and translated from Spanish to English using Google Translate
Cite as: Maturana R., H., & Dávila Y., X. (2003). Biología del tao o el camino del amar. Philosophica, 26, 125-144.
PHILOSOPHICA MAGAZINE Nº 26 (2003) Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso Institute of Philosophy
Table of Contents
BIOLOGY OF TAO OR THE WAY OF LOVE.
HUMBERTO MATURANA R. AND XIMENA DÁVILA Y.
La noción del Tao constituye una invitación a un vivir en el bien-estar psíquico y corporal, a un vivir sin esfuerzo en la unidad de toda la existencia en el hacer que surge del ver el presente cuando no hay prejuicio o expectativa. Como tal, la noción del Tao ha llevado a muchas personas a la reflexión y a la acción que busca encontrar o revelar la naturaleza de ese vivir en los ámbitos de la filosofía, la mística, y la religión. ¿Con qué nos conecta ese vivir?, ¿con lo divino o lo biológico? Pensamos que el vivir al que la noción del Tao nos invita es el vivir fundamental del vivir del ser vivo en su naturaleza biológica que se da en el existir en un presente cambiante continuo. En nosotros, los seres humanos, ese vivir ocurre como un vivir en el lenguajear sin enajenarse en el explicar, vivir que surge cuando se vive en la ampliación del ver en el desapego que es la biología del amar. Por esto el camino del Tao es el camino del amar, y el camino del amar es la biología del Tao.
Palabras clave: Biología, tao, amar, ser y hacer.
The notion of Tao constitutes an invitation to live in the psychic and bodily well-being, a living without effort in the unity of all existence that arises as the manner of living in the present with the expansion of vision that occurs when one lives without attachment and expectations. As such the notion of Tao has lead many people to the reflections and actions that attempt to find or to reveal that manner of living in the domains of philosophy, mysticism and religion. Where that manner of living leads us?, to the divine or to the biological? We think that the manner of living to which we are invited by the notion of the Tao, is the basic living of livings systems in their biological nature as this takes place in a continuously changing present. In us human beings that manner of living occurs as we do not become alienated in explanations as we live in the detachment and absence of expectations of the biology of love. This is why the path of Tao is the path of the biology of love.
Keywords: Biology, tao, to love, to be, to do.
This article is the product of a series of conversations that took place between Ximena Dávila and Humberto Maturana in the summer of 2002, and presents the understanding of the topic of the “Biology of the Tao” that they reached.
But there is something else. What we say next about the notion of the Tao, arises from a reflective look that we have chosen to call natural philosophy. We think that one does philosophy every time he asks himself about the foundations of his doing, whatever it may be and in any field of thinking and acting, be it everyday political, scientific, philosophical or technological living. The reflective look that we call natural philosophy appears the moment one realizes that there are two basic questions in reflecting on the foundations of everything that happens in our living as human beings, that is, the questions about being and about doing. The history of Western reflective thinking has been centered on the question of being, of the self in the search for reality and the ultimate truths. We now ask ourselves about the doing, how we do what we do?
Since its inception, Western philosophical thinking follows the path of the question of being, a question that seems contestable from the mystical-spiritual-religious thinking that sees a transcendent foundation for the transience of the occurrence of the happening of everything that exists. Western philosophical thinking is congruent with Eastern thinking in implicitly or explicitly accepting a transcendent foundation for all existence. It seems to us that the question of doing as a basic question was not accessible to pre-philosophical thinking due to the cultural attitude that accepted the transcendent foundation of all existence, and that is why it has not developed since then. This question is now possible because Western thinking from scientific thinking has given rise to a reflective freedom that allows the question of doing in a field of understanding and action that allows answering it. Furthermore, we think that this question in the fundamental form of how do we do what we human beings do? It is not the question that can be asked and has been asked in traditional scientific thinking, because it arises in a conceptual background that asks about being, about essence, about reality, about the objective, from an implicit acceptance of a transcendent support for existence.
It is because of the above that when we ask ourselves about doing, about how we do what human beings do, we do it from the fundamental ontological and philosophical change that begins with the Biology of Knowing (Maturana 1980 and 1992), and that now from our reflections on the development of the conceptual intertwining of the Biology of Knowing and the Biology of Loving in the Biological Matrix of Human Existence, we call natural philosophy.
The work that we present below arises in this conceptual background and is in fact a work in the field of natural philosophy, in the implicit question why we do our living? It gives rise to the experience of the Tao in our living.
Way of the Tao
The way of living that the notion of the Tao evokes constitutes an invitation to live in the well-being of the mind and body of living without effort in the unity of all existence. As such, the notion of the Tao has led many people in the fields of philosophy, mysticism, and religion to reflection and action.
In this note we want to reflect on the biological processes that, as processes of living and living together, give rise to the basic experience whose cultivation gives rise to the expansion of well-being in daily living, which in the Eastern tradition is connoted with the notion of the Tao, and that all human beings can live if we actually cultivate it.
We think that all the experiences that human beings live, in all circumstances and whatever the name we give them, occur to us as aspects of our human life in the flow of our biological living, and we also think that this is why they can be cultivated and expand, giving rise to different ways of living and coexisting in cultural spaces that we call mystical, religious, philosophical, scientific or artistic.
It seems to us that the basic experience whose cultivation constitutes the path of the Tao is an experience of well-being that extends to all the relational dimensions of the human as an experience of psychic and bodily harmony in all the dimensions of living and living together, whatever it may be the circumstance of living that is lived. The experience of the Tao, according to us, does not have to do with what one lives, but with how what one experiences is lived.
It is, therefore, towards what we consider the biological foundations of experience that makes the path of the Tao possible as an experience of living in physiological, psychic, and spiritual well-being, towards which we direct our gazes and reflections. Furthermore, we do this with the understanding that we are talking about something that cannot be described but can only be evoked in those who already know it as a spontaneous or cultivated experience. However, the fact that we cannot describe the experience that we wish to evoke is not and does not constitute a very great difficulty, because we have all lived at some time in our lives the basic experience of well-being whose cultivation is the way of the Tao. The description does not replace the described.
The present is the happening of living itself. The present is happening in happening, what happens in the flow of happening. When we speak of the present we speak about what we want to evoke, and the description we make when we speak of the present does not replace it as the occurrence of living.
As the description does not replace what is described, all we do and can do when talking about living in the present that is the Tao is trying to evoke in the sensoriality of our living now the sensoriality of something lived before in the flow of living that we want to talk. In addition, in this attempt the sensoriality that we want to evoke is hidden by intersecting with the sensoriality of desires and expectations or fears from where we want to evoke and recover the flow of lived living.
If we look at living beings that exist outside of language, we see that they live in the continuous present that is lived without the descriptive evocation of a past that complicates the present from longing for the absent. Moreover, they live without thinking or wishing for a future that arises from the description of what is expected to happen and that modifies the present out of frustration, because the expectations that the wishes for a future imply are not met. Animals that exist outside of language simply slide into living in a continuous changing present that arises spontaneously without reflection moment by moment in the flow of the conservation of the well-being of the sensorial dynamics of each moment of living that is lived. When we speak of living in the present of these beings, we speak of their living as an innocent living in well-being without longings or expectations, in which the joy or pain of what is in the immediate relationship is found and lived and not of the imagined; and we speak of a well-being that is lost when living in the consciousness of the past and the future that language makes possible leads us to frustration in the face of unfulfilled wishes and the suffering that attachment to unfulfilled wishes brings.
The path of well-being of the present, lived in the unconscious living of living outside of language, is not the path of well-being that one wants to evoke when speaking of the Tao, and in which one can say: “the teacher does not act and everything is done.” The human occurs in living in the language, and both the conscious living and the unconscious living of human living arise from living in the language, and therefore the path of the Tao as the path of human living in the present necessarily occurs as a living in living in language.
Experience is what we say happens to us when we are aware that what happens to us happens to us as a happening of our living that we distinguish in living in language. As the description of the experience cannot replace what has been lived, the description can only place it in the realm of the reflective gaze and thus constitute it as an element of the human world that is the world that arises in language.
The human world, as a world that is lived in language in the generation of domains of coordination of coordination of actions, can be lived as a continuous present that is lived in its mere occurrence without reflection that looks at the course of that living. Or you can live in the gaze that brings to consciousness as an aspect of daily living the suffering from frustration in the face of expectations and unfulfilled wishes or the joy when wishes are fulfilled. In the first case, human living occurs as non-reflective animal living, and no questions arise in it about the present, and living in well-being is living in a present without anticipated attachment to the fulfillment of wishes or expectations. In the second case, human living occurs in the reflective gaze that opens the way to frustration that generates pain and suffering due to the attachment to the value that is seen in what was lost or what was not when desires or expectational thoughts were not fulfilled, as well as the path from which that attachment is seen and it is possible to wonder about the legitimacy of the pain and suffering that it generates as well as the path of action that could free us from that pain and suffering. The notion of the Tao tries to evoke living the experiential path that, if we follow it, that liberation would constitute in us.
Human living is living in language, and the liberation of the suffering that brings with it the frustration of not achieving the desired in the attachment to the value of what has not been achieved or lost, must occur as a human living in the present, that is, as a simple spontaneous occurrence in conscious living that human living is when one lives without attachment to what is not. The difficulty is that reflection changes the present that is lived and intertwines it with the change of emotion that arises in the flow of its occurrence when this (the present) begins to be lived from the expectations of what could be and not in its mere occurrence in what is occurring. The realization that it is possible to get out of the suffering of attachment to frustration in the face of unfulfilled desires generates the desire to get out of that attachment, but if we do not know how to do it, that desire will open the way to new frustrations in us, since we will live it from what we want it to be and not from what it is being. However, there are situations that arise spontaneously in the course of living that are lived as a conscious well-being in which there is no suffering or pain, because they are lived as experiences of mere awareness of doing without expectations or desires, in a flash of consciousness of being without being. It is the desire to repeat and cultivate that experience without losing consciousness of conscious human living in language, because it is an experience of well-being in detachment, which leads to the search for an experiential path that when achieved is connoted with the notion of the Tao.
Living animal unconscious of living in a present without past or future, is a living without attachment to the value that one can assign to what is lost in the frustration of desires and expectations, and it is a living in well-being of a path like the path of the Tao but that is not that path, because it does not occur in conscious living like human living. The search for that well-being in human living is difficult because it is about living the conscious being without the acting of being conscious. That is, it is about living outside the trap of the desire to live the well-being of the mere present without past or future, knowing that in our living there is a past and a future. Finally, this realization has led to the realization that the pain that arises in the loss of the ephemeral is not due to attachment to the ephemeral, but rather because of attachment to the transcendent or permanent value that one believes or supposes had the ephemeral lost. This attachment that generates a suffering that sickens the soul and the body is an attachment for the being of what is not.
We live in a culture in which the pain generated by the loss of the ephemeral gives meaning to what is desired and constitutes the measure of its value. And in this our culture, it is the attachment to pain due to the loss of value and sense of the ephemeral desired that generates suffering, not desire as such. In other words, while the pain of loss gives value and meaning to what is lost in our culture, the association between pain and value or meaning generates attachment to pain, giving rise to a suffering that becomes more valuable the greater it is, because the greater the pain, the greater the value or sense of what is lost.
It is because of all the above that the liberation of pain and suffering passes through detachment that implicitly recognizes that nothing has value or meaning by itself, and that the value or meaning that we give to the transitory that we lost, arises as a comment that we do from the realization of our living on the systemic relationships to which the lost belonged. Value and meaning are notions that reveal the cultural relational living of the people who live them and whose lives affect or guide from the attachments with which we live them. That is, insofar as value and meaning are not in themselves, and do not have a transcendent foundation, believing that they are traps us in a pain that we conserve as suffering in a dynamic that is sustained precisely in our belief that the transitory lost had value, or sense itself. Pain and suffering exist in attachment to a transcendent value or meaning that is not, by not seeing that it is ourselves who give value or meaning to what we distinguish according to what we want to do with that value or meaning that we believe transcendent and permanent. Suffering arises from the attachment to the value that we assign to the distinguished with the pain that we feel for its absence, and is preserved, therefore, in the attachment to a being that is not as if it were a being in itself, in ignorance of not being in itself of all being.
The path that frees us from attachment, and therefore from pain and suffering, is the path that takes us out of ignorance, which is not knowing the non-being of all being, and in particular the non-being of being of value or meaning that we assign to the lost. This ignorance about the not being in itself of the being of the distinguished appears to us as the discomfort of an inappropriate doing to the relational present that emerges from our environment in the flow of our living. And it is an inadequate doing that arises from the distortion that the expectations, desires, demands or fears about the value or sense of the distinguished impose on our vision of the relational matrix where, from us, our doing as what constitutes the flow occurs of our living in interactions with a medium that emerges as our present with our very living.
In the living of an organism that exists outside of language, the inadequate rendering of the relational present that it lives appears before an observer as ignorance or behavior incongruous with the course of its living as a result of an attachment to a way of flowing in living that it was adequate until that moment, but it is blind to the change of the circumstance in which the organism begins to be immersed. When this happens, the congruence with the present that the organism lived up to that moment is altered in such a way that the relational dimensions that made its living a living in well-being are reduced. If this alteration is transitory and not total, the organism continues its life in a transitory course of ill-being in which eventually the lost dimensions of well-being are recovered so that the ill-being that the observer saw as ignorance of the organism in his living in the present, disappears. If not, the organism’s living is altered in a way that follows a course that leads to the loss of its identity as an organism of a particular class, or to its death in the complete loss of knowing how to live, which is death.
In human living in the language, the language itself is a source of ignorance in the face of a distinction, by opening the possibility of attachment to the value or meaning assigned to it from reasoning, which language is, what is supposed to be the be transcendent of the ephemeral distinguished. For this reason, human living in the present without pain or suffering requires living all the dimensions of the human worlds that arise in language (including explaining, understanding, desires, expectations, and the consciousness of oneself, of being and be), as mere aspects of the flow of living in detachment from the value or meaning that one could give to the supposed being transcendent of the distinguished, whatever that may be. It is for all this that the detachment in living that is evoked with the expression Tao, implies a living in which everything is lived in the knowledge that nothing has value or meaning in itself, and in which everything that is lived is lived in congruence with that knowledge. This way of living cannot be described because it does not have a pre-established form when it arises spontaneously in the changing present that lives who live like this, although an observer who sees that living sees unity with all existence and love and tenderness with everything that exists, live without control, without aggression, without greed, without vanity, and without envy.
Living beings exist in the flow of the in-permanent, in the continuous transformation of our corporeality around the preservation of a relational identity that can also be in a flow of continuous change. In this ephemeral living, which is the living of living beings, human beings are not different, except that what we conceive in our language participates in the relational dimensions that, at the same time, change and are preserved as references around which occurs our continuous change. However, in the patriarchal-matriarchal culture in which our current living takes place, we live as if change did not exist, and as if living itself were eternal, without beginning or end, even in the daily experience of the end of everything in an inevitable transience. It is from the consciousness of the daily experience of eternity of a transitory living in which each moment is lived as if it were eternal, that the desire and search for the permanent arises in us in the attempt to retain the value or meaning of that present that although it is lived as permanent, it is known to be transitory. It is from the experience of eternity that we live in every moment of our living, that we give what we imagine permanent in our being a transcendent value, which we wish to retain as a fundamental aspect of our identity. And we do not see that we enter into a living blind to the beauty of our transience that allows us to live the non-permanent identity that gives us the well-being of the preservation of detachment that frees us from control, envy, vanity, greed and aggression, or what is the same, that makes it possible for us to live the way of the Tao. The human occurs in the ephemeral, in the transit between a beginning and an end, and it is in that transit that living in the present can take place in the conscious preservation of well-being that is lived when one lives without attachment or rejection of the awareness of the ephemeral that makes us human, and human in the biology of love. It is in the transience of human living that one can live on the path of the Tao.
Human beings exist in the continuous generation of worlds that arise and live, on the one hand, in the recursive intertwining of our biological dynamics, which is the space of existence from where we are living beings, and on the other hand, in language, which as the consensual flow of coordinations of coordinations of actions constitutes the relational sphere where we exist as human beings in the biological realization of the materiality of our living. In this human biological living we explain our living by describing its occurrence under different ways of evoking its flow in language. Only human beings, as beings that exist in language, can ask ourselves questions that are answered with explanations, which as flows of language occur in the realization of our human life and describe the processes that would generate what we explain.
In essence, explaining is answering a question that seeks to reveal the origin of something with a story that shows the form of that origin, and that is presented trying to satisfy the expectations of the questioner and expand their understanding. Therefore, to explain the way of the Tao is to describe the processes of living that would result in living the way of the Tao. From this it follows that for those who want to get closer to living the path of the Tao, explaining it as a way of living the present, either because they imagine from the experiences already lived the well-being that living in detachment promises, or because they imagine that well-being from the rational understanding of what you have heard said is the way of the Tao, there are two possible courses of action according to the emotion with which he or she listens to the explanation of the Tao. In one of these two courses of action, the listener is satisfied living a systemic evocation of the relational disposition that he or she should unconsciously adopt in order to live in the conscious living the well-being that living the present without attachments brings, trusting in the knowledge of the one who answers your question about the Tao. The other course of action is the one in which the listener wants to hear the description of a network or sequence of processes that when operating would result in the experience of living the way of the Tao, rationally understanding the nature of that experience and trying to carry out that sequence or network of processes in one’s own living. Whichever path is chosen, it is the spontaneous or guided recognition of the experience of detachment that is sought that in fact makes it possible to find the path of living that leads and realizes the path of Tao in the experiential consciousness of unity with all the existence.
These two paths intersect in the search for the experience of living in the present without attachments. However, they do not replace or make the experience of the present that has to be lived as a result of the internal changes that arise when living following the conservation of the flashes of detachment that have been lived spontaneously, in the confidence that this living conscious is possible as a natural way of living. The explanation of the Tao is not the Tao, the description of the Tao is not the Tao, and the desire to live in the Tao, which, as an attachment to obtaining what is desired, denies living in the present without attachments, denies living in the path of the Tao.
If we seek to live in the present without attachments in the search for the path of the Tao, we transform ourselves in that search into a dynamic that changes the form of that search. And this happens because we are human beings who are transformed in living according to the course that follows the relational dynamics that they preserve in the conservation of a living that seeks well-being even in pain or suffering. It all depends on being able to remember the bodily / sensory dynamics of the well-being of living in the present without attachment, which was lived in a previously experienced spontaneously.
We speak of understanding when we can say that what we say we know, we know in a broader context of systemic coherence than the restricted scope of operational coherence of the particular situation that we claim to know. Understanding is a biological occurrence, possible thanks to the operation of the nervous system, whether it is a cellular system or a molecular system, depending on whether the operational elements that compose it are changes in neuronal activity relationships, or dynamics of changes in molecular relationships, but it occurs as a relational living of the organism.
The nervous system operates as a closed network of changes in the relations of activity between its components, and as such some of its components exist in structural intersection with the organism at the level of the sensory and effector areas of its internal and external relational surfaces. In its operation, however, the nervous system makes no difference between the internal and the external of the organism. Such a distinction belongs to the observer’s operation. The nervous system does not interact with the environment, the body does. That is, the nervous system exists as a closed network of changes in the activity relationships between its components, blind to what happens with the organism in its interactions in the environment. Furthermore, as a result of its structural intersection with the organism, the activity of the nervous system as a closed network of changes in the relations of activity between its components continuously gives rise to the sensory / effector correlations of the organism that constitute the flow of the recursive encounters of this with the environment in the continuous generation of its conduct. And this occurs as a dynamic of interactions in which the organism’s encounters with the environment result in a reciprocal triggering of structural changes that give rise to the continuous congruent structural transformation between the nervous system, the organism, and the environment around the conservation of the mode of living of the organism. This congruent structural transformation of the nervous system with the organism, and of the organism with the environment, which preserves a congruent behavioral dynamic between a changing organism and a changing environment, is the result of both the organism and the environment having plastic structures and existing open to a continuous flow of structural change around whatever relational configuration remains between them. The organism has at each moment a structure that defines the operational space that operates and preserves its living at that moment through the sensorial / effector correlations that its structure at that moment makes possible. For this reason, the structural changes that the nervous system undergoes in the interactional living of the organism in the environment (niche) that makes it possible, and the corresponding changes in the environment arise naturally subordinate to the conservation of the organism’s realization, or it disintegrates.
In these circumstances, what an observer sees as the behavior of an organism is the dynamics of congruent structural changes that occur in the organism / environment relationship in the course of their interactions, and not something that the organism does from itself. Behavior is the dynamic relational configuration of the flow of the organism’s interactions with a medium that arises in the interaction itself and that, although an observer sees as something that is configured in that interplay with the participation of both in the realization of the organism’s life. When talking about it, he does so by describing it as if it were something that the body does. In the living of the organism, the environment does not pre-exist its living, it arises with it. And this is so even though for the observer in his description of the organism and its relations with the environment, he usually speaks of the environment as a field of operational coherence pre-existing to the organism that makes it possible as well as understandable. Of course, this also applies to the observer as an organism. Without the environment there is no behavior, but without the organism there is none.
The components of a nervous system, be they neuronal, molecular or of another kind, operate by detecting configurations of changes of activity relations in their changes of activity relations with other components of the closed network of changes of activity relations that the nervous system is, and that they integrate. That is, the nervous system operates in a dynamic of internal change that the observer sees as the recursive distinction of configurations of relations of activity between its own components in a continuous closed flow of changes of relations of activity, which in the organism give rise to the changing sensorial / effector correlations that make the realization of his living in interactions with a medium that arises with his living. In these circumstances, the living of the organism occurs as a historical process in which the structure of the organism and its nervous system, and the structure of the environment that arises with the organism in the preservation of its life, exist in a continuous flow of congruent reciprocal changes that lasts as long as those congruent changes result in the conservation of the living of the organism. The consequence of all this is that, while the structure of the nervous system changes with the flow of the interactions of the organism generating sensorial / effector correlations in that which conserves its life, the nervous system remains spontaneously generating through its structural changes sensorial / effector correlations in the organism that are suitable for the preservation of its changing life while preserving its operational congruence with the also changing environment that arises with the preservation of its living, whatever the particular form of this living.
Everything that has been said for organisms with a neural nervous system applies to us humans. For this reason, everything occurs in our human life as part of the continuous expansion and change of the network of sensorial / effector correlations of our operating as human beings in an environment that arises as an aspect of the realization of our human life. Furthermore, as in all animals, our relational living arises at every moment as a flow of sensorial / effector correlations determined by our corporeality at that moment and by how we move in the world that arises at every moment in the realization of our living in coordinations of consensual behavioral coordinations. We call this relationship of dynamic operational congruence between organism and environment structural coupling.
The conservation of the living of an organism is possible insofar as the interplay of sensorialities and actions in the interactions between the organism and the environment passes through the realization of the internal and external relational dynamics of corporality that satisfy all the organic requirements that constitute its living. In the normality of the conservation of the living of an organism there is operational equality between the sensory field of the organism and the scope of action that the emerging environment offers it (structural coupling), so that the organism flows in its living in the conservation of a maximum well-being. When this equality is broken, either by changes in the environment, or by the transformation of the organism’s sensoriality in the flow of its transformations in the occurrence of living, or by the changes that the psychic flow brings with it in moving emotional from serenity to expectations, ambitions, demands, anger or attachments to imagined values or meanings, the well-being of the organism is altered or lost. And when this happens, what an observer sees as anxiety or fear in the face of the threatening, or as frustration in the face of the insufficient, in a partial loss of the relational well-being, or eventually as death in some domain of human existence or of the organism as a whole arises. In animals that live outside of language, no additional emotions appear that give way to suffering due to the conservation of pain in the face of the loss of a value arising from reasoning, but suffering does appear in the face of a loss of meaning of living from the conservation of emotion of relational abandonment or denial. In them, living in the present is not altered by the loss of a value, but by the loss of a relational sense of well-being, and they can enter depression and suffering. In us human beings who live in language, on the other hand, pain arises due to the lack of a lost value that we see as transcendent, and the suffering in the conservation of that pain due to the attachment to the transcendent value that we assign to the lost from our rational thinking. Outside of the culture of value there is no attachment to a supposed transcendent value of what is lost because there is no value as a transcendent essence, but rather transitory pains are experienced in the face of losses as circumstantial aspects of living in a changing present.
The liberation from pain and suffering generated by attachment to the value or meaning that we assign to what is lost, occurs with the expansion of understanding that shows that the value or meaning of all things that arise in the course of human living is only a cultural way of looking and acting, and not an intrinsic property of them. For the broadening of understanding to occur in the person who suffers, the grasp of the systemic coherence to which the lost belongs must be broadened in his or her field of reflection, so that it is apparent to him or her that what is lost lacks value or intrinsic meaning. Moreover, this must happen to the person who suffers even when he does not know what are the systemic coherences to grasp.
The expansion of understanding is a spontaneous phenomenon that occurs in the flow of living of an organism in the preservation of its operational congruence with an emerging environment that emerges coherent with its living in a larger environment than what appears to be its local existence, and that the observer recognizes when he sees that the organism is operating from itself in a greater scope of coherence than is usual. The operation of the nervous system with neural components that respond to configurations of relational coherence in the flow of activity that occurs in it as a closed network of changes in activity relationships, is not fixed but changes in the flow of living of the organism. What happens is that the structure of the nervous system at the level of its components and the relationships between them changes contingently as the living flow of the organism in the preservation of its living. In these circumstances, the structural change of the nervous system occurs following a path defined at each moment by the conservation of the organism’s living in operational coherence with a medium that emerges with it, and in which the equality of the organism’s sensoriality with the space of action of the organism also arises changing.
It happens that the relational configurations different from the usual that the component neurons of a nervous system distinguish when interacting with each other, produce unusual effects in the internal and external relational dynamics of the organism through the sensorial / effector correlations that evoke in the intersection of the organism’s nervous system. It also happens that these effects turn out to be transitory or evanescent if other aspects of the organism’s relational living, such as pleasure, curiosity, pain, or fear, do not associate the configurations of novel neural relationships that give rise to some relational dynamics of the organism that changes his living space. When this association occurs, the expansion of the operational scope occurs spontaneously in which the relational configuration that gave rise to this process makes sense in the life of the organism in the form of what an observer would call operational expansion by the organism of the understanding of the circumstances of their living. In an isomorphic evocation of the experience of broadening the understanding, what we say is the same as what happens when on a walk the relational and action landscape that a person experiences while following a changing path that arises spontaneously before him or her expands and modifies her with the preservation of her walk.
The peculiarity of what happens to us human beings arises from the fact that we exist in language, and the expansion of understanding occurs in the dynamics of distinction by the nervous system of relational configurations that make operational sense in the realms of living human beings that arise in living in the worlds that arise in our living in language. The different worlds that arise in human living differ in the networks of conversations that define them, and through these in the relational configurations that deal with the value or meaning assigned to what is desired (wealth, success, fame, power, … justice), and that is declared as a source of well-being and justification of attachment to the world that is lived and preserved in that living. The value or meaning that is assigned to what is desired arises from looking outside the relational present that is lived, because it implies attributing to what is treated as if it were permanent or transcendent something proper to living ephemeral, in a dynamic that makes that source value of alienation in attachment to a being that is not. Undoubtedly there are many ways of living that are lived in well-being because they are lived in conformity with the way of life that you want to live while not losing what you want to keep and the pain and suffering that arises from attachment become present to the value or meaning assigned to the lost. Not every way of life that is lived and preserved because it preserves living even though it feels like living in well-being, it is living in well-being that preserves the way of the Tao. And this is so because insofar as it is a living that seeks to preserve the value or transcendent meaning that is assigned to the transitory, it is always on the verge of pain and suffering.
Any value or meaning declared as a desired source of transcendent well-being constitutes an alienated living that sooner or later will be lived in pain and suffering due to an attachment that distances us from the well-being of detachment that preserves the path of the Tao. But if what you want is the path of well-being that when it is lived the reflection shows without describing it that what is lived can only be lived in what the Eastern traditions call the path of the Tao, the questions fit: What is the living in the well-being that living in the path of the Tao does without talking about the Tao? What is the relational sparkle that, if preserved in the changing flow of human living, spontaneously results in the broadening of the wordless understanding that leads to living what an observer would call living on the path of Tao? Our answer is: the way of love.
The way of loving
Human beings exist in languageing, and languageing occurs in the flow of living together, which is the realization of our own living intertwined with the living of others in coordination of coordination of actions. Human beings also exist in the flow of our emotions as different kinds of relational behavior domains. From this it follows that we live languageing in everyday life intertwined with the flow of our emotions in what we call conversing. In short, human beings exist in the worlds that we generate in our coordinations of actions and emotions, so that our emotions continuously constitute the foundation and the relational character of our living and living with ourselves and with others. Among all the emotions that we live in the flow of our emotion, loving is the foundation of living in well-being in the implicit acceptance of the legitimacy of all existence that we evoke when speaking of the way of the Tao.
What we distinguish in our daily life as loving are the relational behaviors through which oneself, the other, the other, or the other, emerges as a legitimate other in coexistence with one. As such, loving is one-way, expects no retribution, and is negated by expectations. Loving is neither generous, nor altruistic, nor supportive, it simply does not admit adjectives. When we use adjectives that qualify the nature of loving when speaking of loving, we reveal that there is no loving. The intention to love in loving denies loving, and the behavior that we want to be loving arises manipulative. We can certainly describe what we should do and feel in loving, but when we attempt to describe the relational behaviors that would constitute loving, we leave loving and move into the space of manipulating. The description does not show what is described because what is described belongs to a relational domain that is different and disjoint from the domain in which the description occurs. For this reason it is possible to say that the loving that can be described is not loving.
Loving occurs in the flow of living in the present in the legitimacy of everything, without duality, without making distinctions between good and bad, beautiful and ugly, … That is, loving occurs in the flow of living in which one lives in the domain of relational behaviors through which the other, the other, the other, and oneself, arise without intention or purpose as legitimate others in coexistence with one. Loving is visionary because it occurs in the expansion of seeing (hearing, feeling, smelling, touching) proper to the space of relational behaviors that occur without prejudice, without expectations, without generosity, without ambition … neither wants nor seeks the consequences of loving. Loving is neither good nor bad, it is simply living in the well-being that living without suffering brings about the attachment to the value or meaning that is seen in what is lost or what can be lost. What does happen is that human beings are the present of a lineage of bipedal primates whose evolutionary evolution took place around the conservation of a coexistence in love, tenderness and sensuality in a relational space that emerged with the constitution of the family as a small area of collaboration in language. For this reason, when love arises without being later denied by the attachment to some value or meaning that is declared transcendent from a cultural living, as occurs in the patriarchal / matriarchal culture that we live, we see that the emotions that accompany it are tenderness, the sensuality and the pleasure of the closeness of the other. These emotions, when accompanying the expansion of seeing that love is, further expand the well-being of living in the present that involves living the ephemeral in its legitimate transience.
For all the above, love as a phenomenon of biological living not only occurs in living in the present without attachment to the search for the permanent, but it is living the present without attachment to the being of a being that is not. Human beings exist in language, in networks of conversations, and nothing human happens outside of the networks of conversations in which we exist. Thus, all the experiences that we live in our living as human beings occur in the flow of our human living as aspects of our living that we distinguish as what happens to us living living in the conversation that is human living. Therefore the Tao, or the way of the Tao, occurs, and can only occur, in human living as an aspect of human living. That is, the path of the Tao does not and cannot deny self-awareness, since it occurs in human living in self-awareness while human living is lived without attachment to self-awareness, and any reference to Tao or the path. Of the Tao that seems to deny living in self-consciousness is deceiving or deceptive.
The way of loving how to live in the present without attachment is the way of the Tao lived in the human social being, and the human social being is lived from and in individual living in the flow of coexistence in loving that is social coexistence. Living outside of love is not living socially. It is not what happens to the other that is central in the way of the Tao but what happens to one; It is not what happens to the other that is central in loving, but what happens to one. However, without the well-being of the other and of oneself in coexistence, it is not possible to live the way of the Tao, because one lives in the attachment to the value that is assigned to the justification of the denial of the well-being of the other. Likewise, without the well-being of the other and of oneself in coexistence, it is not possible to live on the path of love, because one lives in the attachment to the value that is assigned to the justification of the denial of the well-being of the other.
The notion of the Tao as a way of living is an abstraction of human social coexistence; an abstraction of a basic aspect of human biological living that is the foundation of bodily and psychic well-being; an abstraction of the biology of love. And this is so because the biology of love is the foundation of bodily and psychic well-being in all dimensions of human living.
The existence of living beings is multidimensional. Living beings exist at all times in the more or less independent realization of many different identities that intersect in our corporeality, and that are preserved as particular forms of being that are separated to a greater or lesser degree in our operation as totalities in the relational flow in which we are organisms. The multiple identities that we actually live or can live as singular organisms, do not unite in our organic singularity in the loss of their physiological and relational operational boundaries. No; what happens is that the multiple identities that we live intertwine as more or less fluid aspects of the identity of our relational living in the generation of a more or less integral unitary psychic existence through our operation as totalities in our relational sphere.
In other words, the psychic unity that we live as living beings results from the operational unity that arises from the unidirectionality of the realization of living in the flow of living in the conservation of living as organisms. At the same time, the psychic unity of our living as persons results from the relational operational unity that arises from our emotional living in the different worlds that we generate in our living, in talking about our fulfillment as persons. The flow of our emotion in the flow of our living as human beings, defines in each moment the relational space in which we move in that moment, giving it its special character as a way of living in a particular well-being domain. Our emotions define the character of our living by opening or closing relational spaces in which both the attachment to the value that we assign to the ephemeral and with it the suffering can arise, as well as the awareness of not being of all being and with it the detachment in all the dimensions of living in the abandonment of the demands and expectations that is living in love. The emotion that is experienced in each moment of the flow of our emotion penetrates all the dimensions of our living with greater or lesser stability according to the attachments that arise in it. Fear, greed, ambition, envy, competitiveness, are emotions that restrict the gaze and open the space for attachment. Loving is the only emotion that expands the gaze in all relational dimensions and expands seeing, hearing, touching, … In fact, as loving consists precisely in the abandonment of certainties, expectations, demands, judgments and prejudices, is the emotion that consists in the realization of the path of detachment in all dimensions of living as a spontaneous result of its mere occurrence in the unidirectional acceptance of the legitimacy of everything in living, even the rejection of what is not wants it to happen. The way of love is the way of living that evokes the eastern notion of the Tao.
We live a culture, the patriarchal / matriarchal culture, which, being centered on mistrust and control, authority and submission, appropriation and blindness to the other, denies love. From that living, and in the nostalgia for living in the bodily psychic well-being of our mammalian childhood, we seek the well-being of loving as we believe it to be, as a permanent well-being, and we seek it ideologically outside of loving. In this search, emotions such as solidarity and compassion appear, which are emotions that imitate loving without achieving it because they do not imply, in the relational operation that constitutes them, unidirectionality and openness in seeing the other and oneself in their total legitimacy proper to love. Living in the biology of love implies leaving the patriarchal / matriarchal culture that denies it.
The path of the Tao as the path of love is not possible without leaving the patriarchal / matriarchal culture that we live because loving occurs only outside of that culture. When you are outside the patriarchal / matriarchal culture that denies love, you live the path of the biology of love, you live love without speaking of loving, and you live the path of Tao without speaking of Tao.
This is why when trying to evoke the way of the Tao, as a living in detachment, the Eastern tradition is forced to use expressions such as: “Whoever wishes to achieve unity must practice virtue without making distinctions… must dissolve all ideas of duality: good and bad, beautiful and ugly, high and low … loving, hating, having expectations, these are all attachments.” Living that living is living on the path of love: it is living spontaneously in the unity of everything.
The biology of loving is the way of the Tao; the biology of loving is the Integral Way; the biology of loving is the way of the Tao insofar as it is loving without speaking of loving. The way of the Tao is the way of the Biology of Loving.
- Maturana, H. R. (1980) “Biology of Cognition”. En Autopoiesis and Cognition, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Sciences, Reidel Publishing Company. Dordrect: Holland .
- Maturana, H. R. (1992) “La Objetividad, un argumento para obligar”. Dolmen Editores, Santiago Chile.