Dr Andrew Jan Medical Acupuncture Meditation

© Dr Andrew Jan. 2016

Pictures taken from Universal Tao and Destiny books have been reproduced with permission.

 

Website by Jessica Willis Designs.

Immortality as a “ State of Mind”

 

An exploration of immortality through Taoism, William Blake, Joseph Campbell and  Christian perspectives.

 “..in your own Bosom you bear Heaven and Earth & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within. In your imagination, of which the World of Mortality is but a shadow.”

William Blake 1804 [1]

 

Introduction: 

In this essay, I will give evidence to show that immortality is a state of mind or mystical state founded on a developed level of consciousness. This will be explored by revealing the methods and techniques used by Taoist adepts for achieving immortality.   Brief argument will be made against Immortality being only achievable though death.  There will be some discussion that bodily ascension is not necessary to achieve immortality, nor is the ingestion of poisonous elixirs.  Discussion will centre on the Taoist Canon, the poetry of William Blake, writings of Joseph Campbell and the Bible. The juxtaposition of such varied positions will highlight the necessity of using Jesus of Nazareth as a compulsory step in the quest for Immortality. 

Concepts of Immortality:

In this section I will discuss the concepts of Immortality from a Taoist, William Blake’s, Joseph Campbell’s and the orthodox Christian perspectives. 

Immortality is the predominant aim in Taoism. The Taoist understanding of immortality is that the successful practitioner ascends to the heavens and retains consciousness after death. Thereafter one takes a place in the heavenly hierarchy of immortals who influence the lives of the mortals below. They have avoided death and live as long as Heaven and Earth[2]. From the Han era,[3] the Chinese believed through a modicum of effort that death could be avoided. This involved training of the body, diet, psyche, dreams and working with Chi in Internal and external alchemical techniques. These techniques are enumerated repeatedly in the Taoist Canon[4]. This Canon includes scriptures from multiple authors and is their  “Holy Bible” equivalent.   These techniques will be expounded upon later in the essay. 

There are current-day masters who teach these Taoist techniques of immortality. A notable Taoist master is Mantak Chia[5] who currently resides in Chiang Mai Thailand. His methods of training the mind, body and spirit are well outside the culture and mindset here in Australia. The practices open up a new world of experience through “Energy and Chi”. He teaches that to become immortal one raised the chi levels in their body to form a spiritual body. The final stage was Ascension whereby the flesh is transformed up into an energetic or imagined spiritual body[6]. This was the technique of 100’s of immortals documented in the “Taoist Canon”[7] and portrayed in the movie “Star Wars” by the Jedi Master Yoda upon his death. Here in view of others the body evaporates into thin air and leaves the clothes behind.

Upon ascension the Ascended master would guide mortals of concern. But more importantly they themselves would be removed from the sufferings and desires of the flesh. There consciousness is able to merge with all aspects of the universe including the elements both forwards and backwards in time. 

Yet while supporting the traditional Taoist tradition, he currently only exposes students to immortality as a state of mind or mystical experience. This immortal experience while seemingly only a small part of the path is a life experience in itself.  Guiding practitioners to this state of mind is a worthy goal in itself and hence the purpose of this essay. He does not include  bodily ascension and the ingestion of poisonous elixirs in his teachings. 

William Blake was an eighteen-century poet and Christian mystic. His works such as the Four Zoas, Jerusalem and  Milton centered around the quest for immortality. The underlying theme to his method of achieving immortality was to identify the energies within the psyche and  outline a path for these energies to harmonise and realise  the eternal worlds. His path also included expanding the imagination to include the “eternal forms’[8]. The eternal forms came from the immortal worlds and  from sleep. 

Blake’s eternity fits the criteria of  Stace ( Professor of Philosophy Princeton University early 20 century who pioneered much of the psychology and philosophy of mysticism) [9] where   all sensory and conceptual content has disappeared so that only a void or empty unity remains. There is apprehension of life in all things, the senses go beyond time and place yet still recall the experience as real, emotionally positive and sacred. There is difficulty describing the content through language so practitioners attempt to refer to the state through other means, such as metaphorical landscape.[10] 

Blake attempts to not only describe the Immortal worlds through classic Christian metaphors but also to create further grades of experiences of the Eternal. He says the land of Eden partakes of Eternity but also partakes of this world[11]. It contained every tree that was beautiful including the Tree of Life (immortality) and the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. It is the Garden of God [12] and there are looms on which garments of immortality are woven[13].  Man “pre existed” in Eternity before his creation in Eden, which was only his materializing, an episode of his fall[14]. Blake uses the Immortality and Eternity to imply the equivalent states of mind. The place below Eden is called Beulah, which overlaps with the dream world is described later on in this essay.  

Joseph Campbell a well renowned expert on Mythology and Comparative Religion, states that the purpose of each religion is to enter the Garden of Eden[15]. That eternity can be experienced in the here and now. To become immortal one lives the Hero’s journey or the archetypal myth. One consequently lets go of self and identifies to that which is transgresses time and place.  To discover ones personal myth one will probably need to open up the dream world. One may also need to expand ones imagination though art and poetry. To reach this state of ecstasy one needs to “go past fear and desire, past the pairs of opposites, into transcendence. He states that Jesus and Buddha are methods to immortality. One can enter the garden by eating of the fruit of the immortal tree of life.[16] 

Both Blake and Campbell are discussing Eternity as state of mind in contradiction to mainstream Christian culture. An orthodox Christian position would be to have Heaven as the abode of God, his angels, Jesus and the just in the after life. The goal is to go to heaven after physical death. The individual in Heaven, like the Taoist concept, is released from the limitations of the physical body. There is no emotional turmoil and even the lion can sleep with the lamb. For many, they will have a restful sleep in the arms of Jesus till the end of time.  Bodily ascension of Jesus of Nazareth is also crucial to Christian fundamentalism. The belief in such a miracle is the cornerstone of their faith.  

Finally there is a historical perspective whereby an immortal is someone who is remembered , talked about beyond their death. That is their fame is enduring.[17]

These varied concepts and how they interact will be discussed in the body of the essay. 

 

Techniques and Methods use to experience Immortality:

The Taoist orthodox position is that through meditation practice, isolation, care of the body and the administration of an elixir, one can ascend and become an immortal.  Immortals can then be classified thereafter as those that continue to live on the Earthly realm and those who have ascended to Heaven. Those that have ascended to Heaven can be classified as to whether they ascended in broad daylight, to those who have delivered themselves from a corpse.[18] There have been various texts written on the various stages involved in the ascension process. The least difficult to understand is depicted by the physician Sun Si Mao’s (died 682 AD) – “ Scripture of Concentration and Meditation”. The steps he describes include: removal of diseases from the body, fusion of the elements and emotions, attaining a youthful complexion, discarding of normal life, extending one’s years to a thousand and refining one’s energy to pure spirit.  The final stage is uniting the spirit with the world and going beyond all beings into the “one”.[19] This description however lacks definition of  the finer details and a better description is given by Kohn in her paper “Transcending Personality from Ordinary to Immortal Life”[20],  her stages include transformation of the body, energy, emotions and conscious thinking. There is culmination in the final realization and then ascension. I will expand on  Kohn’s stages and incorporate information from other sources including Master Mantak Chia’s works, Eva Wong’s translation of  The Dragon Tiger Classic ( Han Era 206 BC – 220 AD) and Richard Willhelm’s: The Secret of the Golden Flower ( Tang Era 618 –907 AD).

I will discuss the Taoist stages involved in attaining immortality. Under each heading, ideas  from  Christian, Blake and Campbell perspectives will be  compared and contrasted. The Headings include:  Chi  and Alchemy,  Self Sacrifice -the Body,  Ego and the Emotions, Parents and Society and finally Dreams. 

Chi and Internal Alchemy:

Taoism, as opposed to the Christian tradition, prioritizes the earthly vehicle, especially in the early stages of the mystical training. In the latter part there is sacrifice of the body, which will be discussed later. The Taoist literature is full of health improvement approaches, including diet, exercise and limiting overuse of the senses. There are remedies for healing of both major and minor diseases. The Taoist tradition overlaps with Traditional Chinese Medicine and dates back to the Yellow Emperors classic by Huang Di on Internal Medicine ( 2696- 2591 BC)[21].  

The Taoist approach relies on no distractions to the demanding requirements of spiritual training. Furthermore, by looking after the body, the practitioner has a longer life and consequently time to practice.  The practitioner can look forward to his vision of eternity and not be hampered by disease or illness. To house the intense physical pressures of intense energies and prolonged meditation, the body needed to be in its finest form. This may be where the Christian system lets itself down. As the forsaking of being to love and spirit prematurely can lead to premature disease and aging. Meditations such as “Kan and Li”[22] and “Fusion”[23] described later create intense high intra abdominal and thoracic pressures, which require a high level of fitness. Physical training including the martial arts, healing and internal spiritual practice are a triad of practice, which is often the cultural norm based on prior successful transcendants. The adept is initially trained and matured through the rigors of martial art training and healing. Then when it comes to prolonged fasting and sitting, the adept is better prepared. The study of traditional Chinese medicine prepares the adepts to formulate their elixirs and successfully treat physical ailments in their journey. 

Working on the body’s “chi[24]” and emotions is the next stage. The practitioner firstly opens up a world of “chi or “energy”. This may be equivalent to the stage where the Christians describe inception of the Holy Spirit.  From here, the world of thoughts and emotions convert to energetic sensations or as Jung states in his Commentary on The secrets of the Golden Flower, “Every separate thought takes shape and becomes visible in colour and form”.[25] Negative emotions are transformed along with sexual energies. The practitioner raises their energy levels like being blown up like a balloon. A fusion reaction is set up initially in the lower abdomen, which attracts and transforms energies from the various sources.  

The various sources are summarised as the five elements – representing the myriad expression of living phenomenon. The Chinese divide all phenomena initially into binary opposites of yin and yang and then subdivide them into the five elements. Each of these five correspondents has a yin and yang component. Once identified and made conscious, these are fused in an internal alchemical reaction between water, fire, metal, wood, wind which creates a reaction which multiplies the internal energy levels to a high level. [26] 

This high level beyond the realm of mundane daily existence is used for the esoteric phenomenon of rebirth. In looking at Blake’s System of Mystical understanding of Immortality we hear: 

“All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth and Stone, all

Human forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied

Into the planetary lives of Years Months Days and Hours reposing

And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality.”[27]

 

Here Blake, like the Taoists describes a similar phenomenon of identifying the elemental energies of wood, metal earth and stone as part of the journey to experiencing immortality. It’s as if prior to the fall of man’s mind there was a deep inner knowledge of the “one[28]”. The path to regaining this experience of immortality there needs to be identification of these separate energies and then fusing them together.

 From the result of the fusion reaction there is energetic or spiritual rebirth. This is experienced at multiple levels of sensation. These include internal visualization of a fetus and tactile awareness of its heartbeat.  There is an accompanying sense of emotional cleansing. The practitioner’s physiological process undergoes change with altered breathing patterns called embryonic breathing, where the practitioner for all intents and purposes physically stops breathing. 

In the Christian system, Jesus said to one of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, about seeing the Kingdom of God. (For many Christians, God is the only phenomenon, which is immortal [29]) He said this would only occur after he is reborn a second time and that rebirth is based on interaction of spirit, wind and water. [30] Again one could interpret this as a statement of internal alchemy much akin to what I have described above. Changes in the depth of the meditation experience also reflect changes in the practitioner’s personality and consciousness. The process of mystical experience is connected with progress of personality along “the way”[31]. 

The next stage in Taoist internal alchemy involves the formation of the spiritual body. Interestingly enough the practitioner needs to give birth to an imagined fetus in the abdomen. The fetus is expelled upward along the central canal of the body out through the crown to form a spiritual body[32]. Blake in To Tirzah[33] in Songs of Innocence and Experience highlights the formation of a spiritual body as a step in the quest for immortality. 

This next stage of ascension is where controversy appears between orthodoxy and my position. In the Taoist system the orthodox belief is that the flesh is raised up into the spiritual body though the cultivation of so much virtue within that the body becomes so light and rises up. This view would be consistent with the Christian Literalists whose faith relies on the bodily ascension of Jesus of Nazareth.[34] Yet from an “immortality as state of mind ” perspective, this stage is a mere movement of consciousness in the heavenly direction. The consciousness ascends up to the Heavens and the practitioner experiences the transport to the Heavens, which can be described in a myriad of ways ranging from “Oblivion”, “God”, the “One”, the” Indescribable”, the “Tao” or just “Heaven”. 

Ascent of the physical flesh into the spiritual body involves breaking the laws of nature as we currently see them. Hence this would need to be classified as a miracle. I personally have not experienced such miracles in my lifetime, so from my position I can only state they are a possibility. “ Blake agreed with St Paul that the physical body would not be raised: “ flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” ( I Cor XV: 50) but “It is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor XV: 44 )”[35] . So it seems that Blake and St Paul do not believe in bodily ascension. Arguing against this miracle from a scientific viewpoint is beyond the scope of this essay. Perpetuation of a miracle within a religious system strengthens that religion, as it portrays that its system allows miracles to happen. This places the masses in awe. On the other hand if the miracle is a lie, this creates a blockage for the practitioner to access eternity. The practitioner may falsely assume, that they can only access the immortal worlds via nothing other than a miracle. Religions in this case are denying their followers religious experience. 

Returning to the mystic’s experience of the immortal worlds. Kohn subdivides the eternal experiences into two groups: the ecstatic and enstatic. The ecstatic imagery of eternal life is similar to mystical visions by shamans in other traditions. There is freedom from the limits and natural laws of this world. Kuo Hsiang the major commentator on the writings of Chuang Tzu said:

He can ride on the two forces ( ie yin and yang) and control his six energies, he can join the mass of people and go along with the myriad beings. There are no beings he does not follow, he even floats along with the clouds. There are no shapes he does not use, he even flies astride a dragon. He relinquishes his body and realises spontaneity[36]. 

 

Ultimate freedom  and bliss is obtained the higher one ascends. Imagery  and sensations become lighter and  purer. All phenomenon become replaced by simpler metaphors and symbols, including time itself.  [37] Blake’s visions, such as  

 

The  Vegetative universe opens like a flower from the Earths centre in which is Eternity. It expands in stars to the Mundane Shell and there it meets Eternity again both within and without.[38]  

 

The loss of time and permanence of forms is shown by,  “ Every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear, one hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away.[39] 

The enstatic vision  is more a journey inward -  into the darkness or nothingness. It is a deepening, darkening or closing. The intellect is taken away and there is no knowledge of such things as time. In this pure experience there may be ontological variations but epistemologically it is one. Kuo Hsiang states

The ancients forget heaven and Earth, and neglect all things. Outwardly they have no conscious observation of the world. Inwardly they have no conscious feeling of their own body….[40] 

This is an experience of the beginning of the universe of its formlessness before creation. “Eternity here is a state of being, not of becoming, a linear permanence, not of cyclical return.”[41] The Taoists often describe their visions of eternity in terms of that which cannot be expressed in language. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, the Apostle Paul tells of being lifted up into "the third heaven," where he experienced "paradise” so astounding" that its description involves "unspeakable words"[42].  It is both Blake’s and the Christian’s vision before man’s creation in Eden, which was only his materializing before the Fall.[43] It is also consistent with Stace’s criteria of a mystical experience.[44] From here the adept can return to awake consciousness having sent selfhood to oblivion. In terms of consciousness there is no choice but to be reborn again.

 The above commentary hopefully reveals that eternity can be experienced by Taoist and Christian practitioners while they live and without the necessity of a miracle.  Nevertheless, the discipline and rigors of internal alchemy obligate intense devotion. Ascension of consciousness is the key and actual ascension of the body lies in the territory of the improbable. 

Self sacrifice: The Body

                     

Annihilation of the self is a prerequisite for obtaining the immortality complex[45]. This occurs at multiple levels, which include the physical, emotional and psychological, family and community. Physical sacrifice is a key feature of the Taoist tradition. Paradoxically it follows a period of rejuvenation and prioritization of health. Self-sacrifice includes periods of prolonged fasting or strange diets[46]. There is denial of other basic needs such as sexuality, safety and gratification of the senses.  

Blake gives his position on the body:

What is the life of man?…

Is it meat and drink? Is not the body more than Raiment? What is Mortality but things related to the body, which Dies What is Immortality but things related to the spirit, which lives in Eternally! [47] 

 

Both disciplines saw this self-sacrifice not in punitive terms but more so a reflection of their love of the spiritual worlds and eternity  over mundane earthly experience.  

This is also taken further with ingestion of an alchemical elixir. This could be seen as a ritual self-sacrifice as “the elixir was highly poisonous and would be swallowed upon receiving a summons from the immortals to take up a position in the heavenly hierarchy above”[48]. Others saw the ingestion as a test of the potential disciples willingness to follow the path[49] and to be taught “The Way”. So there seems to have been other reasons beyond efficacy that these elixirs were ingested. Arguing against the efficacy of ancient formulas from a scientific viewpoint  is beyond the scope of this essay..  Despite many Taoist practices being used in  contemporary society, the practice of ingesting heavy metal elixirs has been abandoned. Elixirs have been used by other traditions such as the Rosicrucians (16C ) and followers of  Paracelsus (16C Doctor ). These traditions also have followers today however again use of ancient elixirs is extremely rare.

 In Christianity Jesus of Nazareth modeled himself for those who would follow with the ultimate self-annihilation of self sacrifice through the crucifixion. Too numerous to mention are the christian martyrs who have forsaken their lives in Jesus’ name. Death guarantees loss of life, nothing more. Life after death has been argued since man initially roamed this planet. Again, its detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this essay. For the moment we can assume that thought after death is only a possibility. That life after death  in Heaven has been used by religions for political puposes to control or appease the masses to tolerate a life without heaven on earth. It would be a pity to miss out on experiencing eternity because of a destructive political agenda. 

The ego and the emotions

“ Annihilate the selfhood in me: be thou all my life”,[50] said Blake to his saviour Jesus Christ. Blake saw Jesus as the centre point in all his writings on the path to immortality. 

Blake in The Four Zoas saw the psyche of man divided into four parts.  These parts were each portrayed by a mythical character. They  included Los the creative urge, Tharmas represented the body and its senses, Luvah represented love and finally the character Urizen portrayed intellect. Each character sought dominion over the other in order to control the psyche.  Each Zoa would cast off emanations which would further complicate matters to such an extent that there remained little or no memory of the harmony of eternity from whence they came. It was only with  the appearance of Jesus that they put aside their own egos and desire for domination. Jesus  would also  trigger a memory of their origin before the “fall”. This final reconciliation reflects the necessary adjustments for the personality of the mystic in order to seek the eternals. Each part of the psyche learns to self sacrifice their old ideals for a purpose beyond the self. Where: “Such are the Laws of Eternity, that each shall mutually annihilate himself for the common Good”[51].  

 

Campbell describes a similar path when he states, 

You go past fear and desire, past the pairs of opposites …into transcendence. This is an essential experience of mystical realization. You die to your flesh and are born to the spirit of your identity.[52] 

Campbell here, describes transcending opposite emotions, which occur at a level of the flesh to a higher level of understanding -  that of spiritual cognition. 

The Taoists were also keen on forsaking the ego to move beyond the emotions. Li Rong from the seventh century states:

 

“As soon as there is a personal identity, the hundred worries compete to arise and the five desires (of the senses) hurry to make their claims.”[53]

Parents and Society:

Maturation of consciousness and self-reliance of the person goes beyond parents and the community. Its as if one by one the attachments to the earthly plane are discarded. Blake declares his relationship to his mother in the poem to Tirzah:

 

… Though mother of my mortal part

With Cruelty didst mould my heart

And with false deceiving tears

Didst bind my Nostrils, Eyes and Ears

 

Didst close my tongue in senseless clay

And we to Mortal Life Betray

The Death of Jesus set me Free

Then what do I have to do with thee!….”[54] 

The experience of immortality occurs with the senses and organs. Blake claims these are imprisoned by parental upbringing. Here Blake seems to contradict the Bible’s teaching which is impregnated with instructions such as , “….Honour thy Father and thy Mother”[55]. Rejection of family and also society was of theme of the Taoist path to immortality. The following is taken from the Five Numinous Treasures in the Zhentong period ( 1436 –49)

On a particular day in the calendrical cycle the adept is to recline with his head to the west and meditate on him being a dead person. After doing this for a while, he is then to remove his clothes, leave them on a spot where he was lying, and proceed directly to the mountains. Once he has reached a safely distant place, he is to change his surname and byname and is no to return home. Meanwhile people back home will perceive that he is a dead person where he had lain; only later will the corpse suddenly disappear.[56]

 

This passage reveals a rite of passage in the adept’s life. There is rejection of all things including one’s name. Of particular interest is the similarities that could be drawn with the supposed bodily Ascension of Christ. There are some theories that Jesus did not die but  merely escaped from the tomb.  The Taoists would call this “ escape via the corpse simulacrum”. The only difficult part to believe is simulating a dead corpse after the adept has absconded -as this obligates a magical illusion. Certainly however, it could be possible to simulate a corpse while the practitioner is still on the ground, with the aid of drugs or advanced meditation techniques. 

The adept now sacrifices, the body, selfhood, parents and society. After reorganizing the emotions and the various faculties of the psyche such as intellect, bodily desires, love and creativity, the adept is ready to embrace a new personality and world. This new personality belongs to Jung’s archetypes or Campbell’s, “ Mythical Hero”. For the Christians it is Jesus of Nazareth or the Egyptians it is Horus[57].  It is not Jesus of Nazareth dependant. For the Taoist there are 100’s of Immortals to live your life by, but the Ba Hsien or 8 Immortals are the best known.[58] The individual is replaced by the Archetype. Embarking on a journey of the “Mythical Hero”, one experiences eternity. “Death of self” here is symbolic and not to be taken literally. 

The Dream World

No discussion of Immortality as a state of mind, would be complete without discussion of  the subconscious and  dreams. Joseph Campbell states:

Heaven and hell are within us and the Gods are within us…. They are a magnified dream and dreams are a manifestation in image form of the energies in conflict with one another. That is what myth is.[59] 

Not only do we have a description of the territory of dreams but we start to tie in our Taoist paradigm which relies on energies as the fundamental link between earthly existence and eternity. Western philosophy relies more so on words, meditation relies on energies and sleep relies on archetypal images. All play a part in the experience but each individual may have their preferred modality, as each individual has there preferred sense faculty to realise the experience of the immortal worlds. 

Campbell [60] continues further in his eloquent description of the relationship between sleep eternity and the unconscious with   a Venn diagram[61]. He uses the circle to describe the soul or  total consciousness available to the individual. A line, or barrier, divides awake consciousness from the unconscious. To glimpse eternity involves expanding one’s consciousness or using the diagram – lowering the barrier. Sleep lies in   the unconscious. Blake depicted a subset of the state of Sleep as “Beulah”. It is a moody, moonlit repose where immortals visit. Eden is one step above Beulah and closest to Eternity.  In Milton he states:       

 

“Like as a Polypus that vegetates beneath the deep!

They saw his Shadow vegetated underneath the Couch

Of death: for when he enterd into his Shadow: Himself:

His real and immortal Self; was as appeard to those

Who dwell in immortality, as One sleeping on a couch

Of gold; and those in immortality gave forth their Emanations

Like Females of sweet beauty, to guard round him & to feed

His lips with food of Eden in his cold and dim repose!

But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night.” [62]

 

Continuing with our model, the adept must lower the barrier between awake consciousness and the dream world, then through Beulah to Eden and finally eternity. Alternatively one could allow the unconscious worlds to rise up over the barrier. Either way, we are after a new awake conscious vision, which reveals eternity. It is the glow, the radiance; it is the loss of solidity or Newtonian Intellectual outlook. We are after Blake’s fourfold vision:

Now I a fourfold vision see

And fourfold vision is given to me

T’is fourfold in my supreme delight

And threefold in soft Beulah’s night

And twofold Always.

May God us keep

From single vision & Newton’s Sleep[63]

Here, single vision is the vision of the intellectual person who sees life obeying Newtonian laws. It is dry, solid and definitely not poetic. Twofold vision includes the rising up of human virtues over things. Our surrounds here become embellished with a glow of man’s positive emotion such as courage, gentleness, kindness, love and fairness. Threefold incorporates Beulah’s soft delights and archetypal forms sprinkled with dream dust. Eternity is starting to permeate the here and now. Fourfold is mystical ecstasy ( Entasy if we also include Taoist visions), Heaven or immortality.[64] 

Therefore the adept may willingly expose the dream world with various techniques such as “Lucid Dreaming[65]”.  In the Taoist tradition these sleep exercises were popular since the Song period (1127 – 1279AD). In “the Sleep of the Perfected “ by Chen Tuan:[66]

 

An ordinary person eats to satiation and then takes plenty of rest. He or she is mainly worried that the food should not be too rich, eating when he feels hungry and sleeping when he feels tired. His snore is audible all over the place. Yet then at night, when he should be sound asleep, he wakes up unaccountably. This is because fame and gain, sounds and sights agitate his spirit and consciousness; sweet wine and fried mutton muddle his mind and will. This is the sleep of ordinary folk.

       

But I practice the sleep of the perfected…

I call the Gods of Jia and Ding to adjust time…

Then my spirit leaves to ascend to the Nine Palaces above,

Frolics in the sky’s azure ness…

I float around with the gentle winds

I inhale the flowery essence of the moon

Superior beings do not dream

They sport with the Immortals

The perfected never sleep

They float up with the clouds”. 

He we see the world of dreams made conscious. Though not made obvious, lucid dreamers are aware that they are in the dream and can direct activity through conscious control. At times the distinction between dreaming and meditation becomes blurred. The barrier between the conscious and the unconscious has dissolved. We can take our  model further so that the dreamer connects with others. This could do this by allowing multiple circles overlapping a larger sea - the collective unconscious, which generates the archetypal energies. 

In orthodox Christianity there are some references to the use of dreams and visions. In the Old Testament the Lord says:       

 

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions”.[67]

This implies that God can be experienced through dreams. Then if we take Aquinas’s position that only God is immortal then we could argue that orthodox Christianity is in agreement with this dream model.  And  it goes without saying that many people have visions of Christ in their dreams which by Campbell’s definition would be an archetypal dream or a dream of the Christ within.[68]

The successful adept learns to successfully open up the eternal worlds of the unconscious set on a background of maturation of the personality and growth of consciousness. The barrier has been lowered and the individual has not become disorientated or psychotic by the tremendous chaotic energy and knowledge of the unconscious. We get a glimpse of the disorientation of letting down the barrier with Chuang Tzu the eminent Taoist philosopher:

Chuang Chou ( Chuang Tzu’s personal name) dreamed that he was a butterfly, flying about enjoying itself. It did not know that it was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he awoke, and veritably was Chuang Chou again. He did not know whether it was Chuang Chou dreaming that he was a butterfly, or whether it was the butterfly dreaming that it was Chuang Chou.[69]

This reveals the disorientation that the adept is exposed to. One gets a sense of the brittleness of sanity in this case. The dream world overtakes the conscious world and is so strong that distinction between the two worlds becomes blurred.  Yet in the successful practitioner, eventually the mind stabilises and moves on. 

                                       ‘

The adept now is open to the dream world. The practitioner may use their dreams for prophecy and solution finding. And as far as Society goes, “if your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of society, you are in good accord with your group”.[70] If all levels of consciousness line up the with the immortal Gods, sleep and  ones actions in society, then the individual is in a state of grace. Harmonious knowledge of Immortality therefore implies a life service to the community.  The individual becomes famous and often their name is carried on beyond their lifetime. Which brings us back where we started. We have made a circle where the adept left society only to find that the knowledge of the eternal worlds has brought him/her back again to serve. The adept gave up any desire for fame and position and paradoxically is given it. This alignment gains support of people around him as if there is a bigger story to be told. That each of these characters is merely playing a part already predetermined. Schopenhauer states: “Our lives were the features of one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too. So that everything links.”[71] 

 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I have shown a tangible path on how Immortality can be experienced as a state of mind. That mystical experience of eternity is the key to immortality. Various descriptions of Blakean, Christian and Taoist states of immortality were described. These were consistent with Stace’s criteria of a mystical experience.  

I described a tangible path whereby an adept could experience immortality. This included physical training, health maintenance, working with chi and  internal alchemy. The adept often needed to let go of attachments to parents and society. The stages of internal alchemy included fusion, rebirth, formation of a spiritual body and ascension. The path encompassed growth of consciousness, which included sacrifice of earthly desires, balancing psychic drives and letting go to an immortal archetype such as Christ. Finally there was the opening up of the immortal worlds by lowering the barrier between awake consciousness and the dream worlds. 

Some arguments against death, bodily ascension and the use of elixirs for immortality were made. Refuting these with scientific evidence was not discussed.  Use of Jesus of Nazareth alone as the only way to experience immortality was negated while using the archetypal Christ was supported. Finally there was some discussion around the alignment of the successful adept who experiences immortality and his actions within society. Exposure to immortality may obviate actions worthy of fame beyond death of the individual. These actions may include sharing of the adept’s realisations with society as a philosopher. 

So it is apt to sing the praises of the accomplished philosopher - the practitioner who has completed the hero’s journey within - with a passage from Manly Hall, founder of Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles in the 1930’s[72]. 

 

While man’s physical body resides with him and mingles with the heedless throng, it is difficult to conceive of man as actually inhabiting a world of his own – a world which he has discovered by lifting himself into communion with the profundities of his own nature. Man may live two lives. One is a struggle from the womb to the tomb. Its span is measured by man’s own creation – time. Well may it be called the unheeding life. The other life is from realisation to infinity. It begins with understanding, its duration is forever, and upon the plane of eternity it is consummated. This is called the philosophic life. Philosophers are not born nor do they die; for once having achieved the realisation of immortality, they are immortal. Having once communed with Self, they realise that within there is an immortal foundation that will not pass away. Upon this living, vibrant base – Self – they erect a civilisation, which will endure after the sun, the moon and the stars have ceased to be. The fool lives but for today, the philosopher lives forever.

 

_____________

 

[1] Paley, Morton & David Bindman, Eds. William Blake Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion, The William Blake Trust/ Princeton University Press, 1991 New Jersey. 71:17

[2] Campany, Robert, Tr.  To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth A Translation and Study of Ge Hong’s Tradition of Divine Transcendents, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002. p 3

[3] 2nd Century BC – 2C AD

[4] The term "Taoist Canon", originally referred to the collections of scriptures housed in each Taoist monastery. It later designated imperially-sponsored collections of Taoist texts kept in the imperial libraries. The Taoist Canon of the Ming period -- the Zhengtong Daozang  or Taoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era -- is the last of these collections and the only one that is extant today. There are now multiple Canons that cover motile topics of longevity, immortality, internal and external alchemy, talismans and commentaries on classic texts. 

Jordan, David K., Taoist Canon, last modified 20/2/05, http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/chin/hbcanondaw-u.html viewed 22/4/05.

[5] Master Mantak Chia runs the Universal Tao Centre in Chiang Mai Thailand. He has over 1000 Instructors and has written  over 20 books. Website: http://www.universal-tao.com/master_chia.html

[6] see appendix 1

 

[8] Blakes Eternal forms probably originated from Plato. Damon, S Foster  p. 280

[9] Daniels, Michael, Making Sense of Mysticism,(on line), available from  www.mdani.demon.co.uk p 1-24, (Sep 2004). p.8.Originally published: 2003  Transpersonal Psychology Review, 7 (1) 39 – 55.

[10] Daniels, Michael.003, Making Sense of Mysticism,(on line), available from  www.mdani.demon.co.uk p 1-24, (Sep 2004). p.8.  (Originally published: 2003  Transpersonal Psychology Review, 7 (1) 39 – 55.)

[11] Damon, S Foster. 1979, A Blake Dictionary, Thames and Hudson, London. p.114

[12] Blake,  Jerusalem 38:25

[13] Blake, Jerusalem 38:53

[14] Damon, S Foster  p. 129

[15] Campbell, Joseph & Bill Moyers,  The Power of Myth, Broadway Books, New York 2001. p. 10

[16] Campbell, Joseph & Bill Moyers,  The Power of Myth, Broadway Books, New York 2001. p. 107

[17] Wyld, Henry The Universal Dictionary of the English Language, Routeledge & Kegan Paul, London 1989 p583

[18] Kohn, Livia, “ Transcending Personality from Ordinary to Immortal Life”, Taoist Resources 2. No. 2 1990 pp 2

[19] Kohn Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism p. 631

[20] Kohn, Transcending personality from Ordinary to Immortal Life”. amalgamates the following  texts  from Tao Canon: Sima Chenzhen’s “The Essential Meaning of the Absorption of Chi”,  Tianyin Zi ( Transformation of the five stages of purification, seclusion, meditation, trance and liberation ), Discourse on Sitting in Oblivion, Wu Yun’s Spirit Immortality Can be Learned and further works by Sun Si Mao:  Visualisation of Spirit and Refinement of Chi and the Nei Guan Jing ( Scripture on Inner Observation ). p. 3-4

[21] Jayasuria, Anton Clinical Acupuncture 11Ed, Chandrakanthi Press, SriLanka 1985.p914

[22] Chia, Mantak, Greatest Kan and Li, Gathering the Cosmic Light Universal Tao Publications, Chiang Mai Thailand, 2002.

[23] Chia, Mantak, Fusion of the Five Elements, Universal Tao Publications, Chiang Mai Thailand, 2002.

[24] Chi is used to describe the sensation of lifeforce in or outside the body. Other terms used in other traditions include energy,  pneuma or  prana.

[25] Wilhelm, Richard & Carl Jung (Commentary) The Secret of the Golden Flower. A Chinese Book of Life. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1975 p. 108

[26] Chia, Mantak,  Cosmic Fusion of the Eight Forces, Universal Tao Publications, Chiang Mai Thailand, 2002. p. 13

[27] Blake, Jerusalem 99: 1-4

[28] The one is a term used by mystics to imply the experience of unification of all phenomena.

[29] Larsen, Douglas Christian “the Soul” from www.homestead.com/dclwold/soul.html viewed 24/4/05 p. 2

[30] St. John 3:1-13 Holy Bible

[31] Taoism is often translated as “The Way” JC Cooper titled his book Taoism The Way of the Mystic. Jesus also said that “I am the way….” John 14:6 Holy Bible

[32] see appendix

[33] Blake, To Tirzah, Songs of Innocence and Experience Plate 52  last line.

[34] Furthermore Taoist fundamentalists believe in consciousness after death.  Whereas  in Christianity  there is mixed ideas. Certainly lay people would believe in spirit consciousness in heaven. Platonists would believe in immortality through memory of the immortal soul. However in Psalm 146 “ His breath  (spirit) goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish”

[35] Damon p. 300

[36] Kohn, Eternal life in Taoist Mysticism p629

[37] Kohn, Eternal life in Taoist Mysticism p629

[38] Blake, Jerusalem 13:34

[39] Blake, Jerusalem 14:1

[40] Fung, Yu lan Chuang Tzu A New Selected Translation with an Exposition of the Philosophy of Kuo Hsiang, Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 1989. p. 48

[41] Kohn, Eternal life in Taoist Mysticism p. 635

[42] British & Foreign Bible Society, The Holy Bible, Cambridge University Press, London, 1942

[43] Damon, Foster p 129

[44] Daniels, Making Sense of Mysticism p.8

[45] Kohn, Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism. Kohn uses this term to describe both the personality or consciousness growth as well as the mystic experience in isolation. I will use this term hereafter to imply the same.

[46] In Ge Hongs hagiographies of  “Successful Ascendants” diets included total avoidance of grains ( Bo He & Ge Xuan), only dried jujubes ( Dong Feng)  and only asparagus root ( Dong Feng). Campany, Robert, Tr.  To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth A Translation and Study of Ge Hong’s Tradition of Divine Transcendents, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002. p. 133

[47] Blake Jerusalem, To the Christians Plate 77

[48] Kohn, Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism. p. 625

[49] Strickman cited in  Kohn, Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism. p. 625

[50] Blake, Jerusalem 5:22

[51] Blake, Milton 38:55

[52] Campbell, The Power of Myth p.107

[53] Kohn, Transcending Personality from Ordinary to Immortal Life p. 12

[54] Blake Songs of Innocence and Experience 52

[55] St Luke 18:20

[56] Campany, Robert, Tr.  To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth A Translation and Study of Ge Hong’s Tradition of Divine Transcendents, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002. p. 54

[57] Simpson, Gavin  “Another Former Priest Stirs the Religious Pot” Book Review of “The Pagan Christ: Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity, by Tom Harpur (Allen & Unwin)in The Australian Newspaper” Book Reviews March 5th 2005

[58] Li Tie Guai. Chungli Ch'uan, Lan Ts'ai-he, Chang Kuo-lao, Ho Hsien-ku, Lu Dong Bin, Han Hsiang-tzu, Ts'ao Kuo-ch'iu from  Dr Ming Pei, China is Beautiful viewed on http://www.chinapage.com/8-immortal.html

[59] Campbell,  The Power of Myth p. 39

[60] Campbell, The Power of Myth p 142

[61] see appendix 2

[62] Blake, Milton, plate 15

[63] Blake in letter  to Butts 22 Nov 1802 p 436 Damon.

[64] Important to this essay is this vision achievable by all or just a chosen few? Certainly Campany in part one states that many believed  successful ascension was predetermined prior to birth and individuals were forewarned by special birthmarks. Blake became a visionary from childhood. See :  Campany, “To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth” part one  the Nature of Religion in Ge Hongs Works

[65] Lucid dreaming (also known as dream consciousness or conscious dreaming) is dreaming while being aware that you are dreaming. To actually have a lucid dream you merely have to recognize that you are dreaming. Medbury, Kathy, Jayne Gackenbach Ed. Spiritwatch, A Comparative Study of Nightmares, Lucid dreaming and Archetypal dreams as significant to the dreamers life, viewed 2/4/05. p.1

[66] Kohn, Taoist Experience, An Anthology, p272

[67] Joel 2 verse 28

[68] Campbell, Power of Myth p 42

[69] Fung, Yu lan Chuang Tzu A New Selected Translation with an Exposition of the Philosophy of Kuo Hsiang, Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 1989. p 55

[70] Campbell, Power of Myth p 40

[71] Campbell, Power of Myth p 229  from Schopenhauer’s essay :On an apparent Intention in the Fate of an Individual,

[72] Hall, Manly P. The Secret teachings of All Ages, The Philosophical Research Society, Inc, LA, 1977. p CCIV

 

 

Bibliography: 

Bettelheim, Bruno. The uses of Enchantment The Meaning and Importance of Fairy tales, Vintage Books, NY 1989 

 

Blake, William,  David Bindman& Andrew Lincoln (ed), Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Princeton University Press 1991

 

Blake, William, The William Blake Archive. Ed. Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi. Viewed 14 April 2005,  <http://www.blakearchive.org/>.

 

Blake, William, Alicia Ostricker  Ed. William Blake, The Complete Poems, Penguin Classics, 1977 England.

 

Blake, William,  Morton Paley & David Bindman, Eds. William Blake Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion, The William Blake Trust/ Princeton University Press, 1991 New Jersey.

Bokenkamp, Stephen. “Death and Ascent in Ling Pao Taoism”, Taoist Resources, 1 No.2 Winter 1989 pp 1-20.

British & Foreign Bible Society, The Holy Bible, Cambridge University Press, London, 1942

Campany, Robert. Tr.  To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth A Translation and Study of Ge Hong’s Tradition of Divine Transcendents, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002.

Campbell, Jospeph. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology” Viking Press, New York, 1960

Campbell, Joseph & Bill Moyers.  The Power of Myth, Broadway Books, New York 1988.

Cooper, J.C. Taoism The Way of the Mystic, The Aquarian Press, NorthHamptonshire, England, 1972

The New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia  viewed at       http://www.newadvent.org/

Updated 19/4/2005  viewed on 3/4/2005.

 

Chia, Mantak.  Cosmic Fusion of the Eight Forces, Universal Tao Publications, Chiang Mai Thailand, 2002.

 

Chia, Mantak.  Greatest Kan and Li, Gathering the Cosmic Light, Universal Tao Publications, Chiang Mai Thailand, 2002.

 

Cleary, Thomas. Tr. Wen – Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries by Lao Tzu, Shambala Boston, 1992

 

Cornwell, John,  The Case of the Empty Tomb, The Weekend Australian Magazine, March 26 –27, 2005, Nationwide News, Surry Hills NSW, Australia.

 

Damon, S Foster. A Blake Dictionary, Thames and Hudson, London, 1979.

 

Daniels, Michael. Maslow’s concept of Self Actualization, 2001 (on line),available from  www.mdani.demon.co.uk. (Aug 2004).

 

Daniels, Michael, Making Sense of Mysticism,(on line), available from  www.mdani.demon.co.uk p 1-24, (Sep 2004). Originally

published: 2003  Transpersonal Psychology Review, 7 (1) 39 – 55.

Originally  published  as “ The development of the concept of self actualization in the writings of Abraham Maslow”, Current Psychological Reviews 1982, 2 61-76

 

Florovsky, George.  “ And Ascended into Heaven..”, St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 2 No. 3, Spring 1954, pp 23- 28.

 

Fung, Yu lan.,  Chuang Tzu A New Selected Translation with an Exposition of the Philosophy of Kuo Hsiang, Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 1989.

 

Groothuis, Douglas. “ Myths and Mythology” A Book review on “The Power of Myth”, by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers”, Christian Research Journal, Fall 1989

Hall, Manly P. The Secret teachings of All Ages, The Philosophical Research Society, Inc, LA, 1977.

Jayasuria, Anton.  Clinical Acupuncture 11Ed, Chandrakanthi Press, Sri Lanka 1985.

Jordan, David K., Taoist Canon, last modified 20/2/05, http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/chin/hbcanondaw-u.html viewed 22/4/05.

Kohler, Kaufmann & Louis Ginzberg, “Ascension”, 2002 viewed on 2/03/2005 at Jewish Encyclopedia.com

 

Kohn, Livia. Tr.  Seven Steps to the Tao, Sima Chengzhen’s Zuowanglun, Monuments Serica, Sankt Augustin, W Wermany 1987

 

Kohn, Livia. Review Author. “Medicine and Immortality in T’ang China” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 108, No. 3(jul- Sep., 1988), 465 –469.

 

Kohn, Livia (Ed) & Yoshinobu Sakade, Taoist Meditation and Longevity Techniques    University of  Michigan Centre for Chinese Studies, Michigan, 1989

 

Kohn, Livia, “ Transcending Personality from Ordinary to Immortal Life”, Taoist Resources 2. No. 2 1990 pp 1-22.

 

Kohn, Livia. “Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism”,Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 110, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1990), pp 622 – 640.

 

Kohn, Livia.  Taoist Mystical Philosophy. The Scripture of Western Ascension.   State University of New York Press, Albany, 1991.

 

Kohn, Livia.  Early Chinese Mysticism, Philosophy and Soteriology in the Taoist Tradition,  Princeton University Press, NJ, 1992.

 

Kohn, Livia.  The Taoist Experience, An Anthology   State University of New York Press, Albany, 1993.

 

Kohn, Livia. Review  Author. “Introduction a l’alchemie interieu taoiste: Del’unite de la multiplicite”by Isabelle Robinet. Paris 1995  in Asian Folklore Studies pp 365 –368 1996.

 

Larsen, Douglas Christian. The Immortal "Soul Ball" -- is it Biblical? from www.homestead.com/dclwolf/soul.html viewed 24/4/05.

 

Loewe, Michael. Chinese Ideas of Life and Death, George Allan & Unwin, London 1982 

 

Loewe, Michael. Ways to Paradise: The Chinese Quest for Immortality, George Allan & Unwin, London 1979 

 

Medbury, Kathy. Jayne Gackenbach Ed. Spiritwatch, A Comparative Study of Nightmares, Lucid dreaming and Archetypal dreams as significant to the dreamers life,

Viewed 2/4/05. http://www.spiritwatch.ca/LL%209(1)%20June%201990/Medbery.htm  

 

Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 2: Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Magisteries of Gold and Immortality, Cambridge at the University Press, London, 1974. 

 

Pei, Ming. China the Beautiful, Eight Immortals of Chinese Mythology, http://www.chinapage.com/8-immortal.html viewed on 30/5/2005 

Robinet, Isabelle. Phyllis Brooks tr. Taoism, Growth of a Religion, Stanford University Press, Stanford California, 1997 

 

Robinet, Isabelle., Julian Pas & Norman Girardot tr. Taoist Meditation, The Mao Shan Tradition of Great Purity, State University of New York Press 1993 

Robinet, Isabelle. “Metamorphosis and Deliverance from the Corpse in Taoism”, History of Religions, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Aug., 1979), pp37 – 70. 

Steinhice, Laurel, “The Light source Group”, “ Ascension, An adventure in Microbiology” 2002 viewed on 25 February 2005, www.lightsourcegroup.com 

Simpson, Gavin.  “Another Former Priest Stirs the Religious Pot” Book Review of “The Pagan Christ: Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity, by Tom Harpur (Allen & Unwin)in The Australian Newspaper” Weekend Australian March 5th 2005 

 

Wyld, Henry. The Universal Dictionary of the English Language, Routeledge & Kegan Paul, London 1989 

 

Yu, Ying-Shih,  “Life and Immortality in the mind of Han China”, Havard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol.25 ( 1964 – 1965), pp 80 – 122. 

 

Wilhelm, Richard tr. & Carl Jung ( Commentary) The Secret of the Golden Flower. A Chinese Book of Life. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1975

Wong, Eva. Harmonizing Yin and Yang, A Manual of Taoist Yoga, Internal, External and Sexual, Shambala, Boston MA. 1997.