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"It is used but never spent."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 6

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


6

The valley spirit never dies.

It is called the mystical female.

The entrance to the mystical female

Is called the root of Heaven and Earth.


Though gossamer,

As if barely existing,

It is used but never spent.



The Womb

Lao Tzu allows himself some play with words here. The Chinese word for valley, ku, can be translated gorge, and the word for female (of any species) also refers to a deep gorge. The word for mystical, hsüan, can be translated dark or deep. So, Lao Tzu describes a dark depth, from the entrance of which the whole world springs, like a child does from its mother's womb.

       The sign for entrance, also meaning gate or door, shows a swinging door, just like the one to the saloon in every Western movie. In the context of this chapter, it's an image also suggesting the gate to a woman's womb, which is certainly a birthplace of tremendous significance.

       To Lao Tzu, the origin of the world is female, like a mother of any species. Heaven and Earth are rooted at the entrance to this womb, but there is a vast depth beneath the entrance, from which so much more can emerge. This mother of all is endlessly fertile. She never ceases to breed and nurture.

       This mystical female is Tao, the Way. Again an intriguing imagery. The way to this primordial female leads into the dark gorge.

       Tao as a mother of all, like the Greek Earth goddess Gaia, is a returning theme in the Tao Te Ching. Although ancient China was indeed a patriarchal society, Lao Tzu praised the traditionally female qualities repeatedly. Since the nature of Tao resembles the female much more than the male, so should people behave. Giving instead of taking, humble instead of proud, yielding instead of forcing, and so on.

       This preference must have been very radical in the days of Lao Tzu. Actually, it still is.

       In the last line of this chapter, Lao Tzu leaves the metaphor of the womb, although he still talks about Tao. He moves on to another aspect of it, another way of looking at it. The essence of the Way is as vague and fine as cobweb, because it's a principle, a natural law, with no substance of its own. That's why it lasts, no matter how much it is used. Like a formula.

© 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.

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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.


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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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