Those who spoke of the Great Way in ancient times could count to five in the sequence [described above] and pick out "forms and names," or count to nine and discuss "rewards and punishments." But to jump right in and talk about "forms and names" is to lack an understanding of the source; to jump right in and talk about "rewards and punishments" is to lack an understanding of the beginning. Those who stand the Way on its head before describing it, who turn it backwards before expounding it, may be brought to order by others, but how could they be capable of bringing others to order? Those who jump right in and talk about "forms and names," "rewards and punishments," have an understanding of the tools for bringing order, but no understanding of the way to bring order. They may work for the world, but they are not worthy to make the world work for them. They are rhetoricians, scholars cramped in one corner of learning. Rites and laws, weights and measures, the careful comparison of forms and names - the men of old had all these. They are the means by which those below serve those above, not the means by which those above shepherd those below.Imagine using a recipe to bake a cake and yet performing many of the steps out of order. You can't bake the cake before you mix it! You can't frost it while it is a bowl of glop. Your cake would be a failure if you mixed the water and flour, baked it and then added the eggs and butter.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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