Sacred Texts  Taoism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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

"Let not him that seeketh cease from his search until he find, and when he finds he shall wonder; wondering he shall reach the kingdom, and when he reaches the kingdom he shall have rest."—A logion of Jesus, recently discovered.

"Read not to contradict and refute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider."—Lord Bacon.

p. 1


The Tao which can be expressed is not the unchanging Tao 1; the name which can be named is not the unchanging name.

The nameless is the beginning of the Heaven Earth; 2 the mother of all things 3 is the nameable.

Thus, while the eternal not-being 4 leads towards the fathomless, the eternal being conducts to the boundary. Although these two 5 have been differently named they come from the same. 6

As the same they may be described as the abysmal. The abyss of the abysmal 7 is the gate of all mystery.

That aspect of God which is hidden in eternity, without bounds, without limits, without beginning, must be distinguished from that side of God which is expressed in nature and in man. The one, apparently subjective, certainly unknowable; the other, a self-manifestation, or a going forth, the commencement of our knowledge, as of our being. "No

p. 2

man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." Whether "the only begotten Son" be identified with an historical person or not, the conception is necessary to any thought of God. Without a self-revelation, the Eternal Presence remains unknown. Hence the Indian has his avatars, the Christian his incarnation.

Lao Tzu is strictly logical when he ascribes the origin of all phenomena to the manifesting Deity, rather than to the Undifferentiated One, which being changeless could not create.

Says Herbert Spencer: "The antithesis of subject and object, never to be transcended while consciousness lasts, renders impossible all knowledge of the Ultimate Reality in which subject and object are united." (Principles of Psychology, i., 272.)


1:1 Hsü-hui-hi sagely observes that as names always leave the essence unnamed it is certain that no name can express the TAO.

1:2 The noumenal or arûpa world—the world of causes.

1:3 The phenomenal or rûpa world—the world of effects.

1:4 Yet, as Hsü-hui-hi says, the very term "Not-Being" is misleading, for the Tao is absolutely inexpressible.

1:5 The Tao in its two-fold aspect.

1:6 i.e. "That which is above Being and Not-Being."—Native Commentator.

1:7 Whence both Being and Not-Being emerge.

N. B. Seek not for a name for God; for you will not find any: For everything that is named is named by its letter so that the latter gives the name and the former gives ear. Who then is he who hath given God a name, "God" is not a "name," but an "opinion about God."—Sextus.

"There was when naught was; nay even that 'naught' was not aught of things that are For that 'naught' is not simply the so-called ineffable; it is beyond that, For that which is really ineffable is not named ineffable, but is superior to every name that is used."—Basilides. (vid. "Fragments of a Faith Forgotten" by G. R. S. Mead, p. 256.)

Next: Chapter II