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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Tao and God 2

Question: Derek, I find your previous blog entry on chapter 4 interesting. When you say the Tao comes before God, and that this idea applies to any concept of God, I get the impression that the Tao is the creator of God, just as God is the creator of the universe. Is this what you mean?

Answer: Not exactly. Oftentimes people think of the Tao as a deity, but that's like assigning "God status" to electricity, gravity, or the Theory of Relativity. The Tao cannot be rigidly defined in that manner. It may be more useful, in the context of this discussion, to think of the Tao as "the way things are." Imagine the following conversation where a young child poses questions to his father, who is religious:

Boy: "Dad, where does that car come from?"

Father: "It comes from the car factory."

Boy: "Where does the factory come from?"

Father: "People built the factory years ago."

Boy: "Where do people come from?"

Father: "Well, God made us in His image."

Boy: "Where does God come from?"

Father: "God has no beginning."

Boy: "Why not?"

Father: "That's just the way God is, son."

The usage of "way" above maps perfectly to Lao Tzu's usage of "Tao" in the last line of chapter 4. Once we understand this, we'll be able to see that ultimately, it is not God at the very beginning of everything. Rather, it is the Tao of God.

This understanding can also take us another step further and enable us to see that Lao Tzu's principle applies just as easily if the father were an atheist. If his explanation involves the Big Bang cosmological model instead of God, we would still ultimately end up with the Tao.


DavidW said...


Is it possible the Tao is of this Universe and that God is not of (or is outside of) the Universe and that it along with all of its laws and principles is his creation, ergo, he created the Tao?

Derek said...

Rather than to say "the Tao is of this universe," consider the following, more accurate statement:

The Tao is of everything that exists.

Let us say that God is *not* of this universe, as taught by various Christian theologians. Then...

Well, same thing, really. He exists. He has some kind of way about Him, whatever His way may be. He goes about creating our universe in this unique way - let there be light, etc.

No matter how we look at it, we cannot get away from "the way." Let's suppose God created "The Way." Then the question still remains: "What was God's way when he created His way?" or "What was God's nature when He created His nature?"

Lao Tzu's point is no longer well understood today, but I think that once you understand, you'll begin to see the pieces falling into place.

DavidW said...


I appreciate your response and I look forward to considering and thinking about it. I would like to make one point and one request:

When I use the word God I do not mean a Christian idea of God; I mean that whose naure is to exist (or that which was not created). The only "nature" that we can ascribe to God is that he exists.

My request is - can you define (not translate) what the Tao (Way)?

Derek, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas, I find them fascinating!


Derek said...

David, you are most welcome and I appreciate having the opportunity to interact with you.

As the first line of the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching states emphatically, the Tao is simply not something that can be defined by words. It is beyond definition.

All of our attempts to express or explain the Tao are necessarily approximations.

Sometimes the Tao is thought of as natural laws and principles. While this is accurate, it is also only a small slice of the Tao. The Tao is so much more.

The interesting thing is this: once you *do* indeed understand the concept of Tao deep within, you'll see that no words are necessary at all; the Tao is more incredible and more amazing than the human mind can comfortably grasp.

Upon sensing this, some have attempted to describe it as "the mind of God" - and although this falls short as well (like all other verbal descriptions), perhaps it can be a starting point for us, in our contemplation. :)

DavidW said...


I appreciate your wisdom and insight.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Derek,
I'm new at Tao, I learn a lot from your book, "The Tao Of Daily Life".
What I want to discuss has nothing to do with the subject of your post, but I couldn't find anything in recent archives. So, I hope I can talk about this here without offending anybody :) .

What I would like to talk about is reincarnation. I don't believe that we literally have an individual soul that comes back other times after the body it occupies dies. What I do believe, though, relates to the chapter in your book - the chapter that I read today. It is the one where the disciple asks the sage about reincarnation, and the sage tells him to go get some water from the river. I've believed for a while now, that we are all part of nature - that we all have a physical, as well as, an unexplained connection with the earth. What I think on the subject of reincarnation is, that we become a living being biologically, we are fed molecules of water and food, both of which are part of the earth, from which all life (as we know it here on Earth) comes from. We drink water, which has molecules that were at one time part of another human, or animal, or dinosaur, or bug. Same goes for the food we eat, and the air we breathe. In that way, we are all reincarnations of other life, just not directly - as in "In a previous life, I was a tiger...". Yes, I do believe that all things in this life are related - also that the earth itself has a life force that should be respected (but mostly isn't these days). I would like to hear your thoughts on this. I see that you do believe in reincarnation, but I would love to hear you elaborate some.

That's all I have for now, thanks for the space to share this. I'll be visiting you folks here as often as I can, as I have a lot to learn - being that up until now, my life has gone anything but the way I planned, or wanted it to, and as a result, I've become bitter and angry. That fact, like anything else, is relative, as I see people who are much more angry and bitter than I am, but I am those things, and I'm trying to find a way to get them under control.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Derek,
I wanted to add to my previous post. I believe that while we are biologically part of the universe, we also, when we are conceived, and as we grow, have part of the life force that is in all things. That life force, along with our biological makeup, returns to the source when our body's life is over.
Just wanted to make that clear :) .