The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnameable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.
Free from desire,
you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire,
you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 1, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
A New Beginning
Every time I begin another cycle through the Tao Te Ching, because I am starting at the beginning, I always presume my readers are beginners. I introduce my blog. I introduce philosophical Taoism. But, having cycled through the Tao Te Ching something like sixteen times, now, I have decided to do things a little bit differently with this new beginning. I am not going to reintroduce my blog. If you have any questions about me, or my blog, message me. I would love to hear from you. But, I won’t bore my readers with stuff most of you already know. I also am not going to treat you as beginners when it comes to philosophical Taoism. Most of you have been following along with me for quite some time. So, once again, I invite questions you may have, but I won’t automatically assume you know nothing of philosophical Taoism. We are on a journey together. And, for many of us, this isn’t a new path, it is a well-worn path. But, perhaps there will be something new to see. Something we haven’t noticed before. I have certainly found that to be the case each time I walk this path again.
We are going to discover more about the eternal Tao than we have ever known before, yet what I can tell of the tao, isn’t the eternal Tao. Even the name it has been given, isn’t the eternal Name. What is eternally real is unnameable. Naming is the origin of all particular things. But, the Tao isn’t a particular thing. I give names to things. And, that is their beginning. The Tao has no beginning; and, having no beginning, it has no end. It remains forever unnameable.
In yesterday’s concluding chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu said the Master has no possessions. He wasn’t talking about the things we have or don’t have. He was talking about the things we want. We need to be free from desire to realize the mystery of the Tao. Caught in desire, we can only see its manifestations.
The point of our journey (yes, there is a point) is to become free from desire. Every cycle through I get a bit more free. It was probably a good thing to get that out of the way, right up front. I have walked this path before. Many times. And, I am well familiar with the path. So, I am confident I can lead others along the way. But, I still don’t wish to call myself a master. Not yet. Most the time, all I can see are the manifestations. I will be pointing those out as we encounter them. But, every so often, more and more with each journey, but not nearly as often as I would like, I catch a glimpse of the mystery. I can’t see it for you. And, to tell of it, well, Lao Tzu already said that anything we can tell of it, isn’t it. My hope is that you will catch your own glimpses along the way.
So, though caught in desire, we still have those manifestations; and those manifestations, just like the mystery, arise from the same source. And, we can trace those manifestations right back to their source.
Lao Tzu calls this source darkness. Then, darkness within darkness. It is shrouded in mystery. But, along the way we will find, and be able to use, our own light to navigate our way through the darkness, the gateway to all understanding.