Time to look at the number one – Tai Yi, the Great Unity, Oneness, ultimate limit. I won’t be able to cover this topic in a single post so let’s explore it from a few different angles in a series of posts. Although we’re still focussed on Taoist creation theory, I’ve been able to make greater sense of it through drawing parallels with similar western concepts. I’m going to start by sharing a personal story, one I’ve never written about before, I kept it to myself and didn’t understand its significance for many years. One of my vivid childhood memories occurred on a stony beach in Southern California when I was about five years old. At the time my father worked at Marineland of the Pacific, the largest oceanarium in the world perched on a cliff edge overlooking the Pacific ocean and the island of Catalina. Marineland was my personal wonderland, the place I spent my holidays and weekends exploring the multitude of marine life there – whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, walrus, otters, sharks and fishes and a variety of marine birds. 

On this particular day, I wandered down a road leading to a rocky beach at the base of the cliff, next to no one ever came down there. The beach was comprised of small roundish rocks strewn with seaweed and other objects thrown up by the ocean. I remember it was a beautiful sunny day and, being completely alone apart from a few crabs inhabiting rocky outcrops. I stopped at an outcrop, squatting down to watch the crabs when, time seemed to suddenly stand still, the whole scene seemed to gleam in a surreal way, an intense yet gentle sense of being at one with the environment overcame me. That experience on the beach is difficult to describe, ‘being at one’ seems like a clichéd description yet there’s no language to describe what happened in that moment yet, it has stayed with me all of my life.

Many years later, determined to understand what it is to be a man, I read several books on the subject. One book “He: Understanding Masculine Psychology” by Robert Johnson describes the European medieval myth of Parsifal and the Holy Grail. Its about an innocent naive young man Parsifal who after seeing knights in armour riding through his village, departs on a quest to seek the holy grail. At a point in his journey not have eaten for sometime, he comes across a clearing in a forest, aglow from a fire and rich with the smell of cooking. On the fire a fish is roasting with no one is around and eager to eat, Parsifal burns his mouth – he has a taste of something that both wounds and nourishes him.

For myself the experience on the beach gave me a taste of the singularity or unity consciousness – Tai Yi. The wound is in experiencing this altered state and the pain of separation from it, a taste of something deeply longed for, something greater than the material world can provide and hence, the quest to connect and maintain this experience. For many young men, lacking a solid father figure and guidance, this experience can be highly dangerous as the altered state is often sought through reckless, life endangering experiences.

The myth tells us that the first taste is free but, in order to become a knight and inhabit the grail castle, one must search and find meaning to their life.

I suspect the quest described by this myth isn’t exclusive to men, that the masculine aspect of our inner world, irrespective of our gender, is drawn to this search for meaning and personal power. What do you think?