“A way that can be walked is not the Way
A name that can be named is not the Name
Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things”
To understand the Tao Te Ching, it is important to first understand the title. Ching basically means “book.” So it is the Book of Tao and Te.
Now, Tao and Te are a bit more difficult to describe, as the very nature of “Tao” is to be beyond description or mental understanding. Tao is often translated as “the way” as it is here in this verse. The first line actually reads “The Tao that is the Tao is not the Eternal/True Tao” (Tao ku Tao fei chang Tao in Chinese). That is to say the Tao that you are thinking of, is not what Tao is really like. That is because the real existing Tao, is something far beyond our mortal brain’s comprehension or imagination. I will talk about “Te” and how they relate to God and the Holy Spirit at the end.
The next line goes on the say that when you name something, it does not sum up what the thing is in actually (represented by the capital “N” in the last Name). So the first words of the Tao Te Ching serve to tell us that THE CONCEPTION YOU HAVE IN YOUR MIND do not represent TRUE reality.
Tao is BEYOND DUALITY, as it can be both named and nameless.
“Nameless“, is nothingness, from which we understand that reality sprung (from the singularity – basically nothing – before the big bang). It is the “origin of all things.” … True enough.
As “Named“, once it has existence, it is the “mother” of all things. A similar role (in that they are both CREATING) but the word “mother’ implies a more physical and less spiritual origin. I think this is to say that Tao is the creator of both the spiritual and physical realms.
Now, if Tao sounds a lot like God to you, well… me too. In the Quran (the holy book of Islam) it says that God sent a messenger to every peoples. It is likely that Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, might have been one of those messengers, in my mind.
Now to talk about “Te” which is the EXPRESSION of Tao. Tao cannot be conceptualized or divided. A PART of Tao is not the TRUE Tao. So, when Tao interacts with things, this expression is called Te. I think what Lao Tzu was talking about, in Biblical/Quranic terms is the Holy Spirit. Is not the Holy Spirit the expression of God’s will on Earth?
So the “Tao Te Ching” translates (one way) to “The Book of Tao and its Expression,” or “The Book of God and the Holy Spirit” if you prefer 🙂 (Which I do!)
We’ll find that the Tao Te Ching does not always express Tao in ways that correlate directly with the Biblical conception of God. But I think it’s important to remember that God (the TRUE God in reality, not our ideas and conceptions about Him) is far beyond our mortal mind’s ability to conceive of. And, as God cannot be divided, if you don’t understand God in His ENTIRETY, then you don’t really understand God at all.
Frustrating isn’t it! Ah, but it makes things interesting and reminds us to stay humble.
May the Force (God?!) be with you. Hmmm?