Extra-Solar Science & Religion

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 From  Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu

   There was something undefined and complete, before heaven and earth.  How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger of being exhausted!

  Having no name, it is the originator of heaven and earth; gaining a name it becomes the mother of all things.

  Beneath these two aspects all is the same, even as things and their names multiply. Put together, we see the mystery they hold: mystery wrapped up in mystery—the subtle gateway.

  I do not know its name, so I speak of it as the Tao, the unvarying way. Making a further effort to label it, I call it great.


   The unvarying way that can be preached is not the enduring and unchanging way.  The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

  We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it 'the invisible.'  We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it 'the inaudible.'  We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it 'the intangible.'  With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; blended together they are a unity.

    The unvarying way is all pervading, it may be found on the left or the right.

  The unvarying way is hidden and has no name; but it is the way things are, which is skillful at imparting to all things what they need to make them complete.

    All things depend on it and it does not desert them.  Ambitionless, it may be found in the smallest things.  It clothes all things but does not act as a master. Always without desire, it may be called insignificant. All things return to it: it may be named great.

  The unvarying way relies on non-action, and so there is nothing which it does not do.


Silent pauses mark spontaneity in nature.  A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a sudden rain does not last for the whole day.  To whom is it that these two things are owing?  To heaven and earth.  If heaven and earth cannot make such spasmodic actions last long, how much less can man!

  The state of vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigor.              

    All things come into being, and then we see them return to their original state.  When vegetation has flourished, we see it return to its root.  This returning to their root is what we call tranquility; and that tranquility may be called fulfilling their natural end. That fulfillment we may call the unchanging way.

  To know the unchanging way is to be enlightened; not to know it leads to wild movements and evil outcomes.  The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces capaciousness and forbearance, and a community of feeling with all things. From this feeling comes a power that is at one with nature.  In that harmony with nature he possesses the unvarying way.  Possessed of the unvarying way, he endures long; and to the end of his bodily life is exempt from danger of decay.

Selections from the translation by James Legge, 1891. An alternative is a handsome version published in 1972 and translated by Jane English and Gia-Fu-Feng, illustrated by magnificent monochrome photos by Jane English. Published by Vintage, USA