In 1961, two great thinkers and spiritual masters inaugurated an epistolary exchange that transpired into a rich dialectic between East and West. Professor John H. Wu (Wu Jingxiong 吳經熊 1899-1986) and Father Thomas Louis Merton, OCSO, (1915-1968) largely centered their interchange upon the topic of the Dao 道, or “Way,” as it was articulated in the Daoist tradition in China’s Zhou (1045-221 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) eras. With due respect to the abiding intellects and spiritual insight of these two interlocutors, this paper considers the possible disparities between what Wu and Merton understood to be the “Dao” of China’s early philosophical period and the “Dao” actually discussed in the texts of the Daoist progenitors, Laozi 老子 (figurative person) and Zhuangzi 莊子 (Also Zhuang Zhou 莊周 ca. 369- ca. 286 BC). When Wu compares the Dao of Laozi and Zhuangzi to the “Logos of God” (Wu to Merton, 20 March 1961), is this “Dao” the same “Dao” envisaged in the opening line of the Daodejing 《道德經》, in which it is described as, “Dao ke Dao feichang Dao; ming ke ming feichang ming 道可道非常道。名可名非常名”? The primary concern of this paper, then, is to ask whether Wu and Merton’s “Way” is indeed, when placed under scholarly scrutiny, similar to the “Way” of Laozi and Zhuangzi, and furthermore, is the Way of Laozi and Zhuangzi, in the end, comparable to the Logos, who is the divine Christ of Christianity?
Clark, Anthony E. PhD
"Beyond the Dusty World: Daoism and the Epistolary Dialectics of Thomas Merton and John Wu" Whitworth University (2016). History Faculty Scholarship.