TAO AND THOMAS GOSPEL

LECTURE HELD AT RENOVA

OCTOBER 17, 2021

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It is very noteworthy that in the manuscripts of different spiritual traditions often the same themes are discussed. They have a value that surpasses the ages and is not dependent on any differences in culture. But not just that: until this very day they have something very important to say to us. This among other things is the case in verse 28 of the Daodejing and Logion 22 of the Thomas Gospel.

The Daodejing stems from about 600 years BC. The Gospel of Thomas is dated around 800 years later.

Thomas Gospel, part of Logion 22

Jesus saw small children being nurtured.

He said to his disciples:

‘These suckling little ones can be compared to those who go the Kingdom’…

Jesus told them:

 ‘If you make the two into one

then you will enter the Kingdom..’

Daodejing, first part of verse 28

Know the masculine

safeguard the feminine

then you become a valley for

the All-under-the-heaven.

He or she who is a valley for the All-under-the-heaven

From him, from her, the everlasting De does not seep or ooze out. He, she, will return to the state of the new born child.

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A single wisdom, connected with two different traditions.

Two similar themes:

  • Making the one out of two.
  • Becoming as a new-born

Today I will speak about Taoism, that is why I will try to explain those two themes seen from the Taoist vision.

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We live in a world in which time plays an important role. But behind all this lies the depth of eternity, of the timeless. Both are connected to us.

In order to better understand what this has to say to us, we focus our mind again on the past. We go so far back that we leave both time as well as space and the world of shapes behind us. Even further still, through unknown fields of existence, until eventually only the great mystery that is called ‘Dao’ remains.

No one knows what Dao is.

Dao is not something we know, or are able to know, or can calculate or can imagine.

Dao is nothing.

But from the Nothing all things have emanated.

Dao is omnipresent, is therefore also within us. We express this symbolically by saying that in our heart there is a spark of the mystery. In Daoist paintings the mystery is represented by the empty space.

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From the  mystery  a power emanates, referred to as the De.

Dao is and remains always in the hidden.

De, on the contrary, manifests itself.

The power of De is creative.

It awakens ‘the One’ to life.

In the One is a primeval-womb.

It is filled with countless energy-concentrations.

You might wonder now: what has this to do with me?

However, within these energy-concentrations are hidden the primordial images of everything that will ever be awakened to life.

In it there is also the primeval image of the Human Being, such as we are  most profoundly meant to be.

We could compare this with the drawings of buildings that will eventually become reality.

Together, all energy concentrations from one unimaginable huge field of complete Unity.

Within the energy-concentrations there is, next to the primeval image, also a form principle. This implies that through the dynamic action of De, the One energy gradually  expresses itself as matter. This no longer is just profound wisdom of Taoism, for in our time physicists state there  are primeval shapes that gradually unfold as matter after the primordial ‘big bang’. It is about a primeval energy so complex that we fail to imagine it. Energy can express itself as matter because within the primeval energy a form principle is present. It therefore lies within the energy and not outside of it.[1]


[1] Read more about this in  ‘Quantum, the big bang and God’ by Maarten van Buuren and also in the texts of physicist  Carlo Rosselli.

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The dynamic power of De goes beyond that: it revives ‘the two’.

 The One energy from the primeval womb begins to express itself in two ways: as Yang- and as Yin-energy.

Yang-energy is creative, directed outwardly.

Yin-energy is receiving, directed inwardly.

Yin-Yang is not just something, but the expression of a dynamic process.

The Yin-Yang energies begin to shape the blueprint that is hidden within the primeval images.

But first, something of crucial importance takes place:

The Two direct themselves towards Dao that is in the middle-most.

This Middle, this Center, is ‘empty’, is void, for Dao is ‘nothing’.

The Two – which are already something – become One with the ‘nothing’.

This unification forms the basis upon which further developments are possible. The De now works together with Yin-Yang, thus reviving and awakening the cosmos, subsequently our microcosm and eventually us, human beings.

All dynamic actions of De have their effect within ourselves, in order that our primeval image can develop itself further, for the human being as we are now is not yet ‘finished’. We take a huge step now and end up at the beginning of our life. There we can see how Yin and Yang are working on the basis of Dao in the Middle.

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Our life begins with the merging of the egg cell and seed of two mortal human beings. Therefrom the embryo is developing.

Already at the beginning of the second week the heart of the embryo is beating.

The heart is filled with blood. Through the energy of the outward aimed Yang the heart muscle contracts, the blood is pumped outside into the artery. Then the heart is empty and for a fraction of a section there is nothing.

Through the energy of the inwardly aimed Yin subsequently new blood flows into the heart.

When the heart is completely filled, again for a moment, there is nothing.

Thereafter the entire cycle is repeated.

In this nothing that is in between Yin and Yang, the action of Dao that is in the Center, is revealed.

We, Rosicrucians, called it: ‘the Rose’.

Daoism speaks of ‘The hidden treasure in the heart’.

In the heart of the unborn child is – completely naturally – a connection with the origin of life:  the one, unchangeable not-something. The unborn child lives as in a ‘heavenly’ situation: connected with the Two that are One in Dao.

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This changes at the moment of birth: when the first breath is inhaled.

From that moment on the three-fold unity in its heart is completely mixed with the power of this world.

The first cry therefore  also is the first independent action of the baby. By breathing it shows the will to live. Through every breath, more and more energy of this world streams into the new-born.

This gradually develops into an ‘ I ‘.

But the more our person develops, the further the unity in the heart seems to move away from him.

Every human being places him- or herself in the center. After all, each event in the world seems to be taking place around us. But also within ourselves a lot happens: all kinds of thoughts continuously pop up, both pleasant ones and nasty ones, and we respond to that.

Very often we are overwhelmed by emotions, whether they are pleasant or sad. They can overpower us and even disrupt our inner balance.

Or we are drawn into several desires that are either exalted or depraved by nature.

And all this, is the basis for our action. Our own interest is the central point herein, but we are also concerned about that to  which we know we are connected: our family, career, political or religious beliefs.

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In order to bring some balance in all this, we subconsciously divide all things into two parts: good and evil. One we draw towards us, the other we decline. 

This has huge consequences for the action of Yin and Yang within us.

Nothing is ever completely Yin or Yang, male or female. Yin always carries in it the nucleus of Yang and the other way around.

So there are always two sides to everything: the aspect we see as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ never is absolute, for it is always just one half of the total.

The Two are One with Tao in the center.

The Two become divided into two separate powers through us, but now with ourselves in the center.

This costs us a lot of energy; for that reason a human being’s life is relatively short.

However, this separation particularly goes against the Primeval Image of how we are meant to be as Human Beings.

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In verse 28 of the Daodejing it is therefore said to us:

Know the male, keep the female’

In the Thomas Gospel, Jesus says:

Make the Two into One  . . . then you will enter the Kingdom’.

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This refers to the outwardly aimed state, the giving Yang, and the inwardly aimed, receiving Yin, it refers to the Two therefore. Together they are active in the following way:

  1. The Two are in unity connected and also work as a unity
  2. In doing so they do not pose themselves in the center, but they direct themselves towards Dao in the empty Middle..
  3. The Power that emanates from Dao – the De –  turns the Two into One with Dao. 

In order to enable it to make the Two in us into One, we need to follow the Two. This begins by not putting our ‘self’ so much anymore in the center. And this is ‘done’ by directing us towards Dao that is in the empty Center of our heart.

It then naturally follows that we separate things less and less. This is how we change.

Then the first verse of Daodejing 28 gets a more profound meaning:

Know the male and keep the female

And you become a valley for ‘The All-under-the-heavens’.

Whoever is a valley for the All-under-the-Heavens,

in him, in her, the permanent De does not trickle away.

He will return to the state of the new-born child.

The male aspect we can see as our personality, which is essential in the entire process. As an earthly human being we are like the walls of a valley: firm and solid, so that it can be filled with water.

 In the Daodejing Dao-De is often compared to water, to the receptive, the female aspect.

Only when the valley is ‘empty’, it can receive it all. It does not seek the water, but the water pours itself naturally into the valley. By being as a valley we do not spill life power but receive the opportunity ánd the energy to become a true Human Being.

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The valley is empty, when we do not fill it with our ‘I’.  And that takes self-knowledge. Self-knowledge emanates from a high consciousness.

At first sight this seems contrary to what is said in the Thomas Gospel:

These suckling little ones can be compared to those who enter the Kingdom’…

and also what is said in the Daodejing 28: ‘He will return to the state of a new-born child’.

A new-born does not have an “I” yet, because it still has to be developed. But during its stay in the uterus, it has been connected with every heart beat with the Two that are One with Dao in the Middle.

Only when the ‘I’ has developed, we can consciously cooperate to not place ourselves in the center. We do that by directing ourselves time and again to Dao, in our heart. Then, eventually, we become ‘ego-less’ like the new-born who is connected to the mystery.

Yet there is a fundamental difference between a new-born and a human being that puts Dao in the center.

The new-born is standing on the threshold of a life in the world of temporary things. He is born from flesh and blood, and will start developing a personality.

The human being who puts Dao in the center stands on the threshold of a re-birth out of  Water and Fire. His personality is transmuting, so that a new Human Being can begin to develop.

He represents the nucleus that lies in the primeval womb as an energy concentration.

In it lies – still unfolded – a path of development. On that path we, as human beings in our current state – still have just taken a few steps. But within us every heartbeat is like a reminder of the mystery to which we are connected.

Because we are – literally – standing between time and eternity.

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