The Tao is above existence and non-existence.
Existence is for men who use words But the Tao does not use words.
It is as silent as a flower.
Words come from the Tao—the Tao produces words,
But it does not use them.
In the trial scene in Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit read an obscure verse which was apparently quite irrelevant to the case. The King triumphantly exclaimed “That’s the most important piece of evidence we’ve heard yet”. Alice flatly contradicted him and said, “I don’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it”. The King then said, “If there’s no meaning in it, that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn’t try to find any”.
I might make a similar comment about the Taoists. Since the Taoists make no claim that the Tao exists, or if the Gods are real or not.This saves me a fuck load of trouble in trying to prove that the Tao exists, or if Demons and Gods are real and have a separate reality from our waking lives. This is common sense at its highest! If they are or aren’t real, do you think they give a tired shit if you believe in their reality or not? Just compare the situation with the history of Western religions thought!
By Zeus’s Nut-sack, the amount of debates, battles, bloodshed and torture over the question of whether God does or does not exist! It has seemed to be even more than a life and death issue. At all costs, the Christian must convince the heathen, the pagan and the atheist that God exists, in order to save his soul. At all costs, the atheist must convince the Christian that the belief in God is but a childish and primitive superstition, doing enormous harm to the cause of true social progress.
And so they battle and storm and bang away at each other as the pagan community squabble about how this goddess could be the real form of that goddess, and only This true name is correct for That Sumerian Deity. Meanwhile, as a Taoist, I can sit quietly by the stream, perhaps with a book of poems and a cigarette, a cup of coffee, and some painting materials, enjoying the Tao to my hearts content, without ever worrying whether or not the Tao exists, because the Tao doesn’t give a fuck, and the main thing it wants me to learn in this life is that I shouldn’t care all that much either..
YES,YES, WE KNOW ALL THAT, BUT DO THE GODS EXIST?
My, my, how very fucking persistent you are! Wipe the flecks of spittle from your mouth, my friend, you seem to have gotten quite excited. Well now,let me get a cup of coffee and say a little more about this. The Taoist view is not like the Western agnostic who grants that either God exists or he doesn’t, but doesn’t know which. The Western agnostic will say, “By simple Aristotelian logic, we know that either God exists or he doesn’t, but we do not have
confirming evidence one way or the other. Hence our only rational recourse is to suspend judgment on the matter until further evidence becomes available.”
Now, as a Taoist, I see the matter quite differently. I do not “suspend judgement” as to whether or not there is a God; the question of the existence or nonexistence of the Gods simply does not occur to me, or if someone presents it to me, I regard it as vague, meaningless, somehow irrelevant and sort of odd. In this respect, I’m strangely like the Western logical positivist, though perhaps for different reasons, and without the super cool German formal logic and the theory of probability. If you asked a logical positivist whether or not the Gods exist, he would declare the question “meaningless”. He would first want the word “Gods” to be clearly defined. Now, if the question really has no meaning, as the positivist says, then I would be quite happy, since I can then reply, “If there’s no meaning in it, that saves a world of trouble, as we needn’t try to find any”.
At this point, you may be a bit irritated at me and say, “Stop evading the issue! Do the Gods exist or do they not? Is it something real or is it a mere fantasy—a figment of the imagination?”
Well now, analogous questions on existence have been asked in other areas and are equally futile. There has been, for example, much metaphysical controversy as to the existence of so-called universals—things like redness, triangularly, beauty, goodness, and so on. Does redness exist? If so, where is it, how much does it weigh, what is its shape, what is its colour? [Would you say that the color redness is itself red? Hardly!] Does redness really exist at all? Some may naively say, “Of course redness exists; look at roses, lipstick, certain apples, etc.” But this only means that there exists certain things which are red; it does not prove that there exists a certain entity called “redness”.
The question of the existence of such an entity has been a lively one in the history of Western philosophy. There are those called “Nominalists” who believe the answer is “No”. They, of course, admit the existence of particular things which are red, but they deny the existence of any entity called “redness”. They accept the word “red” as an adjective (since there are red things), but they deny any legitimacy to the use of the word “redness” as a noun. They would deny that the word “redness” has any actual denotation; they do not believe that “redness” is an actual name of anything. On the other hand there are those called “Realists” (sometimes “Platonists”) who believe that “redness” is indeed a legitimate noun—it is the name of redness. They also believe that the word “red” can be properly used both as an adjective and as a noun. It is used as an adjective, for example, in a statement like “This apple is red”; it is used as a noun in such statements as “Red is one of the primary colors”. And the realist believes that “red” is indeed a name; it is the name of the color red.
Similarly, the realist—nominalist controversy extends to other so-called “universals”. The realist like Plato believes in the existence of Beauty, Goodness, Truth, whereas the nominalist only believes that certain works of art are beautiful, certain acts might be labeled “good” and certain propositions are appropriately labeled “true”.
It might surprise some nonmathematical readers that such controversies exist even in the realm known as the foundations of mathematics. This field is erroneously believed by the layman to be settled and non-controversial. But this is far from true!
The so-called mathematical realist (or classicist or “Platonist”) believes in a world of non-linguistic mathematical entities such as “numbers, sets, functions, groups, topological spaces”, etc, and that it is the purpose of mathematics to discover and prove various statement about these entities which are true. On the other hand there is the so-called mathematical “formalist” who believes all these so-called mathematical entities are but figments of the imagination; the only reality is the symbols used to express them! So the interest of the mathematical formalist appears to be purely linguistic. For him, mathematics is but the study of strings of symbols called “formal expressions”, and of how they are to be manipulated according to the prescribed rules of the system under study; the expressions themselves do not express anything! And the formalist (like the nominalist) denies the existence of things like “numbers” as other than certain linguistic expressions.
We might similarly approach the problem of the existence of the Gods. There are perhaps those who would deny the use of the word “God” as a noun; they would refuse to believe in the existence of some “entities” called the Gods , but they would nevertheless accept as quite meaningful the adjective “Theistic”. It certainly should be obvious to all students of Occult thought—even those with absolutely no metaphysical commitments of any kind—that certain works are more Theistic than others. For example, it is generally conceded that old style Goetic Magic is
more Theistic than the art of Chaos Magick. Thus few will object to the use of the word “Theistic” though many might object to the word “God”.
Some of you may feel that I am still evading the issue of whether or not the Gods really exist. Actually Vincent, do you know, or are just fucking with us? I might say “Who the fuck cares?”… “But”, you might reply, “don’t you even have some personal opinion on the matter?” Suppose you actually cornered me in my shop with a flamethrower and said to me point blank: “Vincent, you Motherfucker! Stop equivocating! Do you or do you not believe the Gods exist?” What would I answer? This would depend on whether I happened to be in a more Western or more Eastern mood at the time I was asked, as I have a foot in both worlds. If I were in a more Western mood (and abided in the duality of existence versus nonexistence), then, since I tend to be a Platonist, I would probably answer, “Yes, the Gods exist, and they don’t believe in you”. But suppose I were in an Eastern mood? If you asked a Zen-Master whether the Gods exist, he would probably give you a good blow with his stick. Now I have a baseball bat, but being of a somewhat kinder disposition, I would probably just smile at you (perhaps in a somewhat condescending fashion) and offer you a cup of Coffee, perhaps a cigarette, and wait till you went away all mad and disgruntled.
Stay Gold Everyone, and Happy Holidays…..
Sources: Logical Positivism (http://www.loyno.edu/~folse/logpos.htm), The Tao is Silent by: Raymond M. Smullyan, Nominalism and Realism by:Andrea Borghini
Art Source-The Council of the Gods by:Peter Paul Rubens