Saturday, January 29, 2011

Line by Line - Verse 21, Line 3

Eluding sight, eluding touch,
The forms of things all in it crouch;

~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Oh, it is intangible and elusive, and yet within is image.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

So unclear, so indistinct
Within it there is image

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Like this: First, there's nothing.
Then, the void is filled with images.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
It seems to be such a contradiction. How can nothing give birth to everything. How can a void be filled by the void itself?

Rationally, it makes no sense. It doesn't matter, though. As far as we know, there IS something here -- us and everything else. So, me thinks it's better to start with what we do and can know; forget about the stuff we can never know.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.


  1. Non-being (as wuji) gives birth to being (as taiji). It's the fundamental concept of Taoist metaphysics and ontology. Irrationality gives birth to rationality. The reversal of these birthings is what neidan is about.

    It's not incompatible with Western existential thinking and physics.

  2. ah. cogito ergo sum, eh? I dig it. But what it is I dig, who can tell?


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