Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Process of Integrating Truth

The process of spiritual learning requires something more than the standard method by which we are taught to learn.  The Sufis have said that in spiritual training, first "you must learn how to learn".

This is because we are used to processing knowledge by simply attempting to absorb knowledge as abstract fact. For most forms of learning, this is adequate: we can memorize facts, learn formulas for things from mathematics to kitchen recipes, intellectually analyze stories and songs and art.

But for spiritual learning it is not enough to simply 'know' something in that intellectual sense. We have to integrate spiritual knowledge as Truth, and this can only be done when we unite to that knowledge in our own consciousness.

If you simply study a spiritual system, like the I Ching, through intellectual analysis, this learning will continue to remain superficial, second-hand.  But the power of symbols is that they do not operate solely on the level of intellect, but also on the level of consciousness. Any given set of spiritual symbols, like those of the I Ching, can certainly be studied and comprehended through the level of the intellect; but to actually use them in cultivation practice (and not just theoretical study), the symbol itself must be integrated into the individual's consciousness. Unity between object and subject must be achieved, through the vehicle of Symbol.

The standard process of study separates subject from object; in fact, standard academia tends to venerate the quality of 'objectivity' in some forms of study, of keeping a certain amount of clinical distance from the topic of study.

But in spiritual learning, this is the process:

1. The object (of study) exists outside of the subject (the self).

2. On being examined experientially, the object has an effect on the subject.

3. The Symbol (that is, the concept/image/essence) of the object, is made present IN the subject's consciousness.

To "Learn", therefore, the student must repeat steps 1-3 over and over again.  This is an understanding by immersion, rather than deduction. Every time the process is repeated the integration has an effect on the student, as the symbol becomes more true in the consciousness of the student, and thus it not only becomes more understood, but also changes the student in the process.

Rather than separate subject and object, you must bring them together to attain understanding.

The ability to integrate symbol also depends on your level of attainment. As you proceed in meditation practice, in spiritual discipline, the development of Virtue, and also grow in knowledge and maturity through life experiences, you change as an Individual, and this allows you to change the extent to which you integrate symbol and the levels to which you can integrate (comprehend and be changed by) symbols. This is why spiritual teachings (including 'sacred' texts like the I Ching, as well as many others) can be read over and over again across different points in one's life, and seem very different from one reading to another, particularly if in the intervening period between one reading and the next you have grown through cultivation.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On the Nature of Ritual and Qi

The other day I posted a Youtube video related to the subject of ritual, in the context of the Bhagavad Gita:

Now, this video is not part of the Yi Fa Curriculum. But the subject of 'ritual' is very significant to the Yi Fa work.  As the video points out, ritual is not meant to be something done automatically, or even as such for some kind of ulterior motive: it is its own reward.

This brings to mind the question of 'what is ritual'?  We tend to think of ritual in terms of being some kind of ceremony meant for religious or magical purposes.

But in Chinese thought, ritual or "rites" (which is called "li") means not only religious ceremony, but also it encompasses all the notions of 'proper conduct'. It can be understood as including customs, manners, etiquette, 'proper form', etc.  We could call it "rules of art". It is tied to the Virtue of harmony; both in the sense of good harmony within our own being (balance), but also harmony with our world, our fellow human beings, and society.

Another of the Confucian Classics, aside from the I Ching, is the "Book of Rites".  If you look at that book, you will find that it is not some book of magical rituals, but rather a wide-ranging guide to all kinds of standards of etiquette and ancient customs (from the Zhou dynasty, the dynasty that wrote the I Ching).

In relation to Qi Gong, the practice of the forms of Qi Gong (including Yi Fa Qi Gong) are certainly a type of ritual. It is important to further clarify what this means in the context of Qi.  There are many people talking about the "Qi Gong" of other activities: how painting can be Qi Gong, or writing, or dancing, or all sorts of other things (even "Qi Gong Golf" or "Qi Gong Cooking").  In some cases, this is interpreted in some kind of very esoteric way, like as if you are doing some very special mystical technique. But this was not really the purpose of this concept, it is actually just the opposite.

Let's further define an intentional act, and a ritual act. In western esoteric magic, we are told that "any intentional act is a magical act", and that magick is "the art or science of causing change to occur in conformity to the Will".  We can thus surmise that any intentional act is an act where you are directing your will.  
So what marks the difference between an 'intentional' act and a 'ritual' act is that a ritual act is to direct the will within a certain form.  Any practice that has a technique is not only an intentional act, but a ritual act.  This is how to understand 'rites' in the context of Qi Gong. 

What this means is that if you get up in the morning and brush your teeth, and the practice of brushing your teeth is done in a certain way (you stand in front of the sink, you fill a glass, you lift the glass to your lips and slosh some water in your mouth, then spit it out into the sink; you grab your toothbrush, open the toothpaste, put a bead of toothpaste on the toothbrush, put the toothbrush in your mouth and scrub in a certain fashion going from one part of your teeth to another, then rinse your mouth again, wash off the toothbrush, etc.) then you can say that you have a "technique" of brushing your teeth.  But this is not a ritual, unless you are also doing it as an intentional act.  As soon as you are doing this exact same technique, just as you always did it before but now as an intentional act, it becomes the Ritual of Brushing Teeth.

It is the same with countless other things you do in your ordinary life. You have techniques for all sorts of ordinary things in your life. Often, these are done mechanically, specifically as a way to avoid paying attention while you are doing it; you can be on 'automatic' because of how familiar you are with these techniques.

In Qi Gong, Qi is a measurement of the direction of your Will. It is treated as a substance, and thus we understand Will not as some invisible thing or only a mental effect but as a part of our material existence. When we do anything as an Intentional act, we are directing Qi. So if we are doing some technique in a mechanical way, we are not directing Qi into these activities. But as soon as we do that technique in an intentional way, we are directing Qi into them: a mechanical activity becomes a Ritual activity.  This directing of Qi does not really require any special effort on our part aside from intention; just like in Yi Fa Qi Gong you do not need to do anything mentally to 'move' the Qi, it naturally happens just by performing the practices with intention.

If we are trying to brush our teeth, or paint, or play golf, or prepare breakfast or any other thing, through some technique, whether it is ordinary or somehow fancy or ceremonious or unusual, it is NOT Qi Gong, if it is mechanical.  But it can be said to be "Tooth-brushing Qi Gong" or "Painting Qi Gong" or "Golfing Qi Gong" or "Cooking Qi Gong" if we are doing it with a technique and form AND we are also doing it intentionally!

This is why I say people often understand it the opposite way of how it is intended: it is not about reciting some kind of mantra or visualizing something or doing some unusual movements or mentally directing something, while you are doing these ordinary things. It is about doing these ordinary things with order and structure, with harmony and balance, and with the Active Consciousness, with intent. The point is not to try to mystify ordinary activities, but to understand that that all sorts of ordinary things can be mystical, can be part of cultivation, simply by doing them consciously.

And we have to conclude, by this same reasoning, that it is not that Qi Gong is something separate from the ordinary, but very much part of the ordinary.  Our ordinary life does not need to be integrated into our cultivation practice; rather, our cultivation practice needs to be integrated into our everyday lives!  We do not need to separate ourselves from ordinary existence to find the magical, we have to unite our Will to the ordinary

There, in the Manifested, is where the Great Work is to be found.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Relationship Between "Spritual" and "Reality"

There is a great spiritual difference between spiritual teachings and religions that place the unmanifested above the manifested, and those that do not.  Just as there are materialistic philosophies which deny anything 'spiritual', there are also anti-materialist belief systems that deny the material in favor of something they choose to imagine as 'spiritual', separate from the material.

In ancient China, all three concepts existed.  There were strictly materialist philosophies that denied anything but the manifest, the "Yi-fa".  There were likewise many movements that wanted to envision the universe as a universe of immaterial 'spirit' and that the manifested world was either an illusion or a corruption, something inferior to the pure and unsullied 'spiritual world'.

But if you study the I Ching and the teachings of the great Sages, it becomes evident that neither of these are a correct reflection of reality.

This same conflict existed in many other places and times, with other names; certain "gnostic" sects in the west claimed that our world was nothing but an illusion.  The institutional forms of Buddhism made similar claims, many of them ascribing a higher position to some 'spiritual' world that the Buddha himself denied.

In The Magician's I Ching, I have detailed the story of the debate between Zhang Shi and Zhu Xi, and Zhu Xi's quest to achieve enlightenment as to the true nature of reality, and how to reconcile the difference between the unmanifested (Wei Fa) and the manifested (Yi Fa).  It is unsurprising that after coming to realization, Zhu Xi would strongly advocate the study and practice of the I Ching, because within it, it uncovers the truth of this relationship.

Some would-be mystics want to conceive of the nature of reality as a kind of top-down hierarchy where the lowest and least important level of reality is the manifested world.  But consider the I Ching: a hexagram contains, within it, the trigrams. Trigrams contain, within them, the Yin and the Yang.  Within Yin and Yang are found the Taiji (the undivided polarity). Within the Taiji is the the Wuji (the boundless), and within that boundlessness is Wu (emptiness).

Without trying to confuse scientific concepts with mystical ones, this can't help but bring to mind the nature of physical reality as we understand it today: how within objects there are molecules, those are composed of atoms, atoms are composed of protons and electrons, within those there are quantum particles, and inside all of this is empty space. Reality is not top-down, it is a whole, and that whole has layers, more fundamental and basic layers, and more complex outer layers.

This is the functioning of reality, and it is essential to understand if you are going to practice a real system of cultivation (because any spiritual practice not based on reality will not get you very far)!  The Manifested (Yi Fa) and the Unmanifested (Wei Fa) must of necessity both exist, they are both real, but the only place where the unmanifested can possibly exist is within the Manifested.  Wei Fa is not 'outside' or 'beyond' Yi Fa, it is only real within Yi Fa.

This is important to spiritual practice, because it means that Wei Fa, for the practitioner, can only be reached through the Yi Fa. You can't reject the body, reject the world, reject reality, and go off into some spiritual wonderland that is somehow beyond all that, because there is nothing to connect to there. You cannot find the Unity of all things by rejecting any thing. You have no tools to connect to the truly 'spiritual' if you ignore your body, your mind, your world, and your interactions with the world. This place, this world, our bodies, our awareness, all the things that exist in the manifested reality are the alchemical laboratory of our self-transformation. Without them, you can go nowhere. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Magician's I Ching Facebook Group now has Over 1800 Members!

The Facebook group created in honor of The Magician's I Ching, but which is a general discussion group for all I Ching related subjects, has now reached just over 1800 members!

So if you haven't already joined the Magician's I Ching Facebook Group, please consider joining!  It's free, and filled with interesting conversation and material related to the I Ching and I Ching studies.  It's open to people coming from western or eastern traditions.  It's very welcoming to newcomers to the I Ching, and you can get questions answered or useful advice. But it also has many very learned and highly experienced advanced students of the I Ching, and if you are one of those people you'll find some excellent higher level discussion about some of the finer points of I Ching study.

While you're at it, please consider joining the Yi Fa Society.  Members of the Yi Fa Society also have a (secret) discussion group, and benefit from a complete and detailed training program for studying Yi Fa Qi Gong and the I Ching.   Members of the Yi Fa Society are taught additional Qi Gong and I Ching secrets that are not available anywhere public.

At higher levels of membership, the advanced exercises of Yi Fa Qi Gong are taught, and students are provided large numbers of instructional materials (whole books, like "Secret Techniques of the I Ching", "Universal Yi Fa", "The Yi Dao", and "the Great Book of Yi Fa", among others) on how to deepen their work with Qi Gong and I Ching for self-transformation and the work of enlightenment.

Members of the Yi Fa Society can work personally with me to keep up their practice, to resolve problems in their practice, and to develop discipline and structure in their spiritual path.   Members also have the opportunity to have monthly Skype meetings with me for the same purpose.

Yi Fa Society membership is not free, but basic membership is on a monthly donation basis set by each student.

If you are interested in joining the Magician's I Ching Facebook group, just click on the link and join, and start reading and sharing with us!

If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please contact me, here or on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Understanding the Qualities of Yin and Yang

Why does Yin turn into Yang, and Yang turn into Yin?

Yang is forceful and powerful but inevitably exhausts itself. Yin is passive and accepting and through accepting gradually builds itself up.
(When Yang exhausts itself it will become Yin, when Yin builds itself up enough it will become Yang)

Yang is a "strong" power, but this means that it is more unstable. It is easier for it to change into Yin.
Yin is a "weak" power, but this means that it is very stable, it takes a lot for it to change to Yang.
This is also why it is easier in our reality for something strong to become weak than for something weak to become strong (the law of entropy).
Hence, Yin only becomes Yang when it is so totally 'full' of Yin that it cannot help but actually transform. 
And when Yang becomes 'too Yang', it will sooner or later break down into Yin.