The idea of a middle way between the opposites is to be found also in China, in the form of tao.
The concept of tao is usually associated with the name of the philosopher Lao-tzu, born 604 B.C.
But this concept is older than the philosophy of Lao-tzu.
It is bound up with the ancient folk religion of Taoism, the “way of Heaven,” a concept corresponding to the Vedic rta.
The meanings of tao are as follows: way, method, principle, natural force or life force, the regulated processes of nature, the idea of the world, the prime cause of all phenomena, the right, the good, the moral order.
Some translators even translate it as God, not without some justification, it seems to me, since tao, like rta, has a tinge of substantiality.
I will first give a number of passages from the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu’s classic:
Was Tao the child of something else? We cannot tell.
But as a substanceless image it existed before the Ancestor.
There was something formless yet complete,
That existed before heaven and earth;
Without sound, without substance,
Dependent on nothing, unchanging,
All pervading, unfailing,
One may think of it as the mother of all things under heaven.
Its true name we do not know;
“Way” is the name that we give it.
In order to characterize its essential quality, Lao-tzu likens it to water:
The highest good is like that of water. The goodness of water
is that it benefits the ten thousand creatures; yet itself does not
scramble, but is content with the [low] places that all men disdain.
It is this that makes water so near to the Way.
The idea of a “potential” could not be better expressed.
He that is without desire sees its essence,
He that clings to desire sees only its outward form.
The affinity with the fundamental Brahmanic ideas is unmistakable, though this does not necessarily imply direct contact.
Lao-tzu was an entirely original thinker, and the primordial image underlying rta-brahman-atman and tao is as universal as man, appearing in every age and among all peoples as a primitive conception of energy, or “soul force,” or however else it may be called.
He who knows the Always-so has room in him for everything;
He who has room in him for everything is without prejudice.
To be without prejudice is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be of heaven;
To be of heaven is to be in Tao.
Tao is forever, and he that possesses it,
Though his body ceases, is not destroyed.
Knowledge of tao therefore has the same redeeming and uplifting effect as the knowledge of brahman.
Man becomes one with tao, with the unending duree creatrice (if we may compare this concept of Bergson’s with its older congener), for tao is also the stream of time.
It is irrational, inconceivable:
Tao is a thing impalpable, incommensurable.
For though all creatures under heaven are the products
of [Tao as] Being,
Being itself is the product of [Tao as] Not-Being.
Tao is hidden and nameless.
It is obviously an irrational union of opposites, a symbol of
what is and is not.
The Valley Spirit never dies;
It is named the mysterious Female.
And the door of the mysterious Female
Is the base from which heaven and earth sprang.
363 Tao is the creative process, begetting as the father and
bringing forth as the mother. It is the beginning and end of all
He whose actions are in harmony with Tao becomes one with Tao.
Therefore the perfected sage liberates himself from the opposites, having seen through their connection with one another and their alternation.
Therefore it is said:
When your work is done, then withdraw.
Such is heaven’s way.
He [the perfected sage] cannot either be drawn into
friendship or repelled,
Cannot be benefited, cannot be harmed,
Cannot be either raised or humbled.
Being one with tao resembles the state of infancy:
Can you keep the unquiet physical soul from straying, hold fast
to the Unity, and never quit it?
Can you, when concentrating your breath, make it soft like that
of a little child?
He who knows the male, yet cleaves to what is female,
Becomes like a ravine, receiving all things under heaven;
And being such a ravine,
He knows all the time a power that he never calls upon in vain.
This is returning to the state of infancy.
The impunity of that which is fraught with this power
May be likened to that of an infant.
This psychological attitude is, as we know, an essential condition for obtaining the kingdom of heaven, and this in its turn—all rational interpretations notwithstanding—is the central, irrational symbol whence the redeeming effect comes.
The Christian symbol merely has a more social character than the related conceptions of the East.
These are directly connected with age-old dynamistic ideas of a magical power emanating from people and things or—at a higher level of development from gods or a divine principle.
According to the central concepts of Taoism, tao is divided into a fundamental pair of opposites, yang and yin.
Yang signifies warmth, light, maleness; yin is cold, darkness, femaleness.
Yang is also heaven, yin earth.
From the yang force arises shen, the celestial portion of the human soul, and from the yin force comes kwei, the earthly part.
As a microcosm, man is a reconciler of the opposites.
Heaven, man, and earth form the three chief elements of the world, the san-tsai.
The picture thus presented is an altogether primitive idea which we find in similar forms elsewhere, as for instance in the West African myth where Obatala and Odudua, the first parents (heaven and earth), lie together in a calabash until a son, man, arises between them.
Hence man as a microcosm uniting the world opposites is the equivalent of an irrational symbol that unites the psychological opposites.
This primordial image of man is in keeping with Schiller’s definition of the symbol as “living form.”
The division of the psyche into a shen (or hwan) soul and a kwei (or p’o) soul is a great psychological truth.
This Chinese conception is echoed in the well-known passage from Faust:
Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.
The one has passion’s craving crude for love,
And hugs a world where sweet the senses rage;
The other longs for pastures fair above,
Leaving the murk for lofty heritage.
The existence of two mutually antagonistic tendencies, both striving to drag man into extreme attitudes and entangle him in the world, whether on the material or spiritual level, sets him at variance with himself and accordingly demands the existence of a counterweight. This is the “irrational third,” tao.
Hence the sage’s anxious endeavour to live in harmony with tao, lest he fall into the conflict of opposites.
Since tao is irrational, it is not something that can be got by the will, as Lao-tzu repeatedly emphasizes.
This lends particular significance to another specifically Chinese concept, wu-wei. Wuwei means “not-doing” (which is not to be confused with “doing nothing”). Our rationalistic “doing,” which is the greatness as well as the evil of our time, does not lead to tao.
The aim of Taoist ethics, then, is to find deliverance from the cosmic tension of opposites by a return to tao.
In this connection we must also remember the “sage of Omi,” Nakae
Toju, an outstanding Japanese philosopher of the seventeenth century.
Basing himself on the teaching of the Chu-hi school, which had migrated from China, he established two principles, ri and ki. Ri is the world soul, ki is the world stuff.
Ri and ki are, however, the same because they are both attributes of God and therefore exist only in him and through him.
God is their union.
Equally, the soul embraces both ri and ki.
Toju says of God:
“As the essence of the world, God embraces the world, but at the same time he is in our midst and even in our bodies.”
For him God is a universal self, while the individual self is the “heaven” within us, something supra-sensible and divine called ryochi. Ryochi is “God within us” and dwells in every individual.
It is the true self.
Toju distinguishes a true from a false self. The false self is an acquired personality compounded of perverted beliefs.
We might define this false self as the persona, that general idea of ourselves which we have built up from experiencing our effect upon the world around us and its effect upon us.
The persona is, in Schopenhauer’s words, how one appears to oneself and the world, but not what one is.
What one is, is one’s individual self, Toju’s “true self” or ryochi. Ryochi is also called “being alone” or “knowing alone,” clearly because it is a condition related to the essence of the self, beyond all personal judgments conditioned by external experience.
Toju conceives ryochi as the summum bonum, as “bliss” (brahman is bliss, ananda).
It is the light which pervades the world—a further parallel with brahman, according to Inouye.
It is love for mankind, immortal, all-knowing, good.
Evil comes from the will (shades of Schopenhauer!).
Ryochi is the self-regulating function, the mediator and uniter of the opposites, ri and ki; it is in fullest accord with the Indian idea of the “wise old man who dwells in the heart.”
Or as Wang Yang-ming, the Chinese father of Japanese philosophy, says: “In every heart there dwells a sejin (sage).
Only, we do not believe it firmly enough, and therefore the whole has remained buried.” ~Carl Jung, CW 6, Para 214-218
Just as conscious as well as unconscious phenomena are to be met with in practice, the self as psychic totality also has a conscious as well as an unconscious aspect.
Empirically, the self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales in the figure of the “supraordinate personality” (v. ego), such as a king, hero, prophet, saviour, etc., or in the form of a totality symbol, such as the circle, square, quadratura circuli, cross, etc.
When it represents a complexio oppositorum, a union of opposites, it can also appear as a united duality, in the form, for instance, of tao as the interplay of yang and yin, or of the hostile brothers, or of the hero and his adversary (arch-enemy, dragon), Faust and Mephistopheles, etc.
Empirically, therefore, the self appears as a play of light and shadow, although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united.
Since such a concept is irrepresentable — tertium non datnr—it is transcendental on this account also. It would, logically considered, be a vain speculation were it not for the fact that it designates symbols of unity that are found to occur empirically. ~Carl Jung, CW 6, Para 790
The Brahman concept also contains the concept of rta, right order, the orderly course of t ered, be a vain speculation were it not for the fact that it designates symbols of unity that are found to occur empirically.he world.
In brahman, the creative universal essence and universal Ground, all things come upon the right way, for in it they are eternally dissolved and recreated; all development in an orderly way proceeds from brahman.
The concept of rta is a stepping-stone to the concept of tao in Lao-tzu.
Tao is the right way, the reign of law, the middle road between the opposites, freed from them and yet uniting them in itself.
The purpose of life is to travel this middle road and never to deviate towards the opposites.
The ecstatic element is entirely absent in Lao-tzu; its place is taken by sublime philosophic lucidity, an intellectual and intuitive wisdom obscured by no mystical haze—a wisdom that represents what is probably the highest attainable degree of spiritual superiority, as far removed from chaos as the stars from the disorder of the actual world.
It tames all that is wild, without denaturing it and turning it into something higher. ~Carl Jung, CW 6, Para 192