Introduction/ Gnostic commentaries on the Tao Te Ching
PERHAPS YOU MAY HAVE READ ABOUT A REMARKABLE MYSTERY involving the medieval inhabitants of the South of France. There, in the land of Sabartez, the cradle of the Cathars, a supernatural power was possessed, the power of the consolamentum. By means of the consolamentum it was possible to bring about a separation between animal-man and spirit-man, between the human being of this Earth and the original Being, in the form it possessed before time began.
The consolamentum was more than a sacramental seal, it was more than simply a magical outpouring of power, because for the Cathars it involved a definitive break with dualistic life. So those who had received the consolamentum were no longer inhabitants of the Earth in the absolute sense. They were in this world, but no longer of the world.
Researchers have often wondered about the identity of the spiritual instigators behind this movement in medieval France. They could see quite clearly that this spiritual awakening, if it could have evolved without interference, would have embraced the whole of Europe in a way hitherto unknown. Who were the initiates who inspired the movement, and who had such an effect on tens of thousands of people, that the church turned against them with a bloody and terrible hatred?
These initiates were world-citizens in the best sense of the word, who loved the soul of humankind and who even now, today, appear and move among us, wherever an opportunity presents itself. Their traces are to be found from east to west, and from north to south. And if one studies world history, one can detect the connections between all the various events and developments they have brought about.
Even so, from earliest times until the present, they have always remained in the background, cloaked in mystery. There is a hermetic veil between them and the masses, and all attempts of self-willed science to trace the source of the mystery must and will always fail. For the knowledge, the art and the abilities of the Cathars were universal. Their source was not to be found upon Earth, but only in the immovable Kingdom itself.
There are authors who deplore the destruction - or rather the apparent destruction - of the Cathars, and lament the loss of their wisdom and power. But this sorrow is misplaced, because any power, any sublime wisdom that originates in the Universal Life itself, can never be lost. It is nothing less than the eternal Breath of God, which passes over fallen humanity time and time again in its loving efforts to redeem, withdrawing again whenever, in their fear and hatred, mortal human beings attempt to violate it.
We wanted to consider this European contact with the universal power of Love as a prelude to our reflections on a similar divine contact that took place in the Far East, a contact embodied in the sublime being known as Lao Tzu and recorded for posterity in the Tao Te Ching.
In 1823 the first translation into a Western language of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching was published by the French author, Abel Remusat. He made this ancient Chinese text known to the Western world, and since then an almost unending stream of translations and commentaries have been produced in attempts to make its brief but very profound contents intelligible for Western people.
We may assume that the Holy Language of the Tao Te Ching has been mutilated only slightly or not at all. This is because very few people have been able to understand it, owing to the fact that it was written in Chinese characters in a compact and highly veiled way, and consists of only eighty-one verses or aphorisms. These aphorisms are divided into two sections the Tao, and the Te. Tao may be described as 'the Path of Liberation', and Te as 'the benefit and the results of the Path', while the word 'Ching' indicates that the Tao and the Te together comprise the method of liberation.
The Tao Te Ching could rightly be called the Chinese Bible. The author carries the same signature as all the great Teachers of humankind. It is not known whether Lao Tzu really lived, or whether he was one person or several. Countless legends surround him like a veil. There are those who deny his existence, and there are those who assert it with equal vehemence. It is just the same with Buddha, Hermes Trismegistus and even Jesus. But we do not have to dwell on this because we need only remind ourselves of the words of Silesius "Though Christ a thousand times be born in Bethlehem and not in yourself, you will yet be forlorn".
The important thing is that we possess the Tao Te Ching, and it bears the signature of the Universal Christ-Hierarchy and its Doctrine, revealed to humankind with great love and wisdom. The entity responsible for revealing this ray of love did not want to vaunt himself in any way. He lost himself in the impersonal; he came, and he went. His kingdom was not of this world. Six hundred years before Jesus, the Piscean Christ, the Word descended into China, and afterwards, the bringer of that Word withdrew 'across the borders'; he crossed the borders of the world of duality and returned to the Fatherland.
Whether Lao Tzu existed or not, one thing is certain that he, in his wisdom, could have dispelled all the sorrow of the observers and researchers of that medieval drama in the South of France, because the mystery of the consolamentum can also be referred to as the mystery of Tao.
Tao comes not and was not; Tao is! But, says Lao Tzu
People old in experience, who knew Tao
Did not speak of this most secret sanctuary,
Well-knowing that the profane incline toward darkness,
Converting powers of life into destruction.
If certain powers awaken in the human being
And he becomes conscious of his great strength
Without breaking away from his lower self-seeking,
The fire smothers in its own cinders.
So do not reveal the mystery to the profane;
Is not the naked eye blinded by too much light?
To govern a nation means to fulfil a great task
That of giving light whilst standing in the shadow.
It is said that the Cathars possessed secret books expounding the True Life and the Universal Doctrine, which were destroyed by the church-priesthood of those times. However, the true hidden book of the Cathars is the unwritten Book, the same as the Book of Tao, and also the Book sealed with seven seals mentioned in the Revelation of John. This Book, this Universal Knowledge, is unwritten and hidden from the profane. But it is open and revealed in fiery, radiant letters to those who have broken away from their lower self-seeking.
That is why, for the Cathars, the consolamentum was preceded by the endura. The endura is a 'dying as to worldly nature'; it means freeing oneself of the I-being and making oneself ready for rebirth.
To the extent that we, too, are engaged in this process, we no longer need to waste time and energy searching for books and manuscripts on which to pin all our hopes of liberation. Tao can neither be spoken nor written. Tao, the Way, the Path, can only be experienced.
This single sentence reveals the foolishness of intellectual knowledge and understanding, and the poverty of the extremely limited brain-consciousness. We can only know anything worth knowing, we can only possess anything worth possessing, we can only understand anything worth understanding, when we have died as to fallen nature, when the so deadly I-delusion has been extinguished from our microcosm. Until we begin this process, we will remain profane, godless, immature, staring into the darkness of our reason and possessing nothing, nothing at all.
What we will have, however, is the sorrow, the searing woe of life in duality; a terrible, raging fire that is repeatedly smothered by its own cinders, only to blaze up yet again. To remain subject to duality means to be consumed by a hellish pain without end, from which we can only obtain freedom by following the Path, the Way, Tao. We, like the Cathars, need to pass through the endura, through the neutralisation of the lower nature, and finally receive the consolamentum.
But we cannot do it alone, and neither do we need to, because the Power we need to help us really does exist! And the liberating words really are there to be heard! If only we will leave behind everything we possess and follow Christ, then, like Lao Tzu, we shall also see
The hidden power, O mystery, inviolate eternally,
O clear and tranquil fountain, true life's source
In deepest essence, are we truly one with you;
For, from the One, the multitude flows forth.
Many spiritual seekers are unable to see this One, True Life, this one essential thing, even though they are searching and yearning for it. This must have a reason, and it can only lie in the fact that many are still compromising on the spiritual life; still clinging too tightly to the things of the old life, and such aspirants often expect divine revelation simply to penetrate the innermost parts of their Earthly being and awaken the One True Life within their microcosms, without their needing to follow any process.
But that is not so! If we want to travel to the Promised Land, we ourselves will have to cast off the many heavy anchors that we have driven into the shores of our life. The fact that this is possible is confirmed by the Holy Language, which says "He that calls you is nearby." Yes, even nearer than hands and feet. So
The pilgrim on the path to liberation from his lower self
Casts off all his desires as useless baggage.
Naked he enters the temple of the highest initiation
The tabernacle's portal is the grave.
As seekers who are interested in the Gnosis, we understand the need to build the holy Temple, stone by stone. The holy Temple is invisible in matter, yet, by passing through the grave of the lower nature, we may enter there and join the master builders as an apprentice. Let us learn, then, from Lao Tzu, of our fundamental impediments and the key to Tao, to the One True Life
The highest knowledge is to acknowledge that we know nothing.
This not-knowing makes us tranquil and devout.
In letters we may know more than illiterates,
But as to the profound mystery of life and death, we know not one jot more.
Man's real ignorance lies in not knowing that he does not know. Yet we should not think Lao Tzu is recommending some kind of negative, religious dependence, some kind of mystical rejection of the fruits of knowledge and understanding. No, Lao Tzu is simply saying that the dualistic mentality is like a dam, preventing the flow of the Spirit, and that is the reason why our way of thinking must be set aside.
Let us ask ourselves what, in fact, we are doing with our thinking faculty. We are intellectualising spiritual thoughts and our heart is bewildered by our emotions. In this way we erect a dam, preventing the entry into our consciousness of the Spirit. Yet does not the Universal Wisdom teach that heart and head must form and work as a unity? Yes, but in a very different way to that of which mankind employs, and as long as we refuse to acknowledge that we know nothing, the highest reality will remain, at most, a beautiful dream, and only we ourselves can remedy this lack of awareness.
He who recognises this sick spot is already healed thereby.
Recognition is the arcanum of this dark disease.
The essence cannot be touched by intellectual thinking.
Neither can the sublime ideal be attained by human deeds.
Here is another concept pertaining to the new Reality, held by aspirants throughout the ages, which has always been difficult to understand the rejection of dualistic actions. These enlightened people knew of another mode of action than that of the dualistic human being, a quite different form of idealism, and another humanity. They knew only the living, vibrant activity of life in the new Reality, an activity which, to human beings of this Earth, seems to be a limitless void, with neither purpose nor form.
The many, hermetically, seal themselves off,
And, though having eyes, they blindly go their way.
For them, all roads lead from the cradle to the grave;
Their lot in life is more a curse than a blessing.
All intelligent people who live in our times are conscious of experiencing life as a curse. But alas, the more accursed life becomes, the more people seem to cling to it and try to wring from it the blessings they desire. Understandably, though, the results are minimal. The blessings pass by like ships in the night, because the essence of the Universal Doctrine is not understood and, consequently, one is unable to act in the right way. That is why the sage of 2,500 years ago says
One simple line will tell my teaching;
My acts to it are strictly bound.
Yet, interpreted in many ways by man,
The core in one great tangle is obscured.
And it is true, isn't it, that the one, simple, essential Truth, the key to the True Life, is so often obscured in a great tangle of pseudo-wisdom and verbosity. But Lao Tzu says
Yet I who through the labyrinth can find my way,
Will not by erring lights be led astray.
I hold the thread that leads me to the core;
Peacefully I watch where others uselessly make war.
On the world's stage I play no part at all,
To the vain, therefore, do I seem insignificant and small.
And while they strive to gain some part in multiplicity,
Mine is the All; O true felicity!
That is the most important thing to gain the All. This may sound rather strange to certain ears, but it means the same as the Christian idea of 'sanctification', a term expressing the magical power of a microcosm made holy in Christ. The word 'holy' is derived from the concept of becoming whole. So to gain the All means to become whole, or holy once more. The Universal Doctrine reveals to the aspirant that his microcosm is no longer whole, but badly damaged. Under the curse of this damaged state he strives to gain something for himself from the multiplicity of things, and that is why the curse can never turn into a blessing. That is why he becomes more and more entangled in matter.
When the aspirant realises the uselessness of all this activity and gives it up, when he has become convinced that higher expectations can never be realised on the basis of his ego, he will be forging for himself an impenetrable spiritual armour of protection from the archons and aeons and from Lucifer, and he will be able to follow the Way, Tao, because the I-delusion within him has been negated. Then the microcosm will be restored to its original condition and the entity concerned will participate in the All.
So we can see how the message of the Gnosis is and has been the message of all times since the Fall; and it is also the message of Lao Tzu, proclaimed more than 2,500 years ago. This message will go on resounding until the seeker sees clearly the road before him and says to the universal sages
I wish to live according to your great and wise example,
To know that I am linked with the Divine Plan of Creation.
The seeker will only see the Path, he will only see Tao when he discovers that "he is suffering in the ego," as Lao Tzu puts it; when he discovers that nothing and no one can heal him of this pain, that no one can put out this fire, until he himself says farewell to his I-being. Then, "the great lamp of the All-consciousness" will begin to burn for the pilgrim, and he will be imbued with this divine radiance which, as a consolamentum, will raise him up out of the night of his suffering, forever.