Stealing Heaven and Earth
Mirror for Compounding the Medicine (Ruyao jing), Poem 8
This translation is reproduced from:
Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine
Wang Jie (14th century), translated by Fabrizio Pregadio
Golden Elixir Press, 2013
Originally written in the 10th century, the Ruyao jing (Mirror for Compounding the Medicine) describes the foundations of Internal Alchemy in 20 short poems of four verses. This book contains the first complete translation of the text and of the commentary by Wang Jie (14th century).
This page is part of a series on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine and its commentary. See the complete index.
|Steal Heaven and Earth,|
|seize creation and transformation.|
|Gather the five agents,|
|bring the eight trigrams together.|
Commentary by Wang Jie
Clenching Heaven and Earth, grasping Yin and Yang, gathering the five agents, and bringing the eight trigrams together: this is the learning of the divine immortals.
Heaven and Earth are Qian and Kun. Creation and transformation are Yin and Yang. The five agents are Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Soil. The eight trigrams are Qian ☰, Kun ☷, Kan ☵, Li ☲, Zhen ☳, Xun ☴, Gen ☶, and Dui ☱.
Translations from the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine
● Precelestial and Postcelestial Breath
However, the greatness of Heaven and Earth, and the depth of creation and transformation, lies in the fact that the five agents part and distribute themselves, and that the eight trigrams arrange themselves in a ring. By which art can you steal them and seize them, cause them to gather and bring them together?
"To steal" means to rob; "to seize" means to take; "to gather" means to converge; "to bring together" means to join. This concerns the methods of the Masters of the Elixir, whose wonder lies in the oral transmission. The true instructions on compounding the Elixir always pertain to this and nothing else. Wait until the time comes and the Breath transmutes itself: when the Medicine is produced, the Spirit knows it. Then you must shut the Barrier of Wind, close the Door of Gen ☶, turn the Celestial Net, and revolve the Dipper's Handle.(1) As each breath allows the Matching Fires [of Yin and Yang] to circulate, it causes 3,600 correct Breaths (zhengqi) to converge, and inverts the series of the 72 periods.(2)
In one day, a human being makes 13,500 exhalations and 13,500 inhalations. One exhalation and one inhalation correspond to one breath; thus in the space of one breath, you hiddenly seize a celestial revolution of 13,500 years. In one year, you make 4,860,000 breaths, and you hiddenly seize a celestial revolution of 4,860,000 years.
Wang Jie, Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine, sec. 8
When you have reversed the five agents and have brought the eight trigrams together, and all of them have returned to the Earthenware Crucible, close it and firmly seal it.(3) Immediately harmonize the Fire that you send forth, and refine by means of an intense, fierce heat. [The Medicine] will coalesce and form the Embryo of Sainthood.
In this way, by practicing for a while you seize the nodal times of one whole year. A scripture on the Elixir says:
If the human Heart joins with the Heart of Heaven,
reversing Yin and Yang takes only one instant.(4)
This means that with one exhalation and one inhalation you can "seize creation and transformation." In one day, a human being makes 13,500 exhalations and 13,500 inhalations. One exhalation and one inhalation correspond to one breath; thus in the space of one breath, you hiddenly seize a celestial revolution of 13,500 years. In one year, you make 4,860,000 breaths, and you hiddenly seize a celestial revolution of 4,860,000 years. At that point, you entirely change your impure Yin body and transform it into a body of Pure Yang.
The transformations of Spirit are unlimited: coagulation results in form, dispersion results in wind.(5) You exit Being and enter Non-Being, and whether you conceal yourself or let yourself be seen, you cannot be fathomed. Is this not extraordinary?
1. The Barrier of Wind (fengguan) is one of the two openings under the palate that allow the passage of air during inhalation and exhalation. — For "door of Gen ☶," the text in the Daozang jiyao has "door of Dui ☱." Dui usually represents the mouth.
2. The 3,600 correct Breaths are often said to be those of 3,600 years, but this number also corresponds to the "double hours" contained in the ten months of gestation of the Embryo. The 72 periods are the 5-day phases that form one year.
3. Earthenware Crucible (tufu), a name derived from Waidan (External Alchemy), denotes in Neidan the lower Cinnabar Field.
4. These verses are quoted from Xiao Tingzhi's Jindan da chengji, in Xiuzhen shishu, ch. 9.
5. These sentences are found in many Taoist texts. The last word is usually "breath" (qi) instead of "wind" (feng), but the two terms are obviously equivalent in this context.
© Fabrizio Pregadio and Golden Elixir Press 2023