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To render the Dao-De-Jing in a modern Western language means to surmount a cultural barrier, a scriptural barrier and a time barrier, only to find oneself before a multitude of possible interpretations for one glyph, or for a pair or a triplet of them. Even today's Chinese scholars are divided over what might be the best understanding. The brand-new version offered here was mainly made comparing three Chinese originals, after studying 30 earlier versions in 6 European languages, plus several by Chinese scholars - and this strictly, and for the first time really, without any supposually creative interpolations. Many shocking inventions in earlier interpretations have been cleared and explained, using historical and cultural evidence. Other variants, textual symmetries, and interrelations between the different verses, are discussed. - And this translation has been approved by a Chinese scholar. Esoteric commentaries are very in-depth from Nr. 34 to 81, but only sketchy from Nr 1 to 33, where they recommend an earlier esoteric commentary - but not the textual translation used by it - around 1980, by Jan van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri. This book and its commentaries include usages, traditions and outer circumstances of the 6th to 4th centuries b.C. - especially where metaphors and proverbs adorn the original text. They always illustrate three levels of understanding: that of every-day's life of everybody, that of the demands for a normal Wise - general, king, or teacher - and that of the intimate inner spiritual path of Initiation. Some rare and very enlightening pictures are sustaining various interpretations never heard before.
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The Path toward Life includes several steps of learning: On the first level you learn, but nothing comes from it, and you have a feeling that you and all others are worthless. ‒ On the medium level you still feel worthless; you see your flaws and the flaws of the others. – On a higher level you are proud of your skills. You are lauded by the others, and complain about the inabilities of your comrades: That’s when you are indeed worth something. ‒ On the highest level however, you look as if you had no clue of what so ever.
But there is a level that still surpasses this level. This is the highest one of them all: Here you are conscious that you will never stop penetrating into The Path, and you never think you are perfect. You really know your flaws and never suppose to have attained your goal. You have no pride, but are conscious of the Path in complete humility …
During your whole life you advance a little bit further on The Path every day, becoming more adept than the day before ‒ more adept than today. It never ends.
(Hagakuré – The Book of the Samurai)
Lao-Dse as the ‹Blind Seer›
PART I: DAO-JING
THE TRUE PATH
01. DAO as a path that one can follow
02. This is common knowledge: Good follows Good
03. Bestow no award for high performance
04. DAO is an ocean
05. Heaven and Earth are of unmoved severity
06. What lies below is divine and everlasting
07. Heavenly things are everlasting ‒ what is of Earth is durable
08. An outstanding Sovereign likens a stream
09. Stockpiling of what you already have plenty
10. He who commands an army, directing his heart
11. Thirty spokes ‒ one wheel-hub
12. Five tints of color together
13. Distinction and disgrace appear like a shock
14. Study IT ‒ it will recede
15. Once upon a time, those who followed DAO
16. Who has attained perfect emptiness
17. Outstanding Rulers – the People knew them
18. The noble path of Dao has gone to ruin
19. If all the Wise would renounce their teachings
20. Stop learning assiduously, and don’t worry
21. The appearance of DE is like a dwelling-cave
22. What is flexible, usually remains unharmed
23. An extraordinary proverb quite appropriately says
24. Who walks on tiptoes does not stand fast
25. There was something perfectly mixed up
26. Violence becomes the basis for indulgence
27. Good deed needs not hide its traces
28. Who knows his male [energy]
29. If somebody’s desire wanted to achieve
30. When the Ruler uses a Disciple of the Path as his teacher
31. Man’s most beautiful weapons are harmful tools
32. DAO is eternally nameless and simple
33. Someone who knows the human [nature] is a Wise
34: Oh, great and overflowing DAO
35: Who realizes the great ideal
36: What one wishes to limit quickly, needs first to unfold
37: DAO is continuous non-doing
PART II: DE-GING— PERMANENT RIGHTEOUSNESS
38: Highest DE is without ambition for DE
39: Formerly, each thing had its destination
40: Recurrence is DAO’s presence
41: Highly educated persons learn about DAO
42: DAO brings forth the One
43 The course of the world is most steady
44: Glory or Life – which one do you prefer?
45: To achieve great things appears as a blemish
46: With DAO in the world, horses still produce manure
47: To know the world without leaving the house
48: He who learns, grows by the day
49: A wise man shows no intent, normally
50: Coming forth into life
51: DAO brings them forth
52: The World has a beginning
53: If I apply my knowledge well
54: A well informed person won’t be seduced
55: Who fearlessly accepts Gnosis, resembles a new-born
56: Who knows IT, does not talk about IT
57: If one rules the State with sincerity
58: If the Government is very flabby,
59: A successful servant of His Majesty
60: To rule a big nation is like frying small fish
61: A large empire is like some lowland
62: DAO is the Mystery of the 10'000 things
63: Do without doing
64: Peace is easier maintained when there is no sign
65. In olden times, persons dedicated to DAO
66: There is a reason why streams and seas are capable to be
67: Common folks all say: DAO is above me
68: An excellent commander is not bellicose
69: Regarding strategy, there is a proverb
70: My teachings are most simple
71: To know that one knows not, is commendable
72: When People don’t fear the head powers
73: Courageously to dare, entails death
74: When People don’t fear death anymore
75: The People starves when their regent levies
76: When a human is born, he is quite tender and supple
77: DAO of the Heavens ‒ is it not like bending a cross-bow
78: In the World, nothing is more tender and more subtle
79: After pacifying a great dispute
80: A small village
81: Trustworthy talk does not embellish
FRONTISPIECE: LAO DSE as the Blind Seer
DAO as the Empress-Mother with the holy infant
LAO-DSE as Philosopher-Emperor
«10 Months the Embryo remains under fire» (from I-Ging)
Skullcap of an animal (sheep) used for fortune telling
DE as a court-lady for ‹Empress Mother DAO›
HONG-WU I – The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty
Candidates waiting to take the exam for a public service career
A carillon (‹piang-zhong›) and a lithophone (‹piang-qing›)
The ‹Enso› of Zen corresponds to the ‹western› ‹Ain-Soph›
A crown of green jade of the Zhou-Dynasty
Arranging a dwelling for the family spirits, in today’s Taiwan
The terracotta army of Xian
Gilded nephrite crown of the Ming-Dynasty
DAO AS THE EMPRESS-MOTHER WITH THE HOLY INFANT Wall picture in the Daoist Yongle Palace (7th c.a.D.)
DAO – Daoism as a System – is an exact spiritual science ‒ precisely like Gnosis: a science embracing spirit, body and soul. And precisely as does Gnosis, Daoism can be considered as two interlocked halves: Firstly as the science studying the Essence of Life itself in its presence and in its attendance: This is, so to speak, the Yin-Side of knowledge about Dao. ‒ Secondly, as the science of dealing with the dynamics of all its intermingling phenomena and beings: This is the Yang-Side and agency of Dao.
Unlike Gnosis with its almost exclusively mystical magic, ancient Chinese Daoism also acts through practical magic. However, this doesn’t work like the arch-Celtic magic known in the ancient Western world: The latter was realized employing chants, conjurations and active rituals ‒ often quite dramatic, and always physically performed, thus in the way of what is still known as Wigga : Daoism instead is a completely refined and interiorized mode of magic in the way of ancient Arian India : a way of letting things happen through inactive concentration ‒ known as «nondoing» ‒ or as « doing without doing».
The magic tradition of the Celts (Galata, Galilee, Gaul, Galicia and so forth) relates tales about men and half-gods (e.g. Cuchullain), who from their eyes and nostrils could emit fiery flames 1, let massive rocks fly through the air, or, by means of their cry, «flung down Pharaoh and his counsel, killing many of them»2. – It also tells of women who by a word or a song ‒ or even by a laughter ‒ could change someone’s fate. ‒ The Magic of Dao instead consists in concentration on clarity, soberness, simplicity and meekness ‒ and even in complete discreteness. Later chapters in the present book will explain this closer.
Dao – Daoism as a philosophy – could as well be named: the most comprehensive, deepest teaching, valid in every domain of existence throughout the world, and oriented toward concrete practical realization in all manifestations in earthly life: Science of state governance and warfare; – science of successful agriculture and cohabitation ; – science of healing, of high strung spirituality, and sublime spiritual achievements. – In the western world, the original Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner is the only philosophy comparable to pure Daoism.
The typical gnostic philosophy, however, is almost exclusively oriented in a mystical way. It never will mingle nor interact with worldly happenings. In fact it explicitly says that while it stands in this world, it does not belong to this world.
So, if Daoism remains oriented almost exclusively toward the physically manifested world the way the latter is, ‹modern›, or rather actual Gnosis sees itself at the turn of the new world-era, where dematerialization of the physically manifested world will be a fact, while dematerialization as part of macrocosmic evolution yet only casts forward its first lights. The individual ‹quantum leap› of consciousness in this sense, has already begun today: Gnostic spiritual science names it the process of purification, renewal and transformation (Transfiguration). Corresponding movements in East and West all speak of a Path, of a Journey or Pilgrimage towards the One Universal Goal or Destination: It means unification with the All-One‒ the eternally unalterable Al[l]-one-Good ‒ i.e., with God. The main criterion in order to achieve this highest of all aims is shrinking of the Ego: The ego-will need to step down in favor of the ‹All-Will› ‒ while the Candidates drop their idle hustling and bustling, thus entering inner harmony where they can hear the ‹Voce of Silence›, and become aware of the divine Harmony of the Universe (despite all damages).
Now, if the beginnings of the Daoist or ‹Chinese› Gnosis (depending of chosen criteria) goes back to the time of 1500 b.C., or even to 3000 b.C., the direct roots of actual Gnosis are at the turn of our era of Pisces, namely around 200 b.C. until approximately 200 a.D. This is the time when in ancient Egyptian Alexandria Hermetism flourished: Thence the so-called Hermetic Tradition, with its reference to the ‹Greek› Hermes Trismegistos, i.e. the Egyptian THOT-ANUBIS (Tehuti or Djehuti), viz. the Babylonian Ningishziddah, Son of Enki, and Brother of Marduk-Re. 3
Today, the term Gnosis is generally meant to signify initiation, viz. self-initiation into knowledge of the Mysteries from Antiquity until today. This is the study of all causes and effects experienced in the Universe throughout time: in the past, today, and at any time in the future. Gnosis is no academic intellectual matter, but the disclosure of awareness and consciousness through a process mentioned in many sacred scriptures as Rebirth from Water, Spirit and Fire, or in similar terms. Thus, if the present book uses the expressions Dao, Wisdom, and Gnosis as absolute equivalents, this is acceptable on the grounds of some very good reasons. – The most important differences between said terms instead have already been mentioned.
One of the most venerable scriptures in the spiritual evolution of Humankind is, without any doubt, the Dao-De-Jing –known also as Tao-Te-King, or Tao-Te-Ching, Daodeging and other names. These different transcriptions of this name already point at the basic difficulty of transferring the message of this famous Chinese ‹Classic›, or ‹Ging›, into modern languages and surroundings, ca. 2500 years after its appearance: Even this emergence itself lies hidden in the mists of several myths around the life of Lao-Dse (Lao-Tse, Lao-Dzu, Lao-Tseu and other spellings). The latter with hard consonants partially derive from Latin at the very beginning of the ‹West› exploring the vast country of China ‒ almost a continent for itself and, at that time, culturally quite inhomogeneous as a Nation. The other descends from the Anglo-Saxon culture. The spellings with soft consonants came in use only in a more recent past, as the country, the culture and the language of China became better known in the West. The best example is ‹Peking›, today known as Beijing even in the most popular language ‒ and this corresponds to actual Chinese itself.
By bibliographic reasons mainly, the present book invariably sticks to the spellings «Lao-Dse» and «Dao-De-Jing». This has the advantage also to stay closer to the I-Jing (today mostly named I-Ging, and even Yi-Jing). The latter is another fundamental ‹Classic› of Daoism: Published for the first time around the verge of our calendar (hence between 2066 b.C. and 220 a.D.), the I-Jing is the «Book named the Classic of Transformations», today falsely known as Book of Change.4
Another Chinese classic is Understanding Reality by . Here we are confronted with Chinese Alchemy.5 ‒ Correspondingly, the Dao-De-Jing might be named the Classic of the Path toward the Center (DAO) and toward Virtue (DE). Even the term DAO has many interpretations such as path, method, wisdom, knowledge … and this by right, if we consider Gnosis like a multilayer concept of the supra-cosmic plane of the Godhead, on the plane of the Universe (macrocosms), on the cosmic plane of our sun system, and lastly on the plane of each human being (microcosmos).5-A This is another reason why the Chinese DAO may be taken as a real equivalent to Hellenistic-Egyptian Hermetic Gnosis: The latter term surfaced approximately at the same time as the book of I-Jing.
Lao-Dse as Philosophic Emperor (actual China)
But when did the Dao-De-Jing appear? ‒ Of course during the lifetime of Lao-Dse (admitting him to have been a real historical person); that is ‒ given that the Dao-De-Jing is valued as an opus summæ sapientiæ ‒ as a compendium of the highest wisdom ‒ towards the end of the latter’s lifetime. However, even this time frame is doubtful: the relevant histories about the subject vary between the 6th and 4th century b.C., the 6th c. being more likely, for one of the myths indicates a definite time, mentioning the name of a historically ascertained general, while most other myths mention no name but that of Lao-Dse.
Thus, following these comments, Lao-Dse lived at the same time as Platon and Buddha, viz. as Sokrátès. This would imply that Platon ‒ and maybe even Buddha ‒ knew the Message of Lao-Dse. Voyages, pilgrimages and exchange of knowledge have always been the main activities of all Initiates in the World, from Buddhist missionaries in Palestine at the end of the 4th c.b.C (these leading to the gnostic movement of the Essenes, and thus to parts of the teachings of primitive Christianism) onto the Arabian knights and some Christian monks ‒ and from there to the Disciples of actual Gnosis throughout the modern world.
Since the Middle-Ages, we see the worldwide presence of itinerant scholars, from which itinerant preachers differ only by their proselytism. Original texts like many of those rediscovered during our 20th c. at Qumran and Nag-Hammadi, but disqualified by The Church as ‹apocrypha›, are testimonies for such influence: ‹Gospels›, ‹Acts› and ‹Letters›, together with innumerable other hermetic scrolls and books of Greek, Syrian, Egyptian and rabbinical inspiration, more or less obviously allude to a heritage of far-Eastern Philosophies including Daoism and Zen in China, and Vedic India. From this resulted an elastic mass of teachings and traditions adapted to their original cultural and temporal environments, which in general Occultists call Universal Tradition, or else Universal Doctrine. ‒ This ‹Universal Doctrine› is an overwhelming source of vivifying spiritual nutrition and stimulation, and is considered by all seekers of Truth as the crown of wisdom, into which some new gems are inserted with every era. To the established castes of priests, this always was a crown with as many thorns. Here Jesus’ crown of thorns as related in the New Testament appears as the precise inversion of this image, apt to inspire the most profound contemplations.
Together with said influences from the near, the middle and far East, the Dao-De-Jing thus is an integral part of the wide spread roots of western spirituality ‒ the western Gnosis. On the other hand, far-East traditions annexed many influences from the migrations of Celtic tribes, or from western pilgrims. Between the two stands the high culture of Druidism, but which has been annihilated almost completely by the Romans under Caius Julius Cæsar. The intense cultural exchange between spiritual strains world-wide were then fomented along the Silk Street, through the crusades, through the persecutions of Jews in Europe, et cetera.
A glance upon the history of Ancient China lets emerge from the prehistoric mists, and unfold before our eyes, the Shang-Dynasty (1765-1123 b.C.). In the latter’s second half we see the evolution of the Chinese ‹writing›. Divulgation of writing outside oft the temples however always was at the peril of oral tradition. Moreover, written formulation of history (myths) and maxims (doctrines) has ever lead to their formalization and formatting ‒ and from there again to concurring, and often hostile, dogmata with their adherents and adversaries, along with the leaders of both, and with their well-known wrangles and blood-shed, where the homo sapiens often proves to be a homo rudens ruens ‒ more ruthless and more ferocious indeed than any beast: No beast would force its opinion upon a whole pack, or even onto an entire race of other beasts by killing them (!); – or even to use mass-killing (‹genocide›) as a means to achieve uniformity of teachings and opinions: «He calls it reason , yet uses it only to be more beastly than any beast! …», as says Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Doctor Faustus.—
‹Written communication› always means pictorial communication. That’s why writing systems and symbolism always are closely linked. This is particularly well demonstrated by Chinese glyphs and Celtic runes along with Egyptian, Persian and Maya hieroglyphs, some symbols being similar or identical in all cultures of the World and throughout time ‒ particularly regarding the Sun.
As soon as the use of writing is spread generally, there quite naturally so-called ‹erudition› leaves the temples and palaces of the privileged casts ‒ thus reaching the surrounding populace. And this again leads to intermingling, viz. profanation, of teachings and systems: From divination in the frame of offering rituals (holocausts and hieroscopy) – in China preferably by prophesy over bones ‒ emerged the less onerous methods using cards, bamboo sticks, pebbles, yarrow stalks, or ashes, wind, water, earth fire and stars.
Magic formulæ used by priests became prayers, then folk songs and magic again (en-chant-ments). ‒ That’s how the wheel of knowledge, beliefs and superstitions is kept whirling round and round, time and again – with all the well-known consequences.
There is an outstanding linguistic curiosity for Chinese: The pronunciation of given signs differs from one Chinese ethnic group to the other ‒ depending on where an individual is dwelling. From this ensues that two Chinese from different provinces may have difficulties to understand each other speaking, and thus need to communicate by writing, as Chinese writing has been fixed interculturally by the State around 200 b.C. and has remained the same ever since. Therefore, its images (pictoglyphs) are concepts.
A critical reader may see therein a twofold instrument of stately power: This difference between languages and standardization of writing corresponds to the well-known principle divide et impera ‒ divide and rule ‒ of all centralistic and imperialistic power systems all over the World.
One tool among others in order to standardize, and thus dominate and manipulate not just writing, but also expressions in the frame of culture, science, world views ‒ and other human soul-expression that ensues from them ‒ was the system of Confucianism dominating cultural China ‒ and this during centuries. Its representatives were in charge, among other, for the normative codification of all philosophical writings. From this, under the Manju-Reign resulted a ‹Canon of the most important writings› – then named Wei-De-Tang-Wu-Żung ‒ that is: «Five different scriptures, out of the hall ‹Nothing but Virtue› ». During the 15th century, this codex appeared as Dao-Dsang-Dsi-Yao. During the 70-ies of the 20th century, the same canon was printed anew. It contains five Gings, or Jings, i.e. five Classics: The Dao-De-Jing, the I-Ging or Yi-Ging, the Sing-Ming-Xuang-Xiu-Hui-Ming-Jing, i.e. the Classic of orientation toward consciousness and Life; – the Tai-I-Żin-Hua-Dsung-Ji (i.e. The Principle of the golden Flower of the Great One ‒ since the edition by R. Wilhelm and C.G. Jung known as The Secret of the Golden Flower6) – and, fifth, the Classic of the Eight Wise Men – Huainan-Dse Jing.
Tierisches Schädeldach als Wahrsage-Knochen.
The Hui-Min-Jing is ascribed to one Liu-Ha-Yang; the Secret of the Golden Flower on the other hand, to the excellent Daoist Lü-Yen (born. 755 b.C.), known as well by his surname Lü-Dung-Bin – i.e. ‹Cave-Guest›, or as Lü-Dse (i.e. Master Lü). The latter was one of the «Eight Saints», and the founder of the Daoist esoteric Secret Society of the Golden Elixir of Life – Gin-Dan-Giau. – This occurred around 800 a. D.
Lü-Yen – says R. Wilhelm – dated his teachings (which are said to be a reform of the traditional, but at that time degenerated, Confucianistic Daoism), back to Master Guan Yin Hi ‒ the very person for whom, as one of several myths declares, Lao-Dse wrote down his Dao-De-Jing – hence, way back before Lao-Dse’s accredited ‹successor› ‒ Master Żuang-Dse.7
The first printed editions of these teachings of wisdom were issued not earlier than our 16th century. – However, before as well as after that, and even until to-date, many commentaries were written by numerous philosophers, in order to elucidate this codex of the mentioned five sacred scriptures ordained by the State. ‒ One of the greatest authors in this sense was Wang-Bi, the ‹Prodigious Infant›: During his short life (226-249 a.D.) he authored a commentary to the I-Jing as well as to the Dao-De-Jing, and also a ‹condensed introduction› to the book Zhou-Yi ‒ a complementary work to the I-Ging. His opus became the reference endorsed by all spiritual positions throughout China ‒ not just in his time, but also during many centuries to follow, and even up-today. His textual version of the Dao-De-Jing is one among the three we have used for the present, completely new and independent translation from Chinese. Wang-Bi opposed the strongly established Confucianistic ‹School› of the Han-Dynasty (206 b.C. -220 a.D). ‒ From 618 to 906 the empire underwent a new period of turmoil, which was soothed only during the Song-Dynasty (960-1279), with the help of Neo-Confucianism, the latter being closer to Daoism. This occurred again in favor of uniform culture as ordained by the State.
At the turn of the 18th c., Emperor Kang-Xi (Qing-Dynasty, 1644 - 1911) demanded another standardization of the mentioned principal texts, and had them printed in the Palace of Bei-Jing, together with neo-Confucianistic commentaries. Clearly, this standardization served the form, and not its content. Never the less, it is reported that this 1715 print of the Dao-De-Jing very faithfully reproduced its oldest known manuscript found in a tomb of 138 b.C. (Wilhelm).
Looked at it with respect to the spiritual surroundings of the time, the Dao-De-Jing in the form as we know it today, is not just a ‹Chinese sacred scripture›, but the syncretistic result from all influences it took between 800 b.C. and ca. 900 b.C. It is mainly characterized by original Daoism, but also leans toward other oriental religions of the time: Buddhism, Sufism, with in-between Nestorianism and Maniism, then gnostic tradition with its Hellenistic, Egyptian, Syrian, rabbinic tints, come from the West at that time, including so-called Hermetism. And it is important to know that all these systems ‒ each and everyone ‒ contain the tradition of operative Alchemy, with their symbolisms being absolutely compatible or even identical. In mystic Daoism, this was of course mystified in the same way as in mystic Christianism. The allegories of ‹Earth›, ‹Water›, ‹Air›, ‹Fire› and ‹Ether› for example are common to all ‒ although with some individual traits.
Even the Scala Philosophorum of western Alchemists has got its place in the pictoglyph for Dao (as a combination of head, Path and foot). This sign is interpreted also as consciousness, Path (or stair), and as to go, process, cycle, a.s.f. – One can see there also the relations of Microcosmos (siao-tien-di – small Universe), Cosmos (tien-di – Heaven and Earth) and Macrocosmos (tien-di-ji-hsing – the Law after which Heaven and Earth live), expressed by means of the notions ‹course› (of Man) and ‹trajectory› (of the fixed stars’ constellations), as they are indicated in verse 47 of the Dao-De-Jing. The condition for ultimate unification of all contraries then is Dao– or Tai-Ji, the ‹One without a second one›, from which continuously issues the pair of Yin-Yang as well as all the inseparable pairs of contraries: active and passive, dark and light; planning versus formation; potent secretion versus fertile adsorption, etc. –These contraries, or Duals generate all dynamics of the Universe; and only thanks to them the World can subsist and prosper. – The Jungian interpretation here sees Animus and Anima. According to this, a human being at the moment of its conception divides itself into Being and Life (Essence and Dynamics) – into Ming and Sing. Between them there stands Sin, the ‹Heart› as an emotional center of consciousness.
Sing (‹Animus›), says Wilhelm, tends towards the Logos, and is the portion that in the afterlife beyond, after the decomposition of the microcosm ‒ viz. in the next prenatal state ‒ exists as a supraconscious state of each spiritual entity and as a ‹spiritual factor›. At the spermatic union to produce a form of manifestation, Sing mates intimately with Ming (the ‹animal factor› – ‹Anima›). The latter determines its being-human: that is its individual fate and its supra-personal, heavenly destiny or ‹Inner Law› (Karma or collective soul), that, following Wilhelm’s view, is considered in Daoism as a quirk.
Ming, the ‹dull will› that, sparked by passions, drives man to gush forth his vital forces, is conceived as sinking or falling; Sing as rising. Thereby, the Ego gets into a floating status, where it is coaxed to make a choice: If it decides to gush forth its vital force, it will fall toward death. If instead it achieves to spiritualize its vital forces, so that those ‒ through an ‹inner rotation of the Monad ‒ are able to build up a stable, independent life-cycle (remember ‹circulation› in the Athanor) ‒ then a rising movement is initiated, whereby the Ego can alight from being mixed up with the ‹10'000 things› of the World, and thus after the physical death of the person remains alive and effective. Such Entities are the sacred spiritual helpers and inspirators of humanity from the Beyond ‒ high ‹spirits› that in Chinese are named ‹Shen› – a god. It is quite possible that the Arabian Djinni is derived from this expression, giving in Latin (that knows no «sh») the western Genius …
These genii however are still perishable personalities, and thus doomed at some point, like Heaven and Earth. The only perfectly immutable thing in the World is the Golden Flower, fully unfolded as a consequence of the complete liberation of the human personality from all things, persons and worlds. This is the Golden Flower of ancient Daoism – the Golden Rose of today’s Order of the Golden Rosicross. Such an Ego is not limited to the monad anymore: it breaks through the Universe of dichotomies, uniting with the ‹One without another› – with Dao.
Gung-Fu-Dse («Confucius»), 551-479 b.C.
Now, if in Buddhism this unification signifies complete extinction oft the Ego (the latter as such being an illusion), in Daoism there remains a transfigured ego-substance as an essence of individual consciousness (Wilhelm names it «the idea behind the person»). The latter enters the memory of the Universe: This is the «Light that returns to itself»: «ming» also means: to shine. 7-A
The course in between consists in a human life partially directed ‹upwards›, where-after the ‹Ego› (understood the western way) enters a phase of astral purification, where (understood the Daoist way) as a blessed spirit ‒ a retiring Demon (Chinese ‹Gui›) – it harvests the fruits of its good and evil deeds during its past lifetime. This however is but a powerless shadow with no ‹destiny› nor impact, able to stay in this intermediate sphere only as long as the offerings of its survivors ‒ family, subjects, believers etc. ‒ nourish it (see picture on p. 235. At the same time, it builds up the ‹psychic› provisions with which ‒ after passing another maternal womb ‒ it will commence a next physical life cycle. Whoever knows the Universal Doctrine will recognize the parallels.
Unlike the markedly intellectual mystic and dogmatically stringent Western teaching about the same item, the Chinese concept and its method stay much closer to physical experience and its Inner Magic, inasmuch as here abstract elements are not explicitly mentioned. Rather, imaginative analogies touch the supra-personal unconscious like the string of a violin, inviting it to resonate the way this corresponds to the pictorial consciousness oft Antiquity and the ancient Chinese World. The key for the Westerner to understand this train of thought is childlike pictorial empathy. The same goes for Chinese scripture as a means of communication independent of spoken language (see above) – and this also is what made possible our present translation directly from Chinese writing.
It is on the basis of this insight into the ‹Chinese soul› that we undertook the present translation of the Dao-De-Jing directly from Chinese, and its commentaries in a gnostic spirit, – but only after meticulous in-depth analysis ‒ i.e.: committed to most faithful translation, avoiding every possible modern and western interpolation, insinuation or comment: 1° to bring the text into relation to the sociocultural frame at the time when the Dao-De-Jing was authored; 2° to know the philosophical era of that time; and 3° to understand the concept of the inner Path of Humankind through the millennia – but especially since the turn of the last past century – in other terms: with human necessities at the present turn from one era to the next – the second one since the emergence of the original Dao-De-Jing. ‒ Our translations throughout the present book therefore had to meet three severe fundamental criteria in order to satisfy its claim for textual and spiritual authority:
1° The whole text of a ‹paragraph›, or ‹chapter›, must be in inner harmony, i.e.: it may not (except for the ‹Daoist parádoxon›) contradict itself: Eventually apparent ambiguities must be in cognitive harmony with the ‹thread› of the whole. Earlier versions in all languages often contradict themselves in inconceivable ways ‒ occasionally even in one and the same line!
2° Every ‹verse›, or ‹number›, must convey a fundamental thought, a basic mood, a main message ‒ or all three of these.
3° Every paragraph must ‒ besides a worldly human claim every serious ruler can satisfy ‒ suggest an esoteric meaning, relevant and practicable on the Path of Initiation to DAO (the title, Dao-De-Jing itself clearly emphasizes exactly this claim).
In order to satisfy in the best possible way these three levels of understanding, a great number of western ‹translations› were studied: The German versions of one ‹Anonymus› (2005); then the famous versions by publicly accredited ‹experts› like Werner Classen (1945); O. Sumitomo (no date); Hans Knospe and Odette Brändli (1985) ; Asgard Gerstner (2001) ; Rudolf Backofen (1949) ; Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English (ed. in German by U. Lütjohann) ; Vincenz Hundhausen (1942) ; Bodo Kirchner (2000) ; Ernst Schwarz (1978) ; Richard Wilhelm (1911) ; – the certainly most competent French version by Stanislas Julien (no date); – the Italian version by Luciano Parinetto (1995) ; – the Spanish versions by Antonio Rivas (no date) and ‹Ratmachine› (no date) ; – the Dutch version by John Wilemsens (1990 /1992, ed. J.L.L. Duyvendak). – English versions by R.B. Blakney, Stephen Mitchell, Brian B. Walker, Sam Torode & Dwight Goddard, Jonathan Star, Chu Ta-Kao, Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas Cleary, Victor H. Mair, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English (English) ; and finally: Addiss, Lombardo & Watso; Man-Ho Kwok & Martin Palmer. ‒ All of them proved to be unsatisfactory!
All together, thus, the extensive amount of 30 western versions in 6 languages were examined. So, it soon became clear that only a self provided translation on the basis of three authentic Chinese texts – among them the one by Wang-Bi, see above ‒ could satisfy mentioned strict conditions – and were made possible thanks to electronic translation machines on ‹Google›, ‹Babylon›, and the MDBG Chinese-English Dictionary – plus thanks to many, many Chinese interpretations available on Internet.8
Thus translated, most of Lao-Dse’s texts appeared in a most different new light, and many in stark disagreement among each other, including the most famous translations by earlier authors. The footnotes to the texts explain many of these differences, and even indicate other possible variants. But basically, the present new translation faithfully reflects ‒ pictoglyph after pictoglyph ‒ the respective original. It is quite natural instead, that out of an often great number of possibilities, the most plausible variant with regard to history, folk-lore, spirituality, etc. has been chosen subjectively.
Intense studies of the Path of Gnosis through the millennia, plus some personal experience of the present author on this same Path, may legitimate our courage and perseverance to dare and undertake these translations and commentaries. How closely the result of our work reflects the endeavour and said high prerequisites of the editor ‒ how far from them it remains and must remain because of the incompatibility of the two Worlds and the two Natures, a benevolent number of readers shall have to decide..
The present book is the translation of the Dao-De-Ging from Chinese into German, forwarded by the same hand from German into English, bringing for the first time all 81 Verses, or Numbers, in a truly faithful translation and with in-depth commentaries ‒ practical, moral, and esoteric. Due to the history of this exploit, the ‹Verses› 1-33 provide just a few footnotes relative to the text and for their interpretation. Some relate to later chapters: A book entitled Chinese Gnosis, with esoteric comments to Verses 1 to 33, appeared already in the year of 1980. Its author, Jan van Rijckenborgh, and the final editor after the latter’s decease, Catharose de Petri, both became famous because at the beginning of the 21st c. they revived the classic Gnostic tradition throughout Europe, and subsequently throughout the World. The Rosicrucian movement ensuing from this ‒ the Mysteryschool of the Golden Rosicross ‒ represents the decisive step to elevate the strongly Indish oriented Theosophy of H.P. Blavatsky with its Masonic strains, out of the exclusivity of small circles and lodges, and to propagate it throughout the World. It goes without saying: This pan-human movement was founded on the basis of previous Fraternities like the Cathars of the 11th to 14th c., and the classic Rosicrucians of the 17th and 18th centuries – but also upon some very old heritage, same as the prime Anthroposophy of the great Rosicrucian, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, but whose Rosicrucian Initiative was not taken up by his spiritual disciples.
The present book continues to revive the same effort in a form adapted to our present time ‒ but in the service of the same ideation – using the same successful ‹formula›, but this time ‒ at the beginning of a new world period ‒ aiming at both general public and Initiates. It is conceived so as to open an unpretentious entry to the Dao-De-Jing for all readers of today ‒ and at the same time offers an insight to the principles and views of actual Gnosis.8-A
At any rate, the present work cannot, and wishes not to be, conclusive in any way: Rather it wishes to drill new openings into partly crystallized opinions formed during the past 19th and 20th c. by a combination of self-content of the intellect with mystical dreams and magical insecurity of the soul. – For, in this domain, there is nothing stable or fix for us humans: All is floating, including the immobile One that eternally keeps changing ‒ and which in its continuous motion always reposes in it self : ‹Brahma› – ‹Dao› – ‹Gnosis›; – Light, Truth and Life!
Our thanks go to the young Chinese scholar, Ms. Dr. Tao Wang, who approved of our translation, by the by contributing some useful suggestions, which have now been integrated into the present amended and enlarged edition.
The commentaries shed a light not only upon purely spiritual aspects, but also upon some parallels and interactions between a serious gnostic Quest, the stormy sea of actual world history of today, and the cultural history of Ancient China. Therefore, the present edition of the Dao-De-Jing addresses itself also to such people as don’t aspire to follow a genuine spiritual Path as such, but are just willing to enjoy the often poetic beauty of this unique collection of texts, and to read an actual but undogmatic interpretation to them, easy to understand and to accept. ‒ May all readers find here what they are seeking: for ‒ that is our most intimate wish.!
The esoteric commentaries to ‹Verses› 34 through 37 of Part I – DAO-GING – form like a bridge to the semantic world of the book ‒ another reason to open its Part II – DE-GING – with its Verses 38 through 81, with another (authentic!) sub-title leaf.
Our whole book would like ‒ as does the Dao-De-Jing itself – animate three stages at a time: A first, moral and ethic level for everyday’s life of everybody; a second level regarding the ‹high virtues› of a father or a ruler (DE) – and a third, top-level, dedicated to the true aim, the essential objective and inner destination of all life: the Sacred Marriage between the solitary ones (humans of this World) with the ‹One without an Other› the Al(-l-)one-Good, the All-in-All: This is the marriage of the perishable humanborn soul under the stigma of the Nature of Death, with the ‹fundamentally Other› ‒ New Heavenly Man himself.
The inconceivable beauty of this prospect is indicated by the hopeful verse taken from the Hui-Min- Ging:
Clouds vanish into cerulean Space —
the mountains blazingly shine.
Conscience into free vision melts —
the Moon’s disk lonely lounges …
1 «Trifle is Man, yet great is his determination»
Plausible translation of the red line:
Of The Famous Golden Verses, of The Blossoms Of Inner Teachings, The First Part.2
DAO as a Path one can follow
is not the eternal DAO. —3
No name we might find
will ever be the name of the Eternal One.—
No name has the origin of Heaven and Earth —
The existing name means the Mother of the 10’000 things.
Few are those longing to see IT’s wonders —
Many are those who study IT’s outside —**
Thus there are the two kinds:
Similar are the motivations of both, and the secretive name —
Similarly they invoke the Mysteries:
Mysterious, very secret and manifold wondrous are their entrances.
2 Translated precisely, the first two glyphs together mean famous, glorious, and wonderful. – Each read as a single one, means: golden, magnificent, resp. broideries, ornaments. – The second pair of glyphs, one by one, means: Inner teaching, conveying, resp. superb, flowery.
Combined instead they signify, since millennia, China (the Empire of the Middle). The three last glyphs may be read as: Their one, or first, part [of (the) two, Dao-Ging and De-Ging]. In combination this gives (for the justification of this lecture, see later examples): The famous gold-broideries of esoteric teachings of China, first part. Our version here means to allude to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, the latter maybe having lived as a contemporary to Lao-Dse.
3 As solitary glyphs, the two 非常 could be read as: is not the eternal way or path. – This would be wrong in reality; for, this is, as taught since ‹eternal times›, the ‹sempiternal› way. As a pair of glyphs, 非常 means: extraordinary, immeasurable, infinite, immense, enormous, inconceivable, extremely precious. – For a simple lecture thus: an unspeakable way. – The very few who follow this Way, or Path, with all its consequences, experience how unspeakable this voyage really is. The entire Dao-De-Ging is about sidestepping the impossibility of articulating, the heavenly nature and practical reality of DAO, which in fact it both is as well. Understood in this truly esoteric sense, the Path of DAO can be glossed the same way as the Path of operative Alchemy: «Out of 1000, hardly one has brought IT to its blissful End». –
Correspondingly read as a ‹ combined version›, the name one can pronounce ‒ DAO – « … is not really the name of the Absolute»: A name is but a sign ‒ is just a symbol. – Unspeakable content is everything!
The more rudimentary the texts of the Dao-De-Ging appear, the more layers of significance they reveal (or unveil) ‒ and the larger are freedom and dilemma of the reader seeking for his own «true» inner significance: So even the modern Chinese versions differ ‒ sometimes even dramatically. A definitely correct understanding is possible neither here nor elsewhere. At most, one can exclude what yields no sensible message ‒ what obviously violates the intent oft the text, or, finally, what is completely at odds with the usages in China at the time of Lao-Dse, as emphasized for some examples in later chapters. This play with glyphs ‒ sign-language as a play with pictoglyphs ‒ is typical throughout the entire Dao-De-Ging.
This is common knowledge: Good follows Good,
as long as Evil is suspended.
Everybody knows: propriety follows propriety,
as long as decency does not cease.
Thence follows :4
The reality of opposed pairs emerges:
Problems and success alternate —
Wealth and Scarcity appear in turns —
Excellence and lowness chase each other —
Harmony and noise are intertwined —
Earlier and later prevail over each other.
That’s the way it goes, unendingly. 5
The true Initiate choses non-doing as his goal
and applies non-talking as his schooling.
All the 10'000 things attack him ‒ but he does not give up.
Evolving, not being —
Acting, but relying on nothing —
Achieving great deeds, but not resting —
Lonesome as a human, and without a home —
Doing what is right, unceasingly.
4 All parts in blue throughout this book are taken from the text of Wang-Bi.
5 All parts in red throughout this book come from a third original text version by an unknown source (see comments beginning with N° 34).
[Bestow] no awards for high performance,
so people won’t fight for them.
[Show] no precious goods hard to attain,
so people won’t be thieves.
Indulge in fewer cravings,
so the masses won’t plot anyupheaval6.
The truly wise [ruler] rules like this:
Void[of cravings and arguments] is his heart —
Full[of frugality] is his belly.
Subdued is his will —
Forceful are his intent, spirit and soul.7
Always he endeavors to keep the People ignorant and
He achieves that humans are sensible subjects,
not daring to do too much.
Acting through non-doing, he rules without any calamity.
6 By people, or masses, the esoteric meaning must always be understood to be parts or all of the Candidate’s own personality (see commentary in later chapters, from N° 34 on).
7 The polyvalence of Chinese ideograms like 心– heart, and 志– will, aspiration, craving (containing the glyph for heart), can be translated on our side only by several expressions in parallel (see commentary in later chapters, from N° 34 on).
8 Compare text N° 65 and commentary.
… meaning: without being overthrown or assassinated.
Dao is an Ocean nobody can ever drink out.
Oh you Unfathomable One!
The 10'000 things are allegories after your example!9
To overcome ones fierceness —
To clarify ones confusion —
To harmonize ones lights —
To become one with ones dust —10
Oh Deepness!11– That anything like this really can exist!
9 Both creations as a whole and every creature they contain are images and metaphors of the Arch-Mother who birthed them – DAO. This corresponds to the statement by the Corpus Hermeticum: «As are the small things, so are the big ones». ‒ Universes, ‹milky way systems› (macrocosms), solar systems (Cosmoi), each creature (microcosms) and every tiny cell down to the atom correspond to each other – despite their different individual natures – on the fundamental basis of the common, universal, and entirely spiritual energy of Divine Love that drives everything ‒ compare the ‹Platonic Bodies› and their being built up from one common primary element – the tetrahedron that in turn corresponds to the Pythagorean Tetraktys…
10 These four lines are identical on the dot with those in the second paragraph of N° 56. (see there, and the in-depth commentary thereto).
11 The Valentinian Gnostics as well named the primitive, fundamental origin, from which all and everything originates (Boehme’s ‹Ungrund›), «the Depth» (and «Silence» among other) – and maybe even invoked it so. – Modern Physics calls this space-time energy.
Heaven and Earth are of unmoved severity —
To them, the 10'000 things are like straw-dogs.
Wise men are of unmoved severity —
To them even the 100 families are like straw-dogs12
The space between Heaven and Earth – is it not like a bagpipe?13
[Nothing but] emptiness, and immobility —
[But] move (play) it, and it becomes increasingly expressive.14
Loquacity, says a proverb, is promptly at an end —
Better indeed is the moderacy of discretion.
12 Sacrificial dogs made of straw. – For an explanation of this, see comment to N° 71. – The literally ‹100 names› here probably mean the noble families ‒ as opposed to ordinary ‹10'000 things› of any sort.
13 Glyph by glyph: … they/ correspond / bag / flute / interrogative particle乎. ‒ The interpretation as bellows (as writes another translator) is logically unfounded in every respect, and stands in no relation to the respective glyphs: 橐籥.
The bag-pipe instead is a ‹literal translation›. ‒ Bag-pipes are mentioned already in the Old Testament (Daniel 3:5, 10 and 15, in connection with Nebuchadnezzar). Moreover, there were bag-pipes found in Nineveh and Assyria; and also in archeological sites of Ancient Egypt, where they were dated back to the time of 1500 b.C. In Ancient India and China, the tradition of bag-pipes was traced back even until almost 2600 b.C.!
14 This ‹verse› is apparently built up on a play with the words moved and unmoved, or motionless – as well as with reservation and expressivity. Instead of unmoved in the sense of unyielding one might as well speak about inner force – as the yet unmoved bag-pipe contains (as inner force and potential expressivity) all sounds that one might produce by moving it ‒ i.e. playing it. – Thus also the transition of the text to loquacity and reservation becomes quite understandable as a metaphor.
What lies below is divine and everlasting —15
it is a feminine Mystery.
Mysteriously feminine is its aperture. —16
Indeed, Heaven and Earth are named the prime fountain:
They seem to last eternally —
Their survival is not to be feared for.17
15 Literally also: the valley, the lowlands, the deeply divine – as such to be understood like in N° 66. But we also may understand, like in the Tabula Smaragdina: what is above and what is below – or Yang and Yin. The same can be understood from the rest of this text. The significance of the whole ‹verse› can rather just be assumed than truly translated.
16 Variant: By right one names the Mystery a female. – [For,] mysterious is the woman’s abdomen. A Great Mystery is DAO; – from DAO, the Arch-Mother, come forth the ‹10'000 things›, i.e. all creatures. The woman as well (as a metaphor for DAO) is ‒ as a mother ‒ «the big one like the small one» of the Tabula Smaragdina. Here is the link between this line and the first and fourth lines of this text.
17 Equally well one can read: «Their utility [however] is not continuous… » – This is to be understood in view of alternative periodical flooding and scorching of both hemispheres, with the subsequent inhospitability (the ‹stone age› of the ‹Golden Age). The Westerner is amazed by this obvious contradiction in one and the same glyph 勤 – a typical «Taoist paradoxon».
Heavenly things are eternal, earthly things are long-lasting (久).
Therefore, the Universe is capable to prosper eternally,
now and forever: —
Same as it never emerged,18
it is capable also to last forever. (久)
The true sage lives like this:
He puts his身behind ‒ and yet his身stands in the first place —
he lets go of his身, and so he will preserve his身.19
Does not his impersonal detachment cause damage?20
That’s why he is able to reach perfection, personally.21
18 One modern Chinese interpreter formulates (here transferred into readable English): «Because (if, in case, as) they (Heaven and Earth) don’t worry about their own survival, nor about the natural course of things».
19 If the precedent N° contained a pun with words, the present one makes its puns with the glyph 身 (shēn) with its many significations: «conditions of living, duration of life, life, person, body, corps, place, grade, position, status, main-thing, etc. – Equivalent expressions for «and yet», are «and so», and «at the same time». ‒ A typical case of Chinese polyvalence …
All this gives, e.g., «if he sets behind the duration of his life, he will live long»;« if he lets go of his status, his post will be assured for him». – Or, as the Gospel says: «The last ones will be the first ones … » (Mt 20:16) – and: «He who loves his present life shall lose it, and he who hates his life in this world, shall beware it into eternal life…» (Jo 12:25).—
20 In two original versions used for the present book, this same line ends with the interrogative particle (‹question mark›) 乎, meaning the unarticulated answer: «No»).—
In Wang-Bi’s text, the same line ends with an exclamation mark. ‒ Hence, (because oft the polyvalence of the glyph 邪, which also may be translated as «absurdity», «irrationality», «disgrace», «evil», etc.) we get: «Never his unselfishness (or his impersonal attitude) will cause any evil!»
21 A variant just as valid would be: … to transform his innermost core.
An excellent ruler likens a stream:
A peaceful river transports innumerous things and living beings —
and this without a fight.22
If he acts so that the People hates him —
what will be his profit with regard to DAO?23
If instead he kindly cares fort his land —
if his demeanor is sincerely benevolent and virtuous —
if his speech is well put and trustworthy —
if he is a just and proficient ruler —
then he is well suited for his task,
and he will use his time in office flawlessly.24
A person only needs not to quarrel —
in order to encounter no incidents.25
22 The glyph 爭 stands for whatever is connected to forced will: fighting, arguing, railing, bump against obstacles – as opposed to well measured adaptability (‹softness of water); – see also later chapters.
23Wang-Bi writes without a ‹question mark›: « … then this is hardly in harmony with DAO ».
24 The same pictoglyphs also allow for the following reading (as opposed to the second line of the second paragraph): «Thus he uses well his time (the lapse of time given to him). – The meaning: Only a ruler striving for DAO is a good ruler; – only the time used with regard to one’s aspiration towards DAO, is lifetime well used.
25 This glyph rendered exactly means: nothing odd. In later chapters, the expression odd things always appears in the sense of agitations, revolts and (mostly bloody) crime.– With respect to Daoist strategy and tactics following SUN-DSE, the term means ‹formlessness› and ‹invisibility› – see commentaries to chapters 36, 40, 49, 68, and others). We also might read: one single man who does not fight, attracts no attention. – Or, finally, see N° 22.
Stockpiling of what you already have plenty —
this does not suit you.
To guess around where resoluteness is demanded —
such a one is not [even] fit to command a detail of guardians.26
Gold and precious stones careless at home —
Nothing and no-one can protect such a one.27
Rich, noble, and at the same time arrogant —
without effort one looses this vice!28
Who accomplishes great deeds and then withdraws —29
To Heaven his trail will lead!30
26 The nouns used here by previous translators, like bow, vessel, sword etc. don’t exist in any text known to us. Also, there is no question of bad habits here, but of fundamental flaws, as opposed to bravery and to the Path of DAO, which is not even mentioned explicitly, but only hinted at in the last glyph: The profoundest meaning of these texts is never found at their surface, and almost always relates to a ruler, and to conditions in China during the 5th c.b.C.
27 The glyph 之 can mean him, the owner, and also them, the treasures; in the mentality of Chinese writing: them – both of them.
28 Another precise version would be: surely – or certainly – such flaws ‒ or this shame ‒ will be lost, or abandoned …
29 One might as well say: « … and refuse a place of honor (or a pension for life) …». At any rate, this is about virtue, true nobleness, and modesty, as opposed to carelessness and plain ambition. Earlier translations render but three of the four glyphs of the same sequence.
30 The glyph 天 can mean Heaven, God and Emperor (on different planes at the same time): Such a one is (contrary to line 3) capable to be Emperor – or, so to speak, is already an Emperor, like the one in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz.
[He who] commands an army, directing his heart toward the One —
can he really allow himself to disregard separation?31
[Who] feels how the Prana of Life tenderly expands—32
can [he] really behave like a little boy?
[Who] controls extirpation of filth and secrecies —
Is [he] really allowed to overlook any flaws?
[Who] rules the People with love for the land of his ancestors —
is [he] really allowed to go idle?
The human who opens and closes the doors of Heaven —
may[he] really behave playfully like a little girl?
[Who] has clearly understood the four main subjects —
may [he] really neglect his knowledge?33
[Be he] highly erudite, or a peasant:
When he was born, he neither had nor was anything —
He makes experiences, but does not rely on them —
[He] grows learning, but never dominates anything —
By right DE is named a Mystery.
31 The kernel of this series of rhetorical questions is the repeated 能 … 乎 ‒ (can/may he/one really …?
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