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

p. 70


The true student hears of the Tao; he is diligent and practices it.

The average student hears of it; sometimes he appears to be attentive, then again he is inattentive.

The half hearted student hears of it; he loudly derides it. If it did not provoke ridicule it would not be worthy the name—Tao.

Again there are those whose only care is phraseology.

The brilliancy of the Tao is as obscurity; the advance of the Tao is as a retreat; the equality of the Tao is as inequality; the higher energy is as cosmic space; the greatest purity is as uncleanness; the widest virtue is as if insufficient; 1 established virtue is as if furtive; the truest essence is as imperfection; the most perfect square is cornerless; the largest vessel is last completed; the loudest sound has fewest tones; the grandest conception is formless.

The Tao is concealed and nameless, yet it is the Tao alone which excels in imparting and completing.

Of Himself the great Master said: "The foxes have holes and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." Of those who would be His disciples the same Master said: "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." In the Indian Gita the qualifications for discipleship are described as "Unattachment, absence of

p. 71

self-identification with son, wife or home, and constant balance of mind in wished-for and unwished-for events." "For narrow is the gate, and straightened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it." No wonder that when "the half hearted" hear of it, they loudly deride it. It means obscurity, retreat, self-repression, crucifixion, until the flesh rebels and cries out in bitterness, only to find its wail unheeded. There is nothing here to attract any but those who are indifferent to objects of sense. Established virtue is as if furtive. The square which is most complete is without parts, it has no corners; in the words of Paul, the true student is "as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things"; for though "concealed and nameless, yet it is the TAO alone which excels in imparting and completing."


70:1 The "Virtue" of this chapter is the "Energy" of chap. 38 and elsewhere. See "energy" in index.

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