Daoism (Taoism), the philosophy of naturalism, realism, and self-cultivation, is well known in China. It is essentially the oldest spiritual tradition of the Chinese culture, going back well before the time of Christianity, and is one of the oldest spiritual philosophies in the world.
Daoism is fundamentally about connecting to reality and using nature as a basis which can guide human beings toward an understanding of who we are and what life is about. Like any spiritual tradition Daoism has developed many branches, leaves, and flowers which are outgrowths of its original essence and inner core. Some of these outgrowths are paths which diverge from the essence of real Daoism, and as such are typical of the way any spiritual “way” can be subverted and perverted by people who don’t truely understand reality and the deeper aspects.
Like many spiritual traditions which are quite old, Daoism’s language grew from archaic languages and ways of speaking from long ago. As such it has gone through many misinterpretations due to translations of translations, as well as differing people’s simple lack of real understanding.
Yet, the language of Daoism is basically a language which is about truth. It expresses the fundamental core of life. It is about nature and nature’s principles and as such is eminently real. For those who have eyes to see it, Daoism is without equal for revealing the essence, depth, and authenticity of things. It’s language is an eloquent language which speaks plainly.
Yet not all people have an eye to discern the subtle language of Daoism—the inner “way” of nature. For this reason many who have attained the Dao have used symbolic language to explain the “secrets” and workings of the Dao. Happily, many people have been enlightened by such language. It has served it purpose many times throughout history, especially during the times when it was properly understood.
To those of another age or culture the symbolic language of Daoism is very cryptic and mysterious. Especially when the symbolic language has come from a time when that language was very timely and clique-ish. Still, at its best and most universal, “symbolic language” can open the eyes of many people. It can offer a slightly different slant on essential truths, helping those who are close to understanding, but not fully clear on the deepest meanings.
Symbolic language elucidates and elaborates. It allows the truth to be seen from different perspectives allowing certain people to come to grips with the deeper meanings of the way of Daoism. In the final analysis, all the verbiage of symbolic language is meant to point to the same active and alive reality. This is where one really wants to find oneself in the end, when reading Daoism’s symbolic language.