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Taoism The original form of Taoism is sometimes called philosophical Taoism or classical Taoism. Taoism never even had a name until Buddhism came to China. It was nameless. Lao Tzu even states that “Tao” is only used because it is the closest word in meaning. Nothing can be said about the Tao without taking away from the meaning. When Taoism finally was acknowledged, it changed from its strict philosophical path to a religious one, with its own priests and holy men.

For many centuries Taoism was just a way of life followed by peasant, farmer and gentleman philosopher and artist. They reflected and mediated. They learned from the highest teacher, nature. They meditated using the energy moving through their bodies and mapped out the roads and paths it traveled upon. Each man and woman was his or her own priest.

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The connection with the divine or Tao was the sacred trust of each individual. Taoism was said to have been created by the father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, which means “Old Sage.” Lao Tzu was born in 1321 B.C. He was the keeper of the archives at the imperial courts. The legend has it that he went to the west border at age 80, sad because men were unwilling to follow the path of natural goodness. At the western border, a guard named Yin Xi asked Lao Tzu to record his teachings to him.

Lao Tzu then wrote the Tao Te Ching. In Lao Tzu’s view things were said to create wei or unnatural action by shaping desires or yu. The process of learning the names called ming used in the doctrines helped people to decide which what good and evil, beautiful and ugly, high and low, and “being” (yu) and “non- being” (wu). He believed that those who seek for and follow the Tao are strong of body, clear of mind, and sharp of sight and hearing. Followers of the Tao do not load their mind with anxieties of the world, and are flexible to change.

This meant that wanting and desire was unneeded because it was part of the Way. To abandon knowledge was to abandon names, distinctions, tastes and desires. Thus spontaneous behavior (wu-wei) resulted. Wu-Wei, which is a major theme in Taoism, is to do things in such a way that it does not seem like there is any effort involved. To do this meant to exist without conscious thought just like nature exists. It is letting go of the worldly thought and action so that the Tao might enter. Later in 399 B.C followed Chuang Tzu, who was labeled as the next great voice after Lao Tzu.

Chuang Tzu developed even further what Lao Tzu had written about. He adapted what Lao Tzu taught about mystical learning and perspectives. Chuang Tzus writing was more developed and clearly stated then Lao Tzu. He also emphasized the place humans have in nature. He believed that people should be at peace while moving with the world.

He thought that different emotions lead to certain actions like compassion leads to courage or humility leads to leadership. Taoist ideas and images inspired the Chinese to love nature and to occasional retreat to it from the cares of the world to rest and heal. It also inspired an intense affirmation of physical life from health, well-being, and vitality, to even immortality. Taoism took a turn toward the occult. Some Taoists searched for “isles of the immortals,” or for herbs or chemical compounds that could ensure immortality and magic but Taoists were more interested in health and vitality the search for immortality.

Bibliography Feibleman, James K. Drugs: Interactions. New York, New American Library, 1976.


Throughout history, Taoism has been one of the most influential
religions of Eastern culture. This is certainly one of the most unique
of all religions. Many Taoists, in fact, do not even consider it a
religion; and in many ways it is not. Taoists make no claim that the
Tao exists.1 That is what essentially separates Taoism from the rest of
the world religions: there is no heated debate or battle over Taoist
doctrine; there have been no crusades to spread the religion. The very
essence of Taoism is quite the opposite. Taoisms uniqueness and
open-endedness have allowed the religion to flourish almost undisturbed
and unchanged for over two thousand years.

The founder of Taoism was a man named Lao Tzu, who lived around the
year 604 B.C.E. According to Chinese legend, Lao Tzu was an archivist
in the imperial library at Lo Yang was known for his knowledge, although
he never taught.2 When Lao Tzu left his position at the library, he
went to the Chinese province of Chou. At the border, however, he was
stopped and forced to write down his teachings. During this time, he
wrote the Tao Te Ching, the major scripture of Taoism.3
After Lao Tzus death, a man named Yang Chu (440-366 B.C.E.) took up
his teachings.4 A naturalist and philosopher, Yang Chu believed highly
in self-regard and survival as the core of human nature and direction.

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His ideals were personal integrity and self-protection, and said that he
was unwilling to pluck one hair from his head even if all humanity were
to benefit from it.5
The next influential Taoist philosopher was Chang Tzu, who lived from
350-275 B.C.E. He defined existence using Lao Tzus teachings.6 He
wrote fifty-two books in response to the Tao Te Ching, thirty-three of
which still survive today.7 Using exaggeration and fantasy, he
illustrated Lao Tzus teachings and how the Tao acted in nature. His
theories spoke of a cosmic unity which encompasses all reality and
guides it naturally, without force, to its proper end.8
The Yin and Yang theory became part of Taoist philosophy around 300
B.C.E. when they were mentioned in the Hsi tzu, an appendix to the I
Ching.9 Yin and Yang are defined as the two forces in nature. They are
often called the two breaths or chi.10 Yin is the feminine
principle, representing darkness, coolness, and dampness; Yang is the
masculine principle, representing brightness, warmth, and dryness.11
Neither principle is good or bad; they are not opposites, but each is
needed to maintain stability in the universe.12 This belief holds that
everything is defined through opposition; consequently, the virtues of
balance and understanding are highly valued.13
Taoism became an official religion between 100 and 200 C.E.14 Due to
competition from Buddhism, Taoists adopted many Buddhist beliefs.
During this pivotal point in the religions history, searching for
self-knowledge and wisdom were replaced by searching for solutions to
sorrows and other physical problems.15 Alchemy and superstition became
highly popular during this period of time, as Taoists tried to escape
reality rather than to control the artificial and unnatural. Many
Taoists used magic and the concept of Tao to try to extend the physical
life rather than to focus on the afterlife.16 Gradually the religion
becomes more complicated, with a wide pantheon of gods and a ruling
The leader Chang Ling took the title Heavenly Teacher in 200 C.E. He
created a dynasty of high priests who manipulated Taoism to support a
superstitious doctrine of magic and mysticism.18 Seizing higher power
as a religious leader, he pioneered a merging of Taoism and
Zoroastrianism into a system called Five Bushels of Rice Taoism.
Eventually this developed into a society based on Mazdaism, a
Zoroastrian sect, where every believer was charged five bushels of
rice.19 Although the believers followed the basic Zoroastrian worship
format, they worshipped different gods: the Tao instead of Ahura-Mazda,
and the various Chinese folk gods in place of the Persian Angels.20
Three hundred years later, the philosopher Honen moved away from
Mazdaism and combined Taoism with Buddhism. This simplified religion he
created became known as the Pure Land School, or Amidaism. Gradually,
however, Taoism again became tied to magic, and it failed as a
religion.21 Today, only its original philosophies survive and there are
very few followers of Taoism, mostly found in Taiwan.22 Although
Taoisms religious practices deteriorated with advancing Western
influence, its philosophical aspects have outlasted those of
Confucianism and Zen Buddhism.23
For centuries, Taoism has been known as the Way of Harmony.24 This is
because Taoists believe that the Tao leads all nature toward a natural
balance. The Tao, however, is not considered to be a deity or a ruler:
it may reign but it does not rule.25 This is reflected in seven basic
statements.26 The first states that the Tao is nature. This means that
the Tao is the way of everything, the movement of everything in nature,
and all existence. The second statement is that the Tao is knowledge,
meaning that the Tao is the utmost form of understanding and wisdom and
that to understand it means to understand all. The third statement says
that the Tao is Goodness. This indicates that the Tao is the path
toward virtue, and the highest virtue of these is conforming to the
Tao. The fourth statement is that the Tao is imminent. This means that
the Tao is the source of all reality and that the Tao is inseparable.
The fifth statement tells that the Tao is being, or the process of
becoming, which characterizes reality. The sixth holds that the Tao is
felt in passiveness, not in activity. The final statement asserts that
the Tao is individual and unique for every person. Therefore, no person
can truly know the Tao outside themselves. As the Tao Te Ching states:
The ways that can be walked are not the eternal way.

The names that can be named are not the eternal name.

The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures.

The named is the mother of the myriad creatures.

Always be without desire
in order to observe its wondrous subtleties;
Always have desire
so that you may observe its manifestations.27
In essence, the universe is a pattern which cannot exist without any
part of it. Therefore, trying to alter the Tao through action is
essentially trying to destroy the balance of the universe.28
Taoists have a very simple definition of virtue, called Teh. For a
Taoist, the only virtue is to find unity with the Tao.29 This
contradicts Western religious thought because Westerners believe in
peace and salvation through action. Taoists, however, believe that
unity with the Tao requires no effort but rather passive existence
without work; by finding unity with the Tao, one can therefore find
heaven. This is explained in Lao Tzus doctrine of the three treasures,
those being love, balance, and humility.30 Love stems from and results
in kindness and consideration for others. Balance can be found through
self-control and moderation. Humility results from self-esteem and
happiness in ones status.

The Taoist path to salvation is called Wu Wei, meaning the principle
of non-action.”31 The way to attain unity with the Tao involves no
effort, ambition, discipline, or education. Therefore, each person has
an equal opportunity to attain balance. It involves a surrender to
nature: since every person is by definition part of the Tao, there is no
need or reason to seek it elsewhere. Furthermore, everyone has direct
access to the Tao because the Tao is connected to reality, and everyone
is a part of reality.32 In summary, there is no need to seek answers
outside of oneself. Through non-action the answer is revealed through
ones own existence.

Taoism is different from any other Eastern religion. According to
Lawrence Durrell, Taoism is such a privileged brand of eastern
philosophy that one would be right to regard it as an aesthetic view of
the universe rather than a purely institutional one.33 Thus, as Taoism
is a religion of non-action, Lao Tzu and his followers discouraged the
practice of rituals. As a result, Taoism has no tangible rituals.
Early Taoists, in fact, were far more concerned with everyday life than
with celebrations or worship.34 Taoists prefer to leave the question of
God unanswered.35
Taoist rituals did flourish, however, around and during the 900s.36
During this time lavish temples were built, complex rituals were
practiced, and colorful festivals were celebrated.37 The closest
lasting action in Taoism to rituals is the idea of wu-hsing.38 This is
the set of notions called the five phases (wu-hsing) or powers
(wu-te): water, fire, wood, metal, and earth.39 This concept help
philosophers build a system of correspondences and participations which
link all macrocosmic and microcosmic phenomena. Thus all seasons,
colors, directions, musical tones, animals, and other aspects of nature
correspond to the five major inner organs of the human body.40 Because
of this, many Taoists believed that the essences relating to their
respective phases nourished the organs of the body; this supposedly led
to longevity.41
Several sects of Taoism emerged during the eleventh and twelfth
centuries. Among them were: the Tai-i (Supreme Unity) sect, founded by
Hsiao Pao-chen in approximately 1140; the Chenta Tao (Perfect and Great
Tao) sect, founded by Liu Te-jen in 1142; and the Chan-chen (Perfect
Realization) sect, founded in 1163 by Wang Che.41 The Chan-chen
became very popular, and small groups of monks from this sect survived
until the twentieth century.42
Taoism has been affected largely by Confucianism, and vice versa. The
two religions grew up together and compose a Yin-Yang themselves.
Confucianism works for the public welfare, Taoism concerns the
individual.43 Confucianism emphasized sensibility and gentility, while
the latter encouraged spontaneity.44 While the two religions are
fundamentally different, they rely upon each other to create a balance
of their differences. Because of this, many people believe in and
practice both Confucianism and Taoism. Neither probably would have
survived if the other had never existed.

Taoism is in itself a very difficult religion to define. Little is
known of its founder or its origins, and it has no clear doctrine or
method of worship.45 The whole concept of Tao is extremely abstract and
therefore cannot be fully explained, only understood. The religion may
hold a completely different meaning for each person–it may be a form of
philosophy, religion, or magic.46 The religion has guided countless
individuals through life and toward union with the Tao. As it has
influenced the past through its writings, Taoism may influence the world
for generations more with its wisdom.

1.Bettencourt, Jerome: Comparative World Religions: Notes. Oxnard:
Semester 1994-95.

2.Durrell, Lawrence: A Smile in the Minds Eye. New York: Universe

3.Goetz, Philip (Ed.): Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition, Vol. 28.

Taoism. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1991.

4.Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.

5.Pastva, Loretta: Great Religions of the World. Winona, Minnesota:
Marys Press, 1986.

6.Smullyan, Raymond: The Tao Is Silent. San Francisco: HarperCollins
Publishers, 1977.

7.Watts, Alan: Tao: The Watercourse Way. New York: Pantheon Books,

1 Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way (New York: Pantheon Books,
1975), p. 5.

2 Jerome Bettencourt, Comparative World Religions: Notes (Oxnard: Fall
Semester 1994-95).

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Philip Goetz, Ed., Encyclopaedia Britannica 15th Edition, Vol. 28:
Taoism (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1991), p. 399
10 Ibid., p. 398
11 Bettencourt.

12 Goetz, p. 398.

13 Bettencourt.

14 Ibid.

15 Loretta Pastva, Great Religions of the World (Winona, Minnesota:
Saint Marys Press, 1986), p. 117.

16 Ibid.

17 Bettencourt.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Goetz, p. 407
23 Bettencourt.

24 Ibid.

25 Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way (New York: Pantheon Books,
1975), p. 51.

26 Bettencourt.7
27 Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers,
1977), p. 59.

28 Watts, p. 51.

29 Bettencourt.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Lawrence Durrell, A Smile in the Minds Eye (New York: Universe
Books, 1982), p. 18.

34 Pastva, p. 117.
35 Durrell, p. 19.

36 Pastva, p. 117.

37 Ibid.

38 Goetz, p. 399.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid., p. 404.

42 Ibid.

43 Pastva, p. 115
44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.


Youe been introduced to a variety of philosophical and religious outlooks in H. B. Mitchell book and videos. Your assignment is to pick ONE of those outlooks, and discuss how it effects our understanding of nature. Specifically, how will the outlook youe chosen be likely to impact our engagement of the ecological crisis that is emerging throughout the world?
As we all know, Taoism started way back in ancient China. It is the basic, eternal principle of the universe that goes further than reality and is the starting place of being, nonexistence, and change. The way of the Tao is the Way of Nature and ultimate reality. Taoism explanation of ultimate reality is that of the Tao that moves nature and all of life with ease.
Even though there are a number of vital differences among Buddhism and Taoism, they share a point of view wherein reality is one rather than dual or multiple. The Chinese class Tao Te Ching states publicly the Tao is one: ?i>Look, it cannot be seent is beyond form. Listen, it cannot be heardt is beyond sound. Grasp, it cannot be heldt is intangibletand before it and there is no beginning. Follow it and there is no end. Stay with the ancient Tao, Move with the present. Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.?This points out that form and sound is not the central point of reality.
Taoists considers this world to be a wonderful teacher and a basis of wisdom. It is in the natural world that the mechanisms of Tao can be most observed with no trouble. If we look at nature carefully, we can gain knowledge of what is at the central point of reality. Taoism brings the central point of awe-inspiring knowledge unequivocally into nature.
Tao is the transcendent way of ultimate reality – unidentifiable, unseizeable, and indescribable. Taoists say if you would like to know what is real, study nature. If we standardize ourselves with the Tao, our lives can come within reach of inner harmony. Taoists analyze ultimate reality as an uncongenial force that brought the universe into being.

Taoism says to be relaxed and open, follow nature’s philosophy, and achieve an free-thinking and allow penetration into reality, then one can achieve a life of happiness and tranquility which far surpasses anything that all of humankind’s deceptions and cleverness can devise.

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One of Taoism most infamous symbol is the yin and the yang, which is considered the original parents of creation, whose pairing off spawns all of reality, but they are also balancing principles, neither of which can survive separately from the other. This Way of Nature is the way in which all things come into being out of darkness into light, then pass out of light back into darkness (yin-yang).
Like I have said before, Taoism advocates a world of neness?rather than woness?wherein the whole lot exists as a web of interconnectedness; interconnectedness being the correlation with each other. Tao, nature, and reality are one. A happy and righteous life is one that is in synchronization with the Tao, with Nature.

The outlook I have chosen will not likely impact our engagement of the ecological crisis that is emerging throughout the world. I just do not see it happening.


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