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

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By steadily disciplining the animal nature, until it becomes one pointed. It is possible to establish the Indivisible. 1

By undivided attention to the soul, rendering it passive, 2 it is possible to become as an infant child. 3

By purifying the mind of phantasms, 4 it is possible to become without fault. 5

By perfecting the people, and pacifying the empire, it is possible to prove non-attachment. 6

By functioning on the supra-physical planes, 7 it is possible to be independent of the lower mind. 8

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By making intuition omniscient, 8a it is impossible to discard knowledge. 9

Producing! Nourishing! Developing, without self-consciousness! Acting, without seeking the fruit! Progressing, without thinking of growth! This is the abyss of energy. 10

Long and steep the road man has to travel; infinite the distance between the animalness of the savage, knowing no motive but the gratification of desire, and the purity of the Saint, whose senses center in the One. Well might Chuang Tzu say, "The whole of life is a round of incessant solicitude, its duties are never finished." Moreover, the arena where effort will be most successful lies in those dim and formless regions of our wondrous selves, where a formative process is ever going on controlling the character of the thoughts we put into words. No language can express it. Lao-tzu has stated the problem as clearly as it can be framed in speech.

If, however, the ascent be difficult, the summit is glorious. In the beginning, a discontented, wayward, wilful child; in the end, a God, performing all duties, yet never leaving the eternal home, where calm peace and joy unspeakable reign evermore. Such the destiny, such the reward of him who fathoms perfection's abyss. "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne." (Rev. iii, 21.)


17:1 i.e.: The Ego, becoming permanently self-conscious on its own plane. Very little is said in the Confucian classics on this line. The Confucian is scarcely conscious of the distinction between soul and body.

17:2 The danger is that the separated essence will set up a separated will. Conversely the way to perfection is submission to the simplicity of the eternal purity.

17:3 An infant has always been the symbol of the Initiate, or one who has been re-born. Comp. the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus. (John iii, 1-5.)

17:4 Viz.: Living a life of abstract thought; ever regarding the thought as more important than the act, or, as Jacob Böhme would say, "forsaking all to become like All."

17:5 "It is necessary in attending to the affairs of life to be very careful of those thoughts which appear insignificant and trifling, lest they find a permanent lodging in the mind. If they are retained in the heart there is a disease in the vitals, which no medicine can cure."—Kuan Yin Tzu.

17:6 Anyone practicing the Yoga of the three first sentences could only accept the office of Ruler as a sacrifice to duty, and the acceptance would prove the reality of his non-attachment.

17:7 Literally—"opening and shutting heaven's gates."

"There not infrequently occur individuals so constituted that the spirit can perceive independently of the corporal organs, or can, perhaps, wholly or partially quit the body for a time and return to it again."—Alfred Wallace, F.R.S.

17:8 Literally—"The Female Bird." The bird Karshipta, in Hindoo mythology, represents the human Mind-Soul.

18:8a Possible only by steady and prolonged concentration on the inner world.

18:9 i.e.: Information acquired by the ordinary processes of study and research. The individual being separated from the universal only by differentiation, his limitations grow less in proportion to his approximation to and union with the divine. The idea is again and again expressed by the old Greek philosophers, the Indian Yogins, Neo-Platonists, as well as by Jacob Böhme and Swedenborg. Su Cheh gives the following illustration: "A mirror reflects whatever fronts it, and does so unconsciously; the beginning of error is the putting of self to the fore."

18:10 The three first sentences deal with the purity of the inner; the three next with the purity of the outer, while the seventh describes the purity of the whole—the invisibility or interiorness of godliness.

"If, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt. vi, 22.)

Next: Chapter XI