In 1959 Julius Evola published a translation and commentary on the Tao Te Ching under the title Il Libro del Principio e della sua Azione [The Book of the Principle and its Action]. His interpretation is based on his knowledge of Tradition.
Here are the first three chapters.
The Tao that can be named
Is not the eternal Tao
The Name that can be pronounced
Is not the eternal Name
(As the) Nameless it is the principle of Heaven and Earth
With the Name [that is: determined as Heaven and Earth] it is the origin of the myriad particular beings
So: the one who is detached
Perceives the Mysterious Essence
Which is obscured by desire
The gaze is stopped by the limit [he sees only the phenomena of appearances of the Principle]
Now of the two [the Nameable and the Unnamable, being and non-being]
One essence, only the name is different
Their identity is mysterious
It is the unfathomable depth
Beyond the threshold of the ultimate mystery
The two aspects of the Principle are indicated here, the one transcendent (unnamable, without form – equivalent to non-Being, the Emptiness, the unmoved), the other immanent (nameable, with form – equivalent to: Being, fullness, the movable). Other Taoist designations: The “Former Heaven” (hsien t’ien) and the “Later Heaven” (hou t’ien). The first determination of the Tao (called also “the great Mutation”) is Heaven-and-Earth which are cosmic symbols of the Yang and the Yin. This Dyad produces all the modifications, therefore the myrida particular beings, of their paths and of their destinies (“The Great Flux”, the “current of forms”).
The unmanifested and the manifested, the formless and the formal, the Former Heaven and the Later Heaven, are not distinct temporally (as if at a certain moment something similar to a “creation” intervened), but in logico-metaphysical terms. Transcendence is immanent, the fullness coexists with the emptiness, non-being is the source of being: identity, that constitutes the ultimate mystery of Taoist realization.
See the Lieh Tzu: “The chain of productions and transformations is interrupted, the producer and the transformer producing and transforming without it … the producer is unmovable, the transformer comes and goes. And the motionless and the mobile endure always. … Analyzing the production of the universe, the opening up of the sensible from the non-sensible, the seed of the calm generative action of Heaven and Earth, the ancient Sages distinguished these stages: the Great Mutation, the Great Origin, the Great Commencement, the Great Flux”.
For everything under this heaven, the beautiful conceived
The ugly is born (as correlative)
The good established
The not-good takes form.
Likewise: being and non-being mutually condition each other
The possible and the impossible are complementary differentiations
Large and small characterize each other
The high flips over to the low
Clear sounds and noise complement each other
Before and after [or: ahead and behind] follow each other in a circle
The True Man is like that
He endures in non-acting
He teaches without speaking
He directs without touching [without commanding]
He forms [he makes happen, he leads to development] without taking control
He accomplishes without doing [without calling attention to the one who acts]
Essentially: not residing [in the domain of the correlative where the game of opposites unfolds]
He always participates [in the original force]
In the first lines, referring on one hand to the law of correlation of all human notions; then, on the other hand, to its ontological counterpart, to that which can be called the “dialectic of the real”. Taoistically: the solidarity and action alternating as opposites, Yin and Yang, gives rise to modifications of the phenomenal world that now complete each other, then pass one into the other.
This dynamism, previously in the I Ching given by the circle of the “Figures of Heaven”, that is, the trigrams and hexagrams, does not touch the calm and undifferentiated essence of the Principle. Chuang tze: “The immobile center of a circle on the circumference of which crowns all contingencies, distinctions and individuals”. From this, it describes the non-acting behavior of the True Man, of the sheng jen, insofar he reflects in himself the Principle in its aspect without name.
On the gnosiological plane, from the principle of correlation of opposites is deduced the relativity and the irrelevance of the human distinctions, therefore of all the current values, which correspond to nothing in reality: therefore “only great spirits are capable of understanding.” (Chuang Tze)
By esteeming in excess
Conflict is provoked [in reaction]
Emphasizing what is rare to possess
Creates guilty desire for appropriation
It weakens that which, in things, attracts
And the soul will remain calm
Thus: the True Man acting as leader
Moves without preference and appetites
He weakens his impulses [the man of desire, the physical I], tempers his inner being [his bones]
Without a [exterior] knowing and without desires the guides the ten thousand beings
He confuses those who know
He avoids acting [centered in the Self]
And society will always live free in its order
Some translators have rendered the line “the sheng jen without knowing or desiring to guide the people” with “the sheng jen ensures that the people have neither knowledge nor will”. In order to ignore the symbolic valence of the respective characters, in a modern Chines translation the “without preference or appetites” then becomes “the real man empties his heart and fills his belly”!!! Along the same line, there are among sinologists those who have even interpreted the rule contained in these lines as “stupefying the people” (the 10 thousand beings) on the one hand and, on the other, as “repressing the most nobly human in heart and will (hsin e chih) and coaxing instead the most vulgarly bestial part – belly and bones (fu e ku).”
The internal logic of the whole chapter corroborates instead the lesson here adopted. Non-knowing and non-desiring (in the sense of discursive knowing and the desiring of the individual) are the traits repeatedly attributed to the True Man of the Tao Te Ching which in him are virtues insofar as they would be the opposite in laymen and the common people, that is, insofar as they would be unattainable (if taken in the positive sense, as virtue).
In other chapters it is said, yes to the utility of keeping the people in ignorance that safeguards their original simplicity (something different from “stupefying”). But for now, it alludes instead to a propitiatory desaturation of size and a distancing of tensions and disordered appetites (first lines of the chapter). As was said, one thinks that with his sole presence the True Man acts in such a direction over the environment, nurturing an ordered spontaneity in social life.