Saturday, October 29, 2016

Chinese Painting and Thought - A Different Perspective ...

In one of my last visits to "Shakespeare and Company" bookstore in Paris (I wrote about it here before), a small, inconspicuous book, almost by chance, found itself in my hands. "Existence. A Story" by David Hinton. David is a poet and renown translator of Chinese poetry. The book sheds light on the experiences that are so often ignored by our proud (yet frequently blind) Western tradition... What is amazing for me, is that on the deepest level, as you could find in my previous post about Kabbalah, it is not that bad - we also have some amazing traditions touching the essence of everything ... But, for some reasons, that awareness of existence is much more prevalent in Chinese thought and art than in ours ...

As it was before with Kabbalah and the Journey to Lhasa, this post will contain the most interesting quotes I find in it during my everyday early morning reading ...

"We turn to the empty darkness of pure awareness, which is all that remains after this practice of forgetfulness, and we inhabit the expansive space of that darkness"

"That clarity is a beginning place, and almost as soon as this empty gaze into the nature of things reveals existence vast and deep, it reveals something else no less wondrous and unimaginable: there is no distinction awareness and the expansive presence of existence. They are whole, a single existential tissue, which is to say that existence-tissue is our most fundamental self."

"(...) the pictographic nature of Chinese means that words share the nature of things as living phenomena. (...) This suggest a very different concept of time. We in modern West inhabit time as a metaphysical dimension, a river of future flowing through present and into the past. This grand metaphysical assumption about the world structures our immediate experience, but it is purely imaginal, and it creates a strange schism between us and the vast tissue of transformation that is reality. As inhabitants of this linear time, we are located outside of existence. But there is no trace of such dimension in empirical reality. (...) and 'time' is nothing other than the movement of change itself, an ongoing generative moment in which every thing (noun) is alive (verb) and pregnant with transformation."


"In the modern West, linguistic thought is experienced in a mimetic sense, as a stable and changeless medium by which a transcendental soul represents objective reality. This sense of language assumes language did not evolve out of natural process, but that language is instead a kind of transcendental realm that somehow came into existence independently of natural process."

"The history of language in China reveals that language was not experienced as a mimetic separation by ancients (...) They recognized language as an organic system evolved by the existence-tissue describing and explaining itself. In the cultural myth, language begins in China with the hexagrams of the I Ching, such as the first two, Heaven and Earth:

These hexagrams embody the two fundamental elements of the Cosmos: yin and yang, female and male, whose dynamic interaction produces the cosmological process of change"

"Here we encounter the tantalizing fact that to translate a Chinese poem into English is to fundamentally misrepresent it, because the mimetic function of English, with its distancing, is exactly what a Chinese poem is meant to undo"


"Existence decorates itself with identity and meaning, just as it decorates itself with mountain ridgelines and sea-mist, cities and rainbows. And yet (how can it be?), as soon as existence begins to know itself, it is lost to itself. Existence rustles. It wants to know itself; and in the end, it cannot. It can only elude itself"


'Tao also means "to say"'

"A Tao called Tao isn't the perennial Tao.
A name that names isn't the perennial name."

"(...) the might be translated 'A Tao that can be described/explained is not the perennial Tao"


"From this attention to thought's movement comes meditation's first revelation: that we are, as a matter of observable fact, separate from our thoughts and memories. That is, we are not the center of identity we assume ourselves to be in our day-to-day lives, that center of identity defining us fundamentally outside the existence-tissue. Instead, we are the empty awareness ('empty mind') that watches identity rehearsing itself in thoughts and memories relentlessly coming and going."

"(...) mind refers not to the abstract analytical faculty that we normally associate with that word. Instead it refers to the empty awareness that Stone-Waves encountered in meditation, that we encountered before opening our eyes here in the beginning"


"In perennial Absence you see mystery,
and in perennial Presence you see appearance
(Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching)

Presence is simply the empirical universe: the ten thousand things in constant transformation, existence vast and deep, everything and everywhere. And Absence is the generative void from which this ever-changing realm of Presence perpetually emerges. (...)

In this mirror-deep empty mind, the ancients experienced perception as nothing less than Absence itself mirroring Presence"


"Lao Tzu often employs female terminology to describe the elemental contours of Absence, the dark and mysterious source of all appearance: 'mother of all beneath heaven', 'nurturing mother,' 'dark female-enigma'. This female cosmology feels very primal, and probably dates from the earliest levels of human culture, levels when the existence-tissue first began decorating itself with celebration and meaning"


"In Ch'an meditation, that cosmology is revealed as the very structure of consciousness, for meditation allows you to watch thought emerge from a generative emptiness, follow its dynamic evolution, and finally return back into that emptiness.(...)
This is a return to the elemental mystery of creation; and at the same time, it reveals consciousness as an integral part of the cosmological tissue: thought, memory, identity, all moving with the same dynamic energy as the Cosmos itself"


"Poetry was sometimes referred to as "poetry-Ch'an." Although made of words, it is at its most profound level a spiritual practice opening consciousness to an immediate experience of the existence-tissue that precedes thought and language. (...) And poetry is the language's most distilled expression."


"As we have seen, this grammar is minimal in the extreme, leaving a great deal of open space in the poem: all words can function as any part of speech, subjects and pronouns are often missing, verbs have no tense, function words (conjunctions, prepositions, articles, etc.) are rare, there is no punctuation, etc. This open space feels like an extension of the open space that surrounds the poem, and together they are a single tissue of emptiness: Absence, the source-tissue. (...) In this poetry participates in that more primal experience of time as an ongoing generative moment, which also defines the texture of the poem, for the wide-open grammar and absence of verb tenses creates a sense that the events of a poem occur in a kind of boundless present."


"The practice of calligraphy is similar to the practice of meditation. It changes our relation to language, the medium of identity; and finally, it reweaves identity into the existence-tissue"


"When the ancients looked at a painting with mirror-deep mind, they rehearsed empty awareness here in the beginning, (...). As they gazed mirror-deep into a painting, they felt within consciousness both the blank field of Absence and dynamic Presence emerging from that field, its forms chosen not arbitrarily or to portray a particular landscape, but for the resonance they open in X, its empty mind and full heart."


"The COSMOLOGY of Absence and Presence structures everything in ancient China. It defines the physical structure of the Cosmos, with the empirical world emerging from a generative emptiness; the compositional structure of calligraphy and painting, with their forms emerging from that same emptiness and vanishing back into it; the structure of language and poetry, with their empty grammar and pictographic words emerging at the empty source of things, the ideograms themselves nestled around the empty space within them, the structure of consciousness, in which thought emerges from a generative emptiness and returns to vanish there; and finally, it structures perception, where empty mind mirrors empirical reality"

"So the concepts of Absence and Presence might almost be translated: 'formless' and 'form', for they are just two different ways of seeing the existence-tissue"


"In perennial Absence you see mystery,
and in perennial Presence you see appearance.
Though the two are one and the same,
once they arise, they differ in name.

One and the same they're called dark-enigma,
dark-enigma deep within dark-enigma,

gateway of all mystery."

"Dark-enigma is a return to consciousness prior to language and the utilitarian differentiation of things we need for survival (...) As soon as you conceptualize it, name it even with this first name, dark-enigma, that immediacy and wholeness is lost"


"There is another name for Absence and Presence recognized as a single entity, a concept that emphasizes its nature as a living tissue: Ch'i:

"This is experience at a very primal level in this cosmology, revealing that empty consciousness is not emptiness, but an ethereal configuration of:


(And with this quote I'm ending the relation from this amazing little book...

Macrospherology of humans. Globes - volume two of Peter Sloterdijk's Spheres

I have been reading the second volume of Sloterdijk's magnum opus for a couple of months now. I still haven't found the time for a f...