Mr. Balfour has translated this title by 'Essay on the Uniformity of All Things;' and, the subject of the Book being thus misconceived, his translation of it could not fail to be very incorrect. The Chinese critics, I may say without exception, construe the title as I have done. The second and third characters, Wû Lun, are taken together, and mean 'Discussions about Things,' equivalent to our 'Controversies.' They are under the government of the first character Khî, used as a verb, with the signification of 'Harmonising,' or 'Adjusting.' Let me illustrate this by condensing a passage from the 'Supplementary Commentary of a Mr. Kang, a sub-secretary of the Imperial Chancery,' of the Ming dynasty ( ). He says, 'What Kwang-dze calls "Discussions about Things" has reference to the various branches of the numerous schools, each of which has its own views, conflicting with
the views of the others.' He goes on to show that if they would only adopt the method pointed out by Kwang-dze, 'their controversies would be adjusted ( ) using the first Khî in the passive voice.
This then was the theme of our author in this Book. It must be left for the reader to discover from the translation how he pursues it. I pointed out a peculiarity in the former Book, that though the idea of the Tâo underlies it all, the term itself is never allowed to appear. Not only does the same idea underlie this Book, but the name is frequently employed. The Tâo is the panacea for the evils of controversy, the solvent through the use of which the different views of men may be made to disappear.
That the Tâo is not a Personal name in the conception of Kwang-dze is seen in several passages. We have not to go beyond the phenomena of nature to discover the reason of their being what they are; nor have we to go beyond the bigoted egoism and vaingloriousness of controversialists to find the explanation of their discussions, various as these are, and confounding like the sounds of the wind among the trees of a forest. To man, neither in nature nor in the sphere of knowledge, is there any other 'Heaven' but what belongs to his own mind. That is his only 'True Ruler.' If there be any other, we do not see His form, nor any traces of His acting. Things come about in their proper course. We cannot advance any proof of Creation. Whether we assume that there was something 'in the beginning' or nothing, we are equally landed in contradiction and absurdity. Let us stop at the limit of what we know, and not try to advance a step beyond it.
Towards the end of the Book our author's agnosticism seems to reach its farthest point. All human experience is spoken of as a dream or as 'illusion.' He who calls another a dreamer does not know that he is not dreaming himself. One and another commentator discover in such utterances something very like the Buddhist doctrine that all life is but so much illusion ( ). This notion has its consummation in the story with which the Book concludes.
[paragraph continues] Kwang-dze had dreamt that he was a butterfly. When he awoke, and was himself again, he did not know whether he, Kwang Kâu, had been dreaming that he was a butterfly, or was now a butterfly dreaming that it was Kwang Kâu. And yet he adds that there must be a difference between Kâu and a butterfly, but he does not say what that difference is. But had he ever dreamt that he was a butterfly, so as to lose the consciousness of his personal identity as Kwang Kâu? I do not think so. One may, perhaps, lose that consciousness in the state of insanity; but the language of Young is not sufficiently guarded when he writes of
'Dreams, where thought, in fancy's maze, runs mad.'
When dreaming, our thoughts are not conditioned by the categories of time and space; but the conviction of our identity is never lost.