We continue East Asian Religions and Ecology with a consideration here in Week 3, Section 1 of an Introduction and Overview to Daoism. Let's consider the Dao as a way and the dialogue of identity within the tradition. We have a stunning painting by Liang Kai of a Daoist immortal, and it situates us to see that Daoism originates in the dim, religious, and historical pasts of China. Over three millennia ago, these ancient origins can be glimpsed in this tradition's continuing concerns for cosmological harmonies, medical practices, shamanic flights of ecstasy, mountain and cavern meditations, and the power to affect transformations. These concerns gave rise to religious ecologies and religious cosmologies within Daoism that shaped this tradition's close relationships with the natural world. As this image of a Daoist immortal suggests, the religious ideals of this tradition are closely associated with the mossy slopes of mountains, and valleys, and inner wellsprings of caves, and caverns, as well as the bear precipices of outcroppings all shaped throughout the natural world by cosmic forces. From this Chinese past also emerged such ideas as chi, the basic material energy out of which the universe is made, and the yin-yang duality, namely the flow of chi into yin, feminine, and yang, masculine, modalities. Along with Daoism, these images and practices relate to ancient forms of Chinese shamanism. Shamanism is a term that comes from the Central Asian Tungusic people and refers to their healing practices. Shamans in the study of religion are found in culturally diverse settings among indigenous peoples and are broadly concerned with healing individuals and communities as well as divining the locations of animals for the hunt. Chinese shamanism is seen as having influenced Daoism's development, especially its close relationships with nature and with traditional Chinese medicine. Also, Chinese shamanism accentuated ecstatic visions and flights into both transcendent realms of fantastic creatures and inner realms of embodiment in which the human body corresponds to astronomical and symbolical realms. Daoism then continued these ideas and practices and at times joined with state and imperial institutions in forging its own religious identity. Now from the immortal, we move to this image of the immortal Laozi. He's associated with the prototypical Daoist sage. Laozi is the prototypical Daoist sage to whom is attributed the famous Daoist text of the Daodejing. In this Daoist scripture from the last centuries before the current era, we find several amazing metaphors for the sacred way that path or way known as the Dao. Sometimes spelled T-A-O in the old Wade-Giles transliteration. But now in the Pinyin, more modern Chinese transliteration as D-A-O, Dao. The Dao also has its own power or de, thus the book or jing that we now know as the Daodejing. This introduces us not to a sacred person as God, but to a way, a path, a Dao whose power is subtle and lowly yet pervades the cosmos. To know the masculine, we see in the Daodejing. "To know the masculine and yet maintain the feminine is to become the valley of the world. To know clarity and yet maintain obscurity is to become the measure of all things. The constant force of the Dao will never leave and one returns to the state of the infant." The search for creative and dynamic balance flows throughout this passage, and certain emphases are striking. Especially in relation to the world religions, consider first the emphasis on the sacred as feminine. The sense of a divine feminine stands in sharp contrast to the axial religions of the sixth century before the current era. So many of the world religions, for example, the Hebrew prophets in the sixth century before the current era beginning with Amos and Hosea, the Hellenic pre-Socratic philosophers, Heraclitus, the Zoroastrian dualisms of good and evil in Persia. All of these Axial Age religions, which would become the world religions, they all posit masculine religious or philosophical principles. In Daoism, one of the primary images of the Dao is as mother who in the first chapter of the Daodejing gives rise to the 10,000 things, namely all of reality. A second striking image in the Daodejing is the lowly valley through which the world flows. While mountains and heights are not absent in Daoism, the lowly or wet feminine and yin images of the sacred predominate in Daoism. This sense of the dynamic flow of water as a major metaphor for the sacred stands in sharp contrast to emphasis on light, brilliance, and luminous divinity in many other religions. Third, along with the resistance and Daoism to overaccentuating metaphors of brilliance and clarity associated with intellectual prowess and rationalism, major Daoist texts recommend obscurity, insignificance, and anonymity as a way of knowing. Again, the sense of light and brilliance and luminosity is not absent in Daoism, but it stands in relation to these dominant metaphors that have other orientations. Indeed, the Daodejing opens with the statement that the Dao cannot be named. Again, this sense of obscurity and anonymity at the very heart of Dao and the powerful expressions of the Dao in de. Finally then, a last point, the constancy of the Dao is likened to both return and infancy. The concept of return resonates throughout Daoism and is associated with the sense of something receding. Indeed, the person and especially the body of Laozi himself is believed in many forms of Daoism to return with each age. In this sense, Laozi returns as the infant's age refreshing the tradition and expressing the force that de of the Dao itself. Thus, the great cosmic energies of the Dao are described as appearing, receding, and returning. The Daodejing expresses this cosmological dynamic in this way. "The Dao being Great, flows away. Having flown away, it recedes. Having receded, it disappears. Having disappeared, it returns." Similar ideas regarding the Dao appear in other Daoist texts. Indeed, all of the characteristics we have emphasized here are also found in the other great classic of prehistorical Daoism, the Zhuangzi. For example, this text also says "to know the masculine and yet maintain the feminine, to know clarity and yet maintain obscurity." We can see this balance that is sought in Daoism, the masculine and the feminine, the emphasis on the feminine, and again clarity is here and the brilliance and luminosity, but the emphasis on the obscure, the anonymous, the dark. The Zhuangzi text is located by scholars in the fourth century before the current era. It's generally seen now as a century earlier than the Daodejing. In this text, the Daoist sage, Zhuang Zhou or Zhuangzi, the ending "Zi" at the end of Laozi, and Zhuangzi is an honorific as if to say old man or honorific, Zhuang. Zhuangzi also underscores the experience of the Dao as like that of an infant. In one of the most enigmatic passages of the Zhuangzi. It says, "Can you be as a child, a newborn who moves without knowing what it does, who moves without knowing where it goes? Thus, no good or evil fortune can touch it. What human suffering, insensitive as the infant is to whatever reversals of fortune there may be, what human suffering would it endure?" The Zhuangzi is describing the Daoist adept who discovers an inner child-like detachment from human suffering in the context of the Dao. This concept of detachment becomes central to Daoism and we will discuss it in subsequent lectures. Not only is the Zhuangzi text harmonized with the Daodejing, but these classic texts present Daoist religious ecologies and religious cosmologies such major images as the mother and feminine divine as the lowly valley are constantly receding and returning and as detached and spontaneous as an infant all interact to place the human in the ecologically interactive landscape of the Dao. Moreover, they intentionally resonate with the Pan-Chinese universal concepts of chi, material force, and yin and yang; yin feminine, yang, masculine. These then, the chi, takes shape in yin and yang, and yin and yang then shape a resonant religious cosmology. These interactions were not simply read as texts in Daoism, but also found broad expression in the history of Daoism. Thus, the religious cosmologies or worldview and the religious ecologies or practices of the tradition form an ongoing dialogue within Daoism. These are the connections then that we seek to explore in these lectures about Daoism, namely the many ways in which this tradition has proposed and explored cosmological relationships in practices that have shaped its identity on the ground.