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"It seems to be the origin of all things."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 4

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


4

The Way is empty, yet inexhaustible,

Like an abyss!

It seems to be the origin of all things.

It dulls the sharpness,

Unties the knots,

Dims the light,

Becomes one with the dust.


Deeply hidden, as if it only might exist.

I do not know whose child it is.

It seems to precede the ancestor of all.



The Hidden Cause

Lao Tzu returns here to the mysterious nature of Tao, the Way. It's so vague and distant that we can only guess its existence by the deductions we make from observing the world around us. It's the inner working of the universe, and probably therefore also the originator of it.

       Tao is the natural law by which the universe operates.

       A natural law has no form of its own, but governs all there is, and never gets fatigued or diminished. Although it causes all the magnificence of the world we live in, it's infinitesimal, like the dust of the dust.

       This law that governs all can have no preferences. It treats the biggest things the same as the smallest, none with less care. To Tao, they are essentially the same.

       Mountains, planets, galaxies, they all consist of atoms, which do in turn consist of particles so minute that their existence may never be confirmed. Since everything in the world consists of things small, the minute is closer to the nature of Tao. And since most things in the world go by unnoticed, the hidden is also closer to the nature of Tao.

       Because Lao Tzu sees the Way as the reason behind all, he concludes that it must have the most to do with the things that we regard as lesser. The big events are rare, while everyday proceedings take place constantly. The bigger the size of things, the fewer they are. So, the Way deals mainly with the small.

       We should ponder this, so that we remember to pay the most attention to the things that seem to be the least significant.

       The most enduring powers in the world are those that stand out the least. Sharpness does not last, nor does the tightness of a knot, or the brightest light. There is nothing that remains longer than its own dust.

       So, if we become like dust, we will prevail – and we will be in unison with Tao.

       That has not been the typical trait of mankind so far. Instead, we ravel at burning down forests to build temples and palaces, drilling tunnels through mountains, and changing the courses of rivers. Ours is noisy species.



A Vague Deity

The last line of this chapter is the only clear occurrence of a divine entity in the Tao Te Ching. What I have translated as the ancestor of all is Ti, who was the first and supreme god in ancient Chinese mythology.

       Although Ti was indeed regarded as a creator god, Lao Tzu doubts that he predates Tao. Even a creator god must obey the natural laws that rule the universe, or it would not have come into existence. If it did, it would not have remained.

       A natural law does not exist by itself, but through nature, where it manifests itself. Therefore, it has no birth date. There may be a starting point for its manifestation, but the law itself is timeless. When a world of whatever kind appears, it has to follow the law for such a world. But the law does not change if the world appears or disappears. It remains the same forever and anywhere. So, it's eternal and ever-present. It was before the gods, and it's present where they are not.

       There can be a universe without any gods to rule it, but not one without laws for it.

© Stefan Stenudd.

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Tao Te Ching Explained


Preface


Introduction


Literature


The 81 Chapters of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
translated and explained by Stefan Stenudd.
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Tao Te Ching Explained


James Legge's Tao Te Ching


Aleister Crowley's Tao Te Ching


The 1st Chapter of Tao Te Ching in 76 Versions


Lao Tzu - Legendary Author of Tao Te Ching





My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



My Other Websites:


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Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.


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Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:


Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
Aikido principles, philosophy, and basic ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker

Fiction. A brunch conversation slips into the mysterious, soon to burst beyond the realm of possibility. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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