Thirty spokes share one hub. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart.
Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.
Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.Tao Chapter 11
The value, the use, the purpose of each of these objects is the emptiness within them. They are the containers of negative space, into which or with which something can be made, created, or produced.
This is the entire journey for the mystic – it is a purgative path – becoming nothing, becoming empty, becoming a pure and unencumbered vessel for the cleanest expression of the divine will.
This is another way of understanding the transformation of consciousness work. Consciousness must be transformed, its pain transmuted, so that very slowly, step by step, it can become free of its attachments, impurities, and fears (which are polluting and activating the emotional body), and elevated enough to match divine consciousness, so that in a unitive state it can serve and express itself cleanly, without an egoic filter hindering or mis-translating the message.
This emptiness idea has been misapplied and misunderstood for a long time. (To be honest, mostly by popular and charismatic but deeply disordered types).
The work of becoming nothing is not a getting rid of the self. It is a getting rid of the wounds and fears that pollute and polarize the authentic self. This sort of alchemy is much much harder and infinitely more painful than merely discarding the self, were that even possible with a healthy psyche.
The process is a purgation and purification (and a training, strengthening, and rebuilding) of the authentic self. It is an extinguishing of the entire complex system of desires, hundreds of layers deep. And it is a surrendering of the personal will completely. It also involves the loss of all earthly or material things connected to self-worth – reputation, money, career, status, etc. This is why many authentic paths lead, at least temporarily, through poverty and asceticism, even if it’s later tempered.
The sage in this case does not end up lacking any sort of personality – he does not become a human robot. A perfected realized mystic is not lacking a self, quite the opposite. He becomes a strong, balanced, fearless, virtuous, whole personality, which operates in reverent service to divinity. He isn’t pulled or swayed by various egoic temptations. He isn’t hampered by fear or the prospect of loss or shame.
He can and will eagerly do anything that he is directed to do to carry out the work of divinity, without fear, without personal hesitation. He has become empty of his own ambitions, desires, and fears, but he has become full of the virtues – courage, compassion, temperance, wisdom, love, understanding, etc.
He is then used like a vessel or a grail (one might say) for the operation of the divine will.