on 8 January 2008
This is a much needed book: a manual to traditional Daoist practises such as those practised in Asia, and a book which attempts to address many of the incorrect stereotypes of Daoism, such as the idea that religious Daoism and philosophical Daoism are separate entities. I feel that in some ways, Silvers' book meets the challenge well and his description of the basic ritual, the make-up of a traditional Daoist shrine, the instructions on how to go about creating your own, the section on meditation, and the section on pilgrimage - these are all excellent. The book is lacking in its other areas - it is extremely brief. All of the areas of the book could be greatly expanded. Some traditional Daoist chants and prayers would be excellent, an expansion of the sections on Daoist practises and activities is needed, and a greatly expanded bibliography is needed. Most people interested in Daoism are left wading through mirky waters and trying to see in pitch black - one has to piece together one's knowledge of the religion from a variety of sources, many of which are not completely trustworthy. A longer bibliography of good and trusted books would be a real help here. Furthermore, Silvers could give information on how to get in touch with western Daoist organisations, for although he mentions the virtues and vices prominent in a master, he doesn't come up with any concrete solutions on how to go about finding such a teacher. I would also say that the book is not well made. My copy is falling to pieces after about a year of ownership. I would suspect that this comes from lack of funds on the part of Silvers and Daoist societies. Finally I would say a new edition is badly needed simply because the calendar provided for Daoist festivals ran out in 2007 and Silvers has not given any advice on how to calibrate the Daoist lunar calendar with our own western one.
All in all, this was a decent attempt at something which I feel is definitely needed to provide guidance to those in the west who truly want to follow traditional Daoism. Unfortunately, it seems like it was only half finished and is highly flawed, so some revision in a second edition would be great.