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

p. 26


Profound indeed were the most excellent among the ancients, penetrating, fathomless; inasmuch as they were fathomless it becomes necessary to employ far fetched symbols when speaking of them.

Irresolute—as if fording a stream in winter.

Timid—as though fearful of their neighbors.

Grave—as if they were guests. 1

Elusive—like ice about to melt.

Simple—like raw material. 2

Expansive—like the space between hills.

Turbid—like muddy water. 3

Who can still the turbid and make it gradually clear; or quiet the active so that by degrees it shall become productive? Only he who keeps this Tao, without desiring fullness. If one is not full it is possible to be antiquated and not newly fashioned. 4

The innerness of no faith can be reached unless there is a profound sympathy with its devotees, the public statements

p. 27

often being but veils, hiding more than they reveal. This was so in Egypt, Greece, Rome, India and Persia; even "the aborigines of Central Australia to-day have their secret rites and doctrines revealed only to the males of the tribe after passing the manhood tests, and rigidly concealed, not only from the outside world, but from their own women and children." Jesus talked in parables to the crowd, explanations were reserved for His disciples. In the early Christian centuries truths unspoken in the public pulpits were revealed to a disciplina arcani. So also Lao-tzu is more impressed with the reticence of the ancients than with their eloquence. Only that self-restrained silence, born of "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding," and which seeks no earthly "fullness," can clear turbidity and make outward activity wholly productive without any destructive element. For such a storm is as a calm, or the echo of distant music.


26:1 Chinese etiquette requires that a guest shall preserve due gravity in the presence of his host, to express his consciousness that he is where he is not himself a master, and must therefore guard himself.

26:2 "Simplicity is the highest quality of expression. It is that quality to which art comes in its supreme moments. It marks the final stage of growth. It is the rarest, as it is the most precious, result which men secure in their self-training."

26:3 This seven-fold illustration marks a certain progression—1. There is uncertainty of purpose. 2. The naturally resultant timidity of expression. 3. Yet a consciousness of a certain kind of standing. 4. But the position allows of no self assertion. 5. Nevertheless there is an inner center round which the whole man focuses his strength. 6. And from this inner center of self-consciousness there springs an all-embracing comprehensiveness. 7. This comprehensiveness because including All is as No-Thing (Turbid, like mudded water.)

26:4 All external conditions alike. Old age as serviceable as youth; youth as fruitful as old age.

Next: Chapter XVI