Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Better Than Religion II

According to Ninian Smart, the member of the Taoist Trinity (the Three Pure Beings) who controls yin and yang was Tao Chun. (1) I think that this image represents the Three with the Jade Emperor between Tao Chun and the deified Lao Tzu, this last being the mythical founder of Taoist philosophy though not of Taoist religion, although, as agreed in "Better Than Religion," religious stories and beliefs present philosophical ideas, in this case the interdependence of and interaction between opposites, in popular forms.

Since Tao Chun is subordinate to an Emperor, it is easier to equate him with Hegelian than with Marxist dialectics although, again, since all things have their ultimate origin from the Jade Emperor who is explicitly a projection of the Chinese Emperor, thus irrelevant to any society without an Emperor, it is easy to see the Three as personifications of impersonal realities:

the Emperor is matter;
Tao Chun is interaction;
Lao Tzu is wisdom in a human being, not in a deity although, mythologically, he is deified.

Interactions from ancient times transmit practical philosophies:

Jainism + ancient Indian materialism = Buddhism.
Buddhism + Taoism = Ch'an.
Ch'an + Shinto nature mysticism = Zen.

Dialectics + materialism = dialectical materialism.
Economics + socialism = scientific socialism.
Dialectical materialism + scientific socialism = Marxism.

Zen + Marxism = Zen Marxism?

By "Zen Marxism," I mean only simultaneous practice of Zen meditation and of Marxist politics, not a compromise between philosophical idealism and materialism.

(1) Smart, Ninian, The Religious Experience Of Mankind, London, 1971, p. 231.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Better Than Religion

I have just read The Point Is To Change It, an introduction to Marxist philosophy by John Molyneux. While reading it, I thought, "This is like religion but better." Why did I think that?

Molyneux argues that religion is or includes popular philosophy. People encounter philosophical ideas about the nature of reality and of humanity through their religious beliefs. Marxism presents or incorporates explanations of material and human processes, for example:

the interpenetration of opposites;
the transformation of quantity into quality;
natural selection;
class struggle.

These processes are discernible and comprehensible by us whereas, in a religious myth, the underlying processes would be hidden from us and comprehensible only by gods. Indeed, the Taoist Trinity, at least in one account, includes, apart from the Jade Emperor and Lao Tzu, a third person who controls yin-yang interactions, thus, to combine polytheist and Marxist language, is the god of dialectics.

We appreciate both explanations on the one hand and myths on the other. Thus, an introduction to Marxist philosophy could be complemented by a summary of religious origin stories. These myths can be comprehended and appreciated appropriately when it is understood that they are explanatory stories and not scientific explanations.

Addendum, 10/7/12: I have another use for the word "religion," which is "response to the highest transcendence," where the transcendent can be a (Buddhist) state rather than a (theistic) being but this does not contradict my agreement that Marxist scientific philosophy transcends religious popular philosophy.

I am having trouble tracking down the name of that god of dialectics, the third member of the Taoist trinity.