THE ‘FALL’ IN TAOISM= The Great Pretense Begins

The Jews who borrowed from Babylonian myths [circa 500 BC], in order to nuance the specifically Jewish story of the loss of Paradise by Adam and Eve, had in mind, quite consciously, a ‘real’ historical transition, an actual watershed in all human life on this planet.

Thus, the loss of Paradise was, for the Jews, the loss of the hunter-gathering, nomadic life, and the turn to the crop growing-farming, settled, life. Out of this loss of direct contact with divine presence and divine energy in the Sacred Beginning comes both slack liberal Matriarchy and vicious conservative Patriarchy.

Lao Tzu, in the ‘Tao Te Ching’, has a different way of putting the Fall.

It is perhaps somewhat parallel with the Hindu-Buddhist descent into ‘the great ignorance’, but has its own unique flavour. It highlights the tremendous human hypocrisy involved in the ever increasing falling away from ‘getting it direct from the horse’s mouth.’

18

When the great Way falls into disuse
there is benevolence and rectitude;
When cleverness emerges
there is great hypocrisy.

When there is no peace within the family,
filial devotion and piety arise.
When the country is confused and in chaos,
loyal ministers appear.

38

A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,
and therefore has virtue. A man of the lowest virtue
never strays from virtue and that is why he is without virtue.

A truly good man does nothing,
yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing,
yet much is left undone.

A man of the highest rectitude acts, but from ulterior motive.
A man most conversant in the rites acts, but when no one responds,
rolls up his sleeve and resorts to persuasion by force.

Hence when the Way was lost there was virtue;
when virtue was lost there was benevolence;
when benevolence was lost there was rectitude;
when rectitude was lost there were the rites.

The rites are the wearing thin of loyalty and good faith
and the beginning of disorder;
foreknowledge is the flowery embellishment of the Way
and the beginning of folly.

Hence the man of large mind abides in the real,
and not in what is on the surface,
in the fruit, not in the flower.

Therefore accept the one, and reject the other.

An alternative translation=

When the Way is lost, there is goodness;
when goodness is lost, there is kindness;
when kindness is lost, there is morality;
when morality is lost, there is ritual.

And similarly=

3

Not exalting the gifted prevents quarrelling
Not collecting treasures prevents stealing
Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.

The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies,
by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
If people lack knowledge and desire
then intellectuals will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.

And=

8

Highest good is like water.
Because water excels in
benefiting the myriad creatures
without contending with them,
and settles where none would like to be,
it comes close to the Way.