The Secret of the Golden Flower 太乙金華宗旨 and Hui Ming Jing (慧命經) are classic Taoist texts belonging to the Northern style (北派) of Taoist yoga practice. This Northern practice (the Northern region in China is usually defined as north of the Yangtze River) taught solo practice with a pure mind (but not without sexual symbolism as examined in my previous post “The sexual symbolism of Esoteric Practice”). The Southern style (南派), however, is quite different. Whereas some streams of Southern practice were solo practice similar to the Northern practice, some were dual practice that involved the joint practice of a male and a female. One question immediately arises: Were they practicing sexual chi-kung?
The definition of sexual chi-kung is very simple. Any practice that uses the arousal of erotic thoughts either through fantasy, masturbation, or sexual intercourse, with the objective of channeling and cultivation chi thus generated are deemed sexual chi-kung. Other ideas like spirituality, semen-retention, and multiple-orgasm are incidental concepts, though in actuality the latter might be the key practice objective of some practitioners!
According to the above definition, I can categorically say that these Southern practices are not sexual chi-kung. You may wonder, if it is not related to arousal of erotic thoughts, why is it necessary to have one male and one female practicing together? And how is it feasible to have dual practice without sexual arousal, in particular in some of those Southern style classics, a younger partner was specifically asked for?
Risking oversimplifying things, the following is the gist of these dual cultivation practices.
A typical practice procedure:
1. Old man (or woman) and young woman (man) practice together, with clothes on and avoid direct eye contact during practice.
2. Face to face folded legs Taoist meditation without any physical touch and no direct eye contact.
3. No erotic thought should be aroused, the highest spiritual respect shall be had towards each other.
4. Objective: inter-flow of chi between the partners, so that an embryo (golden pill, neidan) can be created through copulation and exchange of yin and yang.
5. Rationale: Wisdom from the older partner exchange for Vitality from the young partner, so that both can benefit.
6. Symbolism: The symbols of Kan (female) and Li (Male) are used in their practice.
There are a number of interesting points to be noted here:
1. These practitioners tried their best to distant themselves away from sexual chi-kung practitioners. Taoists in the East generally do not consider sexual chi-kung practitioners as fellow Taoists of spirituality.
2. In Jungian psychology, the anima of the male practitioner is projected onto his female partner, and shall be integrated with his consciousness through meditative practice. Similarly the animus of the female practitioner is projected onto her male partner, and shall be integrated with her consciousness through meditative practice. Dual practice can therefore be viewed as symbolization of the individuation process, or a ritual to facilitate such integration.
3. This kind of dual cultivation is primarily for the benefits of the older partner, whereupon through symbolization of internal intercourse, his or her libido will be aroused for spiritual or individuation purpose. Needless to say, in order for the sublimation of libido to be successful, erotic thoughts shall not be aroused, otherwise, one’s sexual impulse will overtake one’s better judgment for pursuance of spirituality.
4. The symbolism of the sublimation of libido for pure/Northern practice therefore also applies to the Southern Dual Cultivation practice.
5. Since man (and woman too) has his inherent weakness as far as sexual impulse is concerned, such dual cultivation practice with a commendable original spiritual intention may go astray during practice (in particular here we are talking about having an old man (or woman) with a young woman (or man) shut themselves up in a room for meditation and with the younger partner usually being devoted student). In order to avoid possible scandals, nowadays Taoist organizations in the East usually do not promote such dual cultivation practice.
6. Nowadays I noticed some contemporary practitioners preaching using sexual intercourse as a legitimate Taoist way to promote spirituality. I seriously doubt whether mortals like us can have sex and practice spirituality at the same time. And Taoist classics I read vehemently said NO, and even condemned such practices as defamation of Taoism. Moreover, even assuming effectiveness, such practice has a higher chance for miscarriage of good intention – and a master never knows a true intention of his students (unless a spiritual leader also wears the head of a sex therapist!). From another angle, even if we only consider its narrower objective of chi-cultivation without spirituality, there are indeed more effective ways to achieve the objective without the possible side-effects. These more popular practices include Zhan Zhuang, tai-chi and solo Taoist meditation/yoga.
There is certainly a huge difference between symbolism (or sublimation) and its literal meaning. Many years ago I read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and saw the movie. Its only sexual scene (practiced during a secret group religious session) certainly made a salient point: common folks are prompt to succumb to their wish for sexual fantasy, here I meant the readers of the fiction , and with author writing what the readers expected him to write. I began then to appreciate why Taoist masters in the past had been very low-profile in their practice and too cryptic in their writings, even when they were not practicing sexual chi-kung. Fortunately we are now living in a more scientific era, and with psychologist like the late Carl Jung who put our libido and the sublimation of which at their rightful places.