Berghaus, in his 'Physical Atlas, gives the following division of the human race according to religion: 'Buddhists 31.2 per cent, Christians 30.7, Mohammedans 15.7, Brahmanists 13.4, Heathens 8.7, and Jews 0.3. As Berghaus does not distinguish the Buddhists in China from the followers of Confucius and Laotse, the first place on the scale really belongs to Christianity.
However, let us not be too sentimental. Let us be less luxurious but more magnificent. Said Laotse: "Heaven and earth are pitiless." Said Kobodaishi: "Flow, flow, flow, flow, the current of life is ever onward. Die, die, die, die, death comes to all." Destruction faces us wherever we turn. Destruction below and above, destruction behind and before.
Henceforth during her cycle China was to be as a light-giving body, a luminary wondrous in the firmament with a shining array of satellite kingdoms circling about her. Her own Teachers of a thousand years before had prepared the way for it: Confucius when he gave her stability; Laotse when he dropped the Blue Pearl into her fields. That Pearl had shone, heaven knows.
Such a man, of course, might have lived later than Chwangtse, and taken his nom de plume of Liehtse from the latter's book; but against this there is the fact that Liehtse's teaching forms a natural link between Chtangtse's and that of their common Master Laotse; and above all and herein lies the real importance of him the real Liehtse treats Confucius as a Teacher and Man of Tao.
At a time when a personal devil was gradually assuming shape, it would have been singular, indeed, if there had not arisen one who, by his peculiar temperament and natural disposition, was exactly suited to the task of elaborating this doctrine in all its grim seriousness. That such an one did arise in the person of Laotse is evident from what is known regarding his history and teachings.
There is little known of the life and character of Laotse except that he labored assiduously through a long life-time for the establishment of certain principles or tenets which he believed to be essential to the well-being of humanity. In the twentieth chapter of his work are found to be some hints of his personality and of the gloomy cast of his character.
Laotse himself spoke of it thus: "There is a thing which is all-containing, which was born before the existence of Heaven and Earth. How silent! How solitary! It stands alone and changes not. It revolves without danger to itself and is the mother of the universe. I do not know its name and so call it the Path. With reluctance I call it the Infinite.
Joan was blemishless; but not thereby did she save France; she could do that because, as Laotse would have said, being one with Tao, she flowed out into her surroundings, accomplishing absolutely her part in the universal plan. The sun and the stars and the tides and the wind and the rain there is that perfect glowing simplicity in them all: the Original, the Root of all things, Tao.
Enlightened reason dethrones devils; but Laotse created devils innumerable, and the chief concern of the Taouist sect has always been to manipulate these emissaries of evil. Modern rationalists deny the existence of devils, and relegate them to the category of myths and to personified ideas. Not so the rationalist of the Orient.
There at Loyang, which is Honanfu, we see him wandering rapt through palaces and temples, examining the sacrificial vessels, marveling at the ancient art of Shang and Chow. But for a few vases, it is all lost. He did interview Laotse; we cannot say whether only once or more often.