Taoism is the first major philosophical and religious tradition explored by Peter Marshall, in his book Nature's Web. Marshall calls Taoism "the way of nature," emphasizing that this is the ideal religion from the perspective of ecological sensibility. Passivity is a key element of Taoist thought, and is a repeated concept in the primary Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching. The concept of passivity stresses that the wise person will not attempt to cause change in his world, but will rather be receptive to and allow natural changes to happen, as is the way of nature. Other Taoist principles concerning government, society, life, and death branch off from this concept. Marshall considers this religion to be a necessary foundation for an ecologically sound world and way of life, which is why he makes it the foundation of his book. However, Marshall's views may not be entirely realistic when we consider the practicality of the philosophy to our modern ecological crisis.
Taoism follows a much different idea of the "chain of being," than that of the other major religions (i.e. Hinduism, Judeo-Christian, Islam), which is very important in consideration of the ecological sensibility which stems from it. As opposed to a God-over-man-over-nature view of the world, Taoism states: Human beings follow the Earth.
Earth follows Heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
The Tao follows the way things are. (Tao Te Ching, 25)
This is important, for humans are urged by Taoist thought to place themselves below all else, especially the world, but also other people. The wise person will put another person's needs before their own. Within this frame of mind, selfishness must be eliminated in order for life and nature to be in order.
The passivity that is spoken of in the Tao Te Ching is not to be confused with inactivity or laziness. I equate it more with the idea of potential energy. The concept of potential energy asserts that all matter, although at a state of rest, possesses...
Cited: Marshall, Peter. Nature 's Web. New York: Paragon House, 1993.
Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. Trans. Charles Muller, 1997. Tao Te Ching Home Page.
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