Chapter 3: Forrunners of the idea of Synchronicity
70 In Chinese philosophy one of the oldest and most central ideas is that of Tao, which the Jesuits translated as “God”. But that is correct only for the Western way of thinking. Richard Wilhelm brilliantly interprets it as “meaning” (Sinn). The concept of Tao pervades the whole philosophical full of China. Causality occupies this paramount position with us, but it acquired its importance only in the course of the last two centuries, thanks to the levelling influence on the statistical method on the one hand and the unparalleled success of the natural sciences on the other, which brought the metaphysical view of the world into disrepute.
Laozi gives the following description of Tao – TaoTeChing 25
Representations of the mystery
There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)!
It may be regarded as the Mother of all things.
I do not know its name,
and I give it the designation of the Dao (the Way or Course).
Making an effort (further) to give it a name I call it The Great.
Great, it passes on (in constant flow). Passing on, it becomes remote.
Having become remote, it returns.
Therefore the Dao is great; Heaven is great; Earth is great; and the (sage) king is also great. In the universe there are four that are great, and the (sage) king is one of them. Man takes his law from the Earth; the Earth takes its law from Heaven; Heaven takes its law from the Dao. The law of the Dao is its being what it is.
人 法 地，
ren fa dì
地 法 天，
dì fa tian
天 法 道，
tian fa dào
道 法 自 然
dào fa zì rán
There is something formless yet comlete
That existed before heaven and earth.
How still! How empty!
Dependent on nothing, unchanging,
All pervading, unfailing.
I do not know its name,
But I call it “meaning” (R. Wilhelm)
70 Tao ”covers the tenthousand things like a garment but does not claim to be master over them” (Laozi34), Laozi describes it as “Nothing” by which he means, says Wilhelm, only it's “contrast with the world of reality”
71 “Nothing” is evidently “meaning” or “purpose”, and it is called nothing because it does not appear in the world of the senses, but is only its organiser. Laozi says:
Because the eye gazes but can catch no glimpse of it, it is called elusive.
Because the air listens but cannot hear it, it is called the rarefied.
Because the hand feels for it but cannot find it, it is called the infinitesimal.
These are called the shapeless shapes,
Forms without form,
Go towards them, and you can see no front;
Go after them, and you see no rear.
Dao De Jing: The manifestation of the mystery
We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it 'the Equable.'
We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it 'the Inaudible.'
We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it 'the Subtle.'
With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain The One.
Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure. Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing.
This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable. We meet it and do not see its Front; we follow it, and do not see its Back.
When we can lay hold of the Dao of old to direct the things of the present day, and are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning, this is called (unwinding) the clue of Dao.
71 Wilhelm describes it as "a borderline conception lying at the extreme edges of the world of appearances". In it, the opposites " cancel out in nondiscrimination", but still potentially present.