The Way of the Tao is Reversal

by Charles Hugh Smith
Of Two Minds

As Jackson Browne put it: Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.

We can summarize all that will unfold in the next few years in one line: The way of the Tao is reversal. This is the opening line of Chapter 40 of Lao Tzu’s 5,000-character commentary on the Tao, The Tao Te Ching. There are many translations of this slim volume, and for a variety of reasons I favor the 1975 translation by my old professor at the University of Hawaii, Chang Chung-yuan (1907-1988), whom I would occasionally see doing Tai Chi late at night on his front yard in Manoa Valley.

Professor Chang–who would often write Chinese characters on the blackboard with great energy to make a point–rendered this line in English as Reverse is the movement of Tao. Others have translated it as Reversal is the movement of Tao.

Given the obscurity and ambiguity of Taoist concepts, this line has many interpretations. I prefer the way of the Tao is reversal because the Tao is fundamentally about virtue, power and what we might call authenticity. Thus all that is presented as permanent will be revealed as impermanent, all that is presented as true will be revealed as false and all that is presented as virtuous will be revealed as fraud.

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