In light of the discussion in Chapter Seven, we can give this brief description of the Tao: it is harmony, harmonizing force. That is the truth of connection, intermediaries, linking and bonding together with harmonizing. In ancient Chinese philosophy the original substance of the Tao was the Great Ultimate; in chemistry it is hydrogen and oxygen gases; in the theory of electricity it is the two polarities of electricity. At its origin the Great Ultimate is a mass of non-polar ch’i. Hydrogen and oxygen essence react to form water. Thus all phenomena and all objects come into being from water. What we call the Tao is something metaphysical, above form. Though it is metaphysical, it nevertheless has substantive being. It lies within man’s being, and it harmonizes and unites with Heaven and Earth. The movement and stillness of all matter is the intentionality of the Tao. This intentionality can be thought of as life force, or “harmony”. Any living object in isolation will certainly be incapable of growth. To be alive a thing must harmonize and join with its counterpart. Therefore the Tao embraces all phenomena, harmonize all things. This is the essence of the Tao.
The Tao is what we use and see and do every day: we can say that sentient and non-sentient beings all possess the intention of the Tao. Speaking in traditional terms, the Tao is spirit-nature. In our church’s way of speaking, it is the harmonon. But a harmonon existing alone cannot fulfill its function. If there were only Tao and no physical form to the myriad things, the Tao would have nothing through which to operate. Thus the operations of the Tao proceed through te(德, virtue), and te is none other than e-tropons. Only given te will the Tao’s workings be possible. Te is what lets the Tao assume form and develop, to differentiate into movement and stasis. Thus the workings of Tao depend on harmony and sincerity–that is, the fitting union of e-tropons and harmonons.
Nature and matter are inherently counterposed. The Tao is Nature and te is matter. The two are contraries, but not to be separated. Of all living things under Heaven, there are none that do not accommodate the Tao’s vital intent, and the constructivity of te. Life and death, movement and stillness: these are harmonization of Tao with te; neither side can be dispensed with. If either is dispensed with, then Tao without te will become an empty void, and te without the Tao will end in dissolution of being. Thus Tao together with te are what Confucians think of as benevolence and sincerity. (Benevolence is the Tao, and sincerity is te.) In science, they are truth and reality; in Buddhism, they are emptiness and form; in Christianity, they are love and sin; in Islam they are purity and truth. Perhaps we can fit these concepts into the following scheme:
And so the Tao of Heaven tends returning. The great Tao cycles, with benevolence engendering the myriad phenomena and sincerity ever arising. Between Nature and matter there are half-yang, half-yin forces that act to attune them; these are divine intermediaries. Divinity is that part of creation which is above matter and below Nature. That is, what is above bodily essence and below cosmic ch’i is divinity. Those who cultivate the Tao unite bodily essence and cosmic ch’i. They return from matter back to Nature; from the acquired they rejoin with the innate; from reality they accord with truth. They emanate bonding force and are answered by harmonizing force; thus they can become divine. Conversely, if sacred beings do not follow Heavenly principles, their worldly mind will arise. Their remnant yang e-tropons will give off heat and grow heavier, whereupon they will sink down into reality and become matter. That is why it is said “sacred and mundane are equal”.
The basis for this equality lies in harmony. When sacred and mundane can be made equal, that is harmony. Moreover, since freed spirits are the fundamental locus of the sacred, becoming a freed spirit means attainment to the level of harmony. But a deity does not always belong to the non-physical realm. In the physical world it is a humanly-embodied deity; in the non-physical realm it is a deity in the sacred sense. If one can be a humanly-embodied deity in the physical realm, one can be in harmony with sacred beings in the non-physical realm. On this the equality of mundane and sacred is based. The sacred is the highest level for deities within a spiral system. To attain the sacred means transcending to the realm beyond one’s own. Beyond that is a further stage where one can attune and coexist with Nature. This is the highest ideal of equality between mundane and sacred. Thus, whatever has life force and gains equality with the sacredness of higher realms may be said to have “shared existence”. To attune with Nature may be called “creating life” (oneself having grasped creation). Hence come the following qualifications:
1. By seeking it through merit and faith, one gains equality with the sacred in one’s own realm.
2. By seeking it through spiritual cultivation, one finds equivalence with the sacred in the realm above.
3. By continuing to a further stage of sacredness and deepening one’s practice, one gains equality with Nature.
4. When a freed spirit cultivates in stages and establishes merit, it can advance by stages and gain equality with Nature.
Equality of sacred and mundane is a general description for all of the above. Each is determined by cultivation, merit, striving, and self-creation. The realm of equality between sacred and mundane have eternal life (life in the larger sense); mediocre life is particularized or composite life. Whichever kind of life it is, it demands self-creation and striving on one’s own. Otherwise even composite life will not be easy to keep, much less gaining eternal life.
Eternal life is life lived positively for all mankind and the cosmos. Composite life is pessimistic, living for one’s own momentary significance. The former is inclusive and without bounds, giving blessings without end. The latter is as fleeting as an epiphyllum flower, like dew or lightning in its inconstancy of birth and death. It is painful and deserving of pity. Thus we counterpose to it the three main kinds of striving.
1. Strive toward Heaven for equality with Nature.(that is, to harmonize with Nature)
2. Strive with Nature to be equal with higher sacred beings.(otherwise breaking through a spiral harmony system will be impossible)
3. Strive within oneself to be equal with sacred beings. (attaining eternal life)
All those who have physical cultivation but lack merit that accords with Heavenly principle, though they may rise in level, must continue to foster merit in themselves. Those who merely accord with Heavenly principle but lack cultivation can only rise by self-creation through stages. So it is that neither physical nor Heavenly principles can be dispensed with. Since ancient times ther has been this saying: “Heaven and mankind are one.”