Chapters 14, 39

Part 5: The Supreme Tao or the One

September 24, 2021

Chapter 14: The Supreme Tao or the One has Physical and Metaphysical Dimensions

1 We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it ’the Uniformity.'

We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it ’the Inaudible.'

We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it ’the Subtle.'

With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain ‘The One’.

2 Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure.

It is ceaseless in its action.

It cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing.

This is called:

  • the Form of the Formless,
  • the Semblance of the Invisible,
  • the Fleeting and Indeterminable.

3 We meet it yet do not see its Front.

We follow it yet we do not see its Back.

‘The unwinding the clue of the Tao’ is when we can grasp the past tao in order to direct the present, knowing that the Tao of that tao is the same then and now.

Chapter 39: The Creations from the One

1 The things which have the One from the begnning of time are:

  • Heaven [metaphysics] which by it is bright and pure
  • Earth [physics] rendered thereby firm and sure
  • Spirits [forces] with powers by it supplied
  • Valleys [spacetime] kept full throughout their void
  • All creatures [life] which through it do live
  • Princes and kings [destiny] who from it get the model which they give to all.

All these are the results of the One.

2 Without purity, heaven would soon be torn apart. Without firmness, the earth would break. Without these powers, the spirits soon would fail. Without fullness, the valley would be parched by drought. Without life, creatures would die. Without that moral sway, princes and kings would fall, however grand or high.

3 Thus:

  • dignity finds its origin in its previous meanness
  • the lofty finds its stability in the lowness from which it rises.

Hence, princes and kings call themselves:

  • ‘Orphans’
  • ‘Men of small virtue’
  • ‘Wheels without a hub’

By acknowledging their meanness, they see the foundation of their dignity.

Likewise, we see the purpose of a wheel when we list its different parts.

The kings wish to show themselves as elegant-looking as jade. But prefer to be coarse-looking as an ordinary stone.