This afternoon, I’m going to talk to you about Taoism, which is one of the principal forms of Chinese philosophy. As it were, the opposite number of Confucianism. For these two ways of thought lie at the roots of Chinese civilization. Both of them having a kind of common origin in the attitude to life expressed in the Book of Changes, or the I Ching, which maybe as early as about thirteen hundred B.C. Everybody today seems to be reading the I Ching. It’s a very strange book. It is a commentary on sixty four symbols. Which are made up of broken and unbroken line, it’s the unbroken line, like this,and the broken line like this. And this unbroken line is called Yang. Yang. And the broken line is called yin. And if you make a figure in which there are six lines. You can obviously have sixty four variations. And this is ostensibly a method of decision making. When you flip a coin to make a decision you’ve only got two choices heads either heads or tails, but imagine having a sixty four sided card the flip to help you make decisions. Is rather an interesting idea because when we do make decisions we are always eventually reduced the flipping a coin. However well you think it through, you don’t have time enough to think it all the way through. You know that there are always possibilities that you didn’t take into consideration or couldn’t take into consideration, and although you plan and wonder and work out the data, it eventually comes down to the point where you flip a coin because you’ve got to make up your mind. 

 

But in some respects, you see, a sixty four sided coin would be more suggestive shall we say than a two-sided coin. Well anyway, these hexagrams as they’re called in the I-Ching are made up of fundamentally two symbols, yang, the positive and yin, the negative. And the words yang and the yin seem to refer originally to the south and north sides of a mountain. The south side is the sunny side, the north side the shady side. And note that you cannot possibly have a one sided mountain. And therefore it’s always understood that the yang and the yin are the explicit differences of an implicit unity. The Poles. Yang is called male, yin is called female, and another way in which they’re represented aside from these two lines is in this familiar symbol, in which one tadpole is black, and the other white with the eye of the tadpole, the opposite color. And so they constitute a unity. Behind this unity, is sometimes something represented by an empty circle. Which is called. Tai-Chi. The great ultimate. The word Chi refers to the ridgepole of a roof on which of course the two sides of a roof depend. On which they are propped together like the two sticks that I talk to you about which support one another. Take one away, the other collapses. 

 

So underneath the whole philosophy of China there lies this recognition of the polarity of the universe. That the opposites go together or as Lao Tzu puts it in the second chapter of his book The doubt it. When all the world understands beauty to be beautiful there is already ugliness, when all the world understands goodness to be good there is already evil. For to be, and not to be arise mutually. And this interesting Chinese remark. To be, also means to have. Not to be, and also means no, nothing. Arise mutually. And neither one is before that or after the other. They come into being together. And this has to do then with the yang this is yang and this is aeon. 

 

So now when it comes to Taoism, this is a point of view. That becomes explicit in Chinese history. Probably in the neighborhood of four hundred B.C.. It used to be said that Lao Tzu, L-A-O T-Z-U was or was originally thought to have been a contemporary of Confucius who lived between six and five hundred B.C. But the general weight of scholarly opinion today is that the Lao Tzu book is about four hundred. And the book is called the Tao Te Ching. If there were an apostrophe after the T, you would pronounce it Tao, but if there is no apostrophe you pronounce it Dao, because our scholars made up a way of Roman eyes in Chinese which only they could read and they could have spelled it or do you know W. but they didn’t want the laity to be initiated. The next word is done because again there’s no apostrophe after the T. so it’s pronounced and Jing there is no apostrophe after the C.H. So if there were, it will be pronounced changed but it’s Jing, like a J. 

 

And so Ching, in Chinese, means a classical book, a scripture.Tao is usually translated the way. But I would prefer to call it the course. The course of nature. And Te means virtue but in the sense that we use the word virtue when we say the healing virtue of a plant. It has a magical connotation, or a connotation of power and peculiar skill. Of Tao and Te, and it is written by Lao Tzu, which means the old boy. The legend,  of course, is that Lao Tzu was the librarian of the Imperial Court. Who when he became an old man and sick of the intrigue of court life, decided to vanish into the mountains but he was detained at the city gate by the captain of the God who said ‘We cannot lose you without your leaving behind some record of your wisdom.’ And so he prevailed upon him to sit in his gate house and write down this book which is a very short look conical book. And it is divided into two main sections one about dower and one about the. He was followed in due course by a number of successes of which the most important is somebody called Chuang Tzu. And this man is really marvelous. He’s one of the very few philosophers who have ever lived who is a great humorist. 

 

And if you get the Modern Library edition of The Wisdom of Lao tzu, translated by Lin-Yutang, you will find in that lots of Chuang-Tzu, translated as a commentary on Lao Tzu. And he is really delightful, he’s a delicious person to read. Because he has a kind of humor wherein he caricatures his own philosophy and takes it to observe extremes just for the joke of it. And he puts a lot of his philosophy into the mouth of Confucius just to confuse everyone. He’s a really witty man and he, you must read him. So then, what I want to do is to discuss the main ideas of Lao Tzu, and of course naturally we have to start with Tao. This word in Chinese is made up of this part of the character here, is called the radical. And it means, it is connected with motion, going on and stopping, or rhythmic motion. On and off. And this other part of the character here means intelligence. So you’ve got intelligent motion, the course of nature. But the character also means to speak. And so it’s rather like the Greek Logos. 

 

The first verse of Lao Tzu’s book starts out by saying something that you really can’t translate so you have to see it in Chinese. It says Tao, and this character means can, can do, can be. Again Tao. The Tao which can be Tao. Not this character means regular or eternal now. And so we normally translate this the down which can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. It could mean also the way which can be wayed, traveled, is not the regular way. But in most commentators agree to the first translation. The Tao which can be described is not the eternal Tao. Then why go on to write a book about it. Well consistency is a virtue a small mind. So you have in the idea of Tao. The flow of life, the flow of events, the world considered as a stream. And water is very often used by Lao Tzu, to give the idea of Tao, because water always takes the line of least resistance. Water is very soft and yet one of the strongest things in the world. You can chop water with a sword but leave no wound. You can’t squeeze it, you can’t compress it. Wonderful stuff. Elsewhere he says,  man at his birth is supple and tender but in death he is rigid and hard that’s suppleness and tenderness are the marks of life and rigidity and hardness the marks of death. Tao is always gentle, you see, always yielding, it is feminine in a way. Lao Tzu says although you may be a male always have a certain feminine quality and thus he will become a universal channel that has particularly to be learned by men in the United States who tend to overcompensate masculine. To be ashamed of gentleness, and to emphasize a kind of ra-ra-ra-ra attitude to life. Which usually indicates a fear of incipient homosexuality. 

 

And as a result we have a lot of misunderstanding between men and women because each one is so busy being their particular sex that they have nothing in common. So this idea then, is the strength of gentleness. And of course, it is ultimately on this philosophy that the Japanese worked out the science of Judo. Do is the way the Japanese pronounce Tao. Ju means gentle, judo, the gentle way, whereby a strong man is alarmingly defeated by the use of his own strength against himself. And the analogy is of course of the pine tree in the willow tree. The pine tree is a muscle man. And when the snow piles up and piles up and becomes icy the pine tree branch cracks. But when the willow get snow on it, after a little while the branch drops and the snow falls off from the branch springs up again. That’s Judo.  They teach you in Japan a mysterious science called Aikido. Again do meaning Tao. Aikido is the inner or the esoteric aspect of Judo, and they can teach you for example to hold out your arm in such a way that no one can bend it. However strong. But it all depends on your not using effort to hold it out, you must not resist. There is a certain way of doing that. 

 

So this Tao cannot be defined. That’s basic. Just because it is the flow of nature, you can’t capture it, you can’t shut up wind in a box and expect it to be wind. You can’t catch flowing water in a bucket because the minute it’s in the bucket it’s no longer flowing. Now Tao then is means what roughly what we would mean by the basic energy of the world. But there are two things to be said about it. And the first is that it is not a governing energy. Here we clearly come up against the principle or a concept of nature in which there is no government. This is an anarchic view of the universe. Not in the sense of chaos, but equally not in the sense of what we mean by order. The Tao does not rule Lao Tzu says, the great Tao flows everywhere, goes to the left and to the right it loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them. And when merits are accomplished that is good things are accomplished it lays no claim to them. In fact the Tao is always self-effacing, always disappears, always indefinable, always behind the scene. And so in a way the Lao Tzu’s book is written as a manual of advice to rulers. And his idea of a good ruler, is one who is never in evidence. Do you know for example in Hindsale the name of your sanitation chief? I bet you don’t. These are very, very important officials. And Lao Tzu would advise the president of the United States to behave like the chief of sanitation. To be unobtrusive. And to generally leave things alone. Let things take their course. And not in the sense of–well it’s like this, it’s the difference between rowing and sailing. When you row, it’s a relatively stupid method of propulsion, because you have to use effort. When you sail, you use the wind. But you don’t have to go the way the wind is blowing you can tack. And tacking in so as to go in an opposite direction to the wind is the art of Taoism. Anyone who really understands sailing understands Lao Tzu. So the next thing is that the Tao has a kind of order, but it’s not quite what we mean by order when we speak of order we usually tend to think of something symmetrical. Of something like a library you know, where all the shelves the rectangular. But the Chinese have a word for order, for the order of the universe. Which is this. They pronounce it Li. Now this sign has the original meaning of the markings in Jade, or the grain in wood. Or the fiber in muscle. So now, when you look at a cloud, or foam patterns, or at grain patterns in wood, you know for some reason or other that you’re not looking at a mess. You’re looking at something decidedly wiggly, but aesthetically pleasing. But you can’t figure it out, there are no rules which it follows. This word it has been translated, the principle or rationale of nature almost the law of nature, but the Chinese have no word for the law of nature. They do have a word for law, the word Zu. And this word Zu. Was originally written and that represented a cauldron, an iron cauldron with a knife beside, it the scratching on the cauldron because in very distant times certain emperors had the laws of the land written on the sacrificial cauldrons to which the people brought offerings so that when they offered the sacrifices, they could read the laws. But certain sages said you should never do that, because if you write the laws down, people will develop a litigious spirit, and they will always be yakking over what it means,  and therefore lawyers will have to define them are carefully, and then other lawyers will drive a carriage with six horses right through that, and then other lawyers must again define the laws more carefully. And that’s the state we’re in today, where we are utterly hamstrung by law. 

 

So the Tao is described as being. Wu-Tzu means is this character non-Legal. The Tao is non legal in its nature but it is this it is Li and that means orderly in a way that cannot be defined. Just like your own nervous system is certainly orderly but nobody has been able to figure out the principle of it. But you know it once, without being able to say how, the difference between Li, rigidity and Li, mess chaos. So what you might call. The best way of translating Li into English is to call it organic patterns. That’s what it is. But we don’t really know what that is because we are it we are organic patterns and just as we can’t bite our own teeth we cannot define our own organization. We are it and that’s all we need to be, because the teeth don’t need to bite themselves, a sword doesn’t need to cut itself, the sun doesn’t need to illuminate self. So then this is the principle of Tao, but it is not law. If it were a law of course the Tao which could be spoken would be the eternal Tao. But it can’t be uttered. So Tao then is the principle of nature. And in Chinese nature is called really spontaneity.