Chuang Tsu — a book that just keeps on going —

After Gia-fu Feng and I created our edition of Tao Te Ching in 1972, we began work on a second book — another Chinese classic, Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters.

It has had several editions with four different publishers:
• Random House in 1974 – the original edition
• Earth Heart 1997 – with many new photos
• Amber Lotus 2002 – a reprint of the Earth Heart edition
• Amber Lotus 2008 – more new photos – printed by mistake on uncoated paper
• Hay House 2014 – more new photos, updated gender-neutral text, and a smaller format.

Soon a fifth publisher, DaoDog Press, publisher of the Tao magazine, The Empty Vessel, will do yet another new edition — stay in touch for updates on this.

Walking with Ancestors —

February 14, 2021

It has been a cloudy, gray, calm, not too cold (25F), Valentine’s Sunday here in Central Vermont. The past few days and this morning I’ve spent a lot of time at my computer — working on my blog, facebook, and website, and creating an article and an ad for The Empty Vessel – a Tao magazine.

Then about 2pm I felt stuck and really BORED with this covid-limited world we live in now. Time for either a nap or a walk. Walking won out.

I plodded along the road by #10 Pond — glad to have a good walking place but still bored. Thinking of  what my friend Esther Thompson Turner said this morning on Facebook about wanting companionship and finding a bit of it with Miles, her small polar bear made of wire and LED lights — better than nothing.

As I walked along I met a neighbor and her dog. We visited a bit which was good.

Then  as I walked on, suddenly I felt the urge to invite ancestors to walk with me, and immediately there seemed to be with me two women I know who are now in the spirit world. On my right was Hansine Lyberth from Greenland, and on my left was my Mother. As they tucked their arms into mine I felt a smile and a little laugh emerge. 

with Hansine at her home in Maniitsoq, Greenland in 2011
with my Mother, Ruth James English, out in the woods in Tamworth, New Hampshire, about 1977

Both of these women are ones who’d enjoyed walking during their time in physical bodies. I sensed their delight at once again feeling what it is like to walk in nature — this time through me as I walked briskly along. And I delighted in their companionship.

We walked about a mile that way — from where I’d met my neighbor up to the end of the pond and back to about where the women had come to me, where I quite suddenly I found myself thanking them and letting them fly away back to wherever they’d come from.

I finished my walk home as myself, but no longer bored.

Was this “real?” Did I “imagine” all this?

Somehow the answer to those questions is irrelevant. What was real was a the shift in my mood — for whatever “reason.”

So try this yourself — invite ancestors to walk with you — maybe you find yourself smiling as I did.

Here is what I wrote about Ancestors in the book that accompanies
The Ceremony Cards:


In addition to our blood ancestors we also have many spiritual ancestors. We all need our ancestors, our roots, even if we have never met them. Even though the Ancestors do not live in the modern world, there is basic wisdom they have that does not change, wisdom that helps in any world. There is vast wisdom that had accumulated by those who have gone before us and who care about us.

In the Eskimo tradition our ancestors are the helpers of The Great One.  After the ancestors’ souls travel to the Creator they can return to help us when we call them. They dance in the Northern Lights. I think of how Angaangaq says that the Ancestors are no farther away than the reach of our hand, but we have not learned to touch them.

northern lights before moonrise — looking south in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland in 2010

Yin-Yang and The Ten Thousand Things

The traditional yin-yang (feminine/dark-masculine/light) symbol below shows a bit of yin in yang and of yang in yin.

A phrase that appears often in Tao Te Ching is “the ten-thousand things,” as in this excerpt from that book:

Tao begot one
One begot two
Two begot three
And three begot the ten-thousand things.
The ten-thousand things carry yin and embrace yang
They achieve harmony by combining these forces
— Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42

This image below, Yin, Yang and the Ten-Thousand Things, came to me in meditation around 1988. It shows yin-yang opening up and bringing forth their rainbow children, all of creation, the “ten-thousand things.” 

available as an art-quality print

Expanding on that traditional symbol and rather than seeing yin and yang as opposites, we can realize a co-creative balance of masculine yang and feminine yin in our lives, so that their children, the rainbow of our creativity, the ten-thousand things, can be born.

Tao may be found not only in the undivided ground of being, nor solely in the polarity of yin and yang, dark and light, dynamic and receptive, but also everywhere in the full rainbow spectrum of the ten-thousand things: all the myriad ways the un-nameable whole is divided into discrete beings.
—from page 16 in the book A Rainbow of Tao

On the facing page in that book I placed this photo that seemed like the traditional yin/yang symbol made manifest in the world of nature.

Who is Tao?

Here in the West, language structures our world into objects and actions. We have nouns and we have verbs. Among the nouns we make a distinction between the “whats” and the “whos,” between inanimate things and living beings.

Translations from Chinese usually treat Tao as a noun; however, Tao cannot be so neatly categorized. It is both noun and verb; it is neither noun nor verb. Nor is it easily classified either as a “who” or as a “what.”

A defining statement of our Western culture is found in the Gospel of John,
“In the beginning was the Word . . .” 

Yet Tao Te Ching begins with a starkly contrasting line that roughly translates as,
“The Tao that can be put into words is not the real Tao.”

Mindful of the paradox of using words and images to approach Tao, I invite you to enter this book with a spirit of adventure. Explore with me this Tao that has over the past few decades come from the Far East into our Western world.

This is from the first page of my 2018 book, A Rainbow of Tao