Lao Tzu and Shamanism


How and with what thoughts did a shamanic sage who lived 2500 years before the world I was brought up to influence me? And has it been affecting since then? There are three main reasons for this: Tao teaching is not an imposing, tyrannical teaching. The Tao Te Ching advises people to live in harmony with nature, but it does not force it.

Tonyukuk and Lao Tzu are the same school of philosophy. Inner Asian philosophy. Both are against Confucius. Confucius is the Chinese enlightenment, he is rational. Lao Tzu is Inner Asian mysticism; going west he returned to his intellectual roots.

We live in a world where one seventh lives on the edge of hunger. Today we cannot even imagine the poor and primitive, possibly shaman, world of Lao Tzu. The work presents the ideal of a person who is hostile to violence, who does not carry weapons, is humble and does not want to own property.

Lao Tzu (means “Old Master”), original name is Li Er/ 李耳, is an ancient Chinese Philosopher who founded the Philosophical Taoism/ Daoism. Daoism differs from Confucianism with the “effortless action” which refers the naturalness, simplicity. With this understanding they had their particular school in Chinese history.

In the work of SU-MA-CHİEN (1st century BC), which is regarded as the first Chinese History, Lao Tzu has an epic past. Master Lao worked as a clerk in the state of Zhu, one day came to one of the gates of the Great Wall, wrote his little book of 5000 signs at the request of the gate guard who knew him and housed him, and continued on his westward path.

A myth has naturally formed around the life of the wise Lao.

In this myth, there is the intersection of the Chinese philosopher’s paths with the Great Wall of China and the discussion of Master Lao with Confucius.

It is worth noting that the life story of Lao-Tzû given in Ssü Ma Ç’ien’s Book of History shows Lao-Tzû as born in the state of ÇU. Lao Tzu 604 BC, Henan, China

All of this may well be a myth. It seems very meaningful to me that this myth establishes a connection between the writer of Tao Te Qing and the state of ÇU. It cannot be just a coincidence that Lao-Tzû is linked to this state of ÇU in the south. Because Tao Te Ching is observed to be the ruler of “a joke peculiar to the state of ÇU” from beginning to end. By “a joke peculiar to the state of O” I mean the shamanist tendency of the mind or the shamanist way of thinking.

ÇU was a vast state of wild rivers, forests and mountains inhabited by many people of different and strange customs and traditions, rich in natural beauty but poor in culture and not of Chinese origin, located on the southern edge of the civilized Middle Kingdom of China. Here, all kinds of false beliefs about supernatural beings and jinn were common, and shamanist customs and traditions were also very popular.

However, as witnessed by the elegies written by ÇU Yüan, one of the greatest shamanist poets of the state of ÇU, it is possible that this primitive and “uncivilized”-looking environment is an ideal foundation that feeds an imaginary power and a poetic inspiration. The same environment can produce an extraordinarily different kind of metaphysical thought.

This is also possible, because, although it may seem like a raw insight, it has a nature that can be refined and evolved to a high spiritual level by refining the state of ecstasy and forgiveness experienced in Shamanism.

This process of philosophical evolution is manifested most vividly by Chuang-Tzû himself. Lao-Tzû, on the other hand, presents the result in a more final and static form. But in any case, I believe that the spiritual depth in Lao-Tzû’s thought can be best judged only by being understood as a philosophical witness of the ancient shamanic tradition in ancient China.

Maspero believes that Taoism is a “personal” religion that dates back to ancient times, unlike the State religion, which is unique to the agricultural community and has nothing to do with the salvation of the person, and Lao-Tzû and the Chuang-Tzû school are a distinct spiritual-philosophical argues that it has a special branch that is in contact with the trend.

Can it ever be imagined that such a metaphysical maturity of shamanism could have arisen as a result of its natural development without the actual intervention and contribution of a thinker endowed with an extraordinary philosophical genius? I think, for my own account, that this cannot be the case.

Shamanism would have continued to remain in its primitive immaturity as an ordinary expression of religious feelings if it had not been referenced to a higher level by the power of thought of a genius, and probably produced nothing but cosmogonic myths to explain the emergence of the Universe and the deities and demons. would be.

It is very meaningful for the purpose of our study to note that the essence of a philosophically advanced shamanism that conforms to this kind of description is permissible throughout the Tao Te Qing.

Whether it is an idea about the metaphysical structure of the world, the nature of man, the art of ruling the people, or the practical ideal of life, there is a living personal “center” where all the basic ideas we come across in the book are in an all-round order (if permissible).

And such an organic unity-integrity can only be explained by the claim that the Tao Te Ching is never a composition of incoherent fragments of ideas randomly collected here and there, but by accepting that the book is the work of a single author in its entirety.

He briefly mentioned that there may be a strong correlation between Shamanism and the philosophy of Taoism and, if we have to accept the intellectual or conception of the realm of Lao-Tzû and Chuang-Tz t, if we have to accept them as a historical insight, they are the shamanist spiritual-background tradition in ancient China. I have tried to summarize the idea that it should be examined by taking into consideration.

Throughout the long history of Chinese thought, traces of an attitude that can be called “shamanist way of thinking” can be easily seen. It is seen that this special attitude of thought appears in various forms and figures in accordance with special times and places, sometimes intellectually elegant and logically elaborated. We also observe that such a way of thinking is diametrically opposed to the realist and rational way of thinking represented by the strict moral worldview of Confucius and his followers.

I take Lao-Tzû’s Taoist vision of the realm as a philosophical crystallization or witness of this shamanist way of thinking. In other words, this Taoist realm-imagination is nothing more than a specific form of philosophy that results from the realization of the realm of being through a personal experience peculiar to those endowed with the ability to perceive things at the level of trans-sense consciousness.

Taoist philosophers, who have produced works such as the Book of Tao Te Ching, behave like “shamans” in terms of their personal experiences on which their world-views are based on the one hand, but on the other hand, to reach a higher level of cognition because remaining at the primitive level of common shamanism does not satisfy them. These were people who were engaged in an intellectual activity that evolved these original views within the framework of a system of metaphysical concepts designed to explain the real structure of the realm of Being.

It is evident from its historical attribute of origin that there is no link between Sufism and Taoism. In terms of history, Sufism depends on the form of Islamic monotheism known as Islam; Taoism, on the other hand, is a product of the philosophical cultivation and development of the Far-Eastern type of Shamanism, if the assumption I put forward at the beginning of this study is correct.

Despite the great historical and cultural distance that separates these two movements from each other, it is extremely meaningful that they share the same ground at the philosophical level. Both are in complete harmony with each other in basing their philosophical thoughts on a very special concept of Being that is actually identical, although they may differ from each other in details or in subordinate matters.

Either way, they agree that the ultimate origin of the philosophy of each system is not reasoning about Being but living Being. Moreover, to “live” Being in this special state consists of living it not with ordinary perceptions of emotion, but at the level (or levels) of super-emotional intuition.

Source: Prof. Toşihiko İzutsu, Taoculuk’daki Anahtar-Kavramlar



When we read Tao Te Qing, we can feel the breath of an extraordinary person who has perpetuated the whole book, and an extraordinarily wise person whose spirit is beating zong zong in every word of the book.

Indeed, the Tao Te Ching as a whole is a unique and unique work that has become distinctly colored by the personality of one extraordinary person, a wise shaman.

This person also draws his own portrait:

“Most people are cheerful and enthusiastic, just as if they were invited to a lavish feast or climbing high in the spring.

Only I, like a baby who has not yet begun to smile, remain silent and calm without showing any signs of activity. Only I will look at me’yûs and without purpose, like someone who has no place or place to go.

I am empty and poor while others are overflowing (with hopes and expectations). Mine is the mind of a stupid person. How heavy, how confused it is! All the others are smart and bright, but I am dim and dull. The misfortunes of other people are high, and I am slow and withdrawn, like a constantly rippling deep ocean, like an endless wind.

Like a peasant, I am incompetent while everyone else has a job to do. I am different from everyone else; because I value me on Ana’s nourishment ”.

In another passage (LXVII) he likewise makes the following about himself:

“Whoever is under the sky also describes me and says that I am great but I seem uninterested.

Yes, I am apathetic-looking, but because I am large, I look irrelevant. If I were someone involved, interested in everything, I would have already shrunk “.

Also in the LXX we read:

“My words are very easy to understand, very easy to follow. But under heaven nobody understands them and no one is following them. My words are based on a principle, my verbs derive from a prevailing rule. But the people (this principle) do not understand. Because of that I am out of the public’s grasp.

The rarity of those who comprehend me [my identity] is undoubtedly a measure of the greatness of my worth. That is why the “Holy Man” has coarse garments, but carries a precious jade inside “.

These passages describe a very peculiar state of mind, a person who seems to be disinterested and incompetent, who keeps himself away from “intelligent” people who spend their time with the ordinary pleasures of life. This person has the consciousness that he is completely different from an ordinary person and behaves in this manner. The important question we should ask here is:

When does this difference occur? Tao Te Ching himself and also Chuang-Tzû give a definite answer to this: The reason why this person sees himself different from other people is because he is conscious that he alone has the true meaning of Being. And this person knows this through his deep metaphysical consciousness [view, being a witness], which Chuang-Tzû calls tso wang, or “to take the nian for himself,” that is, his association with Tao in the state of mirage (istigrâk.)

From this point of view, the person who is beyond the statements we have declared above is a wise shamanist person; Or, in other words, it is a shaman who has risen to the level of wise and has a view that is manifested in the state of the yakaza. Yakaza means being vigilant, being careful, being conscious. Some are asleep while awake, while others are actually awake while sleeping. Therefore, sleeping and being awake depends on the person.


In the Tao teaching, if a person lives according to the law of nature, his life will pass in peace, balance and harmony with the environment. This is the life principle of the Tao teaching. The most striking metaphor of Tao teaching is “water”. Alan Watts emphasized this metaphor by calling his book on the subject “Stream Road” (Watts, 1975). Everything should be like a stream.

Water does not neglect the slightest height or pit. It swells over one, jumps over a rock, fills a pit. These are his nature, character, or features of his existence. Lao Tzu brings examples from the daily life of man to illustrate the Tao way. The stream is the symbol of Tao. It is like a woman. It is like a child. It looks weak, but it is water that carves the rock.

The water metaphor teaches humility. Everything seems to happen spontaneously in nature. A good master is the easiest to do his job without difficulty. For him, simplicity is the biggest feature. A person with a clean heart is not cunning. He does not think about the profit of his work. It is not egoistic. He has not lost his balance because of his ambitions.

The people do not even know of the existence of a ruler living according to Tao teachings. It is the opposite of the power image in world history. Emptying the highest success does not prevent it from being a success. The Void implies the existence of a potential in Tao teaching, that a potential is not finished. The full one has no other opportunity left.

Tao Te Ching

Chapter Eight

  • A person of great virtue is like the flowing water.
  • Water benefits all things and contends not with them.
  • It puts itself in a place that no one wishes to be and thus is closest to Tao.
  • A virtuous person is like water which adapts itself to the perfect place.
  • His mind is like the deep water that is calm and peaceful.
  • His heart is kind like water that benefits all.
  • His words are sincere like the constant flow of water.
  • His governing is natural without desire which is like the softness of water that penetrates through
  • hard rocks.
  • His work is of talent like the free flow of water.
  • His movement is of right timing like water that flows smoothly.
  • A virtuous person never forces his way and hence will not make faults. 

Chapter Nine

  • Those who overly pride wealth is like the overflowing water which shall cause damages. It is
  • better to restrain early.
  • Those who are not content with fame is like polishing the edge of a knife.
  • The sharper it gets, the easier it is to break.
  • Wealth and treasures are but illusions that one cannot possess.
  • Those who are arrogant of their wealth and fame shall invite blame upon oneself.
  • The nature Tao teaches one to retreat after one’s success and not to hold on to the credit.

Chapter Fifteen

  • The ancient Tao cultivators were subtle and mysterious.
  • They were of immeasurable profundity.
  • Because they were too subtle to be known, so reluctantly they were being described as follow:
  • Harmonized, like the turbid water.
  • How can one turn the turbid water into clarity?

Chapter Thirty-six

  • This is known as the enlightened nature that is subtle yet profound.
  • Gentleness overcomes strength, and the weak overcomes the strong.
  • Just as fish live in deep water and cannot survive after being taken out of the depths.
  • And the powerful weapons of a country should not be displayed,
  • Just like one’s true nature cannot be revealed to be seen.

Chapter Seventy-eight

  • There is nothing in this world that is softer and weaker than water.
  • Even those that can conquer the strong and hard,
  • Are still not superior than water.
  • Nothing can substitute it.
  • Hence, what is soft can overcome the strong.
  • What is gentle can overcome the strength.
  • This is known by the world.
  • However, people cannot put it into practice.
  • Therefore, the saint said as follow:
  • He who can take the disgrace of a nation,
  • Is said to be the master of the nation.
  • He who can bear the misfortune of a nation,
  • Is said to be the ruler of the world.
  • Truthful words may seem to be the reverse of worldly practices.





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