Chapter Eight of the Chuang Tze, titled “Webbed Toes”, begins the second section of the book, known as the “Outer Chapters”. As we discussed earlier, it is composed of thirty-three Chapters. The first seven Chapters of the book “Chuang Tze” are known as the “Inner Chapters,” written by Chuang Tze himself, whereas the “Outer Chapters” (Chapters 8–22) and the “Miscellaneous Chapters (Chapters 23–33) were written by his Disciples. The following selection is this writer’s rendition of the first half of this Chapter.
Some individuals are born with webbed toes, or extra fingers, but neither of these situations have any effect on one’s Power. Warts and other growths may hang from one’s body, but they are excretions as far as the inborn nature is concerned. There are many methods set forth for enacting Benevolence and Righteousness, and one who promotes them claims they line up with the five organs of the physical body! This is not the right approach to the Road and the Power.
The five organs of the body, the heart, liver, stomach, lungs, and kidneys were believed to line up with the Five elements, fire, wood, earth, metal and water. Proper alignment was believed necessary for correct bodily function. Some philosophers tried to include the ideas of benevolence and righteousness as being as important as one’s bodily organs. Benevolence was assigned to the liver and the Element of Wood, and Righteousness to the lungs and the Element of Metal. The author is saying that it is silly to thus align Benevolence and Righteousness with the body.
Just as webbing on the feet is a flap of useless connecting flesh, extra fingers sticking out from the hands are useless as fingers. One who tries to add extra webbing or digits to the natural condition of their five organs, pretending they have the Power and authority to direct the way benevolence and righteousness should flow, are simply looking for ways to make their hearing more acute and their eyesight more clear. Thus, one who is web-toed in eyesight will be confused by the five colors, bewitched by patterns and designs, by the dazzling hues of blue and yellow, of embroidery and brocade, finding fault with the greens and yellows embroidered on a blue robe. This is what happened to Li Chu.
The Five Colors were Red, Green, Yellow, White and Black. Li Chu was a famous artist who delved deeply into Alchemy and other Mystical Arts, and went insane.
One who tries to make their ears more sensitive to sound beyond what’s normal will mix up the five sound and become bewitched by the six tones, in bringing out the tones from the instruments of metal, stone, silk, and bamboo finding fault with the sounds of all the musical instruments in an orchestra playing the “Huang Zhong” and “Da Lu”! That’s what happened to Shi Kuang!
“Huang Zhong” and “Da Lu” were two popular musical compositions of the Time. This refers to the Twelfth Chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Traditional Chinese music was based on that Pentatonic Scale. Shi Kuang, a musician, was the son of a government official. He led an unsuccessful rebellion against the Empire, and then went insane. Chuang Tze, or whichever Follower of his that wrote this on his behalf, was opposed, like Lao Tzu, to overemphasizing Psychic Abilities. There seems always be a running thread throughout Taoist Writings against this, and against doing too much, in general. A Life of moderation is always a good Idea!