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John Lagerwey

Early Taoism showed remarkable stability in its basic ideas of the origins of evil and how to deal with it. Basically, evil is seen as anything that undermines or is antipathetic to life. Life is the supreme good, and everything must be done to secure it and even to extend it. However, a moral dimension was added very early on to what it meant to be devoted to life: a notion of sin, guilt, debt, and personal responsibility. Adherents imagined an immense bureaucracy spying on human beings and reporting their acts to a central archive. What happens to one, illness or bad luck, is a matter of one’s own responsibility. The guilt-inducing faults must be confessed and repair or compensation made. Confession and compensation may be said to be the primary ways of coping with negative events that threaten life. But the defining attribute of a Taoist was his doing all he could to sustain and nurture his life forces.

Edited by John Lagerwey