The Four Stages
From Wang Mu, Foundations of Internal Alchemy: The Taoist Practice of Neidan (Golden Elixir Press, 2012). Footnotes are not included in this version.
Golden Elixir essays
Essays by Wang Mu
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:
- "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.
- "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).
- "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).
- "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.
© Golden Elixir Press, 2011.