About six hundred years before the arrival of Michael, it seemed to Melchizedek, long since departed from the flesh, that the purity of his teaching on earth was being unduly jeopardized by general absorption into the older Urantia beliefs. It appeared for a time that his mission as a forerunner of Michael might be in danger of failing. And in the sixth century before Christ, through an unusual co-ordination of spiritual agencies, not all of which are understood even by the planetary supervisors, Urantia witnessed a most unusual presentation of manifold religious truth. Through the agency of several human teachers the Salem gospel was restated and revitalized, and as it was then presented, much has persisted to the times of this writing.
This unique century of spiritual progress was characterized by great religious, moral, and philosophic teachers all over the civilized world. In China, the two outstanding teachers were Lao-tse and Confucius.
Lao-tse built directly upon the concepts of the Salem traditions when he declared Tao to be the One First Cause of all creation. Lao was a man of great spiritual vision. He taught that man’s eternal destiny was “everlasting union with Tao, Supreme God and Universal King.” His comprehension of ultimate causation was most discerning, for he wrote: “Unity arises out of the Absolute Tao, and from Unity there appears cosmic Duality, and from such Duality, Trinity springs forth into existence, and Trinity is the primal source of all reality.” “All reality is ever in balance between the potentials and the actuals of the cosmos, and these are eternally harmonized by the spirit of divinity.”
Lao-tse also made one of the earliest presentations of the doctrine of returning good for evil: “Goodness begets goodness, but to the one who is truly good, evil also begets goodness.”
He taught the return of the creature to the Creator and pictured life as the emergence of a personality from the cosmic potentials, while death was like the returning home of this creature personality. His concept of true faith was unusual, and he too likened it to the “attitude of a little child.”
His understanding of the eternal purpose of God was clear, for he said: “The Absolute Deity does not strive but is always victorious; he does not coerce mankind but always stands ready to respond to their true desires; the will of God is eternal in patience and eternal in the inevitability of its expression.” And of the true religionist he said, in expressing the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive: “The good man seeks not to retain truth for himself but rather attempts to bestow these riches upon his fellows, for that is the realization of truth. The will of the Absolute God always benefits, never destroys; the purpose of the true believer is always to act but never to coerce.”
Lao’s teaching of nonresistance and the distinction which he made between action and coercion became later perverted into the beliefs of “seeing, doing, and thinking nothing.” But Lao never taught such error, albeit his presentation of nonresistance has been a factor in the further development of the pacific predilections of the Chinese peoples.
But the popular Taoism of twentieth-century Urantia has very little in common with the lofty sentiments and the cosmic concepts of the old philosopher who taught the truth as he perceived it, which was: That faith in the Absolute God is the source of that divine energy which will remake the world, and by which man ascends to spiritual union with Tao, the Eternal Deity and Creator Absolute of the universes.
Confucius (Kung Fu-tze) was a younger contemporary of Lao in sixth-century China. Confucius based his doctrines upon the better moral traditions of the long history of the yellow race, and he was also somewhat influenced by the lingering traditions of the Salem missionaries. His chief work consisted in the compilation of the wise sayings of ancient philosophers. He was a rejected teacher during his lifetime, but his writings and teachings have ever since exerted a great influence in China and Japan. Confucius set a new pace for the shamans in that he put morality in the place of magic. But he built too well; he made a new fetish out of order and established a respect for ancestral conduct that is still venerated by the Chinese at the time of this writing.
The Confucian preachment of morality was predicated on the theory that the earthly way is the distorted shadow of the heavenly way; that the true pattern of temporal civilization is the mirror reflection of the eternal order of heaven. The potential God concept in Confucianism was almost completely subordinated to the emphasis placed upon the Way of Heaven, the pattern of the cosmos.
The teachings of Lao have been lost to all but a few in the Orient, but the writings of Confucius have ever since constituted the basis of the moral fabric of the culture of almost a third of Urantians. These Confucian precepts, while perpetuating the best of the past, were somewhat inimical to the very Chinese spirit of investigation that had produced those achievements which were so venerated. The influence of these doctrines was unsuccessfully combated both by the imperial efforts of Ch’in Shih Huang Ti and by the teachings of Mo Ti, who proclaimed a brotherhood founded not on ethical duty but on the love of God. He sought to rekindle the ancient quest for new truth, but his teachings failed before the vigorous opposition of the disciples of Confucius.
Like many other spiritual and moral teachers, both Confucius and Lao-tse were eventually deified by their followers in those spiritually dark ages of China which intervened between the decline and perversion of the Taoist faith and the coming of the Buddhist missionaries from India. During these spiritually decadent centuries the religion of the yellow race degenerated into a pitiful theology wherein swarmed devils, dragons, and evil spirits, all betokening the returning fears of the unenlightened mortal mind. And China, once at the head of human society because of an advanced religion, then fell behind because of temporary failure to progress in the true path of the development of that God-consciousness which is indispensable to the true progress, not only of the individual mortal, but also of the intricate and complex civilizations which characterize the advance of culture and society on an evolutionary planet of time and space.