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Joseph DillardDr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year’s clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See:


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Shamanic and Taoist Origins Of Chinese Traditions

China's Contribution to an Integral World View, Part Two

Joseph Dillard

The most important aspect of Tao itself, which means “the way,” road, channel, path, doctrine, or line, is that it is a process rather than a “thing” or “entity.”

Essentially animistic, Chinese folk culture never separated man and nature, and requires an understanding of shamanism.[5] The shamans of ancient China, called the Wu, were believed to be able to communicate directly with plants, minerals, and animals, to journey deep into the earth, and visit distant stars. They were able to invoke, through dance and ritual, elemental and supernatural powers, and enter into ecstatic union with them. Not Tao, not some God, but a countless host of greater and lesser deities, spirits of humans, animals, plants, stones, stars, rivers, and mountains, accounted in the popular mind for what went on in the world. The forces of nature, personified as spirits, exerted a direct influence in daily human affairs.

The shamanic vision of reality is extremely concrete, literal, and dualistic. Disease and misfortune were attributed to malignant spirits who were the ghosts of those whose sacrifices had been discontinued. These were to be placated, just as the spirits of deceased family members were to be honored with offerings. Protection was provided by charms, communication through mediums, exorcisms, the sounding of gongs and firecrackers, the placing of spirit-walls to prevent entry of evil spirits through a doorway, the burning of incense, prayers, and fasting.

Where the Western monotheisms elevated love, obedience and submission while fighting sin, and Hinduism and Buddhism elevated wisdom while fighting ignorance, Chinese traditions elevated harmony in an effort to fight chaos. While we have layers of technology that insulate us from the unpredictable forces of nature and strata of culture to protect us from disease and death, the Chinese were historically exposed to regular massive floods, devastating earthquakes, disease, famines, and invasions. Chaos was never far from the doorstep, and propitiation of the forces of nature was a desperate attempt to create the security that most Chinese today take for granted. Villagers are relocated to apartments in cities and separated from the lands, communities, and cemeteries that connected them with folk traditions. Almost all Chinese now receive formal educations, which tends to objectify the forces of nature and their explanations. However, we continue to see the echo of many of these same characteristics in contemporary technological, and humanistic Chinese society: belief in the afterlife, an interest in luck, as expressed in the widespread practice of buying lottery tickets and gambling, and a belief in a dualism of good and bad forces. We can see the echoes of such practices in current Chinese beliefs in the afterlife, the interest in channeling and communication with the deceased, luck, the reality placed on contacts with the deceased in dreams, and the widespread belief to this day in heavenly and demonic forces in those still living in agrarian villages in China. The difference today is that there is not so much an attempt to placate such forces, particularly as China has become far less agrarian and less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the natural world.

The Human Spirit After Death

The concept of an eternal or immortal soul is not found in traditional Chinese folk traditions, just as it is not found in traditional shamanism. All things are manifestations of the tao in flows of yang and yin; some of these flows are more material, some are more supernatural. Man is a combination of these natural, animistic flows instead of something separate from them. Upon death the yin element in man's nature returns to earth, which is also yin, while yang ascends to Heaven, which is also yang. Like a mixture in a test tube with two spinning, intermixing fluids, the spiritual and material components of humanity separate upon the cessation of motion.

These two types of non-physical human yin and yang substances are basic to traditional Chinese popular belief and practice. The yin component of humans turns into a kuei if not placated by suitable burial and sacrifices. Kuei are angry, malevolent, or evil spirits, demons, or ghosts, not at all distinct from traditional shamanic demons or the asuras of Hinduism. The yang component of humans turns into a Shen when it rests peacefully. Shen are the benevolent spirits of properly cared-for ancestors that send down blessings to family members. The rites of burial and sacrifice to the dead were sanctioned both by fear of the dead becoming a vengeful demon and by hope that the dead would become a benevolent god. Such fears and hopes underlie all of traditional Chinese culture, and a sense of constantly living in the presence of influencing spirits has been pervasive within the Chinese world view. Consequently, to the extent that a “soul” exists within this tradition, it is a combination of yin and yang energies that separate at death. Spiritual practices were primarily designed to neutralize or banish the negative influences while doing those things that brought favor from the positive ones. These are thoroughly shamanistic beliefs, and China has probably had the longest, broadest, and most entrenched shamanism of any culture in the world. Whether this can or will continue with the urbanization and education of Chinese society is unknown but seems unlikely.

Reincarnation and karma were introduced into China with the coming of Buddhism to China in about 300 AD, and with it the idea of heavenly rewards and punishments. However, the more fundamental ideas of liberation from the chain of rebirth, or that life was like a dream never seemed to get much traction in Chinese folk traditions. Chinese thought is much more invested in naïve realism, the belief that the sensory world is real and is the realm upon which humanity needs to focus, not liberation from it. We will find this same emphasis within Confucianism, which made it particularly useful and relevant for governance.

Under the influence of imported Buddhist concepts, it became commonly believed that after death the human spirit underwent trial and punishment in a sort of purgatory. It was then reborn in a life determined by its previous existence. The concept of karma required a soul as its agent, a belief that previously was not present in shamanistically-derived Chinese cultural traditions. Salvation was attained by realization, or enlightenment, concerning the truth that self was merely a temporary association of elements dharmas and skandhas.[6] The adoption of this belief by the Chinese is ironic, as Buddhism contains the doctrine of anatma, no soul. Anatma did not take hold permanently in China, but the Indian concept of the reincarnating soul did. It could be easily imagined as one of those spirits that had to be placated after its death. In fact, the typical function of Buddhist monks in the Chinese culture became the priestly recitation of “masses” to alleviate as much as possible the sufferings of the soul in purgatory. Notice how different this function is from that of Theravadin or Tibetan monks. “The end result was a purgatorial system structured along Confucian bureaucratic lines, with a well-organized program of karmic bookkeeping, trial in courts exactly like those of the magistrates in the Chinese empire, punishment in various hells where the tortures meted out exactly fitted the crimes of the guilty souls. Those rare souls with an excess of good deeds over bad were of course able to pass directly into new births in favorable circumstances without undergoing these torments.”[7] If this were not so serious, it would be an amusing example of what happens when the doctrine of karma is taken to its logical limits. It provides a cautionary example of what can happen when shamanistic beliefs in spirits and legalistic assumptions about spiritual cause and effect are combined. You then have a perversion of something comparable to karma marga, in which good deeds were preferred and bad ones avoided for heavenly rewards. One reason why this idea took hold in China was probably for the same reason it was so effective in India: it supported social stability, because individuals, families, and communities would police themselves once they accepted the doctrines of karma and reincarnation.

As a result of this cultural interplay, two theories of the fate of the human spirit after death emerged in Chinese spiritual traditions. The first, closely bound up with family religion and ancestor worship, is based on the yin/kuei and yang/shen concept itself derived from a mixture of Taoism and Chinese shamanistic animism. The second is based on the imported Indian belief in karmic cause and effect and was found in the funeral rites of the ancestral cult. All of this is important background for understanding Taoism and Confucianism, which are both outgrowths from and expressions of, these profoundly shamanistic roots.

One important and fundamental way that we still find shamanism in full flower in humans, but perhaps particularly in evidence in China, is in an emphasis on luck. Luck is a thoroughly shamanistic, magical, and early prepersonal idea and belief that is dependent not on God, gods, spirituality, or spirits, but on chance. In this system, chance or fate can be manipulated if you do the right things and avoid the wrong things. These can be spiritual acts, such at the propitiation of the right spirits and worshipping the right gods, or they can be completely material, such as rubbing dice three times before you cast them on a table in a casino in Macau. The coexistence of luck with a highly developed industrial and technocratic society demonstrates the cohabitation of rationality and irrationality, of common sense and emotional impulse, and of practicality and unsubstantiated hopes.


The mystical Taoism of the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu must be differentiated from the popular folk Taoist traditions of China as well as subsequent movements that call themselves “Taoist.” For example, spirit-travel to planets, stars and galaxies is a clearly shamanistic practice found within the Shangquing sect of Taoism. Taoist magicians use talismans to invoke the powers and protection of supernatural beings. Components of many Taoist rituals and ceremonies, as well as certain forms of qigong, are oriented toward communication with the plant and animal kingdoms. The practices of inner alchemy are designed to produce, from the bodies of its practitioners, the mystic wine of ecstatic spiritual union. Practices for achieving longevity or immortality, Chinese alchemy, achieving trance ecstasy, astrology, martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, exorcism, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout Chinese history. All of these practices have much more in common with Chinese shamanistic roots than they do with the Taoism of the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu, the two seminal texts of philosophical, mystical branch of Taoism. In fact, there exists no scholarly consensus that any of these folk and shamanistic practices play any significant role in either text. Consequently, one should either not call these many popular practices Taoist, or else not call the non-traditional literary sources Taoist, because they are fundamentally and radically different. The following assessment is directed toward “philosophical Taoism,” that is, the writings of the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu, because popular Chinese Taoism is most easily explained as an expression of shamanism.

What is extraordinary about these texts is what is not in them. We should be able to find clearly shamanistic sources in texts that date from 400 BC and 300 BC China, but we do not and neither do most of the prominent authorities on Taoism. Instead of discussing trance, spirit communication, journeying between earth, heaven, and hell, and totem animals, they emphasize wu-wei, or action through non-action, naturalness, simplicity, spontaneity, and the “Three Treasures” of compassion, moderation, and humility. The dualisms that are fundamental to shamanism are treated in an abstract way foreign to shamanism. Instead of concrete, naïve realism built around sensory experience and the reality of perception, the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu focus on going beyond and beneath appearances and on the integration of opposites. In fact, the concepts in these works are not only foreign to shamanism, but to the mainstream of world religions. They contain no dogma, ritual, belief, prophesy, blessing, divine law, or ecstatic practice, which is why these works are generally referred to as “philosophy” instead of religious texts. However, this is incorrect. It is much more accurate to term them “mystical,” in the sense that mysticism focuses on the apprehension of various types of union and non-duality.

“Mystical” is one of those words that means nothing because it can mean just about anything; it can be used to refer to whatever one considers to be unusual and miraculous: spontaneous healings, psychic phenomena, ecstatic trances, channelings, dream visitations, divination, or alchemy. The problem is that such a broad usage does not differentiate one form of non-sensory dependent phenomena from another. Consequently, it does not differentiate prepersonal, pre-rational mysticism, based on belief, emotion, and naïve realism, from trans-rational mysticism that is an outgrowth of doubt, skepticism, questioning, and reason. Nor does it differentiate temporary ecstatic state experiences, like near death experiences, from ongoing stages of development, such as nature, devotional, formal, and non-dual experiences of unity and integration.

Such distinctions are important because otherwise there is no need for evolution of human development; truth and bliss already are; they only need to be uncovered and recognized. However, if evolution and human development are facts and exist for a reason, then there must be differences between prepersonal access to the miraculous and trans-rational access to realms of unity. Consequently, there exists a genuine and important distinction between temporary prepersonal mystical states and relatively stable, ongoing trans-personal mystical stages. These prepersonal mystical openings can be genuine access to trans-personal mystical experiences, but that is not the same as stable openings that are signs of higher-order awakening or enlightenment.

What is remarkable about these two texts is that they show every sign of being authentic trans-rational mystical texts. For example, a strong case can be made for the presence of natural, formal, and non-dual types of mysticism in the Tao Te Ching.Again, this is extraordinary, because there is no reason why this should be, if you look at the cultural context out of which these texts emerged, based on our present state of knowledge about them.

However, it is unlikely that Taoism would ever have been developed or gained popularity if it were not fundamentally in alignment with the underlying culture of China. In that regard, we have seen that the roots of Chinese supernaturalism are shamanic, meaning trance communication with spirits for the well-being of individuals and society, not as mystical mergence with the transcendent All. Therefore, the many mystical passages in the Tao Te Ching are most likely to be expressions of animistically-understood forces rather than as nature mysticism. But this does not seem to be the case, because it is not supported by the text. Tao may be conceived as the regularity of the operation of nature and the reality behind or within appearances, similar to the way a spirit or spirits are the reality behind and within the appearance of a rock, stick, mountain, flood, earthquake, or fire. The process of looking beneath the surface appearances of phenomena to the reality behind them is something Chinese were used to doing with spirits and the concept of powers beneath appearances. Perhaps this intention of looking beneath appearances was abstracted conceptually so that the very act of doing so became a way, the Way, or Truth. This underlying reality beneath appearances was very different from shamanically-derived spirits in that it was never personified as a spirit, deity, or as God. In contrast, popular Taoism developed a definite shamanistically-derived yoga to free men from identification with appearances so that they could know the underlying truth of Tao. This “way,” in addition to divinatory practices such as the I Ching, emphasized breath control, dietary, and alchemical techniques of transforming yin and yang. Some of these, such as found in The Secret of the Golden Flower, were very clearly derived from Hindu kundalini yoga.

Lao Tzu's major contribution, from the perspective of Integral Deep Listening, is his exposition of how the macrocosm is an outpicturing of the microcosm, the unseen reality within and behind form. This concept is fundamental not only for Taoism, but for the teachings of Master K'ung (Confucius), but in different realms. For Taoism the microcosm is life itself; for Confucianism it is duty based on the virtues of the Superior Man. The basic idea is that man projects his interior reality onto others and onto his understanding of the world. He creates relationships and governmental forms based on his model of his interior reality. This is a profoundly significant idea, and one that has only gained popularity in the West in the last one hundred years, largely due to Freudian psychology. Previously, and still in most quarters in world governments and cultures, man is a product of the societies and cultures in which he exists. The microcosm is an internalization of the macrocosm. While it is most certainly the case that both are mutually reflective of the other, Lao Tzu's contribution—and Master Kung's as well—was to emphasize how consciousness creates reality.

The most important aspect of Tao itself, which means “the way,” road, channel, path, doctrine, or line, is that it is a process rather than a “thing” or “entity.” Unaccompanied by an ontologically-rooted notion of soul, like Hinduism and the Western Monotheisms, and therefore not reacting to one, as does the Buddhist perspective of anatma - itself a reaction to ontology, the closest religious and philosophical correlate is probably Buddhist pratityasammupada, or “interdependent co-origination,” which grounds reality in process rather than ontology or being. However, Buddhist interdependence is framed within a decidedly sacred and religious context, while Taoism emphasizes the processes of nature as inherently sacred, without contextualizing them in religious framings. Tao has also been referred to as “the flow of the universe.”[8] Dualisms are essentially conflicts between things and values that are considered to be real and those that are deemed illusions. Processes largely escape this dualism, because they are not primarily things, structures, substances, or nouns. Instead, they are primarily flows, states in transition, and verbs. You can “be” a noun, like a “tree” but it is much more difficult to be a “doing,” like “flowing,” running,” or “shining.” This is because an action is something that someone or something does rather than the doer of the action. From the beginning, at a fundamental level, completely separate from Buddhism and for different reasons, Taoism essentially ignores substance and ontology in order to emphasize process, which is surprising, remarkable, and largely unexplained by the socio-cultural context from which it arose. From the perspective of Bruce Alderman's philosophemes, Taoism, even more so than Buddhism, is a verbal or process-based approach to reality.[9] This is extraordinary, not only because it is so rare in religious and spiritual traditions, but because it is a transpersonal emphasis, in that it is “trans-self;” there is no self doing these processes, no ego, no Atman, no soul, no Brahman, no Heaven, no God, no actor. Again, it is extraordinary for this sort of text to arise even with a historical lineage; in this case we have no historical precedents, and those that exist are shamanistic and a world apart.

If there is a tradition that was built on mystical Taoism that we can currently point to, it is the aliveness of nature as a process, and within that, a desire to look beyond appearances to their sources. In this sense, there is the implicit awareness that appearances are delusions and that waking life is a dream. In fact, this is the point of Chuang Tzu, when he wrote about a dream he had, in which he was a yellow butterfly. He then awoke, to discover that he was a man. But then he wondered: “Now am I a man who just dreamt he was a butterfly; or a butterfly who is now dreaming that he is a man? What is the dream and what is reality? This type of thinking is completely foreign not only to shamanism but to the normal Chinese folklore and Confucian world views, because it questions whether it is even possible to differentiate between truth and falsity, or whether it is possible to say anything definite about the reality of existence and the self. How many people today are comfortable with such ambiguities?

Taken in context, Chuang Tzu's Butterfly Dream is not about dreaming or alternative states of consciousness, topics that are easily seized upon by Indian and Western framings, but about the unpredictable nature of the transformations of perception itself, as a manifestation of natural flows. While we are inclined to read the account as Chuang Tzu questioning his ontological status, this seems secondary to a statement about the indeterminate nature of reality itself. Therefore, rather than presenting a critique of naive realism or asserting the primacy of subjectivity, Chuang Tzu appears to be placing all perception within a thoroughly naturalistic context that inherently relativizes all conclusions about the nature of reality. Instead of this awareness throwing Taoists into existential angst, it frees them from a self-nature dualism that haunts shamanism, Indian religions, Western monotheisms, and contemporary humanity. But to say that is not to place Taoism at some pinnacle of awareness but to point out that this is indeed another example of how much the West has to learn from Chinese humanism and naturalism.

Main themes of Chuang Tzu are spontaneity of action and freedom in contradistinction to the human world and its conventions. Rather than writing about moral and personal duty, as did Master K'ung, Chuang Tzu wrote about the falseness of human distinctions between good and bad, large and small, life and death, human and nature. Wu-wei is the leading ethical concept in Taoism. Wei refers to any intentional or deliberated action, while wu carries the meaning of “there is no…” or “lacking, without”. Common translations are “non-action,” “effortless action” or “action without intent”. The meaning is sometimes emphasized by using the paradoxical expression “wei wu wei“: “action without action.” Translated into an Integral AQAL context, it implies UR and LR behavior and interaction without UL intention or priorities. To the extent that this is correct, it represents another radical break from the West, which assumes disciplines, effort, and integral life practices are directed by UL intent and priorities.

In ancient Taoist texts, wu-wei is associated with water through its yielding nature. Taoist philosophy proposes that the universe works harmoniously according to its own ways. When someone exerts their will against the world, they disrupt that harmony. However, Taoism does not identify will as the root problem, but rather a failure to place one's will in harmony with the natural universe. Thus, a potentially harmful interference must be avoided, and in this way, goals can be achieved effortlessly. “By wu-wei, the sage seeks to come into harmony with the great Tao, which itself accomplishes by non-action.”[10]

Is there a concept more foreign to Western competition, individualism, and control over nature and others? What does it mean that Western political assessments of contemporary China completely ignore the influence of this core idea in a timeless Chinese cultural classic and fails to consider what effect it might have today on the Chinese approach to society, politics, and international affairs? To overlook this mind-set and world view is to place the West at a disadvantage in its current geopolitical reckoning with the rise of China.

IDL assumes that the early Taoist authors must not have meant non-action, because clearly they were not proposing the cessation of all action, passivity, and death. Instead, they must have been urging action originating from an entirely different place than one's will, but without recourse to divine will, dharma, “conscience,” “intuition,” or “higher self.” This is similar to the intent of IDL. Like Taoism, IDL does not identify one's will as the root problem. Instead, the emphasis is on making our priorities in harmony with those of our life compass and autopoiesis, the self-organization of life itself. Of indefinite ontology, life compass is a mixture of personal multi-perspectives in the LL and values of the larger, encompassing collective holon, interfacing at the LL quadrant. Autopoiesis in this application can be thought of as the intersection of personal LR and collective holon UL. While there is no assurance that identifying with emerging potentials and their priorities will put us into accord with life or the “natural universe,” there is most definitely a significant contextualization of self-priorities. This, however, is not non-action in the form of doing nothing, but a suspension of our priorities in order to internalize the priorities of perspectives that personify world views that contain our own, yet transcend it due to the addition of their own unique perspectives.

Naturalness, which is associated with spontaneity and creativity, is regarded as a central value in Taoism. This is the “primordial state” of all things that you become when you identify with the Tao. Two of the means of doing so involve freeing oneself from selfishness and desire, and appreciating simplicity, both of which are compatible with Confucianism. IDL views spontaneity and creativity as central values but not as “primordial,” or issuing from a “primordial state.” Taoism seems to veer into romantic regression at this point by seeing naturalness as an original state that one returns to.[11] However, the idea of a fabled previous golden era, with successive levels of civilizational decay, is fundamental to Taoist, Confucian, and Chinese folk traditions. IDL, in contrast, views regression as a movement toward pre-rational, emotionally-based cognition designed to validate a world view with which we identify and protect, in order to reduce cognitive dissonance and explain and validate our place in the world. What is imagined as an integrated Source or Ground actually has the unity of the developing self projected onto it. As Wilber has described, without the self there is only the unity of pure subjectivity; there is no awareness or self-awareness, a condition similar to normal deep sleep. In this regard IDL breaks with Taoism, Platonism, and most New Age spirituality while agreeing with Wilber's integral AQAL.

Here is an example of mystical experiential union with the Tao from the Tao Te Ching:

Push far enough towards the Void,
Hold fast enough to the Quietness,
And of the ten thousand things none but can be worked on by you.
This return to the root is called Quietness.

To know the always-so is to be Illuminated [and h]e who knows the always-so has room in him for everything.
Tao is forever and he that possesses it,
Though his body ceases, is not destroyed.[12]

The Nei-Yeh says that mystically tapping the power of the Tao is the mark of a sage:

The vital essence of all things:
It is this that brings them to life.
It generates the five grains below
And becomes the constellated stars above. When flowing amid the heavens and the earth we call it ghostly and numinous.

When stored within the chests of human beings, we call them sages.

The Nei-Yeh also tells us that the Tao cannot be perceived with the senses (Verse 6), does not reside in any single place, but in the mind (Verse 5), and yet simultaneously encompasses the whole earth (Verse 14). Union with it makes “vision” and “hearing” clear (used metaphorically for mystical insight, Verse 8) … although such union does not result in “knowing” anything (Verse 8).

The Nei-Yeh goes on to describe the essence of its understanding of Taoist practice. Enabling the Tao to dwell within one's “chest” requires:

solitude and lack of sensation (24, 12, 14);
a tranquil and empty (thought-less) mind (5, 8);
regulation of the breath (5, 19, 21, 22, 24);
special alignment or postures of the body (11, 16, 19) in fixed positions (6, 8); moderation in eating, neither too much nor too little (23),
moderation in the emotional life—avoiding anxiety, anger, sadness, delight, joy, profit- seeking (ambition) (3, 21, 23, 25);
use of poetry and music to overcome negative emotions (22);
a reverent attitude toward the Tao (2, 13, 16).

When you enlarge your mind and let go of it,
When you relax your vital breath and expand it,
When your body is calm and unmoving:
And you can maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances.
You will see profit and not be enticed by it,
You will see harm and not be frightened by it.
Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive,
In solitude you delight in your own person.
This is called “revolving the vital breath”:
Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.

There is no hint in the Nei-Yeh, or any other early Taoist document, of the inducements to ecstasy found in shamanism—drugs, fire, hysterics, dancing, seizure, masks and symbols, drums—only quietism and meditation.[15]

Like the Tao Te Ching, it can only express the ineffability of the Tao through the via negativa:

As for the Way:
It is what the mouth cannot speak of, the eyes cannot see it,
And the ears cannot hear it,

And its one positive description is filled with classic mystical contradiction:

Bright!—as if ascending the heavens;
Dark!—as if entering an abyss;
Vast!—as if dwelling in a ocean;
Lofty!—as if dwelling on a mountain peak.[17]

Can anyone point to comparable concepts in a mainline cultural tradition supporting Western thought? The closest parallels are in Christian mysticism, which come with all the baggage of religion and spirituality. They are in no way primarily naturalistic and humanistic, the Chinese contexts for these statements. The Three Treasures, or “Three Jewels” of Taoism, compassion, moderation, and humility, are translated by Waley as “abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment,” “absolute simplicity of living,” and “refusal to assert active authority.” These characteristics are quite at variance from both traditional shamanism and contemporary capitalistic economies, including that of China, both of which tend to focus on power, consumption, and status. Notice that contemporary assessments of Chinese political thought ignore the significance of the “Three Treasures” for Chinese decision-making. History will show the willful neglect of the influence of these core Chinese concepts by the West to be an embarrassing reflection of the adolescent superficiality of Western comprehension of Chinese culture and intention.

There does not appear to be a written record of mystical Taoism passed down through monasteries or from masters to students, although this may have indeed occurred. However, the sorts of perceptions in these writings are far from the normal interests and abilities of men, and it is not surprising that mainstream Taoism focuses on more “practical” and “immediate” interests. IDL views these Taoist texts as remarkable in the clarity of expression of unitary states and non-dual realities in a way rarely equaled elsewhere in the history of the world. As such, they are both anomalies and something of an enigma. However, IDL also believes the fundamental states of clarity and awareness disclosed by them are available to all men, and show up routinely in the perceptual frameworks of this or that interviewed emerging potential. For example, aspects of a high unitary state are observed in the comments of “air” in an interview dealing with the Bhagavad Gita:

Air: “I am alive, yet I am deathless. You can't cut me or destroy me, although you can pollute me and change my composition. I am witnessing both the sky and my transformation by the breathing process by these people and animals. It is so normal and has been going on for so long that I normally don't notice it.”

“…I am invisible and appear so “weak” as to be non-existent. Yet I am the source of life…I personify human unending, limitless sustenance. Abundance…I have an intimate connection with life because I am life; I have the wisdom of life…Death does not affect me; joy and happiness do not affect me; otherwise I would be fickle. I accept all things, all events, and I accept myself…even when there are tornados and hurricanes I am at peace, because I am still me. Why should I be less me just because I am moving quickly and powerfully? My peace comes from knowing what I am and being what I am…I am a part of, yet separate from, all things. Even rocks contain my elements!”

“Instead of breathing me in and out, I recommend humans be me breathing them. I would have humans look at their life moment to moment from my perspective. This will objectify their physical sensations, emotions, images, and thoughts.”

“I am anything but passive. I am intimately invested in all aspects of life. I am anything but disconnected. So to confuse my disinterest with passivity and disconnectedness is a mistake.”


[5] See Dillard, J. “Shamanic Attributes of Integral Deep Listening”

[6] Not to be confused with dharma as cosmic law. Dharmas in this sense are the fundamental elements that make up sensory objects, but which are not themselves imperishable substances.

[7] Organ, T., Philosophy and the Self: East and West. Associated University Press. P. 136.

[8] Cane, Eulalio Paul. Harmony: Radical Taoism Gently Applied (Trafford Publishing, 2002).

[9] Alderman, B. "Sophia Speaks: An Integral Grammar of Philosophy."

[10] Van Voorst, Robert E. Anthology of World Scriptures (Thomson Wadsworth, 2005).

[11] Girardot, Norman J. Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism: The Themes of Chaos (Hun-Tun) (University of California Press, 1988).

[12] Waley; quoted in Welch, Holmes. Taoism: the Parting of the Way. Boston: Beacon Press, 1965

[13] Roth, Harold. Original Tao: inward training (nei-yeh) and the foundations of Taoist mysticism. Columbia University Press. 1999. (1, Roth

[14] Roth, (1999)

[15] Lee, D. Essential Mysticism in Shamanism and Taoism, 2012.

[16] Roth, (1999).

[17] Roth, (1999).

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