Joseph Kazden’s newest book ‘TAO: A New Interpretation’ is a truly mind-blowing read, which has set the literary world on fire and hit the bestseller list on Amazon. This is not the first bestseller for this talented author. Kazden penned ‘TotIs’ and ‘Gita,’ both of which shot to the top of the bestseller list.
“TAO: A New Interpretation” is a groundbreaking interpretation of the “Tao Te Ching,” which takes readers on what many have called a cosmic and thought provoking adventure, which has them seeing the world in a unique, more hopeful and wondrous light. It is no surprise it has been a hit with readers this summer, and it is a trend that will surely continue way into the fall and winter.
We had many questions for this brilliant philosopher, so we were thrilled when he agreed to have a chat with us about his work, the “Tao Te Ching,” and much more.
‘TAO: A New Interpretation’, your newest book hit the bestseller list, which is an epic accomplishment. What can readers take away from this work that can help them in their day to day lives?
To answer this succinctly I will have to use a series of declarative sentences, otherwise this will be a very long essay. Firstly, as conscious beings, what we experience as reality is in fact a bio-sensory interpretation. As we know an interpretation of a thing is not the thing itself, just as a painting of a peach is not a peach. Secondly, because this experience is an interpretation there can be other valid interpretations as well. We see this occurring around us all the time but fail to take notice; People experiencing the same event will have very different experiences and memories of it. And so it follows that it is not external circumstance that dictates our experience of being but rather the other way around.
We ourselves are the source of our own UNIQUE experiences of being. Happiness or sadness, peace or anger, these come from within us, not without. But we, as conscious beings, are literally wired and trained to attach specific feelings and judgments to specific external circumstance much like Pavlov’s dog. We do not question these experiences because we believe them to be real. They are not, they are the fabricated product of a bio-sensory process.
The Tao Te Ching gives us a powerful and constructive alternative interpretation of our experiences of reality. Happiness, contentment, peace, love, etc. are not the products of external circumstance. They are the products of the internal processes of self-control and self-awareness. With this knowledge, and the ability to wield it, the fear of, or desire for, specific external circumstance recedes. The quality of our lives is now in our own hands, and does not depend on the uncontrollable circumstances that surround us. Indeed when one comes to a deep understanding of the message of the Tao Te Ching and the unmanifest nature of the Tao itself, even the fear of death recedes.
‘TAO: A New Interpretation’, is actually your interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. What is it about this ancient text that called to you, and made you want to share it with others?
In the East the Tao Te Ching describes the reality underlying our universes as an unmanifest phenomenon. In the West I think Einstein said it best when he quipped that, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” Human consciousness has been intrigued, throughout recorded history, with the question of what is actually real and what is illusory, right up to the present. In the East, Hinduism’s Bhagavad Gita described an unmanifest reality as source. The Tao Te Ching, as well, acknowledged such a reality, acceding that knowledge of such a source lay outside the capability of consciousness, a manifest phenomenon, to attain. On the other hand, the contemplation of such a subject could lead one to enlightened states such as Nirvana or the state of the awakened Sage. In the West, Physics and Mathematics have become consciousness’ tools to attain a knowledge of such a source reality. The goal seems to be the elusive TOE or Theory of Everything. The problem for seekers of TOE is that such a theory must be “comprehensible” to a consciousness seeking it. This fact leads to the “measurement problem.” It must be measurable, and so, must be experienced as a manifest phenomenon. Einstein has said that: “I cannot prove it but I believe in the Pythagorean argument, that the truth is independent of human beings.” I agree with both Pythagoras and Einstein, but as a conscious being I have found the Tao Te Ching to be a magnificent tool for the contemplation and exploration of such conundrums.
When you are working on a new book, or exploring a new groundbreaking idea, what kinds of music are you listening to, and why?
I have a strange habit with music when I’m working on a project, I like to listen to the same album or mix over and over again, which can drive those around me crazy. A number of years ago I was part of a cooperative studio with 10 other artists. I was addicted to the album “Al Green-Greatest Hits,” and played it ad nauseam in my studio space. One day as I walked into the common space one of the other artists gave me a devilish smile and said,“I think we’re going to have to charge Al Greene rent if you keep playing him so much.” I don’t know why I do it but it is comforting and focusing for me to do so. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Gloria Estefan, maybe because I’m studying Spanish, but I absolutely love her, the band, and their music. I just can’t seem to get enough!
Do you have a favorite verse from the Tao Te Ching, and if so which one would that be?
For me the Tao Te Ching is one of those books that you can open to any verse and find something fitting, perceptive, and new. I will often open to a random page and find something unanticipated in a well-read verse. That being said, it’s hard to choose one verse out of the eighty-one. But since brevity is the soul of wit, to quote Hamlet, I’ve chosen number 33.
Intelligence is knowing others, Enlightenment is knowing the self.
Power is overcoming others, Invincibility is overcoming the self.
Those who know contentment are rich, and do not force their way on others.
Those who live their Dharma endure, Though death appears final, it is but an illusion.
All three of your books have been extremely successful with readers, and been bestsellers. Are you planning on writing a new book, or do you have another creative project in the works you can tell us about?
I’m in the early stages of imagining my next book, or whatever may be next. What that means for me is that I’m wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of my thoughts and feelings; reading, listening to, or engaging with whatever catches my attention, or happens upon me by “accident.” I really love this internal place, though it can be uncomfortable as well. But in it, all possibilities seem to exist, especially the ones I would never have thought of on my own, so to speak. But what I’m feeling leaves me no doubt that something is brewing.
To find out more about Joseph Kazden and ‘TAO: A New Interpretation’ head over to amazon.