Welcome to The Path of Water

This site is dedicated to exploring the Tao and Philosophical Taoism; and how it relates to everyday modern life in the 21st Century. It also includes posts relating to how I feel Taoism can provide insights for dealing with the problems of everyday living.

The process of writing out my thoughts helps me to explore what I believe and why, so these posts will probably develop over time. I hope that you'll find this site interesting and, for those of you new to the Tao and Taoism, I hope that it can provide you with a first step on the path to a rich spiritual life. If you want to post comments relating to a post or the site as a whole I'd be grateful as all feedback is helpful.

Enjoy your visit - In Tao - Woody

Who would follow the Way must go beyond words.
Who would know the world must go beyond names. *

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. **

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

As Reform Taoists we try to celebrate certain events, not for the belief in a higher power, but because they remind us of the path we are on. One of these events is the Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere) as the time when a process changed direction and the world begins the journey towards Spring.

This is how I plan to mark the Solstice...

I'll wait until the rest of my noisy family have gone to sleep, pour out a small glass of Port and then I'll have all the lights off and light a single candle. I'll relax just watching the candle for a bit, then I'll spend a short time remembering good things about family members & friends who have died, drink a toast to them with the Port, blow out the candle and then probably stub my toe trying to find the light switch Smiler

The candle is for a few reasons...

1 - Midwinter celebrations across the world have long associations with light
2 - At the time of maximum darkness there is a point of light, reminiscent of the taijitu (yin yang symbol).
3 - I like candles

Thinking about deceased family members & friends is because...

1 - There are long associations with this time of year being linked with death & renewal
2 - It's nice to take some time out to remember people who have gone & this time seems as good as any.

The Port is because I like Port.

Physics & the Tao

We've been discussing the Tao and the Big Bang, how they are related and how Taoism is viewed by scientists. Is the Big Bang the same thing as the creation of the 10000 things referred to in the Tao Te Ching and can Taoism make predictions relevant to Physics?

My feelings are that I'd be cautious about directly linking the origins of the universe with the origin of the 10000 things. Taoism teaches us that there are no absolutes and already scientific theory is moving beyond the big bang with ideas such as M-theory and ideas that "time" in some form can pre-exist the big bang. There will also be the limitless manifestations of Tao which are forever beyond our knowing. What is interesting is that again and again in science we come across the same ideas as are found in Taoism and it is no surprise that we see something of the origin of the 10000 things reflected in our knowledge of the big bang.

As for Taoism and science? I'd venture that most scientists don't know or understand Taoism. Certainly those that encountered it like Bohr clearly saw the conceptual links between Physics and Taoism. Taoism is a series of statements of demonstrable fact combined with conclusions on what this tells us about how we can live our lives. The statements hold true wherever they are applied and so are just as valid in Physics or Mathematics. For example, by my understanding, Mandlebrot's analysis of the length of the coast of Britain demonstrating that a finite area can be enclosed by a line of infinite length is easily predicted from the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching - for exactly the same reasons. Equally Mandlebrot's work is an elegant example of the meaning of "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao".

The advancement of science has been repeatedly held back by adopted orthodoxies - like the belief of God's hand at the heart of everything, celestial bodies moving in perfect circles, or the mechanistic predictable view of the universe's workings. These orthodoxies have repeatedly led to the dissenters being ostracised, outcast or whatever until, in a revolution brought about by a failing of the old orthodoxy, suddenly the old paradigm is overturned leading to some of the dissenters being validated. To the best of my knowledge, each time this has happened the new paradigm has moved closer to a picture of the universe in accord with that of Taoism.

Taoism doesn't need science to validate it, and science doesn't need Taoism - but the roots of both are the same and I believe each can provide something useful to the other.