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

p. 36


Scholarship abandoned, sorrow vanishes. 1

Yes and yea,—are they not almost alike? Goodness and evil,—are they not akin? 2

Untrammeled and without limits—yet that may not be lightly esteemed which all men reverence. 3

The multitude are joyful and merry—as though feasting on a day of sacrifice, or ascending a high tower in spring. 4 I alone am anchored without giving any sign 5—like an infant, undeveloped.

My homeless heart wanders among the things of sense, as if it had nowhere to stay.

The multitude have enough and to spare 6—I alone am as one who has lost something.

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Have I then the mind of a fool? Am I so very confused?

Ordinary men are bright enough. I alone am dull.

Ordinary men are full of excitement. I alone am heavy-hearted.

Boundless as the sea, drifting to and fro, as if without a place to rest. 7

All men have some purpose. I alone am thickheaded as a boor. 8

I am alone—differing from others, in that I reverence and seek the Nursing Mother. 9

Says the Theologia Germanica: "He who is without the sense of sin must be either Christ or the evil spirit." It is questionable, perhaps, if such an affirmation would bear a. thorough philosophical sifting, but it is certain that the consciousness of insufficiency and failure is the first step towards the noble and worthy, as distinct from what is simply innocent and pure, and that life is a failure which, drifting with the crowd, knows nothing of aloneness, because it lacks stamina to resist absorption.

Though, therefore, we find Lao-tzu in advance of his fellows, bewailing that he is alone among men, we may be sure that he was not always so, and that if he at the last stood

p. 38

apart from his fellows, it was because he had exhausted the pleasures the world was able to afford. Experience had made him wise, but how had he attained this wisdom? By contemplation of the Tao, which for him took the place of the Christ, who had not then come. He saw the promise, greeted it from afar, and confessed himself a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. (See Heb. xi, 13.)

Is not the Christ "that side of the nature of God which has expressed itself in creation?" (See Col. i, 16-17.) Even so for Lao-tzu the "Nursing Mother," whom he reverenced, was the Tao manifested, the Eternal revealed in his works. It is the contemplation of this sacred mystery, the cross in the heart of God, that leads penitents to the Father's feet. It was the contemplation of this same mystery, the oneness of the divine with all human joys and sorrows, that condemned Lao-tzu to the noble loneliness of which the present chapter is an echo.

If our reasoning be sound we see how the atonement occupies a natural place in the scheme of things; and that all great souls, of all faiths, have come to God by one road, viz., by perceiving the oneness of God with men in their triumphs and failures. It was this insight into the union of the finite with the infinite that made Lao Tzu alone in his generation—"I am alone, differing from others, in that I reverence and seek the Nursing Mother." It was this which enabled him to see below the surface, to discover that in time, in earth, and in self there is neither satisfaction, joy nor peace. And like all who have traveled this road he paid the penalty of aloneness, lived on high planes of thought, unexplored by his less advanced contemporaries. Such loneliness is, however, its own reward. The electric wire derives its usefulness from its insulation. An adulterated message would result from too close a fellowship with men.


36:1 Was not "the desire to know" the very beginning of tears?

"A humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning."—Imitation of Christ, bk. i. ch. 3.

36:2 What use is there in further talk of my way and your way, of this view and that? The right and the wrong way are things which concern the minds only of those who are groping in the dark. To the Sage sitting in the full light of heaven, the difference between No and Yes is not much after all. These are distinctions and things of prejudice, and he is not concerned with them."—W. R. Old in The Theosophic Review, vol. xxxi., p. 68.

"Demon est Deus inversus." See Secret Doctrine, vol. i. section xi.

36:3 Su Chêh explains this passage to mean that though the Sage (Holy Man) has escaped from Maya, or the illusion of Egoism, he does not on that account overlook the distinctions of society, but gives honor to whom honor is due, acknowledges authority, yet comes under the power of none. (Comp. John viii, 37.)

36:4 "Spring is the time of the union of the male and female principles; all things are thus moved. He who ascends a tower to gaze has his will as it were depraved."—P. J. Macglagan.

36:5 Literally—"without omens"—i.e., without indications from the sensuous world.

36:6 "Superabundance, i.e., as if they had ability and wisdom more than enough for themselves, on the strength of which they there rush out in various lines of activity."—P. J. Macglagan.

37:7 Contrasting himself with the recluses of his day Confucius said: "I am different from these. I have no course for which I am predetermined and no course against which I am predetermined." (Conf. Ana. xviii. ch. 8:5)

37:8 See I. Cor. iv, 9-13.


"I have not so far left the coasts of life
 To travel inland, that I cannot hear
 That murmur of the outer Infinite
 Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep
 When wondered at for smiling."
                     E. B. Browning in Aurora Leigh.

The saddened tone of this chapter, so different from the general character of the work, recalls one of the Logia discovered in Egypt by Grenfell and Hunt in 1896—"Jesus saith, I stood in the midst of the world, and in the flesh was I seen of them, and I found all men drunken and none found I athirst among them, and my soul grieveth over the sons of men, because they are blind in their heart." … Sayings of our Lord.

Next: Chapter XXI