Remembering Wu-Ji
by Jonathan J. Dickau
©2001 - all rights reserved

            The primal nature of all things is not separate in any way, from itself or its creations, but is unified, and unifies us all. The process by which we discover this nature, in our own identity, is largely one of remembering a part of us which always was, and learning to identify with it, instead of being preoccupied with our bodies, our emotions, or our conditioning. We are capable of thoughts and feelings far beyond the range of our physical senses, beyond our ties of emotional concern and the incessant need to worry, and beyond the burdens brought by painful memories, or things even too painful to remember. We must first learn to leave behind all our burdens, however, by allowing who we really are, and what has always been, to find each other within us, and to make peace with our past experiences, our unkindly feelings, our desire nature, and other aspects of the lower self. You see, we have come to identify with these things over time, because they are so much a part of our lives, but they are not who we really are, and there is a part of us that still remembers this, which longs to communicate what it knows.

            We all understand certain things, without having to be told, but this doesn’t make it easy to believe in what we know. Most of us have become caught up in the maze of words, or the web of the senses, and have learned to tune out some of the natural signals. To hear the still, small, voice of Spirit can be difficult, with the busy pace of the modern world, all the noise, and its many distractions. The totality of our being is a wondrous thing, but to find it you must be willing to push on past the third gate, and into the open field of a higher reality. In Chinese, the term for the undivided primal nature is Wu-Ji. It is not a mere abstraction, however, but is rather an essential element of life, and an essential component of manifested reality. This is something which students of the Tao have always known, but Modern Science and Higher Mathematics appear to be confirming this. The existence of a Wu-state is an essential underpinning of many of the most advanced theories of Cosmology (studying the Origin of the Universe) and Physics (or Physical Sciences). In Chinese, appropriately enough, the term for Physics is Wu-Li.

            This brings us to the subject of this essay. Remembering Wu-Ji is a sure road to connecting with the higher self, the inner child, and a host of other wonderful things which await you when you discover your true nature. Identifying with the primal nature will liberate you completely, when you can allow it to “breathe” you, but this is a difficult concept for those in Western cultures, and quite unfamiliar to many people in the Orient today. Wu-Ji is an important part of Taoist Philosophy, however, though it is poorly understood, even by many who are students of the Tao. You see, though it is an integral part of all form, its nature is far more fluid. Where substance is not, there is Wu-Ji; where form is not, there also is Wu-Ji. Most importantly, where there is no description (at least in conventional terms), there most definitely is Wu-Ji. When it is said, that “the Tao which can be written or spoken is not the true Tao,” we are speaking of Wu-Ji. The knowledge of Wu-Ji has long been kept a secret, but it is knowledge we all posses. The secret of Wu-Ji is something which anxious souls will never understand, however, because the understanding of Wu-Ji is only possible for a calm, and relatively uncluttered, mind.

            Picture, if you will, the Master and his pupil at the water’s edge. At first, a breeze blows past, so that the light of the sun dances upon the water of the pond, but later it becomes calm, and the water becomes still. The pupil asks, “Is it not beautiful, Master, when the light of the sun makes the surface of the water become like fire?” The Master responds, “When the sun dances upon the water, we are blind to what is beneath, but observe as the water becomes still. What do you see now?” The pupil replies, “I see that there are fish, Master, and a large rock just below the surface, where they have found shelter. I think that maybe they are part of a larger school, or maybe they have....”. But the Master has tossed a pebble into the water, and he asks “What can you see now, my young friend?” As the surface of the water again becomes calm, the pupil comments “Ah... I can begin to make out the rock again, but it appears the fish have gone. It seems we have scared them. Perhaps they have gone to join a larger school, or maybe they are just..,” but by then, the Master has taken another pebble from his hand and tossed it into the water, asking “Can you see anything now?,” and tossing a few more pebbles, “How about now?” To this the pupil angrily replied, “All I can see is the light of the sun upon the water.,” to which the Master calmly responded “Exactly.”

            To remember Wu-Ji requires us to acknowledge that there is much to see beneath the surface of reality, and to understand that we require stillness in order to see it. For most of us modern people, however, the challenges to maintaining a calm center (or a disposition gentle enough to become calm) are so many that this seems nearly impossible. This is precisely why the Great Patriarchs and the Tao Masters have clung so tenaciously to the Ancient Knowledge that allows them to tap into an infinite well of stillness, which co-exists with the moving and changing world of surface appearances. This stillness is the very essence of Wu-Ji, played out for our benefit, to allow us to know that we, ourselves, are far deeper than surface appearances would indicate. The miracle of the Tao is that this can be communicated to others, by someone who knows, through direct transference or transmission. This is the purpose of Tien Tao, the Ancient Holy Way, where the Master (or Enlightened Teacher) passes on the true knowledge of Tao inwardly, during the course of the outward ritual of Receiving the Tao. For those who have received the Tao into their lives, and have learned to recognize the original self, remembering Wu-Ji can bring them instantly to liberation. It is the fulfillment of a search which can last lifetimes.

            When I speak of remembering Wu-Ji, however, I am talking about something which, by its very nature, is accessible to everybody. This does not mean that it is easy to find, nor do I mean to imply that it is something which is necessarily easy to understand, once found, although it will be easy for some. We are living in an age where many things that have long been kept secret are being made known to everybody, or being discovered anew since they are indeed quite real on their own. Books like Fritjof Capra’s “The Tao of Physics,” and Gary Zukav’s “The Dancing Wu-Li Masters” paved the way by showing that Ancient Taoist scholars, and others in the Orient, had a knowledge of things which explains Modern Physics much better than the prevailing world-view in the West. This Ancient Knowledge describes something essential to everyone and everything, although it is poorly understood, even by many in the Orient today. With the premiere of the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” we have come to a point where those of us who have preserved and cultivated the Ancient Knowledge must stop pretending that it can be bottled up anymore. The challenge, instead, is to make sure that the teachings of Wu-Ji are accompanied by the moral and ethical basis which gives the principles their strength.

            The truth is that even the deepest layers of once-hidden meaning are being discovered by serious researchers, and truth seekers, worldwide. The pioneering work of French Mathematician Alain Connes, and the work of top Physicists including Edward Witten, is providing a detailed road map, and discovering an appropriate set of natural laws, for a “place” that existed before the emergence of form which led to the creation of the Physical Universe. Although they speak of Zero-Branes, and Non-Commutative Mathematics, as the theoretical basis for numerous versions of String Theory, they are talking about the land of Wu, or the Nameless Plane (Anami in Sanskrit). It is a place where everything is connected, is One actually, and every position or orientation within its infinite expanse is equivalent, or identical. Most importantly, it is a space, or a state, that exists before the First Distinction, which gave rise to the potential allowing all form, including the physical universe, to come into being. Scientists sought to know what came before the Big Bang, and what they are finding is clearly Wu-Ji. The magical “place” which both the Ancient Masters and Modern Scientists describe is a wonder of wonders, and I feel that we all need to honor and revere it within our own being.

            We all desire to find that place which is beyond the limitations of space, time, and form, yet is here, now, and ourselves. The ultimate truth is that we are already there, and we need only uncover that which is already real within us, in order to be free. The difficulty in accomplishing this is great, however, and the reason is that our own thoughts, our impressions of what is real, and our beliefs about what should be real, cloud our view of reality. For the pupil at the water’s edge, the thing which first got his attention was the sunlight dancing on the surface of the water, which created the illusion of fire. When the winds of change blow across the waters of our lives, most of us are so distracted by the surface appearance of things that we never get around to examining the deeper nature. Once we have come to be aware that there is something to perceive, however, something that is below the surface, or behind and before the nature of things at the surface level, there is still quite a challenge to actually perceiving it.
            In our story, the Master threw a pebble for each time the pupil’s thoughts ran away with his attention, and obscured his ability to observe what was real. When the pebble hit the water, it was no longer possible to see what was going on below the surface, but the pebble’s passage, through the air and water, also had other effects. So it is with our thoughts, often enough. In the process of making an observation, we are likely to change the character of things, unless we are extremely mindful, and well schooled in the art of quiet observing. Wu-Ji will remain unchanged, however, because it is beyond all possibility of interference. In the land of Wu, there is no higher or lower, no greater or lesser, there is All-One. Wu-Ji is beyond the ultimate, or Tai-Ji, in the sense of being what was real before comparisons existed, and what is real now beyond all limitations. The land of Wu is a place which is forever beyond our reach, since it is not possible for any entities of form to exist there, nor any limited being of any kind, because it is a place where no limitations or conditions can exist, in any manner whatsoever.

            On the other hand, Wu-Ji is our own true nature! It also appears to be a fundamental component of all manifested reality. We should be thankful that the knowledge of Wu-Ji has been faithfully preserved for all these centuries, and that there are those individuals who have been Cultivating the Tao, and thereby maintaining their connection to the Wu-state within. We should also be happy that we are living in the time when these things must be revealed, in order to help people in their time of need. These things had to be kept quite secret in the past, to avoid abuses of power, and to keep from upsetting the balance of power in our world. This has continued, despite mankind’s progress, almost to this day. It is believed by many that the actor, and martial artist, Bruce Lee met his demise because he ignored the code of secrecy, which his teachers required him to adhere to, and which involved some of the same secrets. This is because the power contained in the Ancient Knowledge is so great, and nobody wants it to be unleashed by the ignorant, nor directed against the innocent. But harsh times demand strong measures, and the modern age calls for every tool of human salvation to be employed.

            We are living in a time when the turning of the Age invites mankind to progress, and requires humans to evolve beyond the present limitations of our physical identity. It would seem that life is being speeded up, both by outward pressures to change, and by the inner pressures to transform and evolve. The Ancients predicted that this time would be one of phenomenal changes, which are sure to make life interesting for all of us. I believe that we will see a continuing rise of ESP, as more and more people awaken to extraordinary possibilities, or discover that they are already having psychic experiences. We will also see more clear demonstrations of what can only be called miracles. These things are happening for our benefit, so that we may observe the progress of the human race’s awakening, and aid in making the process a peaceful and harmonious one. You see, the fact that we will change is inevitable, but what we are changing into is by no means as certain. We have a chance to redeem ourselves, by saving the planet and each other, but we will have plenty of opportunities to destroy each other, as well.

            Remembering Wu-Ji can be our greatest means of assuring a peaceful outcome to many of these struggles. Mankind is not out of trouble yet, and the ability to find a peaceful place within can be one of the best ways to deal with the troubles of our age. To know that there is a place of perfect peace and unity, to which you are already connected, can be a great asset indeed. When we remember Wu-Ji, it allows us to have access to this place. We don’t have to go there, you see, nor do anything to get there, we need only be mindful of our connection to the primal nature (our own original nature), and allow that connection to dispel chaotic thoughts. This will bring about healing of the circumstances of our calamities, replacing them with a sense of calm, and a sort of serene detachment. The act of truly remembering Wu-Ji does require us to let go of our limited condition, however, because we can’t cling to our agitated feelings and thoughts of separation, if we wish to actually experience peace and unity. To speak of remembering Wu-Ji is really shorthand, you see. When we remind ourselves to remember Wu-Ji, we are saying that there is always an alternative to the troubled state of our world, and of our lives. We can rise above the turmoil in the world by going deep within. By remembering Wu-Ji, we tune-in to the Always So, and from its infinite wellspring we can create a region of peace and harmony which will eventually expand to embrace the world.

©2001 Jonathan J. Dickau - all rights reserved

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this page was first posted April 12, 2002