TAO TEH KING
A New Translation By
THE EQUINOX (Volume III, No. VIII.)
The Official Organ of the A.. A..
The Review of Scientific Illuminism
Complete Contents Copyright 1990 E.V.
O.T.O. (ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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"DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW."
The True, The Abiding TAO!
Who Understandeth Hath;
Who Hath the TAO is Here and Now
In Silence of the Path
I bound myself to devote my life to Magick at Easter 1898, and
received my first initiation on November 18 of that year. My
friend and climbing companion, Oscar Eckenstein, gave me my first
instructions in learning the control of the mind early in 1901 in
Mexico City. Shri Parananda, Solicitor General of Ceylon and an
eminent writer upon and teacher of Yoga from the orthodox Shaivite
standpoint, and Bhikkhu Ananda Metteya, the great English Adept,
who was one of my earliest instructors in Magick and joined the
Sangha in Burma in 1902, gave me my first groundings in mystical
theory and practice. I spent some months of 1901 in Kandy, Ceylon,
with the latter until success crowned my work.
I also studied all varieties of Asiatic philosophy, especially
with regard to the practical question of spiritual development,
the Sufi doctrines, the Upanishads, the Sankhya, Vedanta, the
Bhagavad Gita and Purana, the Dhammapada, and many otherclassics,
together with numerous writings on the Tantra and Yoga of such men
as Patanjali, Vivekananda, etc. Not a few of
these teachings are as yet wholly unknown to scholars. I made the
scope of my studies as comprehensive as possible,omitting no
school of thought however unimportant or repugnant.
I made a critical examination of all these teachers in the
light of my practical experiences. The physiological and
psychological uniformity of mankind guaranteed that the diversity
of expression concealed a unity of significance. This discovery,
furthermore, was confirmed by reference to Jewish, Greek and
Celtic traditions. One quintessential truth was common to all
cults, from the Hebrides to the Yellow Sea, and even the main
branches proved essentially identical. It was only the foliage
that exhibited incompatibility.
When I walked across China in 1905-6, I was fully armed and
accoutred by the above qualifications to attack the till-then-
insoluble problem of the Chinese conception of religious truth.
Practical studies of such Mongolians as I had met in my travels,
had already suggested to me that their acentric conception of the
universe might represent the correspondence in consciousness of
their actual psychological characteristics. I was therefore
prepared to examine the doctrines of their religious and
philosophical Masters without prejudice such as had always
rendered nugatory the efforts of missionary sinologists and indeed
all oriental scholars with the single exception of Rhys Davids.
Until his time translators had invariably assumed, with
absurd naivite, or more often arrogant bigotry, that a Chinese
writer must either be putting forth a more or less distorted and
degraded variation of some Christian conception, or utterly puerile
Even so great a man as Max Muller in his introduction to the
Upanishads seems only half inclined to admit that the apparent
triviality and folly of many passages in these so-called sacred
writings might owe their appearance to our ignorance of the
historical and religious circumstances, a knowledge of which would
render them intelligible.
During my solitary wanderings among the mountainous wastes of
Yun Nan, the spiritual atmosphere of China penetrated my
consciousness, thanks to the absence of any intellectual
impertinences from the organ of knowledge. The TAO TEH KING
revealed its simplicity and sublimity to my soul, little by little,
as the conditions of my physical life, no less than of my
spiritual, penetrated the sanctuaries of my spirit. The
philosophy of Lao Tze communicated itself to me, despite the
persistent efforts of my mind to compel it to conform with my
preconceived notions of what the text must mean. This process,
having thus taken root in my innermost intuition during those
tremendous months of wandering across Yun Nan, grew continually
throughout succeeding years. Whenever I found myself able once
more to withdraw myself from the dissipations and distractions
which contact with civilisation forces upon one, no matter how
vigorously he may struggle against their insolence, to the sacred
solitude of the desert, whether among the Sierras of Spain, or the
sand of the Sahara, I found that the philosophy of Lao Tze
resumed its sway upon my soul, subtler and stronger on each
But neither Europe nor Africa can show such desolation as
America. The proudest, stubbornest, bitterest peasant of deserted
Spain, the most primitive and superstitious Arab of the remotest
oases, are a little more than kin and never less than kind at
their worst; whereas in the United States one is almost always
conscious of an instinctive lack of sympathy and understanding with
even the most charming and cultured people. It was therefore
during my exile in America that the doctrines of Lao Tze developed
most rapidly in my soul, even forcing their way outward until I
felt it imperious, nay inevitable, to express them in terms of
No sooner had this resolve taken possession of me than I
realized that the task approximated to impossibility. His very
simplest ideas, the primitive elements of his thought, had no true
correspondences in any European terminology. The very first word
Tao presented a completely insoluble problem. It had been
translated "Reason," the "Way," "To On." None of these cover the
faintest conception of the Tao.
The Tao is "Reason" in this sense, that the substance of
things may be in part apprehended as being that necessary relation
between the elements of thought which determines the laws of
reason. In other words, the only reality is that which compels us
to connect the various forms of illusion as we do. It is thus
evidently unknowable, and expressible neither by speech nor by
silence. All that we can know about it is that there is inherent
in it a power (which, however, is not itself) by virtue whereof
all beings appear in forms congruous with the nature of necessity
The Tao is also the "Way" in the following sense. Nothing
exists except as a relation with other similarly postulated ideas.
Nothing can be known in itself but only as one of the participants
in a series of events. Reality is therefore in the motion, not in
the things moved. We cannot apprehend anything except as one
postulated element of an observed impression of change. We may
express this in other terms as follow. Our knowledge of anything
is in reality the sum of our observations of its successive
movements, that is to say, of its path from the "Way". It is not
a thing in itself in the sense of being an object susceptible of
apprehension by sense of mind. It is not the cause of anything,
but the category under lying all existence or event and therefore
true and real as theyare illusory, being merely landmarks invented
for convenience in describing our experiences. The Tao possesses
no power to cause anything to exist or to take place. Yet our
experience, when analyzed, tells us that the only reality of which
we may be sure is this path or "Way" which resumes the whole of
As for "To On", which superficially might seem the best
translation of Tao as described in the text, it is the most
misleading of the three. For "To On" possesses an extensive
connotation implying a whole system of Platonic concepts than
which nothing can be more alien to the essential quality of the
Tao. Tao is neither being nor not-being in any sense which Europe
could understand. It is neither existence nor a condition or form
of existence. At the same time, "To On" gives no idea of Tao.
Tao is altogether alien to all that class of thought. From its
connection with "that principle which necessarily underlies the
fact that events occur," one might suppose that the 'Becoming' of
Heraclitus might assist us to describe the Tao. But the Tao is not
a principle at all of that kind. To understand it requires an
altogether different state of mind to any with which European
thinkers in general are familiar. It is necessary to pursue
unflinchingly the path of spiritual development on the lines
indicated by the Sufis, the Hindus and the Buddhist; and having
reached the Trance called Nerodha-Sammapati, in which are destroyed
all forms soever of consciousness, there appears in that abyss of
annihilation the germ of an entirely new type of idea, whose
principal characteristic is this: that the entire concatention of
one's previous experiences and conceptions could not have happened
at all, save by virtue of this indescribable necessity.
I am only too painfully aware that the above exposition is
faulty in every respect. In particular, it presupposes in the
reader considerable familiarity with the substance, thus
practically begging the question. It must also prove almost
wholly unintelligible to the average reader, him, in fact, whom I
especially aim to interest. For his sake, I will try to elucidate
the matter by an analogy. Consider electricity. It would be
absurd to say that electricity was any of the phenomena by which
we know it. We take refuge in the petitio principii of saying
that electricity is that form of energy which is the principle
cause of such and such phenomena. Suppose now that we eliminate
this idea as evidently illogical. What remains? We must not
hastily answer, "nothing remains." There is something inherent in
the nature of consciousness, reason, perception, sensation, and of
the universe of which they inform us, which is responsible for the
fact that we observe these phenomena and not others; that we
reflect upon them as we do, and not otherwise. But even deeper
than this, part of the reality of the inscrutable energy which
determines the form of our experience consists in determining that
experience should take place at all. It should be clear that this
has nothing to do with any of the Platonic conceptions of the
nature of things.
The least abject in the intellectual bankruptcy of European
thought is the Hebrew Qabalah. Properly understood it is a system
of symbolism infinitely elastic, assuming no axioms, postulating
no principles, asserting no theorems, and therefore adaptable, of
managed adroitly, to describe any conceivable doctrine. It has
been my continual study since 1898, and I have found it of infinite
value in the study of the TAO TEH KING. By its aid I was able to
attribute the ideas of Lao Tze to an order with which I was
exceedingly familiar and whose practical worth I had repeatedly
proved by using it as the basis of the analysis and classification
of all Aryan and Semitic religions and philosophies. Despite the
essential difficulty of correlating the ideas of Lao Tze with any
others, the persistent application of the Qabalistic keys
eventually unlocked his treasure house. I was able to explain to
myself his teachings in terms of familiar systems. This
achievement broke the back of my Sphinx. Having once reduce Lao
Tze to Qabalistic form, it was easy to translate the result into
the language of philosophy. I had already done much to create a
new language based on English with the assistance of a few
technical terms borrowed from Asia, and above all by the use of a
novel conception of the idea of number and algebraic and
arithmetical proceedings, to convey the results of spiritual
experience to intelligent students.
It is therefore not altogether without confidence that I
present this translation of the TAO TEH KING to the public. I
hope and believe that careful study of the text, as elucidated by
my commentary, will enable serious aspirants to the hidden wisdom
to understand with fair accuracy what Lao Tze taught.
It must, however, be laid to heart that the essence of his
system will inevitably elude intellectual apprehension unless it
be illuminated from above by actual living experience of the
truth. Such experience is only to be attained by unswerving
application to the practices which he advocated. Nor must the
aspirant content himself with the mere attainment of spiritual
enlightenment, however sublime. All such achievements are barren
unless they be regarded as the means rather than the end of
spiritual progress, and allowed to infiltrate every detail of the
life, not only of the spirit but of the senses. The Tao can never
be known until it interprets the most trivial actions of everyday
routine. It is a fatal mistake to discriminate between the
spiritual importance of meditation and playing golf. To do so is
to create an internal conflict. "Let there be no difference made
among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby
there cometh hurt." He who knows the Tao knows it to be the
source of all things soever; the most exalted spiritual ecstasy and
the most trivial internal impressions are, from our point of view,
equally illusions, worthless masks, which hide, with grotesque
painted pasteboard fake and lifeless, the living face of truth.
Yet from another point of view they are equally expressions of the
ecstatic genius of truth - natural images of the reaction between
the essence of one's self and one's particular environment at the
moment of their occurrence. They are equally tokens of the Tao, by
whom, in whom, and of whom, they are. To value them for
themselves is deny the Tao and to be lost in delusion. To despise
them is to deny the omnipresence of the Tao and to suffer the
illusion of sorrow. To discriminate between them is to set up the
accursed dyad, to permit the insanity of intellect to overwhelm the
intuition of truth, and to create civil war in the consciousness.
From 1908 to 1918, the TAO TEH KING was my continual study.
I constantly recommended it to my friends as the supreme
masterpiece of initiated wisdom and I was as constantly
disappointed when they declared that it did not impress them,
especially as my preliminary descriptions of the book had aroused
their keenest interest. I thus came to see that the fault lay
with Legge's translation, and I felt myself impelled to undertake
the task of presenting Lao Tze in language informed by the
sympathetic understanding which initiation and spiritual
experience had conferred on me. During my Great Magical
Retirement on Aesopus Island in the Hudson River during the summer
of 1918, I set myself to this work, but I discovered immediately
that I was totally incompetent. I therefore appealed to an Adept
named Amalantrah, with whom I was at that time in almost daily
communion. He came readily to my aid and exhibited to me a codex
of the original, which conveyed to me with absolute certitude the
exact significance of the text. I was able to divine without
hesitation or doubt the precise manner in which Legge had been
deceived. He had translated the Chinese with singular fidelity,
yet in almost every verse the interpretation was altogether
misleading. There was no need to refer to the text from the point
of view of scholarship. I had merely to paraphrase his translation
in the light of actual knowledge of the true significance of the
terms employed. Anyone who cares to take the trouble to compare
the two versions will be astounded to see how slight a remodeling
of a paragraph is sufficient to disperse the obstinate obscurity of
prejudice and let loose a fountain and a flood of living light to
kindle the gnarled prose of stolid scholarship into the burgeoning
blossom of lyrical flame.
I completed my translation within three days, but during the
last five years I have constantly reconsidered every sentence. The
manuscript has been lent to a number of friends, scholars who have
commended my work, and aspirants who have appreciated its adequacy
to present the spirit of the Master's teaching. Those who have
been disappointed with Legge's version were enthusiastic about
mine. This circumstance is in itself sufficient to assure me that
Love's labour has not been lost, and to fill me with enthusiastic
confidence that the present publication will abundantly contribute
to the fulfillment of my True Will for which I came to earth, and
wring labour and sorrow to the utmost of which humanity is capable,
the Will to open the portals to the spiritual attainment to my
fellow men and bring them to the enjoyment of that realization of
Truth beneath all veils of temporal falsehood; which had
enlightened mine eyes and filled my mouth with song.
THE NATURE OF THE TAO
1. The Tao-Path is not the All-Tao.
The Name is not the Thing named.
2. Unmanifested, it is the Secret Father of Heaven and Earth.
Manifested, it is their Mother.
3. To understand this Mystery, one must be fulfilling one's
will, and if one is not thus free, one will but gain a
smattering of it.
4. The Tao is one, and the Teh but a Phase thereof. The abyss
of this Mystery is the Portal of Serpent-Wonder.
1 Tao hath for parallel Pleroma, Shiva, Jod, etc. Teh hath for
parallel Logos, Sakti, He, etc. But the conception of Lao Tze
unites all these at their highest. The best parallel is given
in Liber CCXX, Chapters I and II, where Hadit is Tao and Nuit,
Teh (yet these are in certain aspects interchanged.) The
point of this paragraph is to make discrimination or
definition, not to assert the superiority of either conception.
The illusion of any such preference would depend on the grade
of initiation of a student. A Magus 90 = 2 of A.. A.. would
doubtless esteem the Path of "Becoming" as his Absolute, for
the law of his Grade is Change (see Liber B vel Magi sub Figura
I). But who knows? As Ipsissimus 100 = 0 might find a
conception to transcend even this. For instance, one might
interpret this first paragraph as saying that Becoming is not
Tao, but that Tao is a Being whose nature is Becoming. Matter
and Motion cannot exist separately. The reader should regard
every verse of this Book as a text worth of the most intense
and prolonged meditation. He will not understand the Book
thoroughly until he has wrought his mind into its proper shape
in the great Forge of Samadhi.
2 This doctrine is the initiated teaching to hint at which
priests invented legends of parthenogenesis.
3 In a moral state, therefore, without desire, frictionless.
4 Cf. Berashith for the identity of the phases of "Oo" and
"something." Serpent-Wonder refers to the Magical Force
THE ENERGY - SOURCE OF THE SELF
1. All men know that beauty and ugliness are correlative,
as are skill and clumsiness;
one implies and suggests the other.
2. So also existence and non-existence pose the one the other;
so also is it with ease and difficulty;
length and shortness height and lowness.
Also Musick exists through harmony of opposite
time and space depend upon contraposition.
3. By the use of this method, the sage can fulfill his will
without action, and utter his word without speech.
4. All things arise without diffidence; they grow, and none
they change according to their natural order,
without lust of result. The work is accomplished;
yet continueth in its orbit, without goal. This work is done
unconsciously; this is why its energy is indefatigable.
1 I.e., the thought of either implies its opposite.
2 Nay, even.
This shows how the Tao realizes itself through its projection
in correlative phases, expressing 0 as + 1 + (-1); to speak
like a Qabalist or an electrician.
3 Our activity is due to the incompleteness of the summing up of
Forces. Thus a man proceeds to walk East at four miles an
hour, though he is already traveling in that direction at over
1,000 miles an hour. The end of the Meditation on Action is
the realization of Hadit; wherefore any action would be a
disturbance of that perfection. This being understood of the
True Self, the mind and body proceed untrammeled in their
natural path without desire on the part of the self.
1. To reward merit is to stir up emulation; to prize rarities is
to encourage robbery; to display desirable things is to
excite the disorder of covetousness.
2. Therefore, the sage governeth men by keeping their minds and
their bodies at rest, contenting the one by emptiness, the
other by fullness. He satisfieth their desires, thus
fulfilling their wills, and making them frictionless; and he
maketh them strong in body, to a similar end
3. He delivereth them from the restlessness of knowledge and
the cravings of discontent. As to those who have knowledge
already , he teacheth them the way of non-action. This being
assured, there is no disorder in the world
1 A lecture on the labour problem.
THE SPRING WITHOUT SOURCE
1. The Tao resembleth the Emptiness of Space; to employ it, we
must avoid creating ganglia. Oh Tao, how vast art Thou, the
Abyss of Abysses, thou Holy and Secret Father of all
Fatherhoods of Things!
2. Let us make our sharpness blunt; let us loosen our complexes;
let us tone down our brightness to the general obscurity.
3. Oh Tao, how still art Thou, how pure, continuous One beyond
4. This Tao hath no Father; it is beyond all other conceptions,
higher than the highest.
1 See Liber CCXX. .I.22, "let there be no difference made among
you between any one thing & any other thing." Inequality (an
Illusion) and disorder necessarily result from the departure
2 For Sharpness implies a concentration.
3 For these are the ganglia of thought, which must be destroyed.
4 On the same principles, Cf. the Doctrine in Liber Al vel
Legis sub figura CCXX, The Book of The Law, as to the
"spacemarks," the stars are blemishes, so to speak, on the
continuity of Nuit.
THE FORMULA OF THE VACUUM
1. Heaven and earth proceed without motive, but casually, in
their order of nature, dealing with all things carelessly,
like used talismans. So also the sages deal with their people,
not exercising benevolence, but allowing the nature of all to
move without friction.
2. The Space between heaven and earth is their breathing
3. Exhalation is not exhaustion, but the complement
of Inhalation, and this equally of that. Speech exhausteth;
guard thyself, therefore, maintaining the perfect freedom of
1 I.e., the six trigrams between Heaven and Earth
and so these must not be interfered with.
2 By interfering with this regular order of breathing.
3 References to the trigrams of the Yi King must be explained
by that Book. It would be impossible to elucidate such
passages in a note. Ko Yuen is now at work to prepare an
edition of the Yi. (Cf. SHIH YI - A Critical and Mnemonic
Paraphrase of the Yi King by Ko Yuen.)
THE PERFECTION OF FORM
1. The Teh is the immortal energy of the Tao, its feminine
aspect. Heaven and Earth issued from her Gate; this Gate is
the root of their World-Sycamore. Its operation is of pure
Joy and Love, and faileth never.
1 Cf. in Liber Aleph vel CXI, The Book of Wisdom or Folly, the
doctrine of "The Play of Nuit."
THE CONCEALMENT OF THE LIGHT
1. Heaven and Earth are mighty in continuance, because their
work is delivered from the lust of result.
2. Thus also the sage, seeking not any goal, attaineth all
things; he doth not interfere in the affairs of his body, and
so that body acteth without friction. It is because he
meddleth not with personal aims that these come to pass with
1 See the Book of The Law as to "lust of result." The general
idea of the Way of the Tao is that all evil is interference.
It is unnatural action which is error. Non-action is
commendable only as a corrective of such; to interfere with
one's own true Way is Restriction, the word of Sin.
THE NATURE OF PEACE
1. Admire thou the High Way of Water! Is not Water the soul of
the life of things, whereby they change? Yet it seeketh its
level, and abideth content in obscurity. So also it
resembleth the Tao, in this Way thereof!
2. The virtue of a house is to be will-placed; of the mind, to
be at ease in silence as of space; of societies, to be will-
disposed; of governments, to maintain quietude; of work, to
be skillfully performed; and of all motion, to be made at the
3. Also it is the virtue of a man to abide in his place without
discontent; thus offendeth he no man.
1 Hydrogen and chlorine (for example) will not unite when
properly dry. Dryness is immobility or death. (Cf. Liber
Aleph vel CXI, The Book of Wisdom or Folly, the doctrine
2 In all these illustrations, Lao Tze deprecates restlessness
3 This gives point to the previous paragraph. It is all
another way of saying "Do what thou wilt."
THE WAY OF RETICENCE
1. Fill not a vessel, lest it spill in carrying. Meddle not
with a sharpened point by feeling it constantly, or it will
soon become blunted.
2. Gold and jade endanger the house of their possessor. Wealth
and honors lead to arrogance and envy, and bring ruin. Is thy
way famous and thy name becoming distinguished? Withdraw,
thy work once done, into obscurity; this is the way of Heaven.
1 Moderation. Let well alone.
2 Attend to the work; ignore the byproducts thereof.
1. When soul and body are in the bond of love, they can be
kept together. By concentration on the breath it is brought
to perfect elasticity, and one becomes as a babe. By
purifying oneself from Samadhi one becomes whole.
2. In his dealing with individuals and with society, let him
move without lust of result. In the management of his breath,
let him be like the mother-bird. Let his intelligence
comprehend every quarter; but let his knowledge cease.
3. Here is the Mystery of Virtue. It createth all and
nourisheth all; yet it doth not adhere to them; it operateth
all, but knoweth not of it, nor proclaimeth it; it directeth
all, but without conscious control.
3 Prana. Here we see once more the doctrine of being without
Internal conflict leads to rupture. Again, one's Pranayama is
to result imperfect pliability and exact adjustment to one's
environment. Finally, even Sammasamadhis is a defect, so
long as it is an experience instead of a constant state. So
long as there are two to become one, there are two.
4 I.e., brooding like the Spirit, quiet, without effort.
There is also reference to a certain Legend, known in the
Sanctuary of the Gnosis.
5 Binah; Daath.
6 He must absorb (or understand) everything without conscious
knowledge, which is a shock, implying duality, like flint and
steel, while understanding is like a sponge, or even like
ocean absorbing rivers.
7 Of the Tao and of him that hath it. Virtue - the Teh.
THE VALUE OF THE UNEXPRESSED
1. The thirty spokes join in their nave, that is one; yet the
wheel dependeth for use upon the hollow place for the axle.
Clay is shapen to make vessels; but the contained space is
what is useful. Matter is therefore of use only to make the
limits of the space which is the thing of real value.
1 This introduces the doctrine of the Fourth Dimension.
Matter is like the lines bounding a plane. The plane is the
real thing, the lines infinitely small in comparison, and
serving only to define it. So also the "Self" is an imaginary
limit marking off the divisions of the "Body of God." The
error of Ahamkara (the ego-making faculty) is to take the
illusory surface for the Sphere. Cf. The Book of The Law
concerning the Nature of Nuit.
THE WITHDRAWAL FROM THE EXTERNAL
1. The five colors film over sight; The five sounds make hearing
dull; The five flavors conceal taste; occupation with motion
and action bedevil Mind; even as the esteem of rare things
begetteth covetousness and disorder.
2. The wise man seeketh therefore to content the actual needs of
the people, not to excite them by the sight of luxuries. He
banneth these, and concentrateth on those.
1 This is the regular Yogi doctrine, and may be tested by
experience of various Shivanas and other proper
concentrations. But Lao Tze draws a parallel for social or
political use. To excite cupidity leads to theft at home,
and war abroad. It is only too evident today how neglect of
this rule has destroyed civilization; I need not insist on
examples of how A's potash, B's iron, C's coal and D's trade
routes have caused E to set the world ablaze. The present
labour troubles are due to the absurd cult of material
complexities miscalled prosperity.
THE CONTEMPT FOR CIRCUMSTANCE
1. Favor and disgrace are equally to be shunned; honour and
calamity to be alike regarded as adhering to the personality.
2. What is this which is written concerning favour and disgrace?
Disgrace is the fall from favour. He then that hath favour
hath fear, and its loss begetteth fear yet greater of a further
fall. What is this which is written concerning honour and
calamity? It is this attachment to the body which maketh
calamity possible; for were one bodiless, what evil could
3. Therefore let him that regardeth himself rightly administer
also a kingdom; and let him govern it who loveth it as
another man loveth himself.2
1 And, therefore, "ganglia" to be loosened is written, as
2 This does not mean with extreme devotion, but rather with
THE SHEWING FORTH OF THE MYSTERY
1. We look at it, and see it not, though it is Omnipresent; and
we name it the Root-Balance.1
We listen for it, and hear it not, though it is Omniscient;
and we name it the Silence.2
We feel for it, and touch it not, though it is Omnipotent;
and we name it the Concealed.3
These three Virtues hath it, yet we cannot describe it as
consisting of them; but, mingling them aright, we apprehend
2. Above, it shineth not; below, it is not dark. It moveth all
continuously, with out Expression, returning into Naught. It
is the Form of That which is beyond Form; it is the Image of
the Invisible; it is Change, and Without Limit.4
3. We confront it, and see not its Face; we pursue it, and its
Back is hidden from us. Ah! but apply the Tao as in old Time
to the work of the present; know it as it was known in the
beginning; follow fervently the Thread of the Tao.
1 Hadit, the root of Yod.
2 Nuit, the root of He.
3 Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Kether, the root of Vau.
4 Cf. Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur. Also see Liber Aleph vel
CXI, The Book of Wisdom or Folly.
THE APPEARANCE OF THE TRUE NATURE
1. The adepts of past ages were subtle and keen to apprehend
this Mystery, and their profundity was obscurity unto men.
Since then they were not known, let me declare their nature.
2. To all seeming, they were fearful as men that cross a torrent
in winter flood; they were hesitating like a man in
apprehension of them that are about him; they were full of
awe like a guest in a great house; they were ready to
disappear like ice in thaw; they were unassuming like
unworked wood; they were empty as a valley; and dull as the
waters of a marsh.
3. Who can clear muddy water? Stillness will accomplish this.
Who can obtain rest? Let motion continue equably, and it will
itself be peace
4. The adepts of the Tao, conserving its way, seek not to be
actively self-conscious. By their emptiness of Self they
have no need to show their youth and perfection; to appear
old and imperfect is their privilege.
THE WITHDRAWAL TO THE ROOT
1. Emptiness must be perfect, and Silence made absolute with
tireless strength. All things pass through the period of
action; then they return to repose. They grow, bud, blossom
and fruit; then they return to the root. This return to the
root is this state which we name Silence; and this Silence is
Witness of their Fulfilment.
2. This cycle is the universal law. To know1 it is the part of
intelligence ; to ignore it2 bringeth folly of action, whereof
the end is madness. To know it bringeth understanding and
peace; and these lead to the identification of the Self with
the Not-Self. This identification maketh man a king; and
this kingliness groweth unto godhood. That godhood beareth
fruit in the mastery of the Tao. Then the man, the Tao
permeating him, endureth; and his bodily principles are in
harmony, proof against decay, until the hour of his Change.
1 And acquiescence in.
2 Or to rebel against it.
THE PURITY OF THE CURRENT
1. In the Age of Gold, the people were not conscious of their
rulers; in the Age of Silver, they loved them with songs; in
the Age of Brass, they feared them; in the Age of Iron, they
despised them. As the rulers1 lost confidence, so also did
the people lose confidence in them.
2. How hesitating did they seem, the Lords of the Age of Gold,
speaking with deliberation, aware of the weight of their
world! Thus they accomplished all things with success; and
the people deemed their well-being to be the natural course
1 Becoming self-conscious.
THE DECAY OF MANNERS
1. When men abandoned the Way of the Tao, benevolence and justice
became necessary. Then also was need of wisdom and cunning,
and all fell into illusion. When harmony ceased to prevail in
the six spheres1 it was needful to govern them by manifesting
Sons.2 When the kingdoms and races3 became confused, loyal
ministers4 had to appear.
1 The solar system.
3 Elements, signs, etc.
4 Self-conscious and therefore Archangels. It is hard at first
for the student to grasp the disdain of Lao Tze for what we
call good qualities. But the need for the "good" is created
by the existence of "evil," i.e., the restriction of anything
from doing its own will without friction. Good is then
merely a symptom of evil, and so itself a poison. A man who
finds Mercury and Potassium Iodide "good" for him, is a sick
man. Frictionless Nourishment is the order of Change, or
RETURNING TO THE PURITY OF THE CURRENT
1. If we forget our statesmanship and our wisdom, it would be an
hundred times better for the people. If we forget our
benevolence and our justice, they would become again like sons,
folk of good will. If we forget our machines and our business,
there would be no knavery.1
2. These new methods despised the olden Way, inventing fine
names to disguise their baneness. But simplicity in the doing
of the will of every man would put an end to vain ambitions and
1 Samuel Butler in "Erewhon" describes a people who had sense
enough to forbid all machinery. Wells, in the "War in the
Air" prophesies the results of not doing so. At the hour of
writing, An XV (Sun) in Scorpio, we are facing the
fulfilment of most of this prophecy. And still we make haste
THE WITHDRAWAL FROM THE COMMON WAY
1. To forget learning is to end trouble. The smallest
difference in words, such as "yes" and "yea" can make endless
controversy for the scholar.1 Fearful indeed is death, since
all men fear it; but the abyss of questionings shoreless and
bottomless, is worse!
2. Consider the profane man, how he preeneth, as if at feast, or
gazing upon Spring from a tower! But as for me, I am as one
who yawneth, without any trace of desire. I am like a babe
before its first smile. I appear sad and forlorn, like a man
homeless. The profane man hath no definite shape. The profane
man looketh lively and keen-witted; I alone appear blank in
my mind. They seem eagerly critical; I appear careless and
without perception. I seem to be as one adrift upon the sea,
with no thought of an harbor. The profane have each one his
definite course of action; I alone appear useless and
uncomprehending, like a man from the border. Yea, thus I
differ from all other men: but my jewel is the All-Mother!2
1 Consider the "homoiusios-homiousios" quarrel of early
2 Cf. "Afloat in the aether, O my God, my God!" Liber VII. It
is the "aimless winging" which gives "joy ineffable" to the
THE INFINITE WOMB
1. The sole source of energy is the Tao. Who may declare
its nature? It is beyond Sense, yet all form is hidden
within it. It is beyond Sense, yet all Perceptibles are
hidden within it. It is beyond Sense, yet all Being is
hidden within it. This Being excites Perception, and the
Word thereof. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever
shall be, its Name1 operateth continuously, causing all to
flow in the cycle of Change, which is Love and Beauty. How
do I know this? By my comprehension of the Tao.
Zero contains all possibilities, for it may be written
0=X plus (-X), where X is anything soever and -X its
opposite. However complex X may be, it is always to be
cancelled by its -X. Thus the universe is always potentially
anything and everything, yet actually Nothing.
THE GUERDON OF MODESTY
1. The part becometh the whole. The curve becometh straight;
the void becometh full; the old becometh new. He who desireth
little accomplisheth his Will with ease; who desireth many
things becometh distracted.1
2. Therefore, the sage concentrateth upon one Will, and it is as
light to the whole world. Hiding himself, he shineth;
withdrawing himself, he attracteth notice; humbling himself,
he is exalted; dissatisfied with himself,2 he gaineth force
to achieve his Will. Because he striveth not, no man may
contend against him.
3. That is no idle saying of the men of old; "The part becometh
the whole"; it is the Canon of Perfection.3
1 Thus he hath none of them.
2 Since the one Will is not yet attained.
3 Any part X becomes the whole Zero, by cancelling itself
through "love" of -X.
THE VOID OF NAUGHT
1. To keep silence is the mark of one who is acting in full
accordance with his Will. A fierce wind soon falleth; a
storm-shower doth not last all day. Yet Heaven and Earth
cause these; and if they fail to make violence continue, how
much less can man abide in spasm of passion!
2. With him that devoteth him to Tao, the devotees of Tao are in
accord; so also are the devotees of Teh,1 yea, even they who
fail in seeking these are in accord.2
3. So then his brothers in the Tao are joyful, attaining it; and
his brothers in the Teh are joyful, attaining it; and they
who fail in seeking these are joyful, partaking of it. But
if he himself realize not the Tao with calm of confidence,
then they also appear lacking in confidence.3
1 Because Teh is part of Tao.
2 Because to him who has Tao all things are realized as
3 He who has Tao all things rightly disposed; his own failure
creates the illusion of general failure.
1. He who standeth a-tiptoe standeth not firm; he who maketh
rigid his legs walketh ill. He who preeneth himself shineth
not; he who talketh positively is vulgar; he who boastheth is
refused acceptance; he who is wise in his own conceit is
thought inferior. Such attitudes, to him that hath the view
given by understanding the Tao, seem like garbage or like
cancer, abhorrent to all. They then who follow the Way1 do
not admit them.
IMAGES OF THE MYSTERY
1. Without Limit and Perfect, there is a Becoming, beyond Heaven
and Earth. It hath not motion nor Form; it is alone, it
changeth not;1 it extendeth all ways; it hath no adversary.
It is like the All-Mother.
2. I know not its Name, but I call it the Tao. Moreover, I
exert myself, and call it Vastness.
3. Vastness, the Becoming! Becoming, it flieth afar. Afar, it
draweth near. Vast is this Tao; Heaven also is Vast. Earth
is vast; and the Holy King is vast also.2 In the Universe
are Four Vastnesses, and of these is the Holy King.
4. Man followeth the formula of Earth;3 Earth followeth that of
Heaven, and Heaven that of the Tao. The formula of the Tao is
its own Nature.
1 Because it comprehendeth Change.
2 For they conform to the Tao.
THE NATURE OF MASS
1. Mass is the fulcrum of mobility; stillness is the father of
2. Therefore the sage King, though he travel afar, remaineth
near his supplies. Though opportunity tempt him, he remaineth
quietly in proper disposition, indifferent. Should the
master of an host of chariots bear himself frivolously? If
he attack without support, he loseth his base; if he becomes
a raider, he forfeiteth his throne.1
1 This is all obvious military metaphor. If we depart from the
Tao, we become engaged in futile activities which lead
nowhere and we find ourselves in the Abyss of Choronzon.
SKILL IN THE METHOD
1. The experienced traveler concealeth his tracks; the clever
speaker giveth no chance to the critic; the skilled
mathematician useth no abacus; the ingenious safesmith
baffleth the burglar without the use of bolts, and the
cunning binder without ropes and knots.1 So also the sage,
skilled in man-emancipation-craft, useth all men;
understanding the value of everything, he rejecteth nothing.
This is called the Occult Regimen.
2. The adept is then master to the zelator, and the zelator
assisteth and honoreth the adept. Yet unless these relations
were manifest, even the most intelligent observer might be
perplexed as to which was which. This is called the Crown of
1 The reference is to certain "puzzles," as we should call
them, common in China.
2 The adept has become so absolutely natural that he appears
unskillful. Ars est celare artem. It is only he who has
started on the Path that can divine how sublime is the
THE RETURN TO SIMPLICITY
1. Balance thy male strength with thy female weakness and thou
shalt attract all things, as the ocean absorbeth all rivers;
for thou shalt formulate the excellence of the Child eternal,
simple, and perfect. Knowing the light, remain in the Dark.
Manifest not thy Glory, but thine obscurity. Clothed in this
Child-excellence eternal, thou hast attained the Return of
the First State. Knowing the splendour of Fame, cling to
Obloquy and Infamy; then shalt thou remain as in the Valley
to which flow all waters, the lodestone to fascinate all
men. Yea, they shall hail in thee this Excellence, eternal,
simple and perfect, of the Child.
2. The raw material, wrought into form, produceth vessels.1
So the sage King formulateth his Wholeness in divers Offices;
and his Law is without violence or constraint.2
1 Homogeneous developed into heterogeneous: 0o understood as
2 Being concordant with the nature of his people.
REFRAINING FROM ACTION
1 He that, desiring a kingdom, exerteth himself to obtain it,
will fail. A Kingdom is of the nature of spirit, and
yieldeth not to activity. He who graspeth it, destroyeth
it; he who gaineth it, loseth it.1
2. The wheel of nature revolveth constantly; the last becometh
first, and the first last; hot things grow cold, and cold
things hot; weakness overcometh strength; things gained are
lost anon. Hence the wise man avoideth effort, desire and
1 The usurper merely seizes the throne; the people are not with
him, as with one who becomes king by virtue of natural
fitness. The usurper has but the mask of power.
2 Effort is the Rajas-Guna, and makes one go faster than is
natural. Sloth is the Tamas-Guna, and makes one go slower
than is natural. Desire is the disturbance of the Sattwa-
Guna, exciting the lust of Change, in one direction or the
other, from the natural. Things gained: see The Book of The
Law, Chapter II vv 57-60.
A WARNING AGAINST WAR
1. If a king summon to his aid a Master of the Tao, let him not
advise recourse to arms. Such action certainly bringeth the
2. Where armies are, are weeds. Bad harvests follow great
3. The good general striketh decisively, once and for all. He
does not risk by overboldness.1 He striketh, but doth not
vaunt his victory. He striketh according to strict law of
necessity, not from desire of victory.
4. Things become strong and ripe, then age. This is discord
with the Tao;2 and what is not at one with the Tao soon
cometh to an end.
1 Counter-attack. In other words, he acts according to the
rules of the game, without losing his head by vain-glory,
ambition or hatred.
2 Forcing-on of strength, instead of allowing natural growth.
1. Arms, though they may be beautiful, are of ill omen,
abominable to all created beings. They who have the Tao love
not their use.
2. The place of honour is on the right in wartime; so thinketh
the man of distinction. Sharp weapons are ill-omened,
unworthy of such a man; he useth them only in necessity. He
valueth peace and ease, desireth not violence of victory. To
desire victory is to desire the death of men; and to desire
that is to fail to propitiate the people.
3. At feasts, the left hand is the high seat; at funerals, the
right. The second in command of the army leadeth the left
wing, the commander-in-chief, the right wing; it is as if the
battle were a rite of mourning! He that hath slain most men
should weep for them most bitterly; so then the place of the
victor is assigned to him with philosophical propriety.
THE WISDOM OF TEH
1. All All-Tao1 hath no name.
2. It is That Minute Point,2 yet the whole world dare not
contend against him that hath it. Did a lord or king gain it
and guard it, all men would obey him of their own accord.
3. Heaven and Earth combining under its spell, shed forth
dew,3 extending throughout all things of its own accord,
without man's interference.
4. Tao, in its phase of action, hath a name. Then men can
comprehend it; when they do this, there is no more risk of
wrong or ill-success.
5. As the great rivers and the oceans are to the valley streams,
so is the Tao to the whole universe.
1 Comprehending Change within itself.
3 This "dew" refers to the Elixir of the Fraternity R.C. and
of the O.T.O. It has been described, with proper caution,
in various passages of "The Equinox" and of "The Book of
THE DISCRIMINATION (VIVEKA) OF TEH
1. He who understandeth others understandeth Two; but he who
understandeth himself understandeth One. he who conquereth
others is strong; but he who conquereth himself is stronger
yet.1 Contentment is riches; and continuous action is Will.2
2. He that adapteth himself perfectly to his environment,
continueth for long; he who dieth without dying, liveth
1 For the same reason as in the first sentence.
2 Equable and carefree.
3 The last paragraph refers once more to a certain secret
practice taught by the O.T.O. See, in particular, "The Book
THE METHOD OF ATTAINMENT
1. The Tao is immanent; it extendeth to the right hand as to
2. All things derive from it their being; it createth them, and
all comply with it. Its work is done, and it proclaimeth it
not. It is the ornament of all things, yet it claimeth not
fief of them; there is nothing so small that it inhabiteth
not, and informeth it. All things return without knowledge
of the Cause thereof; there is nothing so great that it
habiteth not, and informeth it.
3. In this manner also may the Sage perform his Works. It is by
not thrusting himself forward that he winneth to his success.
THE GOOD WILL OF THE TEH
1. The whole world is drawn to him that hath the Likeness of the
Tao.1 Men flock unto him and suffer no ill, but gain
repose, find peace, enjoy all ease.
2. Sweet sounds and cates lure the traveler from his way. But
the Word of the Tao, though it appear harsh and insipid,
unworthy to hearken or to behold; hath his use all
1 I.e., the Teh.
THE HIDING OF THE LIGHT
1. In order to draw breath, first empty the lungs; to weaken
another, first strengthen him; to overthrow another, first
exalt him; to despoil another, first load him with gifts;
this is called the Occult Regimen.
2. The soft conquereth the hard; the weak pulleth down the
3. The fish that leaveth ocean is lost; the method of government
must be concealed from the people.1
1 The single argument that can be aduced in favour of an
Enlightened Democracy is that it provides more completely
for the fooling of the Sovereign People than any other known
THE RIGHT USE OF GOVERNMENT
1. The Tao proceedeth by its own nature, doing nothing;
therefore there is no doing which it comprehendeth not.
2. If kings and princes were to govern in this manner, all
things would operate aright by their own motion.
3. If this transmutation were my object, I should call it
Simplicity. Simplicity hath no name nor purpose; silently
and at ease all things go well.
CONCERNING THE TEH
1. Those who possessed perfectly the powers1 did not manifest
them, and so they preserved them. Those who possessed them
imperfectly feared to lose them, and so lost them.
2. The former did nothing, nor had need to do. The latter did,
and had need to do.
3. Those who possessed benevolence exercised it, and had need
it; so also was it with them who possessed justice.
4. Those who possessed the conventions displayed them; and
when men would not agree, they made ready to fight them.2
5. Thus, when the Tao was lost, the Magick Powers appeared;
then, by successive degradations, came Benevolence, Justice,
6. Now convention is the shadow of loyalty and good will,
and so the herald of disorder. Yea, even Understanding is
but a Blossom of the Tao, and foreshadoweth Stupidity.3
7. So then the Tao-Man holdeth to Mass, and avoideth Motion;
he is attached to the Root, not to the flower. He leaveth
the one, and cleaveth to the other.4
2 Teh appears as Chokmah-Binah, Benevolence as Chesed, Justice
as Geburah, Convention as Tiphereth. Thus Kether alone is
"safe"; even Chokmah-Binah risks fall unless it keeps
3 This repeats the doctrine of the danger of Binah. The attack
on Tipereth is to be regarded as a reference to the "Fall,"
death of Hiram at high noon, etc.
4 That is, if his road be towards the Tao. In our language, he
adores Nuit; but the Perfect Man, when he needs to manifest,
is on the opposite curve. Cf. The Book Of Lies: "The Brothers
of A . . A . . are Women: the Aspirants to A . . A . . are
THE LAW OF THE BEGINNING
1. These things have possessed the Tao from the beginning;
Heaven, clear and shining; Earth, steady and easy; Spirits,
mighty in Magick; Vehicles,1 overflowing with Joy; all that
hath life; and the rulers of men. All these derive their
essence from the Tao.
2. Without the Tao, Heaven would dissolve,2 Earth disrupt;
Spirits become impotent; Vehicles3 empty; living things would
perish and rulers lose their power.
3. The root of grandeur is humility, and the strength of
exaltation is its base. Thus rulers speak of themselves as
"Fatherless," "Virtueless,' "Unworthy," proclaiming by this
that their Glory is their shame.4 So also the virtue of a
Chariot is not any of the parts of a Chariot, if they be
numbered.5 They do not seek to appear fine like jade, but
inconspicuous like common stone.
1 "Spirits" and "Vehicles" refer to the Lance and Cup,
correlatives of Heaven and Earth.
2 It is the invisible that is all-important: See Chapter II.
3 Cf. "The Questions of King Milinda." where is the discussion
of what a carriage really is.
4 English good manners are similarly inconspicuous, and were
so devised as a protection.
5 Jade is liable to be seized and carved; ordinary stone may
escape. Cf. Kwang-tze on the rotten tree, etc. Zan Kien
Shieh, Sacred Books of the East, No. XXXIX, p.217.
1. The Tao proceeds by correlative curves, and its might is in
2. All things arose from the Teh, and the Teh budded from the
1 The law of the Tao is constant compensation; its method is
always to redress the balance, and reduce the equation to
zero. In its action it resembles very closely the form of
Energy which we call gravitation; it is an inertia always
tending to minimize stress.
THE IDENTITY OF THE DIFFERENTIAL
1. The best students, learning of the Tao, set to work
earnestly to practice the Way. Mediocre students now cherish
it, now let it go.
2. Thus spake the makers of Saws: the Tao at its brightest is
obscure. Who advanceth in that Way, retireth. Its smooth
Way is rough. Its summit is a Valley. Its beauty is
ugliness; its wealth is poverty. Its virtue, vice. Its
stability is vacancy. Its utterance is silence. Its reality
3. Nameless and imperceptible is the Tao; but it informeth and
perfecteth all things.
THE VEILS OF THE TAO
1. The Tao formulated the One.1
The One exhaled the Tao.2
The Two were parents of the Three.3
The Three were parents of all things.4
All things pass from Obscurity to Manifestation,
inspired harmoniously by the Breath of the Void.5
2. Men do not like to be fatherless, virtueless, unworthy: yet
rulers describe themselves by these names. Thus increase
bringeth decrease to some, and decrease to others.
3. Others have taught thus; I consent to it. Violent man and
strong die not by natural death. This fact is the foundation
of my law.
1 Kether or the First Aethyr.
2 Chokmah-Binah or Yin and Yang.
3 The second Triad.
4 The third Triad and Malkuth.
5 The Tao.
THE COSMIC METHOD
1. The softest substance1 hunteth down the hardest:2 the
unsubstantial3 penetrateth where there is no opening. Here
is the Virtue of Inertia.
2. Few are they who attain: whose speech is Silence, whose
Work is Inertia.
3 The Luminiferous Aether.
1. What shall it profit a man if he gain fame or wealth, and
lose his life?
2. If a man cling to fame or wealth, he risketh what is worth
3. Be content, not fearing disgrace. Act not, and risk not
criticism. Thus live thou long, without alarm.
THE OVERFLOWING OF TEH
1. Despise thy masterpieces; thus renew the vigor of thy
creation. Deem thy fullness emptiness; thus shall thy
fullness never be empty. Let the straight appear crooked to
thee, thy Craft clumsiness; thy Musick discord.
2. Exercise moderateth cold; stillness heat. To be pure1 and
to keep silence, is the True Law of all that are beneath
1 Brahmacharya - Chastity in the secret Parzifal - O.T.O.
sense. See also the Khing Kang King, Liber XXI
THE WITHDRAWAL FROM AMBITION
1. When the Tao beareth away on Earth, men put swift horses to
night-carts. When it is neglected, they breed chargers in
the border marches.
2. There is no evil worse than ambition; no misery worse than
discontent; no crime greater than greed. Content of mind is
peace and satisfaction eternal.
THE VISION OF THE DISTANT
1. One need not pass his threshold to comprehend all that is
under Heaven, not to look out from his lattice to behold the
Tao Celestial. Nay! but the farther a man goeth, the less he
2. The sages acquired their knowledge without travel; they named
all things aright without beholding them; and, acting without
aim, fulfilled their Wills.
OBLIVION OVERCOMING KNOWLEDGE
1. The scholar seeketh daily increase of knowing; the sage of
Tao daily decrease of doing.
2. He decreaseth it, again and again, until he doeth no act
with the lust of result. Having attained this Inertia all
3. He who attracteth to himself all that is under Heaven doeth
so without effort. He who maketh effort is not able to
THE ADAPTABILITY OF THE TEH
1. The wise man hath no fixed principle; he adapteth his mind
to his environment.
2. To the good I am good, and to the evil I am good also; thus
all become good. To the false I am true; thus all become
3. The sage appeareth hesitating to the world, because his mind
is detached. Therefore the people look and listen to him as
his children; and thus doth he shepherd them.
THE ESTIMATION OF LIFE
1. Man cometh into life, and returneth again into death.
2. Three men in ten conserve life; three men in ten pursue
3. Three men also in ten desire to live, but their acts hasten
their journey to the house of death. Why is this? Because
of their efforts to preserve life.
4. But this I have heard. He that is wise in the economy of his
life, whereof he is warden for a season, journeyeth with no
need to avoid the tiger or the rhinoceros, and goeth
uncorsleted among the warriors with no fear of sword or
lance. The rhinoceros findeth in him no place vulnerable to
its horn, the tiger to its claws, the weapon to its point.
Why is this? Because there is no house of death in his whole
THE TEH AS THE NURSE
1. All things proceed from the Tao, and are sustained by its
forth-flowing virtue. Everyone taketh form according to his
nature, and is perfect, each in his own particular way.
Therefore, each and every one of them glorify the Tao, and
worship its forth-flowing Virtue.
2. This glorifying of the Tao, this worship of the Teh, is
constantly spontaneous, and not by appointment of Law.
3. Thus the Tao buddeth them out, nurtureth them, developeth
them, sustaineth them, perfecteth them, ripeneth them,
upholdeth them, and reabsorbeth them.
4. It buddeth them forth, and claimeth not lordship over them;
is overseer of their changes, and boasteth not of his
puissance; perfecteth them, and interfereth not with their
Ways; this is called the Mystery of its Virtue.
THE WITHDRAWAL INTO THE SILENCE
1. The Tao buddeth forth all things under Heaven; it is the
Mother of all.
2. Knowing the Mother, we may know her offspring. He that
knoweth his Mother, and abideth in Her nature, remaineth
in surety all his days.
3. With the mouth closed, and the Gates of Breath controlled,
he remaineth at ease all his days. With the mouth open, and
the Breath directed to outward affairs, he hath no surety all
4. To perceive that Minute Point1 is True Vision; to maintain
the Soft and Gentle2 is True Strength.
5. Employing harmoniously the Light Within3 so that it returneth
to its Origin, one guardeth even one's body from evil, and
keepeth Silence before all men.
3 Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Paragraphs 3-5 refer to certain technical
practices which may be studied in "Book 4," "The Equinox" and
"The Book Of The Law."
THE WITNESS OF GREED
1. Were I discovered by men, and charged with government, my
first would be lest I should become proud.
2. The true Path is level and smooth; but men live bypaths.
3. They adorn their courts, but they neglect their fields; and
leave their storehouses empty. They wear elaborate and
embroidered robes; they gird themselves with sharp swords;
they eat and drink with luxury; they heap up goods; they are
thievish and vainglorious. All this is opposite to the Way
THE WITNESS OF WISDOM
1. If a man plant according to the Tao it will never be uprooted;
if he thus gather, it will never be lost. His sons and his
son's, one following another, shall honour the shrine of
2. The Tao, applied to oneself, strengtheneth the Body,1 to the
family, bringeth wealth; to the district, prosperity; to the
state, great fortune. Let it be the Law of the Kingdom, and
all men will increase in virtue.
3. Thus we observe its effect in every case, as to the person,
the family, the district, the state and the kingdom.
4. How do I know that this is thus universal under Heaven? By
1 Teh is always the Magick Power; it need not be explained
diversely as in the text.
THE SPELL OF THE MYSTERY
1. He that hath the Magick powers1 of the Tao is like a young
child. Insects will not sting him or beasts or birds of prey
2. The young child's bones are tender and its sinews are
elastic, but its grasp is firm.2 It knoweth nothing of the
Union of Man and Woman, yet its organ may be excited. This
is because of its natural perfection. It will cry all day
long without becoming hoarse, because of the harmony of its
3. He who understandeth this harmony knoweth the mystery of the
Tao, and becometh a True Sage. All devices for inflaming
life, and increasing the vital Breath,3 by mental effort4 are
evil and factitious.
4. Things become strong, then age. This5 is in discord with the
Tao, and what is not at one with the Tao soon cometh to an
2 A baby can hang from a bough for quite an indefinitely long
period. This is because of monkey-atavism; in other words,
it is the subconscious of the child that is at work. This
subconsciousness is of its true nature, therefore, in accord
with the Tao.
4 Hatha-Yoga, etc.
5 Forcing-on of strength instead of allowing natural growth.
THE EXCELLENCE OF THE MYSTERY
1. Who knoweth the Tao keepeth Silence. He who babbleth knoweth
2. Who knoweth it closeth his mouth and controlleth the Gates of
his Breath. He will make his sharpness blunt; he will loosen
his complexes; he will tone down his brightness to the
general obscurity. This is called the Secret of Harmony.
3. He cannot be insulted either by familiarity or aversion. He
is immune to ideas of gain or loss, of honour or disgrace; he
is the true man, unequalled under Heaven.
THE TRUE INFLUENCE
1. One may govern a state by restriction; weapons may be used
with skill and cunning; but one acquireth true command only
by freedom, given and taken.
2. How am I aware of this? By experience that to multiply
restrictive laws in the kingdom impoverisheth the people; the
use of machines causeth disorder in state and race alike.
The more men use skill and cunning, the more machines there
are; and the more laws there are, the more felons there are.
3. A wise man has said this: I will refrain from doing, and the
people will act rightly of their won accord; I will love
Silence, and the people will instinctively turn to
perfection; I will take no measures, and the people will
enjoy true wealth; I will restrain ambition, and the people
will attain simplicity.
ADAPTATION TO ENVIRONMENT
1. The government which exerciseth the least care serveth the
people best; that which meddleth with everybody's business
worketh all manner of harm. Sorrow and joy are bedfellows;
who can divine the final result of either?
2. Shall we avoid restriction? Yea; restriction distorteth
nature, so that even what seemeth good in it is evil. For
how long have men suffered from misunderstanding of this.
3. A wise man had said this: I will refrain from doing, and
the people will act rightly of their own accord; I will love
Silence, and the people will instinctively turn to
perfection; I will take no measures, and the people will
enjoy true wealth; I will restrain ambition, and the people
will attain simplicity.
1 According to his Will.
2 Like a Star.
3 Because he keeps to his own orbit.
WARDING THE TAO
1. To balance our earthly nature and cultivate our heavenly
nature, tread the Middle Path.
2. This Middle Path alone leadeth to the Timely Return to the
True Nature. This Timely Return resulteth from the constant
gathering of Magick Powers.1 With that Gathering cometh
control. This Control we know to be without Limit2 and he
who knoweth the Limitless may rule the state.
3. He who possesseth the Tao continueth long. He is like a
plant with well-set roots and strong stems. Thus it secureth
long continuance of its life.
2 Like the Tao.
THE DUTY OF GOVERNMENT
1. The government of a kingdom is like the cooking of a fish.1
2. If the kingdom be ruled according to the Tao, the spirits of
our ancestors will not manifest their Teh.2 These spirits
have this Teh, but will not turn it against men. It is able
to hurt men; so also is the Wise King, but he doth not.
3. When these powers3 are in accord, their Good Will produceth
the Teh, endowing the people therewith.
1 This means, it is the simplest possible operation.
2 I.e., their Magick Powers, from indignation at the mischief
wrought by their descendents.
3 The spirits and the Wise King.
THE MODESTY OF THE TEH
1. A state becometh powerful when it resembleth a great river,
deep-seated; to it tend all the small streams under Heaven.
2. It is as with the female, that conquereth the male by her
Silence. Silence is a form of Gravity.1
3. Thus a great state attracteth small states by meeting their
views, and small states attract the great state by revering
its eminence. In the first case this Silence gaineth
supporters; in the second, favour.
4. The great state uniteth men and nurtureth them; the small
state wisheth the good will of the great, and offereth
service; thus each gaineth its advantage. But the great
state must keep Silence.
1 It is not that there is any "virtue" in humility; it is
simply that all lines converge at the center of the Web.
THE WORKINGS OF THE TAO
1. The Tao is the most exalted of all things. It is the
ornament of the good, and the protection and purification of
2. Its words are the fountain of honour, and its deeds the
engine of achievement. It is present even in evil.
3. Though the Son of Heaven were enthroned with his three Dukes
appointed to serve him, and he were offered a round symbol-
of-rank as great as might fill the hands, with a team of
horses to follow; this gift were not to be matched against
the Tao, which might be offered by the humblest of men.
4. Why did they of old time set such store by the Tao?
Because he that sought it might find it, and because it was
the Purification from all evil. Therefore did all men under
Heaven esteem it the most exalted of all things.
1 "There is some soul of goodness in things evil, would men
observingly distill it out."
Shakespeare, KING HENRY V, Act IV, Scene 1.
FORETHOUGHT AT THE OUTSET
1. Act without lust of result; work without anxiety; taste
without attachment to flavour; esteem small things great
and few things many; repel violence with gentleness.
2. Do great things while they are yet small; hard things while
they are yet easy; for all things, how great or hard soever,
have a beginning when they are little and easy. So thus the
wise man accomplisheth the greatest tasks without
undertaking anything important.
3. Who undertaketh thoughtlessly is certain to fail in
attainment; who estimateth things easy findeth them hard.
The wise man considereth even easy things hard, so that even
hard things are easy to him.
ATTENDING TO DETAILS
1. It is easy to grasp what is not yet in motion, to withstand
what is not yet manifest, to break what is not yet compact,
to disperse what is not yet coherent. Act against things
before they become visible; attend to order before disorder
2. The tree which filleth the embrace grew from a small shoot;
the tower nine-storied rose from a low foundation; the ten-day
journey began with a single step.
3. He who acteth worketh harm; he who graspeth findeth it a
slip. The wise man acteth not, so worketh no harm; he doth
not grasp, and so doth not let go. Men often ruin their
affairs on the eve of success because they are not as prudent
at the end as in the beginning.
4. The wise man willeth what others do not will,1 and valueth
not things rare.2 He learneth what others learn not, and
gathered up what they despise. Thus he is in accord with the
natural course of events, and he is not overbold in action.
1 He does his own Will, instead of aiming at a standard goal.
2 And so sought after others.
THE PURITY OF THE TEH
1. They of old time that were skilled in the Tao sought not to
enlighten the people, but to keep them simple.
2. The difficulty of government is the vain knowledge of the
people. To use cleverness in government is to scourge the
kingdom; to use simplicity is to anoint it.
3. Know these things, and make them thy law and thine example.
To possess this Law is the Secret Perfection of rule.
Profound and Extended is this Perfection; he that possesseth
it is indeed contrary to the rest, but he attracteth them to
PUTTING ONE'S SELF LAST
1. The oceans and the rivers attract the streams1 by their skill
in being lower than they; thus are they masters thereof. So
the Wise Man, to be above men, speaketh lowly; and to precede
them acteth with humility.
2. Thus, though he be above them, they feel no burden; nor,
thought he precede them, do they feel insulted.
3. So then do all men delight to honour him, and grow not weary
of him. He contendeth not against any man; therefore no man
is able to contend against him.
1 As it were, tribute and worship.
THE THREE JEWELS
1. They say that while this Tao of mine is great, yet it is
inferior. This is the proof of its greatness. If it were
like anything else, its smallness would have long been known.
2. I have three jewels of price whereto I cleave; gentleness,
economy and humility.
3. That gentleness maketh me courageous, that economy generous,
that humility honoured. Men of today abandon gentleness for
violence, economy for extravagance, humility for pride: this
4. Gentleness bringeth victory in fight; and holdeth its ground
with assurance. Heaven wardeth the gentle man by that same
ASSIMILATING ONE'S SELF TO HEAVEN
1. He that is skilled in war maketh no fierce gestures; the most
efficient fighter bewareth of anger. He who conquereth
refraineth from engaging in battle; he whom men most
willingly obey continueth silently with his work. So it is
said: he ruleth who uniteth with his subjects; he shineth
whose will is that of Heaven.
THE USE OF THE MYSTERIOUS WAY
1. A great strategist said: "I dare not take the offensive. I
prefer the defensive. I dare not advance an inch; I prefer
to retreat a foot." Place, therefore, the army where there
is no army; prepare for action where there is no engagement;
strike where there is no conflict; advance against the enemy
where the enemy is not.1
2. There is no error so great as to engage in battle with out
sufficient force. To do so is to risk losing the gentleness2
which is beyond price. Thus when the lines actually engage,
he who regretteth the necessity is the victor.
1 This is quite orthodox strategy, to avoid battle where the
enemy is strong, to concentrate on the weak points of his
A general who is compelled to fight at any point has lost the
initiative at that point.
THE DIFFICULTY OF RIGHT APPREHENSION
1. My words are easy to understand and to perform; but is there
anyone in the world who can understand them and perform them?
2. My words derive from a creative and universal Principle, in
accord with the One Law. Men, not knowing these, understand
3. Few are they that understand me; therefore am I the more to
be valued. The Wise Man weareth sack-cloth, but guardeth
his jewel in his bosom.
THE DISTEMPER OF KNOWLEDGE
1. To know, yet to know nothing, is the highest; not to know,
yet to pretend to knowledge, is a distemper.
2. Painful is this distemper; therefore we shun it. The Wise
Man hath it not. Knowing it to be bound up with Sorrow, he
putteth it away from him.
CONCERNING LOVE OF SELF
1. When men fear not that which is to be feared, that which
they fear cometh upon them.1
2. Let them not live, without thought, the superficial life.2
Let them not weary of the spring of Life!3
3. By avoiding the superficial life, this weariness cometh not
4. These things the Wise Man knoweth, not showeth: he loveth
himself, without isolating his value.5 He accepteth the
former and rejecteth the latter.
1 They should fear Restriction of their True Wills; if not,
they become slaves.
2 They must discover the True Will, and do it. See Liber Aleph
vel CXI, The Book of Wisdom or Folly.
3 The true, subconscious Will.
4 Rational, instead of subconscious reaction to environment.
One must make a habit of doing one's True Will; at first it
is irksome, because of conflict with the accidents of life.
5 Confounding the space-marks, etc.
ESTABLISHING THE LAW OF FREEDOM
1. One man, daring, is executed; another, not daring, liveth.
It would seem as if the one course were profitable and the
other detrimental. Yet when Heaven smiteth a man, who shall
assign the cause thereof? Therefore the sage is diffident.1
2. The Tao of Heaven contendeth not, yet it overcometh); it is
silent, yet its need is answered; it summoneth none, but all
men come to it of their free will. Its method is quietness,
yet its will is efficient. Large are the meshes of Heaven's
Net; wide open, yet letting none escape.2
1 This difficult passage deprecates the security afforded by
worldly prudence. He who fights and runs away may get cut
down by pursuing cavalry. The only way is to adapt oneself
to one's environment; that is, to the Way of the Tao, which
2 "Though the mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceedingly well;
Though with patience he stands waiting
With exactness grinds he all."
Friedrich von Logan, SINNEGEDICHTE
A RESTRAINT OF MISUNDERSTANDING
1. The people have no fear of death;1 why then seek to awe them
by the threat of death?
If the people feared death2 and I could put to death evil-
doers, who would dare to offend?
2. There is one appointed to inflict death.3 He who would
usurp that position resembleth a hewer of wood doing the work
of a carpenter. Such an one, presumptuous, will be sure to
cut his own hands.
1 For the meddlesome governments have made their lives
2 Their lives being pleasant.
3 Azrael in the lore of Islam.
This chapter is again difficult. Par. 2 shows capital
punishment as interference with Heaven's privilege. Yet in
Par. 1 we see the threat of it kept as a ruler's last resort.
Only, this is a Fool's Knot proposal; for such punishment is
effective only when the people are so happy that they fear it
infinitely, so that none ever incurs it. Hence it need never
be carried out.
THE INJURY OF GREED
1. The people suffer hunger because of the weight of taxation
imposed by their rulers. This is the cause of famine.
2. The people are difficult to govern because their rulers
meddle with them. This is the cause of bad government.
3. The people welcome death because the toil of living is
intolerable.1 This is why they esteem death lightly.2
In such a state of insecurity it is better to ignore the
question of living than to set store by it.
1 Owing to the meddlesome, tax-increasing, Tao-neglecting
2 And so take the risk of brigandage, etc.
These chapters 74 and 75 are an interpolation, describing
the conditions resulting from neglect of the Tao. The last
sentence is not to be taken as didactic, as though a counsel
of despair. It is the climax of the lamentation.
A WARNING AGAINST RIGIDITY
1. At the birth of man, he is elastic and weak; at his death,
rigid and unyielding.1 This is the common law; trees also,
in their youth, are tender and supple; in their decay, hard
2. So then rigidity and hardness are the stigmata of death;
elasticity and adaptability, of life.
3. He then who putteth forth strength is not victorious; even
as a strong tree filleth the embrace.2
4. Thus the hard and rigid have the inferior place, the soft
and elastic the superior.
1 Unable to adapt himself to his environment
2 Is ready for cutting, and also, unable to grow further, decays.
THE WAY OF HEAVEN
1. The Tao of Heaven is likened to the bending of a bow, whereby
the high part is brought down, and the low part raised up.
The extreme is diminished, and the middle increased.
2. This is the Way of Heaven, to remove excess, and to
supplement insufficiency. Not so is the way of man, who
taketh away from him that hath not to give to him that hath
3. Who can employ his own excess to the weal of all under
Heaven? Only he that possesseth the Tao.
4. So the Wise Man acteth without lust of result; achieveth and
boasteth not; he willeth not to proclaim his greatness.
1. Nothing in the world is more elastic and yielding than water;
yet it is preeminent to dissolve things rigid and resistant;
there is nothing which can match it.
2. All men know that the soft overcometh) the hard, and the weak
conquereth the strong; but none are able to use this law in
3. A Wise Man hath said: "He that taketh on the burden of
the state is a demigod worthy of sacrificial worship; and the
true King of a people is he that undertaketh the weight of
4. Truth appeareth paradox.
TRUTH IN COVENANT
1. When enemies are reconciled, there is always an aftermath of
ill will. How can this be useful?
2. Therefore, the Wise Man, while he keepeth his part of the
record of a transaction, doth not insist on its prompt
execution. He who hath the Teh considereth the situation
from all sides, while he who hath it not seeketh only to
3. In the Tao of Heaven, there is no distinction of persons in
its love; but it is for the True Man to claim it.
1 The Magick Powers must be exerted only according to the whole
Will of the Universe without partiality.
1. In a little kingdom of few people it should be the order that
though there were men able to do the work of ten men or five
score, they should not be employed.1 Though the people
regard death as sorrowful, yet they should not wish to go
2. They should have boats and wagons, yet no necessity to
travel; corslets and weapons, yet no occasion to fight.
3. For communication they should use knotted cords.2
4. They should deem their food sweet, their clothes beautiful,
their homes, their customs delightful.
5. There should be another state within view, so that its fowls
and dogs should be heard; yet to old age, even to death, the
people should hold no traffic with it.
1 At this high pressure.
2 The curse of modern society is the Press: babble of twaddle,
like a drunk prostitute vomiting. One should say only things
THE SHEWING-FORTH OF SIMPLICITY
1. True speech is not elegant; elaborate speech is not truth.
Those who know do not argue; the argumentative are without
knowledge. Those who have assimilated are not learned; those
who are gross with learning have not assimilated.
2. The Wise Man doth not hoard. The more he giveth, the more
he hath; the more he watereth, the more is he watered
3. The Tao of Heaven is like an Arrow, yet it woundeth not;
and the Wise Man, in all his Works, maketh no contention.