly positive, or directly positive, seeking to reach pure positivity by cultivating positive affectivity - 'love' of God, or of phenomenal objects, even the universe as such - but the attainment of positivity by cultivating the positive can readily be recognised as a manifest absurdity like pulling oneself up by one's own boot-laces. Why is this so? It is so because objectified phenomenality is itself positive, and there is a solution of continuity between what phenomenally is either positive or negative and noumenality which is neither. Therefore 'liberation' is liberation from positive objectivity, and that cannot be achieved by any kind of positive or phenomenal activity. This I think, should be obvious? The technique of the Negative Way, on the other hand, consists in the systematic negation of every positive psychic activity, thereby rectifying the imbalance which holds us in bondage.

It may be suggested that we all have a craving for positivity, and that even the 'love of God' or the 'love of the Lord', in Christianity and in Vedanta, is such. That may appear to us to be so, and it is certainly the cause of the apparently irresistible temptation to choose a positive - and so necessarily dualist - Way, but what we are seeking there is not ultimately, but only apparently, positivity. What we are seeking is our own noumenality, which although negative to us is neither positive nor negative, however it may appear to us, bound as we suppose ourselves to be, and so unable to apprehend that it is all that we are. This is, if you wish, the resultant of the mutual negation of the interdependent counterparts, positive and negative, and in order that such mutual negation may occur they must be accurately 'superimposed' like positive and negative films, for which they must necessarily be in perfect equilibrium. This will be found to be non-objective relation.

The mutual negation of all pairs of interdependent counterparts, of which positive and negative are the basic factors, is the result of compensation of the contrasting elements, light-and-shade for instance, each eliminating the other, leaving a blank which is known as the Void or, better, Voidness. But that is only phenomenally a blank, that is to say a total absence of conceptual objects. Thereby conceptuality is annihilated - and mind is rid of dualism and is 'made whole'.

What in fact results is what remains, which is what has always been, which is all that isness is, and that is what we are, all that we are, and there can only be one word for it, which is 'I'.

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The background of that metanoesis, of course, is the absence of phenomenal objectivisation, which constitutes appearance and whose only and apparent existence is in mind, manifested by the mechanism of supposed subjects and their objects. All this dreamed-stuff, as the Buddha called it in the Diamond Sutra, has cancelled itself out by the elimination of inferred subject/object. This has resulted from the equilibrium of the negative and positive (yin and yang) elements which rendered phenomenal manifestation possible for each and every sentient being, whose sentient potentiality alone ever existed, expressed by the pronoun 'I'.

That, briefly, is the Way that is Tao, as its functioning is Te, and he who understands it is a Man of Tao. It is also the in-forming element of Chinese Mahayana as represented by the Supreme Vehicle. Buddhistically expressed, the functioning is called Prajna of which the static counterpart is Dhyana whose dynamic aspect it is, terms which had a somewhat different connotation in the Indian Sanscrit vocabulary which translators still insist upon imposing upon Chinese scriptures, to our dismay, confusion, and general undoing.

This impossibility of reaching positivity via the positive is an illustration of Huang Po's frequent observation that Mind cannot be reached by mind, and the reason why an eye cannot see itself; it is why an 'I' cannot do that either, since it is itself, and a searcher cannot find himself, since the sought is the seeker. It is also, and particularly, why split-mind cannot see whole-mind, and why neither positive nor negative, divided, can see what they are beyond themselves, all of which are activities in which we are apt optimistically to engage, and all of which simply illustrate aspects of Huang Po's famous statement.

It would seem, therefore, that only by negating positive affectivity and positive conceptuality can equivalence be restored so that duality may be transcended. Noumenally all concepts are necessarily false, and nothing we can say in a serial time-context can be true. No affectivity can have existence outside the dualistic universe of sense-perception and personal experience, and to seek positivity via a positive is in itself great folly. Impersonality must be devoid of both elements, and can only be reached by total negation.


Differently suggested, and saying it rather than just reading it, negation is necessary because what-I-am is not any 'thing' sensorially cognisable, and in order that I may be aware of This-which-I-am I must cease to be conscious of That-which-I-am-not. Such a 'reorientation' of consciousness can only occur as a result of negating all the phenomenal attachments on which my false identity depends. Any and every positive thought or emotion must necessarily reaffirm my attachment to That-which-I-am-not, and positivity can only be cancelled out by negativity.

Therefore in order to to rid myself of all my positive trammels I must bring my negativity into equilibrium with my positivity so that they may mutually compensate one another, the resultant of which must be the voidness of both positive and negative objectivity - which phenomenal voidness is what 'isness' is.

Ultimately, positivity is always affirmation of self, and negativity negation of self. And 'annihilation of the Ego-sense is Liberation' (Ramana Maharshi), is the burden of all the doctrines.

Positivity achieved can only lead to an affective phenomenon such as that holy monster (etymologically), a saint, as negativity achieved can only lead to an unholy monster, a devil, whereas equilibrium leads to a sage, who represents the perfection of normality. Can sages, then, not also be saints? Why, of course they can - sanctity, like devilry, is a phenomenon, and the phenomenal role of a sage can be demoniac as it can be saintly. This, also, was pointed out by Ramana Maharshi, than whom no one of our times has been in a position to speak with greater authority - since he was quite certainly himself a sage and was available to all comers for half-a-century. Although he had a background of Vedantic positivity his recorded statements were sometimes almost identical with those of the T'ang dynasty Masters of whom he was unlikely ever to have heard. Their words were not always reliably recorded, and are not often reliably translated, whereas his words were understood and recorded by ourselves. For that reason they constitute a precious cross-reference and confirmation.

Note: Only phenomenal objects can appear to experience, the sentience experienced is the nominative 'I' apparently experienced by the accusative 'me'. Experience (passing sensations) can only occur in a time-sequence, but the sentience experienced is itself intemporal.
There is no such object as sentience: it becomes a supposed object only when you think you are a being.

(© HKU Press, 1966)
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