Taoism

Background

“Taoism is one of the three great religions of China, along with Buddhism and Confucianism. The founder was Lao-Tse (604-531 BC). Though classified as a religion, initially Taoism was a philosophy and did not become organised until AD. 440 when it was adopted as a state cult.” – Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, p.270.

Little is known about the founder of Taoism, Lao-Tse. The first mention we have is that of the third century BC author Chuang-Tzu and he calls Lao-Tse ‘one of great teaching.’ Lao-Tse is credited with writing Tao Te Ching, a book of prime importance in Taoism. The word ‘Tao’ is difficult to translate in English but can be best described as the way, truth or path.

Chuang-Tzu appears to have brought together much of Lao-Tse’s writings and produced what amounts to a treatise on Taoism. The work bears its author’s name, the Chuang-Tzu.

Over the years Taoism began to take on board other beliefs and modern Taoism does not necessarily follow the basic teachings of Lao-Tse. It is estimated that today there are some 20 million people following Taoism as a belief system.

Belief

Again it is difficult to pigeonhole the belief of Taoism under the main headings of Christianity. However there are a number of clear distinctions that can be drawn.

First the GOD of Taoism is an impersonal force whereas the GOD of Christianity is personal. Tao is an idea of God. Lao-Tse wrote,

“Before the Heaven and Earth existed, there was something nebulous . . . I address it as Tao.”

Second, Taoism gives a very ‘inactive’ view to overcoming ‘sin’ whereas Christianity preaches the positive message of the cross.

Third, Taoism philosophises about how we should live whereas Christianity can be experienced in reality.

PURPOSE

The purpose in life is to become one with the Tao. In doing so we come to find that the Tao is the source of all that exists, it is also the Principle controlling the universe and finally it is the Way that enables us to live in harmony with the universe. The Chuang-Tzu tells us the Tao is,

“… complete, all embracing, the whole; these are the different names for the same reality denoting the One.”

WRITINGS

To achieve this end Taoist’s use two main writings. The Tao Te Ching and The Chuang-Tzu.

LIFESTYLE

Taoism produces a weak, passive person who will reject human activity at every level.

“Taoism prefers to turn away from society to the contemplation of nature, seeking fulfilment in the spontaneous and ‘trans-ethical’. The Tao, a metaphysical absolute, appears to have been a philosophical transformation of the earlier personal God.” – Eerdmans’ Handbook to The World’s Religions, p.251.

This inactivity is called Taoism, Wu Wei. We are to be passive and imitate the effortlessness of nature.

RHYTHM OF NATURE

 “Lao-Tse had a cynical view of history. He saw that all that flows out returns to its starting point. Life came from non-life and returns to non-life again. Therefore, true wisdom becomes a matter of attuning oneself to the rhythm of the universe, which corresponds strictly to the rhythm of life. Five main orifices and organs of the body mirror the ‘five directions,’ or as they are alternately called, the ‘five parts of the sky,’ or the ‘five holy mountains.’ They are water, fire, wood, metal, and earth. These correspondences and rhythmic movements became characterised by the concepts of YIN and YANG.” – Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, p.271.

Taoist philosophy believes that ch’i (pronounced ‘key’) is the basic flow of energy that sustains all life. Ch’i contains the yin and yang that are therefore flowing through the body. This is the composite force of, evil and good, negative and positive, female and male. For everything to be orderly it must contain both yin and yang in a state of equilibrium. When there is an imbalance of one or the other, conflict will result. We need to learn to balance this flow of the force.

What is this force [popularised by ‘Star Wars’] though? It is powerful, but because it is a balance of good and evil, it cannot be the Holy Spirit as understood by the evangelical Christian. It can therefore only come from one place, the great counterfeit, the force or ‘god’ of this world.

Several disciplines use this balancing of the force and therefore they must be investigated carefully. We must check whether they are doorways that open us up into the ‘force’ of this world, Satan himself. Martial Arts and some Alternative Medicines are among these disciplines.

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