The Tao (Balfour)

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I further beg to recommend any student anxious to follow out the theories of Taoism embodied in the Commentary of Lü Tsû, to read a very curious and interesting book by that author entitled ###, or 'Occult Mysteries respecting the Cultivation of the Pure Essence,' kindly sent to me by my friend M. Kéïta Goo, of the Imperial Japanese Diplomatic Service, while the present volume was passing through the press. It is well worth study.


The TAO, or Principle of Nature, may be discussed [by all]; it is not the popular or common Tao—[e.g., the tao-li of ethics, dealing with the ### and the ###].

Its Name may be named [i.e., the TAO may receive a designation, though of itself it has none]; but it is not an ordinary name, [or name in the usual sense of the word, for it is a presentment or e?d???? of the Infinite].

Its nameless period was that which preceded the birth of the Universe, [the ###];

In being spoken of by name, it is as the Progenitrix of All Things, [the period of the ###, which divided and produced the ###].

It is therefore in habitual passionlessness [the ### or Quiescent phase of TAO] that its mystery may be scanned; and in habitual desire [the ### or Active phase of TAO] that its developments may be perceived.

These two conditions, the Active and the Quiescent, alike proceed [from TAO]; it is only in name that they differ. Both may be called profundities; and the depth of profundity is the gate of every mystery.


The Beautiful being once recognised as such by the world, the Repulsive appears [as its converse]. Goodness being once recognised as such, Evil appears in like manner. Thus existence and non-existence produce each other; the difficult and the easy bring about each other; the long and the short impart form to each other; the high and low comply [or change places] with each other; sounds and voices harmonise with each other; priority and sequence alternate with each other.

Wherefore the Sage pursues a policy of inaction, and teaches men in silence; [i.e., he conforms to the TAO or Course of Nature, which proceeds silently and spontaneously, and thus the people learn to govern themselves by his example without needing the interferences of legislation and instruction].

He forms all things without shrinking [from the labour]; produces them without claiming the possession [of virtue]; acts without presuming on [his ability]; and completes his achievements without taking any credit to himself. It is only he who thus does not stand upon his merit; and therefore his merit does not depart from him.


[The Sage], by not showing exclusive approval of those who are eminent in virtue, prevents the people from quarrelling; by not setting high store on things difficult to obtain, he prevents the people from becoming robbers; by closing his eyes to objects of desire, he secures his heart from corruption. Wherefore the Sage, in governing, does so with a heart empty [of all distractions and temptations], but a bosom full [of justice and benevolence]; he makes his will pliant, his bodily frame-work firm; he ever keeps the people from [harmful] knowledge and desires, and prevents those who have such knowledge from daring to put it into practice. He pursues a policy of inaction, and there is therefore nothing that is left ungoverned.


The TAO is full [q.d., exhaustless and complete]; yet in operation as though not self-elated. In its origin it is as it were the Ancestor of All Things. It chastens asperity; it unravels confusion; it moderates the radiance [proceeding from those in whom TAO is embodied—see Chuang Tsze, 'Kêng-sang Ch‘u']; and it identifies itself with the sordid ones of the earth [the "dust" or common people—see Mencius, Book V, chap. 1, sec. 3; q.d., it enables a man to associate with the base without being defiled]. Pellucid [as a spreading ocean] it yet has the semblance of permanence. I know not whose offspring it is. Its e?d???? existed before God was.

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