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To: alt.philosophy.taoism,alt.magick.tyagi
From: (Hsi Wang Mu)
Subject: Tao/Thelema (Was Re: Taoist Conflict Resolution)
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 1995 16:39:08 -0500


Dave Neal ( [some omitted]:
|>...given the taoist and zen principles... of detachment, emptiness, etc., 

You said 'please don't quibble with the semantics here' in the part I
omitted.   I don't think that bringing up the meaning of your premise
is 'quibbling' when you refer in one sentence to such complex concepts
as 'detachment' and 'emptiness', let alone 'the taoist and zen
principles' (as if these are all self-consistent or easily obtained).

There are some very important arguments that incorporate a discernment
between taoist and zen principles, for one, and the notions of detachment
and emptiness may or may not include a moralism which allows us to
investigate the taoist relationship to what someone may call 'Evil'.

|>how does a Taoist deal with evil?

'Evil' is a Manichaean concept (at least!) which has permeated a vast
extent of Western religion.  It is a specific manifestation of what
many anthropologists have called the 'sacred/profane distinction'
(see Mircea Eliade on this, among others).

As one might expect, different taoists approach the concept of the
profane from their various perspectives, and whether one contends
oneself to be of a philosophic, religious or mystical fiber will
often determine the response.  

Philosophically and mystically, as exemplified by the writings
attributed to Lao and Chuang at least, the various polarities of the
cosmos are not divided up and shunned or grasped.  Quite the contrary,
the Sage is said to know both poles without holding to either.

Religiously or magically, I presume, with very little study of the
texts or people who would demonstrate this, that a taoist might
consider an overabundance of Yin or Yang (or any of the elements or
energies which proceed from these) to be a rough equivalent of at
least 'dangerous' or 'unhealthy'.  This could be, within the paradigm
of sacred/profane, easily placed upon the side of 'profane'.

I doubt that there are many classical philosophers or mystics who could
be said to accept the Judeo-Christian concept of Evil in the sense of
a divinely-categorized moral depravity.  The religious and magicians
might indicate that dwellers in the Lower Realms (hells) are 'evil'
in this sense, though whether this is a temporary condition as a result
of imbalance of vital energies or a permanent and essential condition
of depravity would likely vary, the dominant preference being toward 
the former. (.mpa) writes:
|My own personal feeling is that there is no such thing as evil. Evil is a 
|construct,  a valuation. 

It is an often theological feature of cosmology, requiring the Creator-god
whose judgement and ethical guide has designated certain activities or
omissions to be contrary to Hir Approved Way.  I have seldom seen such
a Creator-god described within taoist texts (the translations to which I
have been priveleged to refer, at least).

|There is, however, activity that aids the flow and activity that impedes 
|it. What defines this activity is the period and environment that it 
|appears in or intrudes into. One who moves with the flow may be moved to 
|intervene and do good or moved to merely step aside.  

These are relative goods, in a sense, since the flow and the position
with respect to the whole may change.  There is no Absolute Evil in 
the sense of a Christian Satan or a Muslim Iblis, however, which is
described by this kind of theoretic.

|I guess what I'm trying to say in response to your question is 'From 
|moment to moment.'

Yes, it is temporary and relative.  This is why I would prefer to call
it 'imbalance' or make it known that 'good' and 'evil' here are relative
qualifiers indicating my evaluation of that to which I may apply them.

|>I believe that evil is brought about when people stop seeking to improve 
|>themselves and try to force the world to meet their needs. They find 
|>themselves lacking, and try to find solace through externalities. This, 
|>colllectively, has caused enormouse environmental degradation...a 
|>"Tragedy of the Commons" of historic proportions. 

Given this definition of 'evil' (not really a theological one but one
which describes some values and activities that the author of this thread
considers to be representative), my response would change considerably.

I think that the taoist response to someone who stops seeking to improve
themselves would be either benign neglect or great joy.  I say 'great
joy' because, as Smullyan so humorously represents it, the taoist is not
concerned with 'making something of oneself', such as do many Buddhists 
(cf 'bodhisattvas' and 'arhats') or Confucians (cf 'the Sage' and the
emphasis placed upon duty).

When this cessation of improvement becomes an attempt to force the world
to meet one's needs, I'm sure the taoist response would differ greatly,
some perhaps engaging the individual, some just bypassing them completely.
Given inability to avoid them, I think what you are talking about here is
called (within the English/Feng translation at least) by Lao 'the Foolish'
or the 'man of war'.

Chuang Tzu illustrates the taoist response to the tyrant as promoted by 
his Confucius (in the English/Feng chapter 4, 'Human Affairs') as one of
quiet engagement.  The method as I understand Chuang includes 'fasting'
(disciplined honing of the will), becoming flexible of thought, and then
coming to understand the mind and spirit (of oneself and others).  From
this state one may follow the 'wise men of old' and 'realize Tao in
oneself before offering it to others'.  

In this way, 'tao' is remarkably similar to how Aleister Crowley described
the principle of 'Thelema' (Greek for 'will'), and incorporates a similar
tactic of 'offering the Law (of Thelema)' to all whom one meets.  

These are not particular counsels but generalized.  It is promoted within
taoist and thelemic texts as a sound approach to daily living that the
development of this principle or quality-state of oneself enables one to
engage all manner of circumstance in the reflection of the Sage (or, in
Crowley's preferred terminology, the Master).  

Realizing the tao, or having discovered one's 'true will' (in Thelemic
terms), the Sage/Master flows with the currents of Yin and Yang in a kind
of Conversation, and this yields Knowledge of a sort more valuable than
may be obtained rationally.  The intuitive sense is engaged and one enters 
into the stream of the awakened-consciousness (in Buddhist terms).

Encountering the evil in such a manner, it immediately ceases having the
strict qualities of 'evil' per se.  Instead of an 'evil person', for
examle, the Sage perceives the confluence of energies which coincide in
the encounter and reacts in a manner coincident with the way of all 
things.  Doing nothing, the Sage completes the Great Work.

|>I think the "solution" is for people to come to terms with themselves, 
|>to be themselves...rather than what society expects them to be.

This is perhaps too extreme for some some taoists.  After all, even Chuang
(in the above-mentioned work) proclaims the value of doing one's social
duty.  There is a tricky balance struck by the Sage, it seems, between
cultural and counter-cultural energies.  Perhaps it could be said that
the Sage dwells 'between' the currents, slipping by unnoticed and in some
way playing a minor part that assists the entirety.   

However, your words about 'coming to terms with oneself' are reflected in
the quotation above in the sense of 'honing the will' and 'coming to know
the mind and spirit'.  Given these, truly 'being oneself' is, to many
mystics, a special condition that requires sustained discipline and 
intention.  I'm not sure that this *necessarily* would flow contrarily
to the dictates of society, though it might.  Certainly the Sage would
not be seen to be either contrary to or coincident with societal standards,
for she would not be seen at all.  In the tradition of sufism this is
called 'disappearing within the folds of virtue' and brings to mind the
perfect magical working which leaves no trace of its enactment.

|That would be nice but what exists for humans outside of human society?

The other nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine things.

|> the face of the continuing political, social, and environmental 
|>chaos that is enveloping the world, this seems to be too long-term and 
|>perhaps utopian a vision to ever be realized.

That it is a vision at all makes it inadequate to inspire resolution of
conflict as you have set forth the dilemma.  The only way to approach
the difficulties you mention (at least according the text which I was
just referencing) is to start at the center and work outward.  The tool
for the working must be fashioned and consecrated before the working
may be fruitfully initiated.  Once the instrument of the way is 
fashioned, no amount of resistance by circumstantial energies will
remain.  The true will (tao) is something which simply cannot be
resisted.  Abiding within the Mysterious Valley of Potentiality, the
Sage welcomes the worshipper and the thief alike into the Temple,  
confident in the inscrutible wisdom of tao.

|There has never (since consciousness) been  anything but 'chaos'.
|Chaos is the reaction of the rational to the way things are.

There is often talk of 'chaos' within taoist texts.  What you say here
may be accurate, but many speak of it as if there is such a 'thing'.
There is a marvellous tale about Chaos which I favor greatly.  It
involves the Four Directions and their desire to 'improve upon' that
which they know as 'Chaos'.  They notice a lack of sensory apparatus
and so they begin drilling holes in Chaos until, eventually, Chaos dies.

|> As a Taoist aspirant, I'd like to know how others reconcile that.

The reconciliation of vision with practicality occurs in the realization
of the tao.  This is not something easily described and there are countless
taoist mystical and magical texts (to say nothing of those resident within
other cultures/religions) that describe the means, sometimes within what
is called 'twilight speech' (often metaphorical and esoteric terminology).

Hsi Wang Mu

A new age of magic interpretation of the world is coming, of interpretation 
in terms of the will and not of the intelligence.

Adolf Hitler (Quoted by H. Rauschning).
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