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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

“The soul has no secret..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote.

This is not a quote from the Tao Te Ching:



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





       The soul as we see it is not a concept with which Lao Tzu would be familiar. When we speak of the soul, we incorporate ideas of a Christian tradition, suggesting among other things something separate from the body - maybe even surviving it. Lao Tzu did not hint at any afterlife, nor anything in man separable from his body.

       Well, we use 'soul' for so many different things relating to the human mind and awareness. So, it is possible to use it, carefully, in the translation of an ancient Chinese text. I have done so in my translation of Tao Te Ching, at the start of Chapter 10:


Can you make your soul embrace the One
And not lose it?


       Where my interpretation, and many others, write soul, the Chinese text speaks of two concepts that should be combined: ying and p'o. They are difficult to translate, but suggest two sides of the human mind: spiritual and physical. A daring comparison, somewhat doubtful, would be consciousness and instinct. But that's stretching it. Anyway, what Lao Tzu refers to is the human mind as a whole, its parts combined.

       Writing this, I'm starting to think I should have used another word than soul, in my translation. If I could just find the accurate one.

       The same goes for behavior. This broad term could also be used, carefully, in a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.

       Still, the main problem with this fake Lao Tzu quote is that it points to the psyche of an individual personality, which is far from how Lao Tzu regarded mankind. It's a modern view of the mind as something internal, hidden from the minds of others and using this secrecy to get ahead.

       To Lao Tzu, human beings are basically the same, and so is their mentality. Some get wiser and thereby act nobly, in accordance with Tao, the Way. The others are driven by basic needs and urges that are far from secret.

       The idea that anyone would try to hide and even fake his personality was alien to Lao Tzu. He did not even say something that suggested people have personalities different from those of others. To him, we are all pretty much the same. The differences are in what we understand, not what we strive to be.

       He did see actions, which can be translated to behavior, as what revealed the wisdom acquired. The wise would act accordingly, as would the unwise. Pretense had nothing to do with it, since they could do nothing else.

       I haven't found a Tao Te ching version containing the fake Lao Tzu quote. Nor did I find it in a Google book search. It seems to have appeared on the Internet.

       A Facebook search finds the first appearance of the fake quote on October 17, 2013. It gives neither Lao Tzu nor anyone else as the source. It doesn't reappear on Facebook until 2016, where it gets accredited to Lao Tzu.

       There is, though, a similar quote:


The soul has no secrets which the conduct will not reveal.


       This wording has quite another background. I found it in A Dictionary of Quotations in Most Frequent Use, by David Evans Macdonnel, published 1803 (4th edition, 1st edition 1799). According to the author, it's a Chinese proverb he translates from its French version: "L'âme n'a point de secret que la conduite ne révèle."

       The French wording can be found in Abrégé du Journal de Paris, p. 359, where it is also explained as a Chinese proverb (maxime). The book was printed in Paris 1789 - a year of quite some significance in that city. But the quote is from a 1777 article of the Journal.

       It is not difficult to see how a Chinese proverb becomes accredited to the most legendary of Chinese philosophers. But Lao Tzu said nothing of the kind.

Stefan Stenudd
April 18, 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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I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.


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The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.


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Creation Myths

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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.


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.

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