The Taoist Trader: Tao Te Ching (Chapter 1, Part 1)
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
( By Lao Tsu, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
“The name that can be named is not the eternal name” reminds me of a statement from general semantics theory: “the word is not the thing.” Another way of saying this is “the map is not the territory.” Words are woefully inadequate to describe people and things, much less the ineffable, like God or the Tao.
There are two basic types of Christian meditation. One type uses imagery (the Kataphitic school) and the other type (the Apophatic school) does not. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola use imagery where the meditator enters a biblical scene. Whereas, centering prayer is gleaned from the methods of the Desert Fathers. Centering prayer clears the mind of thoughts and allows God’s presence to enter one’s heart like in the book The Cloud of Unknowing. Taoist meditation advocating emptying the mind would be of the Apophatic school.
“The named is the mother of ten thousand things” refers to the rational mind using words to differentiate the ten thousand things (all the people, animals, things, etc.). “Ever desireless, one can see the mystery” reminds me of the Buddhist Third Noble Truth, being unattached to desire. And when the ravenous rational mind seeks to devour all the things of this world (the manifestations), we discover that both desirelessness and desiring spring from the Tao.
To be continued…