Dao De Jing
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Maps and Wheels


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:27 pm

Verse 11 (Herrymon Maurer) begins:

Thirty spokes share one hub;
In emptiness lies the wheel's utility.

In his book Daoism Explained beginning on page 27, Hans-Georg Moeller writes about the wheel and "an image of the Dao." The way he writes about the wheel is very similar to the way Douglas talked about maps. I want to mention a few of those similarities and a few of the differences.

He says that the hub of the wheel has four main characteristics.

1. It is at the center == nearer than near, where seeing begins
2. It is empty == transparent
3. It is still == the spokes move, the world moves in my stillness
4. It is single == united in one hub, first person singular

Don't each of those characteristics describe our own center and the center of Douglas's map? We even have experiments for these. We can see that the single empty center is still while the world moves around us, just as the spokes of the wheel move around the hub. In the headless maps we see the outstretched arms embrace the world of movement and contrast. I think that the line in verse 42 that mentions yang in my arms is a perfect match to the map. Yang is the active, moving element, the opposite to the stillness of yin. There's another pair of relevant words in the Tao Te Ching. These are wu and yu. These appear in several of the verses, notably in verse 1. One translation of the lines is this:

Nothingness is the name of the beginning of heaven and earth
Existence is the name of the mother of all things

Other word pairs that have been used to translate wu and yu are absence/presence, non-presence/presence, nameless/named, non-being/being, and my favorite invisible/visible or unseen/seen. To say that the Tao is empty is to say that it is unseen. Where is it unseen? At the center, here where we imagine we have a face.


I don't know who chose this image for Douglas's monument. He may have done it himself. Whoever chose it, we can see how central it was to his sharing of the vision of headlessness. It sums up the vision in an image without words. Couldn't it be called the wheel of life? Douglas was an architect. In this image of the wheel he draws the design of life, first-person perception. Isn't all that Douglas shared with us based on this grand design? I think it is. Both Lao Tzu and Douglas want us to translate this image of the wheel into our present moment living.


I want to mention some more of the ideas that Hans-Georg Moeller writes about the wheel. They fit so well with headless seeing.

1. "No matter how many spokes a wheel actually has, it will always have only one hub." All the spokes are united and joined in a single hub. The world of multiplicity and plurality is united on this single base and ground. This is the visible design of seeing. Maybe I should say the invisible/visible design of seeing.

2. Verse 42 also refers to the sage (seer) as orphaned, abandoned, and alone. To the Seer "all are the same, but no one is of his (sic) kind." Words like alone and lonely can sound negative. There is only one hub. We all share the same hub. My center is not different to your center.

3. The 'opposition' of the spokes and the hub is one of complementary opposites. He says "If they split apart, they both disappear." We know they never split apart. One never appears without the other! This reminds me that Douglas used the expression "Who I really really really am." Who is this? Douglas meant it to refer to the empty hub that we all share. I think it could also refer to the wholeness of the hub/spokes design. Tao can also take both meanings. It can mean our central emptiness. It can also mean the first-person wholeness of the hub and the spokes, the whole wheel.

4. One more quote: "The Daoist heart, ruler, or hub are not 'first movers' since they they themselves do not move anything. The hub does not move the spokes, the spokes rather turn around the hub by themselves€they take their 'own course' and run in a 'self-so' way." The hub allows the wheel to roll. It doesn't drive the wheel.

Not everyone will agree with this. Some believe that at center we have what they call 'free will' or at least free won't. This is a perennial debate. I read Lao Tzu as coming down on the side of spontaneity, all actions happening on their own. I don't know if Douglas ever gave an opinion on this. Maybe he knew that it is an issue best left alone. We can talk about it later. I do think the Taoist concepts of wu wei and tzu-jan (ziran) are central to the Taoist view. Maybe they aren't quite so central to headless seeing. I don't know.

I'll stop now. I hope all of this doesn't seem too technical and formulaic. I hope there's something in it worth discussing. Sometimes I get carried away with the 'technical' terms. I find them very elegant, but not so elegant as the images and the maps.

Jim


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