James Legge (1891):
Always without desire we must be found,Archie Bahm (1958):
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.
If Nature is inexpressible, he who desires to know Nature as it is in itself will not try to express it in words.Frank MacHoven (1962):
To try to express the inexpressible leads one to make distinctions which are unreal.
Although the existence of Nature and a description of that existence are two different things, yet they are also the same.
For both are ways of existing. That is, a description of existence must have its own existence, which is different from the existence of that which it describes; and so again we have to recognize an existence which cannot be described.
To see Tao the observer must be motiveless. Those with selfish motives see only the surface, not the innermost depths. These two kinds of observers look alike but differ in the insight of their observations. They look alike because they are both human; within humanity is the key to the door of creation.D.C. Lau (1963)
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;Feng, English (1972):
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery –
The gateway of the manifold secrets.
Ever desireless, on can see the mystery.Stan Rosenthal (1984):
Ever desiring, one can see 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.
To conduct one’s life according to the Tao,Jacob Trapp (1987):
is to conduct one’s life without regrets;
to realize that potential within oneself
which is of benefit to all.
Though words or names are not required to live one’s life this way,
to describe it, words and names are used,
that we might better clarify the way of which we speak,
without confusing it with other ways in which an individual might choose to live.
Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words,
the manifestations of the Tao are known,
but without such intellectual intent we might experience the Tao itself.
Both knowledge and experience are real,
but reality has many forms,
which seem to cause complexity.
By using the means appropriate,
we extend ourselves beyond the barriers of such complexity,
and so experience the Tao.
Of Nature, the Mystic Mother,Stephen Mitchell (1988):
And the unknown, nameless original,
Men may speak as though they were separate;
But such distinctions vanish into the Abyss.
The mystery within deepens into
Profounder mystery beyond.
From the fathomless to the mysterious
Are the gateways into existence.
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.Victor Mair (1990):
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
Therefore,Michael LaFargue (1992):
Always be without desire in order to observe its wondrous subtleties;
Always have desire so that you may observe its manifestations.
Both of these derive from the same source;
They have different names but the same designation.
Mystery of mysteries,
The gate of all wonders!
Yes:Peter Merel (1995):
Always: being desireless, one sees the hidden essentials.
Always: having desires, one sees only what is sought.
These two lines are about The Merging –
it is when things develop and emerge from this
that the different names appear.
The Merging is something mysterious –
mysterious, and more mysterious,
the abode of all the hidden essences.
To experience without intention is to sense the world;GNL 4.1
To experience with intention is to anticipate the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable;
Their construction differs but their effect is the same.
Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way,
Which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.
Sensation blending with anticipationUrsula LeGuin (1997):
To form a continuous surface.
Beneath this surface lies mystery,
Flowing ever deeper and more subtle.
So the unwanting soulRon Hogan (2002):
sees what's hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.
Two things, one origin,
but different in name,
whose identity is mystery.
Mystery of all mysteries!
The door to the hidden.
Stop wanting stuff;Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall (2003):
it keeps you from seeing what's real.
When you want stuff, all you see are things.
Those two sentences
mean the same thing.
Figure them out,
and you've got it made.
Thus, to be really objectless in one's desires (wuyu) is how one observes the mysteries of all things,Yasuhiko Genku Kimura (2004)
While really having desires is how one observes their boundaries.
These two – the nameless and what is named – emerge from the same source yet are referred to differently.
Together they are called obscure.
The obscurest of the obscure,
They are the swinging gateway of the manifold mysteries.
Nothingness, it is the inner being of the Kosmos.Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo (2007):
Thingness, it is the outer distinctions of the Kosmos.
These two, though different in names, arise from the same source:
The source called the Invisible.
Invisible beyond the invisible.
It is the entry into the myriad wonders of the Eternal Kosmos.
Empty of desire, perceive mystery.
Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.
These have the same source, but different names.
Call them both deep – Deep and again deep:
The gateway to all mystery.
Are you thinking: The translations are so different, how could these people all be reading the same text? Ah, there you have it. We encounter the fathomless mystery of Dao, source from which flow the myriad different things. Likewise, we encounter the fathomless Dao De Jing, source from which flow the myriad different translations. The text is performative of its subject.
As Bahm says, Reality can't be described. Not only that, but the "description" (which doesn't describe) can't be described either . . . because, after all, it, too, is part of reality.
We see things differently, depending on whether we want something (out of it), or don't. Still, it's the same thing. The mystery itself has a further source -- the "darkness" (Feng-English, Mitchell), which is source of both mystery and manifestation, or "the Abyss", which is "the mysterious" behind the "the fathomless" (Trapp). For MacHoven, instead of "darkness" or "abyss", it's "the key" "within humanity." LaFargue's "The Merging" suggests an inverse picture: rather than a prior oneness from which both mystery and manifestation flow, LaFargue suggests the "essentials" and the "what is sought" flow together, merge, to create that oneness.
Several of the translations seem to be urging us to drop desires -- "stop wanting stuff" (Hogan). Mair's perspective is wiser: "always be without desire" and "always have desire." By having both, always at the same time, we can observe both the "wondrous subtleties" and "its manifestations." (Interesting how simply putting colons after "always," as LaFargue does, so completely changes the meaning.)
Ames and Hall offer this commentary:
Experience is most replete when we entertain it in both its determinate and its indeterminate aspects, appreciating both the contingent boundaries that mediate it and make it meaningful for us, and the spontaneous emergence of novelty that can only be immediately felt. . . . Born into a contextualizing world and persisting within it, the event gradually and in degree allows for conceptualization, and can be understood in such terms. In the course of time, the event begins to disperse and return, at first disappointing and then ultimately compromising those same rational structures that earlier promised meaning. . . . Beyond the cognitive understanding of experience, there is the epistemology of caring. We know things most immediately and profoundly through empathic feeling. . . . We can only know specifically, yet process requires that we constantly surrender the specificity of what we know. Optimally, then, we must have desires while at the same time be resolutely "objectless" in these desires. (78-79)Which takes us back to not being able to describe the description either, eh?
* * *
Next: Saturdao 3.
Beginning: Saturdao 1.