Our Speaker:

Dr Tony Swain

Talks are subject to COVID - 19 restrictions 

Our next talk

Date:        Sunday 8th November 2020

Time:       4 - 5.30 pm

Venue:     Rotary Community Hall, 198 Hastings River Drive, Port Macquarie                      (easy parking, wheelchair access)

Capacity: 40 people maximum due to COVID -19 restrictions

Topic: The Diverse World of Daoism

Daoism remains an enigma. 

Many Westerners know of the famous little Daoist book called the Daodejing (or Tao-te-ching) – it is, after all, the most translated book in the world after the Bible. It, along with another wonderful text known as the Zhuangzi (or Chuang-tzu) form the core of what is known as “philosophical Daoism”.

That’s the easy bit. 

The tricky part, which scholars are still debating and trying to untangle, is how these philosophical beginnings influenced the broader tradition known as “religious Daoism”.  Religious Daoism is incredibly diverse and delightfully disorderly.  It can take the form of massive utopian communities or a solitary hermit retiring to the mountains.  Religious Daoism has many of its own kinds of meditation and ‘yoga’; it has a vast canon of scripture, most of it so esoteric as to be totally unintelligible to the casual reader; it has a seemingly endless pantheon of quirky gods and mysterious spirits; it has a profusion of rituals from those to renew the entire cosmos down to personal rituals for taking a bath; and it includes medical elixirs and diets for health and longevity which led many a Daoist on to the quest to attain physical immortality. 

In China, Daoism was famous for appealing to misfits, recluses, eccentrics, radicals and rebels.  It has always been, and remains to be, a deep source of inspiration for Chinese artist, poets and creative thinkers.

In this talk I will offer a brief glimpse into the diverse world of Daoism before (as is befitting a philosophy forum) returning to a more detailed discussion of early Daoist philosophical texts.

Our speaker: Dr Tony Swain

Tony Swain (PhD, University of Sydney) is now an independent scholar who lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW.  Previously, he was a lecturer in Aboriginal Studies at the University of South Australia and then, for 20 years, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Sydney.  His earlier work focused on the world-views of indigenous Australians, emphasizing ontology and how it was transformed by various kinds of encounter with non-Aboriginal cultures (Melanesian, Indonesian and White Australian).  His most important publication in this area was A Place for Strangers: Towards a History of Australian Aboriginal Being (Cambridge University Press, 1993). 

Although he still writes on Aboriginal traditions, his more recent scholarship is concerned with Chinese religion and philosophy.  In 2017 he published Confucianism in China: An Introduction (Bloomsbury) which has been very well received and acknowledged as “the first English-language book-length work that gives order and sense to the entire tradition from its mythological origins to the present day.”

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