How can the blind see? Could you really know thyself?

 by Adina Dabija


As a child, the difference between my reality and my parents reality never ceased to surprise me. I was watching wild animals running in my soup, a whole story was unfolding in front of my eyes as I was starring at the perfect stillness of the yellow-orange liquid in my bowl, observing the way my breath would stir the action, parsley-lizards chasing fierce carrot-lions, things like that, while my mother was waiting impatiently for me to finish eating so she could end her chores in the kitchen. One time she even took the spoon out of my hand and mixed up the jungle landscape inside my bowl in order to ”bring me to reality”: the reality of a simple soup (”ciorbiţă”) bowl – to eat, not to stare into. As it often happens in childhood, many objects in our house had for me a different function that had nothing to do with their common use, often magical, of secret entrances into fairylands. I saw something else in things and in between things – for most children this might cease with the school years – for me, it stayed. I was sometimes using some objects in ways different than my parents did, according to that something else that I wasn't able to express in words and I didn't know what it was. Besides my parents' reality, made of bills, chores and, occasionally, tango dances in the living room, when my mother and father would demonstrate me the tango steps, which they considered an important part of a girl's education, there was the school, with its own set-up: school papers, memorization and exams. What was this game about? What had this reality to do with me? Measuring myself with my peers, trying to fit in a pre-set environment, with pre-set rules and tools with precise function always confused me. Than of course there was ”the real life”,  a mixture of working, living and raising children, a linear timeline stretching towards the moment of death - what people “do”: the consensual “reality”, what you see around, the very meaning of my parents existance. But that was not real enough to me. To me, real was still about seeing wild animals running in „ciorbiţă”. When I started to become aware of this, I began to write poems. Poetry was connecting me to the Unseen, the ineffable of things, but nevertheless, no less real than the visible.

These two worlds, the real and the real, had to co-exist, there was no other way, and most of the time they did so painfully and irreconciliably, melted in one big dissonant blend, with the taste of which I never really got used to. It was clear to me, from the teenage years, that something was missing, or not being mentioned – of which existence I had only a presentiment, but most of the time I was just searching for it, without even knowing what was I searching for, as I couldn't see it around and nobody else I knew could. I started to search for it everywhere - in books, interactions, dogmas, freedom, churches, things, myself and other beings – looking for a sign that another reality, more real than what was perceivable around, was possible. I've gradually got some clues about it. Poetry was one of them, but there were also love, wonder, philosophy and consciousness. All these different names related to apparently different things, although they had the same function: to connect myself to the Unseen, namely to the “unreal”, the non-tangible, my reality, while bringing some sense of steadiness within myself, some sense of self-reliance.

At times, people, especially those close to me, like my father, narrowed their eyes with suspicion seeing my tendency to retreat from the “real” (tangible) world into “the unreal” : “Don't you see, you live in an illusion!”  - over the years, I've heard this phrase in so many different versions! But illusion was everywhere. For lunatics and for practical, hands-on people in equal share. The simple fact that there was a tacit consensus on how one should live one's life within the society didn't mean that that was the Thing. They were living in an illusion too – only they called it real, just as I was thinking my Unseen was the real! How could they be so sure? How could I have been so sure? How can the blind see? Was my Realitythe Unseen - yet another layer of illusion, just my imagination at play?

I was facing the following dilemma: my reality is subjective, therefore unreliable, but the other reality (the perceivable, the tangible and consensual - what people “do”) is incomplete, not mine, not satisfying, as it does not address that “something else” in me - therefore also unreliable. Was there a place where the subjective would overlap with the objective, or even beyond that – as objective and subjective are both limited to our perceptions and interpretations – to the Absolute? Was that God ?

My quest for understanding reality did not miss a significant experiential part, including qi gong and acupuncture, parts of my practice of oriental medicine, by which I was trying to get closer to that point of overlapping of subjective and objective. Since I started my medical training as an acupuncturist, I focused my efforts to use and understand qi (vital force, similar to the concept of pneuma in Ancient Greek medical theory or prana in Vedas). Not until, reading Dao De Ching, I came across the concept of “divisions of Dao”, I understood the larger philosophical background of qi. “Dao produces unity; unity produces duality; duality produces trinity; trinity produces all things. All things bear the negative principle (yin) and embrace the positive principle (yang). Immaterial vitality, the third principle (chi), makes them harmonious” (Dao De Ching, chapter 42, Goddard translation). The idea of a mediating principle (qi) between the active (yang) and the passive (yin) forces not only gave me an instrumental method to approach the tension between real and real, but also gave me the perspective of the different layers of existence, different levels of densities of being, from raw (tangible, form, body) to “cooked” (non-tangible, ineffable, the platonic world of ideas). Dao (the Unknown, the Absolute) chose to manifest in different levels of density - oneness, polarity, trinity, post-heaven tai ji, five elements and so on. These divisions are different levels of expression of the Absolute (Dao) in all the layers of density of existence, from perceivable to subtle – and we experience these divisions every day of our lives, sometimes simultaneously. The more we move toward the periphery of the Absolute, the more forces we deal with and we need to make efforts to reconcile. In Christian thought, there are also three forces expressed as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, while the levels of density of creation range from body to soul. The mediating force in Christianity is love, while the mediating principle in Daoism is qi. Christianity, a transcendental religion, might be very different from Daoism, an immanent religion, but Qi is no different than love: it is the glue of the universe.

Reading about the levels of division of Dao, it occurred to me that this movement from center to periphery is not the only movement possible – although this is what we see around. Its opposite is also possible, the movement from periphery (manifestations, divisions) to the center (Absolute). While qi is the reconciling force as we move from Absolute towards denser levels of manifestation, there exists also a type of love which is of magnetic nature, that drives us back towards the source. This is the movement of regeneration and can be achieved by intense efforts. It takes courage and faith to go in the opposite direction of creation. It is very energy demanding – as it is running counter to the movement of divisions of Dao (or embodiment of the spirit – in Christian view). It runs against “manifestations”, it is the movement from manifestation (form) to idea (non-form). This is why faith healing is such a relatively rare phenomenon – it is the movement from dense (body/ form) to non-substantial (the idea of healing), only to be reflected back in the dense (body). That is, you move from a lower energetic state to a higher one, which is not possible without some sort of divine help.


The Divisions of Dao according to Dao de Ching and the according operations of the mind,
including movements from center to periphery (separation, clarity, “seeing”, rational - functions attributed to Shen/ consciousness) and moving towards periphery to center (intuition, faith, regeneration, functions attributed to Hun/ Ethereal Soul)


One example of this movement from periphery towards the magnetic center is the intense desire to “break through” the walls of one's own cage of understanding. I have been experiencing this intense longing since early years of my life, possibly due to the unexpected death of my mother, which was a shock that I have never completely overcame. Something else needed to open in me, to another dimension, in order for me to find motherhood in the world of the Dis-appearance, of the Unseen, of the Absolute, that could engulf the pain of my loss. From Chinese esoteric perspective, at that time my Ethereal Soul (Hun) might have got activated at a very early age (four). The Ethereal Soul is a level of consciousness (possibly the subconscious) different from Mind/ Shen – which is the rational part of our consciousness, responsible for rational thinking but also for emotional life. The Ethereal Soul is the part of the psyche that is responsible for intuition, inspiration, ideas, life dreams, artistic inspiration. The Ethereal Soul is responsible for the “movement” of our psyche. It is probably the movement towards one's magnetic center – as we are ourselves expressions of the Dao, the Absolute, and we mirror it. Without this movement, without this intense longing of arriving at the center of our beings, we would have no impulse to use our rational part of our consciousness (Shen). The relationship between the Ethereal Soul (Hun) and the Mind (Shen) is that between Dionysus (god of ecstasy, death and resurrection, wine, madness, and drama in Greek mythology) and Athena (the Greek Goddess of Wisdom). The picture below, from a Greek vase dating from mid 5th century BCE, depicts Athena sitting on a swing and Dionysus pushing her – which illustrates the necessity of the integration of the rational (Athena/ Shen) with the “dark”, mysterious, non-rational side of psyche (Dyonisus).







Dyonisus pushing Athena (Hun/ Ethereal Soul triggering Shen/ consciousness)
Vase from mid 5th century BC, Greece


So how can the blind see? Because he can't! How can one really know oneself and know that he knows the truth, the essence – and not the illusion? I've found that the very act of pondering upon this question changes the quality of my knowledge. You start to know yourself in a different way. Asking myself this question, I move towards the source, against the movement of creation, which naturally brings in divisions of denser and denser layers. Any movement toward my source, to my Unseen and Unspoken, towards my magnetic center – it is an act of courage and of faith that the Universe/ Dao/ God will step in and will show me the way. Rumi, the sufi poet, wrote “I know I am not from here/ However brought me here has to take me home!” and also “you make one step towards God, and God runs into you” and “In the end, to take a step without feet;/ to regard this world as invisible”. This movement towards the source is intrinsically connected to the mysterious part of myself, the very missing part in my puzzle and I know it with a knowledge that does not come from rational thinking. I know it because I open my attention and I see that the Universe talks back to me through synchronicities, little details and resonances only me can be aware of and cannot be found in any book. I see the Universe is alive for me, and at this point my search become more a matter of faith, of seeing inside with a sort of knowing that can not be talked about, it can be only yours.

No “seeing” can happen without a sincere desire to “see” beyond the veils of  reality. Not confining yourself to the known, taking risks and being courageous – this will activate your Ethereal Soul (intuition) which will trigger your awareness/ consciousness/ Shen to “see”. This process might have more steps - what seems reality today might become fiction as you climb the ladder of the Real. Also, paying attention to the dynamics in your life and finding who is the Dyonisus within  might help with the “movement” of your Athena-part (consciousness) within yourself to “see”. “Seeing” is clarity, separation, moving from center towards the periphery, but once you “see” you have to come back to the source through the movement from the periphery towards the center (intuition) - which is what Dyonisus does. This can only be done in faith, with focused intention, trusting the Universe to play its part. On your journey, there might be signs indicating the right direction – pay attention to them. And finally, keep a balance between your reality (for others - “the unreal”) and the consensual reality (for you - “the unreal”). There is always the possibility that you might be wrong, so always be humble and open to re-asses yourself. The more you know thyself, the more you become able to apply your center to the “periphery” worlds of your being, and this will be your confirmation.



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