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

p. 108


Whatever is at rest can easily be taken in hand; while yet no omens have appeared plans can be easily formed.

What is brittle is easily broken; what is minute is easily scattered.

Act before necessity arises; regulate before disorder commences. 1

The trunk that can scarcely be embraced sprang from a tiny shoot; the tower that is nine stories high was raised from a mound of earth; the journey of a thousand li 2 commenced when the foot was placed on the ground. 3

Who makes, mars; who grasps, loses. 4

The Holy Man practises non-action, hence he never injures; he never grasps, hence he never loses. The majority are too eager for results in attending to their affairs, and spoil everything. There would be no such failures were they as cautious at the end as at the beginning. 5

Hence the Holy Man desires passionlessness; 6 he does not prize articles that are rare; he

p. 109

studies to be unlearned; 7 he reverts to that which the masses pass by. In this way he promotes the natural development of all things without venturing to interfere.

"Think not," said the Lord Jesus, "that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy, but to fulfill." There is a natural development which cannot be disturbed without producing injurious reactions. Whoever, therefore, takes upon himself the office of a teacher assumes a responsibility which is heavy. The words of the Lord to Peter are, when rightly comprehended, awful enough to warn off all but the most Spirit-pressed from attempting to preach to their fellow-men. "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." We dare not refuse our aid and guidance, but it requires omniscience to offer it as it ought to be given. By practising non-action the wise man promotes development without marring it with the impress of his own personality.


108:1 "Take time by the forelock." Remember that everything depends on being right in the beginning.

108:2 "li"—1894 ft. English, making 27 4-5 li equal to ten miles.

108:3 I Pet. v, 8, 9.

108:4 See chap. 29.

108:5 i.e. if they ceased to "take thought for the morrow," and only cared to be true to themselves and their duty. Heb. iii, 14.

108:6 "The common herd are full of incessant solicitude; the holy Man is simple and ignorant."—Chuang-tzu.

"Desire nothing to happen as you wish, but wish things to happen as they do."—Epictetus.

"Whatever is agreeable to thee, O Universe, is agreeable to me; nothing is early or late for me that is seasonable for you."—Marcus Aurelius.

"Desire is guided from without, will from within."—Ancient Wisdom. p, 279.

"One should neither rejoice at obtaining what is pleasant, nor sorrow in obtaining what is unpleasant."—Bhagavad Gita.

"One who has self-control, looks within at his mind, and in his mind there is no mind; he looks at his form, and in his form there is no form; he looks further and observes Nature, and in Nature there is no Nature."—The Classic of Purity.

109:7 The student will here recall Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (born near Treves A.D. 1401, died 1473) and his favorite phrase "learned ignorance," or "learned not-knowing." Wisdom is from within, it is born of the spirit; intellect is from without, it leads to superstition.

"If thou wilt know or learn anything profitably, desire to be unknown, and to be little esteemed."—Thomas à Kempis.

Next: Chapter LXV