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What is Taoism?

The word Tao means the way, the way of nature and the universe, or the path of natural reality. It also refers to a way in which we can open our minds to learn more about the world, our spiritual paths, and ourselves. Sometimes the Tao is also referred to as the origin of all things, as the Source of Life, as the Wu Chi itself. Taoism, especially its internal alchemy path, is not a philosophy of mind alone, but a real practice of body, mind, and spirit. When you have the true sense of its meaning, the true knowledge and wisdom, you will be able to make the right decisions in your life.

The roots of Taoism go back to the dawn of human civilization. Taoism is the cradle of the Chinese culture. The Taoist cosmology and life principles are reflected in all aspects of life: in (Traditional Chinese) medicine, philosophy, religion, in painting and calligraphy, in literature and theater, in ethics and politics. Over the centuries, Taoism has developed itself in many different directions and has mixed with principles of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, etc. Therefore, in the history of Taoism we see a beautiful kaleidoscope of different philosophical and religious teachings. Most of them found an expression in books and pamphlets, which are collected in the Taoist canon, the Tao Tsang. Everyone is acquainted with the Tao Te Ching, the Chuang Tzu, or with the I Ching. Less with, for instance, classical works as the Tsan-tung-chi (the triplex unity) of Wei Po-yang and of the P'ao-p'u-tzu (The Sage who Embraces Simplicity) of Ko Hung of the same period. Both are early Taoist (Internal) alchemists from around 200 CE. In the text of Wei Po yang we can even read about the sexual and Kan and Li practices of the Universal Healing Tao. Our great ancestor is the immortal Lu Tung Pin the grandfather of internal alchemy. In the last few years, very good translations of classical Taoist texts and overviews of the history have been published. The Universal Healing Tao training mainly follows the path of Internal Alchemy to attain health, longevity, and immortality. Although there are many different paths in Taoism to reach the Tao, they generally have more or less the same cosmology in common.

Taoist Cosmology

Wu Chi.
According to Taoist cosmology, before the beginning of the manifested universe, there was a state of total emptiness. In this primordial state, nothing stirred. The relative concept of time did not apply to the primordial state, because there was nothing to measure time against. All was a void. The ancient Taoists gave it a name. It was called Wu Chi. Wu means absence, negation, nothingness. The Chi in Wu Chi (though it is spelled the same way in English), as the word that means life force is a totally different word in Chinese. The Chi in Wu Chi means "highest" or "ultimate". Wu Chi thus means "ultimate state of nothingness".
(In the modern Chinese spelling you write for this Chi (energy): Ji, for the other Chi (ultimate), Qi.)

Tai Chi.
The Primordial Tin and Yang.
The Wu Chi stirred through some unknown impulse, and the First moment of creation began. This first impulse manifested Chi through the primordial polarity of Yin and Yang, negative and positive. The interplay of Yin and Yang is the essential expression Of Wu Chi. The Taoists named this process Tai Chi or "Supreme Ultimate". All the multiplicity of phenomena found in the universe, visible or invisible, are the results of Yin and Yang interaction.

Chi.
The Source of all Movement.
Chi, or life force, is the foundation of all the Taoist practices, in the same way that electricity is the foundation of modern civilization. Without electricity, practically every aspect of our modern life style could come to a stop. Similarly, without Chi, one's life would come to an abrupt halt. Chi can be defined as bio-electricial, life force, vitality, or simply energy. Chi is all of these, but none of them exclusively. Just as electricity is still incomprehensible to scientists in its total breadth and depth, Chi is beyond intellectual understanding.

According to the ancient Taoists, Chi is found in the air we breathe, yet it is not just oxygen or any of the other gaseous components of the atmosphere. Chi is also found in the food we eat, yet it is not just a vitamin, mineral, or carbohydrate that we can chemically isolate. Chi is absorbed into the food we east through the process of photosynthesis, yet it is not sunlight or any other type of ray detectable by modem scientists' sensing devices. Chi is the essence of the food we eat and the air we breathe, the real nourishment of the body. When we breathe or eat, we are taking Chi into our bodies. Without Chi, there can be no life.

The Five Elements or Phases of Energy.
The interaction of Yin and Yang is expressed though five basic phases of energy behavior, often called the Five Elements. The Five Elements refer not only to the five physical elements we find all around, but also to the ways Chi expresses itself in the universe. The first phase is energy at rest, energy in an extreme state of quietness and concentration. This phase is named water, because water, if undisturbed, naturally becomes extremely still. The second phase is a development of the first; if energy is extremely quiet and concentrated, it bursts into activity at some point, just like the Wu Chi. This second phase is that expansion of energy. It is called wood, because trees burst into activity in the spring after their long period of winter rest. The burst of activity in the wood phase cannot last for long; it soon stabilizes into a period of sustained energy releases. This third phase is named fire, because fire is able to sustain a high level of energy release over a long period. As the high energy releases the fire begins to decline, it gives rise to the fourth phase, that of contracting energy. The fourth phase is called metal, because metal is a very condensed state of energy. The fifth phase of energy is that of central balance and harmony of all the other four phrases. This final phase is named earth, because the earth is the ground of all the other elements.

Yin/Yang is the root and trunk of all creation; the Five Elements are the branches that bear the leaves, lowers, and fruits of the universe. The result of the five phases of energy is the manifestation and activity of the sun, moon, stars, plants, and all life on earth. This view of Taoist cosmology may seem abstract and simplistic, but modem science has arrived at essentially the same view of creation. All matter throughout the universe is made of atomic particles. The atoms, once believed to be the smallest indivisible particles of matter, have proved under observation to be made of subatomic particles and waves, all propelled into motion by the polarity of the positive and the negative. Scientists have also arrived at a concept of an original explosion of energy, which they refer to as the Big Bang.

Taoists view the universe as a vast ocean of interacting energy driven by the fundamental interplay of Tin and Yang. Humans are one of the most complex manifestations of such interaction.

The universe as a manifestation of the Five Elements is self-sustaining. All living creatures are constantly interacting with all the elements of creation through the processes of eating, breathing, sensing, feeling, and thinking.

The Eight Forces
Like the Five Phases of Energy, the Eight Forces of Nature are also the result of the interplay of Tin and Yang. Together they form the power symbol of the pakua, and combined together they form the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. In fact, the Five phases of energy correspond with these Eight Forces of Nature. The eight forces are the basic energy formations of nature.

Where do we derive our Life Force?
The basic source of human energy, according to Taoists, comes from our parents. The Yin energy of the mother in the egg and the Yang energy of the father in the sperm provide the initial sparks that ignite the fire of life. This energy from the parents is called prenatal energy or Original Chi

A second source of our energy is the air we breathe and the food we eat and the Chi we absorb. We call .this postnatal energy.

Chi is radiation from the stars in the form of light, electromagnetic waves. and subsonic vibrations. The most prominent stars in this process are the sun. the North Star, and the stars in the constellation known as the Big Dipper.

Humans in particular depend on the Chi radiated through space by the stars and planets for sustenance. The air we breathe is charged with cosmic energy in the form of extremely fine particles of cosmic "dust." This dust is the residue of exploded stars, planets and asteroids. It rains constantly onto the earth, forming an essential component of the soil.

Plants are the only living organisms that can directly transform light into nourishment. Humans absorb light energy indirectly by eating either vegetables or the flesh of other animals that feed on plants.

The interaction of light, cosmic dust in the soil. and air, together with water, forms the basis for photosynthesis in plants. All life on earth depends on plant life, either directly or indirectly. The great majority of organisms feed directly on plants, and a small minority feed on other animals that eat plants.

Chi is life, and abundant energy is abundant life. If our energy supply is low due to illness or excessive emotions, we experience low vitality and lack of drive. Living ceases to be an enjoyable experience: we feel disconnected from the environment, from society, and from ourselves. Taoists therefore place extreme importance on cultivating and maintaining a high level of energy to strengthen one's connection with the universe and oneself.

The ultimate goal of Taoist practice is attaining a state of complete union with the source of the universe. All life emerges from Wu Chi unconsciously. Through Taoist practices, one can attain immortality and return to he Wu Chi consciously to dissolve into oneness. Taoists actively encourage any practice or point of view that helps strengthen our connection with the universe. The most direct way of sustaining our links with all creation is by cultivating the energy that is the foundation of life.