Fake Lao Tzu Quote

“Man's enemies..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote.

This is not a quote from the Tao Te Ching:

“Man's enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”

       Lao Tzu would laugh at this statement. Of course men are not demons. They can't be, since they are human beings.

       Not that Lao Tzu cared much at all for supernatural beings, not even deities, but he could tell the difference. He would regard the quote as pure nonsense.

       Stephen Mitchell, author of a very popular version of the Lao Tzu text from 1988, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, obviously sees it differently.

       The quote is from his rendering of chapter 31, with the slight difference of writing “his” instead of “man's”. That's surely an edit when the quote was taken out of its context.

       But Mitchell's version is so far off from the original that I have trouble seeing what line he interpreted this way.

       Here is Mitchell's complete chapter 31:

Weapons are the tools of violence;

all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear;

a decent man will avoid them

except in the direst necessity

and, if compelled, will use them

only with the utmost restraint.

Peace is his highest value.

If the peace has been shattered,

how can he be content?

His enemies are not demons,

but human beings like himself.

He doesn't wish them personal harm.

Nor does he rejoice in victory.

How could he rejoice in victory

and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,

with sorrow and with great compassion,

as if he were attending a funeral.

       And here is my version of the same chapter:

Weapons are ominous tools.

They are abhorred by all creatures.

Anyone who follows the Way shuns them.

In peaceful times, the noble ruler honors the left side.

At war, he honors the right side.

Weapons are ominous tools.

They are not the noble ruler's tools.

He only uses them when he can't avoid it.

Peace and quiet are preferred.

Victory should not be praised.

Those who praise victory relish manslaughter.

Those who relish manslaughter

Cannot reach their goals in the world.

At times of joy, the left side is honored.

At times of grief, the right side is honored.

At battle, the second in command stands to the left,

And the commander in chief to the right.

This means they stand as in funerals.

When many people are killed

They should be mourned and lamented.

Those who are victorious in war

Should follow the rites of funerals.

       Lao Tzu treats the subject gravely, with many words. We get the sense that he is really disgusted to the point of crying out and weeping.

       But where does Mitchell get his line about demons?

       It seems he has improvised a substitution for Lao Tzu's comparison to ancient Chinese funeral rites. It may make the chapter more accessible to the reader, but I'd say he has taken it a bit too far.

Stefan Stenudd
April 2, 2017

Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Here are some fake Lao Tzu quotes I have found, in alphabetical order. Click the quote to get to the webpage where I comment it. I plan to add more false quotes in the future, so do come back.

       I have chosen quotes that exist in meme form (images with text), because they tend to spread the most all over the web, especially in social media.

       Click the quote to get to the webpage about it.

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.”

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”

“Man's enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”

“The soul has no secret that the behavior does not reveal.”

“There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take the one with a heart.”

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”

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.

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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.

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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 fundamental ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. 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.