text and photo © Jonathan Zap
Wu Wei means “The Watercourse Way,” another way of saying “the path of least resistance,” or “following the Tao.” While your inner refraction of the Tao may cause you to have to overcome great resistance in the outer world, at other times following the Tao does, indeed, involve taking the path of least resistance and adapting to outer circumstances.
The way Taoism is presented almost everywhere gives a false impression that following the Tao means passively adapting to the vicissitudes of the outer world. But the aspect of the Tao that is most important to follow is your inner refraction of it, which can appear as what Aleister Crowley called your “True Will.” You need to follow your deepest inner enthusiasms and intuitions, and sometimes this may mean overcoming fierce resistance in the outside world.
You can tell when the ego is trying to lead (rather than the True Will) when there are annoying thought tape loops in the foreground of consciousness — But what if I do this?, but what if this happens?, but what if that happens? The ego-led mind keeps ricocheting back and forth like an overheated ping-pong match. When the ego and mind work together without the leadership of global intuition you get this sense of restless strain and anxious effort. Another way to tell that the ego is leading is when you are caught up in any of the following gerunds: fearing, hoping, dreading, desiring, wanting, wishing, doubting, pre-structuring, envying, supervising, lifeguarding, complaining, comparing, self- pitying, pleasure-seeking, self-aggrandizing and glorifying, indulging, anticipating, expecting, contriving, hedging, clinging, identifying, rationalizing, pushing, straining, and imagining negative possibilities. This list should give an idea of how much of the time the ego is seeking to dominate our process. Each of the gerunds is a function of doubt, the supervisory ego does not accept that the universe is unfolding as it should and is straining like a white-knuckled driver to wrest control. When you are following the Tao you can sense yourself in congruent alignment with your path, which may still have difficulties, but you know from the depths of your being that you are on the path. The ego wants to push for progress, and wants to clear up ambiguous and ambivalent situations by making some permanent, decisive choice. The way of Tao is to accept that you are in a state of ambiguity and ambivalence and wait in non-action until things become clear before going forward.
Taoist principles see: The Taoist Path
Following the muse is the creative version of True Will. See: The Path of the Numinous — Living and Working with the Creative Muse
For those with time to read more, the following are excerpts from A Guide to the Perplexed Interdimensional Traveler on the hierarchy of psychic functions and True Will:
Mind and Ego in the Hierarchy of Psychic Functions
Eliminating the ego to resolve our troubled relationship with it is no more sensible than decapitation would be as a remedy for recurrent headaches.
Superstitious dread of the ego is almost always accompanied by a fanatical anti-intellectualism and disparagement of the mind. Mind and ego are not our enemies, it is where we place our mind and ego, and how we work with these priceless resources that often makes them our enemies.
In most I Ching hexagrams the fifth line is the ruler and the fourth line is the minister. This structure contains the secret of how to work with the ego and mind so that they become powerful allies instead of adversaries. In the place of the ruler in our psyche should be our higher self and global intuition.
True Will and Taoism
Taoism is often presented in a way that makes it seem that you are passively surrendering to an outside Tao. A way to pierce through this illusion is with a concept such as Aleister Crowley’s “True Will.”(Note: I’m not endorsing Crowley’s character, only certain of his concepts.) Your True Will is the will of your “higher” self (many object to the spatial metaphors of higher and lower), the will that arises out of the depths (another spatial metaphor) of your self. This True Will speaks through the still, centered voice of global intuition and is often confirmed by synchronicities, oracle consultations, etc. This True Will is your inner refraction of the Tao and is to be followed before anything else. This might require you to proactively overcome all sorts of inner and outer obstructions. You are not necessarily passively led by outside trends. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The mark of the reasonable man is that he adapts himself to the world he finds himself in. The mark of the unreasonable man is that he expects the world to adapt itself to him. Therefore all progress is made by unreasonable men.” Many would interpret the reasonable man’s position as Taoist and the unreasonable man’s position as egoistic and anti-Taoist. This would be true if the unreasonable man were expecting the world to adapt itself to his ego. But if the unreasonable man is centered in his True Will, then this is Taoist as compared to a “reasonable” person whose reason and rationalized ego are oriented toward accommodating the default parameters of the Babylon Matrix.
The Ruler and the Minister of the Psyche
With your True Will and global intuition in the ruling place in your psyche, you can then appoint your mind and ego as ministers that follow the ruler and work as helpful subordinates. In this place ego and mind can, among other functions, act as skillful intermediaries between the aims of your True Will and the outside world. It is only when the mind and ego are foolishly promoted above their capabilities into the ruling position that they work at cross-purposes and undermine everything we do. And yes, they can be foolishly ambitious in the way of the Peter Principle to rise to their level of incompetence. The unenlightened ego thinks it should be in charge. The goal is to develop a more conscious, evolved ego that knows its place. The mind can also be a brilliant amplifier and translator for global intuition and primal creativity among other useful functions. Try fixing your computer with your feelings or transcendent spirit!
I’m still working on the process of aligning these aspects of the psyche in myself. Consciousness is not something you arrive at, but that you have to earn and work toward moment by moment. I’ll briefly use myself as an example to ground this in a particular real-life case.
Because I am (according to Jung’s typology) a thinking-intuitive type, raised by thinking types, people often have an understandable (but somewhat mistaken) impression that I am up in my head thinking of the things they hear me say or write. More often, the way I experience my psyche working is that there is a cascade of intuitions and my active thinking function works with that cascade analyzing, interpreting and typically turning the intuitive input into complex sentences that may give the impression they were “thought up.” Of course sometimes that’s true, sometimes I am calling up memorized raps on various subjects and reciting them. But originally these raps were sourced from a melding of intuition and thought. After the fact I can ask the thinking function to act as information minister and recite the rap, which has been processed (and sometimes distorted) by thinking, but not originally created by thinking.
I experience my thinking function as hollow, boring and incompetent when it works by itself (except when it’s troubleshooting the computer and learning instruction manuals, etc). I can only feel enthusiastic about using my psyche when intuition, thinking and (often) feeling are all connected and working together. The difference is instantly discernable, like the difference between a stereo system where all the components are working together to create a full, spatial sound as compared to the tinny, irritating monophonic of an AM radio broadcasting a call-in radio show. Of course, sometimes the ego can play tricks, like putting a grandiose symphonic sound track behind its irritating, hollow monophonic voice, but if you pay attention you can tell the difference.