A Cyclic Universe

The Cyclic Universe: Endless Birth, Death, and Rebirth

The returning movement of Tao, the Way, is cyclic. Tao brings everything forward, and then back to its origin, to be brought forward yet again. This is the view on nature shared by most cultures, and for obvious reasons.
Most of what takes place in nature is cyclic. Day and night take turns, the moon’s phases are just as regular, as are the shifts of seasons through the year. Plants grow and then they wither. Animals have their lifespan, but also their offspring. That’s the rhythm of mankind, too. Everywhere there is procreation, maybe including the universe as a whole.
What to make of it, but a cyclic principle ruling existence?
Although Tao is the instigator and instrument behind all these cycles, it accomplishes everything in the background, so that its role is hardly revealed. When we say that things happen of themselves, we unknowingly point out the work of Tao. The processes are carried out without apparent force. Things appear and disappear, move in their courses, and at no time do they show signs of being restricted or redirected.
It’s as if Tao makes it all happen by opening doors instead of closing them, by making way instead of showing the way. That’s also the superior ideal for any leader. They should use encouragement instead of threats, and opportunity instead of constraint. Nobody is pleased with constantly seeing the back of another, blocking the view ahead. The leader who is not opposed is the one showing the way by stepping out of it.
Being and non-being, yu and wu, are old concepts in Chinese thought, as well as in philosophy around the world. Some things deteriorate and disappear, as if they exist no more. Is that possible? Can something become nothing? Many philosophers have pondered the question. And vice-versa: can something appear out of nothing? Lao Tzu clearly states so, but other thinkers in history have doubted it.
In our time we have similar questions. Scientists seem to agree that the basic component of the universe, its energy, can change but not disappear – or appear out of nowhere.
On the other hand, the Big Bang theory implies that somehow, something must have come into existence, for the process to begin. Otherwise, that was not the moment when the universe was born. And what can we say about the domain that the universe has not yet reached in its expansion? It’s said not to exist, since the universe is the limit for existence. But then the universe is something appearing out of nothing.
We still wrestle with the questions that Lao Tzu and many other ancient thinkers asked themselves.
© Stefan Stenudd.

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