"Exert"? "Magical powers"? Where are those characters in the Chinese sentence? The above sentence was taken from a section of "Du's Handbook" that said "無以 (무이)" can be used to mean "not have the means to," but my question is "not have the means to WHAT?" The Handbook says "not have the means to EXERT," but there is no character in the sentence that means "exert." Instead, I would like to suggest the following translation:然龍弗得雲無以神其靈矣“But if the dragon does not get its cloud, it will not have the means to exert its magical powers.”
First, 以 (이) was used here with the meaning of "to take." Second, though the characters 神 (신) and 靈 (령) are often both translated as either "soul" or "spirit," the words "soul" and "spirit" are not exactly the same. A soul, for example, is associated with "the living," but a spirit is associated with "the dead." I think the character 神 (신) means "soul," or 넋 in Korean, and the character 靈 (령) means "spirit." When "a soul (神) and "a spirit (靈)" are joined, they create a "divine spirit (神靈 - 신령)" or "god." Before a dragon can become a god, its "soul (神)" must first travel to heaven on a cloud to join with its "spirt (靈)."然龍弗得雲無以神其靈矣“So if (然) the dragon (龍) does not (弗) get (得) a cloud (雲), there is nothing (無) to take (以) the soul (神) [to] its (其) spirit (靈矣).”
Below is the passage from which I think the sentence came. I found it on the Internet in a Korean book entitled "개방소정랑2." Though I think the Korean translation is way off base, I have included it so that you can decide for yourselves.
This is how I interpret the passage: The "cloud" (雲) made by a dragon is the "courier" (信) that takes the dragon's "soul" (神) to Heaven to join with its "spirit" (靈), which results in "a divine spirit" (神靈), or "god." Without the cloud (雲), which, again, is the courier (信), the soul cannot travel to Heaven. Interestingly, besides meaning "courier," 信 (신) can also mean "belief," which means the cloud could be a metaphor for "belief." If so, then without "belief" (信), the soul (神) of a dragon cannot travel to Heaven to join with its "spirit (靈)," which would result in a "divine soul (神靈) " or "divine spirit."龍噓氣成雲. 雲固弗靈於龍也. 若龍之靈 則非雲之所能使爲靈也. 然龍弗得雲無以神其靈矣. 失其所憑依信不可歟? 異哉! 其所憑依乃其所自爲也.A dragon (龍) blows out (噓) steam (氣) to form (成) a cloud (雲). The cloud (雲) is definitely (固) not (弗) the spirit (靈) from (於) the dragon (龍也). If (若) [it] were the dragon’s (龍之) spirit (靈), then (則) [it would] not be (非) the cloud (雲之) that (所) can (能) be sent (使) to make (爲) a spirit (靈也). So if (然) the dragon (龍) cannot (弗) get (得) a cloud (雲), there would be nothing (無) to take (以) the soul (神) [to] its (其) spirit (靈矣). [It] loses (失) the courier that it relies on (所憑依信), isn’t that right (不可歟)? [How] strange (異哉)! That which it relies on (其所憑依) is also (乃) that which itself creates (其所自爲也).용이 기를 뿜어 내어 구름이된다. 구름은 본디 용보다는 영험하지 않다. 그러나 용은 이 구름을 타고 아득히 높은 하늘을 난다. 구름이란 용이 있어서 신통한 것이다. 용의 신통함 역시 구름이 있어 그런 것은 아니나, 용이 구름을 만나지 못하면 신통할 재간이 없는 것이다. 용이 의지하는 바를 잃으면 정말 어쩔 수 없어진다. 기이하구나! 자기가 의지하는 것을 자기 스스로 만드는 구나.