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The Tao of God.

Argument:Tao is repose—Repose the secret of the universe— Cultivation of essentials—Neglect of accidentals—The sequence of Tao—Spontaneity of true virtue—Tao is unconditioned—Tao cannot be conveyed—Illustrations.

THE Tao of God operates ceaselessly; and all things are produced. The Tao of the sovereign operates ceaselessly; and the empire rallies around him. The Tao of the Sage operates ceaselessly; and all within the limit of surrounding ocean acknowledge his sway. He who apprehends God, who is in relation with the Sage, and who recognises the radiating virtue of the sovereign,—his actions will be to him unconscious, the actions of repose.

With him all will be inaction, by which all things will be accomplished.

The repose of the Sage is not what the world calls repose. His repose is the result of his mental attitude. All creation could not disturb his equilibrium: hence his repose.

When water is still, it is like a mirror, reflecting the beard and the eyebrows. It gives the accuracy of the water-level, and the philosopher makes it his model. And if water thus derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind? The mind of the Sage being in repose becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.

Repose, tranquillity, stillness, inaction,—these were the levels of the universe, the ultimate perfection of Tao.

In the early days of Time, ere matter had assumed shape, it was by such levels that the spiritual was adjusted.

Therefore wise rulers and Sages rest therein. Resting therein they reach the unconditioned, from which springs the conditioned; and with the conditioned comes order.

Meaning those laws which are inseparable from concrete existences.

Again, from the unconditioned comes repose, and from repose comes movement,

When once inner repose has been established, outer movement results as a matter of necessity, without injury to the organism.

and from movement comes attainment. Further, from repose comes inaction, and from inaction comes potentiality of action.

When inaction has been achieved, action results spontaneously and unconsciously to the organism.

And inaction is happiness; and where there is happiness no cares can abide, and life is long.

Repose, tranquillity, stillness, inaction,—these were the source of all things. Due perception of this was the secret of Yao's success as a ruler, and of Shun's success as his minister. Due perception of this constitutes the virtue of sovereigns on the throne, the Tao of the inspired Sage and of the uncrowned King below. Keep to this in retirement, and the lettered denizens of sea and dale will recognise your power. Keep to this when coming forward to pacify a troubled world, and your merit shall be great and your name illustrious, and the empire united into one. In your repose you will be wise; in your movements, powerful. By inaction you will gain honour; and by confining yourself to the pure and simple, you will hinder the whole world from struggling with you for show.

To fully apprehend the scheme of the universe.

Lit.: "the virtue of heaven and earth," meaning their inaction by which all things are brought to maturity.

this is called the great secret of being in accord with God, whereby the empire is so administered that the result is accord with man. To be in accord with man is human happiness; to be in accord with God is the happiness of God.

Chuang Tzŭ said, "O my exemplar! Thou who destroyest all things, and dost not account it cruelty; thou who benefitest all time, and dost not account it charity; thou who art older than antiquity and dost not account it age; thou who supportest the universe, shaping the many forms therein, and dost not account it skill;—this is the happiness of God!"

Therefore it has been said, "Those who enjoy the happiness of God, when born into the world, are but fulfilling their divine functions; when they die, they do but undergo a physical change. In repose, they exert the influence of the Negative; in motion, they wield the power of the Positive."

See ante, chs. vi and xi.

Thus, those who enjoy the happiness of God have no grievance against God, no grudge against man. Nothing material injures them; nothing spiritual punishes them. Accordingly it has been said, "Their motion is that of heaven;

One of ceaseless revolution, without beginning or end.

their repose is that of earth. Mental equilibrium gives them the empire of the world. Evil spirits do not harass them without; demons do not trouble them within. Mental equilibrium gives them sovereignty over all creation." Which signifies that in repose to extend to the whole universe and to be in relation with all creation,—this is the happiness of God. This enables the mind of the Sage to cherish the whole empire.

For the virtue of the wise ruler is modelled upon the universe, is guided by Tao, and is ever occupied in inaction. By inaction, he administers the empire, and has energy to spare; but by action he finds his energy inadequate to the administration of the empire. Therefore the men of old set great store by inaction.

But if rulers practise inaction and the ruled also practise inaction, the ruled will equal the rulers, and will not be as their subjects. On the other hand, if the ruled practise action and rulers also practise action, rulers will assimilate themselves to the ruled, and will not be as their masters. Rulers must practise inaction in order to administer the empire. The ruled must practise action in order to subserve the interests of the empire. This is an unchangeable law.

And one over which the commentators have exhausted not a little wit. At the end of the chapter, the reader will be able to draw his own conclusions.

Thus, the men of old, although their knowledge did not extend throughout the universe, were not troubled in mind. Although their intellectual powers beautified all creation, they did not rejoice. Although their abilities exhausted all things within the limits of ocean, they did not act.

Heaven has no parturitions, yet all things are evolved. Earth knows no increment, yet all things are nourished. The wise ruler practises inaction, and the empire applauds him. Therefore it has been said, "There is nothing more mysterious

In its action.

than heaven, nothing richer than earth, nothing greater than the wise ruler." Wherefore also it has been said, "The virtue of the wise ruler makes him the peer of heaven and earth." Charioted upon the universe, with all creation for his team, he passes along the highway of mortality.

The essential is in the ruler; the accidental in the ruled.

Lit. the "root," and the "tip" of the branch, respectively.

The ultima ratio lies with the prince; representation is the duty of the minister.

Appeal to arms is the lowest form of virtue. Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education. Ceremonies and laws are the lowest form of government. Music and fine clothes are the lowest form of happiness. Weeping and mourning are the lowest form of grief. These five should follow the movements of the mind.

The ancients indeed cultivated the study of accidentals, but they did not allow it to precede that of essentials. The prince precedes, the minister follows. The father precedes, the son follows. The elder brother precedes, the younger follows. Seniors precede, juniors follow. Men precede, women follow. Husbands precede, wives follow. Distinctions of rank and precedence are part of the scheme of the universe, and the Sage adopts them accordingly. In point of spirituality, heaven is honourable, earth is lowly, Spring and summer precede autumn and winter: such is the order of the seasons. In the constant production of all things, there are phases of existence. There are the extremes of maturity and decay, the perpetual tide of change. And if heaven and earth, divinest of all, admit of rank and precedence, how much more man?

In the ancestral temple, parents rank before all; at court, the most honourable; in the village, the elders; in matters to be accomplished, the most trustworthy. Such is the order which appertains to Tao. He who in considering Tao disregards this order, thereby disregards Tao; and he who in considering Tao disregards Tao, — whence will he secure Tao?

Therefore, those of old who apprehended Tao, first apprehended God. Tao came next, and then charity and duty to one's neighbour, and then the functions of public life, and then forms and names, and then employment according to capacity, and then distinctions of good and bad, and then discrimination between right and wrong, and then rewards and punishments. Thus wise men and fools met with their dues; the exalted and the humble occupied their proper places. And the virtuous and the worthless being each guided by their own natural instincts, it was necessary to distinguish capabilities, and to adopt a corresponding nomenclature, in order to serve the ruler, nourish the ruled, administer things generally, and elevate self. Where knowledge and plans are of no avail, one must fall back upon the natural. This is perfect peace, the acme of good government. Therefore it has been written, "Wherever there is form, there is also its name." Forms and names indeed the ancients had, but did not give precedence to them.

Thus, those of old who considered Tao, passed

M 2 through five phases before forms and names were reached, and nine before rewards and punishments could be discussed.

As given in the preceding paragraph.

To rise per saltum to forms and names is to be ignorant of their source; to rise per saltum to rewards and punishments is to be ignorant of their beginning. Those who invert the process of discussing Tao, arguing in a directly contrary sense, are rather to, be governed by others than able to govern others themselves.

To rise per saltum to forms and names and rewards and punishments, this is to understand the instrumental part of government, but not to understand the great principle of government.

Which is Tao.

This is to be of use in the administration of the empire, but not to be able to administer the empire. This is to be a sciolist, a man of narrow views.

Ceremonies and laws were indeed cultivated by the ancients; but they were employed in the service of the rulers by the ruled. Rulers did not employ them as a means of nourishing the ruled.

From the beginning of this chapter, the argument has been eminently unsatisfactory.

Of old, Shun asked Yao, saying, "How does your Majesty employ your faculties?" "I am not arrogant towards the defenceless," replied Yao. "I do not neglect the poor. I grieve for those who die. I pity the orphan. I sympathise with the widow. Beyond this, nothing."

"Good indeed!" cried Shun, "but yet not great."

"How so?" inquired Yao.

"Be passive," said Shun, "like the virtue of God. The sun and moon shine; the four seasons revolve; day and night alternate; clouds come and rain falls."

"Alas!" cried Yao, "what a muddle I have been making. You are in accord with God; I am in accord with man."

Of old, heaven and earth were considered great; and the Yellow Emperor and Yao and Shun all thought them perfection. Consequently, what did those do who ruled the empire of old? They did what heaven and earth do; no more.

When Confucius was going west to place his works in the Imperial library of the House of Chou, Tzŭ Lu

The most popular of all the disciples of Confucius. In the striking words of Mr. Watters, "He was equally ready to argue, fight, be silent, pray for his master, and die with him. So it is very unfair in Dr. Legge to call him a kind of Peter, meaning of course Simon Peter, a man who lacked faith, courage, and fidelity, and who morever cursed and swore."—Guide to the Tablets in a Confucian Temple.

counselled him, saying, "I have heard that a certain librarian of the Chêng department, by name Lao Tan,

Or, as usually named in this work, Lao Tzŭ. "Chêng" appears to have been merely a distinctive name.

has resigned and retired into private life. Now as you, Sir, wish to deposit your works, it would be advisable to go and interview him."

"Certainly," said Confucius; and he thereupon went to see Lao Tzŭ. The latter would not hear of the proposal; so Confucius began to expound the doctrines of his twelve canons, in order to convince Lao Tzŭ.

These twelve have been variously enumerated as (i) the Book of Changes, Parts i and ii, with the ten Wings. (2) The twelve Dukes of the Spring and Autumn, etc.

"This is all nonsense," cried Lao Tzŭ, interrupting him. "Tell me what are your criteria."

"Charity," replied Confucius, "and duty towards one's neighbour."

"Tell me, please," asked Lao Tzŭ, "are these part of man's original nature?"

The question of an innate moral sense early occupied the attention of Chinese thinkers.

"They are," answered Confucius. "Without charity, the superior man could not become what he is. Without duty to one's neighbour, he would be of no effect. These two belong to the original nature of a pure man. What further would you have?"

"Tell me," said Lao Tzŭ, "in what consist charity and duty to one's neighbour?"

"They consist," answered Confucius, "in a capacity for rejoicing in all things; in universal love, without the element of self. These are the characteristics of charity and duty to one's neighbour."

"What stuff!" cried Lao Tzŭ. "Does not universal love contradict itself?

If every one loves every one, there can be no such thing as love, just as absolute altruism only achieves the same result as absolute egoism.

Is not your elimination of self a positive manifestation of self?

On the "Don't nail his ear to the pump" principle.

Sir, if you would cause the empire not to lose its source of nourishment,—there is the universe, its regularity is unceasing; there are the sun and moon, their brightness is unceasing; there are the stars, their groupings never change; there are birds and beasts, they flock together without varying; there are trees and shrubs, they grow upwards without exception. Be like these; follow Tao; and you will be perfect. Why then these vain struggles after charity and duty to one's neighbour, as though beating a drum in search of a fugitive. Alas! Sir, you have brought much confusion into the mind of man."

The drum similitude occurs again in ch. xiv.

Shih Ch'êng Ch'i

Of whom nothing is known.

visited Lao Tzŭ, and addressed him, saying, "Having heard, Sir, that you were a Sage, I put aside all thought of distance to come and visit you. Travelling many stages, the soles of my feet thickened, but I did not venture to rest. And now I see you are not a Sage. While rats feasted off your leavings, you turned your sister out of doors. This is not charity. Though you have no lack of food, raw and cooked, you are stingy beyond all bounds."

At this Lao Tzŭ was silent and made no reply; and the next day Shih Ch'êng Ch'i came again and said, "Before, I was rude to you; now, I am sorry. How is this?"

"I have no pretension," replied Lao Tzŭ, "to be possessed of cunning knowledge nor of divine wisdom. Had you yesterday called me an ox, I should have considered myself an ox. Had you called me a horse, I should have considered myself a horse.

"For if men class you in accordance with truth, and you reject the classification, you only double the reproach. My humility is natural humility. It is not humility for humility's sake."

Shih Ch'êng Ch'i moved respectfully away.

Without allowing his shadow to fall on Lao Tzŭ. Bringing one foot up to the other only. Not venturing to let it pass as in ordinary walking.

Then he advanced again, also respectfully, and said, "May I ask you about personal cultivation?"

Lao Tzŭ said, "Your countenance is a strange one. Your eyes protrude. Your jaws are heavy. Your lips are parted. Your demeanour is self-satisfied. You look like a man on a tethered horse.

His body there, his mind elsewhere.

You are too confident. You are too hasty. You think too much of your own powers. Such men are not trusted. Those who are found on the wrong side of a boundary line are called thieves."


Lao Tzŭ said, "Tao is not too small for the greatest, nor too great for the smallest. Thus all things are embosomed therein; wide indeed its boundless capacity, unfathomable its depth.

"Form, and virtue, and charity, and duty to one's neighbour, these are the accidentals of the spiritual. Except he be a perfect man, who shall determine their place? The world of the perfect man, is not that vast? And yet it is not able to involve him in trouble. All struggle for power, but he does not join. Though discovering nothing false, he is not tempted astray. In spite of the utmost genuineness, he still confines himself to essentials.

To the root, not to the branch.

"He thus places himself outside the universe, beyond all creation, where his soul is free from care. Apprehending Tao, he is in accord with virtue. He leaves charity and duty to one's neighbour alone. He treats ceremonies and music as adventitious. And so the mind of the perfect man is at peace.

"Books are what the world values as representing Tao. But books are only words, and the valuable part of words is the thought therein contained. That thought has a certain bias which cannot be conveyed in words, yet the world values words as being the essence of books. But though the world values them, they are not of value; as that sense in which the world values them is not the sense in which they are valuable.

"That which can be seen with the eye is form and colour; that which can be heard with the ear is sound and noise. But alas! the people of this generation think that form, and colour, and sound, and noise, are means by which they can come to understand the essence of Tao. This is not so. And as those who know, do not speak, while those who speak do not know, whence should the world derive its knowledge?"

The first half of this last sentence has been pitchforked à propos de bottes into ch. lvi of the Tao-Té-Ching. See The Remains of Lao Tzŭ, pp. 7 and 38.

Duke Huan.

The famous ruler of the Ch'i State. Flourished 7th century B.C.

was one day reading in his hall, when a wheelwright who was working below,

Below the covered dais, termed "hall," which has an open frontage, in full view of which such work might be carried on.

flung down his hammer and chisel, and mounting the steps said, "What words may your Highness be studying?"

"I am studying the words of the Sages," replied the Duke.

"Are the Sages alive?" asked the wheelwright.

"No," answered the Duke; "they are dead."

"Then the words your Highness is studying," rejoined the wheelwright, "are only the dregs of the ancients."

"What do you mean, sirrah!" cried the Duke, "by interfering with what I read? Explain yourself, or you shall die."

"Let me take an illustration," said the wheelwright, "from my own trade. In making a wheel, if you work too slowly, you can't make it firm; if you work too fast, the spokes won't fit in. You must go neither too slowly nor too fast. There must be co-ordination of mind and hand. Words cannot explain what it is, but there is some mysterious art herein. I cannot teach it to my son; nor can he learn it from me. Consequently, though seventy years of age, I am still making wheels in my old age. If the ancients, together with what they could not impart, are dead and gone, then what your Highness is studying must be the dregs."

This episode of the wheelwright is to be found in the works of Huai Nan Tzŭ, of the 2nd century B.C. He used it to illustrate the opening words of the Tao-Tê-Ching; and in The Remains of Lao Tzŭ, p. 6, it is stated that he stole it from Chuang Tzŭ without acknowledgement.
When that statement was made I had not come to the conclusion, now forced upon me, that the above chapter is not from the hand of Chuang Tzŭ. As one critic remarks, the style is generally admirable; but it is not the style of Chuang Tzŭ.