It is interesting to see how hypertext has gone from being a grand possibility to a never-finished chore. --Ted Nelson
Posted 23 November 2004 06:23 PM
While the official WRTC web site was down,
Travis started a WRT discussion at
Here's something I posted there in response to
I was looking around gathering books for a used books sale at school when I found an old copy of the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. My interest in Taoism began when I read the Te of Piglet. I could easily relate to Piglet and saw that Taoism embodied many of my personal beliefs. Now, through the Taoist Restoration Society, I've learned that there are different Taoist sects within China. I was just wondering, is Taoism, as some members of the TRS pointed out, so influenced by Chinese culture that it cannot truly be appreciated elsewhere where knowledge is somewhat limited? I'll not say my opinion until I've gotten responses so that I won't influence anyone.
October 26, 2004
Although Taoism emerged within a particular cultural context, it teaches an appreciation of universal principles. Shadow and light are global phenomena. Yin and Yang are universal principles.
Although we find ourselves following China through the alternation of night and day, always finding ourselves on the opposite sides of the planet, we are in phase with each other throughout he cycle of the seasons, sharing the Northern hemisphere. The division of the planet into south and north is a much more objective distinction than the arbitrary separation of east and west. New growth springs forth as the seed unfolds through the fallen, decaying leaves of the previous autumn.
Although there are questionable appropriations of spiritual traditions, the Tao is unfolding all around us. With every inhalation and exhalation, with each beat of the heart, the Tao is unfolding within us. Can we learn to find a way to become attuned to this process?
Although some occidental travelers have made a pilgrimage to the east, seeking to become authentic Chinese Taoists, certified carriers of a traditional lineage, we find ourselves where we are. There is much we can learn from the reports such pilgrims send us. Some of us might attempt to follow their path. However, finding ourselves where we are, if we attempt to become mindful of the breath, of the beating of the heart, it might become possible for an authentic Taoism to emerge within our lives, within our community, here where we are.
Although such a Taoism might appear as different from traditional Chinese Taoism as night is different from day, an authentic Taoism will learn to recognize and appreciate these differences as complementary, as night follows day, together with each other, through the Spring and Autumn.
For a more detailed discussion of this question you might want to take a look at:
Clarke, J. J. (John James),
The Tao of the West :Western transformations of Taoist thought / London ; New York : Routledge, 2000. ISBN: 0415206200 (pbk.)
Most of the land in the state where I live is under agricultural cultivation. There are over ten million acres that are used for growing soybeans. When three tenths of the area of the state is devoted to soybean production, it is my feeling that other Asian influences will begin to manifest themselves whether they are deliberately sought after or not.
Katie, I'd be glad to hear your opinion, if you are ready to share it.
Posted 22 September 2005 02:30 PM
Several months ago I read a book entitled Taoist Meditation
: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body, which is a collection of texts translated
and compiled by Thomas Cleary
. The translators's introduction includes some
comments that seem relevent to this topic, the possibility of western taoism.
As soon as I have time I post an excerpt from this introduction.
Posted 22 September 2005 02:53 PM
From the introduction to Taoist Meditation:
Taoism, one of the most ancient of Eastern traditions, is drawing increasing
attention in the modern West. Interest in Taoism is no longer confined to fringe
elements, as some would prefer, but has become part of the normal mentality of
conscious individuals and cosmopolitan thinkers in many areas of contemporary life.
Part of the popularity of of Taoism in the West migh be due to the fract that
Taoism is scientific yet also humanistic and spiritual. Taoism has a capacity
for subtle pervasion because ist can be understood and practiced withn the
framework of other world religions, or without any religious framework at all.
This selfless adaptability may be why Taoism has been able to penetrate Western
cultures without the limitations of theological doctrine or religious identity.
Some of the specialized arts originating in Taoist tradition, such as
bare-handed martial disciplines, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and therapeutic
massage, are becoming increasingly familiar in the West. Taoist social
philosophy and strategic thinking have also proved to be of great interest to
Western people in various walks of life.These are among the dimensions of Taoism
that have attrracted the attention of professionals in many areas--political and
military; agricultural, industrial, and commercial; educational, medical, and
Meditation is one element of Taoism that interests a broad spectrum of people,
because the state of mind is central to the well-being and efficiency of the
whole organism. Taoist meditation is for enhancement of both physical and mental health, as these two facets of well-being are intimately related to one another. Modern scientific understanding of the mind-body continuum confirms tradtional Taoist beliefs about the effects of mental states on physical conditions and vice versa.
Posted 12 January 2006 02:26 PM
The strongest argument I have seen for the difficulty (or impossibility) of an authentic Western Taoism was presented at October 20, 1997, at the University of Tennessee by Professor Russell Kirkland of the University of Georgia.The Taoism Of The Western Imagination And The Taoism Of China: De-Colonializing The Exotic Teachings Of The East
Posted 19 January 2006 02:15 PM
Profressor Kirkland tells us that:
"As an element of Chinese civilization, Taoism is indeed a rich and rascinating reality, a tradition, for instance, that virtually alsways found a place for women as leaders. But we do terible violence to that reality if we impose upon it the intellectual and spiritual needs of Americans today -- a need, for instance for humanistic individualists to imagine themselves as "free" to reject "society" and "religion" in favor of a "pure spirituality," something interpreted and practiced by the solitary individuals without the so-called intereferece of "tradition" or "organized religion."
Since he considers Taoism to be an expression of Chinese culture, Kirkland finds it difficult to imagine the possibility of an authentic Taoism emerging outside of that particular cultural context.
19 January 2006 02:23 PM
Thomas Cleary has a different point of view. In his introduction to The Book of Balance and Harmony he tells us that.:
"Taoism is not, as usually thought, a product of Chinese civilization. Rather it is the other way about -- Chinese civilization was originally a product of Taoism in the sense that like all successful original cultures it was initiated and guided by people in contact with the Tao or universal law."
This point of view opens up the possibility of the Tao finding expression in a variety of cultural contexts.