Statesboro, GA, USA
I agree with Ringo, that there is much similarity between the early teachings of Taoism, and Judeo-Christian ethics. But there are also some important irreconcilable differences to be noted too. I'll try to explain.
The "Tao" was initially taught as a universal standard of proper behavior, a "way" to live in moral and physical harmony with nature. I think it is dead on here. I do think there is a standard in this universe which flows either from it, or through it (that's another discussion as to which is tenable). This standard was not seen as volitional. It was imposed by the universe upon those who inhabit it. This is absolutely harmonious with the Judeo-Christian belief that God has created physical, moral, and spiritual laws to govern his created Universe, and that we are subject to them.
Sometime later, the Tao became identified with the monistic "ALL" of pantheism. From something that had definitive bounds, it was later said to be the transcendent which denies all bounds. The problem with that is, once you erase bounds, you have simply stepped outside of any prescriptive mode, into a purely descriptive mode. As someone said, by doing so you are "trying to get a conclusion in the imperative mood out of premisses in the indicative mood". Put simply, to deny form and definition, is to deny any formula for living.
Consider the quote you gave ...
Once you formalize God with a certain shape and colour and robe, you fight over what is in your mind as opposed to what is in someone else's mind. At the true spiritual level, conceptual vision is both all right and all wrong, until you reach the subtle essence.
You would think this writer is trying to describe simple moderation, respect, and prudence in judging right and wrong (which I agree with). But, if its in the spirit of Eastern Philosophy, it is most likely telling us that there IS no such thing as a real right and wrong. When you get enlightened, or transcend the temporal, you supposedly get to a place where the good/ evil, and right/ wrong distinctions dissappear altogether. But if these distinctions are lost, then nothing can be said of a "way". And the means to this "blissful" loss of distinction in Eastern traditions, Karma, makes no sense if the ultimate ground of reality denies any right or wrong.
All good principles merge together as one good unified principle that exists prior to any of the momentary teachings that were developed. It is Tao.
Before I respond to that, I would like to ask; What would such principles be? And why should we think them "good"?
Tao is the potency of the universe. It includes all Gods, all deities, all divine beings, all spirits, and all souls.
If Tao is the potency of the universe, then what is the impotency? What is the disorder that clashes with order? What is the entropy which is at war with growth? What is the dishonorable which is counter to honor? Already a distinction is made, and a shape is being formed.
This means that all things have Tao as their deep root.
All things? Or only those things which reflect "potency" or "goodness"? If it is all things, then it should include all things in it's promotion. The Hindus were forced to acknowledge this through the godess Kali, whose horrid features displayed death, destruction, and woe. When the creation is deified, how can we pick and choose among the "ALL"?
One can ask, "is God the source?" If so, then God must have some shape. If he is formed, then he is no different than we are; he is only one of the offspring. Tao is the final source, the unformed origin of all things.
This is only insisting that the ultimate ground of reality must be impersonal. But if it is, then distinctions cannot be attributed to it. If distinctions cannot be attributed to it, then talking of a "way" doesn't make any sense. Unless the ultimate source of reality is personal, then principles cannot be anything as binding and necessary as the writer you quoted claims. Mind you, I believe in the "principles" he mentions, but don't think they can be accounted for without a personal Creator/ Governor of the universe.