Lao Tzu is a man shrouded in myth and mystery. It is thought that Lao Tzu or at the very least the idea of him formed during the 6th century B.C.E. Many scholars debate whether or not Lao Tzu even existed. One proposed story of Lao Tzu's origins comes from a historian and court scribe of the Han dynasty named Sima Qian (145-86 B.C.E.). In his book, Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), Qian claimed that Lao Tzu was born in the state of Chu during the Zhou dynasty. At the time, Lao Tzu was said to be named Li Er. Lao Tzu would work as a records keeper of archives in the court of Zhou. Qian even claims that the famed Confucius would consult Lao Tzu on ritualistic rites and would greatly commend Lao Tzu for his work.
Lao Tzu was said to be a humble man who sought no fame. Lao Tzu would witness the continued fall of the Zhou dynasty before leaving his station. After arriving at China's border, he would come across Yin Xi, who was charged with border crossing affairs. Xi would encourage Lao Tzu to put his wisdom into writing. Lao Tzu complied, writing a largely aphoristic book, describing Way and Virtue, as well as naturalness, and non-action. The book would be titled the Tao Te Ching (a rough translation would be The Canon of the Way and the Virtue). After completing his masterpiece, the fate of Lao Tzu remains unknown.
Most modern scholars are incredibly skeptical of Qian's account of Lao Tzu. Many think that there is some degree of truth stated in the Shiji but doubt it in its entirety. A more plausible explanation that some scholars subscribe to is that Lao Tzu (whether his real name being Li Er or not) was a real person who captivated a supportive audience that brought his sayings and ideas into China's realm's philosophical debate. Then through oral transmission, Lao Tzu's thoughts were put into written form, and through a great many editors, the Tao Te Ching was created. Regardless of Lao Tzu being a mythological or quasi-mythological figure, with the Tao Te Ching's writings, Lao Tzu is credited as the father of Daoism, also called Taoism.
Taoism, as taught by Lao Tzu, states that Dao is the beginning of everything. The presiding way of thinking in ancient China was that Dao was the provenance of the qi-energy. Qi, translating as breath and referring to the vital force that maintained the entire cosmos and human life. With teachings like this, some have attempted to classify Taoism as a religion. Others have attempted to label it as a philosophy. It is worth mentioning that in the premodern Chinese language, "religion" and "philosophy" did not exist as words. This is why it has been difficult to categorize Taoism as either religion or philosophy, as it can be interpreted as possessing elements from both.
Understanding Taoism can be done best by learning the etymology of its most essential concepts. Tao or Dao can be translated as the "way," but there are specific concepts in which the word is used in Chinese with some slight yet important differences from its English counterpart. In China's ancient literature, Dao was used to represent a relatively wide pathway between two locations and could also be used as a verb. Another important word in Taoism is De, which is most commonly translated as "virtue". Most think of virtue as morally right, but for De, virtue can also mean power. As such, De is frequently interpreted as the ability that allows a person to conform to the Dao.
Ziran, "Zi" meaning self and "Ran" meaning so, is used to describe the naturalness part of Taoism. Ziran expands upon the concept of De in that the proper way of action is one that is the most natural. In Taoism, nature does not merely include what exists outside of human designs but views society itself in many ways as an extension of nature. Finally, there is Wuwei, which, despite translating as non-action, doesn't necessarily mean that someone should do nothing. Wuwei is intended to be used to combat any action that is entirely self-serving. Excessive desire, according to the teachings of Lao Tzu, violates Ziran and goes against Dao. Ziran includes fulfilling the basic needs of humans but not desires that insatiate the human ego, as this will only lead to more desire, and this is where Wuwei comes into play.
The Law of Attraction
The Law of Attraction, though often claimed as a "new thought movement," has actually existed as long as life itself, just like the Law of Gravity. The Law of Attraction takes religious and philosophical teachings from many belief systems, including Taoism. The Law of Attraction's basic philosophy is that what an individual thinks can be willed into reality. The Law of Attraction states that bad things will happen if a person thinks negatively, but if they think positively, good things will occur.
The scientific correlation with the Law of Attraction would be the study of quantum physics as well as the subconscious mind and the brain's reticular activating system. For example, say you desire to see a red convertible. By stating (or intending) to see a red convertible, you have not only told the Universe your desire, but you have also activated your subconscious mind with your reticular activating system. You will now see red convertibles much more frequently (whether in person or in photos). This is also called synchronicity. By asking the Universe for this vehicle and now seeing them, you have officially manifested your desire.
The recognition of the Law of Attraction began in the early eighteen-hundreds and continues to steadily grow and evolve to this day. Although he did not coin the term, some of the early ideas of the Law of Attraction originated from American mesmerist and mentalist Phineas Quimby's thoughts. Quimby suffered from tuberculosis at a time when no set treatment was available. When riding his horse, Quimby experienced excitement and was temporarily relieved of his symptoms. This revelation led Quimby to study "Mind over Body" concepts. Quimby believed that illnesses resulted from a person's mind being tricked into thinking that they were afflicted by sickness from a hidden adversary.
The Law of Attraction was first written about in 1877 by the Russian occultist Hellena Blavatsky in her essay "Isis unveiled." Blavatsky proposed that the Law of Attraction existed as a force within human spirits that, like particles of matter, could attract spirits and objects. The idea of the Law of Attraction that Blavatsky came up with can be viewed as similar to that of qi-energy in Taoism.
Unlike Taoism, the Law of Attraction is centered around fulfilling one's desires, and general processes have been created to attempt to manifest an individual's yearnings. The basic system of the Law of attraction begins with an individual first asking what it is that they desire. A vital tenet of the Law of Attraction is belief and to continue possessing faith that one will obtain their desire even in the face of adversity. According to the Law of Attraction, an individual should visualize their goal, and the more detail they use to imagine it, the more likely it will come true. Another critical difference between the Law of Attraction and Taoism is in action. Unlike Taoism, which minimally encourages one to act to obtain their desires, the Law of Attraction does.
Taoism and reconciliation with the Law of Attraction
While Taoism and the Law of Attraction at first glance appear as opposites, there are similarities. Both Taoism and the Law of Attraction believe that there is a binding energy that connects people. Both Taoism and the Law of Attraction seek to help people find their Dao, but they go about it is in very different ways. For Taoism, one finds their Dao through their resolve, which is aided by doing what is natural and refraining from action that results in the indulgence of endless desire. For the Law of Attraction, one's Dao is obtaining their desire, which is done through faith, repeated visualization, and actively doing what one needs to do to procure their wish.
There is a way to incorporate Taoism into the Law of Attraction. This is fully apparent in the teachings of Dr. Wayne Dyer who is considered not only a Law of Attraction guru but also a Taoism guru. He is also a New York Time's Best Selling Author. One of his most popular books on Amazon is "Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao"
When someone wants something, they should ask themselves why they want it and what happens after they obtain it. They should visualize not only receiving their desire, but what comes next and then ask themselves if they are likely to feel satisfied as a result? They should also question what the cost of action is. Is the end goal really worth the blood, sweat, and tears that went into achieving one's objective? If the answer to these question winds up being no, then it may be best to stop believing that one's desire will come true and move onto a new Dao. This will be illustrated in the following example.
Let's say that someone desires to be exceedingly rich. They should develop a thorough understanding of why they covet wealth. They should visualize themselves indulging in every luxury imaginable and then ask themselves, after the glamour faded, would they feel any different? One should ask what amount of energy and sacrifice must be put into acquiring money. They should ask themselves how many hours of work would be required, and what would be the cost to relationships?
Desiring wealth so that one can have more freedom to enjoy their family and embrace philanthropic and travel desires is closer to Taoism. This is opposed to desiring wealth for ego-driven reasons.
The Law of Attraction praises action as a virtue, but Taoism often criticizes it for a vice. If one desires something badly enough, they can use the Law of Attraction to help obtain their goals, but they should also use Taoism's teachings to understand if it is worth it.
~Much Love, Good Vibes and Choose to be Happy! ~
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