Tag Archives: Secret of the Golden Flower

Fractal-Holographic Principles in the Secret of the Golden Flower

This article is a continuation of my attempt at syncretism in light of the Daoist mysticism and meditative techniques espoused in the Secret of the Golden Flower and other texts. This project seeks to compare Chinese cosmological and ontological concepts with those found in contemporary fringe science topics – most interestingly the fractal-holographic and fluid electrodynamic properties of Nature.

“The light is neither inside nor outside the self. Mountains, rivers, sun, moon, and the whole earth are all this light, so it is not only in the self. All the operations of intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom are also this light, so it is not outside the self. The light of heaven and earth fills the universe; the light of one individual also naturally extends through the heavens and covers the earth. Therefore once you turn the light around, everything in the world is turned around.” – Taiyi Jinhua Zongzhi, 3.10, Cleary

By “light” the SOTGF means the light of pure consciousness. This implies an underpinning assumption of the primacy of consciousness, meaning the belief that consciousness is more fundamental to Nature than physical objects, i.e. atomic matter. Dean Radin highlights this as an intrinsic difference between the current, physicalist paradigm of science and the coming paradigm (information-energetic). He also notes that quantum systems models have yet to account for the effect of psi – in other words, we still don’t know how psi happens but we are looking. I would contend the answers are out there, waiting to be consolidated (e.g. Holofractal sub-quantum informatics, or something).

We also see that light is the monad or prima materia in this case. There is a single substance in the ontology and it is light. However, logically, where there is light there must be somewhere for it to shine. Therefore, darkness is both implied and explicitly talked about in the text. “Darkness returning to darkness, by a coming together of kind” is the process in which the po (the soul of the physical body) partakes after death. The po “suffers in life” and “looks toward death”. The book says “this is what consciousness is”. By consciousness in this case, I believe them to be referring to perhaps the echo chamber of the Void – implying that in some way both light (pure consciousness) and darkness (physical basis of consciousness) are both “consciousness”. Seeing the light is still the object of the practice and this light is the fundamental substance of the world.

The light of one individual spreading throughout the whole world can be taken as more than a remarkable testament to our personal power, but a hint at the known implication of Maxwellian field-theory that all fields extend into infinity, both mathematically and in consideration of thought experiments like the Butterfly effect.

“Once you turn the light around, everything in the world is turned around” – in exactly the same way that the information stored in one proton is shared by almost all other protons in the universe. Every movement of every particle in the universe effects the holistic information-state of the entire universe. The staggering implication is that by observing the nature of one’s own consciousness, one is affecting the entire physical universe as well.

“Turning the light around is not turning around the light of one body, but turning around the very energy of Creation.” – 3.5

“If each point contains the whole, then each point has all the information.” – Nassim Haramein, physicist

“The words focus on the center are most sublime. The center is omnipresent; the whole universe is within it. This indicates the mechanism of Creation; you focus on this to enter the gate, that is all. To focus means to focus on this as a hint, not to become rigidly fixated. The meaning of the word focus has life to it; it is very subtle.” – 3.12

The last two sentences have more to do with praxis, but there is ontology to be gleaned from this passage. The omnipresent center that contains the universe is something that is experienced in meditation, but there may be cosmological reasons for this being built into the structure of reality.

One assertion implicit in this entire intellectual endeavor is that there is novel information to be gleaned from the practice of turning consciousness in on itself or treating consciousness as it’s own object. “Consciousness is always consciousness of something” is a trope in the Western philosophy of mind. What kind of consciousness? This is a matter of shishen (perceiving spirit) vs. yuanshen (original spirit). Yuanshen correlates with light and with the yang energy of the hun (soul which comes from spirit, yang soul) which is to “overcome” the yin energy of the po (soul of the physical body, yin soul).

The next statement is a kind of holofractal statement in itself – that the information dynamics of the universe itself actually implies the mechanism by which it came into being in the first place. The nature of the thing is tautologous and self-evident – so recursive and self-referential in nature as to escape language. “You focus on this to enter the gate, that is all.” To focus on this is to gently and patiently nurse within oneself the notion that consciousness is not only fundamental to the structure and function of reality, but that it is so homologous and self-similar in nature as to escape explanation as an actual matter of fact. The ineffability is built into the ontology – it is not a failure of semantics or of instrumentation.

See the light and send it back to where it came.


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Conner Kees
Source For Well-Being – Black Mountain, NC
Making the Medicine Blog

“The Light of Pure Spirit”, a poem

The following is a composition of mine in the style of Daoist alchemical poetry. Enjoy.

“The Light of Pure Spirit”

Begin at the beginning
For there is nowhere else

Relax the body and the heart is relaxed
Relax the heart and the mind is relaxed
Relax the mind and the whole world is relaxed
If you stop and look
You can see the thin veil
Of a looming void
Practice seeing it,
And the emptiness of this void
Becomes a clear and open infinitude
Of light

Allow the eyes and ears
To look and listen inward
Rest the mind on the breath
Rest the heart on the center
Rest the body on itself
And from this emerges the true mind
As the light of pure spirit
In the chamber of the heavenly heart

This is the impetus that created the world

When you look and listen inward
Consciousness encircles itself
Consciousness through consciousness
Is the doorway to the deep

The center is everywhere
In the center there is an opening
In the opening there is nothing
In nothing there is a mystery
In the mystery there is a light
A heart within a heart
A seed within a seed
A world within a world
A pearl of power and peace
Care for this pearl
Gently and patiently
And the pearl will yield spiritual gold

Carry this peace
Always and everywhere
And it will carry you

– Conner Kees


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Conner Kees
Source For Well-Being – Black Mountain, NC
Making the Medicine Blog

Xing, Ming, and Turning the Light Around

Let’s start with a little literary history. This part may be exceedingly boring to some of you – but for those interested in reading these texts yourself, take note. For those interested strictly in the metaphysics, keep listening.

There are currently three English translations of what is known as The Secret of the Golden Flower or the Taiyi jinhua zongshi. It is by far the best-known and most widely translated Daoist alchemical text. It is, historically, a late text, first appearing in the late 1600s.

This text was translated first into English by Cary F. Baynes in 1931 from the German translation by Richard Wilhem (which contained both a foreward and a commentary by the influential psychologist Carl Jung). The second translation was made by Thomas Cleary in 1991, with the addition, “the Authoritative New Translation” over his name on the cover. There are certainly legitimate concerns surrounding the Wilhelm translation which we will not go into, however I find Cleary’s assertion that his text is the “authoritative” one to be dubious. Translation, I reckon, is both an art and a science. Some of Cleary’s commentary regarding Jung I find simply inappropriate. That said, it is a great translation over all and I recommend picking it up if you are looking for a translation of only this text. It’s a great place to start introducing oneself to the intricacies and the wisdom of the Daoist alchemical tradition.

The third and most recent translation was published in an anthology of alchemical texts by Fabrizio Pregadio in 2019. As I said in Episode 6, I don’t read Chinese and therefore cannot interpret the value of the texts relative to a personal understanding of the original language. That said, the Cleary is brief and concise, the Wilhelm is verbose with beautiful linguistic flourishes, and Pregadio’s translation is somewhere between the two. Personally, I trust Pregadio’s work above all others because he has devoted his career to translating in a straightforward fashion Daoist alchemical texts alone and his work is humble.

Now, to the metaphysics…

In The Secret of the Golden Flower, we are seemingly given a dualistic cosmology that puts the transformative value of yang over it’s counterpart, yin. This is not an uncommon motif in Daoism, as it is said that Heaven – yang – preceded the formation of Earth – yin. It is primary based on the sole fact that the unmanifest – yang – necessary must exist before that which is manifest – yin.

Yin and it’s psychophysical correlate, the po (associated with the Lung and with Metal in Chinese Medicine), is to be “subjugated” (Cleary’s translation) by the (yang) hun (associated with Liver and with Wood). Here we have an instance of yang overcoming yin in our psychophysical embodiment. Overcoming darkness with light is not a motif unique to Daoist alchemy and has corollaries in Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and other schools of thought. In a similar way, the “perceiving spirit” (Shishen) is to be brought to rest so the “original spirit” (Yuanshen), being more yang in nature, can take the throne as master of the dwelling. (Note here that this term yuan is the same one used in episode 2 when referring to “Source qi” or yuanqi.)

“The celestial mind is like a house; the light is the master of the house.” – 1.12, Cleary

This is of course also given the fact that it’s alchemy we are dealing with here. The Cleary translation says “the turning around of the light is the ‘firing process’.”

“The ancients’ method of transcending the world, refining away the dregs of darkness to restore pure light, is just a matter of dissolving the lower soul and making the higher soul whole.” (Referring to hun and po) – 2.14, Cleary

The method of reversal (nifa) – the circulation or turning around of the light – is the primary psycho-alchemical tool in The Secret of the Golden Flower.

“The whole work of turning the light around uses the method of reversal.” – 1.11, Cleary

This turning around, circulating, reversing, inverting, or returning process (all of which it’s descriptions have rendered in English), is the return to the Dao, to the Origin, to the Fundament. The analogous process in Hermetic alchemy is seen as an act of completion or purification (through separation and recombination, solve et coagula). In Daoist alchemy this alchemical method involves a return. The Daoist alchemists saw themselves as rewinding time rather than fastforwarding it. Our understanding that all things return to the Dao could imply that the source is the same regardless of how you get there. It’s a vortex, after all.

We are talking about information at the border between being and non-being, therefore polarity persists regardless of the recursiveness of the matrix. Language refuses to break down completelyperhaps this is why the Daoists wrote so much, despite holding the idea that the description doesn’t truly get at the thing-in-itself. “The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao.”

Let’s get physical: the separation of yin and yang happens at the event horizon. This could be the surface of the proton or the membrane of a cell. Cosmologically, this is where the Dao is encircled by itself and where the first proton is born. It has occurred to me the possibility that what this book is talking about is in part an imaginal grasp of the surface of the proton. This process involves “seeing essence (xing) the original face.” (Cleary)

I contend that this is the mysterious opening spoken of in Daoist alchemy. This opening is really the boundary condition that separates the explicate order from the implicate order, in Bohmian mechanics – in other words that which can be perceived, measured, and described versus that which can’t but exerts an organizing influence on the former.

Xing and ming

Xing is translated as “human nature”, “essence”, and “logos” by Wilhelm and “essence” by Cleary. Pregadio renders it “Nature”. In a footnote in Wilhelm’s the reader is encouraged to stretch one’s imagination to consider human nature as a cosmological principle rather than something that is strictly human, per se. Here we have the Hermetic axiom – “as above, so below” – and a fractal cosmology peeking through. I would here invoke Genesis 1:28 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he was made.” In light of this, xing could be thought of as a fractal, organizing principle of archetypal scale (the kind of recursiveness that generates two mirrored hands and feet of five fingers and toes each, etc.).

In Daoism, Xing and ming are a mysterious principle pair. You can find these concepts translated, respectively, as consciousness and life, human nature and life, essence and life, nature and existence, or soul and energy. This is clearly a case where attempting to  translate these concepts into English will fail ot render the an appropriate representation of what is meant. Regardless, what we are presented with is a dichotomy of form versus function, respectively. In both the Wilhelm and Cleary, ming is rendered as “life”. Xing is the energy from which the hun is derived. Ming is the energy of the po.

Ming is also translated as “destiny” and in the Chinese language, to “lose one’s ming” is to die. Ming shares a relationship with both qi and with jing, as well as with the body itself. Ming is yin because of it’s associated with the po and vise versa for xing, yang, and hun. Ming is said to rest in the Kidneys or in the lower dantian. Xing is said to rest in the chest or in the upper dantian and is associated with the Heart. Xing is also said to correspond to the personality and with the yang of the heart, or the emotions. The character for xing is a combination of xin (Heart-Mind) and sheng (generation).

Xing and ming also share correspondences, respectively, with Heaven and Earth, the Sky and the Light, the Heart-Mind and the Three Treasures, Li (fire) and Kan (water), and to the flame of a lamp and the oil that burns.

It is said that the objective of Daoist alchemy is to “bring one’s form (xing) to completion by means of the Dao” and “extend one’s life (ming) by means of practice.”

Backward-flowing method

This image is from the 1962 edition (pg. 65) and it contains a footnote from Cary F. Baynes remarking that there is no reason not to include the residuals of “kuei” (gui) in the return to the Dao. This is a fantastic point, in light of my earlier remark that the text seems to value the yang ultimately over the yin.

The intellectual project I am embarking on is one of syncretism – I assume this same kind of correspondence can likely be found in other systems of thought and in other works on consciousness (the Upanishads, for instance). The very realm the Daoist’s enjoyed the most was the one where language breaks down and the ineffable seeks to express itself.

I suppose I’m not considered a Daoist insofar as the kind of gnosis I am after is one that is both expressible in words and visualizable, i.e. effable. The nature of the mystery does not 100% penetrate down to the level of human expression. It is, however, fundamentally an experience. The Daoist alchemists are not conceiving models of reality in order to build anti-gravitic crafts, they are doing it to experience first-hand the true nature of reality and become one with it. Mystical yet not without a firm grounding in the world as we know it.

“First establish a firm foothold in daily activities within society. Only then can you cultivate reality and understand essence.” – 1.7, Cleary

“You should know the great concealment
while you dwell in the marketplace.
What need is there of entering the mountains’ depths
and keeping yourself in stillness and solitude?” – Poem 5, Wuzhen Pian, Pregadio

…applied mysticism for the 21st century.


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Conner Kees
Source For Well-Being – Black Mountain, NC
Making the Medicine Blog