TRIADS , groups or sets of three persons, things, or attributes, are found in many concepts of the divine. Because triads involve an uneven number they have been considered to be perfect expressions of unity and proportion, corresponding to a threefold division in nature or to images of the nuclear family.
In Indian mythology, the Ṛgveda suggests a threefold classification of its many divinities into gods of heaven, air, and earth. In its prayers three chief gods represent the powers of these natural elements: "May Sūrya [sun] protect us from the sky, Vāta [wind] from the air, Agni [fire] from the earthly regions" (10.158.1). Agni, god of fire and messenger to the gods during fire sacrifice, took three forms, as the sun in the sky, lightning in the aerial waters, and fire on earth. Commentators on the Vedas considered that the number of gods could be reduced to three, Agni, Vāyu, and Sūrya being considered as sons of the lord of creatures, Prajāpati.
A famous dialogue in the Brāhmaṇas and Upaniṣads asks how many gods there are. In reply, a traditional invocatory formula in a hymn to all the gods is quoted as indicating three hundred and three and three thousand and three. Further questioning reduces these figures to thirty-three, six, three, two, one and a half, and finally one, and that one is brahman (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 3.9).
In the same Upaniṣad, Prajāpati is said to have had three kinds of offspring—gods, humans, and demons—who lived with their father as students of sacred knowledge. Each class of beings asked for a divine word, and to all Prajāpati gave the same reply: dā. This word was like the rolling thunder, dā, dā, dā. Each interpreted the word according to its own needs, and three definitions resulted: self restraint, giving, and compassion (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 5.2). This concept was used by T. S. Eliot in the closing lines of The Waste Land: "then spoke the thunder.…" Eliot ended with another threefold borrowing from the Upaniṣads: "Shantih Shantih Shantih" ("Peace, peace, peace").
The Upaniṣads refer to three guṇa s, strands or qualities that characterize all existing beings. These qualities are goodness or purity (sattva ), passion or force (rajas ), and darkness or dullness (tamas ). The Maitri Upaniṣad affirms that in the beginning the three qualities were differentiated within the supreme self: "That One become threefold." This supreme self (brahman ) is indicated by the sacred syllable oṃ, with which every recitation of the Veda begins. The sacred syllable divides itself threefold, for oṃ consists of three units: /a/, /u/, and /m/. Aum is the sound form of this being, and "one should worship it with aum continually" (Maitri Upaniṣad 6.3–4). A later description of Brahman was satcit-ānanda, or saccidānanda: being, intelligence or consciousness, and bliss.
In the Bhagavadgītā, goodness, passion, and darkness are declared to be the strands or qualities that spring from nature, binding the embodied self although it is changeless. But the world was deluded by these three strands and did not recognize that they come from God alone, that they are in him but he is not in them. God is higher and eternal. Because nature is the uncanny power of God, all elements must ultimately derive from him (Bhagavadgītā 7.12–13).
In Hindu mythology and popular theology many gods appeared, though Viṣṇu and Śiva (Rudra) became dominant. Early in the common era a trimūrti ("having three forms") was proposed that created a triad of these two and a creator, Brahmā. These three were regarded as forms of the neuter absolute brahman, or corresponding to the three guṇa s of the Absolute. The epic Mahābhārata tells of these gods separately and not as a unity, and when the Trimūrti concept appeared its exposition varied according to the preferences of the writers for one or another deity.
A story in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa says that there was once a dispute among the gods as to which member of the triad was greatest. The sage Bhṛgu went to each of them in turn to decide the matter by tests. First he saw Brahmā but omitted to bow to him, whereupon the god blazed out in anger. Next he visited Śiva and did not return the god's salutation, so that Śiva raised his trident (triśūla ) to destroy him; the sage was spared only by the intercession of Śiva's wife. Lastly Bhṛgu called on Viṣṇu, found him asleep, and woke him with a kick on the chest. Instead of becoming angry, Viṣṇu begged the sage's pardon for not having greeted him and said that he was highly honored by the kick, which had left an indelible mark on his breast, and that he hoped the sage's foot had not been hurt. Bhṛgu decided that Viṣṇu was the mightiest god because he overcame his enemies with weapons of gentleness and generosity. This Vaiṣṇava story indicates the diversity and rivalry of different sects and the problems of a triad.
It was debated whether the three gods were equal or had interchangeable functions. Each in turn might be the Supreme Lord, Parameśvara, and take the place of the others. The poet Kālidāsa, in his Kumārāsambhava (2.4ff.), expressed his adoration for the Trimūrti unified before creation but afterward divided in three qualities, proclaiming its threefold glory as "knower and known, priest and oblation, worshiper and prayer." These verses inspired Emerson's poem Brahma and its line "I am the doubter and the doubt, I am the song the Brahmin sings." But rather than teaching the equality of three persons in one God, Kālidāsa seems to have been addressing the personal Brahmā as the supreme god, despite his use of the term Trimūrti.
For the Vaiṣṇava believer Brahmā was an emanation of Viṣṇu, a demiurge or secondary creator; he is described in the vision of the Bhagavadgītā (11.15) as sitting on a lotus throne emerging from the body of Viṣṇu, the god of gods, a scene illustrated in many paintings. Whatever his former status, Brahmā has long since declined in popular esteem. His temple at Pushkar in Rajasthan is said to be one of only two in India, though this is difficult to verify in such a vast land with innumerable shrines. At Pushkar the temple of Brahmā has four black faces, supposedly directed at the four cardinal points though three of them face the worshiper. A lingam of Śiva nearby also has four human faces carved on it, no doubt to show affinity with Brahmā. But in popular religion in most of India today Brahmā has virtually disappeared, while Viṣṇu and Śiva have vast followings. (The two groups are considered almost as distinct religions.) The third most popular cult today follows the great goddess Mahādevī, the all-pervading power śakti, known under many names and notably today as Kālī.
A famous sculpture of the Trimūrti dating from the fifth to eighth centuries ce is in the Great Cave on Elephanta Island near Bombay. It is a massive stone bust nineteen feet high, with three faces each four or five feet long. This figure represents Śiva, who is the dominant deity among the sculptures in these caves. The eastern face is Rudra the destroyer, the front is Brahmā the creator, and the western face is Viṣṇu the preserver. All three are regarded as aspects of the character of Śiva, and all show the impressive serenity that marks representations of divine activity.
Early students of Hinduism in the West often considered that parallels exist between the Trimūrti and the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and attempts were made to apportion common functions to the three persons in one God. There are still writers who call Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva "the Trinity," but the parallel with Christianity is not close, and the Trimurti concept never became popular or embodied an orthodox and catholic creed. Hindu writers and artists tended to favor one god of the three, and Viṣṇu and Śiva came to dominate in their own schools.
In Indian Buddhism there were triadic concepts from an early date, and some that developed in Mahāyāna Buddhism and outside India showed parallels to Chinese triads. The Three Refuges (triśaraṇa ), or Three Jewels (triratna ), appeared in Buddhism at an early date. In the Tripiṭaka, or "Three Baskets" of scripture, the invocation of these refuges is attributed to the first lay believer in the Buddha. Recited every day in Theravāda Buddhism by the laity as well as by monks, the Triple Refuge is a simple affirmation of trust in the central objects of religion: the Buddha, the Dhamma or doctrine, and the Sangha or monastic order. The formula reads thus: "I go to the Buddha for refuge, I go to the Dhamma for refuge, I go to the Sangha for refuge." The Buddha is credited with saying that whoever trusts firmly in the virtues of the Three Jewels has "entered the stream," has set out on the way to enlightenment.
In the development of Buddhism the term yāna ("vehicle, means of progress") was used to indicate a way of attaining enlightenment. The Mahāyāna claimed to be the "one vehicle" (ekayāna ), and its followers called their opponents Hīnayāna, followers of a "lesser vehicle." But, occasionally, more tolerant texts spoke of the major ways as triyāna, "threefold means."
Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy wrestled with the problems of the absolute and the relative and of one or many Buddhas. A solution was found for philosophy in the doctrine of the trikāya ("three bodies"). This was expressed in essence in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and developed by the Yogācāra school. According to this theory the body of the Buddha is threefold. The dharmakāya ("doctrine body or essential body") is self-existent and absolute, the same for all Buddhas. It supports the other two bodies, for ultimately only it exists. The sambhogakāya ("bliss body or communal body") is the channel through which the Buddhas communicate with bodhisattva s in the heavens. This notion was used to interpret texts that describe many Buddhas preaching to assemblies of bodhisattva s and gods in all the universes, while at the same time they had passed away to nirvāṇa. The nirmāṇakaya ("transformation body") is that by which the Buddha works for the good of all creatures, including the historical Buddha, who appeared on earth, and in other existences, and then passed away into nirvāṇa.
The trikāya doctrine sought to reconcile different expressions of the nature of the Buddha. In early texts the dharmakāya was simply the body of doctrine; once the Buddha had died, he existed thereafter in the doctrine. In popular beliefs the Buddhas were many, and they continued to exist in a state of bliss to hear the prayers of worshipers. Buddhist art from Gandhara to Japan often grouped three Buddhas or bodhisattva s together, the individual personages differing according to the environment. Parallels that have been drawn between the trikāya doctrine and the Christian teaching of the Trinity are strained and unproved. The Chinese triads appear to have been separate developments, although in popular religion triads of gods may be confused with several Buddhas.
Three Pure Ones
Chinese speculations on a divine Triad and its representation in worship may have developed from Daoist philosophical notions of an original unity that produced diversity. In the Dao de jing 42 (fourth to third century bce?) it is declared that "Dao produced the one, the one produced the two, the two produced the three, and the three produced the ten thousand things." This is not unlike an idea in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (6.2) of one neuter being that entered into three divinities to produce the many. However, Arthur Waley in his translation of this verse rendered it thus: "Dao gave birth to the One, the One gave birth successively to two things, three things, up to ten thousand" (Waley, 1934, p. 195).
The concept of an inseparable triad of Heaven, earth, and man became popular in Chinese thought. Philosophers aimed at formulating systems that would deal with all questions concerning the divine, natural, and human worlds, so that all human activity might be in harmony with divine and natural orders. Such a system of knowledge and behavior was set out in the Lüshi Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn Annals of Mr. Lü), a work by various hands early in the common era. The book is in three sections, representing the triad of Heaven, earth, and humanity. The first section is in twelve chapters, the number associated with Heaven. The second is in eight chapters, the number associated with earth. The third is in six chapters, the number associated with man. Each chapter indicates actions appropriate for each season, stating that if humans fail to perform them properly they will cause disturbances in nature and bring calamity from Heaven.
Perhaps early in the common era, popular Daoist religion developed the worship of a triad, the Three Ones, Sanyi. It has been suggested that the concept of three celestial persons derived from Christian influence, although it is rather early for that to have happened unless some Christian ideas had filtered through via gnostic speculations. It is more likely that the idea of a religious triad developed from philosophical notions of diversity arising from unity, or that philosophical and religious concepts developed independently and were merged by priests who claimed authority for three deities worshiped as one.
An ancient Daoist divinity was Daiyi, the Grand Unity, introduced into official worship during the Han dynasty as the greatest of all gods, above the five legendary emperors. The Grand Unity became the personification of the Dao, as the Dao emanated itself into creation, a triad developed that controlled the whole universe. To the Grand Unity were added Dianyi, the Heavenly Unity, and Diyi, the Earthly Unity. It is strange that Diayi, the original all-embracing unity, was egarded as one of three. It seems more natural for Diayi to have been conceived as three in one, but there was great complexity in the multiplication of Daoist deities. From the second century of the common era Daoist liturgies spoke of the Great Mysterious Three in One, Taixuan Sanyi comprised the Sagely Father, the Lord and Master of the Human Spirit, and the Pivot of All Transformations. The Daoist imagination peopled the universe with a great variety of gods, natural forces, and deified heroes, forming a heavenly hierarchy, under the presiding supreme triad that controlled the universe like a state bureaucracy.
In the Daoist triad the three gods were said severally to control time past, present, and to come. By the Sung dynasty the triad of Three Pure Ones had become associated with chronological functions. The Precious Heavenly Lord, the First Original Heavenly Venerable One, controlled time past; some have compared him to the Father in the Christian Trinity. The Precious Spiritual Lord, the Great Jade Imperial Heavenly Venerable One, controlled time present; scholars have compared him to the Son. The Precious Divine Lord, the Pure Dawn Heavenly Venerable One appearing from the Golden Palace, controlled time to come; scholars have compared him to the Holy Spirit. Joseph Needham wrote that "there can be little doubt that the Taoists [Daoists] had intimate contact with Nestorian Christians at the capital during the Tʿang dynasty. The really interesting question is where their trinity came from eight centuries previously" (Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge, 1956, vol. 2, pp. 158–160).
Whether there was a Christian influence or not (Nestorian missions did not arrive in China until the seventh century at the earliest), there was abundant contact between Daoism and Buddhism, which from the first century established itself as one of the three great ways of Chinese religion. Buddhist triadic concepts could be found in the trikāya doctrine, or in the concept of the Dhyāni Buddhas, which were regarded as personifications of creative aspects or manifestations of a primordial Ᾱdi-Buddha. In popular Buddhist religion there were triads of Buddhas, such as Śākyamuni (Gautama), Amitābha of the Pure Land, and Maitreya, the Buddha to come. Another triad comprised the mythical Avalokiteśvara, Mañjuśri, and Samantabhadra, who have been worshiped in temples and pagodas in China and neighboring lands down to modern times, often alongside Daoist gods.
Laozi, the great saint of Daoism and the supposed author of the Dao de jing, was often assimilated to the Three Pure Ones. Influenced by Buddhist teachings on multiple Buddhas and bodhisattva s and the various incarnations of the Buddha, the Daoists came to espouse similar beliefs. Laozi was said to have been born before heaven and earth appeared and to have experienced numerous later births. Like the Buddha, he became an object of worship.
In Japanese Shintō the first verse of the Kojiki names three gods who all came into existence at the time of the beginning of heaven and earth. Later gods of storm, sea, and fire were grouped in threes, notably the storm god Susano-o no Mikoto, who was considered under three aspects ("three-treasure-rough-god"). The supreme sun goddess, Amaterasu, when asked for permission to erect a great Buddhist statue at Nara, is said to have identified herself with Vairocana, a member of a Buddhist triad, the personification of truth and purity.
The Shintō kami were regarded either as avatāra s of the Buddhas (from the Buddhist point of view) or as their originals (from the Shintō point of view). Chinese triadic influences appeared in Japanese symbolism, as in paintings with three parallel curves and three or more flamelike signs, which were taken as symbols of the soul. A characteristic Shintō symbol is the tomoe, which is chiefly found in groups of three in the crest of many shrines. The tomoe, three pear-shaped sections of a circle, is often associated with the Chinese yin and yang, the two pear-shaped halves of a circle indicating complementary opposites, such as heaven and earth, male and female. The threefold tomoe is found even in the great Shintō shrine center at Ise, though this site is said to have been kept free from foreign influences.
Hypostases and Families
Triadic concepts can be traced in the ancient Mediterranean world, though not as clearly, with the exception of Egypt, as in India and China. Plato in the Republic (book 4) distinguished two elements in human nature, the rational and the irrational or lustful, not unlike the Indian sattva and tamas. But he found himself obliged to distinguish a third element, the spirited or passionate, similar to the Indian rajas. When there is a division between rational and irrational, the spirited should array itself on the side of the rational. The three elements in man, according to Plato, correspond to the social classes of guardians, auxiliaries, and producers. These were not unlike Indian classes or priests, warriors, and merchant farmers, although Plato's classes served different functions. Individuals and societies are wise when the rational element prevails, as when sattva prevails in Indian thought. They are courageous because of the spirited element, and they are temperate when the rational element governs with the consent of the other two, producing balance and harmony.
The Greeks wrestled with the problems of the divine nature and action in ways different from those of the Indians or Egyptians. In the Timaeus Plato proposed an account of the universe. The world came into being as a living creature endowed with soul and intelligence by the providence of God; the world is an image of what is eternal and true, a reflection of the changeless; the ultimate truth is God the creator. This was a unitary view, though Christian theologians later found a foreshadowing of the Trinity in the Timaeus, even from its first verse, which simply said, "One, two, three, but where is the fourth of my guests?"
There was more triadism in Neoplatonic teachings of three primal hypostases, a favorite theme of Christian theologians. Plotinus claimed that earlier Greek philosophers had established three degrees of reality, the primary realities or hypostases. These were represented triadically as the Good or the One, the Intelligence or the One-many, and the World Soul. These three are in the very nature of things, and they are also in human nature, so that our individual soul is something divine, possessing intelligence, and perfect.
In popular Greek religion various gods were grouped together, as, for example, Demeter, Kore, and Dionysos. Demeter, the corn goddess (Lat., Ceres), had an early double, Kore, who in time was regarded as her daughter, Kore or Persephone (Lat., Proserpina). Demeter's search for Persephone in the underworld was a vegetation myth represented in the Eleusinian mysteries under the symbol of the growing seed that assures a happy future life. Dionysos was also a fertility god; his mystery flourished in the Hellenistic age when Christianity was expanding.
The Etruscans had a triad of gods—Tinia, Uni, and Menerva—who presided over the destinies of towns and were identified by the Romans with their Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. In Rome the flamens (priests or sacrificers) were led by three major and twelve minor priests. The three major priests were the flamen Dialis (of Jupiter), the flamen Martialis (of Mars), and the flamen Quirinalis (of Quirinus). These gods of the triad were invoked in formulas of devotion recited before battle, on receiving spoils, and when sanctifying treaties. Jupiter represented the sky-universe, like the celestial gods of Greece and India, and his priest was preeminent. Mars was the god of war, and months and festivals were named after him. Quirinus was a god of Sabine origin, but little is known of him except that his functions resembled those of Mars and his flamen formed the third of the threesome with those of Jupiter and Mars. The triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus was later overshadowed by the triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. A great new temple was dedicated to the latter three on the Capitoline hill in Rome in 509 bce, the first year of the republic; inside was a statue of Jupiter.
Among the many gods of the ancient Western world, the clear examples of triads are found in Egypt and Mesopotamia. One reason for the concept of triads in Egypt, and no doubt in other lands, was the fusion of the cults of different places. When a victorious ruler brought several towns under his dominion, they would be subject to both political and religious control. New gods encountered local deities whose worship could hardly be suppressed. A simple solution for the conqueror and his priests was to admit the gods of the vanquished into general worship, without giving them too much independence. Neighboring gods joined the principal deity, the patron of the city. Thus at Heliopolis the local god Atum was joined with the lion pair Shu and Tefnut from the nearby town of Leontopolis. At Memphis there was a triad of Ptah, Sekhmet, and Nefertum. At Elephantine was a triad of Khnum, Sati, and Anukis.
However different the gods might have been originally, the ancients regarded them as members of a divine family, taking the roles of father, mother, and son. But the coincidence of different family relationships in the mythologies of the merging cults could cause confusion, as when the father became the son of his wife, or the mother the wife of her son.
The most famous triadic divine family of ancient Egypt was that of Osiris, Isis, and their son Horus. Osiris was a very popular god, whose cult flourished throughout Egypt from prehistoric times. In the texts Osiris was said to have been killed by his brother Seth, though according to one tradition he was drowned. The body of Osiris was divided into several parts and was sought and embalmed by his wife Isis, who became pregnant by the dead god. Isis gave birth to Horus, who avenged his father by killing Seth and reigning as successor to Osiris. This complicated mythology was recorded most clearly by Plutarch in the beginning century of the common era. Fundamental to the myths of this divine triad were the death and resurrection of Osiris, his place as a nature god, and his role as a model for earthly rulers. These myths provided links with both gnostic and Christian teachings.
Egyptian priests refined their ideas of the divine triads from early anthropomorphic myths to more abstract conceptions. Thus the god Ptah had two of his faculties, heart and tongue (spirit and word), personified under the visible forms of the gods Horus and Thoth. Or the family associations became the union of three spiritual aspects of the same god: his supreme intelligence, active spirit, and creative word. Or God was conceived of as three persons animated by the same will, like the founders of the towns of Thebes, Heliopolis, and Memphis. Re was the thinking head of this triad, Ptah its body, and Amun its invisible intelligence. This was not far from the Neoplatonic doctrines of a God who comprised intelligence, mind, and reason.
In Mesopotamia there were triads of deities organized according to the elements of heaven and earth. The high god Anu ruled in the sky, Enlil inspired the wind or storm and was god of the land, and Enki or Ea ruled the waters or abyss on which the world rested. The positioning of the deities varied over time. For instance, Enlil was once regarded as the first of the triad, though from the beginning of the second millennium bce he was regarded as second. Another triad of Babylonian deities was composed of the moon god Sin, the sun god Shamash, and the storm god Adad. The popular goddess Ishtar was associated with both this and the previous triads, ousting colorless figures with whom they had earlier been associated. She was connected also with the ancient Sumerian god Tammuz, a vegetation deity like Osiris who descended into the underworld where Ishtar went to seek him. The return of Osiris and Ishtar in the spring brought joy and fertility.
Of the surviving religions of Semitic origin, Judaism and Islam rejected triadic notions of the godhead, while Christianity developed them. The Hebrew Bible was strongly monotheistic, although traces of female elements in the deity can be discovered, as when Jeremiah revealed that incense had been offered to the queen of heaven in Jerusalem and the cities of Judah (Jer. 44:17). Scholars have noted that there was goddess worship among Hebrew emigrants at Elephantine in Egypt. In a more abstract way Proverbs 8 and 9 referred to wisdom personified as the female companion of God before and during creation, a notion akin to the Logos doctrine of the Fourth Gospel. In the Qabbalah sexual imagery was used to describe the love of God for the Shekhinah, a sacred union of king and queen. But in general, Jewish teaching was alien to dualities or triads.
Islam was even more adamant, attacking the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, or what it considered that to be. Thus the Qurʾān exhorts, "Do not say, Three. Refrain, it will be better for you. God is only one God" (4:169). And again, "Surely they have disbelieved who say: 'God is one of three.' There is no god but one God" (5:77). Orthodox Christian doctrine did not say God was one of three, though no doubt the doctrine could be perverted in that way in popular use. Any suggestion of a divine family, of God begetting or procreating, or having a partner associated with him, was repugnant to Islam. Thus in the Qurʾān Jesus was credited with denying that he said, "Take me and my mother as two gods apart from God" (5:116). This was quite proper, and belief in the unity and absoluteness of God was fundamental to Islam. Some writers have pointed out that Islamic theology alludes to diversity in the divine nature through "the most beautiful names of God" (al-asmā ʾ al-ḥusnā ); these many attributes and titles are recited on prayer beads in popular devotion. And theologians have discussed the eternity of the Qur'an, which was held to be uncreated, almost like a divine hypostasis. In Islamic art the name of God, Allāh, may be seen written three times in the prayer niche in mosques, but the main current of Islam has been against both triad and trinity.
Christian doctrine developed, against an Old Testament background, from devotion to Christ, but as it developed it came into contact with triadic concepts of the divine from Egypt and the Near East. Belief in a divine family emerged, for the concepts of Father and Son were in Christianity from the beginning. The Holy Spirit was regarded as the third hypostasis in the Trinity, but it was often a vague or neglected notion. With the growth of the cult of the Virgin and Mother the female side of a triad seemed guaranteed. If Mary had been called God the Mother, like Isis, she would have completed a divine family. In popular religion that might have happened, but trinitarian theology was anchored in the Bible, and Christian teachings developed from those scriptures that gave a threefold baptismal formula and a triadic blessing. As with other religions, the threefold doctrine is best understood in its historical context, however attractive seeming cultural parallels may be.
Useful general introductions to Indian and Chinese thought, with selections from texts, are available in Sources of Indian Tradition (New York, 1958) and Sources of Chinese Tradition (New York, 1960), compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and others. A. L. Basham's The Wonder That Was India, rev. ed. (New York, 1963), ranges over Indian history and society but devotes its longest chapter to religion, and Robert C. Zaehner's Concordant Discord (Oxford, 1970) speculates about Chinese triads and other doctrines of the divine nature. Joseph Needham's great series on China has been usefully abridged in The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge, 1978) with chapters on Daoism and Confucianism. Of the many books by Edward Conze on Buddhism perhaps the best introduction is Buddhism: Its Essence and Development (Oxford, 1951), although Indian Buddhism, by Anthony K. Warder (Delhi, 1970), has fuller accounts of both Theravada and Mahayana primary sources. Arthur Waley's The Way and Its Power (London, 1934) is a classic that has been reprinted many times, although other translations need to be compared with it, and Holmes Welch's The Parting of the Way: Laozi and the Daoist Movement (London, 1957) gives more information on Daoism in general. Short, useful introductions to the major religions of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and indeed of Asia as well, are provided in my Man and His Gods (London, 1971), reprinted with slight changes as An Illustrated History of the World's Religions (London, 1983).
Geoffrey Parrinder (1987)