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

p. 64


Superior energy is non-action, hence it is energy. 1

Inferior energy will not resign action; hence, it is not energy. 2

Superior energy is actionless because motiveless. 3

Inferior energy acts from motive.

Superior magnanimity is active but motiveless.

Superior equity is active from motive.

Superior propriety 4 is active; 5 it bares its arm and asserts itself when it meets with no response. 6

Thus as the Tao recedes there are energies; as the energies recede there is magnanimity; as magnanimity recedes there is equity; as equity recedes there is propriety. 7

p. 65

Inasmuch as propriety is the attenuation of conscientiousness it is the origin of disorder.

The beginnings of consciousness are flowers of the Tao, but the commencement of delusion.

Therefore the men who are great 8 live with that which is substantial, they do not stay with that which is superficial; they abide with realities, they do not remain with what is showy. The one they discard, the other they hold.

The highest energy appears as inaction. To pray the Father in secret is more effective than shouting to the unresponsive crowd. A realization of the "mystery" of the Kingdom, and an understanding of the "riches of the glory" of Christ in the heart is a higher experience than conscious effort to "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," or even than earnest strife to produce "the fruit of the Spirit." These are excellencies which are indispensable, but they arc lights which cast shadows; that which is highest—superior energy—is shadowless. The higher will always result in the lower, but all attempts to build up the lower without the spiritual backing of the higher works as much evil as good. Rudyard Kipling somewhere says, "Good work has nothing to do with, doesn't belong to, the person who does it. It is put into him or her from the outside." Jesus said the same when He declared the kingdom of God to be composed of those who are unconscious of self—"Suffer the little children …

p. 66

such is the kingdom of heaven." "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity."


64:1 In this chapter, as elsewhere, though Lao-tzu employs conventional terms, he suggests rather than expresses. "Unto them that are without all things are done in parables." (Mark iv. 11.)

64:2 It is the shadow of the infinite in the finite. Superior energy is a ray from the Name which cannot be named; inferior energy a ray from the Tao which can be expressed. (Cp. ch. 1.) vid. Chinese Buddhism, by Joseph Edkins, D.D., pp. 371-379.

64:3 The old Roman ideal—"honestas."

64:4 Magnanimity represents Energy in manifestation. Elsewhere the character here translated "magnanimity" has been rendered "benevolence."

"Equity" stands for the first differentiation of manifested Energy.

"Propriety" represents a still further differentiation, e. g., when the processes of evolution have separated the bird from the fish.

64:5 Nothing is said about the inferior qualities because the magnanimity, equity and propriety mentioned in the text, being themselves but reflections, anything inferior would be shadows of shadows.

64:6 Facilis descensus Avernus.

64:7 Observe the difference between Lao-tzu the Mystic, and Confucius the Moralist. Confucius taught that Magnanimity and Equity were the essentials. Confucius made much of Propriety. p. 65 Men, he said, would attain perfection by pursuing these. Lao-tzu taught that these are but subtle forms of selfishness, and therefore productive of evil, useless shells when the life which they preserved has departed.

The whole chapter, says Dr. Paul Carus, "undoubtedly criticizes the Confucian method of preaching ethical culture without taking into consideration the religious emotions."—Lao-tsze's Tao-teh-king, p. 306.

65:8 "To dwell in the wide house of the world, to stand in the correct seat of the world, and to walk in the great path of the world; when he obtains his desire for office, to practice his principles for the good of the people; and when that desire is disappointed, to practice them alone; to be above the power of riches and honors to make dissipated, of poverty and mean condition to make swerve from principle, and of power and force to make bend—these characteristics constitute the great man."—Mencius. (Legge's translation.)

Next: Chapter XXXIX