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fatherjhon
QUOTE(Vagrant Dreamer @ May 6 2013, 02:38 PM) *

I know you've been asked on this forum before but I would really like to explore Taoist magic. So far the resources I've been able to get haven't really expounded upon these various levels, and approach a more general piecemeal 'spread' of the subject. I have a book called 'the Taoist spellbook' or some such, that I read some time ago and it didn't seem to really express a genuine doctrine of Taoist magic so much as it did someone's idea of what Taoist magic would be like, if that makes sense. Written from assumption rather than experience.


Yep, most books are trash. Either Quabala with Taoist gods, “chigong and sexual energy” or some other thin Taoist-like varnish on western magick. Taoist magick is hard to pin down and even harder to work with, so most people just make it up. The core of Taoist magick is partial union with the Dao. The Dao being the underlying unity of the universe from which is expressed all the diversity of creation, anyone who is ‘with the Dao’ operates in a state of increased awareness that naturally lends itself to rather impressive happenings. Taoist sorcery is a way to always take the best advantage of every little ripple of the Dao, he therefore learns about every little thing in creation, how they connect and what they are good for. In the starting phases (rocks and plants) it is more about finding and talking to the spirit of the plant or rock and gaining its help than anything else. That is done by studying lots and lots of metaphysical anatomy - I have a 300 page book that does nothing but list all the esoteric anatomy of humans and its function never mind plants and rocks.

See, Taoist magick builds from knowledge of Minerals because the nourish plants. Plants are next because animals eat them and incorporate those properties. Then to divination and fun shui to determine the most useful places to live, best way to act, and where to practice chigong/neigong /meditation. Chigong/neigong/meditation (little distinction is made) rights what is wrong with the body so one can live long and work on knowing the Dao. Chigong also exposes people to energy which is the means of attaining the Dao and knowing the inner realms. Magically this is where the student starts to do magick as such. Although plant and mineral elixirs/talismans are part of the training before this point and some energetic operations are used, no ‘spells’ are available.

After sometime with chigong the student starts to get glimpse of the Dao. At that point a Taoist can shape energy without aids. The energy work then begins to be about abstract energies – clouds rather than plants, changes rather than energy in isolation. That is called weather magick and involves absorbing and stopping; for example clouds, mist, absorbing thunder, etc. Shen gong is identical so chigong but involves much much more rarefied energies. The energy that runs the mind and emanates from the soul for example is used often to make a spiritual embryo which is ones reincarnation upon death but is living while you are. It is made though the practice of alchemy.

By this time the student will inevitably find himself in contact with spirits regardless of any intent to find them. At that point necromancy, invocation, summoning, exorcism and purifying the body/mind of spirits or their influences are taught. The influence of the planets (both as energy and as gods) comes along with spirits as it is by heavenly authority that the Thunder Gods are invoked to remove spirits. Lastly gods of what I call 'higher heavens' are thought. These are gods operating above any contact with the physical realms – I know nothing about them.

The reason why Taoist magick is so hard to find info on is because there is no one thing called Taoist magick in China, it is a mess of many disciplines that relate to or aid the prime goal of Taoism - finding the Dao. To explain this I need to go into a little history. Way back when, the Wu or sorcerers came from the south and west into China’s heart land. They were people of power and no religion. Their power was based in personal insight into the nature of reality and the energy that sustains it. They quickly found places of privilege in China upper crust. Over time their teachings spread and turned in to Taoism – a structured system by which the same realizations the Wu had could be thought reliably from master to student. The Wu and Mongolian shaman both influenced the formation of Taoism, but where shamanism was prevalent it formed folk magick. Nearly indistinct from its Mongolian ancestor save for the words of Taoism and some chigong. This folk magick heavy uses animal magick, and thought constructs. They are considered the dark side of shamanism because it has no ethical constructs built in.

When Buddhism found its way into China, Lamas started to vie for power with the Wu. In an effort to insure their place in China, Taoism adopted elements of Buddhism, such as temples and public worship of gods. This became known as the Popular Religious Taoism. This type of Taoism blended with and flat out stole from Tibet, Mongolia, Thailand, India and all three types of Buddhism in China. Its magick is that of rituals for deity summoning and propitiation. This style became unpopular in the aristocracy, even though they still used many of the sciences Taoism founded. It is still popular with the masses today.

The last style of Taoism is a priestly sort, arising from all of the above types of magick, which takes its power from a pact with heaven. In basic Taoist cosmology heaven is seen as a bureaucracy responsible for the clean, easy functioning for earthy existence. Long ago this was easy as everyone could talk with their local deity, ancestors, guardian spirit and get their needs met by heaven. At least in theory, any way, that worked because everyone could see and talk with spirits and was very well in with the Dao. People stopped doing that and so heaven had a harder time managing things. Thus the Taoists formed a pact with the King of heaven so that they became, agents, enforces, councilors, and generally helped keep the link between heaven and earth open so things work in harmony.

Within each of these styles are many lineages with their own language, ritual, way of doing things. Then the Cultural Revolution happened and most of them got lost. To this day there are very few reliable sources for information. There are some that come from the Mo Pi sect, but Wang li Ping students', Jerry Allan Jhonson from the Temple of the Celestial Cloud, and a few qigong masters, such as Wang Ju-Yi, Jeffrey Yuen, Master Shou-Yu Liang and Wen-Ching Wu are the gold standard.

Some books that are not exactly useful if you are starting out but will need at some point are: Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan by Wang Mu and Fabrizio Pregadio. Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body Bruce Frantzis who also did ‘Relaxing into Your Being’ and ‘The Great Stillness’ both of which are very helpful for learning Taoist meditation and metaphysical physiology.

If you want more info you need to read the original texts. Most are very particular such as the ‘100 character tablet’ on alchemy, or Tao te Ching is good to start with but it is also hard and dense but is supposed to contain everything you ever need to know about Taoism. Dense, hard to understand and not much help to start with but their study does pay off.

I will say that none of this is ‘magick’ –aside from JA Johnson’ later works– but it is all required reading before you get to the magick. That is what turns people off so fast. They find Taosim looking for magick powers and find that there is a LOT of work before you even think about what most people think of as spells. Sometimes Fu or talismans are thought of as spells but they are emblems of a contract between a Taoist and his traditions’ spiritual backer, a god or some heavenly official who is vested with power over some aspect of life. The Taoist has the authority to use that power by virtue of his Lu or list of invoking rituals and names for spirits that have agreements with the tradition.

A proper spell the way we think of it here in the West will depend on what tradition you want to work in. The priestly type requires about for years of apprenticeship in an American temple then four more in China but they are heavens free agents and can make changes as they see fit in any number of ways. Monastic Taoism looks a lot like Buddhism and has no magick but will allow you to work with gods from the start. The Shamanist type requires you to ‘eat’ spirits, and then use the dominated spirit to conquer more powerful ones then use those spirits to do things for you. This type of Taoism also uses magick where you are not really yourself but someone or something else. For example: borrowing the mind of an animal or spirit. You need a very fluid view of the self for that.

That really characterizes all of Taoist magick though, knowing this body is not yours, nor is the mind, memories, personality, and everything else you think of as you isn’t. They are tools by which the Dao expresses its self. To get good at Taoist magick, you need to stop thinking, wanting, or trying. The Dao will do what it will do and you are simply the conduit. People who fancy themselves wizards and magicians don’t often like that idea. 

That should do for an overview, but I don't think I answered you question. Sorry, I am happy to try again if you would like.
Vagrant Dreamer
QUOTE(fatherjhon @ May 7 2013, 05:53 PM) *

That should do for an overview, but I don't think I answered you question. Sorry, I am happy to try again if you would like.


Actually, that was precisely the answer to my question. I'm pretty familiar with philosophical taoism, and my brand of spirituality is branded largely from taoist principles. I haven't really pursued the practices in that particular order, because it hadn't occurred to me to consider this relationship between mineral -> plant -> animal. In western alchemy, plants come first, then minerals, then animals, as an interesting side note. Normally this is because working with plant alchemy is less dangerous than mineral alchemy - physically, minerals can produce noxious fumes that can burn the eyes and lungs - while animal alchemy comes last I believe because it is simply a great deal more complicated.

Digress... my brand of annexed taoism isn't religious in the sense that it involves observation of deity worship, but all of these discrete parts are present in my own magical 'tradition', such as it were. I have a basic understanding of the version of anatomy presented by traditional chinese medicine, but would like to really explore that more in particular. So I will look up these books and take a look.

Thank you for your succinct dissection of the subject.

peace
fatherjhon
QUOTE(Vagrant Dreamer @ May 7 2013, 07:55 PM) *

I haven't really pursued the practices in that particular order, because it hadn't occurred to me to consider this relationship between mineral -> plant -> animal. In western alchemy, plants come first, then minerals, then animals, as an interesting side note. Normally this is because working with plant alchemy is less dangerous than mineral alchemy...

I have a basic understanding of the version of anatomy presented by traditional chinese medicine, but would like to really explore that more in particular. So I will look up these books and take a look.


I can see that posing a issue for the sort of alchemy that attempts to distill out the spirit from the mineral or plant. The Taoist approach is much less physical - finding the spirit of the mineral or plant and moving it from its natural container to a neutral one, which is most often ritually made grain alcohol or blessed talisman-water. The spirit is asked to help in the application of the alchemical water and so it will have a natural intelligence which will attempt to maximize the positive effects while minimizing the negative. I believe ritual water is used rather than another type of medium because the container of the spirit changes the nature of the spirit. One could not move a rock spirit to a wooden object without altering it in some way or having it conform to its new container. Allegorically: water in one vessel is the shape of that vessel and changes when pored into another.

Traditional Chinese Medicine only has part of the anatomy as its concern, once you start talking about the Shen as an experiential object (implying something more subtle to do the experiencing) then it is best to move to esoteric qigong - nine palaces for example. Some of the more magickal acts require the Taoist to know about Indian concepts (chakras and marma points) or enlist the bodily deities. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy Vol.1-3 by J.A. Johnson are the best places to look for this information.
Ocelot
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! I have been looking for a coherent primer like this for two years!
fatherjhon
QUOTE(Ocelot @ Aug 5 2014, 06:00 PM) *

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! I have been looking for a coherent primer like this for two years!



Glad I could help. What brings you to Taoist magick?
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