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Except for the last sentence, this brief four-paragraph introduction is being used in posts #69, #70 and #71.
In Michael Dowd's extraordinarily comprehensive book on the new cosmology, Thank God for Evolution, he notes that people everywhere-- "if they are to function as individuals and cohere as a group"-- have always needed to answer "the big picture questions."
Those questions include "What is our relationship to other life forms and the powers of the Universe?" and "How are we to live in accordance with those powers?"
Although the Tao Te Ching is three thousand years old, it offers responses to those questions which fit remarkably well with the contemporary convergence of science and religion. I think of it as A Manual for the New Cosmology.
If you are new to this blog and/or to the Tao Te, you might like to see my introduction in post #68 before reading this post. What follows is a version of the middle third of the ancient text.
As usual, your feedback is welcomed.
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Tao Te Ching, Sam's version, sections 28-54
28. While we need to acknowledge manhood and the masculine, we especially need to honor the feminine, and so embrace the world as a mother does a child. When we do, we are one with the Mystery of the universe and are as comfortable and snug as a baby.
While we need to be aware of our conscious minds, we especially need to be attentive to the unconscious, and thus be a model for all. When we are, the power and presence of the Mystery are ours, and nothing is impossible to us.
While we need to be sensitive to individuals, we need to not underestimate the importance of being objective and of accepting reality as it is. When we do, the Mystery of the universe shines within us and we are what nature made us to be.
The world is formed from no-thing, like a tool carved from a piece of wood.
Balanced persons make use of the tools but remain aware of the uncarved block they come from; so balanced persons can make use of everything.
29. We can't force improvements on the world; it simply can not be done. The world is sacred just as it is. Tampering with it just ruins it. If we treat it as a thing to be held on to, it's no longer ours.
There is a time for everything: being ahead, being behind; being in motion, being at rest; being vigorous, being exhausted; being safe, being in danger.
Balanced persons take things as they come and don't try to control them. They let things go on their own way while they remain at the center of what's happening around them. Balanced persons avoid extremes, excesses and extravagances.
30. Those who are in charge of others and rely on the Mystery of the universe don't try to force issues or defeat others with weapons; because it's true that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction," even well-intentioned violence rebounds on the one who initiates it.
Balanced persons do what has to be done, then stop. They understand that they aren't running the universe and that to try to control events goes against the Way the world works.
They trust themselves and so don't depend on others. They are content, and so don't need the approval of others. They accept themselves, and so they are accepted by all.
31. Weapons are tools of violence; all balanced persons reject them. Weapons are tools of fear; all balanced persons avoid them. Even when forced to use them in the most serious necessity, balanced leaders do so
only with the greatest restraint.
For them, peace is the highest value; without peace, no one can be happy.
Our enemies are not evil demons; they are human beings just like us. Balanced persons do not wish personal harm to their enemies nor rejoice in victory over them. How can a balanced individual delight in the death of other human beings?
Balanced leaders go into battle only very seriously, with great sorrow and compassion-- as if they were attending a funeral.
32. The Mystery behind the universe can not be perceived. It's smaller than an atom and bigger than all the galaxies.
When persons in charge are centered on the power and presence of the Mystery, everything is in balance. Then, everything will be fine and everyone will be peaceful; people will know the ways of the Great Mystery without being taught.
We need to see all rules and laws as temporary; we need to know when to stop letting patriarchal institutions have any influence over us.
If we know when to stop we can avoid all danger. As rivers flow to the sea, so everything flows from the Great Mystery of the universe.
33. Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
When you realize that you have what you need, you are truly rich. If you stay centered and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever.
34. The power and presence of the Mystery is everywhere. All things flow from it, yet it doesn't exert itself in producing them. It's constantly working, yet it makes no claim to them. It nourishes all things, yet it doesn't consider itself their owner.
The Great Mystery is "humble" because it is one with all things at their core. It is "great" because it alone includes all things. And it is "truly great" because it's not concerned with being great.
35. Balanced persons who are centered on the Way the world works can go anywhere without danger. They see cosmic harmony everywhere.
Music and the smell of good cooking attract people's attention, while words about the Great Mystery sound boring.
Look for it, there's nothing to see. Listen for it, there's nothing to hear.
But use it, and you will never run out of life-energy.
36. If we want to shrink something, we must first allow it to expand. If we want to get rid of something, we must first allow it to flourish. If we want to take something, we must first allow it to be given. We call this being objective, seeing things the way things are.
The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. We need to let our work remain hidden and just let people see the results.
37. The Mystery of the Universe doesn't do anything, yet everything happens by way of it.
If persons in responsible positions can center themselves in the Way of the universe, everything would be transformed naturally. Humans will be happy, and every day life will be lived in harmony and freedom from fuss.
When there are no hankerings or addictions, then everything is peaceful and content.
38. Balanced persons don't exert power-- which makes them truly powerful. Unbalanced persons keep reaching for power-- because they never feel they have enough.
Balanced persons do little, but leave nothing undone. Unbalanced persons are always active, but leave many things undone.
While kind persons do things, even with them there's always more to do. While just persons do things, they too leave many things undone. And while those who think of themselves as morally upright also do things, when they don't get the response they want, they use force.
Without awareness of the Mystery, there is only goodness; without goodness, there is only morality; and without even that, the only thing left is empty religious ceremonies.
Empty ritual is nothing more than a husk, the wrappings around authentic spirituality; it is the beginning of chaos. So balanced persons are concerned not with superficial things but with structural depth-- not with flowers but with fruit.
Having no self-centered will, balanced persons dwell in the real world without illusion.
39. In harmony with the workings of the universe, the sky is clear and spacious, the earth is solid and full, and all creatures flourish together-- happy with the way things are, continually reproducing themselves, endlessly renewed.
When humans interfere with the Way the universe works, balance falls apart: the air becomes polluted, the Earth's resources become depleted and living creatures become extinct.
Balanced persons see the details of anything with compassion, because they understand the whole. They constantly practice humility. They don't shine like a jewel but let themselves be shaped by the universe's workings into something as ordinary and tough as a stone.
40. The way the Mystery works is to welcome and make room for everything. Everything comes from it, but it comes from nothing.
41. When balanced persons learn about the Mystery they immediately begin to live in accordance with the way it works. When individuals who are not yet in balance hear of it, they don't know whether to take it seriously or not. When foolish persons learn about it, they laugh. (It wouldn't be the Great Mystery, if they didn't!)
And so we have these old sayings: Moving toward the light looks dark, moving forward feels like going back, the most direct path seems very long, power appears weak, purity appears tarnished, steadfastness appears changeable, clarity appears obscure, greatness look like naiveté, love looks like indifference, wisdom looks like childishness.
The Mystery behind the universe is nameless, nowhere and no thing, but it nourishes and completes everything.
42. From the Great Mystery comes its dynamic power which gives birth to a world of opposites-- dark and light, male and female, mind and matter-- which, when combined, evolves into all things.
Everything comes from one opposite and so is oriented towards the other. When the opposites unite, balance, peace and harmony result.
Unbalanced persons hate being alone but balanced persons make use of solitude. They embrace it, because they are aware that they are in communion with everything that exists.
43. The gentlest thing in the world can overcome the hardest. The least substantial thing can occupy a place where there seems to be no space.
The point here is that good can come from not doing anything.
Teaching without words, doing without action-- this is how balanced leaders do things.
44. Which is more important: personal fame or integrity? Which is more valuable: money or happiness? Which is more destructive: success or failure?
If we look to others to fulfill us, we can never be fulfilled. If our happiness depends on money, we can never be happy.
We need to be content with what we have and to be at peace with the way things are. When we realize we don't lack anything, everything belongs to us.
45. True completeness appears incomplete, but in fact it is complete in itself. Real fullness looks empty, but in fact it is never exhausted.
True straightness seems crooked. True wisdom looks foolish. True art appears artless.
Balanced persons let things happen. They get out of the way and allow the natural world to speak for itself.
46. When a country is in harmony with the way the universe works, the factories make trucks and tractors. When a country goes counter to the Way of the universe, weapons and warheads are stockpiled.
There is no greater illusion than fear, no greater wrong than preparing to defend ourselves, no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Only when we know we have enough, do we in fact have enough.
47. Without opening the front door, we can open our heart to the world.
Without looking out a window, we can see the power and presence of the Mystery acting in the Way the world works.
The more we travel from our home-self, the less we understand about anything.
Balanced persons arrive without leaving, see without looking, achieve without doing.
48. If we pursue external knowledge, we may indeed "learn something new every day." But if, in contrast, we live our lives more deeply, in communion with the Way the world works, we will do one less thing every day.
Little by little we stop forcing things and we eventually arrive at not doing anything. And doing nothing leaves nothing undone.
We can get ourselves together by letting things go their own way.
Personal wholeness can't be gained by interfering with anything.
49. Balanced leaders are open-minded; they focus on the minds of the people, not their own minds.
Balanced leaders are good to people who are good, but they are also good to people who aren't so good. That's what makes them especially good leaders.
Balanced leaders trust people who are trustworthy but also those who are not. That's what makes them worthy of trust.
Because balanced persons are open to the minds of the people, they are not judgmental. So the people listen to what they have to say, just as young children listen to their parents.
50. Balanced persons give themselves over to whatever the present moment brings. Knowing they eventually are going to die, they don't cling to illusions.
They don't think about their actions-- they just do what flows naturally from the center and depth of themselves. Because they hold back nothing from life, they are ready for death.
51. Everything in the world is an expression of the Mystery behind the universe. Because of it, things spring into existence, take on a physical body and let the flow of things bring them to completion. Thus everything that exists honors the Great Mystery.
The Mystery gives birth to all things, nourishes them, maintains them, cares for them, comforts them, protects them, takes them back to itself-- creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering.
The Mystery of the universe is an ever-supporting power and yet a self-effacing presence in the life of every thing.
52. In the beginning was the Mystery. All things come from and all things are oriented towards it. When we know that we are the children of the Great Mother, we are free from sorrow.
When we make snap judgments and pursue addictions and desires, we are troubled. But if we can keep from judging others and can control our addictions, then our hearts find peace.
We need to look at the smallest details of the very biggest picture. We need to know that not yielding to desires is a great strength. We need to constantly be aware of the source of our awareness.
This is the fullness of life.
53. Following the Way of the universe is easy, but many people take side paths. So society needs to be conscious of things when they get out of balance; we need to stay centered and focus on the Way the universe works.
When the rich earn ever more money and the poor lose their homes, when government offices spend money on weapons instead of health care, when the educated elite is extravagant and irresponsible while the poor have nowhere to turn-- all these things are not in keeping with the Way of the universe.
They are disruptions and distortions of the Way the universe works.
54. Those who are grounded in the Great Mystery's power can not be uprooted. Those who hold tight to the Mystery's presence will not loosen their grip. They will be remembered by their children and their grandchildren's children.
When the Mystery is present in our lives, we become genuine and authentic. When the Mystery is present in our families, they flourish.
When the Mystery is present in our country, the nation is an example to all the world. And when the Mystery is present in all the world, the universe sings.
How do we know all this? By looking within, to our own deepest reality.
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