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Taoism: The Parting of the Way Paperback – June 1, 1971
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From the Back Cover
This book offers a comprehensive discussion of Taoism, one of the world's major religions, as well as a study of the Tao te ching, the best known Taoist text, Lao-Tzu as a Taoist prototype.
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Welch's short book contains 4 parts. In the first part, he explains that the ambiguous nature of the ancient Chinese characters, compounded by the oftent inscrutable and paradoxical writing style of Lao Tzu himself, makes definitive translation and interpretation of the text impossible.
In the second part, he offers his own informed and wise interpretation of the the Tao Te Ching, explicating three inter-related central concepts: (1)the doctrine of 'wu-wei' (spontaneity and non-interference in action), (2)the concept of 'pu' (original human nature (literally 'the uncarved block'), the way of the newborn child as an ideal counterposed to the adult corruption introduced by society), and (3)the mystical experience of the 'tao', or 'way' of the universe through meditation.
In the third part, Welch lays out the bizarre history of the development of Taoism since Lao Tzu, its intersections with other religions, and its devolution into arcane practices of asceticism, alchemy, hygiene, and geomancy.
In the final section, Welch offers a reading of the relevance of Lao Tzu's teachings to the present day (c. 1950s) that now seems pretty dated and hackneyed.
I recommend the first 2 parts as a valuable and illuminating companion text for anyone reading the Tao Te Ching.
The section on the development of Taoism as a religion can be taken as a cautionary tale on how a philosophical system can be (and often is) changed beyond recognition (and ruined) by turning it something that will be accepted by the masses.
The last page of the section on the Tao Te Ching that describes why philosphical taoism didn't succeed as a religion because of its ambiguity, darkness and uncertainty hit the nail on the head! Philosophical Taoism doesn't offer easy answers--or immortality.
As for the previous reviewer who said this was the worst book he had ever read, I would love to see his reading list. That kind of extreme statement presents for me an mindset totally incapable of comprehending what Mr. Welch was presenting--especially in the first two sections.
Yes, the book was written in the 50's--nothing better has been written as an introduction to the subject since.
Most recent customer reviews
The book ends in an awesome question and answer prose in Tao-think with...Read more