Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 14 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective. I am not a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are only my opinions. 

Chapter 14 of the Tao Te Ching examines the nature of the Tao. 
Chapter 14
Look at it, it cannot be seen
It is called colorless
Listen to it, it cannot be heard
It is called noiseless
Reach for it, it cannot be held
It is called formless
These three cannot be completely unraveled
So they are combined into one

Above it, not bright
Below it, not dark
Continuing endlessly, cannot be named
It returns back into nothingness
Thus it is called the form of the formless
The image of the imageless
This is called enigmatic
Confront it, its front cannot be seen
Follow it, its back cannot be seen

Wield the Tao of the ancients
To manage the existence of today
One can know the ancient beginning
It is called the Tao Axiom

This is called enigmatic

This entire chapter deals with the colorless, noiseless, formless nature of the Tao: the Tao is enigmatic. It is difficult to explain.

To me, this is reminiscent of the Biblical discussion of "milk and meat," and the commandment not to run before you can walk, and the idea that we learn line upon line, and precept upon precept. The nature of the Tao--the nature of the universe--is so abstract that a simple explanation will not cut it, and indeed, we may not even be ready to begin comprehending it.

The Tao is the underlying principle that governs the universe.

Wield the Tao of the ancients

Even though the Tao is enigmatic, difficult to comprehend, Chapter 14 still alleges that it can be lived. The link above, about the Tao governing the universe, explains some of the concepts involved with living the Tao, including embracing intuition over logic, and becoming the sort of person who does virtuous acts out of who you are, rather than intentions of being or doing good. Basically the same idea Jesus expressed in Matthew 23:27. Outward righteousness is not enough: righteousness needs to flow from us because of who we are.


The Tao is a principle, not a thing; therefore it is enigmatic. However, we can still live in accordance with the universal law to manage the existence of today.

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