Part Two: “More Notes on Apophatic Mysticism.”

The apophatic mysticism of Zhuangzi.

Apophatic mysticism is found in a number of wisdom traditions. In this essay I use the ancient writer Zhuangzi to exemplify the phenomenon.

I define apophatic mysticism as an uncanny state of psychic integration resulting from the suspension of all mental estimates of the source, identity, meaning, purpose, or value of our world of phenomena. As a result of this surrender of ideation and preconception, a surrender which is seldom if ever complete, one is able to transparently perceive and precisely respond to the compelling force and content of immediate experience. It is through this encounter with pure immediacy that one most fully engages the mystical dynamic. (preceding is from my book)

The fruit of this neuro-psychological immediacy is a spontaneous arising of fondness for all beings, an embrace of all of Being, and an evolution of consciousness toward non-contingent satisfaction. 

Non-contingent satisfaction is a deep sense of well-being that is not contingent on any event/situation occurring: “The ancients who realized the dao were deeply satisfied when they were successful and also when they utterly failed.  Their satisfaction was not dependent on failure nor success.”
Zhuangzi chapter 28.

The fondness for all beings and for all of Being which the dao follower experiences is something that occurs naturally and spontaneously.  One does not attempt to love, one is not commanded to love, one rather effortlessly falls in love with everything: 

“His love of others never has an end, and their rest in him has also no end: all this takes place naturally.”
Zhuangzi Chapter 25 translated by James Legge

The practitioner removes most of her mind’s ideation and then the mystical state, undifferentiated awareness, with its embrace of all being, arrives effortlessly.

“If you carefully clear its home, the essence will come in by itself.” Guanzi

In Zhuangzi one of the most frequent themes is that of “not knowing.”  It is the very foundation of his practice: “Depend on what you do not know.” Zhuangzi Chapter 24

Hence there are no religious nor philosophical claims. There are only practical instructions that move the practitioner in the direction of the dao.

"The light of chaos and doubt is the map used by the sage." Zhuangzi Chapter 2

Although there are a few examples of the paranormal in Zhuangzi, it appears to be a very minor theme in his mysticism.  His mystical experience is nearly continuous and is quite natural.

Before I close I’ll cite one example of apophaticism from another tradition.  The Christian mystic Marguerite Porete.  (Interestingly enough the church of her time had the secular authorities burn her at the stake.)

“This nothingness is her falling into the certainty of knowing nothing and wanting nothing.  And this nothingness of which we speak, called Love, gives her all.”

Marguerite Porete
(translated by Thomas Hall)