The Golden Elixir Taoist Alchemy Articles

Taoist Internal Alchemy
and the Awakening to Reality (Wuzhen pian)

Wuzhen pian

Reproduced from the Introduction of:

Awakening to Reality: A Taoist Classic of Internal Alchemy

Translated by Fabrizio Pregadio
Golden Elixir Press, 2009
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The Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality) is one of the most important and best-known Taoist alchemical texts. Written in the 11th century, it describes in a poetical form several facets of Neidan, or Internal Alchemy. Read more on this book.

5: Final Remarks

In a strict sense, as we have seen, alchemy consists in the recovery of the One Breath prior to Heaven, symbolized by True Lead. The adept rises through the different states of Being until he reaches the highest point, Non-Being or Emptiness; this is typically done by means of the alchemical practice, in the ways briefly outlined above.

Certain authors of texts of Internal Alchemy emphasize that this is only the first part of a longer process, and that the alchemical path is fulfilled only when the second part is also performed. Although they are not eager to provide too many details on this subject, they say that the alchemical practice pertains to "doing" (youwei): one performs the practice with a purpose in mind, and in order to achieve a result. To be entirely fulfilled, the alchemical way requires another inversion: a new movement of descent from "above" to "below," from Non-Being to Being, from emptiness to existence, that realizes their non-duality. This is done as one enters the state of "non-doing" (wuwei).

The alchemical practice prepares one to enter that state: the final stage, "refining Spirit and reverting to Emptiness," requires non-doing to be performed (see Poem 13, lines 5-6). At that point, the perspective radically changes. The One Breath prior to Heaven has at last been found; not only does it not need to be sought any longer, but continuing to seek it would be harmful. For the first time, the focus shifts from Lead to Mercury: one should decrease Lead and augment Mercury, bestowing the qualities of the newly found Gold to what earlier appeared as corrupt matter. The world to which one returns is entirely different from the world that had been left behind. The alchemical practice has brought it back to be what it is: one with the One Breath.