The trigram Li: sun, fire, the lucid, the Clinging, plays a great role in this religion of light. It dwells in the eyes, forms the protecting circle, and brings about rebirth… The trigram K’an: water, the Abysmal, is the opposite of Li, as is already shown in its outer structure. It represents the region of eros, while Li stands for logos. Li is the sun, K’an the moon. The marriage of K’an and Li is the secret magical process which produces the child, the new man…
Man’s heart stands under the fire sign. The flames of the fire press upward. When both eyes are looking at things of the world it is with vision directed outward. Now if one closes the eyes and, reversing the glance, directs it inward and looks at the room of the ancestors, that is the backward-flowing method. The energy of the kidneys is under the water sign. When the desires are stirred, it runs downward, is directed outward, and creates children. If, in the moment of release, it is not allowed to flow outward, but is led back by the energy of thought so that it penetrates the crucible of the Creative, and refreshes heart and body and nourishes them, that also is the backward-flowing method. Therefore it is said, The Way of the Elixir of Life depends entirely on the backward-flowing method.
This summary and the following diagram have been arranged by Cary F. Baynes
The Tao, the undivided, great One, gives rise to two opposite reality principles, the dark and the light, yin and yang. These are at first thought of only as forces of nature apart from man. Later, the sexual polarities and others as well are derived from them. From yin comes K’un, the receptive feminine principle; from yang comes Ch’ien, the creative masculine principle; from yin comes ming, life; from yang, hsing or human nature.
Each individual contains a central monad, which, at the moment of conception, splits into life and human nature, ming and hsing. These two are supra-individual principles, and so can be related to eros and logos.
In the personal bodily existence of the individual they are represented by two other polarities, a p’o soul (or anima) and a hun soul (animus). All during the life of the individual these two are in conflict, each striving for mastery. At death they separate and go different ways. The anima sinks to earth as kuei, a ghost-being. The animus rises and becomes shen a spirit or god. Shen may in time return to the Tao.
If the life-energy flows downward, that is, without let or hindrance into the outer world, the anima is victorious over the animus; no spirit-body or Golden Flower is developed, and at death the ego is lost. If the life-energy is led through the ‘backward-flowing’ process, that is, conserved, and made to ‘rise’ instead of allowed to dissipate, the animus has been victorious, and the ego persists after death. It then becomes shen, a spirit or god. A man who holds to the way of conservation all through life may reach the stage of the Golden Flower, which then frees the ego from the conflict of the opposites, and it again becomes part of the Tao, the undivided, great One.
Diagram of the Chinese concepts concerned with the development of the Golden Flower, or immortal spirit-body
…when the work is so far advanced that secret confirmations are experienced, it does not matter if, at the same time, one’s ordinary affairs are put in order, so that one can fulfil one’s karma. Long ago, the True Man of the Purple Polar Light (Tzu-yang chen-jen) said a word: ‘If one cultivates one’s action while mingling with the world and is still in harmony with the light, then the round is round and the angular has angles; then he lives among men, mysterious yet visible, different and yet the same, and none can compass it; then no one notices our secret actions‘ The living manner of the circulation of the light has just this meaning: to live mingling with the world and yet in harmony with the light.
The Secret of the Golden Flower
Meditation, Stage 4: The centre in the midst of the conditions.
When one is so far advanced that every shadow and every echo has disappeared, so that one is entirely quiet and firm, this is refuge within the cave of energy, where all that is miraculous returns to its roots. One does not alter the place, but the place divides itself. This is incorporeal space where a thousand and ten thousand places are one place. One does not alter the time, but the time divides itself. This is immeasurable time when all the aeons are like a moment.
The Secret of the Golden Flower
The circulation of the light is the inclusive term. The further the work advances, the more does the Golden Flower bloom…
circulation of light by pathworking
When the rotating light shines towards what is within, it does not develop in dependence on things, the energy of the dark is fixed, and the Golden Flower shines concentratedly. This is then the collected light of polarity. Related things attract each other. Thus the polarized Light-line of the Abysmal presses upward. It is not only the light in the abyss, but it is creative light which meets creative light. As soon as these two substances meet each other, they unite inseparably, and there develops an unceasing life; it comes and goes, rises and falls of itself, in the house of the primal energy. One is aware of effulgence and infinity. The whole body feels light and would like to fly. This is the state of which it is said: Clouds fill the thousand mountains. Gradually it goes to and fro quite softly; it rises and falls imperceptibly. The pulse stands still and breathing stops. This is the moment of true creative union, the state of which it is said: The moon gathers up the ten thousand waters. In the midst of this darkness, the heavenly heart suddenly begins a movement. This is the return of the one light, the time when the child comes to life.
The Secret of the Golden Flower
Master Lü-tsu said, Your work will gradually become concentrated and mature, but before you reach the condition in which you sit like a withered tree before a cliff, there are still many possibilities of error which I would like to bring to your special attention. […] In meditating, a man must have a sort of conscious intuition, so that he feels energy and breathing unite in the field of the Elixir; he must feel that a warm release belonging to the true light is beginning to stir dimly. Then he has found the right space. When this right space has been found, one is freed from the danger of getting into the world of illusory desire or dark demons.
Meditation, Stage 3: Separation of the spirit-body for independent existence.
Master Lü-tsu said, There are many kinds of confirmatory experiences. One must not content oneself with small demands but must rise to the thought that all living creatures have to be redeemed. One must not be trivial and irresponsible in heart, but must strive to make deeds prove one’s words.
If,, it is a sign that the hght-principle is harmonious in the whole body; then the Golden Flower begins to bud. When, furthermore, all openings are quiet, and the silver moon stands in the middle of heaven, and one has the feeling that this great earth is a world of light and brightness, that is a sign that the body of the heart opens itself to clarity. It is a sign that the Golden Flower is opening.
The Secret of the Golden Flower
The greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They must be so because they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.
I have often seen individuals simply outgrow a problem which had destroyed others. This ‘outgrowing’, as I formerly called it, on further experience was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of his view the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life-tendency. It was not repressed and made unconscious, but merely appeared in a different light, and so did indeed become different. What, on a lower level, had led to the wildest conflicts and to panicky outbursts of emotion, viewed from the higher level of the personality, now seemed like a storm in the valley seen from a high mountain-top. […] One certainly does feel the affect and is shaken and tormented by it, yet at the same time one is aware of a higher consciousness, which prevents one from becoming identical with the affect, a consciousness which takes the affect objectively, and can say, ‘I know that I suffer.’ What our text says of indolence: ‘Indolence of which a man is conscious and indolence of which he is unconscious are a thousand miles apart’, holds true in the highest degree of affect also…
It would be simple enough, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things.
What did these people do in order to achieve the development that liberated them? As far as I could see they did nothing wu wei but let things happen. As Master Lü-tsu teaches in our text, the light rotates according to its own law, if one does not give up one’s ordinary occupation. The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Meister Eckhart, became for me the key opening the door to the way. We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us, this actually is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be simple enough, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things…