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Once a great Religion, Taoism was virtually wiped out by Mao and the Communists. There are perhaps 20,000,000 Taoists on Earth today, principally in Taiwan.

We include it here because it is one of the three pillars of Chinese society as we know it today. The other two pillars are Buddhism and Confucianism. Each compliments the other in their eternal quest for peace.

To illustrate, we quote from:

Lao Tsu taught that all straining, all striving are not only vain but counterproductive. One should endeavor to do nothing (wu-wei). But what does this mean? It means not to literally do nothing, but to discern and follow the natural forces -- to follow and shape the flow of events and not to pit oneself against the natural order of things. First and foremost, it is to be spontaneous in one's actions.

In this sense the Taoist doctrine of wu-wei can be understood as a way of mastering circumstances by understanding their nature or principles, and then shaping one's actions in accordance with these. This understanding has also infused the approach to movement as it is developed in Tai Chi Chuan.

Understanding this, Taoist philosophy followed a very interesting circle. On the one hand, the Taoists rejected the Confucian attempts to regulate life and society and counseled instead to turn away from it to a solitary contemplation of nature. On the other hand, they believed that by doing so one could ultimately harness the powers of the universe. By 'doing nothing' one could 'accomplish everything.' Lao Tzu writes:

The Tao abides in non-action,
Yet nothing is left undone.

If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.

If they still desired to act,
They would return to the simplicity of formless substance.

Without form there is no desire.
Without desire there is tranquility.

In this way all things would be at peace.

In this way Taoist philosophy reached out to counsel rulers and advise them of how to govern their domains. Thus, Taoism, in a peculiar and roundabout way, became a political philosophy. The formulation follows these lines:

The Taoist sage has no ambitions, therefore he can never fail. He who never fails always succeeds. And he who always succeeds is all-powerful.

From a solitary contemplation of nature, far removed from the affairs of men, a philosophy can emerge that has, both in a critical as well a constructive sense -- a direct and practical political message. Lao Tzu writes:

Why are people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.

Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.

Why do people think so little of death?
Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take life lightly.

Having to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.

Many westerners have commented on the fact that Asians seem to regard life lightly. The key words are "...too much." Perhaps Asians, non-monotheists, have a better perspective and know more than we about how to maintain peace. Perhaps Atheists do as well.


It is by moderation that man returns to the normal state of Tao. But this moderation is not between the extremes of earthly evil and heavenly good, but is superior to both. Lao Tzu warns against the spiritual inertia of a good life; he advocates rising above the static life of harmony. To be dominated by good is still to be a slave; to dominate both evil and good is to be a Master and therefore the servant of both.

Desire not to desire, and you will not value things difficult to obtain. Learn not to learn and you will revert to a condition which mankind in general has lost (64:4).

All difficult things in the world arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small. He who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult. Therefore the Sage sees difficulty of things for others even in what seems easy to himself and so never has any difficulties. To act without acting; to conduct affairs without trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great and a few as many; to recompense injury with kindness; -- this is the Way of Tao (63:1-3).

Christendom attributes its golden rule to Jesus; but Lao Tzu taught it centuries before Jesus. The spirit of the Sermon on the Mount is fully expressed in Tao Teh Ching. To those who are good I am good and to those who are not good I am also good -- and thus all get to be good. With the sincere I am sincere, and with the insincere I am also sincere -- and thus all get to be sincere (49:2).

Many Chinese people credit Tao along with Buddha and Confucius in explaining why China, as a culture, has never been expansionistic in the European mold. Why does this wisdom of the peace-seeking ancients escape us today?

Our interpretation is that Authoritarianism began sociopolitical expression with Abraham and his monotheism. Abraham's monotheism spawned two additional main branches. All three are today locked in a battle over whose god is God--see Religion and Violence. And each strives for governance in spite of their continual failings in the control of human manners and thought.

If this concept sounds too simplistic, it remains to replace it with a better one.


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