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Taoism LEWIS HODOUS TAOISM started as a philosophy and developed into a religion in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). In Taoism the emotional , spontaneous, imaginative side of Chinese life comes to expression. As a philosophy Taoism sought unity; not the unity of organization but rather the unity of organism. The mystics sought union with the Tao so that they might bring unity and peace to the distracted world in which they lived. As a religion Taoism sought power over nature and over man by adjustment with the Tao through magic. The basic intuition of the Taoist mystics is the Tao. During the fourth century B.C. a new astronomy came to China. The heavens were regarded as revolving about the solid block of the earth with the polar star as the pivot. This revolution was marked by the interaction of the negative principle yin and the positive principle yang. These two principles operated through the five agents or forces—water, fire, wood, metal, soil. These operations produced all the phenomena of earth, day and night, the seasons, man and the activities of man in response to the natural forces. This movement of the heavens about the earth was called the Tao by the Yin-yang philosophers. They formulated their theory in the phrase, "One yin, one yang is the Tao." The Taoist mystics accepted this view but found it inadequate . They sublimated it by the mystic trance and believed that they attained ultimate reality and were able to identify themselves with it. The Tao Te Ching begins with the statement: "That which is ordinarily called the Tao is not the real Tao any more than a mere name is the real thing. As nameless It is the origin of Heaven and Earth. As having a name It is the mother of all things." The Tao then is the physical concept of the way of the heavens in relation to the earth, transfigured and deepened by the mystic trance. The Tao is universal but not transcendent. It 24 LEWIS HODOUS produces all and yet is not above all. It is not a person or an individual. It is the basic, cosmic energy which informs all. It is in all the phenomena of nature and yet not of them. The other important term of the Taoists is Te. Te means to receive. When things receive the vital principle, that is Te. The Tao Te Ching puts it this way: "The Tao gives them life. Through moral power It nourishes them, through substance gives them form, by environment It completes them." The Tao is universal energy. Te is its activity. Thus Te includes both the physical and the moral aspects of nature and the life of man. TAOIST LITERATURE Taoism produced an extensive literature. The chief sources of philosophical Taoism are the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu Book. The Tao Te Ching has been attributed to Lao Tzu, of the sixth century, B.C., but this is questioned. It consists of sayings from various sources—which are embedded in much older material—and deals with the Tao, ethics, and government. It was compiled in the latter part of the fourth century B.C. It is mystic poetry of a high order with an admixture of common sense. Chuang Tzu (369-286 B.C.) or Chuang Chou is one of the greatest Taoist thinkers. He occupies a high place among the philosophers of the world. The Chuang Tzu Book consists *of thirty-three chapters and may be divided into three parts: inner part, chapters 1-7, by Chuang Tzu himself; outer part, chapters 8-22, by the pupils of Chuang Tzu; miscellaneous chapters, 23-33, by writers belonging to later traditions. Taoism is treated also in a large collection, Tao Tsang, which numbers over 5,500 portions. Several codifications of it were made through the centuries, and during the Ming dynasty (A.D. Ι 368-1644) it was published twice. A new collection was in process of printing in Shanghai when the war broke out in 1937. These works bear no signature as a rule; they are sup­ posed to come from Heaven. Many of them are by Ko Hung (ca. 270-350) and other Taoists. The collection is divided into 25 TAOISM three parts and twelve classes. Although it is the great source for the study of Taoism, it remains little known in the West. TAOISM AS MYSTICISM The mystical experience differentiates Taoism from Confucianism . The root of...


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