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Two Taoisms

From: (Xiwangmu)
Newsgroups: alt.philosophy.taoism,alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.misc
Subject: Two Taoisms (? LONG Creel/Fung quotes)
Date: 4 Dec 1995 10:19:33 -0800


Quotes from two books I was reading recently:

"Taoism is, as Maspero has so well shown, a mystical philosophy.  It is
nature mysticism.  In the midst of our cities, Taoism may well seem
nonsense.  But go out to nature, the trees, the birds, the distant view,
the placidity of a summer landscape or the savage fury of a storm, and
much Taoism will seem to possess a validity stronger than that of the
most intricate logic...."

"Like all true mystics, these Taoist philosophers found their satisfaction
in the mystical experience itself.  They had no need of the activities and
the rewards sought by ordinary men.  Thus we are told that when Chuang Tzu
was invited to become prime minister of Ch'u he refused, with a smile, to
leave his fishing.  The book *Chuang Tzu* tells us that after Lieh Tzu was
enlightened, he 'went home and for three years did not go out.... He took
no interest in what went on.... He stood like a clod, sealed up within
himself despite all distractions, and continued thus to the end of his life.'

"Such men illustrate the statement that 'the perfect man does nothing, and
the great sage originates nothing; they merely contemplate the universe.'
They represent what we may call the 'contemplative' aspect of Taoism.  Such
dedicated mystics are rare, and it is doubtful that there were many of them
even among the early Taoists.

"The conclusion of contemplative Taoism is clear.  One should care nothing
for worldly power, position, or honors.  One might go into the wilderness
as a recluse, or, if one stayed among men, he would be indifferent to their
attitude toward himself.  Thus the *Lao Tzu* says: 'Those who understand
me are very few; for this reason I am all the more worthy of honor.  It is
for this reason that the sage wears a garment of coarse cloth, concealing
that which is more precious than the finest jade within his bosom.'

"Now it is all very well to talk of caring nothing for the world's opinion,
of not striving, being perfectly quiescent, remaining content within the
lowest position in the world, and so forth.  But human beings get tired
of that sort of thing.  And most of the Taoists were human, not [sic] matter
how much they tried not to be.  Thus we find in their works repeated
statements to the effect that, by doing nothing, the Taoist sage in fact
does everything; by being utterly weak, he overcomes the strong; by being
utterly humble, he comes to rule the world.  This is no longer 
'comtemplative' Taoism.  It has moved to the 'purposive' aspect.

"The first step in this remarkable transition probably comes from mysticism.
The *Tao* is the absolute, the totality of all that is.  If one regards
himself as simply a part of that, then it is clear that no matter what
happens to him, he cannot get out of it.  One seeks then to become merged
into the *Tao*; the Lao Tzu tells us:

	This is called the mysterious absorption.
	He who has experienced it cannot be treated as an intimate, or 
	Cannot be helped, or harmed,
	Cannot be honored, or humbled.
	Therefore, he occupies the first place among all the world's 
"This is the transition.  One who is absorbed into the *Tao* cannot be
hurt because he recognizes no hurt.  One who cannot be hurt is
impregnable.  One who is impregnable is more powerful than all those
who would hurt him.  Therefore, he is the chief and the most powerful
of creatures.  This skilful transition is made in many forms.  The Taoist
sage has no ambitions; therefore, he has no failures.  He who never fails
always succeeds.  And he who always succeeds is all-powerful.

"It should be noted that, even though this reasoning may seem fallacious,
the person who is actually convinced that he is 'in tune with the
universe' and a channel for all the powers of the universe has great
advantages in self-confidence and poise.  This is far supperior to such
autosuggestive devices as telling one's self, 'Day by day in every way I
am getting better and better.'  Thus the convinced Taoist would have
personal characteristics well calculated to impress others and assure them
of his special and sagely character....

"This conception was capable, if it fell into the wrong hands, of truly
terrifying consequences.  For the enlightened Taoist is beyond good and
evil; for him these are merely words used by the ignorant and foolish.
If it suits his whim, he may destroy a city and massacre its inhabitants
with the concentrated fury of a typhoon, and feel no more qualms of
conscience than the majestic sun that shines upon the scene of desolation
after the storm.  After all, both life and death, begetting and destruction,
are parts of the harmonious order of the universe, which is good because it
exists and because it is itself.

"In this conception of the Taoist sage, Taoism released upon humanity what
may truly be called a monster.  By any human standards, he is unreachable
and immovable; he cannot be influence by love or hate, fear or hope of
gain, pity or admiration.  Fortunately, this conception has seldom been
clothed in flesh; but there is doubt that some of the more despotic
Chinese emperors were inspired, not to say intoxicated, by this ideal.
It is ironic that Taoism, at root so completely anarchistic, should have
become so greatly associated with government.  This connection is so
common that a famous Han dynasty work described Taoism as 'the method of
the ruler on his throne.'"

_Chinese Thought: From Confucius to Mao Tse-Tung_, by H. G. Creel,
	published by University of Chicago Press, in 1953; pp. 94-113.

This excerpt sets the tone for the comparison.  Now hear from Doktor Fung:

"As to Taoism, there is a distinction between Taoism as a philosophy,
which is called *Tao chia* (the Taoist school), and the Taoist religion
(*Tao chiao*).  Their teachings are not only different; they are even
contradictory.  Taoism as a philosophy teaches the doctrine of following
nature, while Taoism as a religion teaches the doctrine of working
*against* nature.  The Taoist religion has the spirit of science, which
is the conquering of nature.  If one is interested in the history of
Chinese science, the writings of the religious Taoists will supply much

"This-worldliness and other-worldliness stand in contrast to each other
as do realism and idealism.  The task of Chinese philosophy is to
accomplish a synthesis out of these antitheses.  That does not mean
that they are to be abolished.  They are still there, but have been
made into a synthetic whole.  How can this be done?  This is the problem
which Chinese philosophy attempts to solve.

"According to Chinese philosophy, the man who accomplishes this synthesis,
not only in theory but also in deed, is the sage.  He is both this-worldly
and other-worldly.  The spiritual achievement of the Chinese sage 
corresponds to the saint's achievement in Buddhism, and in Western religion.
But the Chinese sage is not one who does not concern himself with the 
business of the world.  His character is described as one of 'sageliness
within and kingliness without.'  That is to say, in his inner sageliness,
he accomplishes spiritual cultivation; in his kingliness without, he
functions in society.  It is not necessary that the sage should be the
actual head of the government in his society.  From the standpoint of
practical politics, for the most part, the sage certainly has no chance
of being the head of the state.  The saying 'sageliness within and
kingliness without' means only that he who has the noblest spirit should,
theoretically, be king.  As to whether he actually has or has not the
chance of being king, that is immaterial.

"Since the character of the sage is, according to Chinese tradition,
one of sageliness within and kingliness without, the task of philosophy
is to enable man to develop this kind of character.  Therefore, what
philosophy discusses is what the Chinese philosophers describe as the
*Tao* (Way, or basic principles) of sageliness within and kingliness

"This sounds like the Platonic theory or the philosopher-king.
According to Plato, in an idea state, the philosopher should be the
king or the king should be a philosopher; and in order to become a
philosopher, a man must undergo a long period of philosophical
training before his mind can be 'converted' from the world of changing
things to the world of eternal ideas.  Thus according to Plato, as
according to the Chinese philosophers, the task of philosophy is to
enable man to have the character of sageliness within and kingliness
without.  But according to Plato, when a philosopher becomes king, he
does so against his will -- in other worlds, it is something forced
on him, and entails a great sacrifice on his part.  This is what was
also held by the ancient Taoists.  There is the story of a sage who,
being asked by the people of a certain state to become their king,
escaped and hid himself in a mountain cave.  But the people found the
cave, smoked him out and compelled him to assume the difficult task.
(*Lu:-shih Ch'un-ch'iu*, I, 2.)  This is one similarity between Plato
and the ancient Taoists, and it also shows the character of other-
worldliness in Taoist philosophy.  Following the main tradition of
Chinese philosophy, the Neo-Taoist, Kuo Hsiang of the third century
A.D., revised this point....

"Confucianism is the philosophy of social organization, and so is
also the philosophy of daily life.  Confucianism emphasizes the
social responsibilities of man, while Taoism emphasizes what is
natural and spontaneous in him....

"Because it 'roams within the bounds of society,' Confucianism
appears more this-worldly than Taoism, and because it 'roams beyond
the bounds of society,' Taoism appears more other-worldly than
Confucianism.  These two trends of thought rivaled on another, but
also complemented each other.  They exercised a sort of balance of
power.  This gave to the Chinese people a better sense of balance
in regard to this-worldliness and other-worldliness.

"There were Taoists in the third and fourth centuries who attempted
to make Taoism closer to Confucianism, and there were also Confucians
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries who attempted to make
Confucianism closer to Taoism.  We call these Taoists the Neo-Taoists
and these Confucians the Neo-Confucians.  It was these movements that
made Chinese philosophy both of this world and of the other world...."

_A Short History of Chinese Philosophy..._, by Fung Yu-lan, published
 by Macmillan Publishing in 1948; pp. 3-22.

Doktor Fung is very interesting in his expressions, especially when
compared with Mr. Creel.  Both seem to presume a divergence of 'types
of Taoism' (Creel calls them 'aspects', Fung appears to separate them
somewhat entirely), and yet neither of them appears to accept that the
text concerning 'rulership' (esp. within the Lao or Chuang) is in some
way 'metaphorical' of a mystical relationship with the universe 
(possibly excepting Fung's hypothesis regarding sage/kings and their
'worldliness').  Creel seems to deal with the 'aspects of Taoism' as
if there is/was no relationship between them, while Fung seems to
portray only Taoist *philosophy* of incorporating the mystical aspect.  



The individual interpretation of the lines of the TTC is heavily colored 
by what we bring to the text.  How do you read the lines?  It is a mirror 
we hold up to ourselves, looking within, to see both our nature, and the 
World's.  What do you see?  How do you interprete the message?  Does the 
message stay constant, or evolve as we do in our understanding of the Tao?  
I am of the opinion that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' answer here.  We 
are shown what we are ready to see, and it's never the same for any two 

alt.philosophy.taoism: (DoctorNine)
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