In My End Is My Beginning (A new interpretation)
Chuang Tzu – 250 BC
In the beginning of beginnings was the meaning of Meaning – the Nameless
And in the nameless was the One, without body, without form.
This One – this being in whom all find power to exist –
Is the life of the Living.
In the Living resides the formless, the undivided.
By an act of the formless comes the existents,
To its inner principle. This is form, Here body
embraces and cherishes spirit.
The two work together as one, blending and
Characters. And this is Nature.
He who obeys Nature returns through form and
Formless to the Living.
And in the Living
Joins the unbegun beginning – the meaning of Meaning.
Chuang Tzu, one of the great figures of Taoist thought wrote a version of this verse around 250 BC. With it he does not personalise the impersonal forces of creation but simply lays down the steps by which the universe is and was created and, also how it is we can align ourselves to the unbegun universal force of the Way. ( Chuang Tzu’s actual verse is available in: Thomas Merton, (2004) The Way of Chuang Tzu, Boston: Shambhala).
Three hundred years after Chuang Tzu lived the first verse of the Gospel of John 1.1 was written:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God“.
This verse has been the source of much debate and discussions over the years as different opinions center around different uses of the Greek term ‘Logos’. This verse interprets the Logos as ‘the Word’. Within the Christian tradition ‘the Word’ has been seen to take the form of Jesus. However, for earlier Greek philosophers the Logos was understood to have a range of meanings such as, ‘account’, ‘plan’, ‘measure’, ‘proportion’, and ‘reckoning’. For the Stoics the Logos represented ‘the account that governed everything’. This is an understanding not unlike the Taoists idea of ‘the Way’.
However it may be interpreted the basic idea of the Logos is of a universal underlying creation reality or God. Today we know that this reality can be spoken of as Meaning and so the ancient Logos can be understood as Meaning.
Hence, the Gospel of John 1.1 may be rewritten as:
“In the beginning was Meaning, and meaning was with God, and Meaning was God“.
In this form the verse now clarified the relationship between the personal meanings we make and the impersonal Meaning available to us from God. The dual but interconnected nature of meaning and Meaning provides many traps for those who have spoken about the Logos as ‘reason’ or ‘the word’, rather than as unbegun Meaning.