How Nature Works in Humans

The Tao of Nature

Lao Tzu was perhaps the first theoretical physicist. He devoted all of his intellectual energy to observing nature and its physical laws and to noting the interdependent relationship of all things. He saw a unified field of forces that he called Tao, but because what he saw could not be expressed in a logical, analytical fashion, he conveyed it through paradox. The eighty-one chapters in his small book are riddled with self-contradictory phrases: “The Tao illuminated appears to be obscure. The Tao advancing appears to be retreating. It is the form of the formless; the image of nothingness.” Lao Tzu used paradox to provoke an unusual awareness in his readers, and to help explain the patterns and cycles, the parity and complementarity, that he saw superimposed on reality by the physical forces in the universe. The most striking of these patterns. central to the Tao Te Ching, is that of polarity.

Polarity arises from the Taoist view of the cosmological origins of the universe: Before existence there was an idea–an Absolute. The Chinese call it T’ai Chi, the Supreme Ultimate. The Absolute, in a sudden and tremendous desire to know itself, divided itself from non-existence in a cataclysmic event resulting in endless cause and effect–an event that neatly parallels the so-called Big Bang Theory. Instantly, space was formed and time began, and two charged states came into being, yin (negative) and yang (positive). As a result of the complementary polarity of yin and yang, matter and energy, that were at first undifferentiated, separated and regrouped into the physical reality that became our universe.

Lao Tzu believed that everything that exists comes into reality through the polarity of yin and yang. He called the specific physical laws and cycles that control and govern reality the Tao, and suggested that the actions of the Tao reflect the purpose of a larger entity (the Absolute). So if reality came about because the Absolute wanted to know itself, then our evolutionary destiny must be to help it get a good look by investigating, observing, and emulating nature.

Conceiving of a universe where reality is shaped through the force of the intellect (and vice versa) may be somewhat easier for physicists than it is for the rest of us, but it is a concept that is indispensable to anyone seeking powerful insights into the ways of the world. All investigations–whether at the atomic level or at the level of our own cultural behaviour–yield more refined and accurate information when approached from this paradoxical point of view. Fortunately, the structure of the brain and the bilateral processes of the mind can make effective use of this form of thought.

The brain accepts all types of information from all stimuli simultaneously, and the mind processes it in the form of emotional responses, intuitive feelings, and logically formulated analyses. In the West, we rely almost exclusively on logical analysis. We are encouraged to think in a linear fashion, using words and numbers to draw conclusions about our work and our lives. These logical functions, according to neurological research, are performed by the left hemisphere of the brain. At the same time, we learn to discount aesthetic or intuitive information–a right-hemisphere function–because it is considered less valuable to our culture. Thus we find ourselves primarily concerned with measuring events and analysing their meaning, rather than creating and directing their flow. We are taught to ignore the intuitive or irrational, no matter how strong these “gut feelings” might be. As these right-hemisphere feelings are repressed we lose touch with our intuitive mind and our insights become increasingly rare.

Lao Tzu believed that intuitive knowledge was the purest form of information. For that reason, he expressed his philosophy in the form of thought experiments–mental exercises designed to enhance and evolve the intuitive skills. In the Tao Te Ching, he compels us to use intuition as an equal partner with logic, and encourages us to combine our cognitive understanding of the world around us with a strong personal vision. Neurologically, we might call this a “whole-mind” approach, wherein the spatially and aesthetically astute right hemisphere of the brain is put into use along with the analytically and logically oriented left hemisphere. In this way, we gain a holistic and precise view of reality because we are also perceiving mood, change, and possibility–the mood of the times, the change as society evolves, and the possible future we might create. It is the view of the artist, the philosopher, the visionary–a view that has always carried with it the power to influence the world.

The Tao in Nature

This group of twelve passages discusses the basic physical laws underlying Taoist philosophy; the cosmology of the Tao and the origins of the universe. It is best understood using a scientific point of view.

The twelve passages are as follows:
·       The Nature of the Tao
·       Perceiving the Subtle
·       Using What Is Not
·       The Essence of the Tao
·       Knowing the Collective Origin
·       The Tao of Greatness
·       The Evolving Tao
·       The Way
·       Mastering the Paradox
·       Knowing Polarity
·       The Power of Impartial Support
·       Nature’s Way

Mohandas Gandhi

“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong”