Connecting Versus Creating | March 2006

FMBR Editorial: March, 2006

Connecting Versus Creating

Darrell Witkowski

Recently, I reread, with great interest, the wonderful little book, Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. My first reading, about 30 years ago, left me puzzled yet intrigued. I never forgot this work. My conversation with Bill Gough on manifestation (see the Feb. editorial) led me back to this 90 page gem.

It's the story (supposedly true), of a professor in post war Germany, who is offered the opportunity to teach philosophy at the University of Tokyo, which he happily accepted. In his off hours, Herrigel took up the avocation of archery, toward an understanding of Zen under the reluctant tutelage of Master Kenzo Awa. To make a long story short, after more than five years of earnest study, Herrigel felt as if he'd made no real progress in his archery skills. He pretty much felt like a complete failure in his study of archery. He couldn't seem to hold the bow correctly, loose the arrow in the right manner, let alone hit the target bull's eye. He just couldn't reach the high standards demanded of him by Master Awa.

Completely frustrated, Herrigel challenged the Master: "Is it at least not conceivable that after all your years of practice you involuntarily raise the bow and arrow with the certainty of a sleepwalker, so that, although you do not consciously take aim when drawing it, you must hit the target -- simply cannot fail to hit it?" Master Awa, accustomed to Herrigel's tiresome questions, responded, "I do not deny that there may be something in what you say but ... I know that seeing is not enough, decides nothing, explains nothing, for I see the goal as though I did not see it."

Herrigel, thinking that this was just more Zen Master double-speak, blurted out in response, "Then you ought to be able to hit it blindfolded." Master Awa took up his student's challenge and said, "Come to see me this evening." That evening, the Master directed Herrigel to dowse the lights that normally illuminated the target-stand. Says Herrigel, " the Master 'danced' his ceremony and his first arrow shot out into the deep night. I knew from the sound that it had hit the target. The second arrow was a hit, too. When I switched on the light in the target-stand, I discovered to my amazement that the first arrow was lodged full in the middle of the black (the bull's eye), while the second arrow had splintered the butt of the first and plowed through the shaft before embedding itself beside it." According to Herrigel, the Master carefully eyed the target and arrows and said, "The first shot was not a great feat, you will think, because after all these years I am so familiar with my target-stand that I must know even in pitch darkness where the target is. But the second arrow which hit the first -- what do you make of that?"

OK readers, now I ask you to please suspend your disbelief ... as if you are watching a movie or attending a play at the theater. If indeed this story is true, what are the implications? Obviously, the odds of an archer hitting the bull's eye with the first arrow and then splintering the same arrow with a second is nothing short of amazing. But to perform this feat in an environment with no light illuminating the target ... now that seems downright impossible. But let's assume it really happened. Again I ask, what might that mean?

Perhaps as martial artist, George Leonard, stated in his book, The Silent Pulse, "I learned Aikido from a teacher who operates from the premise that the perfect move, the perfect throw, already exists. Our mission was simply to join it. Before being able to do so, we would have to practice long and hard, master the basics, take our share of bruises. But through all of this, the perfect throw would be there -- in the process, the eternal present -- always there for us to join." Now let's drift back to the situation as described by Herrigel. Perhaps the perfect shot already existed and Master Awa simply connected with it. What do we mean by the "perfect shot?" In pitch darkness, the first arrow hits target dead center -- second arrow splinters first arrow. Again recall, Herrigel states that this was all occurring in darkness.

Assuming that this wasn't just a lucky shot for Master Awa, it's almost as if target and arrows showed up together but Master wasn't actually the cause. After all, Master Awa could not actually see the target. (Could this be an example of the acausal connections that Carl Jung spoke about?) Perhaps Master Awa's intentions of a perfect shot, started things moving in the right direction and "something else" took care of the details of bringing target and arrows together for that perfect shot.

What are the implications for you and me? Maybe it means that we don't so much "create our reality," but it's more like we "connect" with a reality. Maybe, through our intentions, whether conscious or unconscious, we are seamlessly connecting with certain paths, realities or alternate universes that already exist in full detail for us. A reality we can actually experience and live! If true, how may we become more skilled in realizing our intentions and not have our counter intentions show up instead?

Darrell Witkowski, FMBR Member

To send comments regarding this editorial, click here to email Bill Gough.


George Leonard, The Silent Pulse, NY: E.P. Dutton, 1978, p.147.

Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery, NY: Vintage Books, 1953, pp.65-67.

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