Cosmic Origins of Life

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Cosmic Origins of the Life: The Taoist View of Conception by James G. Bailey, LAc, Dipl OM, Dipl Ayu, E-RYT The Tao is me, it is the Supreme Lord of the Central Summit, the Pole Star which shines on my forehead, between my eyebrows, like the Sun. It is the Great August Emperor of Heaven. It is my energy, I was born of that breath. Lao Tzu, The Book of the Center The Chinese image of the human body owes much to the contributions of Taoism and Chinese medicine alike, the roots of which lay in
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  Cosmic Origins of the Life:The Taoist View of Conception by James G. Bailey, LAc, Dipl OM, Dipl Ayu, E-RYT The Tao is me, it is the Supreme Lord of the Central Summit, the Pole Star which shines on my forehead,between my eyebrows, like the Sun. It is the Great August Emperor of Heaven. It is my energy, I was born ofthat breath. Lao Tzu, The Book of the Center The Chinese image of the human body owes much to the contributions of Taoism and Chinese medicine alike, theroots of which lay in pre-Taoist antiquity. Through the use of natural and cosmological imagery, the Taoist naturo-poetic body takes its form through the rich metaphors of sacred land, heavenly bodies and the cosmic cycles ofthe great creative force, or Tao.The creation myths of Taoist cosmology and theology have also deeply contributed to the evolution of early Chinesemedicine and its exquisite vision of the human body, its physiology, form and srcin. In this article we will exploresome of the primary Taoist cosmological themes that have particularly influenced the evolution of Chinese medicine,its interpretation of the procreative process, and ultimately, the sacredness of the srcins of life. The ancient Taoistperception of the developing body as sacred and divine in srcin dramatically influenced the writers of the Nei JingSu Wen and later texts which gave rise to Chinese medicine. References to Pre-heaven and Post-heaven Essences, Ancestral Essence, Yuan Qi or Immortal Heavenly Qi, and Primordial Wombs describe a sacred internal environmentof fetal development far and beyond the doings of the human capacity alone.Chinese medical pediatrics has proven to be one of the more illuminating models of the development and treatmentof the developing baby and its interdependence with the natural world. The limitation, however, of the purely medicalmodel in todays practice of TCM is that the focus has been fundamentally narrowed to pathology rather than cos-mology, and chaos rather than the natural order. In my opinion, it is devastating for contemporary students of Chi-nese medicine that the spirit of the Tao was removed from Chinese medicine and pediatrics during the last cen-tury. Though a few of the concepts have survived, the majority are more likely to be encountered in classical relig-ious texts than in medical ones. Ultimately, a greater understanding of the srcins and development of the humanbody would surely enlighten the way we care for children as parents, community leaders and as physicians. Be-cause of this I have focused my lens upon those few tiny spaces remaining where Taoist cosmology and Chinesepediatrics co-exist, in the sacred srcins of the child. Conception as Cosmological Recreation The Taoist understanding of human conception and birth is parallel to its own view of the cosmic srcins and move-ments of the greater Universe, or Tao. Pregnancy is the paradigm for the creation of the universe. In nine stages thepassage from the invisible to the visible, between the undifferentiated and differentiated things, from non-being tobeing is accomplished. (K. Schipper)In the womb we pass through all of our past evolutionary stages. The texts are filled with analogies between thecreation myths and the rites of human conception and birth. For the developing child, it is the Tao which provides  the template for the development of the body. Each new human form or fetus becomes the fertile ground uponwhich the Tao recreates itself in miniature. The body arises and serves as the microcosm within the macrocosm.Inevitably, that which is experienced within the body (ie, self , or lesser Tao), will be a reflection of, or reaction to theforces and experiences of the universal Tao. The extent to which the individual realizes this will determine the indi-viduals potential for health, happiness, long life and eventually, to faithfully reunite with the greater Tao once again,thus attaining the greatest of spiritual awakenings.The famous saying that the human body is the image of a country, is quintessential to Taoism and Chinese medi-cine alike. The inner world of the womb and the outer world create one another and are inseparable. And like a mir-ror image, the land is the reflection of the body as well. In fact, some translations of the Tao-te Ching consider allreferences to country, or to govern, or to people, as metaphors for the body. (K. Schipper) Conversely, the an-cient terms for the internal organs of Chinese medicine correspond to the administrative rulers of the land.Before we can discuss the process of conception, the role of the opposing universal forces of Yin and Yang mustfirst be understood from the procreative point of view. In the Nei Jing Su Wen it is stated that: the law of Yin and Yang is the natural order of the universe, the foundation of all things, the mother of all changes,the root of life and death. In the universe, the pure Yang Qi ascends to converge and form heaven [immaterial spiritor souls], while the [dense] Yin Qi descends and condenses to form the earth [physical body]. Yin is passive andquiet, while the nature of Yang Qi is active and noisy. Yang is responsible for expanding and Yin is responsible forcontracting, becoming astringent, and consolidating. Yang is the energy, the vital force...while Yin is the substance,the foundation, the mother that gives rise to [all things] . . . Before the birth of all things and creatures above ground,the living potential resides in the place of Yin. This is called the Yin within Yin (pure Yin). Once it has [conceived] andappears above ground, this phenomenon is called Yang within Yin. It is after [conception] or Post-heaven that theYang Qi enables everything to grow. (translation by M. Ni)The creation of all things, including the human body, is viewed as an intertwined immersion of Yin potential whichgives rise to the physical form of the fetus and Yang activity which provides the immaterial base of fetal movement(action), spirit, and soul. At the moment of conception the forces of Yin (ovum) and Yang (sperm) arise, fuse and be-gin the dance of the human life cycle until the final separation of Yin and Yang at death. Pre-Heaven Essence and Immortal Heavenly Qi If it is the Tao which serves as the cosmological template for the development of the child, it can only do so underthe guidance of the Ancestral Essence. This Ancestral Essence, or Pre-heaven Essence, is the substrate with whichthe new fetus is formed. It is Yin in nature, yet it is rich in potential for growth and evolution. It arises from the ances-tral pool of Jing, or Kidney essence of those who came before, and will supply the lifetime reserve of Jing to the newindividual and to his or her offspring. Pre-heaven essence might be the earliest known medical reference to the ge-netic information hidden within the human sperm and ovum.Interestingly, in the Chinese language the same character is used for semen as for Jing (Pre-heaven or AncestralEssence). The Pre-heaven essence, however, must be empowered by the active or Yang aspect of what is called theImmortal Heavenly Qi, or Yuan Qi. In short, the physical development of the fetal body is shaped in the womb out ofthe Ancestral Essence by the motivating action of the Yuan Qi.In Kristofer Schipper's new text, The Taoist Body, he translates from the Lao Tzu Chung Ching and introduces us tothe embryo of immortality, a personification of the Ancestral essence as the True Person Cinnabar of the North, who is born in the Cinnabar Field (ie, Tan Tien or womb) from the Original Yang, the vital energy that we transmit  from generation to generation. These mythological stories attempt to make sacred the physiological remnants of theuniversal creation that exists within the body. The text refers to the Ancestral essence as the immortal seed: it is my body in its most primitive, essential state. Created by the union of my parents' breaths (Qi), it is my trueirreducible self. The Cinnabar Field has several analogies in Chinese medicine, the Internal Alchemy schools and western medicine.It is the considered to be the energetic point of srcin (conception) within the body, analogous to the Tan Tien, theKidneys and to the womb. To the alchemist it describes the gestation of the immortal embryo. It functions to storethe reserves of Ancestral Essence throughout the lifetime of the individual. From it will grow the umbilicus, attachingthe child to the mother.The point of conception thus serves as the connection of the child to both ends of the fetal matrix, the universe andthe mother. This was the primary inspiration of the followers of the Kidney Schools or Gate of Life Schools of Chi-nese medicine. These schools firmly believed that the Dan Tien and Kidneys serve as accessible reservoirs of the Ancestral Essence, and which if kept conserved and continually restored via the Post-heaven essence, would serveto provide an abundance of both Pre-heaven and Post-heaven essences (vitality) throughout one's life.While in the womb the developing fetus lives in a world of undifferentiated unity, not yet separated from either theTao (universal source) or the mother (ancestral source). Here again we see that the dark internal world of the wombhas tremendous resemblance to the Taoist cosmological concept of the Universal Womb, which the Taoist refer toas the Primordial Chaos : At the beginning of Heaven and Earth was the Primordial Chaos (hun-tun), a sphere or matrix that holds within itselfthe whole universe, but in a diffuse, undifferentiated and potential state. The Qi, or pure energy-matter has not yetemerged from dark confusion. This primal matrix is subject to the influences of the Tao, to its action of cyclical time. At a given point, the matrix comes to maturity, breaks up [Big Bang], and frees the Qi contained within, which thenescape and separate. The light, transparent Qi rises and forms Heaven; the heavy, opaque ones sink, forming Earth.Thus, having established the polarities of Heaven and Earth, the Qi join and unite in the Center, which constitutesthe third fundamental modality [life]. (Schipper)The womb is a miniature recreation of the srcinal Primordial Chaos for the creation of the third modality, or livingbeings. Once initiated, the creation and development of the fetus shares the same creative impulse as that of theearly universe as the Primordial Womb. Neither done nor not done, it simply occurs, following the primal template ofthe Tao. This spontaneous and yet yielding movement of fetal development resounds of the concepts of Wu-wei -detachment to the dualities of action and non-action. References to the womb as Primordial Chaos might also sug-gest that the Taoists were aware of a more divine srcin to the child, a state which existed prior to the breaking of thematrix (ie., Void or Emptiness) out of which later develops the potential for harmony as an inherent memory of thepreexistent state. The Cosmological Basis of Sexual Differentiation  Another important event which occurs early in the womb, is that of sexual differentiation. Several theories are pro-posed as to how sexual differentiation occurs, but few sources explain why. In the same way that Heaven and Earthare created from the light and heavy forms of Qi released from the primordial universe, the male and female are butfurther manifestations of this universal duality of Yin and Yang within the living form. In other words, when Yin andYang procreate, the result is the end of the Wholeness of Chaos and the birth of things (life). What was in a pure andabstract state becomes something distinct and tangible.  With the bursting of the matrix, the energies are divided and thus we perceive things as separate. Conversely, whenthe perception of separateness (duality) is abolished and unified, one becomes like dead wood and returns to thebeginning of things. About this beginning, Chuang Tzu says: That which causes things to be things is in itself not a thing. (Chuang Tzu, Ch.11)The first medical mentioning of sex differentiation that I could find occurs in Chu Cheng's book, the Chu Shi Yi Shu(Master Chu's Posthumous Book), of the Southern Qi Dynasty, 479-502 CE. It was Chu Cheng's theory that thefetus becomes a male or a female depending upon whether the essence [yang] or the blood [yin] came first. Li-Dong-yuan later elaborated on this theory by stating that a male is more likely to be formed if the time of sexualdifferentiation occurs one or two days after termination of the last menses, when the sea of blood [is weak] and es-sence is overwhelming the blood. A female is more likely to be formed if the time of sexual differentiation occurs fourto five days after termination of the last menses, when the blood vessels are [full] once again and essence is nolonger overwhelming the blood.These theories appear to be a pediatric furthuration of the Nei Jing commentaries on the influence of Yin and Yangforces upon the delicate and yet undifferentiated fetus. In the I Ching (Classic of Changes) it is said that Qian (heav-enly) Tao forms the male, while Kun (earthly) Tao forms the female. Zhu Dan-xi comments in his Extra TreatisesBased on Investigation and Inquiry, that: the Kun and Qian are the natures of Yin and Yang, and female and male are the bearing and image of Yin and Yang[respectively]. The essence [sperm] of the father and the blood [ovum] of the mother react upon one another . . . inthis process, essence is the donor. Blood contains and develops this into a seed (child), thus are the ten thousandthings bred and inaugurated by the Qian (heavenly) source. Blood forms the wrapper (of the seed), thus are the tenthousand things bred and generated by the Kun (earthly) source. When Yin and Yang mate, a fetus is [formed], andthe place where it hides is called the child's palace [uterus]. The child's palace has a branch below [vagina] and twobranches above [fallopian tubes], one reaching the left and the other reaching the right. If essence overwhelmsblood, yang becomes the ruler. It relieves Qi from the left branch of the child's palace and a male takes shape. Ifessence is unable to overwhelm blood, Yin becomes the ruler. It receives Qi from the right branch of the child's pal-ace, and a female takes shape. . . Some may ask, I know how to differentiate male and female. However, somemales cannot be fathers and some females cannot be mothers, and still others have the dual form of both male andfemale. How then can one differentiate these? My answer is that a male that cannot be a father is one who receivedinadequate Yang Qi; that a female who cannot become a mother is one who has been obstructed in receiving Yin Qi;and that one with a dual form is a product of Yin invaded by variegated (mixed and disorderly) Qi. The Alchemy of the Inner Cauldron The Book of Center refers to the Three Great Ones as lower, middle and upper. Thus arose Heaven, Man and Earth.In the body also arises the Three Great Ones in the form of the three bodily levels, also referred to as jiaos, burnersor energy centers. The self is also said to consist of three distinct states: the embryo of the Cinnabar Field (TanTien; lower jiao), the child of the Yellow Court (Spleen; middle jiao), and Lord of the Tao or True Person in thehead (Shen; upper jiao).The development and cultivation of the energies within the three levels of the body were thought to be the key to ourlongevity and spiritual enlightenment. The practitioners of the Nei Dan (Internal Elixir) schools of internal alchemyplaced much emphasis on these three energy centers. To the practitioners, the human body is composed of a fur-nace, or Internal Elixir Field, where the internal alchemy takes place.
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