Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu, the legendary writer of Tao Te Ching, who rode a water buffalo when leaving the Emperor's court after growing tired of politics. Before leaving China, he wrote Tao Te Ching on the request of a guardsman at the Chinese border.
The below version of the complete Tao Te Ching was written by the English occultist Aleister Crowley in 1923.
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 (paid link).
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Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), English occultist. Photo from 1906.
Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu
Aleister Crowley's version from 1923.
1 THE NATURE OF THE TAO
The Tao-Path is not the All-Tao.
The Name is not the Thing named.
Unmanifested, it is the Secret Father of
manifested, it is their Mother.
To understand this Mystery, one must be fulfilling one's will, and if one is not thus free, one will but gain a smattering of it.
The Tao is one, and the Teh but a phase thereof. The abyss of this Mystery is the Portal of Serpent-Wonder.
2 THE ENERGY-SOURCE OF THE SELF
source of the Mother
source of the Father
All men know that beauty and ugliness are correlatives, as are skill and clumsiness; one implies and suggests the other.
So also existence and non-existence pose the one the other; so also is it with ease and difficulty, length and shortness; height and lowness. Also Musick exists through harmony of opposites; time and space depend upon contraposition.
By the use of this method, the sage can fulfil his will without action, and utter his word without speech.
All things arise without diffidence; they grow, and none interferes; they change according to their natural order, without lust of result. The work is accomplished; yet continueth in its orbit, without goal. This work is done unconsciously; this is why its energy is indefatigable.
3 QUIETING FOLK
To reward merit is to stir up emulation; to prize rarities is to encourage robbery; to display desirable things is to excite the disorder of covetousness.
Therefore, the sage governeth men by keeping their minds and their bodies at rest, contenting the one by emptiness, the other by fullness. He satisfieth their desires, thus fulfilling their wills, and making them frictionless; and he maketh them strong in body, to a similar end.
He delivereth them from the restlessness of knowledge and the cravings of discontent. As to those who have knowledge already, he teacheth them the way of non-action. This being assured, there is no disorder in the world.
4 THE SPRING WITHOUT SOURCE
The Tao resembleth the emptiness of Space; to employ it, we must avoid creating ganglia. Oh Tao, how vast art Thou, the Abyss of Abysses, thou Holy and Secret Father of all Fatherhoods of Things!
Let us make our sharpness blunt; let us loosen our complexes; let us tone down our brightness to the general obscurity. Oh Tao, how still art thou, how pure, continuous One beyond Heaven!
This Tao hath no Father; it is beyond all other conceptions, higher than the highest.
5 THE FORMULA OF THE VACUUM
Heaven and earth proceed without motive, but casually in their order of nature, dealing with all things carelessly, like used talismans. So also the sages deal with their people, not exercising benevolence, but allowing the nature of all to move without friction.
The Space between heaven and earth is their breathing apparatus: Exhalation is not exhaustion, but the complement of Inhalation, and this equally of that. Speech exhausteth; guard thyself, therefore, maintaining the perfect freedom of thy nature.
6 THE PERFECTING OF FORM
The Teh is the immortal enemy of the Tao, its feminine aspect. Heaven and Earth issued from her Gate; this Gate is the Root of their World-Sycamore. Its operation is of pure Joy and Love, and faileth never.
7 THE CONCEALMENT OF THE LIGHT
Heaven and Earth are mighty in continuance, because their work is delivered from the lust of result.
Thus also the sage, seeking not any goal, attaineth all things; he doth not interfere in the affairs of his body, and so that body acteth without friction. It is because he meddleth not with personal aims that these come to pass with simplicity.
8 THE NATURE OF PEACE
Admire thou the High Way of Water! Is not Water the soul of the life of things, whereby they change? Yet it seeketh its level, and abideth content in obscurity. So also it resembleth the Tao, in this Way thereof!
The virtue of a house is to be well-placed; of the mind, to be at ease in silence as of Space; of societies, to be well-disposed; of governments, to maintain quietude; of work, to be skillfully performed; and of all motion, to be made at the right time.
Also it is the virtue of a man to abide in his place without discontent; thus offendeth he no man.
9 THE WAY OF RETICENCE
Fill not a vessel, lest it spill in carrying. Meddle not with a sharpened point by feeling it constantly, or it will soon become blunted.
Gold and jade endanger the house of their possessor. Wealth and honors lead to arrogance and envy, and bring ruin. Is thy way famous and thy name becoming distinguished? Withdraw, thy work once done, into obscurity; this is the way of Heaven.
10 THINGS ATTAINABLE
When soul and body are in the bond of love, they can be kept together. By concentration on the breath it is brought to perfect elasticity, and one becomes as a babe. By purifying oneself from Samadhi one becomes whole.
In his dealing with individuals and with society, let him move without lust of result. In the management of his breath, let him be like the mother-bird. Let his intelligence comprehend every quarter; but let his knowledge cease.
Here is the Mystery of Virtue. It createth all and nourisheth all; yet it doth not adhere to them; it operateth all, but knoweth not of it, nor proclaimeth it; it directeth all, but without conscious control.
11 THE VALUE OF THE UNEXPRESSED
The thirty spokes join in their nave, that is one; yet the wheel dependeth for use upon the hollow place for the axle. Clay is shapen to make vessels; but the contained space is what is useful. Matter is therefore of use only to mark the limits of the space which is the thing of real value.
12 THE WITHDRAWAL FROM THE EXTERNAL
The five colors film over Sight; The five sounds make Hearing dull; The five flavours conceal Taste; occupation with motion and action bedevil Mind; even so the esteem of rare things begetteth covetousness and disorder.
The wise man seeketh therefore to content the actual needs of the people; not to excite them by the sight of luxuries. He banneth these, and concentrateth on those.
13 THE CONTEMPT FOR CIRCUMSTANCE
Favor and disgrace are equally to be shunned; honour and calamity to be alike regarded as adhering to the personality.
What is this which is written concerning favour and disgrace? Disgrace is the fall from favour. He then that hath favour hath fear, and its loss begetteth fear yet greater of a further fall. What is this which is written concerning honour and calamity? It is this attachment to the
body which maketh calamity possible; for were one bodiless, what evil could befall him?
Therefore let him that regardeth himself rightly administer also a kingdom; and let him govern it who loveth it as another man loveth himself.
14 THE SHEWING-FORTH OF THE MYSTERY
We look at it, and see it not; though it is Omnipresent; and we name it the Root-Balance. We listen for it, and hear it not, though it is Omniscient; and we name it the Silence. We feel for it, and touch it not, though it is Omnipotent; and we name it the Concealed. These three Virtues hath it, yet we cannot describe it as consisting of them; but, mingling them aright, we apprehend the One.
Above, it shineth not; below, it is not dark. It moveth all
continuously, without Expression, returning into Naught. It is the Form of That which is beyond Form; it is the Image of the Invisible; it is Change, and Without Limit.
We confront it, and see not its Face; we pursue it, and its Back is hidden from us. Ah! but apply the Tao as in old Time to the work of the present; know it as it was known in the Beginning; follow fervently the Thread of the Tao.
15 THE APPEARANCE OF THE TRUE NATURE
The adepts of past ages were subtle and keen to apprehend this Mystery, and their profundity was obscurity unto men. Since then they were not known, let me declare their nature.
To all seeming, they were fearful as men that cross a torrent in winter flood; they were hesitating like a man in apprehension of them that are about him; they were full of awe like a guest in a great house; they were ready to disappear like ice in thaw; they were unassuming like unworked wood; they were empty as a valley; and dull as the waters of a marsh.
Who can clear muddy water? Stillness will accomplish this. Who can obtain rest? Let motion continue equably, and it will itself be peace.
The adepts of the Tao, conserving its way, seek not to be actively self-conscious. By their emptiness of Self they have no need to show their youth and perfection; to appear old and imperfect is their privilege.
16 THE WITHDRAWAL TO THE ROOT
Emptiness must be perfect, and Silence made absolute with tireless strength. All things pass through the period of action; then they return to repose. They grow, bud, blossom and fruit; then they return to the root. This return to the root is this state which we name Silence; and this Silence is Witness of their Fulfilment.
This cycle is the universal law. To know it is the part of intelligence; to ignore it bringeth folly of action, whereof the end is madness. To know it bringeth understanding and peace; and these lead to the identification of the Self with the Not-Self. This identification maketh man a king; and this kingliness groweth unto godhood. That godhood beareth fruit in the mastery of the Tao. Then the man, the Tao permeating him, endureth; and his bodily principles are in harmony, proof against decay, until the hour of his Change.
17 THE PURITY OF THE CURRENT
In the Age of Gold, the people were not conscious of their rulers; in the Age of Silver, they loved them, with songs; in the Age of Brass, they feared them; in the Age of Iron, they despised them. As the rulers lost confidence, so also did the people lose confidence in them.
How hesitating did they seem, the Lords of the Age of Gold, speaking with deliberation, aware of the weight of their word! Thus they accomplished all things with success; and the people deemed their well-being to be the natural course of events.
18 THE DECAY OF MANNERS
When men abandoned the Way of the Tao, benevolence and justice became necessary. Then also was need of wisdom and cunning, and all fell into illusion. When harmony ceased to prevail in the six spheres it was needful to govern them by manifesting Sons. When the kingdoms and races became confused, loyal ministers had to appear.
19 RETURNING TO THE PURITY OF THE CURRENT
If we forgot our statesmanship and our wisdom, it would be an hundred times better for the people. If we forgot our benevolence and our justice, they would become again like sons, folk of good will. If we forget our machines and our business, there would be no knavery.
These new methods despised the olden Way, inventing fine names to disguise their baneness. But simplicity in the doing of the will of every man would put an end to vain ambitions and desires.
20 THE WITHDRAWAL FROM THE COMMON WAY
To forget learning is to end trouble. The smallest difference in words, such as -yes- and -yea-, can make endless controversy for the scholar. Fearful indeed is death, since all men fear it; but the abyss of questionings, shoreless and bottomless, is worse!
Consider the profane man, how he preeneth, as if at feast, or gazing upon Spring from a tower! But as for me, I am as one who yawneth, without any trace of desire. I am like a babe before its first smile. I appear sad and forlorn, like a man homeless. The profane man hath his need filled, ay, and more also. For me, I seem to have lost all I had. My mind is as it were stupefied; it hath no definite shape. The profane man looketh lively and keen-witted; I alone appear blank in my mind. They seem eagerly critical; I appear careless and without perception. I seem to be as one adrift upon the sea, with no thought of an harbor. The profane have each one his definite course of action; I alone appear useless and uncomprehending, like a man from the border. Yea, thus I differ from all other men: but my jewel is the All-Mother!
21 THE INFINITE WOMB
The sole source of energy is the Tao. Who may declare its nature? It is beyond Sense, yet all form is hidden within it. It is beyond Sense, yet all Perceptibles are hidden within it. It is beyond Sense, yet all Perceptibles are hidden within it. It is beyond Sense, yet all Being is hidden within it. This Being excites Perception, and the Word thereof. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, its Name operateth continuously, causing all to flow in the cycle of Change, which is Love and Beauty. How do I know this? By my comprehension of the Tao.
22 THE GUERDON OF MODESTY
The part becometh the whole. The curve becometh straight; the void becometh full; the old becometh new. He who desireth little accomplisheth his Will with ease; who desireth many things becometh distracted.
Therefore, the sage concentrateth upon one Will, and it is as a light to the whole world. Hiding himself, he shineth; withdrawing himself, he attracteth notice; humbling himself, he is exalted; dissatisfied with himself, he gaineth force to achieve his Will. Because he striveth not, no man may contend against him.
That is no idle saw of the men of old; -The part becometh the whole-; it is the Canon of Perfection.
23 THE VOID OF NAUGHT
To keep silence is the mark of one who is acting in full accordance with his Will. A fierce wind soon falleth; a storm-shower doth not last all day. Yet Heaven and Earth cause these; and if they fail to make violence continue, how much less can man abide in spasm of passion!
With him that devoteth him to Tao, the devotees of Tao are in accord; so also are the devotees of Teh, yea, even they who fail in seeking those are in accord.
So then his brothers in the Tao are joyful, attaining it; and his brothers in the Teh are joyful, attaining it; and they who fail in seeking these are joyful, partaking of it. But if he himself realize not the Tao with calm of confidence, then they also appear lacking in confidence.
24 EVIL MANNERS
He who standeth a-tiptoe standeth not firm; he who maketh rigid his legs walketh ill. He who preeneth himself shineth not; he who talketh positively is vulgar; he who boastheth is refused acceptance; he who is wise in his own conceit is thought inferior. Such attitudes, to him that hath the view given by understanding the Tao, seem like garbage orlike
cancer, abhorrent to all. They then who follow the Way do not admit them.
25 IMAGES OF THE MYSTERY
Without Limit and Perfect, there is a Becoming, beyond Heaven and Earth. It hath nor motion nor Form; it is alone, it changeth not; it extendeth all ways; it hath no Adversary. It is like the All-Mother.
I know not its Name, but I call it the Tao. Moreover, I exert myself, and call it Vastness.
Vastness, the Becoming! Becoming, it flieth afar. Afar, it draweth near. Vast is this Tao; Heaven also is Vast; Earth is vast; and the Holy King is vast also. In the Universe are Four Vastnesses, and of these is the Holy King.
Man followeth the formula of Earth; Earth followeth that of Heaven, and Heaven that of the Tao. The formula of the Tao is its own Nature.
26 THE NATURE OF MASS
Mass is the fulcrum of mobility; stillness is the father of motion.
Therefore the sage King, though he travel afar, remaineth near his supplies. Though opportunity tempt him, he remaineth quietly in proper disposition, indifferent. Should the master of an host of chariots bear himself frivolously? If he attack without support, he loseth his base; if he become a raider, he forfeiteth his throne.
27 SKILL IN THE METHOD
The experienced traveler concealeth his tracks; the clever speaker giveth no chance to the critic; the skilled mathematician useth no abacus; the ingenious safesmith baffleth the burglar without the use of bolts, and the cunning binder without ropes and knots. So also the sage, skilled in man-emancipation-craft, useth all men; understanding the value of everything, he rejecteth nothing. This is called the Occult Regimen.
The adept is then master to the zelator, and the zelator assisteth and honoreth the adept. Yet unless these relations were manifest, even the most intelligent observer might be perplexed as to which was which. This is called the Crown of Mystery.
28 THE RETURN TO SIMPLICITY
Balance thy male strength with thy female weakness and thou shalt attract all things, as the ocean absorbeth all rivers; for thou shalt formulate the excellence of the Child eternal, simple, and perfect. Knowing the light, remain in the Dark. Manifest not thy Glory, but thine obscurity. Clothed in this Child-excellence eternal, thou hast attained the Return of the First State. Knowing splendour of Fame, cling to Obloquy and Infamy; then shalt thou remain as in the Valley to which flow all waters, the lodestone to fascinate all men. Yea, they shall hail in thee this Excellence, eternal, simple and perfect, of the Child.
The raw material, wrought into form, produceth vessels. So the sage King formulateth his Wholeness in divers Offices; and his Law is without violence or constraint.
29 REFRAINING FROM ACTION
He that, desiring a kingdom, exerteth himself to obtain it, will fail. A Kingdom is of the nature of spirit, and yieldeth not to activity. He who graspeth it, destroyeth it; he who gaineth it, loseth it.
The wheel of nature revolveth constantly; the last becometh first, and the first last; hot things grow cold, and cold things hot; weakness overcometh strength; things gained are lost anon. Hence the wise man avoideth effort, desire and sloth.
30 A WARNING AGAINST WAR
If a king summon to his aid a Master of the Tao, let Him not advise recourse to arms. Such action certainly bringeth the corresponding reaction.
Where armies are, are weeds. Bad harvests follow great hosts.
The good general striketh decisively, once and for all. He does not risk by overboldness. He striketh, but doth not vaunt his victory. He striketh according to strict law of necessity, not from desire of victory.
Things become strong and ripe, then age. This is discord with the Tao; and what is not at one with the Tao soon cometh to an end.
31 COMPOSING QUARREL
Arms, though they be beautiful, are of ill omen, abominable to all created beings. They who have the Tao love not their use.
The place of honour is on the right in wartime; so thinketh the man of distinction. Sharp weapons are ill-omened, unworthy of such a man; he useth them only in necessity. He valueth peace and ease, desireth not violence of victory. To desire victory is to desire the death of men; and to desire that is to fail to propitiate the people.
At feasts, the left hand is the high seat; at funerals, the right. The second in command of the army leadeth the left wing, the commander-in-chief, the right wing; it is as if the battle were a rite of mourning! He that hath slain most men should weep for them most bitterly; so then the place of the victor is assigned to him with philosophical propriety.
32 THE WISDOM OF TEH
The All-Tao hath no name.
It is That Minute Point yet the whole world dare not contend against him that hath it. Did a lord or king gain it and guard it, all men would obey him of their own accord.
Heaven and Earth combining under its spell, shed forth dew, extending throughout all things of its own accord, without man's interference.
Tao, in its phase of action, hath a name. Then men can comprehend it; when they do this, there is no more risk of wrong or ill-success.
As the great rivers and the oceans are to the valley streams, so is the Tao to the whole universe.
33 THE DISCRIMINATION (VIVEKA) OF TEH
He who understandeth others understandeth Two; but he who understandeth himself understandeth One. He who conquereth others is strong; but he who conquereth himself is stronger yet. Contentment is riches; and continuous action is Will.
He that adapteth himself perfectly to his environment, continueth for long; he who dieth without dying, liveth for ever.
34 THE METHOD OF ATTAINMENT
The Tao is immanent; it extendeth to the right hand as to the left.
All things derive from it their being; it createth them, and all comply with it. Its work is done, and it proclaimeth it not. It is the ornament of all things, yet it claimeth not fief of them; there is nothing so small that it inhabiteth not, and informeth it. All things return without knowledge of the Cause thereof; there is nothing so great that it inhabiteth not, and informeth it.
In this manner also may the Sage perform his Works. It is by not thrusting himself forward that he winneth to his success.
35 THE GOOD WILL OF THE TEH
The whole world is drawn to him that hath the likeness of the Tao. Men flock unto him, and suffer no ill, but gain repose, find peace, enjoy all ease.
Sweet sounds and cates lure the traveler from his way. But the Word of the Tao; though it appear harsh and insipid, unworthy to hearken or to behold; hath his use all inexhaustible.
36 THE HIDING OF THE LIGHT
In order to draw breath, first empty the lungs; to weaken another, first strengthen him; to overthrow another, first exalt him; to despoil another, first load him with gifts; this is called the Occult Regimen.
The soft conquereth the hard; the weak pulleth down the strong.
The fish that leaveth ocean is lost; the method of government must be concealed from the people.
37 THE RIGHT USE OF GOVERNMENT
The Tao proceedeth by its own nature, doing nothing; therefore there is no doing which it comprehendeth not.
If kings and princes were to govern in this manner, all things would operate aright by their own motion.
If this transmutation were my object, I should call it Simplicity. Simplicity hath no name nor purpose; silently and at ease all things go well.
38 CONCERNING THE TEH
Those who possessed perfectly the powers did not manifest them, and so they preserved them. Those who possessed them imperfectly feared to lose them, and so lost them.
The former did nothing, nor had need to do. The latter did, and had need to do.
Those who possessed benevolence exercised it, and had need it; so also was it with them who possessed justice.
Those who possessed the conventions displayed them; and when men would not agree, they made ready to fight them.
Thus, when the Tao was lost, the Magick Powers appeared; then, by successive degradations, came Benevolence, Justice, Convention.
Now convention is the shadow of loyalty and good will, and so the herald of disorder. Yea, even Understanding is but a Blossom of the Tao, and foreshadoweth Stupidity.
So then the Tao-Man holdeth to Mass, and avoideth Motion; he is attached to the Root, not to the flower. He leaveth the one, and cleaveth to the other.
39 THE LAW OF THE BEGINNING
These things have possessed the Tao from the beginning: Heaven, clear and shining; Earth, steady and easy; Spirits, mighty in Magick; Vehicles, overflowing with Joy; all that hath life; and the rulers of men. All these derive their essence from the Tao.
Without the Tao, Heaven would dissolve Earth disrupt, Spirits become impotent; Vehicles empty; living things would perish and rulers lose their power.
The root of grandeur is humility, and the strength of exaltation in its base. Thus rulers speak of themselves as -Fatherless,- -Virtueless,- -Unworthy,- proclaiming by this that their Glory is in their shame. So also the virtue of a Chariot is not any of the parts of a Chariot, if they be numbered. They do not seek to appear fine like jade, but inconspicuous like common stone.
40 OMITTING UTILITY
The Tao proceeds by correlative curves, and its might is in weakness.
All things arose from the Teh, and the Teh budded from the Tao.
41 THE IDENTITY OF THE DIFFERENTIAL
The best students, learning of the Tao, set to work earnestly to practice the Way. Mediocre students now cherish it, now let it go. The worst students mock at it. Were it not thus mocked, it were unworthy to be Tao.
Thus spake the makers of Saws: the Tao at its brightest is obscure. Who advanceth in that Way, retireth. Its smooth Way is rough. Its summit is a valley. Its beauty is ugliness. Its wealth is poverty. Its virtue, vice. Its stability is change. Its form is without form. Its fullness is vacancy. Its utterance is silence. Its reality is illusion.
Nameless and imperceptible is the Tao; but it informeth and perfecteth all things.
42 THE VEILS OF THE TAO
The Tao formulated the One. The One exhaled the Two. The Two were parents of the Three. The Three were parents of all things. All things pass from Obscurity to Manifestation, inspired harmoniously by the Breath of the Void.
Men do not like to be fatherless, virtueless, unworthy: yet rulers describe themselves by these names. Thus increase bringeth decrease to some, and decrease bringeth increase to others.
Others have taught thus; I consent to it. Violent men and strong die not by natural death. This fact is the foundation of my law.
43 THE COSMIC METHOD
The softest substance hunteth down the hardest; the unsubstantial penetrateth where there is no opening. Here is the Virtue of Inertia.
Few are they who attain: whose speech is Silence, whose Work is Inertia.
What shall it profit a man if he gain fame or wealth, and lose his life?
If a man cling to fame or wealth, he risketh what is worth more.
Be content, not fearing disgrace. Act not, and risk not criticism. Thus live thou long, without alarm.
45 THE OVERFLOWING OF TEH
Despise thy masterpieces; thus renew the vigor of thy creation. Deem thy fullness emptiness; thus shall thy fullness never be empty. Let the straight appear crooked to thee, thy Craft clumsiness; thy Musick discord.
Exercise moderateth cold; stillness heat. To be pure and to keep silence, is the True Law of all that are beneath Heaven.
46 THE WITHDRAWAL FROM AMBITION
When the Tao beareth away on Earth, men put swift horses to night-carts. When it is neglected, they breed chargers in the border marches.
There is no evil worse than ambition; no misery worse than discontent; no crime greater than greed. Content of mind is peace and satisfaction eternal.
47 THE VISION OF THE DISTANT
One need not pass his threshold to comprehend all that is under Heaven, nor to look out from his lattice to behold the Tao Celestial. Nay! but the farther a man goeth, the less he knoweth.
The sages acquired their knowledge without travel; they named all things aright without beholding them; and, acting without aim, fulfilled their Wills.
48 OBLIVION OVERCOMING KNOWLEDGE
The scholar seeketh daily increase of knowing; the sage of Tao daily decrease of doing.
He decreaseth it, again and again, until he doth no act with the lust of result. Having attained this Inertia all accomplisheth itself.
He who attracteth to himself all that is under Heaven doth so without effort. He who maketh effort is not able to attract it.
49 THE ADAPTABILITY OF THE TEH
The wise man hath no fixed principle; he adapteth his mind to his environment.
To the good I am good, and to the evil I am good also; thus all become good. To the true I am true, and to the false I am true; thus all become true.
The sage appeareth hesitating to the world, because his mind is detached. Therefore the people look and listen to him, as his children; and thus doth he shepherd them.
50 THE ESTIMATION OF LIFE
Man cometh into life, and returneth again into death.
Three men in ten conserve life; three men in ten pursue death.
Three men also in ten desire to live, but their acts hasten their journey to the house of death. Why is this? Because of their efforts to preserve life.
But this I have heard. He that is wise in the economy of his life, whereof he is warden for a season, journeyeth with no need to avoid the tiger or the rhinoceros, and goeth uncorsleted among the warriors with no fear of sword or lance. The rhinoceros findeth in him no place vulnerable
to its horn, the tiger to its claws, the weapon to its point. Why is this? Because there is no house of death in his whole body.
51 THE TEH AS THE NURSE
All things proceed from the Tao, and are sustained by its forth-flowing virtue. Every one taketh form according to his nature, and is perfect, each in his particular Way. Therefore, each and every one of them glorify the Tao, and worship its forth-flowing Virtue.
This glorifying of the Tao, this worship of the Teh, is constantly spontaneous, and not by appointment of Law.
Thus the Tao buddeth them out, nurtureth them, developeth them, sustaineth them, perfecteth them, ripeneth them, upholdeth them, and reabsorbeth them.
It buddeth them forth, and claimeth not lordship over them; it is overseer of their changes, and boasteth not of his puissance; perfecteth them, and interfereth not with their Ways; this is called the Mystery of its Virtue.
52 THE WITHDRAWAL INTO THE SILENCE
The Tao buddeth forth all things under Heaven; it is the Mother of all.
Knowing the Mother, we may know her offspring. He that knoweth his Mother, and abideth in Her nature, remaineth in surety all his days.
With the mouth closed, and the Gates of Breath controlled, he remaineth at ease all his days. With the mouth open, and the Breath directed to outward affairs, he hath no surety all his days.
To perceive that Minute Point is True Vision; to maintain the Soft and Gentle is True Strength.
Employing harmoniously the Light Within so that it returneth to its Origin, one guardeth even one's body from evil, and keepeth Silence before all men.
53 THE WITNESS OF GREED
Were I discovered by men, and charged with government, my first would be lest I should become proud.
The true Path is level and smooth; but men love by-paths.
They adorn their courts, but they neglect their fields, and leave their storehouses empty. They wear elaborate and embroidered robes; they gird themselves with sharp swords; they eat and drink with luxury; they heap up goods; they are thievish and vainglorious. All this is opposite to the Way of Tao.
54 THE WITNESS OF WISDOM
If a man plant according to the Tao it will never be uprooted; if he thus gather, it will never be lost. His sons and his son's sons, one following another, shall honour the shrine of their ancestor.
The Tao, applied to oneself, strengtheneth the Body, to the family, bringeth wealth; to the district, prosperity; to the state, great fortune. Let it be the Law of the Kingdom, and all men will increase in virtue.
Thus we observe its effect in every case, as to the person, the family, the district, the state, and the kingdom.
How do I know that this is thus universal under Heaven?
55 THE SPELL OF THE MYSTERY
He that hath the Magick powers of the Tao is like a young child. Insects will not sting him or beasts or birds of prey attack him.
The young child's bones are tender and its sinews are elastic, but its grasp is firm. It knoweth nothing of the Union of Man and Woman, yet its Organ may be excited. This is because of its natural perfection. It will cry all day long without becoming hoarse, because of the harmony of its
He who understandeth this harmony knoweth the mystery of the Tao, and becometh a True Sage. All devices for inflaming life, and increasing the vital Breath, by mental effort are evil and factitious.
Things become strong, then age. This is in discord with the Tao, and what is not at one with the Tao soon cometh to an end.
56 THE EXCELLENCE OF THE MYSTERY
Who knoweth the Tao keepeth Silence; he who babbleth knoweth it not.
Who knoweth it closeth his mouth and controlleth the Gates of his Breath. He will make his sharpness blunt; he will loosen his complexes; he will tone down his brightness to the general obscurity. This is called the Secret of Harmony.
He cannot be insulted either by familiarity or aversion; he is immune to ideas of gain or loss, of honour or disgrace; he is the true man, unequalled under Heaven.
57 THE TRUE INFLUENCE
One may govern a state by restriction; weapons may be used with skill and cunning; but one acquireth true command only by freedom, given and taken.
How am I aware of this? By experience that to multiply restrictive laws in the kingdom impoverisheth the people; the use of machines causeth disorder in state and race alike. The more men use skill and cunning, the more machines there are; and the more laws there are, the more felons
A wise man has said this: I will refrain from doing, and the people will act rightly of their own accord; I will love Silence, and the people will instinctively turn to perfection; I will take no measures, and the people will enjoy true wealth; I will restrain ambition, and the people will attain simplicity.
58 ADAPTATION TO ENVIRONMENT
The government that exerciseth the least care serveth the people best; that which meddleth with everybody's business worketh all manner of harm. Sorrow and joy are bedfellows; who can divine the final result of either?
Shall we avoid restriction? Yea; restriction distorteth nature, so that even what seemeth good in it is evil. For how long have men suffered from misunderstanding of this.
The wise man is foursquare, and avoideth aggression; his corners do not injure others. He moveth in a straight line and turneth not aside therefrom; he is brilliant but doth not blind with his brightness.
59 WARDING THE TAO
To balance our earthly nature and cultivate our heavenly nature, tread the Middle Path.
This Middle Path alone leadeth to the Timely Return to the True Nature. This Timely Return resulteth from the constant gathering of Magick Powers. With that Gathering cometh Control. This Control we know to be without Limit and he who knoweth the Limitless may rule the state.
He who possesseth the Tao continueth long. He is like a plant with well-set roots and strong stems. Thus it secureth long continuance of its life.
60 THE DUTY OF GOVERNMENT
The government of a kingdom is like the cooking of fish.
If the kingdom be ruled according to the Tao, the spirits of our ancestors will not manifest their Teh. These spirits have this Teh, but will not turn it against men. It is able to hurt men; so also is the Wise King; but he doth not.
When these powers are in accord, their Good Will produceth the Teh, endowing the people therewith.
61 THE MODESTY OF THE TEH
A state becometh powerful when it resembleth a great river, deep-seated; to it tend all the small streams under Heaven.
It is as with the female, that conquereth the male by her Silence. Silence is a form of Gravity.
Thus a great state attracteth small states by meeting their views, and small states attract the great state by revering its eminence. In the first case this Silence gaineth supporters; in the second, favour.
The great state uniteth men and nurtureth them; the small state wisheth the good will of the great, and offereth service; thus each gaineth its advantage. But the great state must keep Silence.
62 THE WORKINGS OF THE TAO
The Tao is the most exalted of all things. It is the ornament of the good, and the protection and purification of the evil.
Its words are the fountain of honour, and its deeds the engine of achievement. It is present even in evil.
Though the Son of Heaven were enthroned with his three Dukes appointed to serve him, and he were offered a round symbol- of-rank as great as might fill the hands, with a team of horses to follow, this gift were not to be matched against the Tao, which might be offered by the humblest of men.
Why did they of old time set such store by the Tao? Because he that sought it might find it, and because it was the Purification from all evil. Therefore did all men under Heaven esteem it the most exalted of all things.
63 FORETHOUGHT AT THE OUTSET
Act without lust of result; work without anxiety; taste without attachment to flavour; esteem small things great and few things many; repel violence with gentleness.
Do great things while they are yet small, hard things while they are yet easy; for all things, how great or hard soever, have a beginning when they are little and easy. So thus the wise man accomplisheth the greatest tasks without undertaking anything important.
Who undertaketh thoughtlessly is certain to fail in attainment; who estimateth things easy findeth them hard. The wise man considereth even easy things hard, so that even hard things are easy to him.
64 ATTENDING TO DETAILS
It is easy to grasp what is not yet in motion, to withstand what is not yet manifest, to break what is not yet compact, to disperse what is not yet coherent. Act against things before they become visible; attend to order before disorder ariseth.
The tree which filleth the embrace grew from a small shoot; the tower nine-storied rose from a low foundation; the ten-day journey began with a single step.
He who acteth worketh harm; he who graspeth findeth it a slip. The wise man acteth not, so worketh no harm; he doth not grasp, and so doth not let go. Men often ruin their affairs on the eve of success, because they are not as prudent at the end as in the beginning.
The wise man willeth what others do not will, and valueth not things rare. He learneth what others learn not, and gathered up what they despise. Thus he is in accord with the natural course of events, and is not overbold in action.
65 THE PURITY OF THE TEH
They of old time that were skilled in the Tao sought not to enlighten the people, but to keep them simple.
The difficulty of government is the vain knowledge of the people. To use cleverness in government is to scourge the kingdom; to use simplicity is to anoint it.
Know these things, and make them thy law and thine example. To possess this Law is the Secret Perfection of rule. Profound and Extended is this Perfection; he that possesseth it is indeed contrary to the rest, but he attracteth them to full accordance.
66 PUTTING ONE'S SELF LAST
The oceans and the rivers attract the streams by their skill in being lower than they; thus are they masters thereof. So the Wise Man, to be above men, speaketh lowly; and to precede them acteth with humility.
Thus, though he be above them, they feel no burden; nor, though he precede them, do they feel insulted.
So then do all men delight to honour him, and grow not weary of him. He contendeth not against any man; therefore no man is able to contend against him.
67 THE THREE JEWELS
They say that while this Tao of mine is great, yet it is inferior. This is the proof of its greatness. If it were like anything else, its smallness would have long been known.
I have three jewels of price whereto I cleave; gentleness, economy, and humility.
That gentleness maketh me courageous, that economy generous, that humility honoured. Men of today abandon gentleness for violence, economy for extravagance, humility for pride: this is death.
Gentleness bringeth victory in fight; and holdeth its ground with assurance. Heaven wardeth the gentle man by that same virtue.
68 ASSIMILATING ONE'S SELF TO HEAVEN
He that is skilled in war maketh no fierce gestures; the most efficient fighter bewareth of anger. He who conquereth refraineth from engaging in battle; he whom men most willingly obey continueth silently with his Work. So it is said: -He is mighty who fighteth not; he ruleth who uniteth with his subjects; he shineth whose will is that of Heaven.-
69 THE USE OF THE MYSTERIOUS WAY
A great strategist saith: -I dare not take the offensive. I prefer the defensive. I dare not advance an inch; I prefer to retreat a foot.- Place therefore the army where there is no army; prepare for action where there is no engagement; strike where there is no conflict; advance against the enemy where the enemy is not.
There is no error so great as to engage in battle without sufficient force. To do so is to risk losing the gentleness which is beyond price. Thus when the lines actually engage, he who regretteth the necessity is the victor.
70 THE DIFFICULTY OF RIGHT APPREHENSION
My words are easy to understand and to perform; but is there anyone in the world who can understand them and perform them?
My words derive from a creative and universal Principle, in accord with the One Law. Men, not knowing these, understand me not.
Few are they that understand me; therefore am I the more to be valued. The Wise Man weareth sack-cloth, but guardeth his jewel in his bosom.
71 THE DISTEMPER OF KNOWLEDGE
To know, yet to know nothing, is the highest; not to know, yet to pretend to knowledge, is a distemper.
Painful is this distemper; therefore we shun it. The wise man hath it not. Knowing it to be bound up with Sorrow, he putteth it away from him.
72 CONCERNING LOVE OF SELF
When men fear not that which is to be feared, that which they fear cometh upon them.
Let them not live, without thought, the superficial life. Let them not weary of the Spring of Life!
By avoiding the superficial life, this weariness cometh not upon them.
These things the wise man knoweth, not showeth: he loveth himself, without isolating his value. He accepteth the former and rejecteth the latter.
73 ESTABLISHING THE LAW OF FREEDOM
One man, daring, is executed; another, not daring, liveth. It would seem as if the one course were profitable and the other detrimental. Yet when Heaven smiteth a man, who shall assign the cause thereof? Therefore the sage is diffident.
The Tao of Heaven contendeth not, yet it overcometh; it is silent, yet its need is answered; it summoneth none, but all men come to it of their free will. Its method is quietness, yet its will is efficient. Large are the meshes of Heaven's Net; wide open, yet letting none escape.
74 A RESTRAINT OF MISUNDERSTANDING
The people have no fear of death; why then seek to awe them by the threat of death? If the people feared death and I could put to death evil-doers, who would dare to offend?
There is one appointed to inflict death. He who would usurp that position resembleth a hewer of wood doing the work of a carpenter. Such an one, presumptuous, will be sure to cut his own hands.
75 THE INJURY OF GREED
In such a state of insecurity it is better to ignore the question of living than to set store by it.
76 A WARNING AGAINST RIGIDITY
At the birth of man, he is elastic and weak; at his death, rigid and unyielding. This is the common law; trees also, in their youth, are tender and supple; in their decay, hard and dry.
So then rigidity and hardness are the stigmata of death; elasticity and adaptability, of life.
He then who putteth forth strength is not victorious; even as a strong tree filleth the embrace.
Thus the hard and rigid have the inferior place, the soft and elastic the superior.
77 THE WAY OF HEAVEN
The Tao of Heaven is likened to the bending of a bow, whereby the high part is brought down, and the low part raised up. The extreme is diminished, and the middle increased.
This is the Way of Heaven, to remove excess, and to supplement insufficiency. Not so is the way of man, who taketh away from him that hath not to give to him that hath already excess.
Who can employ his own excess to the weal of all under Heaven? Only he that possesseth the Tao.
So the Wise Man acteth without lust of result; achieveth and boasteth not; he willeth not to proclaim his greatness.
78 A CREED
Nothing in the world is more elastic and yielding than water; yet it is preeminent to dissolve things rigid and resistant; there is nothing which can match it.
All men know that the soft overcometh the hard, and the weak conquereth the strong; but none are able to use this law in action.
A Wise Man hath said: -He that taketh on the burden of the state is a demigod worthy of sacrificial worship; and the true King of a people is he that undertaketh the weight of their sorrows.-
Truth appeareth paradox.
79 TRUTH IN COVENANT
When enemies are reconciled, there is always an aftermath of ill will. How can this be useful?
Therefore, the Wise Man, while he keepeth his part of the record of a transaction, doth not insist on its prompt execution. He who hath the Teh considereth the situation from all sides, while he who hath it not seeketh only to benefit himself.
In the Tao of Heaven, there is no distinction of persons in its love; but it is for the True Man to claim it.
In a little kingdom of few people it should be the order that though there were men able to do the work of ten men or five score, they should not be employed. Though the people regarded death as sorrowful, yet they should not wish to go elsewhere.
They should have boats and wagons, yet no necessity to travel; corslets and weapons, yet no occasion to fight.
For communication they should use knotted cords.
They should deem their food sweet, their clothes beautiful, their houses homes, their customs delightful.
There should be another state within view, so that its fowls and dogs should be heard; yet to old age, even to death, the people should hold no traffic with it.
81 THE SHEWING-FORTH OF SIMPLICITY
True speech is not elegant; elaborate speech is not truth. Those who know do not argue; the argumentative are without knowledge. Those who have assimilated are not learned; those who are gross with learning have not assimilated.
The Wise Man doth not hoard. The more he giveth, the more he hath; the more he watereth, the more is he watered himself.
The Tao of Heaven is like an Arrow, yet it woundeth not; and the Wise Man, in all his Works, maketh no contention.
Tao Te Ching
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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.