February/early March 2017
Winston Churchill famously said, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” He was right: To make sense of the forces that shape our world, we have to look deep into the past. When we do this, the upheavals of our own day are revealed as merely the latest phase in a historical process that has been unfolding for thousands of years.
What does it mean to study metaphysics today and how can we be tied to one “school of thought” verses another? What do we call someone who studies various means or methods that take things beyond theory and attempts to live according to certain principles that underlie universal understanding not tied to a particular theology? What makes one practice (generally called religion) better than another? How does having some sense of connectedness to the universe and nature reflect on our journey as we each return to our source? Who can be seen as a modern day sage? Someone who has traveled widely and studied much… perhaps.
Or as Elizabeth Mattis, in the article Open Stillness, discusses in the Buddhist magazine Triangle says, “It is when we encounter not-knowing when, for instance, we meet someone new, or when life offers up a surprise. These experiences remind us that change and unpredictability are the pulse of our very existence. No one really knows what will happen from one moment to the next: who will we be, what will we face, and how will we respond to what we encounter? We don’t know, but there’s a good chance we will encounter some rough, unwanted experiences, some surprises beyond our imaginings, and some expected things, too. And we can decide to stay present for all of it. When we decide to stay present for all of it, we enter the spiritual path. Any spiritual path should provide us with an understanding that gradually leads us beyond habitual, reactive mind so that we can engage in our life with intelligence and openness”. Can we stay fixed in one place as the world changes around us?
Wasn’t this the earliest task and role of the shaman, to be so well-versed in knowing what was coming he could predict foreseeable outcomes so that others could act accordingly. Certainly he/she would have been considered the father of metaphysics… the earliest meta physician. This website is an attempt to tie these things together using the more the four to five thousand years of Chinese history, philosophy, and religion into an understandable context for moving from simply being the sage… to the modern-day meta physician, perhaps even mystic. Not to be tied a just a “certain way of seeing God, or the Tao, but beyond.
As a step in this direction, I turn to Lao Tzu, and a part of the preface of a book I wrote entitled, Thoughts on becoming a Sage that was published in China more than ten years ago and can be found here on this website. Sort of like what Churchill was saying earlier, in that “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
This book represents a personal commitment to gaining a further understanding as to how Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching fits into the modern sense of what it means to be seen or considered as a sage. The traditional meaning of the sage has had a special meaning and connotation reserved for one of great insight and learning throughout Chinese history. Usually attributed to the great Taoists teachers Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Confucius, the term generally refers to one of great learning and insight who becomes a teacher of valuable lessons as to the way people should conduct their lives. Thoughts on becoming a Sage represents the author’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching in a personalized style that illustrates the way of virtue and steps one would take in seeking out those attributes most resembling a “sage like” lifestyle and ways to live in the secular world. The paradox being that one cannot see oneself as a sage in the here and now… This would be seen as presumptuous. One simply aspires to see beyond himself and whatever his shortcomings may be and in doing so he can catch glimpses of his highest endeavor and destiny.
Just as there is an underlying or unity of philosophical religious teachings throughout the world, as shown by the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Confucius, and others, one who emulates or strives to live a life of virtue sees past self-imposed religious differences and intolerance found in the world around him. They see the likeness in everyday activities where virtue, or man’s highest endeavors, are reflected and accepted as universal truths; i.e., that we are all God’s children. It is when one reflects on his or her place in the scheme of things reaching an understanding of where they fit into this unity found in nature that the journey begins for real.
In a previously published book about the I Ching, (An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond), I began writing about early Chinese history and philosophy in an effort to bridge seeming differences that are in reality non-existent. In Chinese history there was an individual who lived in the sixth century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), that epitomized this universal sense of collective spirit and wisdom, (as a universal meta physician, of sorts). Li Fang saw the need for Confucius teachings to be seen as compatible with Taoism, the teachings of Lao Tzu, and Buddhism the teachings of Loashan Buddhism that was prevalent at the time. He professed to an understanding that all religions followed a core belief of a singular God. Christianity was not to be introduced in China for several hundred years at this point. All religions simply served as the mechanism to help people get to a similar place and that no one process was necessarily better than another. Each simply the process of finding and following one’s natural inclination to nurture a personal relationship with God. To begin to understand Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, you must first begin by understanding what he meant by the Tao, or what is commonly referred to as the way or path one should follow throughout one’s life. The way defines one’s path to ultimate reality. Although Lao Tzu continually throughout the Tao Te Ching re-affirms he does not know its true name, without a name it simply becomes the way, or better known as the “way of virtue. Albeit serving to find one’s ultimate path…