“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 25” by Lao Tzu


There was Something undefined and yet complete in itself,
Born before Heaven-and-Earth.

Silent and boundless,
Standing alone without change,
Yet pervading all without fail,
It may be regarded as the Mother of the world.
I do not know its name;
I style it “Tao”;
And, in the absence of a better word, call it “The Great.”

To be great is to go on,
To go on is to be far,
To be far is to return.

Hence, “Tao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
King is great.”
Thus, the king is one of the great four in the Universe.

Man follows the ways of the Earth.
The Earth follows the ways of Heaven,
Heaven follows the ways of Tao,
Tao follows its own ways.

I wrestled with this passage this morning. For me, it was one of the more challenging. I do not know for sure if my interpretation if completely accurate, but it is the impression that I got from meditating on this.

The “Something undefined and yet complete in itself” I interpret to be the ineffable source of all that is, something which cannot be adequately expressed and yet encompasses all that is. I envision the yin and yang symbol when I think of this something, comprised of opposites, and complete in itself.

The third stanza depicts the progressions of emanation and spiritual development. It conjures an image of the soul emanating from the divine source, progressing on its journey, and then returning to the source. The symbol that I see associated with this is the yin/yang encircled by the ouroboros.

Image Source: scrapbookgraphics

Image Source: scrapbookgraphics

The fourth stanza was the most puzzling for me, but I think I understand it. The key again is the yin and yang symbol. The symbol contains four components that make up the whole: the pair of curved shapes, and then two circles, one within each of the curved spaces. So essentially, we have two pairs of opposites: Tao (Mother/divine feminine) and King (Father/divine masculine); then Heaven and Earth, contrasting planes of existence. Heaven and Earth are contained within the Tao and the King, symbolizing that they are manifestations within the divine. These four pillars are combined to create the Universe, which symbolizes the entirety of all that is.

As I said, this was a very challenging passage for me, and I make no guarantees on the veracity of my interpretation; but I sense that this may be at least part of what Lao Tzu was trying to express. If you have any thoughts or impressions, please feel free to share them in the comments space below. Thanks for stopping by and have a blessed day.



Filed under Spiritual

4 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 25” by Lao Tzu

  1. I’ve never read the Tao, so it’s hard to get a sense from such a short excerpt, but I would say the passage is about the “flow” of the universe, which, while returning to itself, is ultimately dictated, or ruled, by Tao, which is in and of itself formless and all encompassing.

  2. This is an excellent poem… and great analysis… Your words concerning the third stanza reminded me of a philosopher: John Scotus Eriugena, who wrote a book called “The division of nature” (1681). He basically says that The Universe is the manifestation of God “in process”. According to him, Nature is the name of the most comprehensive of all unities, that which contains within itself the most primary division of all things, that which is (being) and that which is not (nonbeing).
    Thanks for sharing, my friend. Sending love! 😉

    • Hi Aquileana! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I always love hearing from you. I’m not familiar with the philosopher you cited, but he sounds interesting. Alas, my reading list has grown again 😉

      Big hugs!!


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