I have written evaluations of several of the World’s great religions, and I plan to write about more of them. In the evaluations, I try to list the Strengths & Shortcomings of each religion. (Presently, I am at work on an evaluation of Buddhism.)
Below are excerpts from my Essay, Evaluating Taoism and Zen — the two great spiritual paths that I favorably regard as most like The Practice of Continuing Creation. Like the famed scholar and writer Alan Watts, I regard Taoism and Zen as closely interrelated. The following excerpts present some of the Strengths & Shortcomings of Taoism and Zen.
Strength of Taoism — The Tao, or The Way, like our own Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Universe) is a powerful, pervasive (and often progressive) summation of innumerable interactive systems. The Tao is definitely not a super-being who grants wishes and voices condemnations.
Shortcoming of Taoism — However, an unnecessary pantheon of conventional “gods” was eventually tacked on to Taoism, to increase its mass appeal. Lao Tsu, the reputed author of the
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu became revered as the principal of this collection of godly “immortals.” The immortals supposedly lived on mountain tops or in grottoes. They could “run great distances at top speeds, disappear, shrink themselves and shape-shift.” To serve the immortals, and to communicate with them, priests and monks were evolved, along with and temples and monasteries to house them. 34
Strength of both Taoism and Zen – Since they view the universe (world) as growing rather than having been created, they are consistent with the science of evolution, and with the thrust of Continuing Creation.
Strengths of Taoism and Zen — Neither one places blind faith in a single “sacred book,” nor holds any of its fables, stories, and koans to be literally true.
Strengths of Taoism and Zen — Neither one commands, compels or demands obedience. Neither one favors one tribe or nation over another. Neither Taoism nor Zen inspires wars or hungers for its “own” land. Neither hopes a “messiah” will come to rescue any group.
Shortcoming of both Taoism and Zen — Unlike the Book of Continuing Creation, Taoism and Zen arose too early to be informed about modern science and were therefore unable to describe how the Processes of Creation actually work. This also limits Taoism and Zen’s early conceptions of Progress. Nevertheless, there are remarkable parallels between Taoist philosophy and modern physics, which we discuss elsewhere in the full Essay.
Strength of both Taoism and Zen –- Even though both these spiritual paths arose long before the Earth was threatened by human overpopulation, pollution, environmental degradation, and global warming, they are still able to address the very early evidence of these problems, as evidenced by the Tao Te Ching’s Chapter #39.
Shortcoming of both Taoism and Zen — They predated, and therefore were unable to benefit from, three modern developments in Morality: 1) the flowering of human rights in the Enlightenment; 2) modern scientific understanding of how the Processes of Continuing Creation work, and 3) modern awareness that Earth’s biosphere as a whole also has “rights.” Of course, this has been a shortcoming of all the world’s major religions.
Strength of Taoism — Although it has a moral code, Taoism admits that the Tao “doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil” (Chapter #5), as does the Process of Continuing Creation.
Strength of both Taoism and Zen — Both Spiritual Paths detest war but recognize that it is sometimes unavoidable. The reality of war, the need for self-defense, gives rise to Taoist and Zen martial arts.
Strength of Taoism – Taoism provides practical advice on how to work, how to govern, how to achieve serenity in an active world. The Taoist idea is to “Go with the Flow;” to “Do your Work, and then step back.” The Practice of Continuing Creation adopts this approach to life.
Shortcoming of Zen – Being practically oriented, the Tao Te Ching has little mention of meditation. In contrast, Zen strongly emphasizes meditation and gives scant advice about living daily life. While meditation can be an aide to an active and creative life, in Zen monasteries it can become a lifetime search for sudden “awakening.” In this monasterial mode, Zen offers a means of mental escape here on Earth; it becomes a life of passive acceptance.
Strength of both Taoism and Zen — Like Christianity, both Taoism and Zen have little use for personal ambition. The Tao Te Ching says that the Master works through the Tao for her people. Creating, not accumulating, is the important thing.
Strength of both Taoism and Zen – Taoism and Zen teach a way to a better future. We can think of this as a two-step process: 1) Align with the Tao, 2) Use the Tao to shape things and events around us. The Tao Te Ching applies this to governance; Zen applies this to art and war.
Weakness of both Taoism and Zen – While neither is apocalyptic, each mostly holds that history and the future are cyclical (yin and yang). The Practice of Continuing Creation, on the other hand, more optimistically maintains that the past has been, and the future will be, progressive over the long run.
— J.X. Mason, 5-3-22. “Look For Me on the Web!”