Thursday, January 05, 2006

tao teh ching - closing matters

The main texts I've been using throughout the past couple of weeks are:

Gia-fu Feng and Jane English - Lao Tzu: Tao Teh Ching - A New Translation [WILWOOD HOUSE 1973]
D. C. Lau - Tao Te Ching [PENGUIN BOOKS 1963, 1969]
Robert G. Henricks - Lao Tzu: Te-Tao Ching [BALANTINE BOOKS 1989]
Richard John Lyn - Tao Te Ching: The Classic of the Way and Virtue [COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS 1999]
Man-jan Cheng - Lao-tzu: 'My Words are Very Easy to Understand' [NORTH ATLANTIC BOOKS 1981]

As we have seen, none of these can really stand alone, and the meaning in them, even for highly literate Chinese readers, is subtle, vast and difficult to grasp.
My own interpretation, whatever its worth, is based on the simple but verifiable fact that Taoism is - and has always been - very much a religion in the accepted sense of that term. It's present-day canon contains texts and practices covering pretty much the full gamut of Chinese thought and belief ranging from out and out shamanism through some of the most sublime flights of human philosophy, and even the 'humanism' and 'justice' that are generally thought of as the province of the Confucian school and its chief descendant, the teachings of Mencius are included in it.
Confucianists may look upon it askance, but much that is Chinese science, and certainly everything that is Chinese art, stems directly from it. It is, in fact, the very basis and root of Chinese thought - it's intuitive side, if you will, just as the humanist side is its facet of order and logic.
Many years ago I took up the use of two terms - 'eco'-logic and straight line logic - to try and describe the difference between these. Eco-logic follows nature... It watches and examines, feels and evaluates but is hesitant about coming to conclusions; straight line logic assumes that what it knows is reality and expects reality to fall in with its way of knowing. Eco-logic is careful; straight line logic builds what it imagines are empires but are actually only cloud cities. Eco-logic is caring and nurturing; straight line logic assumes things are solid and 'tough enough to take it'.

Other texts I've referred to are:

Arthur Waley - The Way and its Power [GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN 1934, 1969]
Richard Wilhelm - Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching [PENGUIN ARKANA 1989]
Ursula Le Guin - Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way [SHAMBALA PUBLICATIONS 1997]
James Legge - The Texts of Taoism, Vols I and II [DOVER PUBLICATIONS 1962]
Ellen M. Chen - The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary [PARAGON HOUSE 1989]
Chang Chung-Yuan - Tao: A New Way of Thinking [HARPER COLOPHON 1975]
Thomas Cleary - The Essential Tao [HARPER COLLINS 1991]
D. T. Suzuki & Paul Carus - The Canon of Reason and Virtue: A Translation of Lao Tze's Tao Teh King [OPEN COURT 1913, 1974]

Other texts lying about are Aleister Crowley's Tao Teh King [ASKIN & WEISER 1974], Frank J. MacHovec's The Book of the Tao: Key to the Mastery of Life published by Peter Pauper Press in 1962, and Witter Bynner's The Way of Life according to Lao Tzu published by Capricorn Books in 1962.

Two further texts attributed to Lao-tze and translated into English are Wen Tzu: Understanding the Mysteries - Thomas Cleary transl. [SHAMBALA PUBLICATIONS 1991] and the Hua Hu Ching: The Later teachings of Lao Tzu translated by Hua-ching Ni [SHAMBALA PUBLICATIONS 1995].


k.l. clark said...

Where have you gone Cloudhand?

cloudhand said...

into the final turn and straight before i leave for the east, Keryn... i'll be back...