What did Lao Tzu mean when he wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “Those who say, do not know. Those who know, do not say”?
In this series entitled What Did Lao Tzu Mean? are entertained some responses. You are welcome to include yours as a comment. This one is by Nathaniel:
Well, to start with, for a man who said that “those who say do not now”; he surely had plenty to say. Thus, he must not have known a whole lot…with that in mind, it seems as though he was attempting to explain the anti-knowledge knowledge for minds that eagerly gobble up candy-coated ideas.
In my own experience, it has been far easier to put into practice the principles he put forth than it is to relate them. Through his teaching I have learned the value that multiple views can have for the individual. I have made use of nothingness and I have cast off many burdensome intellectual possessions and I must admit, I have less of an idea what “truth” is today because of him, but far greater freedom to seek the truth if I choose to.
His words came to me mysteriously, at first, everything I read was so unique that I almost had no frame of reference to work with—it was so far out of the pale to me and so foreign. Initially he sounded like a genius. Yet, what I eventually began to recognize was that he wrote from a place that was not “advanced” at all. His words were so damn obvious that he could also be seen as the greatest idiot philosopher of all time as well without stretching the imagination one bit.
People, especially white, middle-class, vegetarian, yoga instructors who drive an Escalade like to make a big to-do about the “illusory” quality of this existence and they will quite often put Lao Tsu in the same category as Buddha and others—perhaps because he was Asian—I don’t know.
I don’t think that Lao Tsu saw this life as illusory though. I think his writings were merely those of a man who liked to shoot from the hip a lot; to my mind Lao tsu observed how Real this world was to him and he noticed how everything worked; teaching the illusion of intelligence rather than the illusion of existence.