Monday, August 22, 2011

Metaphysical metaphor and visualization in Taoist Meditation

Taoist metaphysics maintains that man's body follows the rules and logic (Tao) of the Universe. Its theories go back all the way to the creation process: the creation of the world that we experience as well as our own "creation" into a human being. In this post, I shall deal with the metaphysical part specifically related to Taoist meditation, and explain the need to a better of understanding of which to facilitate our practice.

Taoist's metaphysical conceptualization of the creation process was first presented in Tao Te Ching chapter 42:


My translation:

In the beginning
Tao comes to beget one
One develops into Two opposites
While Two breeds the possibility of a reunification
named Three
and Three being the nature of everything.

Hence everything consists of both Yin and Yang
and when facilitated by Essence (Chi)
they will be combined together as one....
as Tao.

To use the lingo of Jungian psychology, from a metaphysical origin (which may or may not exist, just postulated for ease of exposition) there develops a human Collective Unconscious, and from it, there develops one's consciousness and personal unconscious (which develops in response to the needs of human society). The latter is, by definition, unknown to one's consciousness which, for all intents and purposes, forms what we usually define as what we are. And from this standpoint, one is separated from our metaphysical origin (again a postulation) by a huge gulf.

And the practice of Taoist mediation (or Neidan) is try to bridge this gulf, by, literally speaking, "swimming" back! But how to "swim" back?

There is an important metaphor or visualization in Taoist Neidan classics: "Going the natural way, a human being will be born, going the opposite way, one will become an Immortal" (順則成人,逆則成仙). A metaphor of swimming back.

Another important metaphor or visualization in Taoist Neidan classics: "Build up bodily essence and change it into Chi essence, build up chi essence and change it into spiritual essence, build up spiritual essence and change it into the Taoist essence of Fullness-cum-Nothingness". Another metaphor of swimming back.

Why did Taoist classics spend a lot of effort in explaining these metaphysical metaphor and visualization concepts? Are they important to Taoist meditation practice, and are they important to the modern man who are interested in such practice?

Interesting questions that I shall tackle in future posts.

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