Title: Akrishi's Home of Taoist Classics

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Introduction to Chinese Alchemy

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     Although the principal goal of Chinese Alchemy is also to gain Tao, the method they emphasized is through the cultivation of the elixir for immortality.   

     Historically, there are different approaches to Chinese Alchemy or so called the Way to the Elixir . We can classify them according to either:

  • The heavenly, human, and the earthly (i.e. by medicinal elixir) approach;
  • The golden elixir and the inner elixir;
  • The location where the elixir is cultivated: the upper, middle or lower field of elixir.

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The Heavenly vs. Human Approach

     The main difference between the heavenly and the human approach is that the former relies on the female Hsuan [i.e. the collapse] or the stream of the Divine as mentioned in chapter 4 of the "Tao Teh Ching", or what Wang Chongyang called "Spiritual water" , to cultivate the elixir. [Please note that in my opinion, this is the same as the descent of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in the Bible.] Thus it is also called the external elixir approach because the drug for to cultivate the elixir come from outside of the body. The latter, in contrast, mainly relies on the pre-heavenly drugs from within our body.

     Basically, the golden elixir is a heavenly approach and the inner elixir is a human approach. But in reality, most practices are mixed. For example, the golden elixir approach as mentioned in the "Five Spiritual Texts" which has been passed on from two ancient immortals (probably Lu Dongbin) to Wang Chongyang and further to Quanzhen Taoists starts from "Etherealize essence to prana" in the lower field of elixir. But still the elixir is mainly borne and cultivated in the upper field of elixir with the great drug from heaven.

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The Golden Elixir vs. the Inner Elixir

     The golden elixir approach is the most nature and straight forward approach because this is just by reverting one's own primordial spirit to the millet pearl.   Therefore, the cultivation of the golden elixir is in the upper field of elixir. This is the main stream before the inner elixir approach become popular. Representative Taoist text of this approach is the Secret of the Golden Flower.

     The inner elixir approach was made known to the world with the teachings of Lu Dongbin and from him blossomed into the many Taoist Schools of the North and South sect [NB. Read list of known Chinese Alchemy schools lineages here].   This approach starts from "Etherealize essence to prana" in the lower field of elixir. For more details on the inner elixir approach as expounded by Lu Dongbin, please read my introduction to the "Rootless Tree Ci (poetry)".

     In this original inner elixir approach, the elixir is mainly cultivated in the middle field of elixir. Also they are talking about drinking daogui which should be something derived from the stream of the Divine.   But approaching the Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty, the inner elixir approach became solely relying on the post-heavenly essence of the human body [i.e. the semen].   This is evident from what Lu Dongbin said in chapter 13 of the "Secret of the Golden Flower", "Laotzu is also worried about man having a body, so he instructed and passed on this stream of the Divine yet no one understand."

2009/1/12 revised

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