Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"The key to growth..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness."
Neither dimensions nor consciousness or awareness are concepts that Lao Tzu would have been comfortable using — or even familiar with. It is a language and reasoning belonging to the last hundred years or so, when psychology was established as a science with its own terminology, and when Asian spiritual traditions were adapted by the Western world, also developing a terminology of its own.
Only if the concepts of this quote are simplified and concretized can it approach Lao Tzu's perspective. Higher dimensions of consciousness would to Lao Tzu be wisdom, awareness would be something like understanding, and growth would be reaching the level of sage. Thereby a sort of similar quote at all possible to be from Lao Tzu would be something like: The sage is wise enough to understand.
On the Internet, the quote is ascribed to Lao Tzu just about wherever it appears. That is also true for books of the last few years. But in the oldest book I have found with this exact quote, Toward the One from 1974 (page 118) by the Sufi Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan (1916-2004), there is no reference to Lao Tzu or Tao Te Ching.
I have not been able to check if the book mentions other references for this quote, but it surely fits Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan's thinking much better than that of Lao Tzu. Also, in the book Big Vision, Small Business from 2002, by Jamie S. Walter, the quote is accredited to Pir Vilayat Khan (page 40).
The oldest book I have found ascribing the quote to Lao Tzu is Self & Spirit from 2007 (page 304), a collection of quotes edited by Emma Maule. No source is given to the Lao Tzu accreditation. In 2009 the quote and Lao Tzu accreditation might have gotten a wider spread through the book Drinking with George, by the actor George Wendt, famous from the TV sitcom Cheers (page 1).
In a Google search, the web page with the oldest ascertained date for this quote is in a blog post from August, 2009. It ascribes the quote to Lao Tzu. The first posting of the quote on Facebook is from June 2010, also accrediting Lao Tzu.
It seems that George Wendt had a lot to do with the spread of the false Lao Tzu accreditation. But both he and Maule might have gotten it from the Internet, though I didn't find an occurrence old enough there. The web changes oh so quickly.
September 20, 2020.
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About meI'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.