The Cosmology of Taoism

June 23, 2009 by  
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Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao.

It springs into existence, unconscious, perfect, free,

takes on a physical body, lets circumstances complete it.

That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings, nourishes them, maintains them,

cares for them, comforts them, protects them, takes them back to itself,

creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering.

That is why love of the Tao. Is in the very nature of things.

This philosophical reflection of Lao Tzu’s considers the process of Creation as it is depicted and understood in Taoist cosmology. At the same time, it is a plainspoken love poem that accounts for the presence of love throughout the universe.

The creative nature of the Tao, as portrayed in this poem, offers a rationale for a core belief embraced by the world’s great wisdom traditions – that love is embedded in the character of creation. The fascinating thing about Lao Tzu’s characterization of the universe is that it accounts for the presence of love without any attribution to a creator. The love depicted here does not flow in the expected direction – it is not showering down upon us from a heavenly source. Rather, it arises within creation itself, as a reflexive expression of gratitude, flowing back toward origins it has never quite forgotten and has never ceased to intuit. In the same way that there is an indelible sense of fondness for the land of ones birth, every being has been endowed with this metaphysical affinity, this beacon for the spirit. It is like an innate navigational sense pointing toward our existential birthing grounds; it is the wellspring of the religious impulse that has been given so many voices.

“The Tao gives birth to all beings / nourishes them, maintains them”, likens the activity of the Tao to the role of a doting mother. It is in this unfolding maternal activity that a perfect expression of love is manifested. The love that the cosmic order elicits and inspires in its inhabitants is simply reciprocal, a response in kind. Nothing additional is required to embellish or elevate the universe beyond its natural, perfect state.

In Taoist cosmology even death is an expression of a universal order that is deeply engaged with the beings under its heavenly mantle. The tide of death is not seen as a terminus of existence but as a return to its springs. The Tao is the ever-present custodian presiding over the arc of being, from first arrival to final departure. “That is why love of the Tao / Is in the very nature of things.” Love is woven into the fabric of life, as intrinsic and indispensable as the breath which sustains it.

While the cosmology of Taoism transcends personification, the Tao is not regarded as a mechanistic system. It is described as being “unconscious, perfect, free”, letting “… circumstances complete it.” Taoism does not imply a rigidly predestined template any more than it requires an architect whose blueprints lurk behind the fa├žade of reality. The life-forms into which the Tao pours itself are organic and evolving; a dimension of uncertainty or contingency is characteristic of this system. No traits need be ascribed to the Tao that are not readily observable in the world that surrounds us.

The idea that love is an inherent quality residing in all things, implies that an authentic understanding of the world is only available to a mind that is informed by the heart. It is fitting then, that this account of creation reads like a love poem. It reflects a sensibility that regards creation and love as inseparable processes that animate the world. They are entwined in the fabric of the atoms; they are manifest in one reality.

That is why love of the Tao.

Is in the very nature of things.

  • Winsor Pilates


2 Responses to “The Cosmology of Taoism”
  1. prettybooks says:

    All can be found in nature. Love surrounds us. We just need to be open.