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Musings of a Chinese Mystic, by Lionel Giles, [1906], at

p. 60


Tao has its laws and its evidences. It is devoid both of action and of form. It may be transmitted, but cannot be received. It may be obtained, but cannot be seen. Before heaven and earth were, Tao was. It has existed without change from all time. Spiritual beings drew their spirituality therefrom, while the universe became what we can see it now. To Tao, the zenith is not high, nor the nadir low; no point in time is long ago, nor by lapse of ages has it grown old.

Hsi Wei 1 obtained Tao, and so set the universe in order. Fu Hsi 2 obtained it, and was able to establish eternal principles. The Great Bear obtained it, and has never erred from its course. The sun and moon obtained it, and have never ceased to revolve.

.        .        .        .        .

Chuang Tzŭ said: "O my exemplar! Thou who destroyest all things, and dost not account

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it cruelty; thou who benefitest all time, and dost not account it charity; thou who art older than antiquity and dost not account it age; thou who supportest the universe, shaping the many forms therein, and dost not account it skill; this is the happiness of God!"

.        .        .        .        .

Life follows upon death. Death is the beginning of life. Who knows when the end is reached? The life of man results from convergence of the vital fluid. Its convergence is life; its dispersion, death. If, then, life and death are but consecutive states, what need have I to complain?

Therefore all things are One. What we love is animation. What we hate is corruption. But corruption in its turn becomes animation, and animation once more becomes corruption.

.        .        .        .        .

The universe is very beautiful, yet it says nothing. The four seasons abide by a fixed law, yet they are not heard. All creation is based upon absolute principles, yet nothing speaks.

And the true Sage, taking his stand upon the beauty of the universe, pierces the principles of created things. Hence the saying that the perfect man does nothing, the true Sage performs nothing, beyond gazing at the universe.

For man's intellect, however keen, face to face

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with the countless evolutions of things, their death and birth, their squareness and roundness,—can never reach the root. There creation is, and there it has ever been.

The six cardinal points, reaching into infinity, are ever included in Tao. An autumn spikelet, in all its minuteness, must carry Tao within itself. There is nothing on earth which does not rise and fall, but it never perishes altogether. The Yin and the Yang1 and the four seasons, keep to their proper order. Apparently destroyed, yet really existing; the material gone, the immaterial left,—such is the law of creation, which passeth all understanding. This is called the root, whence a glimpse may be obtained of God.

.        .        .        .        .

A man's knowledge is limited; but it is upon what he does not know that he depends to extend his knowledge to the apprehension of God.

Knowledge of the great One, of the great Negative, of the great Nomenclature, of the great Uniformity, of the great Space, of the great Truth, of the great Law,—this is perfection. The great One is omnipresent. The great Negative is omnipotent. The great Nomenclature is all-inclusive. The great Uniformity is all-assimilative.

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[paragraph continues] The great Space is all-receptive. The great Truth is all-exacting. The great Law is all-binding.

The ultimate end is God. He is manifested in the laws of nature. He is the hidden spring. At the beginning, he was. This, however, is inexplicable. It is unknowable. But from the unknowable we reach the known.

Investigation must not be limited, nor must it be unlimited. In this undefinedness there is an actuality. Time does not change it. It cannot suffer diminution. May we not, then, call it our great Guide?

Why not bring our doubting hearts to investigation thereof? And then, using certainty to dispel doubt, revert to a state without doubt, in which doubt is doubly dead?

.        .        .        .        .

"Chi Chên," said Shao Chih, "taught Chance; Chieh Tzŭ taught Predestination. In the speculations of these two schools, on which side did right lie?"

"The cock crows," replied T‘ai Kung Tiao, "and the dog barks. So much we know. But the wisest of us could not say why one crows and the other barks, nor guess why they crow or bark at all.

"Let me explain. The infinitely small is inappreciable; the infinitely great is immeasurable. Chance and Predestination must refer to

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the conditioned. Consequently, both are wrong.

"Predestination involves a real existence. Chance implies an absolute absence of any principle. To have a name and the embodiment thereof,—this is to have a material existence. To have no name and no embodiment,—of this one can speak and think; but the more one speaks the farther off one gets.

"The unborn creature cannot be kept from life. The dead cannot be tracked. From birth to death is but a span; yet the secret cannot be known. Chance and Predestination are but à priori solutions.

"When I seek for a beginning, I find only time infinite. When I look forward to an end, I see only time infinite. Infinity of time past and to come implies no beginning and is in accordance with the laws of material existences. Predestination and Chance give us a beginning, but one which is compatible only with the existence of matter.

"Tao cannot be existent. If it were existent, it could not be non-existent. The very name of Tao is only adopted for convenience' sake. Predestination and Chance are limited to material existences. How can they bear upon the infinite?

"Were language adequate, it would take but a day fully to set forth Tao. Not being adequate, it takes that time to explain material existences.

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[paragraph continues] Tao is something beyond material existences. It cannot be conveyed either by words or by silence. In that state which is neither speech nor silence, its transcendental nature may be apprehended."

.        .        .        .        .

All things spring from germs. Under many diverse forms these things are ever being reproduced. Round and round, like a wheel, no part of which is more the starting-point than any other. This is called heavenly equilibrium. And he who holds the scales is God.

.        .        .        .        .

Life has its distinctions; but in death we are all made equal. That death should have an origin, but that life should have no origin,—can this be so? What determines its presence in one place, its absence in another? Heaven has its fixed order. Earth has yielded up its secrets to man. But where to seek whence am I?

Not knowing the hereafter, how can we deny the operation of Destiny? Not knowing what preceded birth, how can we assert the operation of Destiny? When things turn out as they ought, who shall say that the agency is not supernatural? When things turn out otherwise, who shall say that it is?


60:1 A mythical personage.

60:2 The first in the received list of Chinese monarchs.

62:1 The positive and negative principles of Chinese cosmogony.

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