Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The mystery according to Ge Hong

Illustration by Pomme Chan

The Mystery is the first ancestor of the Spontaneous, the root of the many diversities.
Unfathomable and murky in its depths, it is also called imperceivable;
stretching far into the distance, it is also called wonderful;
so high that it covers the nine empyreans,
so wide that it encompasses the eight cardinal points;
shining beyond the sun and the moon,
speedy beyond the rapid light;
it both suddenly shines forth and disappears like a shadow.
it both surges up in a whirlwind and streaks away like a comet;
it is both stirred up by deep eddies and like a clear deep pool,
it is both flaky and at the same time misty, rising up in clouds;
it takes on form and gender, and it exists [you];
it returns to darkness and solitude, and it is no more [wu];
it plunges beyond, into the great darkness, and buries itself deep;
it rises above the stars and floats on high;
neither metal nor stone can equal its hardness,
and the moist dew cannot attain its softness.
Square without set-square, round without compasses,
it comes and no one sees it,
 it leaves and no one follows it;
through it, the sky is high and the earth low,
through it, the clouds rush by and the rain falls.
It carries within it the embryo of the Original One,
it forms and shapes the two Principles (Yin and Yang);
it exhales and absorbs the great Genesis,
it inspires and transforms the multitude of species,
it makes the constellations go round,
it shaped the primordial Darkness,
it guides the wonderful mainspring of the universe,
it exhales the four seasons,
it encloses the void and silence in darkness,
it frees and parcels out natural abundance,
it makes the heavy fall and the light rise up,
it makes the rivers Ho and Wei flow.
If one adds to it, it does not increase.
if one takes away from it, it does not grow less.
If something is given to it, it is not increased in glory.
If something is taken from it, it does not suffer.
Where the Mystery is present, joy is infinite;
where the Mystery has departed, efficacy is exhausted and the spirit disappears.