Taoism as a Spiritual Path

by on Thursday, 31 December 2009 Comments

The various facets of the Taoist tradition can be understood as a series of variations around a common theme: the human body is the vehicle through which spiritual experience takes place, and its nature and organization determine the steps of the spiritual growth that women and men are called to experience, while anchoring such growth into a cosmic process. The modernity of the Taoist spiritual path lies in the consistency of its focus on the cosmic and the human body taken as a whole. Such, in short, is the thesis developed by Pierre-Henry de Bruyn in his excellent compendium on Taoist teachings throughout Chinese history. While reminding one of the argument put forward by Kristopher Schipper in “The Taoist Body”, de Bruyn’s book covers an even wider ground. The author offers inspiring summaries of the major texts and schools, showing the diversity of their methods as well as the consistency of their inspiration. Though such historical continuity does not ensure the survival of Taoism, it certainly reminds one that present-day religiosity in the Chinese world cannot be understood without referring to one of its longest and richest spiritual traditions. Even if Taoist religious expressions are to undergo major changes due to continuing social transformations, its basic lessons bear a significance that goes far beyond the cultural area where they have taken shape.

See references and book review in French



Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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