We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it ‘the Equable.’ We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it ‘the Inaudible.’ We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it ‘the Subtle.’ With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain The One.
Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure. Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing. This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.
We meet it and do not see its Front; we follow it, and do not see its back. When we can lay hold of the Tao of old to direct the things of the present day, and are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning, this is called (unwinding) the clue of Tao.
J H McDonald
Look for it, and it can’t be seen.
Listen for it, and it can’t be heard.
Grasp for it, and it can’t be caught.
These three cannot be further described,
so we treat them as The One.
It’s highest is not bright.
It’s depths are not dark.
Unending, unnameable, it returns to nothingness.
Formless forms, and image less images,
subtle, beyond all understanding.
Approach it and you will not see a beginning;
follow it and there will be no end.
When we grasp the Tao of the ancient ones,
we can use it to direct our life today.
To know the ancient origin of Tao:
this is the beginning of wisdom.
Looked at, but cannot be seen –
That is called the Invisible (yi).
Listened to, but cannot be heard –
That is called the Inaudible (hsi).
Grasped at, but cannot be touched –
That is called the Intangible (wei).
These three elude our inquiries
And hence blend and become One.
Not by its rising, is there light,
Nor by its sinking, is there darkness.
It cannot be defined,
And reverts again to the realm of nothingness.
That is why it is called the Form of the Formless,
The Image of Nothingness.
That is why it is called the Elusive:
Meet it and you do not see its face;
Follow it and you do not see its back.