Taoist Philosophy for the 21st Century




You-Sheng Li












Taoist Recovery Centre

163 Gladstone Avenue

London, Ontario Canada, N5Z 3R8

Website: http://taoism21cen.com




                During the Warring States Period (475-222 BC), the vast area along the Yangtze river valley was the territory of State Chu, which was lagging behind other states in social reform. It was the ideal environment to cultivate Taoist ideology, since the favourable climate allowed an easy life there.

                Once a man lost his bow, but was reluctant to find it back, saying, “A man of state Chu lost his bow but another man of State Chu got it. Why do I have to bother myself looking for it?”

                Confucius heard this and said, “It is okay if the words ‘State Chu' are omitted.” Confucianism embraces the whole humanity. Lao Tzu heard this and said, “It is okay if the word ‘man' is omitted too.” Taoism embraces both man and nature. (Adapted from Lu's Spring and Autumn Annals: The Public is Highly Valued)


                When people meet unexpectedly far from their hometown, they say, "It is a small world." People also say, our world has shrunk to a village, a global village. Modern communication technology has brought people unprecedentedly closer especially since the end of the cold war. Airway services allow us to reach any corner of the earth within the same day, and modern communication enables us to talk to our friends face to face in spite that they are on the other side of our planet. We are facing a new world that humans have never faced before. Do you think we need a new way of life? Many scholars say YES, and they predict that different cultures will replace nations to compete with each other on the upcoming stage of this new world. I will list more evidences in this chapter to show that we are entering a new era, and we need a new way of life. What is the new life style we are going to adapt to? There is no simple answer, but it has to be friendlier to human nature.   

                I believe that the ancient wisdom of Chinese Taoist philosophy provides a good choice for the coming new era, since it emphasizes the value of naturalness and simplicity, which are well complementary to the Western philosophy of materialism. Some emerging trends indicate that the world is coming close to Taoist ideology. Firstly, I tell you the lobefin fish story to show where we are now in the bio-evolutionary world.

(1) Lobefin Fish and Human Self-Transcendence


                When I was in school, we were taught that what distinguished between animals and humans was, humans had conscious and animals did not. Animals were unable to think and unaware of what they were doing. Now, we all know that animals can think too, and they know well what they doing. They make choices in their lives just as we do in our lives. They also have creative thinking. The gorilla Koko mastered over a thousand words of American Sign Language and was able to link them up in statements of up to eight words in a creative way. It happened in a laboratory setting. In the wild, animals show creative thinking too.

                In the African jungle, Jane Goodall first observed that chimpanzees carefully stripped leaves of a tree twig to make a stick and then use it to fish out termites from their holes. Similar tool making was observed in other apes too, even in some birds. A particular tool making is usually limited to certain groups and is not observed in other groups of the same animals. It was apparently invented.

                Scientists have been able to observe the actual process by which behavioural innovations spread from individual to individual and became part of a troop’s culture independently of genetic transmission. This happened at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University in Japan in the 1960s. They dropped sweet potatoes on a beach to attract monkeys for observation. One day a young female began to wash the potato off sand by plunging it into a small brook that ran through the beach. This washing technique spread throughout the group and gradually replaced the former rubbing habit. Nine years later, 80 to 90 percent of those monkeys were washing their potatoes, ether in the brook or in the sea.

                As mentioned in Chapter 8, apes and dolphins have self-conscious, and were able to recognize their own images in a mirror. Then the question is why humans are able to build secondary society while animals are not. The answer is humans have the ability of self-transcendence: They are continuously looking for something higher than themselves and their real life. This eventually lets them create new worlds for themselves. Under certain circumstances, animals may be able to use language in a creative way like Gorilla Koko did. However, they use language just as other tools only to enrich their lives. Humans use language to create totally new worlds such as many novels especially scientific fictions. Each novel literally represents a new world created by humans. Our secondary society is also one of those worlds created by humans. But this one is a real one, created not by one person but by numerous people in thousands of years.

                Here I show you animals have the ability of self-transcendence too: the lobefin fish story. The long course of bio-evolution is stagnant for most time but punctuated by short phases of rapid changes, which are triggered either by environmental change or by major favorable mutations including recombination and expressive alteration of genes. The transition from aquatic animals or water animals to land animals (terrestrial animals) combines the two triggering factors: mutation lead animals to a new environment, which triggers more mutations.

                From water to land, there are several critical changes animals have to acquire such as limbs to support body weights, lungs to breathe, necks to turn heads. Those changes could not take place overnight but could not last forever ether, since it was an extra burden to those animals that carried those preliminary changes. Lobefin fish carry those changes and serve as a living fossil to illustrate how animals moved from sea to land in ancient time.

                Lobefin fish (coelancath, Figer 1) first appeared some 400 million years ago, and once flourished in shallow seas all over the world but vanished about 70 million years ago. On 23 December 1938, a fisherman caught an unusual fish along the east coast of South Africa, the local museum was informed and a scientist came to examine the specimen. Without any doubt, this was a lobefin fish, which was thought to be extinct at that time. When I studied zoology in university in the 1960s, a total of three or five lobefins were caught, and there was only a sentence trailing at the end to mention it in the textbook.  Now divers have observed them in massive numbers in deep sea, and a new species was found in Indonesia seas in 1997. Those living fossil fish live in caves deep in the sea, and only come out to feed themselves at night but still avoid moonlight.

                Some lobefin fish, such as the Australian lungfish, have primitive lung in addition to gills. Their fins have a muscular root base with bones, and are able to turn to different directions. In comparison with other fish, lobefin fish have little advantage, since they have to nourish and support those extra parts that are only useful under special circumstances. On land, they may survive a little longer than other fish but eventually die the same. Apparently, they are still aquatic animals. There is a long way to go before they become a real land animal.

                In history, lobefin fish did not climb unto land themselves but were   trapped in enclosed water, which dried out later. They were forced to land by environmental change. Under such circumstances, most lobefin fish died off except for few with further mutations. The chance for those few may be in the range of one millionth.

                How was the life when lobefin fish first moved unto land? The following have to apply:


1)      They are forced unto land by circumstances;

2)      They have a hard time, since they are not fully land animals yet;

3)      Their future is uncertain, and they are in a phase of rapid change;

4)      Their evolutionary pathways leading to mammals, reptiles, birds, or amphibians are determined by nature not by themselves;

5)       Once lobefin fish become fully land animals, their lives are as comfortable as those of any fish in sea.


                All those except 5) also apply to humans when they move from primary society to secondary society, which is exactly like lobefin fish moving from water to land. Humans first formed secondary society because population expansion, either the density exceeded the limit or too many people crowded in one place. Secondary society is apparently not the suitable social environment for humans, so that scientists have recently found that civilization triggered rapid genetic changes in human, and judged from the variation of the size of our brain, our brains are still in the rapid phase of genetic evolution.

                Both moves, man’s from primary society to secondary society and fish’s move from sea unto land, are major steps in their evolutionary process, leading to new directions and opening to new dimensions. Dr. Shubin and his colleagues discovered a fossil fish on the Ellesmere Island in northern Canada after six years of searching. They persisted for so long because the rocks they were looking at in these areas were deposited some 375 million years ago when lobefin fish lived and in a process of moving unto land. The fossil fish they found has gills and lungs, the neck to turn, and strong lobefins. Dr. Shubin and his colleague studied a living but ancient fish known as the paddlefish. They found that those thoroughly fishy fish were turning on control genes known as hox genes, in a manner characteristic of the four-limbed land animals. They believe major steps in evolution like the transition from water to land are not necessarily set off by genetic mutations inside the genes but by the right ecological situation or habitat, since the appearance of four limbs are critical if animals move from water unto land. Nevertheless, such transition needs numerous generations to accomplish, and meanwhile those half-fish and half-beast animals had to struggle in their unfamiliar environment to survive.

                We can easily list out numerous evidences indicating that we are having a hard time, which forces us to adapt to rapid change, genetically and culturally. One of the obvious is that we are doing a lot against human nature. We are born resistant to killing other human beings, but such killing is not only institutionalized in our society but also often accelerates into massive scale such as in the two world wars. Near a hundred millions died in the Second World War alone. It makes us happy and healthy if we live in a friendly atmosphere, but our society encourages the opposite, competition.

                Humans have been on earth for two or three million years, and our species, the homo sapiens, appeared some two hundred thousand years ago while our secondary society has a history only of five or six thousand years. During such a short period, genetic changes, though took place, are very limited. We adapt to our secondary society largely by cultural modification and by switching on the survival kit, running on our peripheral potentials. It is no wonder why suicide rate doubled in the twenty century in North America in spite of dramatic improvement in living conditions.

                We face nature in primary society, while we face ourselves, competitors and enemies, in secondary society. Unlike the lobefin fish that first move unto land face environmental challenges from nature, we face challenges from ourselves. As modern technology has brought us so close that we literally live in one village, why cannot we live a peaceful yet meaningful life as villagers did five thousand years ago in primary society? We do not need to go through all the painful genetic changes to become a full secondary society animal before we are as comfortable as those living in primary society.


(2) The War Civilization and its Ending


               The phrase tragedy of the commons originally describes medieval villagers sharing the same pasture ground. The size of their pasture only allowed some fifty villagers each to raise 10 sheep. If one villager raised 11 sheep to increase his income, everyone would soon find out and followed his suit, and the pasture would eventually be ruined by over exploitation.

               Wars, violent conflicts among different states, start and spread pretty much the same way, but much faster along an upward spiral.

                Only when survival was at risk in prehistoric time, might humans wage a battle on their neighbours, so-called small scale raiding, which was mostly hunger driven. When a conflict could not be solved by other means in primitive society, they performed ritual fighting to settle the dispute. Ritual battle perrmits the display of courage and the expression of emotion while resulting in relatively few wounds and even fewer deaths. Since violence is not part of our nature but part of our culture, hunger and unsolvable conflinct were only triggering factors which might and might not end in violence. Such fightings or battles happen in a primary society setting in isolated cases with self-limiting power residing in human nature. They might have been going on for millions of years but their scale remains the same.

               However, such violence is not the war we are talking here. War is a way to access social advantage, get upper-hand in conflict-solving process. Such war is in a situation similar to the tragedy of the commons. When a state came into an advantageous position after waging wars on its neighbours, all remaining states, whether their original culture is peace-loving or warrior-like, are getting ready for war to protect themsleves. War soon breaks out everywhere. Those peace-loving states are the first ones engulfed by others since those people are lagging behind in a world of warring culture. When all the states are balanced to the same military level, another state benefits itself by waging a war on its neighbours after it is militarized to a new level. Other states soon raise their military level too. The scale of war becomes larger and larger. Meanwhile, other factors such as state size, new technology and so on come into play as well. In the tragedy of the commons, the ruined is the pasture ground, and it is the peace of life ruined in a world of war cutlure. Our life is enjoyable only when there is peace. Everyone has to fight for his survival during a war.

               Such wars that happen in a secondary society setting are only limited by such factors like the size of our planet and exhaustion of resources.  Human nature is no longer a limiting factor.

               Anthropologists define civilizations as those that have state structure, monumental buildings, and written records. Those are all hallmarks of secondary society. People who live in primary society can but have no need to build large monumental constructions. Equally, nothing prevents primitive people from inventing writing system, but it is not a useful tool in a primary society setting. Those are the peripheral potentials of self-transcendence, and they are all higher than the life in a primitive primary society.

               Human civilizations first appeared five or six thousand years ago in the Middle East, and then in India, China, and in Europe. There is numerous evidences indicating clearly that more peaceful cultures existed before or in the early years of human civilizations in many places in Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. Here I quote from two authors to support this view, since controversy still exists on this issue:

               “…for millennia ─ a span of time many times longer than 5,000 years conventionally counted as history ─ prehistoric societies worshipped the Goddess of nature and spirituality, our great Mother, the giver of life and creator of all. But even more fascinating is that these ancient societies were structured very much like the more peaceful and just society we are now trying to onstruct …… Contrary to what we have been taught of the Neolithic or first agrarian civilizations as male dominated and highly violent, these were generally peaceful societies in which both women and men lived in harmony with one another and nature.” (1)

               What was the force which transformed such peaceful cultures into our warring civilizations? According to James DeMeo, the second author I quote here, (DeMeo 2004), there was a dramatic climate change around 4,000 -3,000 BC which led to desertification in vast areas along central Asia, Arabia, and northern Africa, or so-called Saharasia.

               “…it can be seen how prolonged drought with its accompanying malnutrition, famine and starvation, provides an important triggering influence whereby massive cultural changes can be initiated, particularly when drought is widespread and incessant, lasting from one generation into the next…And it was precisely during this period of climatic transition that the first widespread evidences of similar social trauma, armoring and patrism appeared within human culture.”(2)

               It must be pointed out that isolated aboriginal people who live nowadays in left-over jungles surrounded by bustling modern world are pretty much in a similar dread situation, shrinking territory and hostile cultural environment. It is not surprising to observe an increased violence in those left-over tribal people.

               British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975) raised the so-called challenge-and-response theory. According to him, civilizations arose in response to some set of challenges of extreme difficulty, when "creative minorities" devised solutions that reoriented their entire society. When the Sumerians exploited the intractable swamps of southern Iraq by organizing the Neolithic inhabitants into a society capable of carrying out large-scale irrigation projects, their challenges and responses were physical. When the Catholic Church resolved the chaos of post-Roman Europe by enrolling the new Germanic kingdoms in a single religious community, their challenges and responses were cultural or social. When a civilization responds to challenges, it grows. When it fails to respond to a challenge, it enters its period of decline.

               When the Saharasia was drying out, it was a physical challenge but once it formed the first raiding army to exploit their neighbours, the challenge was not physical or social but an ever-growing and rapid-upgrading hostile self that humans had never faced before. It is a much tougher challenge as Arnold Joseph Toynbee pointed out: “The human race’s prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenceless against ourselves.”

               When humans knew how to wage war to their advantage, it set off the arms race in human world with the most militarized and best equiped state as the winner. William Eckhardt (1995) raised the so-called dialectical evolutionary theory to interprete the process of human civilization. He so defines his theory:


               A dialectical evolutionary theory tries to relate the concepts of civilization, empire, and war to one another in such a way that their interaction results in positive feedback loops leading them ever upward and onward in a spiraling motion, unless and until it leads them in the opposite direction by way of negative feedback loops which reverse the direction of the spiral.(3)


               William Eckhardt found a close correlation between war measured in the frequency of battles, empire measured in the total area of empires,  and civilization measured in numbers of geniuses whose superiority was established by the consensus of encyclopedia and textbook authors. While the whole world tended to spiral upward, as a general rule during the last 5,000 years, regional areas had their ups and downs, rises and falls. When expenditures exceeded incomes in the evolutionary process, then came the falls, which were characterized by decentralization, feudalization, or foreign conquest. In all cases, the way up not only increased the quantity of civilization, empire, and war, but also changed the social structure to one of greater inequality, indicated by slavery, caste, class, social stratification, and so forth. The following is a table to show the correlative data on the three parameters along the five thousand years of human civilization:


Table 15.1 Civilizations, Empires, and Wars Between 3000 BC and 2000 with Other Critical Data*


Nof of battles

Imperial size( sqare  megameters)

No of geniuses



Deaths of  wars


Energy consumption (billion kilocalories per day)

Deforested area






































































































































































































































































































































*Data on world population, deforested area, and energy consumption are from David Christian (2004). The deforested area was 100% in 1985, the exact year when the data were collected is given in parentheses. The No. of death in wars are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.(3) (4) (5)


               William Eckhardt did not predict the scale of the next war according to his upward spiral. Some people say, we have some six billion people now and will grow up to 7.5 billions but the earth is only able to support 1.5 billion. Therefore, 6 billion human beings have to go, and the next war will be 60 times of the scale of the Second World War measured by the number of deaths.

               Fortunately, there are evidences that such an upward spiral evolutionary process of warring culture is coming to its end:

               Humans were waging wars continually along the history of civilization, and their wars were upgraded continually in terms of numbers of people involved as more nations joined in. The maximum size of war humans could have entered was when all humans on earth joined in and when all nations divided into two huge campuses. This was the two world wars and the cold war era, which can be regarded as the peak of this upward spiral evolutionary process on war scale.

               Similarly, the maximum size an empire also peaked off in human history, that was the Mongolian Empire in the 13th century and the British Empire in modern Europe. The history of the British Empire clearly shows the time of imperialism is over.
The British Empire was the largest empire in history and for a time was the foremost global power. The European age of maritime explorations of the 15th century sparked the era of the European colonial empires with the British as the most successful. By 1921, the British Empire held a population of about 458 million people, approximately one-quarter of the world's population. It covered about 36.6 million km², about a quarter of Earth's total land area. It was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least part of its territory. During the five decades following the Second World War, most of the territories of the Empire became independent, but many of them joined the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states. If the most powerful empire is no longer able to keep its vast territory, it is impossible to set up new empires. The upward spiral of empire has come to its end.

                When we are moving away from the two world wars, people will become closer to human nature. War makes people work hard for survival, and it makes people feel a sense of urgency. People forget themselves when they have an urgent feeling. They also tend to be more rational and less emotional. I think the relatively peaceful environment, especially after the Cold War was over, will brace human nature as a whole not only parts that fit in the high competitive society. Humans may be lazier than before, but that is the human nature. From baby boomers to generation X, and to generation Y, people are becoming more relaxed, more distanced from materialism but closer to self-happiness or spirituality.

                According to the Canadian author, Douglas Coupland, and others, generation X who were born in the 1970s are quite different in comparison with the baby boomer generation whose births followed the Secondary World War. Generation X are less materialistic, less money-oriented, more leisure-seeking, and put more value on individual freedom. In other words, generation X people are closer to human nature while the boomer generation closer to the Western culture. It is not coincident that in the Taoist view, the young people are closer to nature, since they have not exposed to our war culture for long.
                The wealth-building culture was also part of this upward spiral evolutionary process of war/empire/civilization, as all those three, war, empire, and civilization, needed wealth to support. Since the capitalist system was established, wealth building has been separated from empires. Thus, it is widely accepted that capitalist expansion led to the two world wars, it is not the other way round: wars led capitalism. I think the wealth-building culture detached itself from warring culture only after the Renaissance, because such a culture needs a large number of independent and highly educated individuals.  The Renaissance created such individuals in massive numbers. The wealth building culture is no longer motivated by war needs. The passing of the Cold War era did not damp the wealth building enthusiasm but fueled up it.

                This wealth building culture will be hindered by resource limitation and environmental problems, and especially by the final realization that wealth provides us convenience and comfort but not happiness. It is most apparent if we consider that in Canada and the USA, the suicide rate doubled during the last century. The worst part of this wealth-building culture is its consumption of resources and the production of waste. According to the recently released WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) report, we are already moving forward at a speed the earth cannot cope with. It will need two earths to support us by 2050, and it will need five earths if everyone in the world lives their lives as Americans do today. It is urgent to consider alternative ways to live our life. Taoist philosophy provides a good choice as it stresses the value of naturalness and simplicity, a simple but joyful life style.


(3)     The Political Situation of the Modern World is Similar to That of Chinese Early Dynasties When Taoist Philosophy was Popular


                The modern world with a powerless United Nations as a platform for countries to work out their differences at various levels is pretty much like the political situation of China from 2200 BC to 476 BC when a relatively powerless king and his court were trying to keep peace among numerous independent states and when human nature was highly respected in politics and in life. If we consider Taoist philosophy as a way of life, Taoist life style was popular from 2200 BC to 476 BC.

                William Eckhardt’s upward spiral evolutionary process of war/empire/civilization does not apply to the early phase of Chinese civilization, from 2200 to 476 BC. Peace and morality were apparently the main voices during this period. The first authoritative volume of Chinese history, Historical Records, starts with such words:


                “…When Godly Farmer’s (Shen Nong) rule was weakened, states (tribes or federations of tribes) were fighting and conquering each other, people were devastated, but Godly Farmer was unable to punish them with military action.”


                Now the academic circle considers Godly Farmer as a period of history and not a specific ruler. During this time, agriculture was developed and people lived together in peace except for its late years when violent conflicts developed. The first real ruler in Chinese history was the Yellow Emperor, who conquered two major federations of tribes, and ended those chaotic years. As the above quotation implies, this superpower or super state set up by the Yellow Emperor was to function as police to keep peace among tribes.

                Great Yu was the forth ruler of this super state after the Yellow Emperor. Great Yu established the first dynasty, Hsia (2200-1766 BC), through cooperation against flood. An authoritative historian believed that the Hia dynasty was in primitive society, lacking class stratification. The people who established the Hia dynasty and the people who established the Chou dynasty (1122-256 BC) are believed to originate from the same tribal people. There are clear records indicating that this super state structure was functioning as police to keep peace among tribes and states during the Chou dynasty. The dynasty, Shang (1765-1123 BC), which was after Hsia and before Chou, was different in origin, and they seemed to be more militarized and pay more attention to gods and spirits. But Confucius and all other scholars during Confucius’s time regarded those three early Chinese dynasties, Hsia, Shang, and Chou, as a whole period of continuous culture.

                Such a super state may cover a vast area, since many tribes and independent states wanted to join in for protection. The social structure of this super state was loose, and they lacked the modern concept of territory. They allowed people to move freely, and requiring the rulers of states along the bordering areas to report to the central government only once in their life time.  Contrary to William Eckhardt’s upward spiral evolutionary process of war/empire/civilization, this super state system allowed the quantity of civilization, empire ( the size of this super state) to increase without the increase in battles and conflicts. In Chinese ancient literature, this super state was often referred to as the world (tian xia), since this super state was the only world that they knew. They knew nothing beyond this super state. human nature was respected and primary society remained intact or near intact.

                Primary society is genetic coded society, and therefore humans have a strong tendence to form primary society unless they are forced to do otherwise. The following is this important assumption:


                Primary society or quasi-primary society will form automatically if:

                1). The population is less than a few hundreds, and the population is free to divide when it is much larger than the size of a primary society;

                2). The population is engaged in face-to-face interaction;

                3).  No contact with and no ideological influence from secondary society;

                4).  No outside force threatening their survival.


                Based on the above assumption, we have reached an important conclusion that the societies were mainly primary or quasi-primary societies during the period of early Chinese civilization from 2200 to 476 BC. A quasi-primary society was essentially a primary society based on human nature but has started its transformation toward secondary society. There was no typical secondary society emerged during this period though this super state structure was rightly named as secondary society because of its function as a secondary society. A typical secondary society consists of only independent individuals, and the society is stablized by a well-defined ideology and corresponding social structure. Primary society is stablized by human nature such as instict and subconscious.

                The social structure of the period of early Chinese civilization from 2200 to 476 BC was idiographically modelled as follows:


                The King and his clan + Intellectuals                   Quasi-primary society


                The vassals and their clans + Intellectuals     Quasi-primary society


                Villages and tribes                                                      Primary society


                Although the kings and vassals were in secondary society according to the definition of secondary society in this book, but they were able to live in quasi-primary society, since all the four “if”s in the above important assumption were met. It is further explained as follows:


                1). The king, vassals, villages/tribes, and their clans all lived in primary or quasi-primary society;

                2). The king, vassals and their clans lived a better material life than the village/tribal people, but a ten percent tax was well tolerated and was not enough to change their idle life style;

                                                3). The king and vassals did not live together, though they engaged in face to face interaction. Their numbers were within a few hundreds, and they formed a quasi-primary society;

                                                4). Similarly, the vassal and his subordinate headmen formed another quasi-primary society; The king ruled his vassals and the vassals ruled their headmen in the same way as a headman ruled his subjects in a primary society, mainly by persuasion and consensus.

                5).  The relations between the above primary and quasi-primary societies followed the precinple of reciprocity and mutual respect;

                                                6). Ideally, the adminstration and the military conflict were optmised to nearly zero according to the Taoist precinple: govern by non-interference.


                Under such a social structure, human nature was the main force to stablize the society. The life style was close to Taoist ideology. Although various life philosophies were established much later, rudimentary ideology and philosophy were surely present. I tend to think that the major ideology during this period was Taoism with rudimentary Confucianism as the complementary non-official ideology. From Classic of Poetry and Book of Mountains and Seas, it is clear that there was not any forceful unified ideology, which is consisted with primitive life style and Taost philosophy. Taoism regards neither the authority of heavenly gods nor that of any secular power. It is generally regarded as a rarity that Chinese mythology remained fragmentary even after the Axial Age started and rational thinking was established.

                Interestingly, the political situation of the period of early Chinese civilization is similar to the political situation of modern world. Both the king of ancient China and the United Nations (UN) are relatively powerless, but they play a critical role to keep peace among the local powers. The UN was set up with the same purpose as the first super state in ancient China, and it is to keep peace, and break tension among local powers.

                The UN was founded in 1945 to replace the uneffective League of Nations, which was blamed to have failed to prevent the Second World War. Considering the third world war was widely expected in the 1950s and 1960s, and many countries were struggling to prepare for it, it is remarkable that this third world war eventually did not happen. Without the UN, it would have been almost certainly a reality.

                The Human Security Report 2005, produced by the Human Security Centre at the University of British Columbia with support from several governments and foundations, documented a dramatic, but largely unrecognized, decline in the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuses since the end of the Cold War. Statistics include: a 40% drop in violent conflict; an 80% drop in the most deadly conflicts; and an 80% drop in genocide and politicide.

                As mentioned above, more peaceful international environment cultivates the spirit of freedom and liberty in the new generations. They may appear lazier, less disciplined, but it is our nature. They would be unable to wage war on the same scale of the two world wars even they accountered a similar situation. At least, we hope so.


(4)     The Taoist Ideal Life and Society


                Here I would like to say a few words about the different states of human mind and their influence on our world view and behaviour. As shown in Figure 18, those dogs have three different mental states, namely, rest, goal oriented, and fighting with each other.  If you ask those dogs what they see in their world and what they want in their life, the dogs in rest would say they see the whole world that includes themselves and they wants to enjoy life. If you put their answer in philosophical terms, it would be Taoist philosophy.

                The goal oriented dogs only see their target that they run after and they want to reach their goal.  Such goals change with time and with different dogs, and it creates conflicts among dogs as their different goals have the potential to interfere with each other.

                When dogs are fighting with each other, they see only each other and want to conquer each other. Since it is impossible to conquer each other at the same time and the only outcome will be that one is conquered by the other except for a tie. Fortunately dogs are still guided by their nature, and they will stop when they are too tired to continue.  Civilized humans are beyond human nature, and thus subjected to the upward spiral course defined by William Eckhardt.

                Humans and dogs are however still the same that they enjoy themselves when there is nothing to worry about; they switch on their survival kit to run on their peripheral potentials when their life is at risk; they switch on death program when they are in a hopeless situation: man commits suicide while dogs stop eating when they are terminally ill and stop fighting when they are in front of a hunger tiger.

                Science and technology have made life much easier. Humans have every reason to enjoy their life unless they are determined to fight against themselves.


               Here I only try to interpret the Taoist ideal life and society in modern terms. Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and other Taoist classic authors all praised the ancient egalitarian society in which there were no forceful authorities. They even named those who lived in such society as the real people. It is clear that we cannot accept any will forced upon us, whether the will is from authority people, gods, or from faith in any pricinples. Accordingly, we do not need to work either, since our remote ancestors did not.

               In real life, it is often difficult to determine whether an activity is work or pure enjoyment and whether we are motivated by ourselves or by others’ will. The moto to remember all time is: enjoy the process and do not care the result. As long as you enjoy your work and the company of your colleagues at the working place, you may work as long as you like. Do not force yourselve to work hard for the payment.

               From the concept of separation of the primary and the secondary society which was proposed by Lao Tzu and from the organization of our body cells, it is up to the secondary society to assemble and integrate all the end products we produce during the activities of our self-enjoyment into something useful and meanful to us who live in the primary society. As to who have to live in secondary society, and how they achieve this goal, it is beyond my speculation. Ideally they live their lives exactly the same way as those who live in the primary society.

                You may say this is an unrealistic dream. But if you read thoroughly the works by Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and other classic authors and if you are able to shut off all the ideas your culture has crammed into your mind and judge it objectively and precisely, you will certain agree with me that my interpretation is exactly what Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and other classic authors meant in their works. You will also agree that to keep this ideal life and society in our mind is useful to prevent us from enduring meaningless endeavours. We do not have to labour ourselves like ants before enjoy our lives. We do not have to drive each other into madness.

                If our remote ancestors never worked, we need not work either, unless the work itself is enjoyment. With modern science and technology, such a goal, no work except for enjoyment, is not beyond our reach.


 (1)  Riane Eisler(2002): Ecofeminism gives life purpose. In: Constructing a life philosophy: opposing view points, ed by M. R. Schmidt. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc.

(2)  J. DeMeo(2004): Saharasia. Orgone: Orgone Biophysical Research Lab.

(3)  William Eckhardt(1995): A dialectical evolutionary theory of civilizations, empires, and wars. In: Civilizations world systems studying world-historical change, ed by S. K. Sanderson. Walnut Creek, USA: AltaMira Press. p75-108.

(4) David Christian(2004): Maps of time: a introduction to big history. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

(5)  1). List of wars; 2). List of battles and other violent events by death toll; 3). List of battles by death toll. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/)

Figure 1. Lobefin fish and their evolutionary prospects.

Figure 2. Dogs and the three states of mind.