BackReturn Home

Taoism In Thinking & Destiny

← Previous Section

You might have already noticed that each of The Four Brains that Percival talks about exist within their own bodily cavity (i.e.: The Cephalic Brain exists within the cranium, The Thoracic Brain within the chest cavity, and so on). They are related to what would be referred to as 丹田 or "Pellet Fields" within Taoism. That might seem like a strange name, but it makes sense if one understands how Taoism approaches alchemy. It is generally organized into two groups of teachings:

Inwardly, there is 内丹术 (literally "Inner Pill Method", or to go with the more modern translation, "Internal Alchemy"). It is equivalent to what the later medieval European alchemists would come to call "The Great Work", or to use the original Latin phrase, "Magnum Opus".

It is the inverse of 外丹术 (literally "Outer Pill Method", or "External Alchemy"). Again, some medieval European alchemists would call this "The Lesser Work". It is part of the collective knowledge from which we derive all of our modern understanding of chemistry and medicine.

As their names imply, the aim of both of these processes is a "pill" or "pellet" of some kind (signified by the Chinese character "丹" that they all share). This refers to the 金丹 or "Golden Pill". It is equivalent to what would now be known as the "Philosopher's Stone". So, how do we make it?

In internal alchemy, rather than using external laboratory methods to make a particular substance, the body itself becomes the laboratory. In other words, the substances within these "Pellet Fields" can be directed by what we think, feel, and do in such a way as to produce an environment within us that is conductive for our immortal Heavenly Body to become manifest. This is not a metaphor either, but quite literal. We are directing one substance to become another through a particular process within our bodies: Matter into Light, Nature Units into Intelligence Units.

One method given in Taoism for starting this process is called 小周天 (literally "Small Heavenly Cycle", or to go with the more elegant term, "Microcosmic Orbit"). Before we describe what it is, let's take a moment to relate this to The Four Brains.

The Four Brains are all interconnected by the spinal cord on the back of the body, but there is also a nerve that runs along the front of the body in a similar manner. It is called the "vagus nerve" ("vagus" is Latin for "wandering") because it runs through our neck, chest, and abdomen, interconnecting many different organs and body systems along the way. Percival describes how these two nerve pathways are conduits for the Lunar and Solar Germs (i.e.: the ovum / sperm) to travel up the body and into the brain to produce an Immaculate Conception (i.e.: the foundation for the Triune Self to become manifested within the physical body).

The pathways of these two nerves, spine and vagus, are equivalent to what in Taoism would be called the 督脉 ("Governing Vessel") and 任脉 ("Conception Vessel"), respectively. These are two of the main meridians used within traditional Chinese medicine, and the "Microcosmic Orbit" is a meditation that aims to connect these two energy channels into a self-sustaining cycle.

Awareness traces a path up the spine, along the top of the head, down between the eyes, through the tongue as it connects to the hard palate behind the top-front teeth, through the neck, down the front of the body along the centerline, curving around the perinium, and back up the spine through the tailbone. In short, energy goes up along the "Governing Vessel" or spine, and down along the "Conception Vessel" or vagus nerve, in a loop. This is connected to the breath in such a way that regular inhalation and exhalation through the nose will get the cycle to continue automatically if we visualize it until it becomes a habit and regularly keep our tongue connected to the hard palate whenever our mouth is closed. Having a good posture helps as well.

This is only the beginning though. This meditative process can be extended in various ways and taken very far (much like Percival's Regenerative Breathing), to the point where it will start to make noticeable psychological and physiological changes within the body. There are many Taoist works that describe how to do this and what one can expect experientially (although it can sometimes be in metaphoric language that might be hard to interpret, much like the symbols used by later European alchemists). With some of the more plain descriptions it is not too difficult to match it up with many of the things Percival describes. I will give a one more example...

The Conception Vessel on the front of the body and the Governing Vessel on the back of the body are considered 阴 "Yin" and 阳 "Yang" poles, respectively. The terms Yin and Yang generally mean "darkness" and "brightness", but are also at the root of the words 太阴 ("Great Yin", meaning Moon) and 太阳 ("Great Yang", meaning Sun). Again, notice that Percival speaks of Lunar and Solar Germs, and how one of their cycles through the body generally takes an entire year (i.e.: they follow a lunisolar calendar)! This is no coincidence and he also starts to match up bodily cycles with the Zodiac for the same reason. Taoism does the same (e.g.: traditional Chinese medicine is replete with references that associate different meridians and the organs that they are connected to with different times of day, different planets and constellations, etc.). From Earth to Heaven, everything is connected on the finest of levels.

It is important to note that these are not always vague or figurative connections either. On one level, they are describing literal chemical changes within the body and the environmental influences that can affect them. This is why the later European alchemists associated each planet with particular metals, did certain chemical operations at specific times of the year, and so on. Further, this is measurable in minute detail by various modern scientific methods. The subtleties are not usually acknowledged, but at the very least, it is immediately obvious to most people that the movement of wind and water through the Earth's atmosphere and crust is heavily dependent upon Lunar and Solar cycles as they relate to the Earth (e.g.: day and night, the tides, the seasons, sunspot cycles affecting climate, etc.), and thus strongly impact every vital aspect of human civilization (e.g.: crops, menstruation / pregnancy, timekeeping and navigation, etc.). Funnily enough, the term "Feng Shui" (风水) literally means "wind and water"...

We are still only scratching the surface, but hopefully this provides a glimpse into showing that Percival's Great Way is equivalent to "The Way" (i.e.: the Tao). However, these patterns are by no means unique to Percival's work or Taoism. When I say that All things are One and that All constructive scientific-spiritual teachings have a common root, I really mean it.