1. That which lets now the dark, now the light appear is tao.
The light and the dark are the two primal powers, designated hitherto in the text as firm and yielding, or as day and night. Firm and yielding are the terms applied to the lines of the Book of Changes, while light and dark designate the two primal powers of nature. It must be left to a later discussion to explain why up to this point the designations day an night have been used, and now suddenly the terms light and dark appear. Possibly we are dealing here with a later stratum of text. At any rate, we can observe that in the course of time the use of these expressions steadily increases.
The terms yin, the dark, and yang, the light, denote respectively the shadowed and the light side of a mountain or a river. Yang represents the south side of the mountain, because this side receives the sunlight, but it connotes the north side of the river, because the light of the river is reflected to that side. The reverse is true as regards yin. These terms are gradually extended to include the two polar forces of the universe, which we may call positive and negative. It may be that these designations, which emphasize the cycle of change more than change itself, led also to the representation in circular form of the Primal Beginning, ☯ [t'ai chi t'u], the symbol that was later to play such an important part in Chinese thought.
2. As continuer, it is good. As completer, it is the essence.
The primal powers never come to a standstill; the cycle of becoming continues uninterruptedly. The reason is that between the two primal powers there arises again and again a state of tension, a potential that keeps the powers in motion and causes them to unite, whereby they are constantly regenerated. Tao brings this about without ever becoming manifest. The power of tao to maintain the world by constant renewal of a state of tension between the polar forces, is designated as good (cf. Lao-tse, chap. 8).
As the power that completes things, the power that lends them their individuality and gives them a center around which they organize, tao is called the essence, that with which things are endowed at their origin.
3. The kind man discovers it and calls it kind. The wise man discovers it and calls it wise. The people use it day by day and are not aware of it, for the way of the superior man is rare.
Tao reveals itself differently to each individual, according to his own nature. The man of deeds, for whom kindness and the love of his fellow man are supreme, discovers the tao of cosmic events and calls it supreme kindness--"God is love." The contemplative man, for whom calm wisdom is supreme, discovers the tao of the universe and calls it supreme wisdom. The common people live from day to day, continually borne and nourished by tao, but they know nothing of it; they see only what meets the eye. For the way of the superior man, who sees not only things but the tao of things, is rare. The tao of the universe is indeed kindness and wisdom; but essentially tao is also beyond kindness and wisdom.
4. It manifests itself as kindness but conceals its workings. It gives life to all things, but it does not share the anxieties of the holy sage. Its glorious power, its great field of action, are of all things the most sublime.
The movement from within outward shows tao in its manifestations as the force of supreme kindness. At the same time it remains mysterious even in the light of day. The movement from without inward conceals the results of its workings. It is just as when in spring and summer the seeds start growing, and the life-giving bounty of nature becomes manifest: but along with it there is at work that quiet power which conceals within the seed all the results of growth and in hidden ways prepares what the coming year is to bring. Tao works tirelessly and eternally in this way. Yet this life-giving activity, to which all beings owe their existence, is something purely spontaneous. It is not like the conscious anxiety of man, who strives for the good with inward toil.
5. It possesses everything in complete abundance: this is its great field of action. It renews everything daily: this is its glorious power.
There is nothing that tao may not possess, for it is omnipresent; everything that exists, exists in and through it. But it is not lifeless possessing; by reason of its eternal power, it continually renews everything, so that each day the world becomes as glorious again as it was on the first day of creation.
6. As begetter of all begetting, it is called change.
The dark begets the light and the light begets the dark in ceaseless alternation, but that which begets this alternation, that to which all life owes its existence, is tao with its law of change.
7. As that which completes the primal images, it is called the Creative; as that which imitates them, it is called the Receptive.
This is based on the view expressed likewise in the Tao Te Ching, namely, that underlying reality there is a world of archetypes, and reproductions of these make up the real things in the material world. The world of archetypes is heaven, the world of reproductions is the earth: there energy, here matter; there Creative, here the Receptive. But it is the same tao that is active both in the Creative and the Receptive.
8. In that it serves for exploring the laws of number and thus for knowing the future, it is called revelation. In that it serves to infuse an organic coherence into the changes, it is called the work.
The future likewise develops in accordance with the fixed laws, according to calculable numbers. If these numbers are known, future events can be calculated with perfect certainty. This is the thought on which the Book of Changes is based. This world of the immutable is the daemonic world, in which there is no free choice, in which everything is fixed. It is the world of yin. But in addition to this rigid world of number, there are living trends. Things develop, consolidate in a given direction, grow rigid, then decline; a change sets in, coherence is established once more, and the world is one again. The secret of tao in this world of the mutable, the world of light--the realm of yang--is to keep the changes in motion in such a manner that no stasis occurs and an unbroken coherence is maintained. He who succeeds in endowing his work with this regenerative power creates something organic, and the thing so crated is enduring.
9. That aspect of it which cannot be fathomed in terms of the light and the dark is called spirit.
In their alternation and reciprocal effect, the two fundamental forces serve to explain all the phenomena in the world. Nonetheless, there remains something that cannot be explained in terms of the interaction of these forces, a final why. This ultimate meaning of tao is the spirit, the divine, the unfathomable in it, that which must be revered in silence.