top of page

The history of Taoism


The history of Taoism. This is an interesting subject and there are two main schools of belief with it. The origins of Taoism are shrouded in mystery, but find their roots in the Shamanistic tradition. Taoism is believed conventionally to have been invented so to speak, by Lao Tzu and his book, or what was purported to be his book, the Tao Te Ching, which means the book of the virtuous way, and which is the only book in history incidentally, which has outsold the bible, and is credited as being the founding canon of Taoism. And this was in 640 or so BCE and the reality of it is likely to be something different.

Lao Tzu was actually the keeper of the archives. He was the librarian of the Hunan province and the 81 stanzas that comprise the Tao Te Ching was his effort in collecting the oral tradition into a book before it all got lost. The actual traditional Taoist practice has probably been going back something like 20,000 years. The legend of it is that it was brought to this planet by visitors from the Pleiades. They were called the Beams of Reflective Light and they were seven feet tall and wore unusual clothes and came from the high places. No-one knew why they’d come but they passed all their vast knowledge of how the human body works, cosmology, of how energy is produced and so on and so forth - all the amazing techniques that comprise the Taoist system. They taught these to the local people and then they disappeared. Whether one believes this sort of thing or not, it’s a nice story, the fact is that these very sophisticated and highly evolved methods have been passed down generation by generation for thousands of years.

Now Taoism was the original way so to speak of China, not a religion. From India later on then came Buddhism. And as Buddhism took hold in China, because Taoism is not a religion, is not a dogma that insists on being right – and in fact nor is Buddhism – but both are quite highly evolved life methods, there was no fighting, or vying for position of importance in Chinese culture – the two worked well with each other, the Buddhist methods applying themselves more to the mechanics of social interaction, or your interaction with the environment around you – they went into the specifics of that more, whereas the Taoism crew provided a very fundamental life template which if you lived from its tenet would produce the optimal effect of how you related to the outside world. But the two always went very hand in hand.

And then Confucianism came along. Again, it wasn’t in opposition to Taoism, or Buddhism, as we would imagine it to be in the West, because we in the west go along by Godism and insist that our way is the only way and therefore the other person is wrong and must be somehow vanquished, or pushed into submission. The eastern way seemed to not have that dogmatic approach. Confucianism developed from a combination of Taoism and Buddhism. What’s interesting about Confucianism is Confucius was interested in effecting a state of pure virtue internally by how you conducted yourself externally. His was the way of morals, mores, whereas the Taoist approach was to ignore the way you behaved, but concentrate all your attention on coming from the right place inside, whereby doing so your actions would be of the highest excellence, no matter what. So the Confucianist approach came at it from the outside towards the inside, the Taoist approach from the inside towards the outside. The reason Confucianism arose organically as it did is because we need to pay attention to both if we’re living in this world. It’s all very well and good just constantly concentrating purely on how you’re sitting inside your skin, but there are times when you need to know your manners, there are times when you need to present yourself in public and there’s a way of doing that that works, according to society at the time. And so there’s an element in needing to understand how by your actions you do achieve a state of virtue within as well. So the third way, Confucianism works equally as harmoniously with the Buddhism and the Taoism.

Then round about 1600 AD an offshoot of Taoism developed through various individuals’ pride, drive to vain gloriousness, a sort of quasi religion out of Taoism, which to a pure follower of Tao is an aberration, but it’s the way of humans to do these things, to formalize the unformalizable into something quasi-religious, or institutional, and that’s what they did, and that continues to bump along I think. But the real practice of Taoism has nothing to do with wearing silly hats, or making particular strange sounds in the air to conjure up magic spirits and so on and so forth. It relies on becoming fully centered within your skin at all times and from that place able to direct your intention with enough clarity and focus for it to receive a mirror effect from the Tao with the world around you and you get what you need to succeed in fulfilling your mission while you’re here on the planet, as in bringing as much joy and goodness to the world as you can while you’re passing through. And that’s it in a nutshell.

bottom of page