Although some scholars doubt that authentic Daoism is present in the U.S., a recent study finds that the traditional Chinese religion has made extensive inroads in the country, usually adopted and shaped by Euro-American converts to stress self-help and healing. In Nova Religio(November), a journal of alternative and emergent religions, Louis Komjathy writes that it is difficult to know how many Daoists there are because many of the teachings associated with the religion, such as those found in the Tao Te Ching, are borrowed and repackaged by other alternative spiritual groups.
He estimates that there are approximately 10,000 Daoists in the U.S. who are roughly divided into ritualists, which include priestly hierarchies, formal initiations and regular prayers to the gods, and “self-cultivation” practitioners who focus on personal health, peace of mind and “immortality.”
Most of the Daoist schools and organizations were founded by Chinese immigrants who then either indirectly or directly passed on leadership to American converts. Prominent Daoist organizations include the International Taoist Tai Chi Society, Healing Tao USA, the American Taoist & Buddhist Association, and the Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a Los Angeles-based center on healing and Daoism. Komjathy concludes that the “landscape of Daoism in North America is dominated by male teachers who tend to have primary control over their organizations.”
American Daoism is patriarchal and hierarchical. Furthermore, Daoism in North America tends to emphasize and teach systems based on health and healing.” The majority of converts come to Daoism via the study of traditional Chinese medicine and other healing schools such Qigong, while the ritual model exists mainly in Chinese immigrant communities.
(Nova Religio, University of California Press, Journals Div., 2000 Center St., Berkeley, CA 94704-1223)