Tuesday, April 27, 2010

They're Chinese, and you're not! ---C. G. Jung

Well, that's a very loose paraphrase of what Jung said about the Western mind encountering and trying to absorb the Eastern mind. Jung wrote introductions to two of Richard Wilhelm's translations of ancient Chinese texts, most notably, The I Ching, which embodies a great deal of Taoist thought. Here is some of what Jung said:

(From “In Memory of Richard Wilhelm” by C. G. Jung, Appendix of Secret of The Golden Flower, by Richard Wilheim.)

People have become weary of scientific specialization and rationalistic intellectualism. They want to hear truths which broaden rather than restrict them, which do not obscure but enlighten, which do not run off them like water, but penetrate them to the marrow. This search threatens to lead a large, if anonymous, public into wrong paths….Unfortunately, the spiritual beggars of our time are too inclined to accept the alms of the East in specie, that is, to appropriate unthinkingly the spiritual processions of the East and to imitate its way blindly. That is the danger about which it is impossible to give too many warnings…. What it has taken China thousands of years to build cannot be grasped by theft. We must instead earn it in order to possess it. What the East has to give us should be merely help in a work which we still have to do ourselves.

How does this relate to learning Tai Chi? Simple. Don't be enchanted by the exotic and mystical nature of embracing an alien lifestyle. Instead, be willing to bring its essence into your own consciousness by experience (and practice!) When Jung was writing, there was a Western prejudice against Eastern philosophy. During the ever-lovin' sixties, popular culture in the United States began to embrace everything non-western (just watch the movie, Woodstock, again for the sequences of hippies doing Tai Chi and Yoga). Perhaps in this century we are a little more level headed about it. There are numerous articles about scientific studies on the health benefits of practicing Tai Chi, Yoga, etc. However, the Tai Chi Snob thinks this might be a sort of renewed prejudice. We justify taking a spiritual risk by basking in scientific data. Well, whatever gets you to try it must be a good thing. Stick with it and it can change you life for the better. Just remember, they're Chinese, and you're not!

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