The brightest signs of art and thought in civilization often spring from turmoil, whether it be outer war or inner strife. This is definitely the case in ancient China during a period of transition of government and ruling class. Two distinct philosophies sprang from the raging waters of China’s ever-cyclic river of war and rebuilding. These philosophies were the brain-children of two very notable individuals: Confucius and Chuang Tzu. Both of them saw the suffering of their countrymen and felt called upon to render the way which would relieve their people. Confucius was a very rational, logical man who believed that the world could be set into its proper order by prescribing morals embedded in rituals practiced by those in power. Therefore, instilling a desire for the people to practice these same rituals and ultimately leading a moral, educated life. Although this is just a basic statement of Confucian thought, it does illustrate the great differences in the approaches taken by these two men.
While Confucius stressed the importance of morals, scholastics, and the physical world of politics and order in his teachings, Chuang Tzu takes a different approach to resolving the same issue. In his writings, Chuang Tzu hints at the existence of a mystical energy force that flows through the cosmos with exact order. This presence has been since there has been anything but is not old. In Chuang Tzu’s mind, discovering this flow and establishing a solid connection fills one with the energy of the cosmos, taking its power wherever they go and guiding them through the labyrinth that appears to those outside of the way to be the path of life. By establishing and maintaining this connection, one can know with absolute certainty what is and what should be the proper course of action to take. Chuang Tzu has been described as a spiritual mystic, which is fitting. However, individuals should not write off his works as nothing more than complex fairy tales separated by only a few degrees from those of dragons and fairies in western myth.
One must not make this mistake, for mysticism and the life and work of an eastern spiritual mystic have just as much validity as that of faith and the writings of another mystic spiritual character found embedded in western thought, namely Jesus of Nazareth. There are many questions to which modern science has no answer, and for these questions, the mystics have the upper hand. If through their arts, one’s soul finds its way, then they have accomplished a task that will forever elude the scientific realm. Philosophy.