The Chinese Way VII - Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching (1)


The Way and Its Power
Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought
Translated by Arthur Waley

The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way;
The names that can be named are not unvarying names.
It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.

Truly, only he that rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essences';
He that has never rid himself of desire can see only the Outcomes.
These two things issued from the same mould, but nevertheless are different in name.
This "same mould" we can but call the Mystery,
Or rather the "Darker than any Mystery',
The Doorway whence issued all Secret Essences.

Paraphrase

The Realists demand a ch'ang-tao, an 'unvarying way' of government, in which every act inimical and every act beneficial to the State is codified and 'mated' to its appropriate punishment or reward. The Taoist replies that though there does exist a ch'ang-tao, 'an unvarying Way,' it cannot be grasped by the ordinary senses not described in words. In dispassionate vision the Taoist sees a world consisting of the things for which language has no names, Provisionally we may call them miao, 'secret esssences'. The Realist, his vision distorted by desire, sees only 'ultimate results', the Outcomes of those essences, never the essences themselves. The whole doctrine of Realism was founded on the conviction that just as things which issue from the same mould are mechanically identical, 'cannot help being as they are', so by complete codification, a series of moulds(fa), can be constructed, which will mechanically decide what 'name' (and consequently what reward or punishment) should be assigned to any given deed. But the two modalities of the Universe, the world as the Taoist sees it in vision and the world of everyday life, contradict the basic assumption of the Realist. For they issue from the same mould ('proceed from sameness'), and nevertheless are different as regards name. Strictly speaking, the world as seen in vision has no name. We can call it, as above, the Sameness; or the Mystery. These names are however merely stop-gaps. For what we are trying to express is darker than any mystery.

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