Meeting took place on Tuesday 8th September.
I did write an original version of this month’s meeting, but because he understood the subject with a lot more clarity than I, I decided to use Dumbledore’s version. I liked it so much that I have used it right here. So, where it says the bit about a Ghost Writer, I actually did have one!
Locksley (being Dumbledore in disguise this time around):
Being famously efficient and well organised, when we heard that Leithin Cluan was unable to come to deliver her talk on Hoodoo, the awesome Grove of the Corieltauvi organisational machine swung into action and we arranged a substitute; Dumbledore agreed to bring his talk on the Dao (Tao) forward, and thus it came to pass. As it happens, a pass was quite significant in the talk.
Dumbledore told us how the Tao chose him by throwing a copy of the Tao Te Ching at his head (true story). This came by way of that wonderfully spiritual tv prog Kung Fu, but I (for ’tis I Locksley writing this, not some ghost writer sitting at a kitchen table) will not expand on the point for ’tis silly and I won’t be held responsible for spreading silliness about. Suffice to say that Dumbledore was shaken by this encounter, bought the said Tao Te Ching, took it home and failed to understand a single word of it. He has therefore spent the past 45 years trying to make sense of it, and in the process has been marinating in the Tao since then.
The talk began when Dumbledore told us it was an impossible talk to give:
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know
both passages from the Tao Te Ching.
Nevertheless, Dumbledore assured us, there was still plenty to talk about. He said that Taoism insists on direct experience as the source of understanding; intellectual theorising, language and the usual methods of developing knowledge can get in the way. That’s when we talked about eating oranges, and how difficult it is to share the experience with others through words.
Taoism is a Way of Liberation, we were told; in particular it is a Way of Liberation from convention. As such Taoism is really neither a religion nor a philosophy (a bit like Druidry) because both of these are conventionality made manifest. Taoism challenges all convention, including its own, in order to lay bare direct experience. The point here is not to overturn convention, however, but it to learn not to be fooled by it. Then we are in a position to use convention and not be used by it.
Dumbledore told us how Taoism was founded (allegedly); he recounted to story of how Lao Tsu, the legendary founder of Taoism, saddened by people’s disinclination to cultivate natural goodness, rode on a green water buffalo towards Tibet determined to leave the world of people behind. At the Hankao Pass (told you a pass was involved) the gatekeeper, recognising a great sage when he saw one, implored the great man (whose name means old boy, a bit like old geezer) to record his wise thoughts before moving beyond the ken of people. So he did; the result was the Tao Te Ching which has become enormously famous since then, although even at the time it was considered obscure and difficult (so Dumbledore wasn’t alone).
Dumbledore then mentioned Chuang Tsu (the joker) and Lieh Tsu (the story teller) who, together with Lao Tsu are considered to be the founders of Taoism.
We were told about the three ‘flavours’ of Taoism: Philosophical (or School) Taoism, which is favoured by Dumbledore; Vitalising Taoism (including acupuncture and T’ai Chi); and the Tao Chiao which is actually a church and usually called Religious Taoism (a contradiction according to some Taoists such as Chuang Tsu).
There was loads of other stuff, but I got distracted because there was food available. In summary, however, the Tao is, like any other road, a way of travel; it represents the Great Unity underlying all phenomena (Yin and Yang). In this regard, and others, Taoism has a great deal in common with modern Druidry, honest.