from Tao, The Great Luminant: Essays from the Huai Nan Tzu, from “Dissertation on Life and Soul or The Keeper of the Soul”

from Tao, The Great Luminant: Essays from the Huai Nan Tzu

by Evan S. Morgan (1933)

from “Dissertation on Life and Soul or The Keeper of the Soul”

Order of creation.

Of old, before the creation of Heaven and Earth, I consider there was the void without form or shape; profound, opaque, vast, immobile, impalpable and still: it was a nebulosity, infinite, unfathomable, abysmal, a vasty deep without clue of class or genera. The twin and undivided divinities were born (born together and undivided), who superintended the way of Heaven and organized the path of the Earth. Deep-like indeed! No end could be discerned. Great-like indeed! No limit could be set. At a juncture, the divinities Yin and Yang were separated and the eight points of the universe were resolved: the hard and soft being mutually united (cooperation of the Yin and Yang), creation assumed form. The murky elements went to form reptiles: the finer essence went to form man. Hence, spirit belongs to Heaven and the physical belongs to Earth. When the spirit returns to the gate of Heaven and the body seeks its origin, how can I exist? The “I” is dissolved.

Absence of equilibrium is death.

The Sage-man, therefore, learns of Heaven and follows nature. He should not be tied by convention nor enticed by the sophism of man. He looks to Heaven as father and Earth as mother: on Yin and Yang as the determining principles and the four seasons as the fundamental periodicity. Heaven is in repose1 by purity. Earth is stable through tranquility.2 When these are absent in creation death ensues. The imitation of these principles is life. The Repose, being boundless, forms the dwelling of the soul.

The Tao is within and without

The Unconditioned3 is the abode of the Tao. Hence, should it be sought from without it will be missed within: should it be held as being alone within, it will be lost without, just as root and branch, which may be taken in illustration, train from the root outwards, the thousand branches and myriad leaves follow without failure.4

Now the soul is that which is received from Heaven: the physical form is what is received from Earth. Hence the saying: “One begets two; two begets three; three begets all things.”5



  1. Repose. The state of being undisturbed by passions. It gains the unity by purity. This and the following word tranquility are leading words in the system.
  2. Tranquility. Earth gains stability by tranquility. Unity gives life and the absence of it is death.
  3. Unconditioned. That is unlimited by the material.
  4. The true factors of life are inward not outward so not to be obtained from the physical and outward but from the inward operation of the spirit. The Cosmic Spirit is omnipresent and simply a derivative in the mind. Root is the life principle within: the branches are the life without activity. Thought and act are intimately connected.
  5. One interpretation is that One is the tao: two is reason or spirit: three is the spiritual harmony. Another is, One is the original ch‛i or spirit, breath: this gives birth to two, i.e. heaven and earth. Two begets three, creation. Yin and yang flow through all and creation is at birth. Still another explanation. One is the tao: two is the spirit (shen ming ###): three is the harmony. And again, One is the primal aura and begets two, heaven and earth, and two begets three heaven and creation. When heaven and earth are established yin and yang circulate and all things come to birth.


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