When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body’s intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 18, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we were talking about what things are like when the Master governs. And, of course, that sounded ridiculously idealistic when compared to how we are being governed. Today, I’d like to talk about how we got here. What is it that gives the ruling elite their power? It isn’t the great Tao.
It is actually because the great Tao has been forgotten. Remember, the Tao is the eternal reality. It is the way things are. And that is not to be confused with the way things seem to be, which is the illusion which the ruling elite uses to their advantage to rule over and try to control us.
We said yesterday that the hallmark that sets apart the Master, from everyone else, is the Master trusts the people. And that makes people trustworthy. The eternal reality is that people can be trusted to act in accordance with natural laws. Just like every being in the Universe. One of those natural laws is that when they are not trusted, when we insist on not trusting those natural laws, we make people not trustworthy. I know there has to be some law of physics at work here. Something about for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But pay no attention to my limited understanding of the laws of physics. The point is that humans behave according to the laws of nature. They are innate in each and every one of us. We ignore this reality at our peril. Sometimes, it isn’t so much a matter of ignoring, as simply forgetting.
That is what Lao Tzu is talking about today. When the great Tao is forgotten, a chain reaction develops which is simply not going to end well. And we can see all the evidence of that chain reaction in plain sight before us today.
When the great Tao is forgotten, when people forget what is eternally real, we, of necessity substitute an illusion for what is eternally real. That is ultimately how we end up arriving at the present state of governance in all the countries of our world. The ruling elite has arrived at their impressive power by virtue of their reliance on the people’s having forgotten the eternally real; and, their acquiescence to the allure of the illusion.
The point of my blog posts each morning is to keep reminding us all what is eternally real; because, so many, many people have forgotten. And, that is what gives the ruling elite their power. As we remind people where they came from, the cracks and fissures in corporate establishment structures get larger and more defined. I am wanting to shake up my country; and indeed all the countries of the world. I am trying to prepare people; because whether we remember or not, the Tao will ultimately continue to do its thing. What is unsustainable is the illusion. It is going to crumble and fall. And that day is hastening on. Those that are not prepared are going to suffer needlessly.
But I am getting ahead of myself. When the great Tao is forgotten, what gets substituted for it seems innocuous enough. I mean, what could possibly be harmful about the appearance of goodness and piety?
If there is one thing that I have come to realize as I have been going through the Tao Te Ching chapter by chapter each and every day , it is not to trust how things appear. What seems to be? The way things seem to be are usually no where close to the way things really are. So the appearance of goodness and piety concerns me. And the notion that they seem innocuous, does nothing to dispel the red flags.
I will talk about those red flags in a moment. First, I want to talk about the rest of this chapter, which chronicles the downward spiral brought on by people forgetting the great Tao.
Lao Tzu says that when the body’s intelligence declines, cleverness and knowledge step forth. What is it that he means by the body’s intelligence? I think he means our intuitive connection with the Tao, with the way things are, the eternal reality. We have forgotten that. We have lost our connection, lost touch with reality. And once again, something must be substituted. Will cleverness and knowledge suffice?
And, of course, this downward spiral spreads out beyond the individual level. It affects, or infects, families, communities, whole countries. Soon, there is no peace in the family, and filial piety begins. There is that word piety again. But this time, Lao Tzu attaches that word “filial” to it. What does he mean? Filial means something done out of duty. Like the duty of parents to their children. And children to their parents. The duties of husbands and wives to each other. The red flags are really waving now. But I have one further level to descend to before we can address them.
We talked yesterday about how we as a people are governed. Lao Tzu spent a great deal of time talking about when the Master governs. People are hardly aware he even exists. But we also talked about the need to trust people. When the great Tao is forgotten, chaos ensues. It was only a matter of time. A vacuum had been created. And there will always be those who will rush to fill the void. In a country, that void is filled with patriotism. And patriotism, what is patriotism, but a fervor of mistrust? People who don’t look like us, or talk like us, or act like us. People that live on the wrong side of imaginary political borders erected by the powers that seem to be, can’t be trusted. And there is going to be a call to arms. It is our patriotic duty. And, now our descent is complete. Now, to address all those red flags.
So, what is it that concerns me about the appearance of goodness and piety? It is the same thing that concerns me about cleverness and knowledge stepping forth when the body’s intelligence declines. And, the same thing that concerns me about filial piety beginning when there is no peace in the family. And, the same thing that concerns me about the birth and rise of patriotism when countries are in the midst of chaos.
It is that it is all contrived. We, as individuals have lost our moorings. The eternal reality is not what things seem to be. That goodness and piety, the cleverness and knowledge, the filial piety, and even the patriotism are all born out of a sense of duty. They aren’t what they appear, on the surface, to be. They aren’t something that flow naturally. They aren’t spontaneous. And they ain’t nothing like the real thing.