The Golden Elixir Taoist Alchemy Articles The Four Stages

The Four Stages

Wang Mu

Foundations of Internal Alchemy

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Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan

Wang Mu
Golden Elixir Press, 2011
Paperback ● PDF ● Kindle

This book provides a clear description of the Taoist practice of Internal Alchemy, or Neidan. It is based on the system of the Wuzhen pian (Awakening to Reality), one of the main sources of Internal Alchemy, and is enriched by about two hundred quotations from original Taoist texts. Read more on this book.

Articles by Wang Mu

The Four Stages

"Laying the Foundations"

The Three Barriers

"Superior Virtue" and "Inferior Virtue"

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In the Zhong-Lü tradition, the description of the alchemical practice is generally divided into four stages: (1) Laying the foundations; (2) Refining Essence to transmute it into Breath; (3) Refining Breath to transmute it into Spirit; (4) Refining Spirit to return to Emptiness.

The main features of the four stages are the following:

  1. "Laying the foundations" (zhuji) is the practice performed to replenish the Three Origins (sanyuan, i.e., Original Essence, Original Breath, and Original Spirit) within the body.

  2. "Refining Essence to transmute it into Breath" (lianjing huaqi) is the "initial barrier" (chuguan) of inner cultivation. At this stage, Original Essence, Original Breath, and Original Spirit coagulate with one another and form a Breath made of the union of Essence and Breath. This stage is also called Compounding the Great Medicine (zuo dayao).
  3. "Refining Breath to transmute it into Spirit" (lianqi huashen) is the "intermediate barrier" (zhongguan) of inner cultivation. The Great Medicine coagulates with Original Spirit, and they form a Spirit made of the union of the Three Origins. This stage is also called Compounding the Elixir (zuodan).
  4. "Refining Spirit to return to Emptiness" (lianshen huanxu) is the ""higher barrier" (shangguan) of inner cultivation. By refining Spirit one attains Emptiness and Non-Being (xuwu). This is the highest state.