Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 4 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from a Christ-centered, LDS perspective. 

Chapter 4 of the Tao Te Ching examines the nature of the Tao. To me, the more I study this text, the more it becomes apparent to me that the Tao, the way, is the prototypical eternal marriage--the eternal union between masculine and feminine, as explained in Chapter 1 of the TTC--but applied to God. It just makes so much sense. This is Chapter 4 of the Tao Te Ching:

It unravels the knots.
The Tao is empty 
When utilized, it is not filled up 
So deep! 
It seems to be the source of all things 
It blunts the sharpness 
Unravels the knot 
Dims the glare 
Mixes the dusts 
So indistinct! It seems to exist 
I do not know whose offspring it is 
Its image is the predecessor of the Emperor

I just love how this chapter reads. It very much expresses the ineffability of the Tao, or the way of the universe. "So indistinct! It seems to exist." Even our understanding of the Tao's existence may be an illusion. Fascinating.

The Tao is endless, eternal--it existed before the Emperor. No one knows when it began. It is empty, and even when it is being used, it is still not full. I love this idea because to me it really speaks to the grandeur and endless possibilities of God. Even when we rely on Him 100%, He still has plenty more to give, such that everyone else in the history of the world can also rely on Him 100%, and He'll still have more left over to give. 

The source of all things... Chapter 1 of the TTC and how the unity is the door to all wonders. Is the Tao the prototype of eternal marriage? And in that way, the source of all creation? 

The Bible teaches that God is the Creator of all things. No argument there. Fascinatingly, the Hebrew Bible titles God as "Elohim," which is also the name of God as listed in the LDS Bible Dictionary. I've mentioned this before on this blog, but I'll quote it again
A common title of God in the Hebrew Bible is Elohim (Hebrew: אלהים), as opposed to other titles of God in Judaism. The root Eloah אלה is a feminine noun, meaning goddess, also used in poetry and late prose (e.g., the Book of Job) and ending with the masculine plural suffix "-im" ים creating a word that indicates a plurality of both masculine and feminine essences, yet in a singular identity.
We know that God is the Creator of all things--and it would appear that God as understood by at least the writers of the Hebrew Bible was somehow plural and involving both masculine and feminine essences. Sounds like an sealed eternal dyad to me. 

This extra stands out to me the context of the middle part of this chapter, Chapter 4. The version I linked reads:
It harmonizes all lights.

It blunts the sharpness 
Unravels the knots 
Dims the glare 
Mixes the dusts

Another version I have at home reads: 

It blunts all sharp edges
It unties all tangles
It harmonizes all lights
It unites the world into one whole

Doesn't marriage do those things? In a temple marriage, hopefully both partners are using the relationship to blunt their own sharpness, untie the knots in their souls, harmonize with each other. This gets cooler.

First, let's look at "It harmonizes all lights." In my work, I find that the human soul seems to be made of actual light. Notably, both James 1:17 and D&C 67:9 refer to God as "the Father of lights." Fascinating, right?

But one thing that really stood out to me from this is the fourth line in the set that I just quoted. One version reads, "[It] Mixes the dusts," and the other reads, "It unites the world into one whole."

Uniting the world into one whole

First, uniting the world into one whole. When the angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith, he quoted Malachi 4:6, about turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and vice versa. Now we understand that temples are to be used to seal parents to their children, in completion of that prophecy. During the Millennium, we'll seal all the families that ever lived--their sealings will only count if they choose them to, but it will be an option for everyone. With the sealing covenants, the whole world can be united into one eternal family with God. The basic unit of this, though, is the sealing between husband and wife--masculine and feminine. This is what in the end will unite the whole world into one whole.

Mixing of dusts
Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.Genesis 3:19  
And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.Genesis 13:16
The Bible teaches that at least figuratively, the body is made of dust. There is a repeated body-dust connection made throughout the Bible, such that when I read that the Tao "mixes the dusts," this is what I thought of.

Could it be that this "mixing of dusts" is referring to the procreative power? Two human bodies mixing would qualify as a mixing of dusts, using Biblical terminology, as far as I can tell. It is notable to me that two different translations of the same line--"[It] Mixes the dusts," and "It unites the world into one whole"--would be so relevant to the same topic: eternal marriage.


Chapter 4 of the Tao Te Ching can be reasonably interpreted to be referring to eternal marriage, and the Tao being the nature of God's eternal union of masculine and feminine.

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