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Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901], at


The Case of Lî R.

The above named, who is commonly called Lâo-tsze (the old philosopher), was born about 604 B.C., in Honan, China. For part of his life, perhaps a large part, he was curator in the Royal

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[paragraph continues] Library. Kung-fu-tse (Confucius) visited Li in 517, when he (Li) was in his eighty-eighth year. In the course of their conversation Lî said to Kung: "The men about whom you talk are dead and their bones are mouldered to dust; only their words are left. Moreover when the superior man gets his opportunity he mounts aloft; but when the time is against him he is carried along by the force of circumstances. I have heard that a good merchant, though he have rich treasures safely stored, appears as if he were poor; and that the superior man, though his virtue be complete, is yet to outward seeming, stupid. Put away your proud air and many desires—your insinuating habit and wild will. They are of no advantage to you; this is all I have to tell you." Kung is made to say to his disciples after the interview: "I know birds can fly, fish swim and animals run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon: I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds and rises to heaven. To-day I have seen Lâo-tsze, and can only compare him to the dragon" [166:34]. It seems to have been after this meeting that Lâo-tsze wrote his book on the Tâo and its attributes in five thousand characters. After writing the book he is said to have gone away toward the northwest. It is not known when or where he died.

What is this Tâo? It is said to keep those who possess it young. A famous Tâoist, an old man, is represented as being addressed as follows: "You are old, sir, while your complexion is like that of a child; how is it so?" And the reply is: "I became acquainted with the Tâo" [166: 24]. In the first translation of the Tâo Teh King into any Western language Tâo is taken in the sense of Ratio or the Supreme Reason. Abel Remusat's account of the character Tâo is: "It does not seem possible to me to translate this word except by Logos in the triple sense of Sovereign Being, Reason and the Word." Remusat's successor in the chair of Chinese at Paris, Stanislas Julien, who made a translation of the Tâo Teh King, decided that it was impossible to understand by Tâo Primordial Reason or Sublime Intelligence, and concluded that the Tâo was devoid of action, of thought, of judgment and

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of intelligence—in fact, he seems (without saying so) to have Trade the word synonymous (as it doubtless is) with Nirvâna [166:12]. Finally he translates it "a way" or "the way," in the sense of "I am the way, the truth and the life," and so again it becomes synonymous with "Christ," with "Nirvâna" and with Cosmic Consciousness.

Lâo-tsze speaks of certain results which flow from the cultivation of the Tâo, and if we will rightly understand his language we shall find that it holds good of those who have the Cosmic Sense. He says: "He who is skillful in managing his life travels on land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger, and enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon. The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn, nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws, nor the weapon a place to admit its point. And for what reason? Because there is in him no place of death." And again: "He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tâo) is like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him" [166: 25].

To come down to our own day, here in America, to illustrate this passage. The writer has seen Walt Whitman on Long Island, New York, remain on a verandah a whole long summer evening, the air being literally loaded with mosquitoes. These would settle upon him in large numbers, but he did not appear to notice them. From time to time he waved a palm leaf fan which he held in his hand, but did not use it or his other hand to drive away or kill any of the mosquitoes. He did not appear to be bitten or in any way annoyed by the small creatures, who were driving the rest of the party almost wild. It is well known that Walt Whitman came and went freely and with impunity for years, off and on as he pleased, among the most dangerous people of New York. It has never been said that he was at any time molested or even spoken roughly to. As to the life of the possessor of the Tâo (if that is Cosmic Consciousness) being indestructible by tigers, or other wild beasts or armed men, that is the simple truth.

Again it is said of the Tâo that its "highest excellence is like

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that of water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving to the contrary, the low ground which all men dislike. Hence (its way) is near to that of the Tâo. There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it. Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard, and the weak the strong, but no one is able to carry it out in practice" [166: 30–1].

So Whitman says of the Cosmic Sense: "What is commonest, cheapest, meanest, easiest, is Me." And again: "There is nothing so soft but it makes a hub for the wheeled universe."

It is said further that: "It is the way of the Tâo to act without (thinking of) acting, to conduct affairs without (feeling) the trouble of them, to taste without discerning any flavor, to consider the small as great, and the few as many, and to recompense injury with kindness" [166: 31].

Here follow a few passages from Lî R's book, the Tâo Teh King, accompanied by parallel passages from the sayings or writings of other men possessed of Cosmic Consciousness:

* Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull and confused. I seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as if I had nowhere to rest.* All men have their spheres of action, while I alone seem dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. (Thus) I alone am different from other men, but I value the nursing-mother [the Tâo] [166:63].

* The partial becomes complete; the crooked, straight; the empty, full; the worn out, new. He whose (desires) are few gets them; he whose (desires) are many goes astray [166: 65].

* The Tâo, considered as unchanging, has no name. Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small, the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister. If a feudal

* "Behold this swarthy face, these gray eyes,
This beard, the white wool unclipt upon my neck,
My brown hands and the silent manner of me without charm" [193: 105].

* "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" [14: 8: 20].

* "The felon steps forth from the prison, the insane becomes sane . . . the throat that was unsound is sound, the lungs of the consumptive are resumed, the poor distressed head is free" [193: 332].

* "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown upon the earth, though it be less than all the seeds that are upon the earth, yet when it is sown, groweth up and becometh greater than all the herbs, and putteth out great branches; so that the birds p. 265 of the heaven can lodge under the shadow thereof" [15: 4: 31].

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prince or king could guard or hold it, all would spontaneously submit themselves to him. Heaven and earth (under his guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, without the directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord [166: 74].

To him who holds in his hands the Great Image (of the invisible Tâo) the whole world repairs.* Men resort to him, and receive no hurt, but (find) rest, peace, and the feeling of ease. Music and dainties will make the passing guest stop (for a time). But though the Tâo as it comes from the mouth seems insipid and has no flavor, though it seems not worth being looked at or listened to, the use of it is inexhaustible [166: 77].

Without going outside his door,* one understands (all that takes place) under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Tâo of heaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself) the less he knows [166: 89].

He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble (with that end).* If one takes trouble (with that end) he is not equal to getting as his own all under heaven [166: 90].

He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tâo) is like an infant.* Poisonous insects will not sting him; birds of prey will not strike him [166:99].

He who knows (the Tâo) does not (care to) speak (about it);* he who is (ever ready to) speak about it does not know it. He (who knows it) will keep his mouth shut and close the portals

* "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God [of the Cosmic Sense], for they are foolishness unto him" [20: 2: 14]. The teachings of the Cosmic Sense are always tasteless and insipid at first, but their use "is inexhaustible."

* "In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes" [193: 54].
"I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you" [193:55].

"What is commonest, cheapest, meanest, easiest, is Me" [193: 39].
"Will you seek afar off? You surely come back at last" [193: 175].

* "To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well married couple, and the fruits of orchards and the flowers of gardens,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains, the love out of their hearts" [193: 127].

* "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein" [15: 10: 15].

* It is curious that men with Cosmic Consciousness will not speak of it. Years ago, when the writer was as intimate with Walt Whitman as he ever was with any of his brothers he tried hard to get Whitman to tell him something about it (for he knew p. 266 well there was something special to tell and Whitman knew that he knew), but he could never extract a word from the poet. These men put it in their writings in an impersonal manner, but will hardly ever speak face to face of their personal experiences; these are too sacred to be dealt with in that manner.

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[paragraph continues]

(of his nostrils). He will blunt his sharp points and unravel the complications of things; he will attemper his brightness, and bring himself into agreement with the obscurity (of others). This is called "the Mysterious Agreement." (Such an one) cannot be treated familiarly or distantly; he is beyond all consideration of profit or injury—of nobility or meanness; he is the noblest man under heaven [166: 100].

(Its) admirable words can purchase honor;* (its) admirable deeds can raise their performer above others. Even men who are not good are not abandoned by it [166: 105].

(It is the way of the Tâo) to act without (thinking of) acting;* to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavor; to consider what is small is great, and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness [166: 106].

That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage and tribute of all the valley streams,* is their skill in being lower than they; it is thus that they are the kings of them all. So it is that the sage (ruler), wishing to be above men, puts himself by his words below them, and, wishing to be before them, places his person behind them [166:109].

All the world says that, while my Tâo is great, it yet appears to be inferior (to other systems of teaching). Now it is just its greatness that makes it seem to be inferior. If it were like any other (system), for long would its smallness have been known!*

But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy, and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others.

With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honor. Nowadays they give up gentleness and are all for being bold; economy, and are all for being liberal; the hindmost place, and seek only to be foremost; (all of which the end is) death [166:110].

Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere;* those who are skilled (in the Tâo) do not dispute

*"Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus said unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven" [14: 18: 21].

* "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you" [14: 5: 44].

* "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant" [14:20:26].

* Consider and compare the lives and teachings of Gautama, Jesus, Paul, Whitman, Carpenter and nearly all the great cases.

* "Logic and sermons never convince" [193: 53].

"I cannot beguile the time with talk.

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(about it); the disputatious are not skilled in it. Those who know (the Tâo) are not extensively learned; the extensively learned do not know it [166: 123]*

* In the learned coterie sitting constrained and still, for learning inures not to me" [193: 249].

"If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise" [20: 3: 18].

Next: Chapter 6. Socrates