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Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself. Even the finest name is insufficient to define it. Without words, the Tao can be experienced, and without a name, it can be known. – Tao De Ching

Attributed to a court official named Lao Tzu, court archivist of Chu during the Zhou Dynasty, the Tao De Ching is an enigmatic set of writings that has inspired and perplexed readers and followers for centuries. Traditionally, Lao Tzu lived around 600 BC; tired with the internecine wars of the time, he decided to withdraw into seclusion. A border official would only allow him to leave if he wrote down what he knew. In five thousand characters, Lao Tzu wrote down the Tao De Ching, and then gratefully continued on his way. An astonishingly short work, the Tao is a poem, the enigmatic sayings of a seer, a set of philosophical musings and running paradoxes intended to confound ordinary mind. On another scale, it is perhaps the purest of esoteric texts, neither needing nor referring to a divinity for its authority.