Taoist Yoga. Alchemy and Immortality. To hold on to the centre to realise the oneness of heaven and earth is achieved only by uniting the sun and the moon. Part 3 of 4
When breathing in, the heart, spirit and thought should
rise together from the base of the spine at the cardinal
When the generative and vital forces start vibrating
(in the lower tan t’ien cavity under the navel) you should
breathe in—this is to close (ho) the respiratory mechanism
(so that the air goes down to exert pressure on the lower
abdomen); and at the same time by rolling your eyes up
you should follow the ascent of generative force and vitality
from the bottom to the top of the head, thus:
When you breathe out, you should open (p’i) the respiratory
mechanism so that the air goes out of the body (to relax
pressure on the lower abdomen); at the same time your eyes
should follow the descent of generative force and vitality
from the top to the bottom, thus:
So to complete an orbit you should roll your eyes right round
All this is generally called the ascent of positive and descent
of negative fire; while inhalation, shutting, ascent and open¬
ing, exhalation, descent are the phases of the alchemical
As for the bellows, it is used to
make these ascents and descents. Prenatal vitality is pro¬
duced and stored up by this (breathing) process while
(fire in) the heart and (water in the) lower abdomen mingle.
If the generative and vital forces do not vibrate (in the lower
abdomen) there is no need to employ the inner bellows.
For ventilation (by in and out breathing), the ascent of
positive and descent of negative fire, the cauldron and stove,
are so-called and come into play only after the generative
and vital forces have vibrated.
Slow fire is produced by (a meditative method which
consists of) closing both eyes to develop a mind which,
although void, does not cease to work: which, although
radiant, does not continue (to abide); and which is neither
forgotten nor upheld. The time set for using quick and
slow fires should be in the proportion of three to seven.
The use of quick and slow fires
said: ‘Quick fire shifts and slow fire calms.’ Both fires are
used to transform impurities in the viscera into tears which
are discharged; to achieve the harmony of the four com¬
ponents 8 , the union of the five elements 4 and their return to
The sun stands for the positive and the moon for the negative principle.
- Prenatal and postnatal fires are respectively spiritual or positive fire
that existed before birth and its corrupt counterpart or negative fire
- The four components are: body, breath, incorporeal and corporeal
souls symbolised respectively by water, fire, wood and metal.
The root; and to turn back the inner light to shine upon
itself which unites the sun with the moon.
No known immortals on earth suffer from tuberculosis or
take medicine to cure ailments or improve their health. Now
that you are determined to seek immortality you should
quickly eradicate all the ailments latent in the body; and it will
not be late to practise the Tao after you are free of all of
them. The saints and sages of old did not wait for illnesses
to manifest and then cured them; they cured them while
they were latent.
Therefore, even before illnesses appear, you should use
slow and quick fires to destroy their roots. For in your daily
activities, your feelings of pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy
are the causes of sickness, of pleasure affecting the heart,
anger the liver, sorrow the incorporeal soul and joy the
corporeal soul, thus injuring all the viscera. Do not neglect
the roots of ailments because they seem to be slight and have
not developed fully for when illnesses manifest you will
have serious trouble. So before they appear they should
be got rid of through the eyes; 8 how then can illness develop?
Quick fire is used to shift spirit’s fire into the stove (under
the navel) and was called ‘shifting fire’ by the ancients. By
‘shifting’ is meant arousing the inner fire so that both outer
and inner fires act on each other in order to enlarge all
obstructed psychic channels and clear them of obstructions.
Since positive fire is stronger than generative force, it
drives the latter into all parts of the body to remove all
impurities thus preventing the development of ailments.
Question All Taoist books mention the alchemical agent
without teaching about fire. Will you please explain the
‘phases of fire’ (huo hou) so that future students will not
be confused about them?
Answer ‘Phases of fire’ is a general term. ‘Fire’ is the inner
heat and ‘phases’ are the six stages of purification by fire.
The word ‘fire’ here has eighteen meanings which agree with
the orderly stages of purification; hence the role played by it
in each stage is different. If you do not receive instruction
from an enlightened master you will never be clear about
all this. The phases of fire, that is the stages of purification by
fire and the production of the alchemical agent are in sequence
and should not be mixed up. This is like making a brick;
clay is first mixed with water and then baked by fire so
that it becomes a brick. If a brick is not baked by fire it
will turn to mud in the rain. Likewise the alchemical agent
can be gathered only after (the generative force has been)
purified by fire; only then can it produce the golden elixir,
otherwise it will decay.
‘When it mentions terms such as: freezing the fire, driving
it (into), lowering it, shifting fire, calming fire, fire in its own
house and the heart’s fire, they all mean fire derived from
‘When it uses terms such as: Circulating the fire, gathering it,
lifting it, fire in the house of water, negative fire, fire immersed in
water, andfire in the stove, they all mean fire derived from pre¬
‘Fire kindled by breathing transforms the generative
fluid derived from the digestion of food, into generative
force. Fire derived from spirit transforms the generative
force into vitality. Fire derived from (prenatal) vitality
purifies breathing and contributes to the manifestation of
spirit. Spiritual fire sublimates spirit which will return to
the state of nothingness. Thus from start to finish the
successful practice of immortality is by means of fire.’
Therefore, without explanation by an enlightened master
it is very difficult to understand these eighteen phases of
Most practisers fail in their training because they do not know how
to control this fire which intensifies the very passions which they intend
to cut off. Hence many religious men break the rules of pure living and
commit immoral acts which can be easily avoided by the ordinary man.
Question What do you mean by ‘forcing the fire with fire’?
Answer It means using in and out breaths to gather the
alchemical agent. Driving the generative and vital forces
into the stove (in the lower abdomen) by means of the
gentle breeze (breathing) is to check the generative force
and is called ‘forcing the fire with fire’.
The element of fire in the generative force, vitality and
spirit moves from A to D (for cleansing) and then to G where
it stays for a while, and is called the ascending positive fire;
it subsequently re-starts from G down to J (for purification)
and then stops at A and is called the descending negative fire.
Thus its move (hsin), stay (chu), restart (chi) and stop (chih)
are the four phases of the alchemical process which includes
both cleansing and purification. Practisers should ponder
over all this and become aware of the mechanism.
‘All masters taught only the freezing (or fixing)
of spirit in the cavity of vitality.*
To fix spirit consists of concentration which draws the
pupils of both eyes as close as possible to each other. This
is called ‘freezing the spirit’, ‘looking backward’ and ‘uniting
the sun with the moon’ for the purpose of returning to the
prenatal state in which, while in the mother’s womb,
the two eyes of the foetus are in unison, and nature and
life are one. At birth nature and life divide in two and are
‘Freezing the fire’ means that both eyes in unison look
down into the cavity of vitality (the lower tan t’ien under
the navel) which is called the gate to life (ming men) which
is below and behind the navel and below and before the
kidneys, the distance between it and the front and rear of
the abdomen being in the proportion of seven to three. It
hangs under and between the kidneys below and is linked with
the ni wan or brain above and the soles of the feet below, being
the source of prenatal Tao (immortality). Hence it is said:
‘This cavity is not material and is the union of both the
male (chien) and female (k’un) principles; it is called the
cavity of spiritual vitality which contains both the elements
of fire and water in the generative force. The ancient
medical science calls it the ‘gate to life’ and the Taoists
call it the ‘cavity of vitality’
HOLDING ON TO THE CENTRE TO REALISE THE ONENESS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
To hold on to the centre to realise the oneness of heaven and
earth is achieved only by uniting the sun and the moon.
The sun stands for the heart and the moon for the lower
tan t’ien cavity (under the navel), respectively symbolised
by the dragon (the female or negative vitality) and the
tiger (the male or positive vitality).
When oneness of heaven and earth is achieved and the
lights of the sun and moon mingle in front of the original
cavity of spirit iao in the centre of the brain between
and behind the eyes) this is the macrocosmic alchemical
agent of One Reality. This is the place (between and behind
the eyes) where the generative force, vitality and spirit
unite, where heart and intellect are void and where there is
neither the self nor others.
In front of the cavity of spirit (between and behind the
eyes) true vitality looks like a (radiant) circle which is
called the Supreme Ultimate , the Golden Elixir
(chin tan) and the Original Awareness