Taoist Cosmology

Taoist Cosmology

Tao is empty- Its use is never exhausted
Bottomless- the origin of all things…
Deeply subsistent-
I don’t know whose child it is.
It is older than the Ancestor.
-Tao Te Ching, 4

Tao called Tao is not Tao.
Names can name no lasting name.
Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.
Naming: the mother of the ten thousand things…
-Tao Te Ching, 1

Reversal is Tao’s movement.
Yielding is Tao’s practice.
All things originate from being.
Being originates from non-being.
-Tao Te Ching, 40

The Tao is beyond all creation cannot be named. The Tao is also the void nature within ourselves.

To know the Tao we must understand the nature of the universe which is manifestation and multiplicity, and also in its deepest nature, it is unity and pure un-manifestation. We have a spiritual essence within us, that is very well hidden deep within our personalities and our dual nature.

The Tao as a Way or Path is this process of allowing for inner quietude, serenity, and space.


Creation and the Tao

Tao engenders One
One engenders Two,
Two engenders Three, 
Three engenders the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry shade
And embrace sunlight.
Shade and sunlight, yin and yang.
Breath blending into harmony.
-Tao Te Ching, 42

In this passage from the Tao Te Ching we see the Tao as un-manifestion engendering the One, called wuji the infinite space. Wuji is stillness within stillness, our inner stillness, inner essence, beneath and interior to any movement.

The One engenders the Two, called taiji, the great ultimate, related to harmony of opposites and alchemy of yin and yang.  The Two engenders the Three, the Law of Three which creates, and from the Three all of creation, the Ten Thousand Things.


The Five Phases

Every essence descends from the Tao into wuji and fuses with the five phases, the wu jing shen. The Five Phases are the symbol for the movement of the energies and elements of nature: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.

The five-pointed symbol here represents the flow of energies in nature. The five phases are not discrete elements like the four elements of classical Greece, but phases of nature which transform into each other in a cyclical way. These five phases are the basis for Taoist medicine and feng shui, the sciences related to health and harmony in life and nature.


The Cosmic Three Treasures

The Tao engenders the Three Treasures in different scales of existence, each with its own science for mastery.

Heaven is the cosmic scale with the Sun, Moon, Stars and its science is astrology.

Earth is the terrestrial scale with Wind, Earth, Water and its science is feng shui, or geographic physiognomy. The Earth transforms the cosmic energy flowing from Heaven through the web of interconnected life on its surface.

Human is the microcosmic scale and has the internal jing, qi, shen, the essence, energy, spirit. The human transforms cosmic and terrestrial energies through the science of alchemy and transmutation.


The Human Three Treasures

The Three Treasures of humans are the jing, qi, and shen.

Qi is the term for “energy” in the body, and also in all of nature. Qi is movement and functionality, life force. Qi is equivalent to the Hindu prana and the Greek pneuma, the breath. When the qi is exhausted the separation of yin and yang occurs and life ends.

Jing is the ancestral essence, the root of the qi in our body, and the force that can generate new life, or with special efforts, regenerate us spiritually. Jing is related to our DNA, our instinctive animal nature to survive and reproduce.

Shen is the spirit, or translated literally as “heart-mind”. Shen resides in the heart and is nourished by the blood, or vital fluids in the body. Shen is expansive and connects us to our true nature, beyond the body.


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