Is Taoism in the Society of Friends?

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Spring 2006 No 18 – 01/04/2006

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Author: Michael Wai Hin Len

Document Code: WJ18

Description: Michael Len arrived at Woodbrooke at the end of August 2005 to pursue his interest in connections between Taoism and Quakerism. The topic was of interest to the Eva Koch Scholarship Committee because it was felt to be breaking new ground. Michael had the experience of being a practising Taoist and more recently a Quaker with multi-cultural and multi-faith life experience. Even his association with Christianity was in many denominations and, as you will read, in a variety of roles within the church. For his study he decided to find out from other Quakers what their own experience of Taoism was and once the questionnaire was drafted, the information circulated through the Friend and a letter to each Preparative Meeting then the project took off. The second part of the article is a record of the responses to the questionnaire carefully put together by the author.

In the final section Michael does ask himself the question whether the self selected respondents can give a balanced picture of the links between Taoism and Quakers. Those who responded are people who do make the link and reading through their responses find the two complementary and do practise Tai Chi or Chi Kung or have acupuncture or reflexology. Given that they are already involved in some way with Taoism and have read something about it, or use the Tao Te Ching regularly then reading a selection of their responses to the different questions does give insights into the spiritual lives and beliefs of some Friends. It does make fascinating reading.

In the introduction to the article Michael writes of his own journey into Taoism as well as showing how the two ways have similarities for him. Simplicity, peace, the life force, light and energy as well as stillness and peace all play their parts in both. He calls it a phenomenological study and offers it as an illumination of the Quaker way.

Judith Jenner

Tutor in Quaker Studies

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