The grand Eastern philosophy of Taoism is frequently considered a corresponding philosophy to Confucianism. At the same time, there are many others out there in this big ol’ complex and confusing world who take a much different approach, considering the divergence between Taoism and Confucianism to be far more expansive. From this angle, the two arms of Eastern philosophies are viewed as much more akimbo; two are rivals sharing the same stage in much the same way Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton, but not so much as Ali and Joe Frazier.
Taoism is an Eastern philosophy that was lengthened outward from that which came before by Lao Zi a full six-hundred years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. What this also means, of course, is that Taoism is a predecessor to Confucianism because it predates the birth of Confucius as well as Christ. Lao Zi (or Lao Tzu or Lao Tse or Lao Tsu, depending on which research resource you are using) was privileged to be rewarded with the title of Old Master in accord with the Taoist (or Daoist, again depending on your resources) traditions.
Serving the Zhou king K’ung Tzu, Lao Zi became so disenchanted with the manner in which the country was being run (something anyone can relate to depending on whether you watch Fox News or MSNBC since 2001), he engaged in his own one man diaspora that saw him take a power from China and sent it forth into India. It was in the future land of Gandhi and big budget musicals that Lao Zi became, according to Taoist tradition, the Buddha. The scriptures associated with Taoism are known as the Tao Te Ching and their content was written by Lao Zi.
Or so the story goes. In reality, however, just as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were almost certainly not written by the apostles who share those names, the Tao Te Zi was probably compiled and edited by a collection of writers long after Lao Zi’s death. In fact, as with the books of the Holy Bible, there are some scholars who question not only whether Lao Zi wrote the Tao Te Zi, but if he ever knew anything about it or even if he ever existed at all.
The tao, also know as the way, is a spiritual belief that is intensely preoccupied with the concealed principles that are work in the governing of the universe, focusing on the duality of nature as described by the principles of the yin and the yang. The customary symbol of the machinery of the yin and the yang is, of course, the circle curved in half with a dark side punctuated with a white spot and a white side punctuated with a black spot. In this way, there is much in Taoism that is shared with perhaps most widely adopted new religion of the 20 th century in America behind Scientology: the Jedi Force.
The yin and yang work together to maintain the universe in a delicate balance that thrives within a world in which darkness is as essential as light, but only through temperance in all things. Unlike the Force, however, there is no mystical prophecy of the arrival of a messiah with a whole heckuva lot of Midi-Chlorians that will arrive to bring balance to our universe. As a matter of fact, just as fear leads to anger in the Force, human intervention leads to disharmony and imbalance in Taoism.
Where Taoism diverges most strikingly from Confucianism, is in the concept there can ever be an imposition of order and harmony. Balance for the Taoists can be achieved only when things occur naturally. Disorder in the universe comes about exactly because humans attempt to meddle with the natural course of things. Harmony arrives only as a result of living life in a spontaneously manner and not through any artificial enforcement of one’s opinion of good and bad. Humility and the utter lack of self-consciousness are the hallmarks of Taoist awareness.