Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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In nature's natural effort to keep the human species alive, two contradictory imperatives compete and balance each other: the need to keep things the same and the need to change. During times of stability, when most major survival problems became secure; change and ideas that encouraged change became a threat—"If not broken, don't try to fix it." However, when environmental, social, political, and/or technological circumstances disrupt this status quo, that same survival can depend on an innovative response, a radical change. For most of human history, these change agents—philosophical, religious, political, or human—were not frequently needed and often detrimental. Change agents were denigrated, persecuted, jailed, and often killed. In times of rapid societal disruption though (like our own times), this creative openness and courage to take unproven directions.

Civilization progresses in a leap-frog kind of way. One country advances technology and attains dominance and power and then less advanced countries use that technology to leap-frog ahead of the the once dominant one. One example is cell phones letting ‘developing countries’ skip the infrastructure phase of land-line telephone poles and wires and move technologically ahead of countries hampered by their need to maintain the old systems while at the same time trying to bring in the new. The same dynamic plays out in psychological realms of self-image, meaningfulness, and cultural identification.

The further back in time, the more narrow and limited our perceptions of the world. It slowly expanded from family to clan to village to city to country. With the revolution of information technology, it now includes all the world and all the people in it. Unfortunately our conceptions of equality and justice haven’t expanded as quickly as this awareness. People becoming true citizens of the world is evolution’s main challenge for us today.

Desire, any sort of gaining idea only distorts and diminishes the natural progression of wisdom into enlightened society.

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Quotes (79)

“Those who embrace reality and exercise true sincerity move the spirits of heaven and earth... Even if they don't say a single word, nevertheless all the people in the world evolve along with them.”

Wenzi 文子 1 via Thomas Cleary
"Authentic Presence of Pervading Mystery.”
from The Wenzi, Wénzǐ 文子

Themes: Evolution Reality

“As mind gives order to the chaos of our actions, so the World Mind gave order to the primeval seeds, setting them into a rotary vortex and guiding them toward the development of organic forms.”

Anaxagoras Ἀναξαγόρας 510 – 428 BCE via Will Durant
“The Copernicus and Darwin of his age”

Themes: Mind Evolution

“The words of arguments are all relative. To reach the absolute, the truth, we have to harmonize opposites and follow their natural evolution.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao 2.4

from Zhuangzi

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Sages do not need authority to be noble, do not need wealth to be rich, and do not need power to be strong. Peaceful and empty, they are not subject to outside influences; they fly freely with evolution.”

Liú Ān 劉安 1 via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

81. Journey Without Goal

“Some nations increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures change and like runners pass on the torch of life.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

Themes: Evolution History

“Humankind is called to co-create. With nature’s help, humankind can set into creation all that is necessary and life-sustaining.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Evolution

54. Planting Well

“Consider your origin. You were not formed to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

“The means of obtaining as much variety as possible, but with the greatest possible order...is the means of obtaining as much perfection as possible.”

Leibniz 1646 – 1716 CE
(Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz)

“Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Evolution

“the science of fulfilling nature and comprehending life is the great work of appropriating yin and yang, taking over evolution, reversing the process of life and death”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

“Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Maxims

“the reason man's life is more full of suffering than the animal's is his greater capacity for knowledge... at each stage of animal life there is a corresponding increase in pain... the will is the string, its frustration the vibration of the string, knowledge the sounding -board, and pain the sound.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Essays and Aphorisms

“I would as soon be descended from a baboon... as from a savage who delights in torturing his enemies... treats his wives like slaves... and is haunted by the grossest superstitions”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from Descent of Man

Themes: Enemy Evolution

“Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Evolution

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history. Because he was an active revolutionist, he was the best hated and most calumniated man of his time… yet he has gone down to his death honored, loved, and mourned by millions… His name and his works will live through the centuries.”

Friedrich Engels 1820 – 1895 CE
Businessman-philosopher, political theorist
from Funeral oration for Marx, 1883​

Themes: Evolution

“New truth is always a go-between... It marries old opinions to new facts so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of continuity.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Pragmatism (1907)

“Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Evolution

54. Planting Well

“Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

Thomas Edison 1847 – 1931 CE
America's greatest inventor

“The goal of evolution is self-conquest.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

Themes: Evolution

8. The Highest Realization

“All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions... every step of progress means a duty repudiated and a scripture torn up. And every reformer is denounced accordingly.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Daily Telegraph

Themes: Evolution

“Sublimation of instinct is an especially conspicuous feature of cultural evolution… civilization is built up on renunciation of instinctual gratifications… This ‘cultural privation’ dominates the whole field of social relations and is the cause of the antagonism against which all civilization has to fight.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and its Discontents, 1930

“The purpose of life is not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining…”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"
from Psychology and Social Science

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Creative Evolution

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“The greatest untold story is the evolution of God.”

G. I. Gurdjieff 1866 – 1949 CE

Themes: Evolution God

54. Planting Well

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative. If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle

Themes: Evolution

“behold the world (which was not created once and for all, but rather as often as an original artist has appeared)... It will last until the next geological catastrophe loosed by a new original painter or original writer.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Evolution

“The belief in a happy 'state of nature' in the remote past is derived partly from the biblical narrative of the age of the patriarchs, partly from the classical myth of a golden age. The general belief in the badness of the remote past only came with the doctrine of evolution.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

“Kant, like Darwin, gave rise to a movement which he would have detested... The stages in the evolution of ideas have... developed by steps that each seem natural, into their opposites... governed throughout by external circumstances and the reflection of these circumstances in human emotions.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Paradox Evolution

“it is the tremendous experiment of becoming conscious, which nature has imposed on mankind, uniting the most diverse cultures in a common task.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

80. A Golden Age

“while in the life of the human race the mythical is an early and primitive stage, in the life of the individual it is a late and mature one.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from Freud and the Future (1937)​

Themes: Evolution Old Age

“Human intellect is nature's attempt at self criticism”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

Themes: Evolution

“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE via Hilda Rosner
from Siddhartha

“That man is not yet a finished creation but rather a challenge of the spirit; a distant possibility dreaded as much as desired... He is an experiment and a transition. He is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Steppenwolf

“All evil is relative. Something what is evil at one level of evolution can be good at an earlier stage because it provides the essential stimulus for development.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

Themes: Evolution Evil

“The Teaching of Gotama, the Buddha should be accepted as the first teaching of the laws of matter and the evolution of the world.”

Helena Roerich Елéна Ивáновна Рéрих 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Evolution

“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain the path does not lie through the fear of life and death and blind faith but through striving after rational knowledge.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE
from Science, Philosophy, and Religion 1941

“The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself. With that very simple view… a new light – inexhaustibly harmonious – bursts upon the world, radiating from ourselves.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall
from Phenomenon of Man

54. Planting Well

“We are evolution.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall
from Phenomenon of Man

Themes: Evolution

12. This Over That

“Welcome, O Life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“God is not man's ancestor, but his descendant... God is being built. I too have applied my tiny red pebble, a drop of blood, to give Him solidity lest He perish—so that He might give me solidity lest I perish”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

Themes: Evolution

“Today, writing is a grave duty. Its purpose is not to entertain the mind with fairy tales and make it forget, but to proclaim a state of mobilization to all the luminous forces still surviving in our age of transition, and to urge men to do their utmost to surpass the beast.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

“Darwin offered a world-picture totally different from that which had contented the mind of man before. His name will stand as a turning point in the intellectual development of our Western civilization. If he was right, men will have to date from 1859 the beginning of modern thought.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE via Shan Dao
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

Themes: Evolution

“History is a fragment of biology... the laws of biology are the fundamental lessons of history. We are subject to the processes and trials of evolution, to the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest to survive.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

Themes: Evolution

“Probably every vice was once a virtue — i.e. a quality making for the survival of the individual, family or the group. Man's sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

Themes: Evolution Virtue

“I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

13. Honor and Disgrace

“Just as alchemy led to the science of chemistry, astrology to the science of astronomy, or in the way that ritual dances led to the art of dramatic performances, man, by first obeying his inner urges—the powers of depth consciousness—felt his way toward the mysteries of life.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

“It is the task of every generation to reassess the tradition in which it lives, to discard what it cannot use, and to bring into context with the distant and intermediate past the most recent contributions to the Great Conversation.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

“Smith's work marks the breakthrough of an evolutionary approach which has progressively displaced the stationary Aristotelian view. The nineteenth-century enthusiast who claimed that the Wealth of Nations was in importance second only to the Bible has often been ridiculed; but he may not have exaggerated so much.”

Friedrich Hayek 1899 – 1992 CE
from The Fatal Conceit (1988)

Themes: Evolution

“The dark ancestral cave, the womb from which mankind emerged into the light, forever pulls one back—but... you can't go home again... you can't go back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

Themes: Time Evolution

“the crucial difficulty with which we are confronted lies in the fact that the development of man’s intellectual capacities has far outstripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the 20th century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age.”

Erich Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
One of the most powerful voices of his era promoting the true personal freedom beyond social, political, religious, and national belief systems

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“New ideas have a striking similarity to genetic mutations... they are also probabilistic and not in themselves originally selected or adequate, but on them there subsequently operates natural selection which eliminates inappropriate mutations. Now we could conceive of a similar process with respect to new ideas and to free-will decisions, and similar things.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science

“We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“nature may appear to move from simple to complex; it may appear to progress and advance from imperfection toward perfection. This, at any rate, is what Darwin's theory of evolution implies. But of course, such is not the true state of nature... Nature is fundamentally perfect. Both spiritually and materially, nature is replete with the greatest possible wealth. It is a paradise where joy and contentment reign.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

“Evolution is still an infinitely long and tedious biologic game, with only the winners staying at the table, but the rules are beginning to look more flexible.”

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

Themes: Evolution

“All of today’s DNA, strung through all the cells of the earth, is simply an extension and elaboration of [the] first molecule.”

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from Medusa and the Snail (1974)

Themes: Evolution

“We have 16th century personalities in the world of 20th century concepts because social conventions lag far behind the flight of theoretical knowledge.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

Themes: Evolution

“One reason education undoes belief is its teaching of evolution… more loss of religious faith can be traced to the theory of evolution than to anything else.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE

“Every gross part of our anatomy has originated in various countries throughout the world, some in ancient times some very recently.”

Ralph Alan Dale 1920 – 2006 CE
Translator, author, visionary
from Tao Te Ching, a new translation and commentary

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968 CE
Leading world influence for equality, peace, non-violence, and poverty alleviation

“Man’s greatest problem, the problem that has caused most of his agonies and miseries, has been his attempt to compensate for the narrowing of consciousness and the entrapment in the left-brain ego. His favorite method of compensation has been to seek out excitement. He feels most free in moments of conquest; so for the past three thousand years or so, most of the greatest man have led armies into their neighbors' territory, and turned order into chaos. This has plainly been a retrogressive step; the evolutionary urge has been defeating its own purpose.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE
from A Criminal History of Mankind​

“A stick becomes a flute when it's loved.”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

25. The Mother of All Things

“In our time we have come to the stage where the real work of humanity begins.”

Jean Houston 1937 CE –

Themes: Evolution

“The ultimate idea of rebirth is not purely the idea of physical birth and death. Physical birth and death are very crude examples of it, actually. It's a changing, evolutionary process: there's nothing you can grasp onto; everything is changing. But there is some continuity, of course—the change is the continuity.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Six States of Bardo

“Dedication becomes not just dedication to yourself... the path begins to expand beyond one's own individuality.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

Themes: Evolution

“Not only is vision, as an intuitive, purpose insight, the basis of culture, but it is also the only real agent involved in the continuing process of cultural transformation.”

José Argüelles 1939 – 2011 CE
from Shambhala Review (1976)

Themes: Evolution Culture

“Evolution doesn't mean progress. Which is more conscious, the butterfly or the flower?”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

“If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic
from Sexual Personae (1990)

“Each part of the triune brain has its own happiness. Lizard in the sun, mammal on the hunt, human doing something good.”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –

Themes: Evolution

“barbarians… are the life behind what we think of as life.”

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

Themes: Evolution

“The universe is transformation.”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE –

“Our entire notion of good and bad, our whole landscape of feelings—fear, lust, love, and the many other feelings, salient and subtle, that inform our everyday thoughts and perceptions—are products of the particular evolutionary history of our species.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

“Our emotions and desires are shortcuts that allow humans to economize on expensive brain tissue and steer us in directions that have proved advantageous for us in the past. Our taste for sugar, for instance, was a reliable guide to adaptive eating in the Pleistocene era, but in the very different conditions of modern life, it threatens us with obesity and diabetes.”

Paul Seabright 1958 CE –
Author and British Professor of Economics
from War of the Sexes

“Hi-def is merely the latest in a string of evolutionary leaps that have transformed the way we sit slumped in front of a box wishing we were dead.”

Charlie Brooker 1971 CE –
from Black Mirror

Themes: Evolution

“The only difference between you and a caveman is the car you drive.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Start With Why

Themes: Evolution

“When we take the time to look at the way we see things, the way we see things changes… Just by changing your perspective, you can not only alter your own experience, you can change the world.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Evolution

“Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

Themes: Evolution

“Evolution has made Homo sapiens, like other social mammals, a xenophobic creature. Sapiens instinctively divide humanity into two parts, ‘we’ and ‘they’.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

“Uncertainty abounds for one reason above all else: we have reached a level of scale and complexity in our societal evolution that allows us to do more and more—but control less and less.”

Deepak Malhotra 1
"Professor of the Year"

from Peacemaker's Code

Themes: Evolution



by Yuval Harari

Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

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