Inner Alchemy: A Guide to the Teachings of Taoist Philosophy on Health and Higher Consciousness (1)
“The Way gave birth to the One.
The One gave birth to the Two.
The Two gave birth to the Three.
And the Three gave birth to the ten thousand things.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Taoism is the philosophy of syncing up with nature and doing that which comes naturally. Taoism bases its primary understanding of reality on the principle of balance between the forces of YIN and YANG.
These complementary opposites exist in an ever-changing and ever-flowing dynamic state that constantly self-corrects and harmonizes. The ancient philosophers of China used the term Tao for the Supreme Ultimate or the universe as we know it. It is the All. In the beginning, there was Wu Wei, or the Great Emptiness, and from this came YIN and YANG.
YIN and YANG
This is one of the most popular Taoist beliefs. Everything in the universe has a YIN and YANG component to it, and everything has a balance point. For example, there would be no meaning to “up” if the concept of “down” didn’t exist. There is no “hot” without “cold” and so on. This primordial distinction not only relates to everything around us; it is also what fundamentally drives the motion within us. We, being an active functional aspect of nature, exemplify the same polar balancing; with sustained attention to this subject matter, we can find the Tao, or the balance point, in everything.
Essentially, there was the original state of the universe wherein everything was One. There was unity consciousness and eternal togetherness of all there is – and then, it occurred! Polarization. All there is, all at once, are now imbued with this elementary concept and this perception of separation. This is the mark of polarity.
Now, it is critical to remember that these poles are the seemingly opposite characteristics of the same elements. This polarity gives us a dualistic view of the same phenomena. YIN and YANG are constituent parts or mirror reflections of the same one, which is simply split into two, the same way a beam of light splits when hitting a prism. In the beginning and in the end, it is all Tao. Polarity is just the game we are playing.
YIN and YANG Examples
Below there are some basic examples of YIN and YANG to better illustrate this Taoism philosophy. These obvious examples will help further illustrate a point in our understanding of human nature – namely, the distinctions we make in our approach to spiritual evolution.
YIN: Earth, cold, down, matter, female, passive, soft, body, materialism, science.
YANG: Sun, hot, up, energy, male, active, hard, spirit, spiritualism, religion.
In our culture, we are either on one end or another. Either you work for Wall Street and drive the expensive car, or you wear patchouli and tour with the band. Either you are a Democrat or a Republican, for a cause or against it, patriotic or unpatriotic, with us or against us, and on and on. The mark of our society is that it is stained with the rigidity of dualistic thinking, and we suffer from its intolerance daily in our public discourse.
In the Balance Is Where the Well Being Occurs!
According to Taoist beliefs, the middle way, the balance, is the fusion of YIN and YANG. It is the understanding that there is communication, and interaction with all things at all times. The United States lives in a culture that was started by a group of religious fundamentalists (the Puritans), who essentially lived in a world of black and white. They were too much to handle for their contemporaries in Europe, and so they came to the New World to (conquer and) live their way of life. Lovemaking was evil, and women were witches to them. Everything was black or white, and there was judgment all around. It was neither fun nor tolerant at all.
Americans are now living in the shadow of that thinking, and the national discourse echoes that imbalance. The insanity of the Red Team – Blue Team mentality has really watered down the quality of human interaction, the meeting of ideas, and peaceful disagreement. Fundamentalism (in all religions and creeds) is a child of this imbalance; it is a reflection of our collective ignorance – our ignorance of the truth.
To attain balance in the world outside of us, it is important to realize that we must first establish that state within ourselves. The external is simply a reflection of our internal state. Therefore, any balance we would like in our lives must come from a genuinely balanced state that originates from inside of us. We are the holographic projectors, and the “reality” we see beyond our flesh and blood is simply the reflection of our internal state. As the ancient alchemical axiom attributed to Hermes Trismegistus states, “As above, so below.”
Generally, YIN and YANG, and other Taoism beliefs and practices, represent the totality of creation from opposite sides of each other. Together they are whole, and together there is balance. One cannot exist without the other, and we cannot examine anything without a balanced frame of reference, which requires looking at both sides and finding the middle.
The polarity created by YIN and YANG can be compared to (if we so dare) the breath of life in biblical texts. At first, there is only Tao and no differentiation. Then, movement begins, and the energy of life starts to stir and revolve around itself, swirling the myriad things in the universe into being. It is as if a centrifugal and centripetal force erupted simultaneously, both creating and destroying, rising and falling, growing and decaying. In balance, the universe sustains itself and grows slowly in sentience and capacity. We can compare it to an oak tree. It grows a bit every year and then sheds weak branches in the autumn, which then become mulched as compost for the tree’s own growth the following season. The tree eventually grows so big that the main branches cannot support their own weight, and they collapse, only to become the soil for the seeds of its progeny to grow up strong and repeat the cycle.
The early Taoists learned everything from observing nature, deep introspection, inner energy cultivation, and development of gnosis. They discovered the principle of YIN and YANG to be the impetus and driving force of all life, and this concept is inextricably linked to the additional Taoism beliefs and practices we will discuss.
Figure 1. Seasonal Interplay
YIN and YANG can also be thought of as two inverted waves that are flowing along a central axis. In Figure 1, we can see the interplay of the seasons and how they relate to the rising and falling tides of yin and yang. The equinox points are when the forces come together on the axis, and the solstices are at the extremes of one or the other.
If we then take this interplay and add an element of torsion or twisting into a three-dimensional model, we end up with something that looks the double helix of a DNA molecule, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. The Double Helix of DNA Resembles the Interplay of YIN and YANG
This double helix DNA serves as the information storehouse for all life on this planet, and the interplay of these strands dictates which proteins are synthesized and how we express physiologically in nature. This remarkable dance between the polar forces directs the language of internal energetic communication and becomes the basis of much of our transformational work.
The Three Treasures
Once the universe is split into the polarized binary system of YIN and YANG, there arises a distinction between the different levels of material manifestation. If spirit and matter, which at the level of the Tao are one and the same, are separated with the birth of YIN and YANG, then we start to see a scale of densification versus illumination. Keep in mind that YIN and YANG are relative to each other, always. There is no absolute YIN to speak of; things are only YIN when compared with something else. We can say “hot” when it’s 35 Celsius degrees out, and we could say that this is very YANG, but that assumes that an average day is, say, 23 Celsius degrees. A 35-degree day would certainly be more YANG in this instance. But what if we compared that to a 250-degree oven, or the surface of the Sun? The 35-degree day would be more YIN compared to these. There is a density “gradient” from spirit to matter in which matter is more dense than spirit.
Now, taking this gradient as an example, we can hold it as a frame of reference for the Taoist understanding of the Three Treasures: jing, qi, and shen. The Three Treasures also can be organized on a density gradient, with jing being the most YIN, or most dense, and shen being the most YANG, or least dense.
Per the teachings of Taoism, the polarization of spirit and essence creates the currency of life (the qi energy). It is the medium or language of communication of All That Is. This is why it is so powerful to work with qi. When we understand the dynamics of qi flow in our body, we can begin the alchemical process of bringing the poles of spirit and essence back to a balanced equilibrium. In the duality-free stillness, we have direct access to the zero-point energy field and are capable of rewriting the code of how we manifest in three dimensions via our DNA.
A useful example is to compare these Three Treasures to a candle, wherein the wax is the essence (jing), the flame is the energy (qi), and the aura around the flame is the spirit (shen). The goal is to preserve the essence (wax) and sustain a healthy flow of energy (flame) so that the spirit (aura) can soar. This is a very simplistic example, and much more will be said about this. But before we go there, let’s look at each of the Three Treasures individually.
Jing is the essential vitality that is stored in our body. Remember, the Taoist understanding of reality is intimately tied to the internal understanding of our body and the movement of the life force through us. To understand these dynamics is to gain enlightenment universally. Jing is the most YIN of the three treasures, and it represents the core of our material existence. It is a most precious substance that is to be cherished and guarded.
Very similar to the way that polarity created the spectrum of energy to matter, the essence is differentiated as well. The Taoist belief is that we have our “pre-heaven” essence, our “post-heaven” essence, and our “day-to-day” essence.
The pre-heaven essence comes from the blending of the erotic energies of our biological parents. This energy nourishes the embryo and the fetus during pregnancy and essentially comes downstream from our ancestral DNA. It determines our individual, constitutional makeup, strength, and vitality and is what makes us each unique. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt by our parents.
A tremendous amount of history, information, and KARMA comes through our bloodlines via the DNA that gets registered at this level of our essence. Some people are blessed, and many others come in with a number of challenges in regard to this. This is an integral piece of the puzzle that must be addressed in our energetic cultivation.
In Taoism, the post-heaven essence is attributed to our lifestyles and is quite changeable. It is what we derive from foods and fluids after birth. It’s what we do with ourselves once we’ve come into the world. It has a lot to do with early-stage development and the quality of our nourishment from our birth onward. There is a great deal to say about this topic in regard to healthy bacterial colonies in the gut, breastfeeding, quality of foods, and the loving environment a child is brought into.
We can’t really help what occurred before conception or during our infantile development (though, of course, we can do so for our children), but we certainly can help what we do with it from there. This aspect of the essence really can be cultivated and positively affected by lifestyle and practice. In fact, a critical aspect of our practice is to continually refine our essence and increase the amount of condensed jing to work with.
If we were to use money as a metaphor, the pre-heaven essence would be a locked-away family trust account that we know is there yet is relatively inaccessible in our day-to-day dealings. Our post-heaven essence would be our money market savings account; we can tap into it – but at a price. And then our day-to-day essence would be our checking account, being deposited to and drawn upon daily for our various needs.
Being derived from the other two types of essence, the day-to-day variety can tap into both the pre-and post-heaven reserves and replenish itself. It serves as the body’s primary backup system. It acts as the reinforcement for all the body’s energies, like a backup battery, supporting our systems when there is an outage.
You can also think of it as the overdraft protection on your checking account. It is critical to keep this system healthy for day-to-day functioning in order to maintain health. If we want to enhance our health and state of being, then that is where the Taoist beliefs and practices serve their purpose. We shouldn’t be just making ends meet every day; instead, we must be in a state of relative overflow and abundance. This will then give us the energy we need to cultivate strong light bodies and open up our perception.
So, although this form of essence is the easiest to access and can be more readily restored, it is still considered jing in the scale of density. It is the baseline backup system for the qi, or energy flow, of the body.
Going back to our money metaphor, in relation to the other aspects of essence, our day-to-day is more liquid; however, in relation to our qi or energy flow, it is like a fixed savings account. Again, notice how YIN and YANG are always relative and how they create a spectrum for comparison. Essence is denser than energy and is therefore less “liquid” in cash flow terms. Our essence is our equity. Yes, we can borrow against it – but at a cost. The point is to store it up and create an endowment that propels us into eternity.
Read the second part of the article
April 5, 2020