Humanism, by Gump

(Guest post by the allegedly fictional Frank Gump.)

My name is Frank Gump. People call me Frank Gump. I do gotta middle name, though only Momma ever uses it, and only when she's exasperated with me: "Frank Forrester Gump!"

You’ve probably heard of my great-grandson, Forrest Gump. We Gumps have always had a knack for showing up at spots that would turn out to be historically significant. We are also magically long-lived: I was born in 1865, which makes me 146 years old now. Gumps have been Unitarians -- and now, Unitarian Universalists -- since the 1700s. It was my great-grandad (on Momma's side), Henry Ware, that caused all that stir back in 1805 when he was offered, and accepted, the Hollis Chair of Divinity at Harvard.

I loved Tom Hanks as Forrest. Mr.
Hanks can play me any time he wants.
The Gumps and the Churches have been friends for seven generations, and I was born and named "Frank Forrester" about the same time as the first Frank Forrester Church was. His grandson, Frank Forrester Church III, was a Senator from Idaho, 1957-1981, and his great-grandson, the Senator's son, was called Forrest, same as my great-grandson. Forrest Gump was not a smart man, but he knew what love is. Forrest Church was a smart man -- and if you had the chance to hear him preach much or have read his books, you know that he, too, knew what love is.

But I'm here to tell you my story, not Forrest Gump's or Forrest Church's.

I was born in New York City because of my uncle, Rev. Henry Bellows, minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York. Forty years before I was to be born, in 1825, the American Unitarian Association -- AUA -- had been formed. And for forty years the AUA remained low-key and loosely organized – nothing more than a clearinghouse for a few Unitarian publications, really. It was not even an organization of congregations. AUA was an association that individuals – mostly ministers – joined.

Unitarianism was stagnating. There'd been no growth for decades. My Uncle Henry, though, was a born organizer. During the Civil War, Henry Bellows had organized the US Sanitary Commission to provide medical care to the sick and wounded soldiers. With the war over, Uncle Henry set out to whip his slack bunch of religious liberals into shape. So he organized a big conference – the first national one Unitarians had ever had.

In March 1865, he came down to visit his sister, my momma.

He said, "Come with me, Sally."

"Henry, I'm 8 months pregnant," she said.

Henry Whitney Bellows
But Uncle Henry was persuasive. That's how I came to be born in New York City, right there on the convention floor at the first National Convention of Unitarian Churches. Y'see, Uncle Henry wanted this loose-knit, stagnating group to be cohesive and coherent. Invitations had gone out to every congregation: send your minister and two delegates. And over 200 congregations were represented at the Conference. Some interesting things happened at that conference. They approved raising $100,000 for denominational purposes – that was serious money in 1865 -- and those funds ended up founding new churches and supporting Unitarian seminaries.

Here’s an interesting thing: the 1865 conference proposed union with the Universalists. Ha. Took us 96 more years to make that happen.

To get the word out more effectively about who we were, Uncle Henry said we needed to have a statement. Now he, like most Unitarians at that time, was a Christian. So Henry Bellows introduced a statement that said Unitarians are "disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ" devoted "to the service of God and the building-up of the kingdom of his son." That’s what it said.

Now my momma was one of the ones that weren't so sure about that. She loved to read her Ralph Waldo Emerson and the other Transcendentalists.

Henry said to her, "Sally, are you Christian?"

Momma said, "Y'know, Henry, I have to say I'm really not."

"You're not one of those radicals among us, are you?"

"Well maybe so, Henry. I been learning about Buddha, Zoroaster, and Muhammad. I'm not saying Jesus wasn't an amazing and brilliant spiritual teacher who we need to listen to and learn from, but these others had a lot going for them, too. And science is revealing whole new worlds to us. There are Unitarians now who call themselves 'scientific theists.' Henry, we've always been a noncreedal church. Trying to say we've now all got to pledge allegiance to Jesus is sectarianism. It's a violation of our principle of private judgment. I'm against it, Henry. There are some of us who have a vision for a wider world fellowship, where people with different beliefs can come together in one faith."

Henry looked confused.

Momma continued, "Yes, that's what I said: Different beliefs in one faith. Faith is so much more than just belief, Henry."

So my momma took the floor to speak against her brother's motion. "I love my brother," she said. "But I must speak frankly." She hadn't been speaking long when she said, "We don't need to affirm allegiance to Our Lord, Jesus .... Jesus ... JESUS!" She went into labor right there.

That's how I was born at the First National Unitarian Conference. She named me Frank because I was born from speaking frankly.

Despite Momma's dramatic delivery (in more senses than one), Henry Bellows' statement had majority support, and it passed. I was a toddler just 18 months old in October 1866 when I went to the second National Conference of Unitarian Churches up the road in Syracuse.

This time Uncle Henry said, "Sally, why don't you stay home?"

Momma said, "Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss it."

The radicals renewed their argument against the statement about Jesus, which they said was a creed. They tried and failed to have the statement dropped. There motion was defeated 2-1. Momma, and a bunch of others left Syracuse very disappointed.

"Frank," she said to me, lifting me into her arms, "Unitarians have removed forever the ancient principle of free inquiry, and henceforth Christianity and freedom must be irreconcilable foes. Not only that," she sighed, "but you're wet."

Momma and her friends met in Boston and organized on their own. The outcome was that in 1867, when I was two, the FRA – Free Religious Association was formed – with a purpose to:
(1) promote interests of pure religion;
(2) encourage scientific study of religion;
(3) increase fellowship of the spirit.

The FRA sought the universal element in all religion and grounded that search in a scientific approach to human nature and the external world (Schulz 16). My momma was a charter member of the Free Religious Association, but she wasn't the first one to sign the membership list. The first one to sign up was Ralph Waldo Emerson himself.

Momma and the other Unitarians kept on being Unitarians – they didn't leave that behind. But the FRA also included nonUnitarian members, and at least one Jewish rabbi.

So I grew up in the FRA, and in the Unitarian church. Through their publications and meetings, the FRA was a voice for radical religious thought – though it never established churches or developed a program. Throughout my childhood and youth, the Free Religious Association grew slowly.

Among Unitarians, the controversy around this Christian creedal statement continued. When I was 3 years old, the 1868 National Conference passed an amendment that said the statement of belief reflected the majority viewpoint, but it was nonbinding. This didn’t much satisfy the radicals, who wanted the statements of belief removed, and it ticked off the conservatives. I’ve heard the conservatives were contemplating splitting off to form their own organization, the “Evangelical Unitarian Association.” I’m glad that didn’t happen.

Now neither side was happy.When I was 5 years old, the 1870 National Conference voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm allegiance to Jesus Christ. Momma and the other radicals fumed.

Octavius Brooks Frothingham
For the next 12 years nothing about the issue came to the conference floor, but folks were fussing. For instance, there was that whole big year-book controversy. Y’see, every year the AUA issued a year-book that listed all the Unitarian congregations and ministers. Rev. Octavius Brooks Frothingham had been on the list every year ever since becoming a minister – over a decade. When the controversy broke, Frothingham sided with the radicals, joined the FRA, and, in fact, got hisself elected President of the FRA. So he writes to the editor of the year-book and says he doesn’t accept Jesus as his leader, and since the National Conference just voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm allegiance to Jesus Christ, he guesses he’s not a Unitarian, so please remove his name from the list.

Then Rev. William Potter – also with the radicals, in fact, the secretary of the FRA -- he writes to say he does think of hisself as Unitarian, but not Christian, so he’ll leave it up to the editor to decide what to do about that.

William James Potter
So then the editor says, “Heck, I’m just gonna delete all the ministers who have publicly said they weren’t Christian.” Well the stuff hit the fan then. The radicals were outraged. Momma was beside herself.

I was 8-9 years old while this was breaking out. “What is it, Momma?” I asked.

"Frank," she said. "Look. Octavius Brooks Frothingham can do what he likes. If he wants to not be listed, then fine. But I’m a Unitarian AND a nonchristian, and so is our minister. How dare they remove our minister and our congregation from the year-book? We’re Unitarians too, dammit."


Jenkin Lloyd Jones
When I was 10, in 1875, Momma and I moved to Pittsburgh where the church was part of the newly formed Western Unitarian Conference. In those days, Western meant anything west of the Appalachian mountains. That same year, the Western Conference hired its own missionary secretary – a friend of the family named Jenkin Lloyd Jones. He was having dinner with us a week after he'd started his new job. Jones told us the Western Unitarian Conference had just adopted a statement that it “conditions its fellowship on no dogmatic tests but welcomes all thereto who wish to work with it in advancing the Kingdom of God.”

“Well, Jenkin,” said Momma, “what are you going to do about that?”

“I'm going to encourage the spread of all varieties of liberalism and a scientifically respectable faith.”

“You do that,” said Momma.

And Jenkin Lloyd Jones did. Scientific theism grew in the Unitarian west. Meanwhile, at the national level, the year I was 17, the 1882 National Conference adopted a new article saying, again, that the statements of belief did reflect the majority view – however, those statements "are no authoritarian test of Unitarianism and are not intended to exclude from our fellowship any in general sympathy with our purposes and practical aims." That was good. All the radicals got back in the year-book.

Jabez Sunderland
In the more radical Western Conference, the conservatives planned their backlash. I was 21-years old in 1886 when Momma and I attended the Western Unitarian Conference's annual meeting. Jenkin Lloyd Jones had been succeeded by Jabez Sunderland. In one speech I heard Sunderland orate:
Is Western Unitarianism ready to give up its Christian theistic character? A united, purposive, determined group of men want to remove Unitarianism off its historic base to Free or Ethical Religion. This Western Unitarian Conference has been dangerously slipping from Unitarianism's age-old commitment to 'God and worship, to the idea of divine humanity that shines in Christ Jesus. (qtd in Schulz 17)
But this time, in this place, Momma had the votes.

Instead of following Sunderland, the Western Conference moved further left and revised its statement about who it welcomed into fellowship, replacing the phrase, “all who wish to work with it in advancing the kingdom of God,” with the phrase, “all who wish to join it to help establish Truth, Righteousness, and Love in the world.”

The conservatives were stunned, and within weeks had withdrawn from the Western Unitarian Conference to form the Western Unitarian Association.

When Momma found out, she shouted, “Splitters!”

I said, “Momma, what were you doing when you formed the Free Religious Association?”

“That was different,” she said. “That wasn't just for Unitarians, and we never left our Unitarian church or its association.”

Did she have a point? I didn't argue it.

William Channing Gannett
The national association threw all its support to the new Western Unitarian Association, and declined to recognize in any way the Western Conference. The very next year, I was 22 when William Channing Gannett spoke to the 1887 Western Unitarian Conference annual meeting. He delivered the stirring words of his famous "Things Commonly Believed among Us" in which he affirmed "the growing nobility of Man" and urged "the worship and love of God." Not even that was enough to entice the orthodox diehards back.

Since we moved out west and got caught up in the Western Conference, Momma hadn't been such a regular at the National or General Conferences. But Momma was slated to be a delegate to the 1894 General Conference back in Saratoga, New York. I was a 29-year-old school teacher, and our church had elected me an alternate. When Momma fell sick, I got on the train to Saratoga.

Finally, at last, a compromise was reached that was acceptable to Uncle Henry's “Broad Church” conservatives and momma's radicals. The new statement made reference to the religion of Jesus, but asserted that this religion reduced to "love of God and love to man." It emphasized our congregational polity, and cordially invited to "our fellowship any who, while differing from us in belief, are in general sympathy with our spirit and practical aims."

Momma Gump
When I got back home, Momma was feeling better. When I told her what had happened, she was really feeling better. She smiled and said, "Once again Unitarians affirmed their noncreedal principle and refused to exclude any persons from membership based on the content of their belief."

A few days later, in a pensive mood, she said to me, "Frank, the Free Religious Association had some nonUnitarians, but I do believe its main function was to keep the Unitarians true to noncreedalism."

I said, "Momma, do you think this opens the way for the development of humanism within Unitarianism?"

She said, "Humanism? You mean like that renaissance movement?"

"Kinda, but different. Faith in science, and progress, and human reason to work out all problems, technological and social, rejection of the supernatural. You think it'll catch on?"

By 1896, ten years after it had begun, the Western Unitarian Association ceased to exist, despite the fact that they had initially had all the backing of the national body. The radical Western Unitarian Conference had prevailed.

In 1903, Momma and I took a trip down to Florida and stopped off in North Carolina for a visit with some distant relatives, the Reeses. I met my second-cousin Willi Reese. I was 38, he was 16, yet we hit it off well, despite the age and religious differences: the Reese family were devout Southern Baptists. Willi's Dad was Baptist deacon, and the Dad's father, grandfather, and two brothers were Baptist preachers. Willi and two other sons were also headed into Baptist ministry. At the age of nine, Willi had “accepted Christ as his personal savior,” and the first dollar Willi'd ever earned, he'd given to the Baptist church to help pay the minister's salary. Like I said: Religious differences. Nevertheless, Willi was bright and inquisitive and had a capacity for sympathy that resonated with me.

I marveled at Momma's restraint. After we finished our visit and were on our way, I said, “Momma, you love to argue. That stuff they said about Unitarian heresies. Why did you just let that pass.”

“Frank,” she said, “never argue with anyone who thinks the salvation of your soul depends on the outcome of the argument.”

Five years later, I was 43 and a philosophy professor at the Universalist school, Tufts University. I traveled over to Cornell to attend the 1908 American Philosophical Association meeting. It was a chance to meet colleagues and a few old friends. I was glad to see another long-time friend of the family, Frank Doan – a Unitarian minister on the faculty of Meadville Theological School – slated to give a talk at the meeting.

I'd been corresponding with Rev. Doan, and had been throwing around my word, "humanism." Doan's talk introduced his philosophy which he was calling "cosmic humanism." It was basically a liberal Christianity, but Doan always insisted upon starting with the human in his search for the divine (Schulz 19). That talk was the first time – as far as anybody's been able to tell – that a Unitarian minister used the term "humanism."

Momma was getting on in years. Convinced that Pittsburgh was ruining her health, she read that Spokane, Washington had a healthy climate, so she up and moved there.

I was 46-years-old in 1911. I took the summer off from teaching that year and boarded the train for a three-day ride to Spokane to visit Momma. On that trip, I shared a berth with a 33-year-old man named John Dietrich. Said he had been ordained a minister in the Reformed Church. They charged him with heresy. He was accused of denying the infallibility of the Bible, denying the virgin birth of Jesus, denying the deity of Jesus, and denying the efficacy of the atonement.

“Dang,” I said. “Are the accusations true?”

“Every one of them,” he said. “But are they grounds for defrocking a minister?”

“What do you think?” I asked.

“No, they aren't,” he said. “But I didn't have the stomach to fight it, and I've resigned.”

“So what's next for you?”

“I'm called to ministry, but what denomination will have me now?” he asked.

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "The Unitarians?"

John Hassler Dietrich
One month later Rev. John Dietrich was admitted into ministerial fellowship with the Unitarians and was promptly called to be my momma's new minister at the First Unitarian Society of Spokane. “I like him,” she wrote me. “He knows how to think, and he's not afraid to.”

Four and a half years later, another letter from Momma said, "Rev. Dietrich was in fine form Sunday. He announced he was adopting the term 'humanism' as a good name for his interpretation of religion in contrast to theism. Said he learned the word from a man he met on a train a few years ago."

In 1915, I celebrated my 50th birthday by accepting a job offer at the University of Minnesota. Soon, I was a member of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. I'd been there scarcely a year when, in 1916, a new minister arrived: one Rev. John Dietrich, who had just completed five years in Spokane.

Dietrich was less attentive to pastoral matters than most ministers. He once told me, “Frank, in my ministry people have to have the courage to work through their personal problems by themselves.” Instead, Dietrich devoted the bulk of his time and energy to the preparation of long, meticulous sermons through which he propagated the humanist gospel (Schulz 20).

The next summer, Dietrich and I were again traveling companions. It was a shorter trip this time, as we went down to Des Moines to the 1917 annual meeting of the Western Unitarian Conference. Once there, I kept staring at our conference host, the young minister of the Des Moines Unitarian Church, about 30-years-old. He looked so familiar, but I was having a hard time placing him. Finally, it hit me. I hadn't seen him in fifteen years, and he had been just a boy then. I only dimly remembered that visit with the Southern Baptists on that North Carolina farm. And the Western Unitarian Conference was the last place I'd expect to run into:

“Cousin Willi! Is that you?”

He looked at me, startled. “I go by Curtis now,” he said. “And you are?”

Curtis Reese
“Frank Gump!” and a flicker of recognition came to him. Curtis Williford Reese had encountered biblical criticism in seminary, and it planted seeds of doubt. His first pastorate had been at a relatively liberal Baptist church in Ohio where he could and did say what he believed – but couldn't and didn't say what he didn't believe. He didn't believe the infallibility of the Bible, nor the virgin birth, nor redemption through Christ, nor eternal damnation. Eventually, Curtis Reese had switched over to the Unitarians, because they accepted his nonbeliefs as well as his beliefs and because they embraced the social gospel movement, which saw social justice as an imperative.

“There is a man you've got to meet,” I told him, and I introduced him to my minister. The two got to talking, and grew increasingly excited as they discovered that each had been exploring the idea of religion without God. Dietrich called it humanism, and Reese called it “the religion of democracy” because it did away with an autocratic ruler god. Eventually, it would be Dietrich's term that would win out. Historians now point to that meeting of two men at the Western Unitarian Conference of 1917 as the beginning of American Religious Humanism.

In the years to follow, as Dietrich and Reese preached and wrote their humanist gospel, they gained adherents and opponents. In summer 1920, Reese carried back to the stodgier East the kind of liberal thinking that was becoming common in more western churches. At the Unitarian Harvard Summer School of Theology, Reese delivered an address, “The Content of Religious Liberalism.” He said:
Historically, the basic content of religious liberalism is spiritual freedom. Out of this basic content has come the conviction of the supremacy of reason, of the primary worth of character, and of the immediate access of man to spiritual sources. Always religious liberalism has tended to replace alleged divine revelations and commands with human opinions and judgments; to develop the individual attitude in religion; and to identify righteousness with life. The method of religious liberalism has always been that of relfection, not that of authority. Liberalism has insisted on the essentially natural character of religion....The theology of Augustine and that of Channing, the theology of Billy Sunday and that of H.G. Wells, might all be found utterly inadequate without consequent injury to the religion of the liberal. Liberalism is building a religion that would not be shaken even if the thought of God were out-grown.
Whoah, Nellie! Theodore Parker had argued 80 years before that the teachings of Jesus were crucial, but the person of Jesus was nonessential – in the same way that Euclid or Newton made brilliant contributions by discovering truths that anyone bright and creative and insightful enough could have discovered. For Parker, Jesus was a person like the rest of us – wiser and more compassionate, yes, but only in ways to which we, too, might aspire. Parker brought us to the religion of Jesus, not the religion about Jesus: the spiritual awareness that Jesus discovered is available to us, and we are saved neither by Jesus’ divine status nor by his cruel death, but by assiduous commitment to live as Jesus taught. Parker thought we could outgrow religion about Jesus – and that was way radical for its time. Parker had never in his wildest dreams imagined a religion in which all thought of God could be outgrown.

One periodical that covered Curtis Reese's address reported the audience reaction: "The strong were indignant and the weak wept." Indeed, the address made such an impact that religious periodicals were still referencing it six years later.

In August 1921, in Chicago, the humanist-theist controversy hit the floor of the Western Unitarian Conference. Reese, the conference organizer, invited his friend Dietrich to address the conference on “The Outlook for Religion.” Dietrich, predicted that religion would have no outlook unless it could be brought into harmony with modern thought; this meant relinquishing the idea of a divine being in control of the universe and telling humans they are the masters of their own destiny. In other words, religion had an outlook only if it became humanistic (Olds 38).

The theist opposition mustered its forces. They acknowledged that liberty was important, but they felt we must be able to assume a common faith in God among Unitarians. Though Unitarianism had remained creedless – through the work of people like Momma and her friends in the Free Religious Association – and belief in God was never formally stipulated, the theists had never expected it to be denied.

William Sullivan
Two months later, October 1921, Dietrich and I were at the General Conference in Detroit. Dietrich and Rev. William Sullivan spoke back to back: Dietrich representing the humanists and Sullivan the theists.

“What do you think is going to happen?” Dietrich asked me as he took his seat and Sullivan mounted the rostrum.

I said, “Conferences are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.”

Sullivan believed that his own faith was traditional Unitarianism, that the church stood for something theistic, and that if one had lost this faith, then, in the name of truth, one should move elsewhere (Olds 44). Sullivan was an eloquent and powerful speaker, but he miscalculated when he ventured into personal attacks against Dietrich. We Gumps are not prone to fits of anger, but I was infuriated at the slander directed at my minister. The personal attacks backfired. The theist faction had come to the conference prepared with a resolution that the conference should formulate a Unitarian statement of faith, a kind of creed that would at least assert belief in the existence of God (Olds 44). Seeing that they did not have the delegates to win, they never submitted the resolution. What happened in Detroit was decisive, for the opportunity to pass a creedal statement about belief in God would never be greater. The controversy was not over, for at times over the ensuing years, strong feelings erupted. But as the years passed and humanists and theists worked together, they generally found the small Unitarian denomination large enough to embrace both points of view (Olds 44).

From there, humanist ideas spread within and outside Unitarian circles. In 1925, I turned 60 and celebrated another decennial birthday by changing jobs. I took a post at the University of Chicago. Three years later, 1928, a group of my students and some others organized the Humanist Fellowship and began publication of a new journal, the New Humanist. It was this group which, in 1933, produced the Humanist Manifesto. At scarcely more than 1,100 words, the Manifesto is concise and revolutionary. It's been followed by a longer "Manifesto II" of 1973 (3,626 words), and a shorter "Manifesto III" of 2003 (633 words).

The original 1933 Manifesto had 34 signatories – prominent thinkers who had involved themselves in the drafting and re-writing of the manifesto. Fifteen were Unitarian ministers; one was a Universalist minister. Several others were lay Unitarian leaders. John Dietrich and Curtis Reese, were signers.

1933 was the depression. The manifesto was an affirmation of a new hope amdist that despair.

I kept on teaching until I was 73, and when I did retire in 1938, the humanist-theist controversy pretty much retired, too. Unitarian ministers were largely agreeing that that once-heated conflict should be regarded as history. The issue continued to be discussed, more or less calmly, as we continued to process it. A very widely distributed pamphlet first published in 1954 was titled, “Why the Humanism-Theism Controversy is Out of Date.”

Francis David
What was ultimately so persuasive was not any argument in a Unitarian periodical or from a Unitarian pulpit, but the simple fact that humanists and theists really could sit side by side in our pews and committee meetings, stand side by side in social action projects. Our denomination had learned again what we periodically must re-learn – what Francis David said at Unitarianism's beginning in Transylvania in the 16th century" "We need not think alike to love alike."

And just as Momma told Uncle Henry on the day I was born, "people with different beliefs can come together in one faith."

* * *

William Schulz, Making the Manifesto: The Birth of Religious Humanism. (Skinner House, 2004)
Mason Olds, American Religious Humanism. (Fellowship of Religious Humanists, 1996).


The Divided Self

The story that goes with this is Parable: Elephant Training.

T. S. Eliot, from "Little Gidding" (Quartet No. 4 of "Four Quartets." The complete "Little Gidding," as well as the other three "Quartets" are here):
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from....
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments....
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time....
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
* * *
The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off on Friday (July 8) for the final shuttle mission. It was overcast, so I understand it couldn’t be seen from Payne’s Prairie, south of Gainesville, as it sometimes can be. The space shuttle program ends with this mission. No more shuttles.

I grew up on space dreams. It was the 1960s. The Apollo program was gearing up. One of the beginner reader books that came in our children’s book club subscription was by Mae and Ira Freeman first published in 1959: You Will Go to the Moon.

I was seven years old when the original series Star Trek first began airing, and William Shatner's voiceover echoed in my soul.
Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.
[These are actually the words of Patrick Stewart's voiceover for Star Trek: The Next Generation which aired 1987-1994. The original had "five-year" instead of "ongoing" and "no man" instead of "no one."]
At the close of the shuttle era, our sense of outer space and inner space is different from what it was at the beginning of the Apollo era.

Interestingly the first moon landing, in 1969, and the first Earth Day were less than a year apart. At the time we were leaving our home planet, we were also beginning to honor and cherish this earth -- beginning to develop a new sense of how strongly "home" and "planet" go together.

My own dreams of life on the moon, or on the Enterprise, or on a giant wagon-wheel-shaped space station, spinning so as to create artificial gravity, have subsided as an ecospirituality has deepened in me a connection to the beautiful and vast biodiversity here, and my need to be amidst it, right here on this blue boat home. E.O. Wilson argued in Biophilia [Wikipedia article is here; Amazon page is here] that we primates crave abundant and diverse life around us. He also noted that the species in a given eco-system are possible because of interactions at the edge of that system. Thus, no space station smaller than, say, Vermont could sustain the species diversity that our hearts and souls need to have around us. It would be great to visit space in the Enterprise, but I now know our spirits would whither if we had to live there.

The frontier of outer space is a metaphor for the frontiers of inner space – journey outward, as it has been in mythic tales for centuries, represents the inward journey of discovery. The final frontier, then, is, indeed, space: as much inner space as outer. It is the voyage inward that I want to talk about today.

Star Trek’s 60s vision of outer space included a parallel 60s vision of inner space. Creator Gene Roddenberry depicted the divided self -- reason vs. emotion, head vs. heart, intellect vs. passions, cognitive vs. affective – in two characters: the hyper-logical Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, and the passionate, emotional Dr. McCoy, played by DeForrest Kelly. Mr. Spock –- and later the robot character, "Data" from Star Trek: The Next Generation -- supposedly don’t have emotion. But that’s a lie. An organism, whether human or Vulcan or robot, able to interact with others and pursue purposes cannot be without emotion. Mr. Spock and the robot ("android," for sticklers) Data clearly have values that guide their actions. Whatever it is that produces and maintains those values, that’s what emotion is.

Recent research bears me out. Emotions, especially fear and anger, fire out of the amygdala and other parts of the limbic system, but an essential part of our complex emotionality is the processing done not in those old reptilian structures but in the new frontal cortex that has grown especially large in humans. The lower third of the prefrontal cortex, called the orbitofrontal cortex, is the most consistently active area of the brain during emotional reactions. When certain parts of the orbitofrontal cortex are damaged, patients lose most of their emotional lives. They don’t have the bodily reactions normal people have when observing horror or beauty. They feel nothing. Tests of reasoning and logic and intelligence and knowledge of social rules and moral principles show those functions are all intact.
“So what happens when these people go out into the world? Now that they are free of the distractions of emotion, do they become hyperlogical, able to see through the haze of feelings that blinds the rest of us to the path of perfect rationality? [Do they become like Mr. Spock or Data?] Just the opposite. They find themselves unable to make simple decisions or to set goals, and their lives fall apart. When they look out at the world and think, ‘What should I do now?’ they see dozens of choices but lack immediate internal feelings of like or dislike.”
(Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, 2006, p. 12. For the book's website, click here. The wikipedia article on the book, with chapter summaries, is here. The Amazon page is here.)
Mr. Spock took actions clearly based on wanting some outcomes and wanting to avoid others, so he clearly had to have emotions. I found it an annoying and obviously false pretense that he kept saying he didn’t. As far as I could see, the difference between Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock was that McCoy did tend to be unnecessarily judgmental. Other than that, the difference was just that DeForrest Kelly was overacting and Leonard Nimoy was not.

Long before we knew about the effects of orbitofrontal cortex damage, British philosopher David Hume, born back in 1711, recognized the relation between head and heart. He said:
“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”
The emotion decides what it likes and doesn’t like, and reason goes to work figuring out how to get what it wants and avoid what it doesn’t. I want to give you two metaphors.

First metaphor: Reason is like the rider on the elephant. Reason knows it has to take care of that elephant, so it watches what the elephant does to see what it wants, and tries to give it a little guidance so it get what it wants.

Second metaphor: Reason is like your inner lawyer, following you around, watching what you do, making assumptions about what you seem to want, and offering advice about how to negotiate your complex social world. Your lawyer does two things: (1) defends you with arguments, explanations, and justifications; (2) advises you about how to behave so as to stay out of court, or have a stronger case if you do end up in court. A good lawyer thus guides the client to act confidently in complex legal terrain and keeps the client out of court, or facilitates going to court with a greater chance of winning. The thing is, in this case, you are constantly in court -- the court of public opinion and social assessment.

We are constantly justifying and defending what we’re doing to others. And just as a defense lawyer constructs the best possible story about the defendant’s actions and motives, your reason tries to do that – even if the story has little connection with what the real motives were.

Clients will sometimes hide crucial information from their lawyer, and our unconscious emotional processing is largely hidden from reason. Let me illustrate.

Studies by psychologist Michael Gazzaniga showed how very divided left and right brain are.
They are like two separate persons trapped together inside one skull – but only left-brain, in a normal human, has the language processing centers, so only left brain can talk about itself. You can set up controlled situation so that an image flashed very quickly will catch the side of the retina that is only processed by the left brain – or the side that is only only processed by the right brain. When Gazzaniga flashed a picture of a hat into only the left brain, and then asked, "What did you see?" the subject said, “a hat.”

The left-brain controls language, so that’s no problem for the left brain. When Gazzaniga flashed the picture of a hat so only the right brain saw it, then asked, "What did you see?" subjects said, “Nothing.” The right brain doesn’t have language centers, so it doesn’t have any way to say what it saw. The talker over in the left brain says “I didn’t see anything” because the left brain didn’t see it.

But we know the right brain did see it. We know this because the right brain controls the left hand. When Gazzaniga put out an array of pictures and instructed, “with your left hand, point to what you saw,” the left hand pointed to a hat. If he asked them to point with their right hand, they couldn't do it -- because the right hand is controlled by the left brain, and the left brain didn’t see anything.
“It was as if a separate intelligence was trapped in the right hemisphere, its only output device the left hand.” (Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006, p. 8).
Then Gazzaniga expands the experiment. He flashes two different images at the same time, one into the left brain and one into the right brain. The right brain sees a picture of snow covering a house and car. At the same instant, the left brain sees a picture of a chicken claw. Gazzaniga asks the subjects what they saw. The talker over on the left side is the only one that has anything to say, so subjects report, “I saw a chicken claw.” Instead of asking for words, Gazzaniga tries using the array of pictures. The right hand points to the picture the left brain saw at the same time the left hand points to the picture the right brain saw.

Gazzaniga wanted to see if each brain could make a simple inference. So he asked each hand to point to a picture of something that goes with the picture seen. The left brain saw a chicken claw, so subjects' right hands pointed to a picture of a chicken. Chicken claw goes with chicken. The right brain saw a snow-covered house and car, so subjects' left hands pointed to a shovel. We might not know this in Florida, but people who do have snow in the winter know that when your house and car are covered in snow, you have to shovel it. So shovel logically does go with snow.

OK, so each brain saw a different image at the same time, and each was able to draw inferences and connections with the image it saw. A little weird, but not entirely surprising. But then Gazzaniga asked his subjects, "why is your left hand pointing to a shovel?" Now we’re in the language realm, and only the left brain can express itself. If it told the truth, it would say:
"I have no idea why my left hand is pointing to a shovel. It must be something you showed my right brain." Instead, the left brain instantly made up a plausible story. The patient said, without any hesitation, "Oh, that’s easy. The chicken claw goes with the chicken, and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed." (Haidt 8).
It’s just making stuff up to make what it sees you doing seem perfectly reasonable. Your lawyer can’t very well stand up in court and say, “I have no idea why my client was carrying around that gun.” It’s got to make up something – and make it seem as justifiable and sensible as it can. The language centers on the left side are your interpreter. They
give a running commentary on whatever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self’s behavior. For example, if the word "walk" is flashed to the right hemisphere, the patient might stand up and walk away. When asked why he is getting up, he might say, "I’m going to get a Coke." The interpreter module is good at making up explanations, but not at knowing it has done so. (Haidt 8-9)
Your inner lawyer not only fabricates for you the best possible defense it can, given how little it knows about the true causes of your action, but your lawyer also advises and guides you so your next court appearance – which is always likely to be any minute – can go smoothly. Having made up the reason that you are getting up to get a Coke, your inner attorney will guide you actually retrieve a Coke, whether you really wanted one or not, because it’s going to have a hard time defending you if you don’t.

So here’s our basic human problem: the elephant doesn’t always do what’s best for it. As any attorney will tell you, clients will do astonishingly foolish things. And the rider’s ability to control where the elephant goes, like a lawyer’s ability to control client behavior, is pretty limited.

Your divided self is both elephant and rider together, both attorney and client together. To work well together, each side must cultivate the skills of listening very carefully to the other. After all, reason really would have no idea where it wanted to go if it weren’t for the emotions generating desires. So we’ve got elephants that are themselves divided into conflicting impulses and desires. The rider’s job is to try to work out which desires can be deferred for the sake of the long-term well-being of the elephant, and to try to guide the elephant that way.

That's you up there pointing,
but the elephant may not
go where you point.
We know will-power alone isn’t how we can direct our lives. New year’s resolutions quickly fail. I dare say everyone in here knows the experience of deciding to break a bad habit, or to lose weight, or quit smoking, or get in shape, or spend more time reading the great literature – and you know how hard it is to get the elephant to go in the direction you want it to. You’ve got to work with the elephant: gently, patiently. We have to respect it and love it and honor it for itself.

The lessons of highly-skilled animal trainers have much to teach us about guiding our own animal natures. Can we learn to be elephant-whisperers?

You may have heard about the horse whisperer – the 1995 novel by Nicolas Evans and the 1998 film with Robert Redford. If you saw the movie, The Horse Whisperer, it looks like the retraining of the horse was a single session. Real horse trainers who use the natural horsemanship technique that horse whispering is based on know that it takes many sessions. (Frank Bell's natural horsemanship site is here.) Similarly, you don’t turn around the elephant of your life in one day. It becomes an ongoing life project of building and maintaining mutual understanding.

This “whisperer” concept is widespread now: There’s a TV show called the dog whisperer about a dog trainer helping clients whose dogs have behavioral problems. In the 2005 action comedy called “The Pacifier,” Vin Diesel tries to escape from his captors by trying to communicate with a pet duck to help him escape. One of the villains sarcastically calls Vin Diesel, “duck whisperer.” I laughed. But then LoraKim told me about some time she spent working with a woman who actually is a pelican whisperer. T-shirts are available.

Not only that, but speaking of elephants, there’s actually already a book – a 2009 book by Lawrence Anthony, called The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with a Herd in the African Wild (Amazon page here.)

The true natural horsemanship technique involves working with horses appealing to their instincts, especially their herd instincts. The trainer’s communication approach derives from wild horse observation in order to build a partnership that closely resembles the relationships that exist between horses. This “whisperer” approach will be very different from species to species, but the aim is always to relate and appeal to the animal's own inclinations rather than trying to overpower them.

The lesson for us, as we aim to learn the art of Self Whispering, is to carefully observe our emotional self’s way of being “in the wild,” as it were – it’s natural and its instinctual orientation, its needs and tendencies. This is no an easy thing. It’s not uncommon for entire lives to be spent paying little deep attention to what’s going on in the emotional life – and having few skills for working with it.

It is, however, a relatively easy thing to tell you what techniques do work for going inside to learn the elephant’s ways, so that the rider and elephant can together discern the path that will be joyful for both of them. Easy to tell you; though experience shows many people don't stick with them. Those techniques are: journaling, study, meditation, cognitive therapy, and, if further help is needed, SSRIs.

Daily journaling trains the trainer to stop and notice and record what’s going on in our feelings so that we neither ignore it nor so quickly forget it.

Daily study of wisdom literature teaches us some of the things to whisper to ourselves throughout our day.

Daily meditation helps train the trainer to be not so attached to its own preconceptions of good and bad and where the elephant ought to go.

Cognitive therapy is like giving your inner lawyer a chance to have an in-depth conversation with its client, so that the two of your can work better together. Trained therapists are necessary in some cases. For many of us, however, having someone to talk to, and being intentional about exploring what's bothering us can be "cognitive therapy" enough (for more info see here, and here.)

And when the internal lines of affectionate communication and joyful collaboration just aren’t working, sometimes Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – drugs like Prozac – can help open up those lines.

There's a discipline here -- especially for those first three. And we know that elephant doesn't take to discipline very well. Your elephant is, however, a highly social species. So it really helps to have a group to get together with weekly to practice together: to talk about your journaling, to share reflections on wisdom literature you've read, and to share together 20 minutes of silence. You don't have to go it alone. You can't. If your elephant ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, and your elephant requires the encouragement it receives from practicing in a social context. We need friends along the path.

These are the voyages of your starship enterprise: it’s continuing mission, to seek out new life and new relationship within yourself. To explore and to know. To come in peace, and build cooperation. To boldly go where you have not gone before.

As T.S. Eliot said it:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
* * *
An earlier version was preached at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, 2011 July 10.


Parable: Elephant Training

Charlie, Anne, and Su were the best of friends. One of the things they enjoyed about each other was that all three of them had the same birthday. One year when their birthday came, the most amazing thing happened. Charlie got an elephant for his birthday! And so did Anne! And so did Su! The three friends were flabbergasted.
"Wow!" said Charlie.
"Whoah!" said Anne.
"Holy Toledo!" said Su.

They looked at their parents, who, truth be told, seemed a little perplexed themselves. But they pulled themselves together and said parenty things like, "Well, we thought you were ready."

They also said: "You'll have to be responsible and take good care of it."

The whole town was excited. They'd never had elephants in their town before. Many of the townsfolk had never even seen a live elephant. They crowded around the yards of Charlie, Anne, and Su. Soon people were asking to see Charlie and Anne and Su ride on their elephants.

Because the three friends often had fun together competing with each other at games, they decided to have an elephant training competition. Who could best train her or his elephant? The townspeople would be the judge.

Charlie went to work trying to train his elephant to recognize and respond to voice commands.
"Turn left" he shouted -- and tried to coax the elephant to turn left. He also taught his elephant "Go," "Stop," and "Turn right."

Anne worked with touch instructions on her elephant. She sat on the back of her elephant's neck and gently tugged on the right ear when she wanted it to turn right, on its left ear when she wanted it to turn left. She rubbed her hand forward on its head to mean go, and she patted its head to mean stop.

For weeks the friends used every spare moment to be with their elephants trying to train them. And usually there were several townspeople gathered to watch, because it was so interesting. But whenever anyone went by Su's yard, all they saw was Su sitting up on her elephant, looking thoughtful and not doing much of anything.

When the day of the contest came, the whole town gathered around the town baseball field. Charlie brought out his elephant, and got up on its neck. "Go," he shouted. And the elephant went. For the next 5 minutes, Charlie shouted various instructions: "Turn right...Stop...Go...Turn left." The elephant usually did as it was told, though sometimes Charlie had to shout the same command several times before the elephant did it, and on one occasion, the elephant never did turn left, as Charlie was calling out for it to do.

Still, the townspeople were impressed. They clapped and cheered and several hollered out, "Good job, Charlie!"

Then Anne brought out her elephant. She climbed up on it and soon began giving the touch commands. She pulled -- but not too hard -- on one ear, or the other. She rubbed its head to go and patted its head to go. The townspeople could see what she was doing, and they could see that the elephant usually complied. Sometimes Anne had to tug or pat or rub repeatedly before the elephant complied, and once it never did obey.

Again the townspeople were impressed and clapped and cheered and some of them shouted, "Good job, Anne!"

Then Su came out and mounted her elephant. The townspeople held their breath in a moment of suspense. Then they saw Su point forward, and the elephant begin lumbering in the direction she pointed. They saw that she pointed left and the elephant curved its path around to the left. They saw hold her hand up, and the elephant stopped. The elephant always did as Su indicated, and always did so promptly.

The townspeople declared Su the winner. Afterwards, they asked her how she did it. Su explained, "I spent a lot of time sitting on my elephant, and I learned to feel what it was about to do. When I could tell it was about to go forward, I pointed forward. When I could tell it was about to turn left, I pointed left. When I knew it was coming to a stop, I held my hand up."

The townspeople couldn't decide whether Su was very wise or they had been bamboozled.

* * *
Go to sermon, "The Divided Self"


Saturdao 7

Dao De Jing, verse 4
16 translations

1. James Legge (1891):
The Tao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel;
and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fulness.
How deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honoured Ancestor of all things!
We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of things;
we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others.
How pure and still the Tao is, as if it would ever so continue!
I do not know whose son it is.
It might appear to have been before God.
2. Archie Bahm (1958):
Nature contains nothing but natures; and these natures are nothing over and above Nature.
In Nature, all natures originate, all conflicts are settled, all differences are united, all disturbances are quieted.
Yet, no matter how many natures come into being, they can never exhaust Nature.
To look for an external source of Nature is foolish, for Nature is the source of all else.
3. Frank MacHovec (1962):
Tao is a vast immeasurable void. It can be used to infinity; it is truly inexhaustible.
Like nature, it appears to be the origin of everything. In it conflicts (sharp edges) are satisfied (rounded); differences (tangles) are resolved (united); observations (light) are clarified (tempered); disturbances (turmoil) are quieted (submerged).
It is like a deep, dark pool. I do not know its source. It is like a prelude to nature, a preface to God.
4. D.C. Lau (1963)
The way is empty, yet use will not drain it.
Deep, it is like the ancestor of the myriad creatures.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knots;
Soften the glare;
Let your wheels move only along old ruts.
Darkly visible, it only seems as if it were there.
I know not whose son it is.
It images the forefather of God.
5. Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (1972):
The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled.
Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things!
Blunt the sharpness,
Untangle the knot,
Soften the glare,
Merge with dust.
Oh, hidden deep but ever present!
I do not know from whence it comes.
It is the forefather of the emperors.
6. Stan Rosenthal (1984):
“The Unfathomable Tao”
It is the nature of the Tao,
that even though used continuously, it is replenished naturally,
never being emptied, and never being over-filled,
as is a goblet which spills its contents upon the ground.
The Tao therefore cannot be said to waste its charge,
but constantly remains a source of nourishment
for those who are not so full of self as to be unable to partake of it.
When tempered beyond its natural state,
the finest blade will lose its edge.
Even the hardest tempered sword, against water, is of no avail,
and will shatter if struck against a rock.
When untangled by a cutting edge,
the cord in little pieces lies, and is of little use.
Just as the finest swordsmith tempers the finest blade with his experience,
so the sage, with wisdom, tempers intellect.
With patience, tangled cord may be undone,
and problems which seem insoluble, resolved.
With wise administrators, all can exist in unity, each with the other,
because no man need feel that he exists,
only as the shadow of his brilliant brother.
Through conduct not contrived for gain,
awareness of the Tao may be maintained.
This is how its mysteries may be found.
7. Jacob Trapp (1987):
“Tao, the Way”
Tao, itself formless,
Is the source of all forms.
It is the unfilled fathomless vessel
From which are poured forth
The myriad things of this world.
Smoothing the rough,
Untangling the snarled,
Allaying life’s dusty turmoil,
It remains itself like a crystal clear
Fountain of living waters.
Itself absolute, it is also
The Tao manifest in Nature,
The Way discoverable within.
8. Stephen Mitchell (1988):
The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.
It is hidden but always present.
I don't know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.
9. Victor Mair (1990):
The Way is empty,
yet never refills with use;
Bottomless it is,
like the forefather of the myriad creatures.
It files away sharp points,
unravels tangles,
diffuses light,
mingles with the dust.
Submerged it lies,
seeming barely to subsist.
I know not whose child it is,
only that it resembles the predecessor of God.
10. Michael LaFargue (1992):
Tao being Empty,
it seems one who uses it will lack solidity.
An abyss,
it seems something like the ancestor
of the thousands of things.
It dampens the passion
it unties the tangles
it makes the flashing things harmonious
it makes the dust merge together.
it is perhaps like an enduring something.
I don't know of anything whose offspring it might be –
it appears to precede God.
11. Peter Merel (1995):
The Way is a limitless vessel;
Used by the self, it is not filled by the world;
It cannot be cut, knotted, dimmed or stilled;
Its depths are hidden, ubiquitous and eternal;
I don't know where it comes from;
It comes before nature.
12. Ursula LeGuin (1997):
The way is empty,
used, but not used up.
Deep, yes! Ancestral
to the ten thousand things.
Blunting edge,
loosing bond,
dimming light,
the way is the dust of the way.
yes, and likely to endure.
Whose child? Born
before the gods.
13. Ron Hogan (2002):
How much Tao is there?
More than you'll ever need.
Use all you want,
there's plenty more
where that came from.
You can't see Tao, but it's there.
Damned if I know where it came from.
It's just always been around.
14. Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall (2003):
Way-making being empty,
You make use of it
But do not fill it up.
So abysmally deep –
It seems the predecessor of everything that is happening (wanwu).
It blunts the sharp edges
And untangles the knots;
It softens (he) the glare
And brings things together on the same track.
So cavernously deep –
It only seems to persist.
I do not know whose progeny it is;
It prefigures the ancestral gods.
Yasuhiko Genku Kimura
15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura (2004)
Empty of all doctrines.
The Tao is wisdom eternally inexhaustible.
Fathomless for the mere intellect,
The Tao is the law wherewith all things come into being.
It blunts the edges of the intellect,
Untangles the knots of the mind,
Softens the glare of thinking,
And settles the dust of thought.
Transparent yet invisible,
The Tao exists like deep pellucid water.
Its origin is unknown,
For it existed before Heaven and Earth.
16. Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo (2007)
Tao is empty
Its use never exhausted.
Bottomless –
The origin of all things.
It blunts sharp edges,
Unties knots,
Softens glare,
Becomes one with the dusty world.
Deeply subsistent –
I don’t know whose child it is.
It is older than the Ancestor.
* * *

Thanks to Glenda Gill for pointing me to the Kimura translation, which is now added to the line-up. (Kimura's translation is published under the title, The Book of Balance: Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching. I've gone back and added Kimura to all previous Saturdao posts too. By the way, for those who find my 16 translations paltry, here's fifty translations, chapter by chapter -- 672 double-columned pages, yet it includes only 5 of the 16 translations I'm using.) In this verse, Kimura adds epistemological emphasis: the ontological emptiness of the Dao -- implied by most translators -- is rendered as an epistemological emptiness: It is "doctrines" (belief claims) that the Dao is empty of. It is the "intellect," the "mind," "thinking," and "thought" that have edges to blunt, knots to untangle, glare to soften, and dust to settle. How shall we do this? The text gives us unknowability -- whose "son," "child," "offspring," "progeny" is this Dao? Don't know, don't know, don't know. (Daon't know, daon't know, daon't know.) If we release ourselves into unknowability, we are liberated from the edges, knots, glare, and dust of mind and thinking

You may notice that in this verse, a little dyslexia won't much get in your way: the same term is sometimes rendered "unite" (Bahm, MacHovec) and sometimes "untie" (LaFargue, Addiss-Lombardo): for we are asked to unite our differences and untie the knots that bind and separate.

Bahm's talk of "Nature" and "natures" reminds of -- and, indeed, seems roughly to parallel -- Heidegger's "Being" and "beings." Every part comes from the whole. No big deal there. The whole, however, must be understood as:
- ancient and/or eternal,
- capable of bringing forth infinite new parts, and, moreover,
- a context of ultimate harmony of parts that often seem at war with each other.

Additionally, as most of the others say but Bahm leaves out (or, perhaps, "naturalizes out"), this Dao is empty: "Tao is empty" (Addiss-Lombard), "Tao being empty," (LaFargue) and "Way-making being empty" (Ames-Hall), and "The Way is empty" (Lau, Mair, LeGuin). Instead of "empty," MacHoven and Mitchell say "void," Trapp says "formless," Merel says "limitless," and, interestingly enough, Rosenthal says "never...emptied."

There is an emptiness to the Dao, to reality, to our flowing-with-the-flow activity, and this emptiness has an ontological quality, I think: it is not merely empty "of all doctrines" (Kimura). There is not merely an unknowable substance, but an apprehendable (if not exactly knowable) absence of substance. No permanence anywhere. No separate things. No independence. No essences. Only fluidly shifting relationships.

You can't step in the same river twice, said Heraclitus.
Because in the flash it takes to step again, the river has been replaced by a different river.
Also because in each flash, you are replaced by a different you.

So: "Let your wheels move only along old ruts" (Lau); "merge with dust" (Feng-English). The West, too, knows this spiritual teaching: The humble shall inherit the earth.

* * *
Next: Saturdao 8.
Previous: Saturdao 6.
Beginning: Saturdao 1.