The Taoist understanding of the creation of the world is remarkably similar to that of the West (Judaism, Christianity, Islam):
|In the beginning was the Tao, an empty void of endless potential. Over eons, out of the Tao emerged qi, vital energy or breath. Originally, the universe was in a state of chaos but the light qi rose and formed the heavens, and the dark qi snak and formed the heavy earth.||In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The
earth was without shape and empty,
and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but
the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.
God said, "Let there be light." And there was
light! God saw that the light was good, so God separated the light from
the darkness. God called the light "day" and the darkness
God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters and let it separate water from water. So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. It was so. God called the expanse "sky." There was evening, and there was morning, a second day.
God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear." It was so. God called the dry ground "land" and the gathered waters he called "seas." God saw that it was good.
Perhaps a key difference is the Western need to image the deity in the image of mankind.
But surely another key difference is the theme of connectedness: the notion that yin (white tiger, west, feminine, substance) and yang (green dragon, east, masculine, light) are interdependent, co-operative, and tend to mix into a dynamic balance.
Western morality polarizes the world: good versus evil, heaven versus hell, God as pure good versus the devil as pure evil.
Taoist connectedness enables the human body, the natural landscape, and the vast cosmos of heavenly bodies to all mirror each other, to all correspond in vast, multidimensional dance of everchanging being.
When the great Tao is lost
Benevolence and morality appear.
When intelligence and wisdom are produced
Great hypocrisies come out. ...
When a nation is confused by chaos and corrupted
Loyal patriots stand up.
Paradox, inherent contradiction that fuels the dialectic of change, a dynamic of flux: this is the Taoist insight to the river of life, always flowing, always different, always the same only insofar as it is always different. Difference as the giver of life.
A Westerner might say that "variety is the spice of life" but the Taoism perceives change as the ESSENCE of life.
Perhaps there is even an aspect of the tao in eating with chopsticks, for, unlike the fixed instruments of Western utensiles (knife, fork, spoon), chop sticks open and close, and thus partake in the unending dance of change. In this ordinary sense, the tools of eating participate in connectedness and somehow reflect a spirit of movement.
Consider the three "paths" of human progress: Confucianism,
Whereas Confucianism built the foundation of the social order by stressing duty to ancestors and deference to one's elders, and Buddhism provided a resignation and escape from the social order, Taoism observed the changes in the social order with a healthy scepticism. The Taoist, for example, would not be overly impressed with the apparent "intelligence and wisdom" of the Confucianist scholar.
Knowledge is proud of what it knows.
Wisdom remembers how much it does not know.
And yet, gradually Taoism became harnessed to the state. Taoism shifted from a philosophy of nature to a tool for the powers that rule.