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The Tao Teh King: A Short Study in Comparative Religion, by C. Spurgeon Medhurst, [1905], at

p. 44


There was a completed, amorphous something before the Heaven-Earth was born. 1 Tranquil! Boundless! Abiding alone and changing not! Extending everywhere without risk. It may be styled 'the world-mother.' 2

I do not know its name, but characterize it—the Tao. Arbitrarily forcing a name upon it I call it the Great. Great, it may be said to be transitory. Transitory, it becomes remote. Remote, it returns. 3

The Tao, then, is great; Heaven is great; Earth is great; a king is also great. 4 In space there are four that are great, and the king dwells there as one of them.

Man's standard is the earth. Earth's standard is the Heaven. Heaven's standard is the Tao. The Tao's standard is spontaneity. 5

SPONTANEITY, or action which is natural, and effortless,

p. 45

[paragraph continues] Lao-tzu's symbol for perfection, has a modern apostle in that master of art critics, John Ruskin. This is what he writes in "Sesame and Lilies":

"All good work is essentially done that way—without hesitation, without difficulty, without boasting; and in the doers of the best there is an inner and involuntary power which approximates literally to the instinct of an animal. Nay, I am certain that in the most perfect human artists reason does not supersede instinct, but is added to an instinct as much more divine than that of the lower animals as the human body is more beautiful than theirs." (III ed. p. 149.)


44:1 The Tao is neither clear nor misty, high nor low; neither here nor there, good nor evil; as without shape, yet as having shape, and none know whence It came. Yet It has always existed, and the Heaven-Earth sprang from it.—Su-cheh.

44:2 Lit. "The Mother-of-all-under-heaven."—Kundalini.

44:3 From Non-existence the Tao comes into Existence, and returns whence It appeared. In other words Manvantara succeeds Pralaya, and Pralaya follows Manvantara throughout Eternity.

44:4 I. Esdras iv, 1-12.

44:5 The monarch is only great as he is worthy of being the visible representative of the Invisible Powers, The Four Great Ones (the Lords of Karma). This courtly phraseology conveys a veiled warning to the reigning sovereign that there were Those higher than he. The warning is repeated and emphasized in less disguised language in the succeeding chapter.

"If man conform to the (requirements of) the earth he obtains all that he needs; if the earth conform to (the laws of) heaven it becomes fertile; if heaven conform to the Tao it becomes able to fulfill Its functions; if the Tao conform to Spontaneity It realizes Itself. Then that which should be square becomes square, and that which should be round becomes round."—Wang-pi.

Next: Chapter XXVI