From the beginning of the first Chapter:
One of the most remarkable men in the history of China, as also in the history of philosophy, is Lao-tzu, the author of the Tao-te-ching. This book deserves, and has obtained with those who know it, a high place among philosophical works, and the posthumous fortunes of its author have very rarely been surpassed. That his own followers - or at least those who professed to be and probably believed that they were his followers -should magnify his name was only what we would have expected. They have raised him from the rank of ordinary mortals, and represented him as an incarnation of deity, showing himself on this earth at sundry times and in various manners. His conception and birth, his personal appearance, and everything about him have been represented by them as supernatural; and the philosophic little treatise which he composed is regarded as a sacred book. Much of this has arisen from a spirit of rivalry with Buddhism. The Taoists did not wish to be behind the Buddhists in the amount of glory and mystery attaching to the reputed originator of their religion; and they accordingly tried to make the fortunes of Lao-tzu like those of Shakyamuni, the Buddha of the Present.
Both Confucianists and Buddhists, however, also regard the Tao-te-ching as a book of deep mysteries, and admit the supernatural, or at least marvellous, character of its author, though, as will be seen, many censure him for teaching doctrines either in themselves mischievous or leading to evil results when fully developed. At several periods of Chinese history Lao-tzu has enjoyed the patronage of government, and almost supplanted Confucius. Indeed, during several of the dynasties which reigned within the first few centuries of our era, there seems to have been a constant struggle for ascendancy between the followers of these two philosophic chiefs. Emperors have done honour to Lao-tzu in his temple, and the sovereigns of the great Tang dynasty were proud to deem him their lineal ancestor. One emperor has even written an excellent commentary on his book; and one of the best editions of the Tao-te-ching as regards textual excellence is that by a Confucian mandarin under the present dynasty. Buddhist monks also have edited the book with annotations, and many of them regard it and its author with a reverence second only to that with which the Taoist regard them.
It is not only, however, his own countrymen who have given honour to this prophet. By Western writers also great and mysterious things have been attributed to him. Some have found in his book an enunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity. The illustrious Remusat discovered in it the sacred name Jehovah, and many curious analogies with the best philosophic writings of ancient times, and more especially with those of Greece. Pauthier, who has read and written largely about Lao-tzu, finds in his teachings the triple Brahma of the ancient Hindoos, the Adibuddha of the Northern Buddhists, and an anticipated Christianity. The Tao of which Lao-tzu speaks so much has been likened to God, to the Logos of Plato and the Neoplntonists, to "the nonentity of some German philosophers," and to many other things. Pauthier says: - "Le dieu invoque et decrit par Lao-tseu est la Grande Voie du monde, la raison supreme universelle, materiellement identique avec le mot qui sert a designer Dieu dans les langues grecque latine (Dens) et leurs derivees modernes; mais les attribute qu'il lui donne ne sont point ceux qu'ont donnees a l'Etre supreme toutes les doctrines spiritualistes de l'Orient, transmises a l'Occident par una voie juive et grecque; par les therepeutes et les esseniens, dont Jesus, le fils de l'homme, fut le revelateur et le representant a l'etat philosophique."show more