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Quotes about the Tao

  1. Mar 24, 2003 #1


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    Helle follow some quotes about the Tao, from a debate I suggested in sci.math one year ago (archived in http://mathforum.org/discuss/sci.math/t/385291 if you want to check it). Tell me if it rings any bell :-)

    > Oh, it is intangible and elusive, and yet within is image.
    > Oh, it is elusive and intangible, and yet within is form.
    > Oh, it is dim and dark, and yet within is essence.

    >When fash-ioning some thing
    >one might begin with nothing
    >and make use of space
    >in order to take shape
    >that which they wish
    >their form to be.

    >The space between things
    >waxes and wanes, depending upon the things.
    >Does the space itself actually change?
    >Does emptiness really exist, on its own?

    >"two different names
    > for one and the same
    > the one we call dark
    > the dark beyond dark
    > the door to all beginnings"
    >[...TTC 1, ibid]

    >Wang P'ang comments, "When the Tao becomes small,
    >it doesn't stop being great. When it becomes great, it
    >doesn't stop being small.

    > RP says 'Wang Pi says, "From the infinitesimal all things develop.
    > From nothing all things are born.

    >Huang Yuan-chi says, "Emptiness and the Tao
    >are indivisible. Those who seek the Tao cannot find it
    >except through emptiness. But formless emptiness
    >is of no use to those who cultivate the Tao."

    >"We look for it, but we do not see it: we name it the Equable.
    >We listen for it, but we do not hear it: we name it the Rarefied.
    >We feel for it, but we do not get hold of it: we name it the Subtle [wei].

    >These three we cannot examine. Thus they are One, indistinguishable.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 24, 2003 #2
    Interesting, I didn't read through all the posts, but I can answer the question in the first post. The author asks if the roots of Tao were influenced by ancient Greeks. The answer is no, the fundamental roots trace back to Chinese Shamanism which was later formalized a bit more elegantly perhaps by the Indian invention of Pantheism which the ancient Greeks may have influenced. Since the invention of trade, India has always been a tremendous cultural cross roads where ideas mix and create new philosophies.

    A source of major confusion with Taoism is the fact the Buddhist and Confucion scholars accentuated the Pantheistic interpretation at the expense of the mystical. At one time there were over six thousand distinct sects of Taoism, many mixed in with local Shamanistic beliefs as well. Human sacrafices to Gods of waterways and whatnot were fairly common.

    It was and still can be a shmorgasbourg of beliefs to say the least. Many western theologians discovered some of their best converts would also worship other Gods in other temples. Taoists priests will recommend a number of Gods for a particular individual to create a rapor with. Sometimes the Priests who do this will actually be Agnostic themselves.

    To westerners this often seems strange to say the least, an agnostic priest and practitioners who attend every church in town. What'll they think of next? What this situation reflects is the shamanistic roots and the dynamics of small groups. Their religions were often constructed in such a way that if the next generation were largely agnostic or atheistic, they would still pass down the traditions as a lifestyle. Thus, the second to the last poem of the Tao Te Ching:


    Let your community be small,
    With only a few people;
    Keep tools in abundance,
    But do not depend upon them;
    Appreciate your life
    And be content with your home;
    Sail boats and ride horses, but don't go too far;
    Keep weapons and armor,
    But lock them away;
    Let everyone read and write,
    Eat well and make beautiful things.
    Live peacefully and delight in your own society;
    Dwell within cockcrow of your neighbors,
    But maintain your independence from them.
  4. Mar 24, 2003 #3


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    Well, I was of the same opinion (tracing it back to Chinese) until I actually read the Book of Tao, the TTC, esp. the oldest chapters, 14 et ff. Now I should bet for a shared source.
  5. Mar 24, 2003 #4
    There are thought to have been possibly as many as a hundred authors of the book over a period of a century. Anyone who tells you they know the facts about legendary people like Lao Tzu who lived two thousand years ago is full of it. You are of course free to express your personal oppinions and make all the guesses you want, however, I don't believe such speculation serves the purpose of objectivity.
  6. Mar 24, 2003 #5
    Re: Tao

    These wonderful works help to illustrate my hypothesis which proposes that Quantum Physics and Fractal and Gradient logics have been around since the times of the Wooly Mammoth, Giant Sloth, and Sabertooth Tiger. I have to agree on the cross-roads contingent... the amassing of previously discovered info and the encapsulation of the info in forms of poetry, philosophy and traditions around the world.

    Gung Hey Fat Choi!
  7. Mar 24, 2003 #6


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    Well, it seems that it is possible, for intertextual analisis and from different series of manuscripts, to put a partial chronological order in the text. This covers even more than a century, but surely less than one hundred authors. I believe that the philological analysis is objective, but please do not ask me how the philologists do it... I am physicist.

    Now, once the oldest core has been underlined by this analysis, one can build -or speculate, if you prefer- over it. Thas was the point of my discussion: the oldest core smells strongly to atomistic theory.
  8. Mar 24, 2003 #7
    To say it smells strongly of atomistic theory is a bit of a stretch I think. All Metaphilosophies are kissing cousins and, therefore, tend to look alike after awhile.

    Certainly it shows the hall marks of formal logic being developed at the time by the Greeks among others. However, the latest translations of the Mai Wang Tui text by D. C. Lao and others, the oldest version yet discovered, have clearly established the Shamanistic origins of the texts. This is not the slightest surprise to Taoist scholars who have seen this consistent trend towards native chinese shamanism with each yet again older version of the text dug up by archeologists.
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