I was born in Missouri. I have lived my entire life within the bounds of the continental United States. With one 2 or 3 hour exception, I have not set foot outside of our national borders.
I mention these facts because of an ongoing discussion that the Baroness and I have been having in this space. It is her perspective that a person should (must?) have a clear understanding of the Chinese worldview in order really to "get" Taoism. I have granted that she makes an excellent point -- and I sincerely thank her for pushing me to expand my horizons -- but, where I quibble a tad is that I think the position she has staked out is too extreme.
This is not to say that I disagree with her central premise. Without possessing a better understanding of Chinese history and culture, one could easily misunderstand much of the Taoist philosophy. Consequently, I have taken up her respectful challenge to better educate myself in this regard.
And yet, no matter how much I study, I will not become Chinese! I think the chances are about nil that I will ever see life completely through Chinese eyes. I think the reason is patently obvious. I am an American and my life experiences are tied to where I live.
So, does this mean that my embracing of the Taoist philosophy is less authentic?
Sometimes -- and I know she will correct me if I'm incorrect -- it seems as if the Baroness might suggest just that. She has stated on record here that she finds "no serious worth in popular western Daoism." It would seem that we western Taoists are being penalized for not being Chinese!
If we look at almost every religious or philosophic belief system, they tend to change somewhat as they cross borders. Buddhism, for example, originated in India and it took a while before it migrated to China, Japan and beyond. When the Indian version took hold in China, it changed because the Chinese people had somewhat different life experiences and culture than their Indian counterparts. When it moved to Japan, it again changed a bit for the very same reasons.
Look at Christianity. It takes on a multitude of forms and some of the differences are based upon geography and culture.
My point here is that, while I agree with the Baroness that a better understanding of the Chinese worldview is of importance really to grasp the central concepts of Taoist thought, a westernized version of Taoism shouldn't be construed as any less authentic.
Will it be the same as Chinese Taoism? No, it won't. But no one would expect it to be exactly the same anyway.