Quaker Universalist Conversations

Universalism and the Tao of Quakerism

 Taoism has had a deep and enduring appeal to those who value peace and simplicity, like the Quakers, because it portrays a way of life free from violence and open to the Spirit—a life guided not by ego, but by compassion and Truth. The Quaker artist Fritz Eichenberg, whose wood print of Lao Tzu leaving China on a water buffalo is shown her, turned to Taoism as a child and practiced Zen Buddhist meditation before becoming a Quaker in 1940. Quaker educators Howard and Anna Brinton, directors of Pendle Hill, a Quaker center for study and contemplation near Philadelphia,  valued the spiritual wisdom of ancient China and allude to the Tao Teh Ching in their writings. Teresina Havens, a long-time practitioner of both Buddhism and Quakerism, summed up Quaker/Taoist mysticism with this telling passage from her Pendle Hill pamphlet, Mind What Stirs in the Heart:
There is in each of us a deep-flowing River. Some call it Tao or Life source, others the Indwelling Spirit, still others simply Energy. Our life rests upon It; we are carried and cradled by It, as the child by its Mother.
Ham Sok Han, the Korean Quaker whom some have compared to Mohandas Gandhi, wrote about the importance of Taoism to his spiritual development as a Christian activist. All of these “weighty” Friends saw Taoism as  a prophetic as well as mystical religion akin to Quakerism.
Herrymon Maurer’s translation and commentary on the Tao Teh Ching is the only book-length work by an American to explore Taoism from a Quaker/Hasidic (or as Herrymon would say, “prophetic”) viewpoint. Using a Taoist/Quaker perspective, Herrymon explores a wide range of contemporary social issues and problems, from sexuality to fundamentalism, from social activism to monetary policy, from publicity-seeking to our obsession with violence and war. At the root of all our problems (and our sometimes knee-jerk responses to them) Herrymon sees self-will, or addiction to self. He writes about the current state of ego-centered “conventional” society with wit, irony, and insight. Herrymon sees the Tao Teh Ching as an antidote to one of the most pervasive problems of our time—violence. Those who are concerned about the endemic violence in today’s world will be challenged and inspired by Herrymon’s unique translation and commentary on the Tao Teh Ching. Herrymon wrote not for scholars but for “suffering and seeking human beings.” In his view, Tao Teh Ching is not an historical artifact, but a “living growing thing”—capable of opening our minds and hearts to the Way of Truth, Love, and Peace.
It should also be noted that Herrymon’s view is that the Tao Teh Ching reflects Truth that is universal—which is the reason his commentary refers to Hasidic Judaism, the Bible, and Quakerism.
For more about Herrymon Maurer’s Universalist Quaker approach to Taoism, see http://laquaker.blogspot.com/search?q=tao+of+quakerism
Anthony Manousos
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