Lao Tzu

I had an appointment with him at the Spanish Embassy in New Delhi. It was late, the sun had set. A mist stifled the city. At the other end of the building was an old gramophone spitting out old cha-cha-cha tunes, and the heels of the girls rhythmically tapping the varnished parquet. In the basement, in a room lit by an oil lamp with trembling light, I sat down and took out the Ouija.

Lao Tzu was not long in coming. He was in a hurry, but had a lot to say. The start was fast, jerky, but direct. Not a word too many. The correctness of the verb. The speed of an arrow. Our interview lasted only one minute. That was enough.


Master, there is a stele in Henan, marking the place where Confucius asked you about the rites. My friend Édouard Chavannes photographed it a few months ago. Why did you refuse to appear and speak to me at this place?

 My word must not supplant the writing of the steles. The stone is stronger than the sound. I appear, I disappear, I am inconstancy.

Master, why do I taste blood when I speak to you?

 Because blood is necessary for sacrifices. Blood must flow, project, squirt. Blood is the sap of man. It is his life. It flows from man to sacred.

Master, how would you define yourself in one word?

I am: dragon-phoenix-tortoise-serpent-jade-hexagram. All.

Master, in what form do you enlighten the world?

 The clarity is interior. There are many spirits around man, in Nature, in the great whole, which serve only better to penetrate into the heart of oneself, and to find this inner god. The light burns in you. Your ego chokes it. Death liberates it.

Master, take away my bad conscience from sleeping too much.

 You do not have to think about sleeping as the little death. Life is death. Sleeping is birth to life.

Master, where do you come from, where are you going?

I was conceived miraculously by the passage of a comet (although some say that my mother was fertilized by ingesting a magic plum). At the time of the Kingdom of Spring and Autumn, I was born with white hair and a beard, ears with very long lobes (sign of infinite wisdom). Climbing the echelons of examinations and competitions, laborious, finding a thousand and one pleasures in the reading of books, I became an archivist at the court of the Zhou. But preferring the company of paper and steles to that of men, I left the country at least 160 year-old heading West on a buffalo. At the gates of the desert, on the way to the silk road, at the pass that marks the end of civilization, I left my written thought to a simple and good man (Yin Xi, border guard, becoming a guardian of knowledge), then continued my journey.

Master, when are you dead?

Dead? I am not dead. I am all the time dead. I am constantly reborn, I reappear in different forms to transmit the Tao. The Tao cannot die. The Tao is life. The Tao is death.

An ultimate question, in memory of a Sufi patient. How would you characterize life, with two words?

Wet grass.

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