To get my feet wet, I read the intro of the version I have by Ursula Leguin. She gives a nice history of both the text and her own time with it... A blurb by a translator at amazon:
Like other reviewers, I have read some translations of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) and looked at many others. Like Mrs. Le Guin points out in her note at the end of the book, I also believe that the one by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English is the most satisfactory in a literary sense. However, sometimes it lacks the simplicity and immediacy which this rendition gives to Lao Tzu's "very easy to understand" words. Also, Mrs. Le Guin stayed with me throughout the book, and what she had to say amounted to a fantastic commentary to the wisdom of the Tao. Take for example Chapter 11 in page 14. At the bottom is a note that says: "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny. He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, ....[and] goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots."
This kind of comment conveys, in my opinion, exactly the essence of Taoism as predicated by Lao Tzu. There's nothing complicated, nothing intrincate about Taoist wisdom. And Mrs. LeGuin sticks to this (taoist) simplicity throughout the book... more
Leguin is always good with me. But while we're here tuning up in the wings as mike gets his rabbits and doves in order, the suit with all those pockets -- I have a confession. I can see as I read this first chapter -- Taoing -- that a spontaneously self-manufacturing addition -- the 10 thousand and first thing -- is already giving me trouble as I come in the door. It's so fat and wide, I can't squeeze past. It's the glasses I see with, the threads I weave and weave with such devotion. I am always in love with my interpretive filter.
Drunken monkeys don't have to be vague. No, these are thick, shit throwing monkeys. Consciousness, always SPLAINING it all for me, precious rose petals lining every footfall. The naming of things --> the Logos (see below the fold) --> music --> only sung! AHA! See? You see? Trees in gardens! Bargains with the creator! The creator a prop due to the cause and effect insistence of -- yes, those shit throwing monkeys. See? They know so loud I won't EVER hear around them. I drag this filter around like a (very like a) security blanket. I cannot see any one thing without finding the other shiny stone in my pocket reflecting in it.
Oh yes, it will ALL be Greek to me. Logos, aoidos. Aha! Poetry! Well of course. The medium of the ineffable.
(Oh look! The stone, she glows, she so SHINY!)
So, okay. Let's empty our pockets. Eros is desire; the gods can't desire because they HAVE, and so the little dance that the Graces imitate. Right off I think he's an embodiment of Tao. So Tao slips away. And it's hard to explain when timelessness is eternity is void -- because those meanings have become virtues to me stripped of the meanings that Mr. Webster has for them. So who will I talk to with them? No one, not with all the little jackets I've knitted for them, all embroidered with all the beloved reasons, myths, and Waterstone maidens smoking them in magic circles. There's so much meaning caked around them that they're meaningless to everyone but me.
By the solipsistic gods, everything falls in pieces, doesn't it? And I'm out in the hallway assembling them all for you. But, but, but! Yes, like Leguin says... the word virtue itself has been lost to us, just as Eros as desire / movement / time has been lost to us... all those centuries fearing sexuality so much that everything becomes sexuality. A symptom of How fooked up is the West?
So. You ready?
I'm sorry. Just one more divestment.
"But the endlessness of all that is, and the limitation of mortal bodily life, are the same, and their sameness is the key to the door." Is this part where "the fire and the rose are one"?
Appetizer? May I suggest... the tao of corn:
Great moment. It blew their minds to pull that green stuff off and find their beloved friend corn within!
The way you can go isn't the real way.
The name you can
say isn't the real name.
Heaven and earth begin in the unnamed: name's
of the ten thousand things.
So the unwanting soul
sees what's hidden,
and the ever~wanting soul sees only what it wants.
Two things, one origin, but different in name, whose identity is
mystery. Mystery of all mysteries! The door to the hidden.
A satisfactory translation of this chapter is, I believe, perfectly impossible. It contains the book. I think of it as the Aleph, Ma wang tui text. The words in the standard text mean boundaries, or limits, or outcomes. This version seems to follow more comprehensibly from the preceding lines.
And yet the idea of what can be delimited or made manifest is relevant. In the last verse, the two "whose identity is mystery” may be understood to be the hidden, the unnameable, the limitless vision of the freed soul — and the manifest, the nameable, the field of vision limited by our wants. But the endlessness of all that is, and the limitation of mortal bodily life, are the same, and theirsameness is the key to the door.
Should add, clarify... though it's not to the point to do that, is it? But Hesiod's Theogony, the Enuma Elish, Philo's logos, Einstein's Relativity -- all these creation myths seem -- strike you -- as personifications of the tao. "Out of Chaos, Order" the scholars like to put it -------------> and we have the 10 K things (10 K and 1 here ) which is necessarily all-at-once matterspacetime. And that means nothing, is meaningless drivel, because of the concepts layered over them. Forget Christian eternity -- that huge wad of stuffing. We're speaking timeless: Without Time. Time is an invention of perception -- like all the rest of it. But the insistence on Heaven as Eternal time, time-without end has distorted time and space "reality" / non-heaven / "earth" into a stage all its own, some blank canvas that is a given that the creator thrusts its creations upon. If you can vomit up that apple, you might begin to hear something, I think.
(The you here is always me. I know you're all quite beyond this.)
About age 16/17 (and probably out of my skull) I had the sudden flash that time was simply a way of preventing everything from happening all at once and space a way of preventing them from all happening one on top of the other. Tarthang Tulku's Time, Space and Knowledge series, years later, confirmed for me that time and space were the first two vectors of awareness... Useful bunch of books, that.
That's about when I wrote a piece, in an English class and got thrown out because I wasn't paying attention. What had occurred to me was that I knew that time existed in order to allow melody. )
Occasionally it is glimpsed in rare, stolen moments of consciousness. Some odd scent, the way the sunlight falls, the silence of a virgin snowfall. And you turn away from it. Unless you are insane, or very, very brave, or in the deepest passion... you turn away. ~dmc, opus 1)
This paper bag we wear on our head. It's just our Literality. It's like the word God. There's not much variation in the concept in the West. It's either Santa-God or it's heathen: the godless gods, as in "So you believe in Zeus, then?" Hard to get your head around a man-made approximation of an ineffable. A mask for something beyond human understanding. And getting head-around-it is the hoped for.
Hat and cane, one more time.
"Anand was telling me the Hindu story of the goddesses... as 'the void' projected desire and created Space... then Time... then... The same story again and again. And in each of us. (And fascinating to see Saturn figure in the Hindu Parvati myth -- just as Chronos does in Plotinus's birth of Venus.) Catholic catechism: We are born to know love and serve god. The void looking in the mirror with the same impulse: creation and Self." Then we usually have "desire" personified as the spawn of all this as Eros / unus mundus moving force. etc.
Catching the drift.
But -- (but but but!) of course -- the personifications are the coat of paint we throw on the wind. The thing we bring to this is our consciousness. That's what we work with, the ever-extrapolating filter. Naming, paint-throwing, forgetting to sing the words, it sees and hears the same. So we are speaking to suspicions when we let these masks fall away.
Very interested in seeing how you talk about this... A given: I'm in pre-K. That's where you begin.
older notes: logos
Joscelyn Godwin in Harmonies of Heaven and Earth writes:The Song of the Angels is their Gnosis; or, to put it another way, what they know cannot be spoken, only sung.
This tradition has been continued by two myth-makers of our own time. In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, the first chapter is entitle 'The Music of the Ainur', and it describes how 'Eru, the One, who is called Iluvatar' declared a mighty theme to the Ainur ('the Holy Ones. that were the offspring of his thought'). Iluvatar said:
[Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been awakened into song.
Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and orgam, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Iluvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Iluvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.]I love Philo's (Philo of Alexandria 20 BCE-50 CE) dance as he processes the special nature of the "poetry":God is an author in whose work you will find no myth or fiction, but truth's inexorable rules all observed as though graven on stone. You will find no metres and rhythms and tuneful verses charming the ear with their music, but nature's own consummate works, which possess a harmony all their own. And even as the mind with its ear turned to God's poems, rejoices, so the word in harmony with the meanings of thought and in a way approaching it, is necessarily glad. [...]
The Creator says that He knows that the uttered word, being brother to the mind can speak, for He has made it like an instrument of sound to be an articulate utterance of our whole complex being. This Logos, both for me and for you and for all men, sounds and speaks and announces our thoughts, and, more than this, goes out to meet that which reason has thought.The music analog. What they know cannot be spoken, only sung.Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind. ~Lewis ThomasShakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice:How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear,
And draw her home with music.
I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
Mark the music.
What is the use of a religion without a mythos, since religion means, if anything, precisely that function which links us back to eternal myth? ~CGJUNG