There is a thing, formless yet complete. Before heaven and earth it existed. Without sound, without substance, it stands alone and unchanging. It is all-pervading and unfailing. We do not know its name, but we call it Tao. .. Being one with nature, the sage is in accord with the Tao. (Lao Tzu)
Taoism, along with Buddhism and Confucianism, are the three great religions / philosophies of Ancient China. In 440 B.C. Taoism was adopted as a state religion of China, with Lao Tzu (so called founder of Taoism) honoured as a deity. State support of Taoism ended in 1911 with the end of the Ch'ing Dynasty and much Taoist heritage was destroyed.
Tao (pronounced 'Dao') can be defined as 'path', or 'road'.
The way of the Tao is the way of Nature and of ultimate reality. Tao is often
described as a force that flows through all life. A happy and virtuous life
is one that is in harmony with the Tao, with Nature.
So the philosophy of Taoism understands Tao as the One Thing which exists and connects the Many things. Tao, Nature, Reality are One. The idea that 'All is One and interconnected' is not found solely within Chinese Philosophy. The ancient Indians and Greek Philosophers also understood the universe as a unity, as have many other philosophers and scientists over the past 2500 years.
As Leibniz profoundly says;
Reality cannot be found except in One single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another. (Leibniz, 1670)
Albert Einstein also had a good understanding of humans as an inseparable part of the One, as he writes;
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe ... We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein)
The foundation of Taoism is correct, that Tao, Nature, Reality are One. It
is important to understand that the ancient Chinese philosophers did not actually
know how the One Thing / Tao caused and connected the many things, and further
that human Language could never directly describe this One Thing (which must
therefore remain beyond comprehension) and which we called 'Tao'. (God, Brahman,
As Lao Tzu proclaimed;
Tao that can be expressed is not the Eternal Tao. .. There is a thing, formless
yet complete. Before heaven and earth it existed. We do not know its name,
but we call it Tao. It is the Mystery of Mysteries.
(Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching)
If One Thing / Tao is all that exists, then there can be no
logical concepts, (as logic requires two things), nor indeed any understanding
of how this One thing could cause the Many changing things which we experience
in the world. The error has been in not correctly realising the properties
of the One.
Recent discoveries on the properties of Space and the Wave Structure of Matter (Wolff, Haselhurst) confirm that we can understand Reality (Tao) and the interconnection of all things from a logical / scientific foundation.
The One Thing / Tao, (Space) has Properties (Wave-Medium) that give rise to the many things (Matter as the Spherical Wave Motion of Space). This then allows us to form the necessary connections for language and logic (as logic requires a relationship between two things). Space and Motion exist a priori (necessary for us to have senses, the cause of our senses).
As Humans have evolved from Nature (Tao) they ultimately depend upon Nature
(Tao) for their survival. Until we understand what we are as humans (what matter
is) and how we are connected to the universe (Reality, Tao), it is impossible
for humanity to be wise, and to be able to evolve cultural knowledge that enables
us to live in Harmony with Nature (Tao).
If you are interested in the Tao that can be expressed, please see below for a (very short) introduction to the Metaphysics of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of Matter.
This webpage on the metaphysics / philosophy of Tao, Taoism is an 'evolving
work in progress' with many quotes needed to be written up and explained from
this new metaphysical foundation. So for now we hope you enjoy the following
information and history of Taoism, with quotes from Lao Tzu (Tao te Ching),
Chuang Tzu and many other philosophers / scientists.
We greatly appreciate any comments on how we can improve this website and its content. So please feel free to write to us.
Geoff Haselhurst, Karene Howie, January, 2005 Email
Tao (pronounced 'Dao') can be defined as 'path', or 'road'. The way of the
Tao is the way of Nature and of ultimate reality. Tao is often described as
a force that flows through all life. A happy and virtuous life is one that
is in harmony with the Tao, with Nature.
Much ambiguity has clouded the definition of Tao / Taoism as Lao Tzu proclaimed;
The Tao that can be expressed is not the Eternal Tao. ... There is a thing, formless yet complete. Before heaven and earth it existed. We do not know its name, but we call it Tao. It is the Mystery of Mysteries. (Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching)
The ‘this’ is also ‘that’. The ‘that’ is also ‘this’… That the that and the this cease to be opposites is the very essence of the Tao. Only this essence, an axis as it were, is the center of the circle responding to endless changes. (Fung Yu-Ling, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, 1958)
Taoism is basically indefinable. It has to be experienced. It
refers to a power which envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living
and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in
the Universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites (i.e. there would be no
love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female).
Yin Yang is a well known Taoist symbol. It represents the balance of opposites in the universe. When they are equally present, all is calm. When one is outweighed by the other, there is confusion and disarray.
Taoists follow the art of "wu wei," which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam which would interfere with its natural flow. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/taoism.htm)
Different Chinese philosophers, writing probably in 5-4 centuries B.C., presented some major ideas and a way of life that are nowadays known under the name of Taoism, the way of correspondence between man and the tendency or the course of natural world. (Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way)
We believe in the formless and eternal Tao, and we recognize all personified deities as being mere human constructs. We reject hatred, intolerance, and unnecessary violence, and embrace harmony, love and learning, as we are taught by Nature. We place our trust and our lives in the Tao, that we may live in peace and balance with the Universe, both in this mortal life and beyond. (Creed of the Western Reform Taoist Congregation)
Taoism is a strongly pantheistic religion .. Its central focus is the Tao or Way, conceived of as a mysterious and numinous unity, infinite and eternal, underlying all things and sustaining them.
Great Tao flows everywhere ..
All things depend on it for life,
and it does not turn away from them.
One may think of it as the mother of all beneath Heaven.
We do not know its name, but we call it Tao ...
Deep and still, it seems to have existed forever.
The ideal of Taoism was to live in harmony with the Tao and to cultivate a simple and frugal life, avoiding unnecessary action: 'Being one with nature, the sage is in accord with the Tao'
When Tung Kuo Tzu asked Chuang Tzu where the Tao was, he replied it was in the ant, the grass, the clay tile, even in excrement : 'There is nowhere where it is not ... There is no single thing without Tao'. (Harrison, Pantheism, 1999)
The most important characteristic of the Eastern world view - one could almost say the essence of it - is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness. All things are seen as interdependent and inseparable parts of this cosmic whole; as different manifestations of the same ultimate reality. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975)
In ordinary life, we are not aware of the unity of all things, but divide the world into separate objects and events. This division is useful and necessary to cope with our everyday environment, but it is not a fundamental feature of reality. It is an abstraction devised by our discriminating and categorising intellect. To believe that our abstract concepts of separate ‘things’ and ‘events’ are realities of nature is an illusion. (Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975)
The central aim of Eastern mysticism is to experience all the phenomena in the world as manifestations of the same ultimate reality. This reality is seen as the essence of the universe, underlying and unifying the multitude of things and events we observe. The Hindus call it Brahman, The Buddhists Dharmakaya (The Body of Being) or Tathata (Suchness) and the Taoists Tao; each affirming that it transcends our intellectual concepts and defies further explanation. This ultimate essence, however, cannot be separated from its multiple manifestations. It is central to the very nature to manifest itself in myriad forms which come into being and disintegrate, transforming themselves into one another without end. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975)
The founder of Taoism is believed by many to be Lao Tse (604 - 531 BCE), a contemporary of Confucius. (Alternate spellings: Li Erh, Lao Tan, Lao Tze, Lao Tsu, Lao Tzu, Laozi, Laotze, etc.). He was searching for a way that would avoid the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted society during his lifetime. The result was his book: Tao te Ching (a.k.a. Daodejing), composed some time between the sixth and third centuries B.C. Some believe that Lao Tzu is a mythical character.
Taoism started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into a religious faith in 440 CE when it was adopted as a state religion. At that time Lao-Tse became popularly venerated as a deity. Taoism, along with Buddhism and Confucianism, became one of the three great religions of China. With the end of the Ch'ing Dynasty in 1911, state support for Taoism ended. Much of the Taoist heritage was destroyed during the next period of warlordism. After the Communist victory in 1949, religious freedom was severely restricted. "The new government put monks to manual labor, confiscated temples, and plundered treasures. Several million monks were reduced to fewer than 50,000" by 1960. During the cultural revolution in China from 1966 to 1976, much of the remaining Taoist heritage was destroyed. Some religious tolerance has been restored under Deng Xiao-ping from 1982 to the present time.
The Tao that can be expressed is not the Eternal Tao. (Lao Tsu/Tzu)
If people do not revere the Law of Nature,
It will inexorably and adversely affect them.
If they accept it with knowledge and reverence,
It will accommodate them with balance and harmony. (Lao Tzu)
Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river. (Lao Tzu)
There is a thing, formless yet complete.
Before heaven and earth it existed.
Without sound, without substance,
it stands alone and unchanging.
It is all-pervading and unfailing.
One may think of it as the mother of all beneath Heaven.
We do not know its name, but we call it Tao.
Deep and still, it seems to have existed forever.
The Great Tao flows everywhere.
It may go left or right.
All things depend on it for life, and it does not turn away from them.
It accomplishes its tasks, but does not claim credit for it.
It clothes and feeds all things, but does not claim to be master over them.
Always without desires, it may be called the Small.
All things come to it and it does not master them;
it may be called The Great.
We look at it and do not see it;
Its name is the invisible.
We listen to it and do not hear it;
Its name is the inaudible.
We touch it and do not find it;
Its name is the Subtle (formless).
These three cannot be further probed,
and hence merge into one . . .
Infinite and boundless, it cannot be given any name;
It reverts to nothingness.
This is called shape without shape, form without object.
It is the vague and elusive.
Meet it and you will not see its head.
Follow it and you will not see its back.
The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao;
the name that can be named is not the eternal name.
Non-Being is the term given to that from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
Being is the term given to the mother that rears all things . . . [Bodde]
The two are the same,
But after they are produced , they have different names.
The two together we call the Mystery.
It is the Mystery of Mysteries. [Bodde].
When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
There arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they know the good as the good,
There arises the perception of evil.
Therefore Being and non-Being produce each other.
The thing that is called Tao is eluding and vague.
Vague and eluding, there is in it form.
Eluding and vague, in it are things.
Tao invariably takes no action, and yet there is nothing left undone.
Clay is molded to form a vessel,
But it is on its non-being that the usefulness of the utensil depends.
Doors and windows are cut to make a room,
but it is on its non-being that the utility of the room depends.
Heaven and earth are not humane.
They regard all things as straw dogs.
Hold on to the Tao of old in order to master the things of the present.
Being one with Nature, he is in accord with the Tao.
Being in accord with the Tao, he is everlasting.
The sage manages affairs without action
And spreads doctrines without words . . .
By acting without action, all things will be in order.
To hold and fill to overflowing
is not as good as to stop in time.
Sharpen a sword-edge to its very sharpest,
And the edge will not last long . . .
Withdraw as soon as your work is done.
Such is Heaven's Way.
The weak and the tender overcome the hard and the strong.
To yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become straight.
To be empty is to be full . . .
To have little is to possess.
The stiff and the hard are companions of death,
The tender and the weak are companions of life.
There is nothing softer and weaker than water,
And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things.
The use of force usually brings requital.
Wherever armies are stationed, briers and thorns grow.
Great wars are always followed by famines.
Weapons are instruments of evil, not the instruments of a good ruler.
When he uses them unavoidably, he regards calm restraint as the best principle.
Even when he is victorious, he does not regard it as praiseworthy,
For to praise victory is to delight in the slaughter of men.
I treat those who are good with goodness,
And I also treat those who are not good with goodness,
Thus goodness is attained.
Whether it is big or small, many or few, repay hatred with virtue.
Attain complete emptiness,
Maintain steadfast quietude.
All things flourish
But each one returns to its root.
This return to its root means tranquility.
Therefore let people hold on to these:
Have few desires.
He who hoards most will lose heavily,
He who is contented suffers no disgrace.
There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed.
He who is contented with contentment is always contented.
The courts are exceedingly splendid,
while the fields are exceedingly weedy,
and the granaries are exceedingly empty.
Elegant clothes are worn,
sharp weapons are carried,
Foods and drinks are enjoyed beyond limit,
And wealth and treasures are accumulated in excess.
This is robbery and extravagance.
This is indeed not the Tao.
Chuang Tzu lived some time around 369 - 268 B.C. His dates are uncertain, as are the details of his life.
Chuang Tzu was a leading thinker representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth the early ideas of what was to become the Taoist school. Central in these is the belief that only by understanding Tao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in unity can man achieve true happiness and be truly free, in both life and death. Witty and imaginative, enriched by brilliant imagery, making sportive use of both mythological and historical personages (including even Confucius), the book which bears Chuang Tzu's name has for centuries been savoured by Chinese readers. (http://www.coldbacon.com/chuang/bio.html)
The book, Chuang Tzu, was probably written by a number of followers of Chuang
Tzu. It expresses a deeply compassionate insight into human weaknesses and
sufferings, and a refreshing concern with common folk and the poor which is
unusual in ancient texts.
He did not believe in any creator God, or any God at all in the Western sense. But he did believe in an underlying Tao, Way or One, from which the Heaven and Earth derived. This One transfused everything in the universe from the lowest to the highest.
The individual could attain mystical unity with this One by achieving complete emptiness or hsü - a timeless state free of worries or selfish desires, open to impressions but transcending all individual material objects.
Much of the Chuang Tzu focused on the benefits of inaction. On this it followed the Tao-te-Ching, but took its philosophy to extremes. People should abandon concern for fame, power and wealth and follow a simple life. They should distrust ethical and political schemes and follow their instincts. (http://members.aol.com/Heraklit1/chuang.htm)
Do not ask whether the Principle is in this or in that; it is in all beings. It is on this account that we apply to it the epithets of supreme, universal, total ... It has ordained that all things should be limited, but is Itself unlimited, infinite. As to what pertains to manifestation, the Principle causes the succession of its phases, but is not this succession. It is the author of cause and effects, but is not the causes and effects. It is the author of condensations and dissipations (birth and death, changes of state), but is not itself condensations and dissipations. All proceeds from It and is under its influence. It is all things, but is not identical with beings, for it is neither differentiated nor limited. (Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chang Tzu)
The Tao te Ching never speaks of a transcendent God or gods. Its central focus is the Tao or Way, conceived of as a mysterious and numinous unity, infinite and eternal, underlying all things and sustaining them. When Tung Kuo Tzu asked Chuang Tzu where the Tao was, he replied it was in the ant, the grass, the clay tile: 'There is nowhere where it is not ... There is no single thing without Tao. Heaven and I were created together, and all things and I are one. (Chuang Tzu,The Book of Chang Tzu)
The sage has the sun and moon by his side and the universe under his arm. He blends everything into a harmonious whole. (Chuang Tzu)
Only the intelligent knows how to identify all things as one. . . . When one is at ease with himself, one is near Tao. This is to let Nature take its own course. (Chuang Tzu)
He who knows the activities of Nature lives according to Nature. (Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chang Tzu)
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things. (Chuang Tzu)
Human life is limited, but knowledge is limitless. To drive the limited in pursuit of the limitless is fatal; and to presume that one really knows is fatal indeed! (Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chang Tzu)
In doing good, avoid fame. In doing bad, avoid disgrace. Pursue a middle course as your principle. Thus you will guard your body from harm, preserve your life, fulfil your duties by your parents, and live your allotted span of life. (Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chang Tzu) http://www.edepot.com/taochuang.html
Problem of One and the Many - Brief History of Metaphysics and Solutions
to the Fundamental Problems of Uniting the; One and the Many, Infinite and
the Finite, Eternal and the Temporal, Absolute and Relative, Continuous and Discrete, Simple and Complex, Matter and Universe.
Confucius-Confucianism - Quotes from the Famous Chinese Philosopher Confucius. Confucianism Beliefs and Religion discussed from foundations of the Metaphysics of Space and Motion. Pictures / Quotations of Confucius.
Eastern Philosophy: Buddha: Buddhism Religion: Nirvana - 'All phenomena link together in a mutually conditioning network.' The Wave Structure of Matter (WSM) explains Nirvana (Truth) Karma (Interconnection).
Eastern Philosophy: Hinduism - Hinduism (Hindu Religion) correctly realised that Reality / Brahman is One and Dynamic. On Space (Akasa) and Motion (Prana), Illusion (Maya), Ignorance (Avidya), rebirth / cycles (Samsara). Information and links on Hinduism, Hindu Religion.
Eastern Philosophy: Jainism - The Metaphysics of Space and Motion explains the Metaphysical Foundations of Jainism (Motion and Unity).
Eastern Philosophy: Kundalini - Discussion of the Philosophy and Metaphysics of Kundalini, the divine / cosmic energy that lies within every human being. When Kundalini is awakened we experience our true nature, Self as Universe.
Eastern Philosophy: Tantra Tantric Sex - 'Tantra' meaning to weave, web. Discussion of the Tantric belief that All is One and interconnected, Sex is a sacred and divine experience.
Eastern Philosophy: Yin-Yang - The Wave Structure of Matter explains the Balance of Opposites and Harmony in the Universe.
http://www.crystalinks.com/taoism.html - Taoism is
not a religion, nor a philosophy. It is a "Way" of life. It is a
River. The Tao is the natural order of things. It is a force that flows through
every living and sentient object, as well as through the entire universe.
http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/ttc-list.htm - English Translations of the Tao Te Ching ~~ Dao De Jing
http://www.religioustolerance.org/taoism.htm - History of Taoism: Tao (pronounced "Dow") can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/ - Online text of Tao de Ching. Attributed to Lao-tzu, (580-500 B.C.), it may predate him by several centuries. The earliest known manuscripts of the Tao te Ching date to the third century B.C.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cfu/index.htm#fivecla - Online Text of the I Ching, or Book of Changes, is the most widely read of the five Chinese Classics. The book was traditionally written by the legendary Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (2953-2838 B.C.). It is possible that the the I Ching originated from a prehistoric divination technique which dates back as far as 5000 B.C. Thus it may be the oldest text at this site. Further commentaries were added by King Wen and the Duke of Chou in the eleventh century B.C.
http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/cz-list.htm - The Chuang-tzu or Zhuang-zi. Links to different translations of Chuang Tzu.
http://www.personaltao.com/ - We just received a lovely letter from them appreciating our work on the wave structure of matter and its relation to Taoism. Their site is elegant and gentle, with a nice attitude about self development.
God: One Infinite
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The Philosophy Shop has three portraits and quotes on Taoism from Lao Tzu.
Flowing with the Tao: Balance, Harmony, Oneness
'Being one with nature, the sage is in accord with the Tao.'
Lao Tzu Pictures Taoism Quotes Tao Philosophy
'The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao.'
Tao Te Ching: The Law of Nature Lao Tzu
'If people do not revere the Law of Nature, It will ...adversely affect them. If they accept it with knowledge and reverence, It will accommodate them with balance and harmony.'
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