CenterTao (a.k.a. The Center For Taoist Thought And Fellowship) is a California non-profit religious (Taoist) corporation founded in 1982. It is located at 406 Lincoln Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
Our Sunday Meetings
Folks who find the Taoist perspective appealing are probably few and far between, which may be one factor in the absence of a world wide Taoist religious organization common to other faiths. It can feel a little lonely sometimes. As the Tao Te Ching says, “Hence, the precious take the lowly as the origin. The high take low as the base. This, and so rulers call themselves solitary, scant, pathetic”
We invite the general public to join in Taoist fellowship at our home in Santa Cruz. This is the schedule and procedure we follow:
1st Sunday of the month at 10 a.m. The 30 minute meeting is divided into 4 parts, each divided by the ringing of a bell.
1st bell: A silent period begins.
2nd bell: The ‘spokesman’ (and then the group) reads the ‘next’ chapter from the Tao Te Ching. After the reading those who wish comment on the chapter. The reading has been from D.C. Lau’s translation for the past 30 years; as of 2012 we’re using Word for Word. (See Monthly Chapter Series for recent chapters and commentary.)
3rd bell: Another short silent period begins.
4th bell: The end of the meeting.
Those who wish to, stay on after the meeting to explore, in depth, how the current chapter relates to their personal experience.
About the Spokesman
My name is Carl Abbott, born in Arizona in 1943. I never really felt connected to the mainstream culture (music, sports, dating, etc.) around me during my childhood, which is probably why I ended up in Taoism. After an otherwise normal childhood I emigrated to Australia at age 19. Soon though I was drawn to Asia where I spent most of the next 15 years wandering, working and wondering, i.e., growing up. Weary of always being ‘the foreigner’ I returned to America to find a comfortable level of anonymity. I settled here in Santa Cruz, married and had a family.
My innate orangutan-like nature along with many years of other-culture experience left me profoundly ecumenical and non-partisan. This turned out to be an asset for understanding the Tao Te Ching. In 1982, I opened the Center for Taoist Thought and Fellowship to provide a church-like place for like-minded—Taoist minded—folks to meet, contemplate the Tao Te Ching, and share how a Taoist world-view relates to their personal life. For more of my personal history, see The Further One Goes…
Finally, it is only fitting that I refer to my role here as that of a ‘spokesman’ considering the Taoist view on speaking. 🙂
Sunday Meeting Retrospective
The Center’s milestones can be summed up by saying that attendance took the lower position (to paraphrase the Tao Te Ching). We started out with around a dozen folks attending weekly Sunday meetings. This dropped to a few folks coming intermittently to what is now a once-a-month meeting. We went from a stream, to a trickle, to drops. Why?
I suppose the drop-off was partly due to the shift from a weekly, to bi-weekly, to once-a-month meeting schedule. The fluid nature of the Taoist world view is also a major factor. Many folks, while seeking a better spiritual fit, are reluctant to actually exchange the status quo for an indistinct and shadowy Taoist outlook. This Tao Te Ching verse comes to mind: The multitudes are joyous, as if going up to a terrace in spring; I alone am uncouth, and value being fed by the mother.
Religion, as a social institution, must conform to various innate human needs and biases to attract people (especially “the joyous multitude”). Ironically, these innate needs and biases, under civilized circumstances are also largely responsible for creating unnecessary sorrow. The bias busting, need neutralizing viewpoint of Taoist impartiality helps counteract this instinct-induced approach to life.
This may sound pretty good in theory. However, how many of us desire to trade ‘down’ to a Taoist view in exchange for the ‘highs’ of our instinct driven life? Those ‘highs’ have their lows, of course, but the promise of the ‘highs’ keeps us hanging on. It all comes down to ‘paying now’ or ‘paying later’. We tend to opt for ‘paying later’ don’t we? Thus, we get fat, pollute, waste, procrastinate, lust, ‘shop’ and hang on until we’re forced to do otherwise…or kick the bucket.
The self-empowering promises of gain—which include most every aspect of civilization—attract us like moths to a flame. We hear the siren’s call, “You can be superior”; “You can go to heaven”; “You can be enlightened”; “You can be a winner, smarter, stronger, and ‘cooler'”… and so on. The alluring ideal always appears preferable to mundane real. We keep chasing tomorrow’s flower and so miss today’s fruit. If we actually had free will we might do otherwise, i.e., act more wisely. Well, this leads right into Core Issues of Human Nature.
The Center for Taoist Thought and Fellowship can be contacted directly in the following ways:
Write the spokesman at: carl (at) playingbyear (dot) com
Center for Taoist Thought and Fellowship
406 Lincoln St.
Santa Cruz, CA