Archives for category: philosophy


“Unless all is known, nothing is known”

For those who toil among the dusts, vision is clouded: the world is a complex thing, without end, without beginning, a maze of thoughts and senses. Many do not even recognise their own state, or see that they are things of vapour, their lives scattered in a drift of atoms, prey to the accidents of flesh, illusion and time.

Others, though, realising the limits of their perceptions, and grasping the darkness of their condition, set out upon the Way – the TanZo. These ones seek illumination, entering the Still Building of their minds, undergoing the beautiful, arduous training of the wise, taught by skilled monks, bonded by the Marks and clans.

This is a serious matter, not without danger. Of those who enter the Building, not all return, for it is an infinite place, layered with worlds: disaster can lie there. Some return, having failed to reach the desired state; and, disappointed, set their lives back to the old rot and game, or settle for a compromised existence – these ones are like barbarians, and have little to concern us. Some succeed in part, achieving a kind of illumination, to live in harmony and tranquility, their minds light and their spirits at ease.

Yet, what do they really know, these ones, who are considered pure? Have they actually escaped all the confusions of the days of floating and dreaming? Are they truly fit to bow before His Majesty, the emperor of all the cantons, the Dustless One himself? Who can say? For creatures made of dust, what does it mean, to achieve “the state beyond all states”? What might you see, in the darkness of the Still Building, if you are illuminated? What does it mean, to become Dustless?

Volume 1 | The Sentinels
Far to the east and north of the empire, there are roads untravelled for years. Here a sentinel keeps watch over the road. What is the purpose of such vigilance? To a true sentinel, any tanzo is the TanZo: any road is the Way; and a man of TanZo will always be vigilant, even if those who charged him to keep watch have long ago forgotten his existence…

Unfathomably remote, this is a world unto itself, a polluted and a desperate land, which surely even the Dustless One has abandoned. Yet, even here, where so much is dying, life is stirring. What is it? And how will it grow?

Please explore…

Dustless | Volume 1

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Dustless | Volume 1 | The Sentinels

…He was aware that here and there, in Zereb or Silbo, in this or that tower, things had been said that seemed to open up new horizons on the Shion – and much of Zy’s thought concerned the Shion – and contributed to creating the hazy outline of a life.

It was this life that Zy worked over, his mind running backwards and forwards, but endlessly slipping, like a beetle in a bowl, not ever quite managing to get outside the object and to arrive at a clear view of its structure. And that was what Zy wanted to do: to build a house of thought, a place that was fine and translucent, and stable, which didn’t keep melting and flowing away all the time, a sanctuary to which he could bring his ideas and place them in store, so that they would remain there intact, enabling him to go back to them when he wanted, and find his ideas unchanged, the information locked in order and sound.

The letters, for instance: he had wanted to know about the letters…

Excerpt from Dustless, Volume 6 | Fire House


Datagram | Shion: “Shion” is the title, “Lord”. It is composed of two Gonfi – two characters from the LateAncient language – “Shi” and “On“, meaning, literally “great one”. Although pronunciation differs across regions, it is generally pronounced “Shee-on”

Datagram | Zereb and Silbo are villages in the eastern Desolate Cantons

Re-post | Originally posted December 2014

‘There are some expressions which, when heard, convince you instantly that their author is a man or woman of great subtlety, that their illumination is intense and pure. This expression of Rygansogun’s is one such: Only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Of course, knowing Master Rygansogun was a RoMayZine philosopher, one can see that this epigram may be applied to war – that, surely, is one sense of the “house of fire”. Anyone who has fought with the Forbidden Army would feel this: unless a man becomes a thing of flame himself, he cannot live in the house of fire, he must burn, and perish. I have walked there, in the house of fire, and I know something of burning. And yet’ the young Lord went on, lifting his pale blue eyes to look at Zysoshin, and apparently blithely unconcerned that he was addressing his thoughts on complex philosophy to an eight-year-old boy, ‘perhaps the house of fire is not just the house of war, but the house of life itself. Certainly, this is the inflection placed upon the epigram by a much later philosopher, the genial and gracious Serensobel et:denu, a man of Fine Rank, of the Bullrush Mark and the dominant figure of the Ploughing Oxen Era, a master of synthesis, who did so much to try and draw the main traditions of pure philosophy together. Serensobel wrote: Only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Only a child can live in the house of children.

Excerpt from Fire House, Volume 6 of Dustless

Please explore this house of fire…


Re-post | Originally posted December 2014

In the Sounding Horn Era, a philosopher of silence, who rose to become the Master of the Chrysanthemum School, Dijirsozin on:zaka, a man of Subtle Rank and of the Sun Mark, was reported as saying: It would take longer to fully record a life than to live one, for words do not move as quickly as things.

That is a beauty of words. That is a beauty of things.

Of course, much later, Zasojen asked: Is not a word a thing too? Why do we insist on setting words left, and life right, as if words did not take place in life, and life did not take place in words?

Excerpt from The Dwellings [ii], Volume 5 of Dustless


Re-post | Original post December 2014

It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


ZirCong | A pure person feels no pain. What is called “pain” among the common people, and people of flawed purity, is a sign of immaturity and a clinging to the body, which is to cling to dust and to sensations of dust. Although TanZo (“the Way”) is in all things, not all things are in TanZo. To feel pain is selfish, and to be selfish means you have not achieved true illumination. A Dustless person will feel neither the pain belonging to him or to her, nor the pain belonging to others. Pain is useful, as others — the impure — feel pain, and can be reached through pain and through the cessation of pain. All sensation is dust, leading to the void. Pain is dust, leading to the void. Pain is a false understanding of the world. Those who feel pain go towards the void. Achieve purity, true illumination, and there will be no pain. A Dustless person can walk among the sufferings of the damned in barbarian hells, and be unmoved; similarly, a Dustless person can walk among the blisses of the blessed in barbarian heavens, and be unmoved. Hells and heavens belong to the dust: to be truly ZirCong, one must be Dustless.

RoMayZine | Pain is real, a sign of life and of TanZo. Life is battle, and incurs pain. A woman gives birth through pain, and overcomes hardships in order to bring a child into the world. There is thus pain at the very gates of life. It cannot be avoided. But the RoMayZine spirit is never to retreat: where pain is inevitable, it is to be welcomed, as a means to prove one’s purity. The purity of the RoMayZine, the RoMayZine TanZo, is in a great, a warlike spirit. To be alive, one must fight a spiritual battle: nothing else matters. Pain is not to be inflicted needlessly, or received needlessly, but a RoMayZine will never run from pain. To fight through pain, and to win, or to lose, without wavering in one’s spirit: that is RoMayZine.

SurGaKu | Life is one event. The SurGaKu TanZo is through beauty, through appreciation of the world of natural things and through the world of things made by men and by women. Pain is an inevitable part of life, unless one is Dustless. If one is in pain, make it beautiful, do not bow before it and turn ugly, grow weak, become full of dirt and dust. Remain pure. The giving and taking of pain is to be avoided: it is not TanZo, the desire for power of one over another is a sign of weakness, a sign of impurity. Bullying, use of force, malice, the desire for triumph over others, this is not TanZo, and is a disgrace to the Way. At the pure core of all things, there is emptiness, the Dustless state: at the pure core of all life, there is nothing, there is no dust, it is a state beyond peace or war, beyond pleasure or pain, for there is no one to commit acts, no one to receive acts. Few, though, become Dustless: a handful, among billions. For the rest, there is striving through TanZo. It is idle to consider pain an easy or a pleasant thing: but to confront and survive pain, the best course of action is to become TanZo, to show courage and not to dwell too much in the illusion of the present, where painful things must befall all of us. Life is one event: that event is not here, or there, not now, or then. The Way is beauty: make your Way beautiful.

Re-post | Originally posted October 2014

Be Dustless…


The nature of sight cannot be seen by a blind person. Nor can the nature of blindness be seen by a blind person. By the same token, the nature of blindness cannot be seen by a person with sight, nor the nature of seeing by a person who can see.

Only a person who has been blind, and then sees, understands the nature of sight and of blindness.

Only a person who has seen, and is then made blind, understands the nature of blindness and sight.

The Building that resides in all people is mysterious.

Most people never even realise the Building exists within them at all. They are either blind, or seeing: they are limited ones.

They are ignorant, even of the fact that they are ignorant. They are like blind people, or people who have always only ever been able to see.

Only those who grasp the limits of their ignorance, that they are ignorant, may start on the way that leads to the Building.

Only those who have been blind, and then see, may realise that, as seeing was beyond blindness, so there is a condition beyond seeing.

Similarly, only those who could see, but are then struck blind, may grasp, through the loss, the illusion of their seeing, the limits of sight.

The Building that resides in all people is mysterious.

In order to understand, one must first cease to know.

Dustless | Volume 9

…‘Well: how will you get justice, now? The whole power of the state is behind Azulsokul and the Xira clan. You yourself referred to the rumour: that the ShionDo is not just Azulsokul’s nephew, but…’

Berensota’s hesitation before finishing the sentence once again alerted Zy to the difficulty people found in discussing the internal affairs of the Dustless One and the imperial clan. The Dustless One had to be… well, Dustless. No dust of ordinary life should be able to cling to His Majesty’s person. Even in private, out of earshot of anybody else, Berensota still couldn’t speak of the matter without unease, as if he was sullying something within himself by opening his mouth and voicing these unflattering things. And in a sense, to deprecate the ShionDo was to cast oneself down, too, for the ShionDo was the Purest of the Pure, the Guardian of the Law, the Lord who was Vigilant over the Lords: the emperor was simply the purest person in O, the quintessence of the whole labour of the state to maintain the TanZo, to practise vigilance and to achieve purity. If there were specks of dust on the ShionDo, then there were specks of dust at the centre of the world. And if there was dust upon the Dustless One, where wouldn’t there be dust? Dust would have reached heart of the empire. And if there was dust at the heart, who could escape dust upon themselves, as well? It would mean a profound collective failure of the SolTanZoZon. No wonder, then, that people were deeply hesitant to criticise His Majesty…

Excerpt from Master Darkness [i], Volume 21 of Dustless

Please consider and approve…

Dustless | Volume 9


From the notebook of Amza Iyaa, minor novelist of the Era of the Empty Sky:

Certain books die. This much is clear.

Certain books – many – perhaps even most? – can hardly be said to live at all. These are the books that are unwritten – the glimmers, the amusing sketches (to be worked up at a later date), the foibles of dilettantes, notes jotted down on napkins, quarter thoughts from people half awake and half asleep, ideas that seem urgent, requiring prose.

Ah, the unwritten books! Surely, the vast numbers of books published through the ages, gathered together in a mountainous heap, must still be just a flash, a quibble, a fraction, compared to the books that were never written?

What a stupendous library it would be, the one holding all the unwritten books of our world!

What a ghostly babble, those pages will contain… Such a crowd, a roar, the rustle of a thousand weak intentions, the riffling plod of a hundred million half-hearted notions…

I have run out memory, the number of people who, on finding that I am the Amza Iyaa, have told me: “Ah, I have the idea for a most splendid story!”, or “I wish I could write a book. I have often thought of writing one…”

Yes, yes

I say, moving away from them as quickly as I can

I’m sure you have it in you

although, of course, in my mind, I think: Ah, but if wishing were doing, then doing, and life in general, would be far less interesting…

— something of that kind, in any case.

Yet, who can say these unwritten books never lived at all? Certainly, they were never given the cool reality of ink; certainly, they remained stumps and visions, they were never granted articulation, their plots were never worked out, their characters were mere phantasms, schoolboy crushes, lumpy exaggerations… but, still, there they were, for those moments or days, or even years, those unwritten books, they certainly existed, didn’t they?

Isn’t it possible, that somewhere in that library of unwritten books, languishes by far the greatest masterpiece ever created?

A wonderful, wonderful book?

Re-posted | Original post June 2013

For your delight
and illumination…

Dustless | Volume 1

Unless all is known, nothing is known

TanZo (the “simple Way”) denies the supremacy of the world over the mind, and asserts human existence as the true object of life.

The famous dictum “Unless all is known / nothing is known” asserts that the pursuit of knowledge is futile, that knowledge itself is an illusion.

Unless one sees with the eye of a god – all times and all places in a single conclusion – then the nature of phenomena and of events must remain forever cryptic, enigmatic and without terminus.

Phenomena are understood as constructs of the human imagination. As such, they are permanently in the process of being imagined. Their condition is possible, not definite, and provisional, not fixed. It is always possible to re-imagine any phenomenon: indeed, it is impossible not to re-imagine phenomena.

We use words and systems of measurement to establish a sense of order in the world. However, words are in perpetual need of definition, and are subject to a constant process of re-definition. Change the meaning of one word in a language, and the relations between all words in that language are subtly shifted. Add a new word, allow an old word to be provided to oblivion, and the relations between all words in the language are subtly shifted. Alter one language, and that language’s relation to all other languages alters.

As for measurement, it is an empty hallway through which no one moves

Measurement is useless to us without interpretation and context:

Should we measure the height of a drowning traveller? Or measure the width of the flames burning a building?

Measuring phenomena in order to establish a system of quantification, and using such systems to assert mastery over the material world, is unproductive: TanZo rejects such illusions of power. By exploring the material world, one merely adds to the material world, that is to say, promulgates materiality. Notions of objects and places, times and distances, speeds, forces, are empty. All such “knowledge” could be frozen now, and the key problems of human life would be the same, before and after the end of the pursuit of knowledge.

For TanZo, these key problems may be reduced to one essential question: how do human beings live peacefully with each other, in an order of respect for life?

TanZo is a moral and pragmatic “order of respect for life”. TanZo concerns not the number of stars, the number of years, the place the universe was born, the place the universe will die, the distance between this city and that village, the speed the bird flies, the weight of the sun, but how to avoid the drives that lead to hatred and anger, to violence, vendetta, murder and woe.

Why measure the atoms in the blade of a murderer’s sword?

TanZo therefore rejects the project of establishing some mystical world of objects, a place equally available to all, with stable measure and fixed purpose, and insists upon the human presence in all human things. “Whether we wish it or not, for us, the world is human, even when it is inhuman”.

TanZo views the pursuit of knowledge as a mechanical and trivial activity. TanZo asserts the mind itself – and not the constructions of the mind – as the crucial arena of human endeavour.

People do not travel by ships or bridges, roads or sleighs: they travel by thinking, through mind.

The mind is arbiter over all things. “To each thing, the mind brings inspection, value, desire, intention, question, ephemera, obliteration”. “There is no pure, unadulterated world, and no pure, unadulterated mind, and no pure, unadulterated place in between… There is the world, in action.”

TanZo‘s central concerns are not progressive: they are not economic, they are not to do with expansion or domination of the material or the intellectual world. They are moral concerns: how can the human beings live together, gently, kindly, valuing life, wanting to live, and not hating life, rushing to die in “the struggle to obtain this set of atoms rather than that set of atoms”.

All the energy of life should go into cultivating the mind, so that one is aware one breathes, one touches, one sees, one feels. To be together, human being with human being, gently abiding, to dwell without impatience, to value the fact that one can breathe, touch, see, feel, this is the true Way.

To sit so still on a summer evening, you may hear the mountain sigh — that is TanZo.

The dreams expand and the dreams contract, closing in upon themselves.

Inside the sleeper, the eggs of dreams are hatching silently. On the surface of the sleeper’s face, there is calm. On the underside of the sleeper’s face, however, a dreamworld is extruded into being, a whole landscape bubbles up from nothing: the trees, the path, a sound of crows, a dim yellowing winter sky…

Perhaps the sleeper sighs, or turns, unconsciously seeking a more comfortable position for tired limbs. Perhaps the whole world of the dream shimmers as the sleeper moves. Perhaps the world of the dream remains entirely stable, and it is only the sleeper who rotates around. The axis of the dream is straight and still. The forest goes on. The crows creak and chafe and grumble, coming slightly closer through the winter branches. The riders go on, at walking pace. The sun continues to set. And strange animals begin to wake and move…
Perhaps the sleeper calls out a name – but no one, on the outside of the dream, is listening. The sleeper is alone, or settled among other sleepers, none of whom is awake to catch the name…

Inside the sealed world of the dream, the heroes ride, the forest grows. The snow builds up, mountainous, the landscape seemingly impenetrable, endless. But it is just a world inside a skull, made of a kind of nothingness… For what is the material of dreams?… What substance can it possess?…

And what of the dreamer? They have not realised they are dreaming. For them, the dream is a waking world. They have no idea that they are like unborn birds, wrapped up in a crisp shell of sleep: no idea that, beyond the oval darkness in which they are curled, there is an entirely other world.

The dreamer takes the steps to the top of the tower, the path through the forest, the complaint of crows, the tread of footsteps, the printed text of the book they are reading, the brushed characters of the scroll they have unwound before them, the clink of bridle and bit, the thud and crunch of hooves in snow, the dreamer takes all of this as all there is, the stuff of their life: they don’t realise that, beyond the light of the dream, there is another, an actual light, the light that comes when an egg is cracked open, and the shell falls apart…

Inside the sealed world of the dream, the heroes ride, the towers cast shadows of different intensity across the road, the readers read, the forest grows, the plain recedes and recedes: and when the heroes tire, and lie down, they sleep; and in their sleep, they begin to dream…

Excerpt from Mask (i), Volume 9 of Dustless