Detachment

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One could think of detachment, in the far eastern sense, as being a different configuration of the commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.' Only the 'Me,' in this case, could be considered the ground of being, which is the metaphysical principle behind the more hypostasisized, anthropomorphized concept we often call 'God' here in the west.

   In the east, however, the 'other gods' are one-upped by the idea of Samsara, which is more or less the world of emanation and differentiation from the causal principle. Nirvana represents a state in which it can no longer said that anything is 'caused.' This is similar to The Absolute or the First Mover. Much of eastern soteriological esotericism is concerned with reaching a state in which all phenomena can be properly recognized as emanational effects of the causal principle, thus allowing one to act in such a way that phenomena can come to some sort of completion; subsisting entirely in itself, or, in its relation to the first cause.

   One sees this theme redressing itself in various forms throughout religious systems, both esoterically and exoterically. In western religion, these principles are often veiled by heavy narrative formulas. The east would seem to put its priorities elsewhere, even to the point of getting beyond the narrative itself.

   Detachment could then be seen as a way to become unfettered by contingency. One chooses not to adhere to cravings which, a) are addictive, b) take up one's time needlessly, c) cause one to degenerate or influence others to degenerate, and d) take one further away from completion.

   In other words, anything can be an attachment. Detachment is then not the pessimism or the numbing agent western thinkers tend to think it is, but rather, celebrating flux in its true nature; as something temporary and caused and reflected by the cause itself. In other words, it is an extreme humility which, paradoxically, grants one the option to behave like a cause; like The Divine itself.

   The Bhagavad Gita takes it a step further by suggesting that all action must be considered a sacrifice to God. By disentangling oneself from phenomena, phenomena can then die off and fertilize another set of phenomena naturally, independently of one's intention. It is the humility to seize trying to control reality. One's karma is 'free' when one acts naturally, which is to say, aligned with the first cause.

   Similar is the Chinese concept Tao, the character of which encompasses not only the metaphysical principle of a first principle cause, but also its effects, being as well as non-being, and the proper path in which one engages with all of these in a timeless, limitless manner (as Tao is also supposed to be essentially indescribable, I'll allow myself the claim that the definition I just gave was properly definitionless, in that it probably encompassed everything while, at the same time, saying nothing). An essential idea in Taoism is to 'act without acting.' It implies an action which comes from the center and is complete, as Tao is both complete itself as well as the mechanism of completion.

   What many of these ideas amount to is a radical and proper locating of cause and effect until all effects are understood, finally, in their relationship to what is essential, thus freeing one from the need to essentialize what is not essential; what is temporary. What endures is closest to nature, closest to the divine, so it would then follow that one should concern oneself only with what endures.

   The east may have articulated a number of interesting hierarchies on this matter, but they are not the only ones. Most spiritual systems and religions reconfigure or re-narrativize these concepts over and over again, sometimes developing them into creation/origin myths with proper apocalyptic eschatologies to pair with them, or formulas which are very non-emanationist in practice and focus on individual self-betterment without much narrative.

   The wonderful thing is that, despite the systems and religions which are devoted to this transformation, it can happen spontaneously. One can see glimpses of it in artists and poets ever longing and thirsting for a glimpse of beauty and greatness. One can find an example of this in someone like Henry Miller's writings:

   '...one still has the impression of chaos but this is written from a live center and what is chaotic is merely peripheral, the tangential shreds, as it were, of a world which no longer concerns me.'

   It is also the Christian principle to be 'in the world but not of the world,' or the Taoist maxim to 'be the part in the whole and the whole in the part.'