As my friends and readers are doubtlessly aware, my spiritual practices are deeply influenced by Taoism. From breathing and energy practices, to philosophical advice, there’s a great deal to learn from the huge body of Taoist writings and lore. However, I’d like to discuss the various personalities of Taoist lore and history.
The greater body of Taoism lore and history contains a number of teachers, alchemists, mystics, and evolved human Immortals. Some are learned sages whose idols adorn temples all over the world. Others are acknowledged once in historical records or the credit of an obscure book. Most of them are just a delightful bunch of weirdos.
Gender-bending beloved flute-player Lan Caihe rubs shoulders with with Lü Dongbin, who achieved immortality after a kind of midlife crisis. There’s an alchemist-Prince who ascended to Heaven accompanies by cats and dogs because he spilled an bottle of immortality drugs. Lao-Tzu, creator of the Tao Te Ching, supposedly wrote his book when he just decided screw this and abandoned the corrupt time he lived in. More common tales might include old men with great physical powers, beggars obsessed with the Tao Te Ching, and more.
I adore this about Taoist lore because of how human is all is. A Taoist figure can be both an admirable role model and a cautionary tale separately or at the same time. Great Immortals come from humble beginnings, often learning from serious mistakes, sometimes with the help of more ancient teachers. Drunken poets spout brilliant prose between bouts of boozing in private groves. Even in more worshipful takes, the great figures of Taoism come off as relatable.
This makes Taoist tales and practices associated them more accessible in my opinion. The figures you encounter, historical and mystical, weren’t perfect in life and might even be eccentric in their divine state. If they can become better, if they can achieve peace or Immortality or just be better folks, so can you.
You also don’t feel judged by these diverse group of mystics and magicians. Their tales aren’t ones of moralizing and finger-wagging, but often of helpful figures who’ve “been there.” They’re not there to punish you – well usually, as some of them are willing to cut serious assholes down to size.
Finally, a lot of the tales of various Taoist figures are interesting and many are outright funny. There’s a reason you’ll see them pop in movies, films, television, etc.
The best way to spiritual practice is through being human – and a sense of humor as well.