Sep 082015
1a. MYSHOP cover

Cover of Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest

Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest, is vol 1 of a 3 volume series, about the process from (1) purification, thru (2) contemplation on kataphatic sacred image, then (3) apophatic “no image, no desire,” experience, to (4) true union with an absolute, in whatever faith system one believes or share in. In this 4 stage process, all spiritual systems are identical. The series begins with the 3rd step, apophasis, because this is the only stage of the 4 step (4 “Dao”) process) that all agree with. The deeper point to emphasize in apophais is that no image, sacred or profane, can lead to true Absolute experience. For this reason, I long ago decided not read newspapers or watch TV, to keep my mind free of all extraneous, good or evil, negative or positive, and enlightening or depressing images. The 2nd volume, called “Art as Sacred Ecounter,” urges the reader to stay positive, focus on only good and happy things, in order to reach and effectively experience apophais. The definition of what is now called “original sin” (Genesis) is actually defined as “eating the fruit of the tree of judging good and evil.” Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, ie directly talking to YHVH, for doing this. The story exists in all mid-east pre biblical sources, the point being that if we stop judging good and evil, we will be back in the garden of Eden, talking directly with G_d/YHVH/Al_ah/Fuo/Dao. Offenses against of all sorts, whether Buddhist, or by other monks, pedophiliac priests, all offenders, profit oriented doctors, lay as folk as well as “clerics”, many in US as well as Thailand, China, Europe, are equally “out of touch” with human needs, compassion, as well as Transcendent awareness. Such people are best kept out of sight and out of memory, the true mystic way of spirituality, insists. A primitive tribe in the hills of Malaysia, called “Senoi”, were and are free from crime, until they become Christian or Islamic, ie, they never heard of such terrible things until until told about “sins” by missionaries, and rightfully decided to avoid all contact with them, so as to remain crime free. The Hawaiian word “Aloha” originally meant “sayonara, haolies, please go back to the mainland, unless you can learn Hawaiian joy and happiness in the now of compassionate human relationships, while enjoying the trade winds of reality.” (Note to readers: please do not order this book through Univ of Hawai’i Press, they have sent all of the copies to me, but still mistakenly advertise it on Amazon, as “out of stock.” It can be ordered from my address, the 2nd listed on Amazon, and PayPal, actual cost only, all profits go to support schools and students in Tibet, Afghanistan, and the poor here in Los Angeles). Svaha!



This calligraphy and poem of Wen Shan, modeled on a poem of Du Fu, states: "No one comes here to my home in south China to see me; the eagles sing "huan, huan" from the seashore sand' ; the moon appears over the rivers and streams, making me think of home!"

This calligraphy and poem of Wen Shan, modeled on a poem of Du Fu, states: “No one comes here to my home in south China to see me; the eagles sing “huan, huan” from the seashore sand’ ; the moon appears over the rivers and streams, making me think of home!”







1c. fishing for winter peaceSumie painting from the Kyoto Shijo school, a part of the collection of the late Morimoto sama, who has now passed on to the “Pure Land” afterlife, leaving behind only the memories of a wonderful life of shared sacred art and beauty.







1d. karasuA meditation hut, also from the Shijo school sumie collection, showing a “karasu” black crow singing from a tree top to the hermit meditating within — “kao, kao, kao” — you will never be enlightened, as long as you want to buy things (“kao”) unable to give up all possessions, and experience true apophasis..







1e. Monks who did not observe chastityDogs, representing the souls of monks who did not keep their vows of chastity, focused on sex and bad thoughts, instead of practicing true apophasis and loving compassion. The front yards of Tibetan temples are always filled with dogs, waiting to be fed and forgiven!





1f. meditation hut Mt HieiThis is an abandoned temple atop Mt Hiei, Kyoto. The great contemplative monk, Ikuta Koken Sensei, Ajari Tendai master, once prayed here. The people of Kyoto said he was the “only true monk” atop Mt Hiei, so he was sent to the bottom of the hill, to Bishamondo, Yamashina, where he practiced and taught Tantric prayer until his passing. it was my honor, a deep and unforgettable experience, to practice Tendai prayer with him, over an 8 year period. Ch 4 of MYSHOP, tells of his teachings.

Jun 282015

I would like to share these photos taken in Taiwan between 1955-1957, sent to my parents as a “Xmas Present -1957″, which still make Taiwan one of the most life changing events of my life, culminating in being accepted by Daoist Master Zhuang, as a disciple; there are more sets to follow, explanations attached to each photo.

Jun 262015


Apophasis is a shared spiritual experience

“Philosophy” means “love of Wisdom”


Post #1:


Philosophy, a Greek-in-origin word, means “Love of Wisdom;” (i.e., Philo/male //love of Sophia/female wisdom). Tantric Buddhist, and Daoist prayer masters, as seen in Chapters 3-4 of Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest, (Honolulu: 2015), consider this to be a universally shared spiritual insight, i.e., enlightenment means the union of male compassion with female wisdom. The Laozi explicitly states that Dao as female gestates or births the entire cosmos:


Ch. 42: 道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物; Dao (ie Wuwei Dao无为道) births One (Taiji- Youwei Dao有为道, intellect-judgment),

One births Two (yang, male, compassion, heart, will & desire);

these Two birth Three (Yin, female, wisdom, centered focus in the womb of the belly);

Three / Yin gives birth to the myriad creatures, and nurtures 1 & 2 with wisdom.


Tantric Buddhist sacred images, and the Hebrew Bible’s Song of Songs also symbolize Divine-Human love as a Yabyum female- male image of union. If the image is taken in a physical sense, as sexual union, all Daoist, as well as Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan Buddhist master refuse to teach the apophatic or “mystical union” aspect of prayer to the would-be disciple. We would suggest here, as a prelude to inter-religious dialogue for world peace, and a partial answer to the modern “no God” delusion, Daoist apophasis, as expressed by Zhuangzi 心斋坐忘,与道合一 — heart fasting – sitting in forgetfulness, leads to oneness with Wuwei Dao — can also suggest a model for peace bringing dialogue between religions, philosophers, and politicians. Dialogue based on Laozi’s Ch. 67, love, mutual respect, and inner peace, act as a guideline for apophasis, mind and selfish heart emptying prayer, is shared by all spiritual systems, as expressed in above title, Philosophy means love of wisdom.


Post #2:


Each of the statements made here below, can be applied equally to Judaic Kabala, Christian Dark Night Noche Oscura Mysticism, Islamic Sufi, as well as Daoist, Buddhist, and all human spiritual experience. When defined as a total body (not just mind) experience, wisdom is a “present to me right now” awareness. Philo-sophia (love of wisdom), is intuitive, i.e. a direct bodily perception, or awareness of Transcendent Presence, without the conscious1 interference of the intellect, will, or imagination. As the post-modern thinker Derrida explained in multiple works, the mind, which is per se past tense, and the will, which is per se future tense, must by their very nature lead to differance, lack of agreement, until such a time as self-only focused will, or mind stored judgments, cease to interfere with the perception of “Now” awareness.


The First of Nine Statements, which define Apophatic mysticism


  1. Wisdom is the result of an intuitive, non-judgmental, “gut” perception of the immediate present. Wisdom, when used in conjunction with apophatic prayer, means the awareness of an absolute, transcendent, non-conceptual Presence (i.e., presence as now, a “resistance” to the laws of entropy and differance).2 “Now” presence cannot be classified in the way concepts are judged by the mind to “exist” or “not exist,” to be “true” or “not true,” to be desired or not desired — as when struck on the shoulder during Zen meditation, one says “ouch!”


Post #3


  1. Absolute Being,” in the 9th chapter of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, is a verb; the Greek verb twe’ivai, “The To Be” cannot be predicated of a noun, i.e., it is not a time-limited, sense processed, mood changing, entropy-ruled, mental concept or image. Being as a word exists only in the mind. When wisdom is awakened, the mind sees external things without subjective “differance,” the influence of emotional feelings, subjective meaning, pre-conceived mental images or volitional desires. Wisdom therefore exists only in the “now” of the present, without mental or emotional attachments. It is protected by the principle of “resistance” from any kind of pre-conceived judgment, as explained in the works of Katherine Bell, in responding to Derrida’s “differance”).


  1. Concept and Word, as they exist in the judging mind are always past tense. (In Caucasian, as well as Buddhist and Daoist philosophy systems, words are conceived after passing through the five senses). Anything in the mind is “per se” past tense. The act of willing or desiring something, on the contrary, always looks towards the “future,” i.e., something not yet obtained.


  1. Wisdom as such, unlike pre-conceived judgment or willed object, exists only in the “now” present. Intuition is prior to logic, or judgment-derived analysis. As such, wisdom is unhindered by prior judgmental meanings, or desires affixed to words.


Post #4


-(Corollary 1): Languages which “decline” nouns and “conjugate” verbs, can slow down, even hinder, by logic derived pre-judgment, the forming of intuitive, wisdom based, “now” perception.


-(Corollary 2): Languages based on relational position in a sentence (patterned) structure, rather than declined and conjugated grammar, may, in practice, be less inclined to misjudge spatial, human, or nature relationships, and more likely to value and respect human feelings over culture-and-language defined words/concepts.


-(Corollary 3): Dialogue is hindered, even disrupted, when focus is put on past, negative experiences, or culture-defined social values; but is enhanced when human sensitivity, mutual respect, and spiritual experiences are shared in the present.


Post #5


  1. “Being” as predicated of sense perceived objects (Heidegger’s das sein), is not the same being as Aristotle’s tw’ e’ivai “The To Be,” i.e., a non-limited, non-conceptual, absolute, noun-transcending presence. Modern and post-modern philosophy is not wisdom based, but depends on logical and conceptual interpretation of a favored philosopher’s thought processes. Subjective word usage, cultural values, and attachment to personal feelings, hinder peaceful dialogue between philosophers as well as religions. All mentally conceived images, theist or atheist, must, per se, be subject to the law of “differance,” i.e., time/space limited judgments and analyses, altered or colored by the emotions and mental preconceptions of the person who visualizes them.


Post #6


  1. Science and mathematics, on the other hand, are not limited or constrained by cultural or emotional aspects of language. Mathematics, by nature and definition, is confined to, and exists totally in the imagination (the ability of the mind to create numerical, geometric, trigonometric and calculi relationships). –Science and the “scientific method” depend upon the ability of the “critical” (concept and judgment forming) mind to hypothesize or create a theory to explain perceived phenomena, -by measuring weight (chemistry) or speed (Physics) of sub-atomic particles. (cf., David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London-New York, 1980-2007).


– Corollary 1: Scientific theory can be expressed and enhanced by mathematical formulae. Thus science, unlike philosophy, history, or literature, is not constrained by what Derrida calls “differance” i.e., social value, or emotion ruled language. Mathematical formulae can be used to “validate” scientific theory, and are self-resistant to “differance.

Corollary 2: The object of Physics is to measure the speed of mentally conceived particles, and their mentally designated qualities. Such “time and place” judgment of particles are relative to, and causally altered by the scientist who observes them. (Bohm, p. 93-122; i.e., Neils Bohr’s discussion of the “Einstein, Rosen, and Podolsky paradox”).

-Corollary 3: Chemistry, through sense-derived evidence, measures perceived particle weight, and hypothesizes the structure of imperceptible sub atomic particles.


Post #7


  1. Science hypothesizes on the nature or essence (`o ti tw eivai, the “what” it is to be) or essence of external things, by measuring quality, quantity, (motion, and weight) of mentally conceptualized, sub-atomic particles. Mathematic formulae derived from these measurements are used to express, help describe, and measure mentally perceived phenomena. All scientific hypotheses may be applied or discarded in as much as they are useful to explain sense perceived reality. All scientific hypotheses (unlike social humanities) can be discarded or changed as seen appropriate by future measurement based discoveries.


  1. Scientists cannot by reason of science-derived knowledge, make judgments about the existence or non-existence of anything outside of perceived quality and quantity of laboratory-controlled evidence. If a scientist chooses to be an atheist, agnostic, or a “believer” in any form of religion or spiritual practices, these choices cannot be attributed to “science.” Belief in God, a transcendent “Absolute,” or a no-word non-conceptualized “Dao” (Tao), cannot be proved or disproved by measuring data derived from, or viewed by the five senses, or concept limited judgment. (C.f., Francis S. Collins, The Language of God, (New York, 2006), pp. 161-167, pointing out the scientific fallacies of Richard Dawkins’ “evolution disproves God” hypothesis).


Religious leaders, however, owe a great debt of thanks to Dawkins, Harris, and other intellectual leaders, who point to the immense distrust, scandal, and offensive behavior, due to wars, killings, and “inquisitorial” disapproval, that have destroyed all credibility to the original Christian message of love, forgiveness, healing, and peace.


We note that some modern western Sinologists also deny any absolute meaning to the word Dao/Tao in Asian philosophy (wisdom) systems, a necessary corollary to the logically and rationally limited, western approach to the meaning of Asian philosophy. This is partially due to the fact that college teachers are constrained to “make sense of,” or simplify, for lower division students, what was to the Asian philosopher something intuitive rather than deductive. The fear of accepting an absolute is a strong deterrent to the “humanist” mind, which might otherwise be constrained to adopt a spiritual attitude to reality, abhorrent to those who claim agnosticism to be scientific.


Post #8


  1. Modern Philosophy, unlike science, is limited by differance i.e., the constraints of language when in practical use. The word “philosophy,” which once meant “love of wisdom,” has since the modern misunderstanding of Plato’s idealism and Aristotle’s limited realism, become a “choice of brand name,” or “agreeing with the teacher to get a grade of A,” rather than a love of wisdom, in the original meaning of that word.


Corollary 1. Philosophy in modern Indo-European languages is a logical development of mental and emotional attachment to words and their perceived meaning. That is to say, words, concepts, and cultural values determine what meaning, emotion, and value is given to the word used to name sense-mediated experience. Language, in practice, limits, confines, and restricts what can be conceived and subsequently explored and discussed in philosophy. Cultural values as well as beliefs limit what can be accepted or discussed, by modern and post-modern religion vs. science writers.


Corollary 2. The limits of choice: words used to express modern philosophical reasoning are limited by the choice of one or another “favorite” thinker, whose eccentric, highly complicated thought system becomes more famous the harder it is to understand. Thus, to choose idealism, in Platonic, Neo-Platonic, Yogacaric, kataphatic, post enlightenment, Hegelian, Kantian, Heideggerian, or any Indo-European format, is to logically limit the mind as to how reality is perceived. The philosopher becomes emotionally attached to her/his favorite system, and places all others in adversarial confrontation. Philosophical analysis is thus made subject to the laws of “differance,” which, in effect, means that the definition of a word’s content is deferred or subjectively altered, by each language user, whose cultural values, and emotional experience, color all logically perceived concepts, until such time as there are no more minds to perceive, or philosophers to define, the meaning of words.


Corollary 3. Instead of dialogue, “individual experience” based philosophy, and its teachers, promote monologue, by the acceptance of random disciples and students, whose goal ceases to be that of philosophy, but becomes instead an endless attempt to make sense of, be loyal to, or interpret what the master (the philosophical “gate keeper”) has expressed in complex, vague and unclear forms of writing. Lack of concise expression and lack of clarity thus become the hallmark of modern philosophical writing. Hermeneutics, or the interpretation of obscure texts of philosophy, theology, and humanities for college students, becomes “heuristic,” i.e., using less complicated and less obscure spoken language, as a necessary tool for testing and grading auditors of university lectures and publications, whether in Indo-European or any other modern language. Belief further limits objectivity in textual, and therefore scriptural (biblical) exegesis. (Paperback studies of Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida, and Heidegger, try to analyze, and assist non-expert readers comprehend the complexity of “post-modern” thinking).


Post #9 “The Philosophy of Intuition”

The philosophy of intuition promotes philo-sophia love of wisdom — also called enlightenment, or “now-awareness” in its archetypal sense, i.e., distinct from personal preferences, self-chosen logic, and the modern science is infallible mode of thinking. Meaning is thus freed from personal perception, pre-conceived meaning, or emotional preference of the reader/hearer/thinker .

To establish a philosophy of wisdom, we begin with an examination of three stages of the human thought process, as conceived in the Chinese (Daoist) philosophical system. The human condition (what it is to be human) includes three powers, 1) the power of mind to ponder what is in the past); the power of the heart to will & love, which is in the “future,” ie, not yet attained, and 3) the function of the “gut” or belly (lower cinnabar/meditation field) to perceive presence of the “now,” through non-mediated, intuitive awareness.


Post #10 Comparative Spirituality


We recall the mind-body based action of the Ignatian system, (see MYSHOP, Ch. 2), which teaches a form of kataphatic or “sacred art image” prayer, by using the total body, ie, intellect, will, and senses in unity. Ignatius wants the contemplative to touch, feel, hear, smell, and be totally moved by the image of Christ seen in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the Spiritual Exercises. A similar purpose is seen in the powerful images of the Tibetan Buddhist, and Daoist iconographic system, consciously placing sacred images into specific places within the meditator’s body.


Though Western thought systems tend to overlook intuition in favor of mind and its judgmental functions, in the Ignatian as well as Tantric Buddhist/Daoist systems, “feeling” and “looking at” the sacred image is seen as a form of prayer leading to apophasis, i.e., “self-emptying” experience, after an “overload” of feelings, emotions, and attachment to sacred images. Only after emptying out all images, even of the sacred, is intuitive awareness of Absolute presence possible.


Post #11


The Daoist awakening of the human power of intuition is not simply a power of the body or “soma” as the Greeks once put it, to “feelings” and sensuous appreciation. It is quite the opposite of all self-fulfillment, feelings, attraction, or image grasping. The intuitive powers, Daoist and Tantric masters teach, can only be awakened or invoked when the heart-mind is fasting 心斋 and the judgmental will is forgetting 坐忘。 When mind’s conceptual images are darkened, and heart’s attachments emptied, only then can one be intuitively aware of, and one with Dao/nature’s changes and absolute presence, before concept and will imposed limitation.



Post #12 The Teacings of Zhuangzi (Zhuang-tzu)

The ancient philosophy of intuitive wisdom is described by Zhuangzi as experience-based, i.e., in physically exact terms: Xin zhai, zuo wang, 心斋坐忘 …yu Dao ho yi 与道合一 Fast in the heart, sit in mind’s forgetting,” then be one with the Dao (nature as it is, before mental or volitional limitation).”


Entropy, i.e., the perceived deterioration of sub-atomic particles, and the scientist’s inability to measure speed and weight simultaneously, are related to scientist-as-viewer. The “speed of light” is a concept based on limitations of the mind to accurately define data in any other than mathematical equations, of observer- limited sense perception. The following are examples: -The speed of light is seen to increase when influenced by gravity, and slowed down by passing through a dense or translucent object. -The Mandelbrot algebraic expression of passing from near infinity to near negation (from near zero and back again to infinity) can be expressed in fractal color patterns. By digitalizing the time process in colors, a digital screen image is obtained of a cyclical pattern. Printed out, cyclical time becomes a 2 dimensional, “linear” (thus not a reality experienced) image.


-The translation of Mantra, or other sound based traditions, such as the ancient Egyptian into Ptolemaic Greek, or Siddham Sanskrit into English or Chinese meaning, is not allowed by the Acharya Tantric masters; Mantra remain effective only in their original Siddham pronunciation. -Thus, the Tantric Masters of Tendai, Shingon, and Tibetan Buddhism, demand that the “seed word” sound not be translated, but pronounced in as near to the original tone, as possible. Chapter 4 of MYSHOP shows that the image is changed into a visible seed word, (Om, Ah, Hum), the seed word into a sound, then a color, and finally implanted, or made to resonate in a specific part of the body. The efficacy of Tantric practice relies on passing from sound, to image, to “planting” within the body, and then to emptiness.


Post # 13


-From any spot in the universe, scientists see the cosmos to be expanding infinitely outward and away from the viewer, in all directions. Certainty of this fact is best expressed in mathematical, not conceptual or logical terms. Linear time can therefore be defined as a fiction of the senses’ inability to perceive change in any other form than “before” and “after.” Sub-atomic particles are temporary names given to particles so minute that the scientist’s definition is at best enlightened guesswork, a judgment made in order to be proven wrong by further sense mediated experience, or experiments in limited, observation controlled, “altered by controlled laboratory” conditions.


-The philosophy of intuition does not define the beginning or origin of the world as a “singularity” in time, but recognizes circularity, a cycling process of ending and beginning, expanding and returning, again and again. The very notion of “creation” or “gestation,” in Daoism, is sheng to give birth. Daoism further sees Immanent Dao as a female giving birth to the visible world, whereas the Transcendent Dao (non-being) is nameless, unable to be conceived or predicated.


Post #14


-Since being as perceived is per se limited to a word or image in the mind, it is erroneous to generalize from a “scientific” theory, i.e., the beginning of the world as a “big bang,” or the ending of the world in a “black hole in space,” to an outside-of- time, mental image derived absolute. Whether linear or cyclical, material or spiritual, static or moving, an image of a being derived from the five senses and linguistic concept, cannot be an absolute transcendent. Just as Mandelbrot equations produce fractals from near infinity to near extinction, and back again, in an endless array images, so the human mind produces an endless array of Divine images, prompted by belief systems, sacred scriptures, cultural and linguistic generated belief systems. Absolute being itself cannot be perceived, envisioned, or willed to be present.


-By the same token it is illogical for a scientist to prove or disprove the existence of an “absolute” God, a mental concept of a “creator of all things.” Proof based on a sense and concept limited, pre-defined notion of “cause” and “effect,” “first” and “last”, cannot be predicated of an absolute being. An absolute, whether called das sein, or tw eivai) is a mind conceived, not a real object. Only the philosophy of wisdom (immediate, non-mediated presence) can be invoked, to be aware of the “absolute” or non-image, “eternal Being’s” – Presence. The act of being is not a noun, but a verb, an insight lost on the language limited mind of Heidegger, in trying to explain “Das Sein” from the intuition based Greek verb used by Aristotle, “tw’ `eivai(the “to be”).


Post #15


-The Daoist philosophy of intuition is based on the triple power of the human mind/spirit/total body to know, will, and be immediately aware of (intuit) presence. The powers of the human mind, by contrast, are limited to physical experience mediated through the 5 senses, i.e., relative measurements of linear and cyclical time. They are defined as follows:

1) the power of the mind to know what exists as real or imagined, depends on a process from sense-to-mind perception, and then naming. Knowledge, once named, exists per se only in past time. I.e., word expresses a perceived, conceptualized image which comes into mental awareness of the mind only after it has been perceived as an external object, mediated by the five sense, conceptualized, and named. To the Daoist philosopher, all concepts and words are therefore by nature and definition in linear “past” time with relation to the now of the perceiver. Only after the “past tense,” prejudged knowing mind is quiescent, can there be an opening to intuitive “now” awareness of the present moment.

2) The human will, on the other hand, has as its object only those things which are desired in the linear future. A good thing once attained, is in the present; it is no longer “willed,” but rather is contemplated as present. Thus the human will is oriented to linear future. Only when will is quiescent, can there be an intuitive awareness of the “now” as it is, freed from pre-conceived judgment or desires.

3) The power of intuition is based on the awareness of an immediate “now.” It is not subject to the law of “differance”, because intuition is prior to concept, judgment, or will’s distortion. Intuition is strengthened by the law of “resistance” to the intellect’s need to judge “good and bad,” or yield to desire. External things, when presented as an immediate “now” experience, are of themselves absolutes, i.e., resisting conceptual limitation and acquisitive desire. A refined expression of this self-distancing from judgment, or willed possession can be found in the Japanese sense of “sabi” and “wabi” (distancing) used in the process of aesthetic awareness. (See Ch. 4)

-Note that the appetites of the body to eat and drink, avoid pain, stay warm or cool off, be physically attracted to or repulsed from external objects as “beautiful” or “repulsive” or “dangerous,” are intuitive impulses. They are not yet limited by post conceptual “subjective wording,” i.e., not yet conditioned by cognitive judgment or volitional choices. Thus, I can choose an ascetic path and not fulfill my desires to eat, or give up my food so my children can eat, or turn to care for the beggar or outcaste, all of which are human choices after the process of cognition and volition. But in the case of animal instinct, the desire to give up food or drink for the offspring, mate, or drive away danger, are automatic, to preserve the helpless offspring, or other survival driven instincts. Intuition, on the other hand, looks for the good of the other without reference to selfish good or desire. Whether seen as a desire for good (even the highest good), or evil (to harm another in any way), the human will in and of itself is a hindrance to wisdom/intuition. It is destructive of the very “mystical” or “apophatic” experience of Presence.


Post #16: apopahatic spirituality in practice


-The mystic’s apophatic experience finds the willing of good or bad, the pursuit of virtue or sanctity for the self, as a hindrance. It is an act of selfishness, even irrelevant, when experiencing the reality of absolute presence. Only by an act of intuition is the human person practically (or existentially) aware of presence. Wisdom is valid, as long as it is detached from, i.e., not limited by emotions, cognitive judgment, or self focused desire.


`Apophatic prayer experience is awakened, when viewing sights to which there can be no attachment, such as charnel fields, an image of something that cannot be willed (i.e., is repulsive), e.g., the Ignatian 1st and 3rd weeks of the Spiritual Exercises, or Machig Labdron’s meditations in places of death and carnage. Living with the poor and outcast, avoiding human praise and attention, thus become a means to continual awareness of Absolute presence. By stopping 止 zhi the self-oriented will, and forgetting 忘 wang the image filled mind, all obstacles to the prayer of contemplative union (awareness) are removed.


-The actual process of intuitive awareness through contemplation, (placing oneself in the presence of an Absolute, while maintaining the cessation of mental images and willed desires), must be taught orally by a master teacher, in Asian-in-origin prayer. Tantric visualization, “Zen” meditation, Pure Land Chant, and Daoist (belly focused) meditation, treated in Chapters 3 and 4, are examples of such systems. The cognition- volition- intuition trilogy, is shown here by means of a graph, which illustrates how cognition (the forming of concept and word), will (the moving towards acquiring or rejecting objects presented by the word biased intellect) and intuition (direct apprehension of objects without verbal judgment or willed desire) are enhanced through awareness of different parts of the human body. (For a Daoist philosophy of Intuition, see Chen Yingning, Daoism, Cultivating the Way and its Path, 1953; 1988; 2000). In Daoist philosophy, the mind is the seat of Qi 炁 life breath; the heart houses the will, and “soul-spirit” shen 神; the solar plexus governs feelings and (jing) intuitive “now” awareness: The three-fold human activity of cognition, volition, and intuition, are three separate activities. Focusing on one or another of these activities lessens or “turns off” the efficacy of the other two. The power of intuition is lessened by mental activity, and negated by the acquisitive, self-focused will. Daoism further locates spiritual activities in specific parts of the body. Intellect, and “Qi” life energy govern the mind, (“upper cultivation field”). Will, soul, emotions, by the heart (central cultivation field) and the other organs of the chest (see below). Intuition, wisdom, direct perception is enhanced by focusing on the lower solar plexus, the “lower cultivation field.” Compassion is seen as a male figure in the heart, and wisdom as female in the womb or belly.


Post #17: The above teachings illustrated by charts:


1. THE HEAD (Upper cultivation Field, controls Qi, concept, image)The upper cultivation field unifies sensory perception, and forms concept/word/judgment)Step One:                   _____ Step Two:                         _   Step Three:_____

eyes……see……..             Sensory acts of the brain                    > mind-intellect uses up    

>“Qi” life energy when

Ears…….hear…..             i. Imagination,_                               >judging; “yes” or “no;”

ii. sense memory.     (i.e., as                 > the mind creates

.         helpful or harmful).                   > Mental images, with

nose……smells.     .                                                             > intellect assigned word;

>lastly, the mind

mouth….tastes..         iii. “Common” Sense, i.e.,               > judges “Yes,” “No,”

.       feelings, “like” or “dislike”       > “accepts” or “rejects”



(N.b., the sign “>”means that intuition is not at work after this symbol).



            2. THE CHEST: The Five Central Organs of the Body(The center cultivation field, holds “shen,” the spirit-soul part of the body)1. The heart, ruler and lord over the body’s needs and desires, is the seat of Will, love, and hate. The central cultivation field color is bright red for love, dull red for hate);

2. The liver-gall, source of renewing vitality or sickness/anger. It has a bright green aura for vitality, dull green for sickness and unrequited anger;

3. The lungs, source of uplifting ease or “heavy breathing” worry; it has a bright white aura for uplifting joy, dull white for death;

4. The kidneys, source of creative joy, or sadness; they have a bright purple aura for creativity, dull blue for sadness;

5. The stomach-spleen:,”gold” is source of positive healing; dull yellow, or negative judgments, cause ulcers.

they have a bright yellow/gold aura for healing; dull yellow for ulcers-worry)


(Note that intuition is not at work while the heart is willing good for the self. Daoists use color meditation to heal the five organs, changing dull to vibrant colors).























  1. The Lower cultivation field, belly’s center

(Locus of jing, intuition-awakened powers)








  1. The Belly

The masters of Daoist meditation and Buddhist Zen teach that when the mind focuses on the “Lower cultivation field,” the center of gravity in the lower solar plexus, it becomes much easier to forget the images and worries projected by mind’s images, and heart’s desires. Only then we become aware of the external world and its needs. Intuitive Wisdom is present when the person on a spiritual path becomes totally given over to compassion, aware of external as well as internal presence. Wisdom and intuition are therefore focused in the belly. The source of wisdom in the belly is seen as the female Dao, i.e., a spinning girl, eternally weaving forth and restoring “Qi” 炁 creative energy, and circulating it upward to the heart and the brain. (See illustration below, Spinning Girl and Cowherd Boy. The Cowherd boy is seen to reside in the Heart, where he is eternally pasturing an aging Ox, the sign of compassion. Daoist legend says that the two young lovers are only allowed to unite as husband and wife once a year, on the 7th lunar month, 7th day, when “compassion” and “wisdom” come together, to re-charge the cosmos by the union of their spiritual conjugal love. Like the experience of apophasis – union, the gods and keepers of religion only allow this to happen rarely, at most once a year, “lest clerics, monks, and priests become useless, when believers are absorbed in prayer of apophatic union.”


Post #18 Daoist image of Female gestating Qi from the belly


The Spinning girl, symbol of wisdom,

and of the female Dao, eternally spins

forth “Qi” primordial breath in the belly.

The cowherd boy, in the heart, symbol of

compassion, keeps his heart and mind in

eternal focus on the Dao, through the 7

Stars of the Big Dipper (always pointing to

the center of the northern heavens). This

ancient wood block print is used by Daoist

masters to teach inner alchemy meditation.(3)




The philosophy of intuition therefore teaches that wisdom and/or apophatic prayer are only possible when mind and heart are quiet, by focusing on the locus of immediate awareness, the lower body’s center of gravity the solar plexus. To do this one must be xinzhai heart fasting, and zuowang sitting in forgetfulness, i.e., freed from mental judgment, desiring, and conceptual image. One becomes “one with” the absolute, whether inwardly as the wuwei 无为non-act, the non-being, non-worded Dao (Word and act-Transcendent Dao), or externally as the yuwei 有为 female Dao birthing everything, all the myriad creatures, to the ultimate edges of the universe.


Post #19


Many modern scholars deny the transcendent or spiritual meaning of wuwei 无为 Transcendent Dao. But in so doing, it must be pointed out that this Caucasian-language based bias, though predictable in the post-modern agnostic context, runs contrary to all of the earliest and later commentaries on the 5000 character Laozi, Daode Jing, from the near contemporary book of Chuang-tzu (Zhuangzi), and the early Heshang Gong 河上公commentary, to the deeply spiritual and moving work of the Song dynasty Daoist master Bai Yuchan, (which has been translated with great depth and feeling into Italian by Alfredo Cadonna). The philosophy of apophatic intuition is the basis for early, as well as later Daoist prayer and inner cultivation.




The Philosophy of intuition is based on the threefold power of the human condition to: 1) intuit presence (i.e., any presence, immediate awareness of an external thing, or an Absolute). Note that any given, pre-judgmental, external thing is an absolute by its very immediate presence, though it may be in a state of “differance” i.e., decay, or “resistance” growth when seen through the 5 senses and intellect; 2) the power of the intellect to know and conceptualize the nature or “what it is to be” (`o ti tw eivai) or nature of the thing presented by immediate awareness, and name that thing by means of a language limited word/concept; and 3) the function of the will is to acquire or reject the thing for the self, or give the thing away out of compassion for the other.


The prayer of apophasis occurs when the power of concept and judgment are diminished or darkened (sitting in forgetfulness), and the self-seeking will is curbed or turned off (heart-fasting). At this point the intuitive powers of wisdom, quiet awareness of “now” presence, are dominant. A further corollary of this condition is the occurrence of what scientists once called “alpha state” in the brain, the gestation of melatonin and refreshing of the body, slowing of the aging process, healing of bodily ills, and other quieting, health giving effects in the human psyche. These effects are not the reason why the prayer of apophasis is undertaken, but occur when it is practiced. Other causes and conditions not intervening, recluses and hermits (Tibetan monks and nuns, Daoists, monastics, hermits, Sufi and other kinds of practitioners), who practice apophasis, often live long and healthy lives, unless killed for their beliefs, and maintain an aura of refreshing peace and joy, through adversity.


Daoist Yin Yang cosmology provides a “Theory of Everything,” (“ToE”) as a proto-scientific way of approaching the absolute origins of an evolving (vs linear) cosmos. Western modes of science, Newtonian gravity for the visible cosmos, relativity theory for the macrocosm, Quantum mechanics for the invisible microcosm, (and more recently “Big Bang” and “string” theory) are each valid within the conceptual sphere. All are based on linear concepts of time, deriving from ancient Greek cosmology. When in scientific as well as spiritual dialogue, South, and East Asian traditions suggest multiple ways of looking at reality. The head focused in the Past, and heart in the Future, are balanced by the intuitive belly, where wisdom and “now” presence (the beginning of life) are finally awakened. (4)


Michael Saso       Summer Solstice, June, 2015


Post #20 Illustration and footnotes


The Turfan Sufi Mosque; Gobi/Taklimakan desert

(Where Sufi masters meditate in huts on the roof)













Endnote 1. By using the word “conscious” in the definition of self focus vs. intuitive wisdom, I mean the awareness of the ego as ego, making a judgment with reference to the self, as opposed to awareness of the thing present to intuition, apart from ego focused memory, feelings, or prior judgments


  1. The late Religious Studies scholar Catherine Bell, in her ground breaking studies on “Ritual,” pointed out that the word “differance,” created as a tool to fuel the prolific monologues of Jacques Derrida with regard to the subjective time/space relativity of the written or spoken word, is tempered by a second equally important term, “resistance,” whereby the thing itself “resists” misinterpretation by its very presence. “Difference” becomes dialogue through the use of “resistance.”


  1. The Daoist chart of the human body shows a central heart-belly focus during inner alchemy meditation. Woman is wisdom, man compassion, in Daoist as well as Tantric Buddhist imagery and visualization.


  1. The recent publication by Livia Kohn, “Sitting in Oblivion”, (Three Pines Press: 2010), is an excellent work in English to understand and practice this moving text of Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu) Ch. 4.
May 222015

Images from the neolithic SanXing Dui 三星堆site, near Chengdu in Szechuan province

The book “Art as Sacred Encounter” has 9 main sections, ie, neolithic 3000 BCE-1700 BCE, 3 chapters; Shang-zhou (1700-207 BC; Han dynasty thru Song dyn dynasty China (207 BCE-1281) 3 chapters; Korean gilded bronze, 5th-6th c; Tibetan Tangkha & statuary; and Japanese art (700 -1890) also in 3 chapters. Two appendices are added, China’s minority peoples’ art, and Joe Singer’s intaglio prints of Hawai’i Heiau sacred places, All of the sections can be ordered separately, as well as bound together in one volume. These “kataphatic” images are presented as a complement and contrast to the “apophatic” (no image) forms of spiritual practice found in the 1st volume, “Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest (MYSHOP)”; a 3rd volume will discuss the field work, on-site experiences, and travel to the places where the art was produced, a chronicle of the trips made with my students to China, Japan, Tibet, and SE Asia. I am grateful for any comments, suggestions, or improvements of what is written in explanation, since, as our very first spiritual advisor, (Master of Novices) Fr “Dutch” Seeliger SJ, “We learn by standing on the shoulders of the Giants who precede us.”

I would also like to quote from Teresa de Avila and Juan de la Cruz’ teachings, about how we must use sacred images, and no images, as steps to what Laozi and Zhuangzi define as “Union with the Transcendent Wuwei Dao” :

Teresa de Avila, “The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so do that which most stirs you to love” (The Interior Castle).

Juan de la Cruz, “My Beloved is the mountains and lonely wooded valleys… silent music sounding solitude;” (The Spiritual Canticle).

With regard to rejecting or accepting others’ thoughts & writings, Juan de la Cruz also says: “Like the bee that sucks honey from all wild flowers, and will not use them for anything else, the soul easily extracts the sweetness of love from all things that happen to her, that is, she loves God in them. Thus, everything leads her to love…” And: “Conquering the tongue (and all negative judgment) is better than fasting on bread and water.”

Here are shown 6 images from the 3000 BCE Hongshan 紅山 archeological finds on the Hebei provincial border with Inner Mongolia.

Incredibly surprising in their richness and variety, they include shaman jade crowns, burial items made of jade in the form of human-animal or human-bird figurines, analogous to the wood block prints found in the early Han dynasty (200 BCE to 8 AD) Shanhai Jing 山海經which shows half human half animal-bird spirits that are thought to occupy and bless the natural world that surrounds humans. Hongshan jade figurines shown here come from the graves of the “noble” or ruling class; the graves of farmers of the same time period contain much simpler pieces of rough pottery; but all graves preserve images and figurines thought helpful to assist the “shen” or spirit, buried with the human remains, to ascend into the heavens, from which they can bless the living, when prayed to from the family ancestor shrine, and asked to intercede for their descendants.

The next set of images to publish, from a less known, but even more prolific site, called Liangzhu 良洙 (良珠), near Hangzhou in Zejiang province, south of the Yangtze river, preserves jade figurines with proto Yin-yang symbols, and characters carved in the jade, that precede the Shang dynasty Oracle bones. All of these images are a part of the forthcoming work “Art as Sacred Encounter,” which will be available on line as well as in print.

May 072015

Gu Wei Shu 古纬书.

In the transition from BCE Daoist apophasis found in the Laozi, Zhuangzi, and other writers in this rich tradition, the Han dynasty organizational policy to bring all schools into the jing warp and wei woof ( 經緯 jing-wei ) vertical and horizontal threads of the fabric of Chinese society and culture, the term fangshi 方士 or ritual experts in the outer 4 quarters (e, s, w, n) of Chinese cities and villages, was the name given to thoe who took care of the “rites of passage,” for Chinese families, ie what one does at birth, puberty, marriage, healing illness, death & burial; during he Han dynasty, the title fanghshi was changed to Daoshi 道师,道士, and classified under Daojiao 道教 Daoist teachings, rather than the upper class favoring Rujiao 儒教 Confucian oriented classics. The I-jing 已经book of changes, Liyi 礼仪book of rites, and especially the royal Mingtang 明堂 (宿启)rites performed 5x during the year to insure good crops and nature’s blessings, were always included under the Daojiao aka Fangshi village rites of passage and annual festivals; only Daoists aka Fangshi were trained to do this, because they, due to their ability to actually follow the teachings of Lao-Zhuang, were able to see, handle, manage, and protect humans from the spirit world.

The major problem with westerners understanding the role of spirits or the spirit world is the agnosticism that rules the very core of European in origin society, ie, “religion” is a belief in verbal doctrines, rather than a compassion and good works oriented system; true understanding and spiritual sensitivity are only possible after using Zhuangzi’s “heart fasting, sitting in forgetfulness” inner meditation practice. The kataphatic, ie “sacred art” way always purifies and precedes the apophatic “mind and selfish will” emptying practices. The Laozi is in fact a commentary on the I-ching (see the work ” 老子於易經“ 上海,有易书房,2004, ISBN 7-80678-229-x contact to purchase).

From the Tang dynasty onwards, Daoists were always appointed to the Board of Rites, because only they could perform the Mingtang 明堂 (aka 宿啟)rite correctly, for the emperor, in the “Temple of Heaven.” Daoist ritual texts do not translate properly into English, (French, Spanish, other Indo-European languages) due to the lack of true apophatic level spirituality, in scholars, as well as western clergy and religious leaders, with the exception of such mystics as Juan de la Cruz, Teresa de Avila, Master Eckhardt, Margeurite Porete’, Catherine of Siena; my forthcoming book, “Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest” (Honolulu: 2015, May) treats more fully of this subject.

Jun 012014

[purchase_link id=”0″ style=”” color=”” text=”Purchase”]

Nine Songs  Jiu Ge 九歌   屈原 by Qü Yüan (paraphrased interpretation)


1. King of the sky ( 东皇太一Dong Huang Tai Yi)”’

-Strike the Dark Strings

-Strike Strike, the dark strings;

-And reed & zither answer.

-Spirit moves, in splendid gear,

-And is the body’s wondrous shaman

-Through which a god may sing, and indeed does sing

-And strikes and strikes, that Darkest Bell

-Ah darkest bell, my body struck with love.


2. Lord of Cloud ( the cloud, 云中君 Yun Zhong Jun)

-Flower-spirit, shaman-child, in blaze of brightness dancing!

-Endless as the earth, She dances round it

-As do sun, and mantic moon!

-In dragon-chariot of the sun, O endless flight!

-Part of me climbs to heaven, through the Four Seas & seasons,

-Longing for you!


3. Lord of Sun (.. in the East 東君 Dong Jun)

-Lord Sun, wheels in flight,

-Trailing his spirit-garment, high over the Nine Hills

-He rules Yin & Yang, female & male,

-Shade & sunshine, soul & body

-A Yin for every Yang, galloping into space,

-I pluck the lovely hemp flower; my age creeps on apace,

-Soon all will be over; soon all will be done, all made one,

– Our fate is fixed in the heart!

-Not to draw nearer, is to drift forever, further apart.


4. Lord of Xiang-river ( 湘君 Xiang Jun)

-I build a bride-room underwater,

-Roof thatched with lotus, courtyard paved with murex

-At dark dusk I cross to the Western bank

-Here it was she cast down her thin dress upon the shore!

-Over the white nut grass, my eyes wander,

-See only water swirl in the flood rains.

-Someone says my loved one sent for me!

– I gallop my horses over the lotus leaves,

-Toward where a dragon waits, an elk browses,

-On the Mountain of Nine Doubts


5. Lady Xiang ( 湘夫人 Xiang Fu Ren)

-She-shaman princess, in a stone boat

-In a winged dragon-boat, awning of fig-vine,

-Sweet Iris paddles, magnolia rudder

– I ride to that Island, to that Bright Island

– Abode of light, where she swings her mesmere lamp,

– Her incense burner on a gold chain.

– She drops her thumb-ring in the Sea, and turning, turning,

– Stretches her body burning, toward me,

– though she told me told me she was not free,

-And flying dragons sweep her far away from me!

– I gallop my horse in the morning, through the lowlands by the river   ”’


6. Master of Fate (大司命 Da Siming)

-A glow in the sky, and soon you’ll arise!

-Night pales, Day shines forth;

-You ride on thunder wheels, cloud banners trailing,

-Heave great sighs, look back yearning,

-For earth’s beauty burning!

-Look and linger, forget your way,

-I draw a long arrow, and shoot Heaven’s Wolf!

-Then summon down the Dipper, and plunge alone into the White Void!


7. Young Master of Fate ( 少司命 Shao Si Ming)

-Hall full of lovely ones, yet you had eyes for me alone!

-Riding a whirlwind, a cloud for a banner,

-Suddenly you came, and as suddenly departed!

-And only had eyes for me!

-I bathed with you, in the Pool of Heaven,

– In a sunny fold of the hill, I dried your hair.

-Now it is I who shout & sing with despair!

-Under a chariot-awning of peacock feathers & halcyon flags,

-You climb again to the Nine Heavens!


8. Spirit of the mountains ( 山鬼 Shan Gui)

– The Mountain Spirit left me alone, dark in a bamboo grove;

-Air dark with rain!

-Monkeys twitter again, cry all night again,

-And cry and cry all night again,

-Waiting for you!

-I wander and linger, turn, and turn, and turn again,

– And won’t turn back!  And won’t turn back!


9. Count of Rivers ( 河伯 He Bo)

-“Without my beloved

-With you I wandered down rivers and coasts,

-River God, in fish-scale boat,

-Drawn by dragons, with griffin oarsmen.

-With you I wander on the river islands,

-Go with you as far as the Southern Shore.

-Dark dusk falling, and I too sad to think of returning!

-Eyes only for that farthest shore,

– I lie awake yearning!


(Two poems omitted: Spirits of warriors, and the concluding ritual).


May 212014

The Daoist Jiao Rite of Cosmic Renewal,   by Michael Saso

(revised, from the article submitted to the Journal of Daoist Studies)

The following analysis of Daoist jiao 醮liturgy is based on the oral teachings of Daoist masters in Hsinchu, Taiwan (1955-1976, 2008-2013), and Mainland China (1986-2013). The primary written sources for the rituals listed here were published in the 25-volume Zhuanglin Xu Daozang 庄林续道臧 (Taipei: Chengwen Press, 1972). A second volume, Dokyo Hiketsu Shusei道教秘诀集成 (Tokyo: Ryukei Press), containing the esoteric mijue oral teachings reserved for the use of Daoist masters, appeared in 1978. Audio and video productions of the entire jiao festival were made in 1969, 1972, and 1980. Readers may access them online, via YouTube, and the blogsite Printed source materials are also available in CD and DVD format, making once overly expensive sources readily accessible. On-going field research, continuing to the present day, brings a much deeper understanding of the role of women Daoists in the meditative and liturgical traditions of mainland China. Men and women equally share, and perform the Daoist rituals described in this article

The word jiao in pre-imperial China (before 221 BCE), meant the ritual offering of wine and incense to the invisible spiritual forces that govern nature (Karlgren 1923, #1065-66). When China was united under a single visible emperor, during the Qin-Han dynasties, concepts of the spirit world, internal cultivation, and “rites of passage,” were unified through the acceptance of Yin-Yang Five Phases陰陽五行 theory by the so-called New Text (Jinwen今文 ) school as governing the rites of passage (see Liji礼记, Yili义礼). The expression “three teachings, one culture” (sanjiao guiyi 三教歸一) was later used to describe this unifying of China into a single socio-cultural system. Confucian teachings (rujiao 儒教) codified ethics for human relationships. Buddhism (fojiao 佛教), imported from India and altered substantially in China, was successful only after it provided ritual for pacifying the souls of ancestors and other “daemon” spirits in the afterlife. Daoism (daojiao 道教) provided a ritual system to mediate changes in nature, and relations with the spirit world. Daoists, from the period of division (3rd – 6th c.) by imperial order were graded or classified into nine ranks of perfection, as were the grades given to officials in the Confucian mandarin system. Daoists of Grade Five and above (wupin 五品以上) were given higher grades because they were able to practice internal cultivation (neigong 內功) as a part of formal ritual observances (keyi 科仪). Daoists were not trained in neigong were given Grade Six (liupin 六品) or lower. The title of “Three-Five Surveyor of Merit” (sanwu dugong 三五度公) was, and still is, used to name Grade Six, and lower Daoists (Dokyo Hiketsu Shusei, p. 33b).

During the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), Daoists adopted jiao from Confucian liturgical sources and used it for a specific kind of “ritual of renewal.” Anna Seidel and various Japanese scholars, including Kubo Noritada, have attributed this phenomenon partially to the conversion of New Text scholars, rejected by the dominant “Old Text” (Guwen 古文) school of the Later Han dynasty to Zhengyi 正一or Orthodox Unity Daoism. The Hetu河圖 (River Chart) and Luoshu 洛書 (Writ of the Luo) texts of the apocrypha (gu weishu 古緯書) were among its original sources. They show a strong influence of the Yijing 易经 (Book of Changes) and the Laozi as well as their various apocryphal commentaries on (e.g., 有易,老子与已经) (see also Seidel 1983).

Three kinds of jiao rituals appear in today’s Daozang 道臧 (Daoist Canon): Golden Register Jiao (jinlu jiao 金籙醮) for village and temple renewal; Yellow Register Zhai (huanglu zhai 黃籙齋) for burials; and Jade Register Jiao (yulu jiao 玉籙醮) for imperial court and state rituals. Due to its colorful liturgies, Daoism was called the weft (wei 緯) and Confucianism the warp (jing 經), together forming the very fabric of Chinese society.

Confucianism, as the “warp” or vertical threads of Chinese society, provided the classical Chinese source for texts defining socio-political relationships. These texts were the basis for entrance by imperial examination into the upper strata of Chinese political bureaucracy. Daoism as the “weft” or horizontal threads of Chinese society provided rituals to keep people in harmony with cosmic changes and the seasons of nature. The four seasons, life cycles, and human connections with the invisible spiritual powers that affect us were the focus of Daoist ritual. Buddhism, imported from South Asia, provided subtle colors, painted on the surface of the Chinese social fabric, offering philosophical debates for the intellectual, and afterlife salvation for the masses. Thus, the phrase “three teachings one culture” defined China’s perennial culture.

The Daoist jiao ritual draws from all three of these Han-dynasty teaching systems to bless and renew Chinese family and village life, without any boundaries of social status, wealth, or political power. An analysis of the Jiao festival shows in fact a three-fold structure, which I term “A”, “B” and “C,” based on sources familiar to the people.

The Threefold Structure of the Jiao

“A” or Confucian shared rituals, derive from New Text models. They are used to purify the sacred ritual area, announce the coming of the Heavenly Emperor and his court, invite spirits to be present, present a memorial to the Heavenly Emperor, receive back an Imperial Rescript (shuwen 書文), thank the heavenly rulers, and send them off. Cooked, or ready to eat foods are used during the Jiao rituals, as offerings to the Heaven and Earth spirits, to be presented during their ritual presence.

“B” style chants, as also in Buddhist rituals, are called “texts of merit and litanies of repentance” (jingchan 经忏). They are used to free souls from the sufferings of an afterlife in hell or purgatory. As an aside, let me note here that, to the Chinese, only politicians stay eternally in hell; all others are released due to the prayers and merits of the living. Souls confined to the underworld receive raw, uncooked food, during the jiao, to be taken away, prepared in another place, after which they are “seen off” or freed to enter a Buddhist shared Pure Land.

“C” style rituals begin by acting out Laozi 42, “Dao brings forth the One; the One brings forth the Two; the Two bring forth the Three; and the Three give rise to the myriad creatures.” This ritual is called Dividing the Lamps (fendeng 分燈). Three lamps are lighted, one for each line of the 42nd chapter, thereby to celebrate the Dao’s gestation of all nature. Then, the Daoist master reverses this gestation process (huiyuan fangen回源反根). He or she proceeds from the “myriad creatures” of nature back to an audience with the transcendent Dao, by moving from nine, to five, three, two and one, from the immanent, gestating female Dao (youwei zhidao有为之道) to the eternal transcendent Dao (wuwei zhidao无为之道), which is neither “he” nor “she, without image or title.

To do this, the high priest begins by performing the ritual of the nine-stage magic square mandala of the Luoshu, called “Purifying the Altar” (jintan 禁坛). The rite closes the Gate of Demons in the northeast, and opens the Gate of Heaven in the northwest, applying imagery drawn from the Eight Trigrams of the Yijing.

Next, a five-stage circular mandala along the lines of the Hetu is physically and meditatively built in a ritual called Nocturnal Announcement (suqi 宿启) or Hall of Light (mingtang明堂). In this ritual, the five Lingbao Talismans are placed in five bushels of rice, while the Daoist master recites the Lingbao wu zhenwen 灵宝五真文 (Five True Writs of the Lingbao liturgy) and meditates on the five phases, thereby renewing the five inner organs of the human body and the entire cosmos. These rites are performed on the first day of the jiao.

On the second day, the Daoist high priest reverses the Dao’s birthing process, refining “Three-Two-One,” i.e., qi, shen, jing 炁神精, back into primordial chaos (hundun 混沌) or the state of the Great Ultimate (taijji 太極), the visible female Dao that gives birth to nature. These rites are called “Morning Audience, Noon Audience, and Night Audience” (caochao早朝, wuchao午朝, wan chao晚朝). The text and music of all three rites are analogous, but the internal meditation of the Daoist used during each rite is quite different, and may not be shared with scholars or laity who are non-Daoist in belief or practice or who promote or even mention the “bedchamber arts” (fangzhong 房中), or other actions considered immoral. The Daoist ordination manual used at Longhu shan 龙虎山, Gezao shan 阁早山, and Maoshan 茅山 states specifically that only those “pure in heart and mind” may be taught the third, “C” level of Daoist internal meditation practice (p. 33).


Rites in Sequence

In the Daoist esoteric (mijue秘诀) or orally transmitted (koujue口诀) system, the blue-green wood of the east and the red fire of the south are refined into primordial qi, here written as wu 无 with the fire radical huo 火underneath. The aura, which can be seen by those who actually know how to practice the ritual, produced in the Daoist’s meditation, is a deep purple, descending from the pineal gland, and stored in the lower elixir field (xia dantian 下丹田), i.e., the actual physical center of the Daoist’s body.

The earth in the center, taken from the “spleen,” is refined in the alchemical fire of the belly into a bright gold, primordial spirit (shen 神) and stored in the belly during the Noon Audience.

The white metal of the west and the dark water of the north, finally, are refined into primordial essence (jing 精) during the Night Audience. The master stores them also in the belly. He envisions purple qi as a shell enfolding yellow spirit and bright white essence in the physical center of gravity. This is located between the kidneys and lined up with the fifth lumber vertebrae, three inches below the navel. These meditations are described in the Qing-dynasty works of Liu Yiming 刘一明 (Liu Peiyuan 刘陪元), and still taught today at the Yuan Xuan Hui Yuan 原玄会院 in Hong Kong, as well as on  Longhu shan, Maoshan., and by the nuns of Wudang shan 武当山道姑 and Qingcheng shan 青城山道姑.

On the third and last) day of the jiao, the Daoist master meets the transcendent Dao in an “audience” (daochang 道場), which takes place both with within the sacred Daoist altar area (tan 坛) and in his personal wisdom center, the lower elixir field in the abdomen, also the physical center of gravity. During this ritual, the master meditatively sees primordial qi, spirit, and essence refined into the hierophant, a ruddy infant, and from there into the Great Ultimate. In the final stages of the meditation, all Daoist images are seen to burn off: nothing is left, except the unnamed, unseen Dao with whom the Daoist now has an “awareness-of-presence” audience. After this, a shuwen Rescript from the Dao of Heaven, which answers the people’s prayers, is carried into the sacred altar area. Here it is presented to the Daoist high priest by the deacon (dujiang 督讲). Next, the high priest dances the sacred nine-stage Steps of Yu (Yubu 禹步), rejoicing that the people’s petitions have been granted and the cosmos undergone full renewal.

On the afternoon of the third day, the high priest and his assistants further perform the Requiem (pudu 普度) rite for freeing all souls from the underworld. An effigy of Horse head Guanyin 马头观音is used to protect humans from unrequited souls freed from hell. The image is afterwards burned, together with folded gold and silver paper money, as a way of sending off the prayers and merits of the living, which will free all souls, bless humans, and benefit all nature. All images must be burned off or eliminated completely; all merit must be given away. Nothing can be kept for the self, lest the jiao ritual cannot succeed.

The jiao ritual ends with a rite to thank the spirits of heaven, earth, and the underworld and see them off. It is interesting to note that, from the Tang through the end of the Ming dynasty, the head of the Confucian Board of Rites, an official appointed directly by the Emperor, was always a Daoist who had both passed the Jinshi doctorate of Confucian classical studies and received a high “Grade Five” rank Daoist ordination. This is because the Hall of Light court ritual, which had to be performed five times each year, and the Daoist Nocturnal Announcement ritual used in the jiao, were analogous, if not identical. Only Daoists of Grade Five and above, from the Orthodox Unity, Clear Subtlety (Qingwei 清微), or Highest Clarity (Shangqing 上请) traditions were deigned spiritually and liturgically able and trained well enough to perform the classical ritual. The manner of performing the five basic jiao rites of renewal, i.e., the Nocturnal Announcement plus the audiences of  Morning, Noon, Night and with the transcendent Dao, may not be fully explained to scholars or non-Daoists, foreign or Chinese, by order of strict Daoist precepts. The Daoist transmits the internal meditation aspects of these rituals only to one son or daughter plus to one disciple during the week before his passing. [1]

Jiao Rituals Used by all Daoist Schools and Ranks (Grades Nine through One)

Fabiao 发表 announce — Qingshen 请神invite spirits — Jintan 禁坛 purify altar — Wuhong 午洪Noon offering  — Songbiao 送表 send off a memorial to the Emperor of Heaven — Shuwen 疏文 receive back a rescript from Wuwei Dao, answering the petitions; Xieshen 谢神 thank the spirits — Songshen 送神 see the spirits off


Jiao and Zhai Rituals Modeled on Buddhist and Other Shared Rituals


Nian wei gongde念为功德chant scriptures of merit  — Songchan recite litanies of repentance, including lists of Daoist and “shared” spirits’ names  — Fang shuideng 防水灯 float lanterns in a nearby stream or the ocean to send ancestral and other local spirits off to “western” heavens  — Pudu菩度or Pushi菩饰 “feed” the hungry spirits with raw food, asking them to take  the offerings away and cook elsewhere


Daoist Rites with Internal Meditation, Performed by Daoists of Grade Five or Higher


Jintan 禁坛 purify the sacred area, using the Luoshu or Eight Trigrams in the posterior heaven arrangement, then changed into the Prior Heavens format — 先天河图八卦 meditatively sealing the Gate of Demons (gan 乾) in the northwest, using the Qingwei Thunder-Vajra mudra and mantra (wulei shouyin zhouwen 五雷手印,咒文 ), then opens the Gate of Heaven in the northwest — he then performs the  Suqi宿启 / Mingtang明堂 rite, implanting the five Lingbao talismans into five bushels of rice, positioned in the five directions of the sacred area — after this, the Zaochao早朝, Wuchao 午朝, & Wanchao 晚朝  rites refine the five phases into primordial qi, spirit, and essence, the three principles of gestation and renewal, are thus sent to the lower elixir field —finally, the  Daochang 道场 internal alchemy meditation is performed on the morning of the third day, refining Dao into the transcendent Wuwei level, made present within — at this point the Shuwen 疏文, a  rescript from transcendent Dao is sent into the world — while using the Yubu 禹步 Steps of Yu to show joy in Dao’s birthing and renewing the cosmos. Inner alchemy is thus combined with ritual in the Grade 5 and above Jiao festival.



Saso, Michael. 2013. The Teachings of Daoist Master Zhuang, 3rd edition. Los Angeles: Oracle Bones Press.

Saso, Michael. 2014. Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest. Los Angeles: Oracle Bones Press, fall publication).

Seidel, Anna. 1983. “Imperial Treasures and Taoist Sacraments: Taoist Roots in the Apocrypha.” In Tantric and Taoist Studies, edited by Michel Strickmann, 291-371. Brussels: Institut Belge des Hautes Etudes Chinoises.



Mar 252014

Daoism, as taught by Daoists in China


(taken from MYSTIC, SHAMAN, ORACLE, PRIEST, (“MYSHOP”), CH. 3. Oracle Bones Press, copyright, Michael Saso, 2013)


Wisdom is like water. It resides in the lower meditation field, the belly. The head is for thinking; the heart for willing and desiring. The belly is the place for wisdom and contemplation. We “return” to Dao’s gestating presence, from the ‘inner womb’ of intuitive awareness. (Daoist Master Chuang, 3rd edition, 2012).


The history of Daoism in China is traditionally divided into four parts, or “four seasons,” spring (3000-221 BCE), summer (221 BCE – 906), autumn (906-1644) , and winter (1640-..until today).


During the “Spring” of Daoist history, what we call “Daoism” (Daojiao 道教)was seven separate streams of spiritual practice,  called Daojia, 道家 (schools of Daoism) which became a powerful river (Daojiao)– combining inner cultivation + ritual, during the summer of Daoist history. The seven separate streams of  Daoist “Spring” are:


Spring, 3000 BC to 221 BC, before the forming of Daojiao; see the” 道教源流“:

1. Apophatic or Wu-wei 无为meditation, based on the books of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu.

2. Yinyang Five Element cosmology,  阴阳五行的人生观, a Yu-wei  “visible Dao”

有为 (kataphatic), image filled system describing cyclical change in nature.

3. Neidan, 内丹inner alchemy, or meditation, uniting seasonal changes, colors, and

   unseen forces as visualized spirits within the interior organs of the meditator’s body.

4. Li Yi, 礼仪Ritual meditation, used to celebrate “Rites of Passage” and annual

change in nature. The founder of Celestial Master Daoism, Zhang Daoling, (ca. 145 CE),

based early Daoist rituals on the Monthly Commands (Yueling月令) chapter of the Confucian

Book of Rites (Li Ji 礼记), and the “Ancient Weft” writings (古纬书).

5. Fangshi方士, the ancient healers and ritual experts of fang rural villages and suburban

villages, and cities. Fangshi became Daoshi 道士or Daoists in the Han Dynasty.

6. Wushu, 武术 Martial Arts; the Taiping 太平 Great Peace Martial forms of Daoism,

evolved during the Han dynasty into multiple non Daoist physical formats, until today.

7. Yijing, 已经the Book of Changes, the earliest source of apophatic and

kataphatic prayer images, it is used in all later Daoist rituals and meditations.


These many sources became a great river called “Daoism” (Daojiao道教) of inner cultivation and festive rites of passage, during the summer of Daoism, from the Later Han through the Tang dynasties (145-906 CE), proliferated during the “Autumn” — Song through Ming dynasties (960-1640 CE), and hibernate in the “Winter” of Daoism, 1640 on:


-“Summer,” Han dynasty to the end of the Tang dynasty, 220 BCE-906 CE. The unification of 5 Daoist schools into a unified, hierarchical system: Zhengyi, Lingbao, and Shangqing (正一,靈寶,上清), then the later Pole Star and Thunder-vajra 北斗 - 雷法 ritual schools.

The first Celestial Master, Zhang Daoling, 张道陵天师received the Zhengyi Mengwei 正一盟威 经录 texts and registers (lists of spirits’ names, summons, and appearances) in the hills between Heming shan and Qingcheng Shan, Szechuan between 145-165; the school later moved to Longhu Shan in Jiangxi, where it remains until today.


The Lingbao 灵宝school, based at Gezao Shan in Jiangxi drew its registers and texts from the ancient Gu Wei Shu 古纬书writings, especially the Hotu and Luoshu chapters 灵宝派的科仪经录本与古纬书的先天河图,后天落书.The basic texts of the Lingbao tradition use the Hotu, ie the Xiantian prior heavens arrangement of the 8 trigrams, to renew Yinyang & the 5 element, in the macro-micro cosmos, by ritual and meditative “implanting” the Lingbao 5 Talismans and the Lingbao 5 True writs 灵宝五符,灵宝五真文 in the corresponding 5 directions in 5 bushels of rice, and the 5 inner organs. (1)

The Shangqing school, founded by a woman mystic Wei Hua Cun in revealed texts, was established at Mao Shan in Jiangsu province, commented on and expanded between 236 to 510 by male scholars and mystics  茅山 上请派本与女道师魏化存,黄庭内径,黄庭外经,上请经,等. The Shangqing tradition was summarized by the N-S period scholar Tao Hongjing in the early 6th century, preserved in the Zhengtong (Ming dyn.) Daoist Canon.

The Beidou Pole Star School, and the Qingwei Thunder-Vajra school 北斗经录,清微雷法经录 of esoteric nature, became a part of the Daoist Inner Alchemy Meditation, and liturgical tradition, during this time. The Thunder-Vajra system, revealed to the woman Daoist Zu Shu in the late Tang dnasty, was included in the Daoist Canon during the “Autumn” – ie, the beginning of the Song dynastic era.


-“Autumn,” Song thru Ming dynasties, 906-1644 CE; the “religious reformation” of China; emphasis on laity, local adaptation, and multiple “new” schools, such as Shenxiao, Lü Shan, 神霄,閭山,and monastic, as well as laity “Quanzhen” 全真七派 (7 schools) Daoism. The great Daoist master of south China, Bai Yuchan 白玉羼 helped to “rectify” and formally distinguish the later Shenxiao and earlier Qingwei schools in his canonical writings.


-“Winter,” Qing dynasty, and modern times, 1644 until today. Daoists were less involved in State affairs during the Qing dynasty and early 1911-1945 Republic, and then were made to withdraw from public life, after 1949. Daoist texts were burned, or hidden, due to official state disapproval. However, the 3rd millennium is witnessing a rebirth of Daoism throughout China and the overseas Diaspora. The ancient texts are being restored to their places of origin, and the use of “inner alchemy” contemplative prayer, with its outer expression in Daoist ritual, is once again being authentically practiced and taught by Daoist Masters.


The use of the inner, contemplative tradition with its outer expression in orthodox ritual, is more fully explained in The Teachings of Daoist Master Zhuang  (Saso, Oracle Bones Press: 2012), chapters 5 and 6, and Mystic Shaman Oracle Priest (Saso: 2013), for which see this blogsite,  (WordPress website).


(Footnote: orthodox Daoist rituals, which follow the meditative “return to the Wuwei Dao of Gestation” (回源反根) are listed and described in Ch 3 of Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest, i.e., as a progression from the Luoshu Jintan  nine stage mandala (8 trigrams with Dao in the Center), through the Hotu 5 Stage Suqi rite in which the 5 talismans are planted in the macro and microcosm, the 3 “morning, noon, and night Audiences” in which Qi, shen, and jing are refined respectively in the 3 cinnabar fields (shang, zhong, xia dantian), and finally Union with the Dao is achieved in the Daochang Zhengjiao, on the last morning of the Jiao ritual).禁坛 - 后天八卦,宿启-先天八卦(按灵宝五真文), 早朝炼气,午朝炼神,晚朝炼精(直觉),道场正醮炼无为之道-与道合真。This process must be learned from a Daoist Master (women equally with men), of Grade 5 ordination or above 授五品经录以上。The ordination manual of the 3 Mountain schools state specifically that Grade 5 and above can only be given to those who are pure in mind, heart, and body, i.e., do not practice “fangzhong” (芳中),celibate if a monk or nun, and loyal to one spouse, if married and living as “fireside” (home dwelling) with children. “Dao for dollars”, ie making profit from teaching Daoist registers and internal liturgical practices, is also strictly forbidden.

Self declared “Daoists” who charge money to “transmit their teachings” (as much as $800 a lesson by one self deluded “master”) are neither Daoist, nor spiritually/meditatively competent. Famous “masters” who teach the “Dao of Sex” (fangzhong), are rejected by all authentic Daoist Mountains and Schools of China. The mere mention or approval of actual, physical sexual practices means that Daoist and tantric Buddhist masters may not impart or teach any of the Zhengyi, Beidou, Qingwei, or Shangqing , as well as Tantric Buddhist inner meditations, summoning of spirits, or liturgies, to the person who “likes” or promotes “fangzhong.” Both Daoist and tantric Buddhist mijue manuals, as well as living, practicing masters (men and women), are very clear on this point; there are no exceptions. “True inner meditation and liturgical practices require celibacy of a monk or nun, and loyalty to one spouse if married.”  The western “hang-up” on sex, derived from the Neo-Platonic “body is evil” school, pervades all of Western Europe and the United States. It is precisely in these contexts that books of “sexual hygiene” sell so well.

Svaha.               (Heu me miserum,” to quote Virgil)



Dec 142013


            A Chair and course of studies dedicated to Comparative Spirituality, presented in outline form here, draws its inspiration from the plan crafted by the first Jesuits to enter China, Frs. Ruggieri, Valignano, and Mateo Ricci, used in St Paul’s and St Joseph’s university in Macao, between 1580-1762.  Updated in the 20th century by Fr Yves Raguin SJ, who founded the Ricci Institute, with branches in Taipei, Paris, Univ. of San Francisco, and Macao, the model was expanded to include Buddhist, Daoist, Islamic Sufi, Judaic Kabala, and Christian “mysticism,” defined as the experience of apophasis leading to the prayer of “union.” In the proposed curriculum of studies, the spiritual practices of these traditions are examined, and analyzed for analogous occurrence of apophasis, after contemplating sacred images, as a part of a process leading to “unity” or awareness of Transcendent Presence. The model is then used to analyze a widely chosen range of prayer models.

The Comparative Spirituality course is structured on St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, that is, the four steps or “weeks,” which Ignatius named the “Via Purgativa” (Purgative Way, or purification), “Via Illuminativa (the illuminative way, i.e., the kataphatic contemplating of sacred images), “Via Apophatica”  (emptying the mind of all images, even the most sacred, and the will of all desires, even for sanctity), and the final “Via Unitiva” or Unitive Way, leading to awareness of an Absolute, non-verbal, Transcendent presence.

There are many excellent sources for studying the comparative aspects of world religions, including the pioneering work of Huston Smith, and more recent studies of Karen Armstrong. Dr. Armstrong shows, for instance, that all religions share compassion as an essential element in spiritual practice. The University of Hawai’i Manoa Campus Religion Department has developed an undergraduate level program, leading to an M.A., that allows for equal and objective study of all major religions, with specialization in one or another preferred system, at the upper division (3rd-4th year), and M.A. levels. The Comparative Spirituality course proposed here requires the use of written source materials and extensive field participation in actual practice, to write a thesis, and receive the M.A. and Ph.D. a degrees.

A text book, entitled Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest (Saso: Los Angeles: 2014) has been prepared for guidance or classroom use during the Third Year upper division level. The course in Comparative Mysticism is offered after finishing first and second year level studies in the Sacred Scriptures, and spiritual practices of the major and less known world religions. The 3rd year course examines specifically whether apophasis or kenosis is experienced in the process leading to “union.” 4thyear, M.A. and Ph.D. studies include textual analysis with actual field experience.

A 5,000 book library of spirituality and sacred art, including Asian, Native American, and Middle East spirituality, is offered to the University or graduate studies program, which accepts and implements the Comparative Spirituality program. For library resources, and sites which can be used for field study and practice, see phone number (213) 595 5650 – office: 1433 James M Wood Blvd, LA, CA 90015

A practical outline for the program follows:

First Year course: “World Religions.”

Second Year courses: Sacred Scripture(s); Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Islam, Judaism, Shaman/Medium experience, other chosen religions/topics.

Third Year courses: the book Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest; and other Comparative Mysticism / Comparative Spirituality texts.

Fourth Year courses: a scholarly analysis of the texts (in original languages where possible) of the 2nd and 3rd year courses; e.g., Zen & Tantric Buddhism, Daoist ritual texts based on internal alchemy meditation; Islamic Sufi poet Farid ud din Attar’s Conference of the birds; Dan Matt’s works on The Zohar (Kabala texts); the works of Teresa de Avila, Juan de la Cruz, and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola; and other related textual sources.

M.A level thesis: choice of a specific text to analyze and practice, with extensive fieldwork, in consultation with an expert in the field, to explain the chosen meditation method.

PhD thesis, and oral examination; the choice of a topic in Tantric Buddhist, Ritual and Meditative Daoism, Sufism, Kabalah practice, Christian monastic or Hermetic traditions, or other selected discipline, with three PhD advisors, (one from outside the PhD granting university), completed after extensive field research and practice, and defended as a published or able-to-be accepted for publication PhD thesis (i.e., using the London University/European model).

Proposed by Michael R Saso, PhD

(001) 213 595 5650

1433 James M. Wood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

suggestions welcomed!  On line courses, a physical location or locations, additions, corrections.


Dec 142013

One of the most amazing parts of the Guadalupe festival here at Immaculate Conception parish, downtown LA. are the number of children who came to take part from as 4-5 am, 8:30 am (the entire school), and 7:00 PM! Click on this link Aztec Danza to see a video of the Aztec Dance performances by these amazing children.