The Application of Tao


1. those who possessed perfectly the powers (Teh) 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 of it; so also was it with them who possessed justice.

4. those whom possessed the conventions displayed them; and when men would not agree; they made ready to fight them.

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 keep Silence.

5. thus when the Tao was lost, the Magick Powers (Teh) appeared; then, by successive degradations, came Benevolence, Justice, Convention.

6. now convention is the shadow of loyalty and good-will, and so the herald of disorder. yea, even understanding (binah) is but a Blossom of the Tao, and promises Stupidity.

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.

7. so then the Tao-Man holds to Mass, and avoids Motion; he is attached to the root, not to the flower. he leaves the one, and cleaves to the other.

that is, if his raod be toward the Tao. in our language, he adores Nuit; but the perfect Man, when he needs to manifest, is on the opposite curve.
The Book of Lies, 'the Brothers of the A A are Women; the Aspirants to A A are Men'.


1. these things have possessed the Tao from the beginning: Heaven, clear and shining; Earth, steady and easy; Spirits, mighty in Magick; Vehicles, over-flowing with Joy; all that hath life; and the rules of men. All these derive their essence from the Tao.

'Spirits' and 'Vehicles' refer to the Lance and Cup, correlatives of Heaven and Earth.

2. without the Tao, Heaven would dissolve, Earth disrupt, Spirits become impotent, Vehicles empty; living things would perish, and rulers lose their power.

3. the root of grandeur is humility, and the strength of exaltation in its base. thus rulers speak of themselves as 'Fatherless', 'Virtueless', 'Unworthy', proclaiming by this that their Glory is in their shame. (it is the invisible that is all-important; see cap. II.) so also the virtue of a chariot is not any of the parts of a chariot, if they be numbered.

Cf. the question of King Milinda, where is the discussion of what a carriage really is.

They do not seek to appear fine like jade, but inconspicuous like common stone.

English good manners are similarly inconspicuous, and were so devised as a protection. Jade is liable to be seized and carved; ordinary stone may escape.
Cf. Kwang-tze on the rotten tree, in
Zan Kien Shih. S.B.E. Vol. XXXIX, p. 217


1. the Tao proceeds by correlative curves, and its might is in weakness.

2. all things arose from the Teh, and the Teh budded from the Tao.

the law of thr Tao is constant compensation; its method is always to redress the balance, and reduce the equation to Zero. in its action it resembles the force we call gravitation very closely; it is an inertia always tending to minimize stress.


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.
the worst students mock at it. were it not thus mocked, it were unworthy to be Tao.

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 is vice. its stability is change. its form is without form. its fullness is vacancy. its utterance is silence. its reality is illusion.

3. nameless and imperceptible is the Tao; but it informeth and perfecteth all things.


1. the Tao formulated The One (Kether of the Aethyr). The One exhaled the Two (Chokmah-Binah or Yin and Yang). The Two were parent of the Three (the second Triad. The Three were parents of all things (the third Triad and Malkuth).
all things pass from Obscurity to Manifestation, inspired harmoniously by the Breath of the Void (the Tao).

2. men do not like to be fatherless, virtueless, unworthy; yet rulers describe themselves by these names. thuse increase bringeth decrease to some, and decrease bringeth increase to others.

3. others have taught thus; i consent to it. violent men and strong, die not by natural death. this fact is the foundation of my Law.


1. the softest substance (Water - Yoni) hunteth down the hardest (rock - Lingam); the Unsubstantial (the luminiferous ether) 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.


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 more.

3. be content, not fearing disgrace. act not, and risk not criticism. thus live thou long, without alarm.


1. despite thy masterpieces; thus renew the vigour of thy creation.
deam they fulness emptiness: thus shall thy fulness never be empty.
let the straight appear crooked to thee, thy Craft clumsiness, thy Musick discord.

2. exercise moderateth cold; stillness heat. to be pure (Brahmacharya -chastity in the secret Parsifal-OTO sense) and to keep Silence, is the True Law of all that are beneath Heaven.

see also Kingh Kang King.


1. when the Tao beareth sway 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.


1. one need not pass his threshold to comprehend all that is under Heaven, nor to look out from his lattice to behold the Tao Celestial. Nay! but further a man goeth, the less he knoweth!

2. the sages acquired their knowledge without travel; they named all thing aright without beholding them; and, acting without aim, fulfilled their Wills.


1. the scholar seeketh daily increase of knowledge; the sage of the Tao daily increase of doing.

2. he decreases it, again and again, until he doth no act with the lust of result. having attained this Inertia, all accomplisheth itself.

3. he who attracteth to himself all that is under Heaven doth so without effort. he who maketh effort is not able to attract it.


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 true i am true, and to the false i am true; thus all become true.

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.


1. man cometh out into life and returneth again into death.

2. three men in ten conserve life; three men in ten persue death.

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 body.


1. all things proceed from the Tao, and are sustained by its forth-flowing Virtue (the Teh). everyone taketh form according to his own nature, and is perfect, each in his particular Way. therefore each and everyone of them glorify 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, upholdesth them, and reabsorbeth them.

4. it buddeth them forth, and claimeth not lordship over them; it 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.


1. the Tao buddeth forth all things under Heaven; it is (In its manifestation of the Teh) the Mother of all.

2. knowing the Mother, we may know her offspring. he that knows this Mother, and abides in Her Nature, remaineth in surety all his days.

3. with the mouth closed, and the Gates of Breath (prana) controlled, he remaineth at ease all his days. with the mouth open, and the Breath (prana) directed to outward affairs, he hath no surety all his days.

4. to perceive this Minute Point (hadit) is True Vision; to maintain the Soft and Gentle (Nuit) is True Strength.

5. employing harmoniously the Light Within (Ra-Hoor-Kuit) so that it returneth to its Origin, one guardeth even one's body from evil, and keepeth Silence before all men.

paragraphs 3-5 refer to certain technical practices, which may be studied in Book 4, the Equinox and Liber AL vel CCXX.


1. were i discovered by men, and charged with government, my first fear would be lest i should become proud.

2. the true Path is level and smooth; but men love by-paths.

3. they adorn their courts, but they neglect their fields, and leave their store-houses 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 the opposite to the Way of the Tao.


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 sons' sons, one following another, shall honour the shrine of their ancestors.

2. the Tao, applied to oneself, strengthenes the body (Teh) to the family, brings wealth (Teh); to the district, prosperity (Teh); to the state, great fortune (Teh). let it be the law of the kingdom, and all men will increase in virtue (Teh).

Teh is always the Magick Power; it need not be explained diversely as in the text.

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 experience.


1. he that hath the Magick Powers (Teh) of the Tao is like a young child. insects will not sting him or beasts or birds of prey attack him.

2. the young child's bones are tender and its sinews are elastic, but its grasp is firm. (a baby can hang from a bough for a quite indefinitely long period. this is because of monkey-atavism; in other words it is the subconscious of the child that is at work. this subconscious is of its true nature, and therefore in accord with Tao). it knows 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 being.

3. he who understands this harmony knows the mystery of the Tao, and becomes a True Sage. all devices for inflaming life, and increasing the vital Breath (Prana) by mental effort (Hatha-Yoga, etc) are evil and factitious.

4. things become strong, then age. this (forcing on of strength instead of allowing natural growth) is in discord with the Tao, and what is not at one with the Tao soon ends.


1. who knoweth the Tao keepeth Silence; he who babbleth knoweth it not.

this is rather amusing, from one who has been speaking of it without intermission for so many pages. strive as i will, i can find no excuse for the stupidity of this Utterance. the deeper i dive into Metaphysick, the more absurd I (or my author) seem. however, one ignorant folly more or less can make little difference on this planet.

2. who knoweth it closes his mouth and controls the Gates of his Breath (Prana). he will make his sharpness blunt; he will loosen his complexities; 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 the ideas of gain or loss, of honour or disgrace; his is the true man, unequalled under Heaven.

one may compare the character of Prince Muiskin in The Idiot of Dostoevski.


1. one may govern a state by restriction; weapons may be used with skill and cunning; but one acquires 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 impoverishes the people; the use of machines causes 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 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.

the United States of America had this idea once, long ago. Therefore they prospered. but now?


1. the government that exercises the least care serves the people best; that which meddles with everybody's business works all manner of harm. sorrow and joy are bedfellows; who can divine the final result of either?

2. shall we avoid restriction? yea; restriction distorts nature, so that even what seems good in it is evil. for how long have men suffered from misunderstanding of this!

3. the wise man is foursquare, and avoids aggression; his corners do not injure others. he moves in a straight line (according to his Will) and turns not aside therefrom; he is brilliant (like a star) but does not blind with his brightness (because he keeps to his own orbit.)


1. to balance our earthly nature and to cultivate our heavenly nature,, tread the Middle Path.

2. this Middle Path alone leads to the Timely Return to the true nature. this Timely Return results from the constant gathering of the Magick Powers (teh). with that Gathering comes Control. this Control we know to be Without Limit (like the Tao) and he who knows the Limitless may rule the state.

3. he who possesses the Tao continues long. he is like a plant with well-set roots and strong stems. thus it secures long continuance of its life.


1. the government of a kingdom is like the cooking of fish.

this means, it is the simplest of operation.

2. if the kingdom be ruled according to the Tao, the spirits of our ancestors will not manifest their Teh (i.e. their magick powers, from indignation at the mischief wrought by their descendants). 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 does not.

3. when these powers (he spirits and the Wise King) are in accord, their Good Will produces the Teh, endowing the people therewith.


1. a state becomes powerful when it resembles 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.

the nearer one gets to the centre of Gravity the greater the attraction. it is not that there is any 'virtue' in humility; it is simply that all lines converge at the centre of the the Web

3. thus a great state attracts small states by meeteing their views, and small states attract the great state by revering its eminence. in the first case this Silence gains supporters; in the second, favour.

4. the great state unites men and nurtures them; the small state wishes the good will of the great, and offers service; thus each state gains its advantage. but the great state must keep its Silence.


1. the Tao is the most exhalted of all things. it is the ornament of the good, and the protection and purification of the evil.
Cf. Soul of Goodness in Things Evil.

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 humbles 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 exhalted of things.


1. act without lust of result; work without anxiety; taste without attachment to flavor; 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 accomplishes the greatest tasks without understanding anything important.

3. who undertakes thoughtlessly is certain to fail in attainment; who estimates things easy finds them hard. thus the wise man considers even easy things hard, so that even hard things are easy to him.


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 arises.

2. the tree which fills 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 acts works harm; he who grasps it finds it a slip. the wise man acts not, so works no harm; he does not grasp, and so does not let go. men often ruin their affairs on the eve as in the beginning.

4. the wise man wills what others do not will, (he does his own will instead of aiming at a standardized goal) and values not things rare (and so sought after by others). he learns what others learn not, and gathers up what they despise. thus he is in accord with the natural course of events, and is not overbold in action.


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 annoint 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 Perfection; he that possesses it is indeed contrary to the rest, but he attracts them to full accordance.


1. the oceans and the rivers attract the streams (as it were tribute and worship) by their skill in being lower than they; thus they are masters thereof. so the Wise Man, to be above men, speaks lowly; and to precede them acts with humility.

2. thus, though he be above them, they feel no burden. nor, though 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. 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 makes me courageous, that economy generous, that humility honoured. men of today abandon gentleness for violence, economy for extravagance, humility for pride: this is death.

4. gentleness brings victory in fight, and holds its ground with assurance. Heaven wards the gentle man, by that same virtue.


1. he that is skilled in war makes no fierce gestures; the most efficient fighter is beware of anger. he who conquers refrains from angaging in battle; he whom men men willingly obey continues silently with his Work. so it is said: 'He is mighty who fighteth not; he ruleth who uniteth with his subjects; he shineth whose will is that of Heaven'.


1. to know, yet to know nothing, is the highest; not to know, yet to pretend 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.


1. when men fear not that which is to be feared, that which they fear cometh upon them. (they should fear Restriction of their True Wills; if not, they become slaves).

2. let them not live, without thought, the superficial life. (they must discover the True Will, and do it. see the Book of Wisdom or Folly). let them not weary of the Spring of Life! (the true, subconscious will).

3. by avoiding the superficial life rational - instead of subconscious - reaction to environment) this weariness does not come upon them.

one must make a habit of doing one's True Will; at first it is irksome, because of conflict with the accidents of life.

4. these things the wise man knows, not shows; he loves himself, without isolating his value (confounding the space-marks, etc). he accepts the former and rejects the latter.


1. one man, daring, is executed; another, not daring, lives. it would seem as if the one course were profitable and the other detrimental. yet when Heaven smites a man, who shall assign the cause thereof? therefore the sage is diffident.

this difficult passage depreciates 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 is everywhere.

2. the Tao of Heaven contents not, yet it overcomes; it is silent, yet its need is answered; it summons none, but all men come to it of their own 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.

Cf. 'though the mills of God', etc.


1. the people have no fear of death (for the meddlesome governments have made their lives intolerable); why then seek to awe them by threat of death? if the people feared death (their lives being pleasant) and i could put to death evil-doers, who would dare to offend?

2. there is one appointed to inflict death (Azrael in the lore of Islam). he who would usurp that position resembles a hewer of wood doing the work of a carpenter. such an one, presumptuous, will be sure to cut his own hands.

this chapter is again difficult. para 2 shows capital punishment as interference with Heaven's privilege. yet is para 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.


1. the people suffer hunger because of the weight of taxation imposed by their own 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 (owing to the meddlesome, tax-increasing Tao-neglecting rulers). this is why they esteem death lightly (and so take the risk of brigandage). in such a state of insecurity it is better to ignore the question of living than to set store by it.

these chapters (LXXIV & LXXV) 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. Lao Tzu was 'agin the Government'; he shows here as well as elsewhere, the influence of his Irish blood.


1. at the birth of man he is elastic and weak; at his death, rigid and unyielding (unable to adapt himself to his environment). this is the common law; trees also in their youth, are tender and supple; in their decay hard and dry.

2. so then rigidity and hardness are the stigmata of death; and elasticity and adaptability, of life.

3. he then who puts forth strength is not victorious, even as a strong tree fills the embrace (is ready for cutting, and alsoi, unable to grow further, decays).

4. thus the hard and rigid have the inferior place, the soft and elastic the superior.


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 it to him that hath already excess.

this Knavish idea was advocated by the fabulous founder of Christianity; it is the favourite precept of his most eminent followers.

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 acts, without lust of result; achieves and boasts not; he wills not to proclaim his greatness.


1. nothing in the world is more elastic and yielding than water; yet is pre-eminent to dissolves things ridig and resistant; there is nothing which can match it.

2. all men know that the soft overcomes the hard, and the weak conquers the strong; but none are able to use this law in action.

3. a wise man has 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 undertakes the weight of their sorrows.'

4. truth appears as a paradox.


1. when enemies are reconciled, there is always an aftermath of illwill. how can this be useful?

2. therefore the Wise Man, while he keeps his part of the record of a transaction, does not insist on its prompt execution. he who has the Teh considers the situation from all sides, while he who has it not seeks only to benefit himself.

the Magick Powers must be exerted only according to the whole Will of the Universe, without partiality.

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. 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 (at this high pressure). though the people regarded death as sorrowful, yet they should not wish to go elsewhere.

2. they should have boats and wagons, yet no necessity to travel; corselets and weapons, yet no occasion ot fight.

3. for communication thery should use knotted cords.

the curse of modern society is the Press; babble of twaddle, like a drunk prostitute vomiting. one should say only things strictly necessary.

4. they should deem their food sweet, their clothes beautiful, their houses 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. 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 does not hoard. the more he gives the more he has; the more he watereth, the more is he watered himself.

3. the Tao of Heaven is like an arrow, yet it woundeth not; and the Wise Man, in all his Works, maketh no contention.