Daniel, you called it. Shamanism is on deck for tomorrow, today’s episode is on Taoism. Again, biggie-ups to my main man, Rodger Nishioka.
A philosophy and religion based in part upon the Tao Te Ching of philosopher and poet Lao Tzu (6th c. BCE) and the Book of Chuang-tzu, the stories of the hermit and sage Chuang-Tzu (4th c. BCE). These classic works of Chinese literature and philosphy introduced the idea of the Way of Tao, an unseen, formless, yet creative force that makes up the universe. In the religion of Taoism, the Tao also refers to a spiritual path that includes shamanistic visions, rituals, alchemy, techniques of body and mind and study. The ultimate goal of Taoism is the attainment of immortality–the ultimate health of body and soul attuned to the Tao.
Human beings are the image of the universe, enlivened by a primordial breath, “Qi”, divided into yin and yang, female and male, earth and heaven. The phenomenon of life is based on the energy provded by qi–the active expression of the Tao. Qi enters the body at birth and slowly dissipates until death. he quest for ehalth and immortality is, in some schools, the attempt to hold on to the body’s qi. Central to Taoist practice is meditation. In addition, there are a great number of procedures intended to nourish the vital, life affirming principles: gymnastics, diet, respiration, and sexual expression, interior alchemy, etc.
How has Taoism influenced practices in Asian-American churches?
- Polytheistic with an emphasis on multiple gods in nature and among ancestors lingers in Asian American congregations.
- Chinese alchemy, astrology, martial arts, feng shui, and the health of one’s qi become intertwined with Christianity or are totally rejected as anti-Christian according to fundamentalists.
- The crucial concept of “wu wei” or non-action may lead to passivity and acceptance of life’s circumstances.
This one in particular is a little close to home as it was closely tied into a notion of balance for my family life growing up. I feel as though insights of integrity and moderation were easily compatible with the wisdom (i.e. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) teachings of prudence and even the notion of neither being too happy or too sad were part of this. During high school, my mother bought and ran a health food store which helped us make ends meet as my father pastored a small church in Daytona Beach, and she didn’t seem to have many problems between qi and health and God’s provision. I hated all the weird herbal talk, but I have to confess, I’ve reluctantly drank or ate my share of bitter herbs. I never felt a thing either spiritually or physically, but I think it has affected the way I view integrity or balance in my life. What about you? These roots run really deep…it’s very strange to study this when it’s something that has been a ‘given’ in my own life.