When the Tao is forgotten

In Aldergaria-a-Velha, the only place where we could get a room was a whore-house motel. It turned out to be okay — quiet and not expensive. I felt sorry for the girls standing by the road but I suppose it was an education for my wife, Karen. She had not stayed in a whore house before.

On the way  to Oliveira del Azemeis, we walked, for a while, on the ancient Roman road, part of the original pilgrim route to Santiago in the Middle Ages. We crossed a Roman bridge with a medieval shrine that had been restored by a modern artist.

Lao tse was not supportive of organized religion, standard concepts of morality, or traditional patriotism. He advocated the Inner Way, the foundation for all these things. He writes (chapter 18):

“When the Great Tao is forgotten,

goodness and piety appear.

When the body’s intelligence declines,

cleverness and knowledge step forth.

When there is no peace in the family

filial piety begins.

When the country falls into chaos,

patriotism is born.”

Lao tsu, who lived about 500 years before Jesus, would be alarmed at the degree that nation-states, coupled with population density, have emerged in modern times. He was not an advocate of technological advance.

Karen and I walked a long way in the hot sun, approaching the shrine. I was curious about how the shrine had been restored.

Religion is like a river. It follows a natural path, taking the form of the land through which it flows and nourishing those who partake of it. Every religion  was derived from the ancient Inner Way,  called Shamanism. Shamanism was the first human religion, but Lao tsu refers to something even more fundamental.

Look into the face of Jesus and see the way this manifests along the ancient Roman road in Portugal.

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