Chapter 11: Reality.That Which Works
Chao Hsiang Tzu went hunting in the central mountains with a party of a hundred thousand. He set fire to the forests by lighting the tall grass, and fanned the flames for a hundred miles.
A man came out from within a stone cliff, rising and falling with the smoke and ashes. The crowd thought he was a demon. When the fire passed he came out walking casually as though the fire he had passed through did not exist.
Chao Hsiang Tzu marveled and detained the man. He scrutinized him at leisure. In his shape, his color, and the seven holes in his head, he was human; in his breathing, in his voice, he was human. He asked the man by what way he lived in stone and went through fire.
“What are these things you call stone and fire?” said the man.
“The thing you have just come out from was stone; the thing you have just been walking through was fire.”
“I didn’t know,” said the man.
Marquis Wen of Wei heard of it and questioned Tzu Hsia, a very well-known learned man, “What sort of man was that?”
“According to what I have heard my master say, the man who is in harmony is absolutely the same as other things and no thing succeeds in wounding or obstructing him. To pass through metal and stone, and tread through water and fire are all possible.”
“Why don’t you do it yourself?” said Marquis Wen.
“I am not yet capable of cutting open my heart and throwing out the knowledge in it. However, I can tell you all you want to know about it.”
“Why doesn’t your Master do it?” asked Marquis Wen.
“My Master is one who, though able to do it, is able not to do it.”
Marquis Wen was delighted with the answer.
There is a very significant distinction to be made in the very beginning: the distinction between knowledge and knowing. Knowledge only appears to know, it knows not. Knowing may not appear to know, but it knows. Knowledge is borrowed, knowing is one’s own. Knowledge is verbal, knowing is through living. Knowledge is information gathered from here and there. Knowing is existential: you have lived it, it has come through your very experience; it is an experience. When knowing happens, a man is freed, he is liberated. Through knowledge, man becomes more of a prisoner. Knowledge binds; knowing liberates.