All Else is bondage ~ Wei Wu Wei


These thirty-four powerful essays, based on Taoist and Buddhist thought, constitute a guide to what the author calls “non-volitional living”—the ancient understanding that our efforts to grasp our true nature are futile. Wei Wu Wei explains these venerable spiritual traditions in the context of modern experience, using wit and considerable precision to convey their profound insight into the very nature of existence. This essential Zen Buddhist classic, reissued after decades of unavailability, completes the collection of eight volumes by the masterful, elusive Wei Wu Wei.

WEI WU WEI

The identity of Wei Wu Wei was not revealed at the time of the publication of his first book. This well-considered anonymity will be respected here, though a few background details may help to put the writings into context. “Wei Wu Wei” was born in 1895 into a well-established Irish family, was raised on an estate outside Cambridge, England, and received a thorough education, including studies at Oxford University. Early in life he pursued an interest in Egyptology, which culminated in the publication of two books on ancient Egyptian history and culture in 1923.

This was followed by a period of involvement in the arts in Britain in the 20’s and 30’s as a theorist, theatrical producer, creator of radical “dance-dramas,” publisher of several related magazines, and author of two related books. He was a major influence on many noted dramatists, poets, and dancers of the day, including his cousin Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet (which in fact had its origins in his own dance troupe at the Cambridge Festival Theatre which he leased from 1926-33).

After he had apparently exhausted his interest in this field to a large extent, his thoughts turned towards philosophy and metaphysics. This led to a period of travel throughout Asia, including time spent at Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, India. In 1958, at the age of 63, he saw the first of the Wei Wu Wei titles published. The next 16 years saw the appearance of seven subsequent books, including his final work under the further pseudonym O.O.O. in 1974. During most of this later period he maintained a residence with his wife in Monaco. He is believed to have known, among others, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Dr. Hubert Benoit, John Blofeld, Douglas Harding, Robert Linssen, Arthur Osborne, Robert Powell, and Dr. D. T. Suzuki. He died in 1986 at the age of 90.

—Matt Errey

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