Lieh-tzu - Quotes

About Practice of Magic

Lao Ch'êng Tzu went to learn magic from the venerable Yin Wên. After a period of three years, having obtained no communication, he humbly asked permission to go home. Yin Wên bowed, and led him into the inner apartment. There, having dismissed his attendants, he spoke to him as follows: 'Long ago, when Lao Tzu was setting out on his journey to the West, he addressed me and said: "All that has the breath of life, all that possesses bodily form, is mere illusion. The point at which creation begins, the change effected by the Dual Principles--these are called respectively Life and Death. That which underlies the manifold workings of Destiny is called Evolution; that which produces and transforms bodily substance is called Illusion. The ingenuity of the Creative Power is mysterious, and its operations are profound. In truth, it is inexhaustible and eternal.

The ingenuity of that which causes material form is patent to the eye, and its operations are superficial. Therefore it arises anon, and anon it vanishes." Only one who knows that Life is really Illusion, and that Death is really Evolution, can begin to learn magic from me. You and I are both illusions. What need, then, to make a study of the subject?

'If a person wishes to make a study of illusion, in spite of the fact that his own body is an illusion, we are reduced to the absurdity of an illusion studying an illusion.'

Lao Ch'êng Tzu returned home, and for three months pondered deeply over the words of the Venerable Yin Wên. Subsequently, he had the power of appearing or disappearing at will; he could reverse the order of the four seasons, produce thunderstorms in winter and ice in summer, make flying things creep and creeping things fly. But to the end of his days he never published the secret of his art, so that it was not handed down to after generations.

The 'Creative Power', of course, is Tao; but how widely the conception of Tao, differs from that of a personal God may be seen from the commentator's note: 'How should the Creative Power possess a conscious mind? It is its spontaneity that constitutes the mystery. Spirit and matter eagerly come together and coalesce into perceptible forms. Following the path of evolution they proceed on their way, and before long relapse into nothingness.

Quoted from Book of Lieh-Tzu , translation by Lionel Giles, 1912, Book 3.


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