ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PRIVATE MINI NOTES): Jīndān 金丹 Golden Elixir

The best quotation from the current encyclopedia entry I’d like to share was written by the editor, Fabrizio Pregadio: “Modern studies usually refer to the Chinese arts of the elixirs as waidan (external alchemy) or neidan (inner alchemy), but the authors of the alchemical texts often call their tradition the Way of the Golden Elixir (jīndān zhī dào 金丹之道). Gold (jīn 金) represents the state of constancy and immutability beyond the change and transiency that characterize the manifested world. As for dān 丹, or “elixir,” lexical analysis shows that the semantic field of this term—which commonly denotes a variety of red—evolves from a root-meaning of “essence,”and that its connotations include the reality, principle, or true nature of an entity, or its most basic and significant element, quality, or property.”– Encyclopedia of Taoism, London, Routledge, 2008. (By the way, all tones in the quotation are mine as usual.)

Several times in my life I was serious in attempts to understand and put in the practice the Golden Elixir theories. In the first translation from Chinese into English (I have met many years ago) the translators changed the original terms into what they thought would be more appropriate for Western readers but I couldn’t agree at all; the second translation included Traditional Chinese but without Pinyin transliteration and was not easy to make cross-reference through dictionaries.  Putting your hand on the heart, how many people in the U.S.A. with 316,668,567 population (July 2013 est.) can enunciate  the original Jindan texts properly?

In addition, I cannot help myself to quote here another source: “The real Tao is when you get rid of the brand new blender which you didn’t use the whole year and acquire a spice rack with a bunch of spices which you begin on every cooking day and become sick don’t doing it from time to time.”–Say Syonagone, Notes at the Kitchen’s Threshold, 14-16 century, Japan.

Of course, I am mocking now in a cruel way, but I would like to underline that translator’s work shouldn’t be like this, if you do like and care for your business.

The original  Sei Shōnagon’s (966-1017) The Pillow Book is actually a very nice reading for those who can appreciate ancient diaries (including me) and if you are truly interested (still) in the Golden Elixir, try this:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • Cayenne
  • Honey

Directions

In a mug, stir together water, lemon juice, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne and honey to taste. Enjoy the Golden, enjoy the Elixir :)))

 

jindan

 

Advertisements

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PRIVATE NOTES): Huŏhòu 火候 fire times, fire phasing

Diagram of the ‘fire phases’ huohou by Yu Yan (1258-1314)

Diagram of the ‘fire phases’ huohou by Yu Yan (1258-1314)

This entry in the Encyclopedia of Taoism (Routledge 2008) is quite a big, has two parts, and the first part titled Waidan (by Kim Daeyeol) I am going to skip totally and my reason is that waidan (external alchemy) teachings were never important to me: I have enough gold in my pockets to switch myself to neidan (internal alchemy) schools forever :))

A couple of quotes from the entry can help us to understand some ideas and details (Monica Esposito):

“In neidan, fire phasing constitutes the rhythm of the inner alchemical work: the Art of Measure. Through it, the alchemist knows how to measure the ingredients (yàowù 藥物), when to increase or decrease the Fire, and so on. The term huŏ 火(fire) refers to the circulation of vital breath (qi), or simply the power of the effort in practice, while hòu 候 (phase) denotes the sequence in which the practice is performed. Fire phasing therefor represents the most secret part of neidan, the inner rhythm that one must find and experience for oneself”.

I like it, ‘simply the power of the effort in practice’; ‘sequence’ for me almost always means ‘algorithm’, and ‘inner rhythm’ sounds like no one is fooling around. 

Seriously, (M.E.): “Fire phasing in neidan means that in every instant the practitioner should find the balance between Martial Fire (action, movement, temporal expansion) and Civil Fire (inactivity, immobility, temporal reduction). Alchemical texts repeatedly state that this is the innermost secret of the alchemical work, which cannot be transmitted in words”. Yes, secret, but if we open some medical tractates, famous, classical, and widely spread, and stick to ‘balance’, guess what? No secrets anymore, just a highway smart people can go everywhere.

So, we have been told (twice) that alchemical texts and ‘alchemical people’ will keep the algorithms of their works in secret and what kind of ideas can be helpful for us now? I guess, only one. Considering the fact that philosophy inside waidan/ neidan teachings is almost the same (ba gua, seasonal changes, Yijing hexagrams, lunar month, days, and hours, wuxing theory, and our favorite yin-yang compounds) we can rely on themselves and just figure out how it can be applied to our everyday life. 

By the way, if all this work will be done by you, the all results will be only yours, innermost and undeniably straight and strong, right? And this is my story. And this is the story I am keeping to tell people around me. Just 100% unsuccessfully :))