That which you look for, but cannot see: the Formless.
That which you listen for, but cannot hear: the Silent.
That which you grasp for, but cannot hold: the Intangible.

These three, the incalculable, are one and inseparable:
its surface does not shine; its depths are not shadowed;
deeply unfathomable, nameless, returning back to nothing.

This is the Form without form, the image of Nothing.
This is the Featureless, the Empty.
Those who pursue it will never see its back;
Those who address it will never see its face.

But those who hold to the ancient Way
grasp the thread of the modern world;
and those who grasp the ancient beginnings
hold the thread of the Way.


This is probably my favorite chapter of the entire Dao De Jing.

One of my goals for this project was to translate the philosophy as faithfully as is reasonably possible, though the original poetry might suffer… so, you can look on these occasional un-redirected bits as providing connective tissue to a philosophy that might be as relevant to modern consultants as it was to ancient ones.

chapter notes:

I was fairly straightforward with this chapter. I have taken some liberties with the final verse, though.