1. A Modern Approach to Ancient Tao

(excerpts from Dynamic Tao and Its Manifestations)

Tao has survived thousands of years of analysis, remaining as a mysterious philosophy without a modern interpretation. Different schools of Chinese scholars chose to interpret Tao in different ways. In order to make progress in a more systematic way, we need to build a coherent base for Tao philosophy and use it as a common platform to foster further understanding of Tao.

Our approach was to start with a few Tao principles and use them to interpret the Tao Te Ching verses. After we understood more about the verses, we then went back to refine our Tao principles. This process repeated until we established consistency between Tao principles and their interpretations. This process is analogous to what Laotzu describes in Chapter 52:

52

既得其母,
以知其子;
既知其子,
復守其母,

Once we have some principles,
we may investigate its manifestations.
After we know its manifestations,
we return to abide with the principles.

Our purpose was not to give Tao a new interpretation, but to reconstruct the original Tao of Laotzu with a modern conceptual theory. Once we are familiar with the Tao principles, the words of Laotzu can be directly appreciated - without the theory. Our modern conceptual representation will also bring to light the relevance of Tao in our modern world.

1.1 Why Modern Science?

Modern sciences represent a break-through in the conceptual limitations of our classical thinking. We need a similar break-through in Tao philosophy.

In the past several hundred years, we have had great successes in the way we adjust to nature, since we have been able to open our minds to accept new and revolutionary scientific concepts. Scientific progress is made within ourselves. We learned how to restore our minds back to harmony with our physical environment. Within the last decade, we are willing to accept that there may be no particles at all and everything looks like strings or quantum foams [KA00]. With Quantum Cosmology, we change even more.

In the meantime, Tao is still simply Tao. We have not been able to submit our minds to resolve the mysteries of Tao. We let our minds be immersed in the “assumed” mysteries of Tao. Our understanding of Tao is not better than what we had 2000 years ago - many of our misunderstandings of Tao remain at the same level as those 2000 years ago.

1.2 The Physics of Tao

Capra describes phenomenon of Tao in physics in his 1975 best seller, The Tao of Physics [CA00]. From this side, we see the ultimate physics in Tao. In our efforts to re-construct the Tao philosophy, we have found full dynamics in the words of Laotzu, that we can best describe as The Physics of Tao.

1.3 A Scientific and Philosophical Analysis

Why does Tao appear to be so paradoxical and self-contradictory? From our experience in scientific investigations, this indicates that we are using an incompatible frame of reference, or an inadequate language, for our description. In the sciences, we have resolved numerous contradictions and paradoxes just by changing the conceptual language we use in ourescription of nature.

1.6 Why do we need a Coherent Tao?

Our purpose is to describe Tao and to translate the Tao Te Ching. We need a self-consistent description of Tao before we can translate Tao philosophy without distortion. To be more explicit, our minds should be in a coherent frame of reference before we can translate Tao with consistency. Further systematic progress can be made only when we have a coherent frame of reference.

1.7 A Language-Independent Model

After our analysis, we realize that there is another critical reason to have a scientific model: a scientific model makes Tao philosophy culture-independent. Therefore, our model for Tao will be language-independent. This is important for a successful translation and will require less ambiguous personal speculations.