The word Taoism… has always had a dramatic appeal for me, though apart from the great poem associated with it, its Bible, so to speak, I know but little of the Taoists and their beliefs.  But ever since I fell upon that beautiful and concise work, the Tao Te Ching, which contains an enigmatic description of the great motor of the universe and its workings, I felt somehow that that is what I myself believed in – or would believe in for choice if one day I found that belief were absoluetly necessary to me.  But here I should hesitate for a moment – for what do I mean by ‘belief’?  the word is not to be airily tossed away in this cavalier fashion, without some attempt to come to intellectual grips with it.  In my own case I find that with every kind of belief one must exercise a certain caution – for it hardens into dogma if it becomes absolute rather than provisional.  The word Tao, on the other hand, suggests to me different stances (all truth being relative) – a state of total disponibilité, total availability, a total and comprehensive whole-hearted awareness of that instant where certainty breaks the surface like a hooked fish.  Only at this point is the spirit fully tuned in to the great metaphor of the world as TAO.  Reality is then prime, independent of the hampering conceptual apparatus of conscious thought.  it is a flashpoint where the mind joins itself to the nature of all created things.  That poetry is Tao.  When did I first begin to harbour such ideas?  It is long ago now – it must have been during my twenty-third year, perhaps in the island of Corfu… I felt then that in this book I had stumbled upon a Chinese Heraclitus, and that despite the apparent enigmas with which the poem deals, the whole thing made immediate sense to me – somewhat transcendental sense, to be sure, but absolute sense.

Lawrence Durrell, A Smile in the Mind’s Eye.


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