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THE following brief treatise is accorded a place in the recognised Taoist canon, though bearing marks of comparatively modern authorship. Its very title, ###, has a savour of Buddhism about it, and its allusions to elixirism and other empirical practices identify it at once with the Rosicrucian development, rather than with the original Naturalistic phase, of Taoism. But its date and author are, I believe, alike unknown.
There are three degrees of Supreme Elixir—the Spirit, the Breath, and the Essential Vigour. Obscure and recondite! Confused and dim! Maintain vacuity, and you will preserve the actual—accomplishing it in an instant of time. Restore the [ancient] habits,* and chaos will be brought into harmony; a hundred days, and the work will be achieved; then you may silently adore the Supreme Ruler, and in twelve years' time may wing your flight above. The wise understand this easily, but the dull find it difficult to perform. [Those who have attained it] tread in the Light of Heaven; by inhaling and exhaling, they nourish the Pure Breath; they emerge from the Azure (Heaven) and enter the Female (Earth);† now, as it were, annihilated, and now, as it were, existing, they never cease to all eternity; their supports‡ are strong, their roots deep.
Men are all possessed of Essential Vigour; this corresponds with the Spirit, the Spirit with the Breath, and the Breath with the essential p. 67 nature of the body. Those who have not obtained their original or essential nature, all usurp their reputation.
The Spirit is able to enter stone; the Spirit is able to fly through solid bodies. If it enters water, it is not drowned; or fire, it is not burned. The Spirit depends, for its birth, upon the body; the Essential Vigour depends, for attaining its full proportions, upon the Breath. They never lose their vitality or force, but are evergreen, like the pine and cedar trees. The three are all one Principle. Their mystery and beauty cannot be heard. The combination of them produces existence; their dispersion, extinction. If the seven apertures* are all open, each aperture will be bright and luminous, [for] the Holy Sun and Holy Moon will pour their effulgence upon the Golden Hall.† Once obtained, they are obtained for ever; then the body will become naturally buoyant, the Universal Harmony will be replete, and the bones will dissolve into the cold chrysoprasus-flower.‡ If the Elixir be obtained, supernatural intelligence will result; if it be not obtained, there will be defeat and ruin. The Elixir, being in the centre of the body, is neither white nor black.
If this treatise be conned-over and observed ten thonsand times, its beautiful and mysterious doctrine will become clear of itself.
* This appears the only possible meaning of the phrase ###.
† ###, implying an emergence from Heaven and an entrance into the principle Yin. Compare the theory of the ###, and the 6th chapter of Lao Tsze. Or it may mean issuing from the unknown realms of Nothingness—"the infinite Azure (###) of the past"—into the embryonic stage; the succession of such births and annihilations being without beginning or end. But ### and ### are simply other expressions for ### and ###.
‡ Literally, peduncle.
* Eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth. The seven entrances of the respective faculties.
† ### apparently identical with ###, one of the names for the seat of ### in the human body. See Doolittle's Handbook.
‡ This is a most puzzling sentence. It runs ###. It matters little whether ### be rendered "to fall apart, disperse, even dissolve," or whether it be translated in its common sense of "powder" ###, "will pulverize." The chief difficulty lies with the character ###. The phrase ### is given in the ###, with the following quotation: ###;—###, ###. . . . It may be however that ### is here a verb—as the prosody would seem to demand—in which case the whole might run "the bones will fall apart and become congealed, or crystallised, into jade, or the chrysoprasus flower." The expression is of course symbolical for the sublimation of the body. One rendering that has been suggested to me is I think inadmissible; but I give it nevertheless—"the bones will fall apart, and [the man soar aloft upon] the chrysoprasus-flower;" just as Buddhists are said to ride upon the lotus. But this would be taking too great a liberty with the text.