Do not develop the nature which is of man, but develop the nature which is of God.
– Chuang Tzu
The Center of Traditional Taoist Studies teaches classical Taoist theology based on a holistic view of the universe with religious tenets underlying a system of practical concepts. Whereas Western philosophies and religions have generally viewed reason and faith as mutually exclusive, classical Taoism integrates the two. This is a consequence of recognizing that the forces of the Tao act upon the heavens as well as the earth, making the two indivisibly coupled and thus clarifying, not complicating, understanding. Such a grounded attitude can be traced to Taoism’s shamanistic origins with religious practices born of a time when concrete goals were essential amongst simple peoples trying to survive in a harsh environment.
Taoism’s religious practices build a bridge between one’s earthly human form and the heavens. In the quest for oneness with the universe, Taoists work to understand their paths — which ultimately lead to the Great Ultimate. Prayer, as performed at the Center, opens a two-way communication channel to the heavens. In this way, a devout Taoist sends an appropriate message to the Great Ultimate and receives a concrete answer in return; guidance from the Heavens augment spiritual instruction to clarify one’s path.
To the classical Taoist, life is an on-going effort to unscramble the confusions of the soul. Taoist philosophy provides principles to live by, and guidance from the gods helps see reality more clearly. This not only yields a better daily life, but also points to Taoism’s purpose of life: our soul is placed on earth for a short time to better tune itself to mortal reality. If successful, when the body is cast off, the surviving entity, the soul, is more likely to be accepted by the Great Ultimate. Thus, the duality of existence means that a better life on earth provides for a better afterlife. Significantly, there is no required sacrifice of one for the other, the two existences are complimentary and inextricably bound.