Tao Te Ching


There are many translations and commentaries of the classic Chinese book by Lao Tzu entitled the Tao Te Ching.

The Chinese language lends itself to philosophical expression quite effortlessly in that it does not rigidly define its terms in any restricted fashion.

Chinese writing has evolved from a pictographic, as opposed to an alphabetic, origin. All the characters, or words, are structured upon 214 fundamental elements known as radicals, and used somewhat similarly to letters. These radicals can stand alone as ideas in and of themselves.

Therefore, if we disassemble a complex character into its component parts, we can sometimes find a very interesting collection of ideas that can help us appreciate the concept as a whole.

The character Tao is made up of two basic parts; one, which means going on, moving, or progression, and the other, understood as head or intelligence. Combined, this character could be read, “progressive intelligence.” Tao is popularly translated as the Way, which as an English word appropriately has the double meaning of “path” and “method.” Most often, however, it is left in the untranslated form of Tao. via

It is widely held that the insights of the I Ching or the Tao Te Ching could be best explored singly and over an extended period of time. Whether any larger pattern emerges is then another matter.

The focus here however is on the possible nature of such a pattern — if articulated through any of a variety of forms.

But whilst it may be possible to represent patterns that are suggestive of subtler insights, it is quite another matter again to understand them and to embody them in behaviour — whether as an individual or as a group. As with making sense of a text in a poorly understood alphabet, it is worth reflecting on analogies to the challenges of learning to read and understand — especially when the text refers to matters which may only be dimly recognized!

The communication implications for the higher dimensionality of cognitive space have been explored by mathematician Ron Atkin (Multidimensional Man: can man live in 3-dimensional space? 1981; reviewed in a separate document). This work provides vital insights into the nature of incommunicability, even when there is no language barrier. via

Translational difficulties
The Tao Te Ching is written in classical Chinese, which can be difficult to understand completely, even for well-educated native speakers of modern Chinese. In fact, in learning classical Chinese, native speakers can be at a disadvantage relative to non-native speakers, as native speakers often have difficulty with Chinese characters whose older meaning differs from the modern language. Classical Chinese relies heavily on allusion to a corpus of standard literary works to convey semantic meaning, nuance, and subtext. This corpus was memorized by highly-educated people in Laozi’s time, and the allusions were reinforced through common use in writing, but few people today have this type of deep acquaintance with ancient Chinese literature. Thus, many levels of subtext are potentially lost on modern translators. Furthermore, many of the words that the Tao Te Ching uses are deliberately vague and ambiguous.
Since there are no punctuation marks in classical Chinese, it can be difficult to conclusively determine where one sentence ends and the next begins. Moving a full-stop a few words forward or back or inserting a comma can profoundly alter the meaning of many passages, and such divisions and meanings must be determined by the translator. Some editors and translators argue that the received text is so corrupted (from originally being written on one-line bamboo strips linked with silk threads) that it is impossible to understand some chapters without moving sequences of characters from one place to another. ” wiki

Find complete text here or here

“Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, take it and practice it earnestly.
Scholars of the middle class, when they hear of it, take it half earnestly.
Scholars of the lowest class, when they hear of it, laugh at it.
Without the laughter, there would be no Tao.”

The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.

It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.
It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him.Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”
A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning
The mark of a moderate man
is freedom from his own ideas.

Tolerant like the sky,
all-pervading like sunlight,
firm like a mountain,
supple like a tree in the wind,
he has no destination in view
and makes use of anything
life happens to bring his way.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others, the happier he is.
The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.

***The project is called Eyescapes
Rankin, photographer and founder of Dazed and Confused magazine
created an incredible photographic series of more than a dozen decontextualized irises.

still.about the whole soul


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