The Secret of the Golden Flower
Richard Wilhelm and Carl Jung teamed up in this beautiful small book to explore some of the more deeply hidden lessons brought forward by Chinese practices of the Tao-te-Ching often called Taoism implying the study of the “way” or path forward to understanding the true nature of Self.
Most of what I had officially learned about Tao-te-Ching was brought on by the concepts of Yin and Yang which are rarely understood by most Westerners today. I would go as far as to say that most Chinese cultures today have eliminated many of these practices as they have aggressively adopted Western materialism worship of technology and science. This though was not true for most of the history of China and its people.
Taoism in its purest form is the concept that life contains two aspects of consciousness and that the consciousness that humans carry are fractile like representations of these consciousnesses which extend out to encompass everything. Through the interactions of the two forms of consciousnesses, a type of fertilization is provided to a divine true Self which is located in each of us. For a human to continue past death, it requires this fertilization and then birth into a “diamond body” where it may remain on past death. In this sense, the ego, consciousness, and the unconscious self are no longer singular or separated but are combined to create a new being. This process as described by Jung is most likely something that occurs in each of us at midlife and develops over time.
In more precise terms, the human experience and its purpose are to have these two consciousnesses interact and to ultimately create a psycho-spiritual seed which continues on after death. If the seed is never realized fully then the body dies and that energy converts back into the total consciousness as well as the collective unconscious without continuing on and is then transformed into other beings or things. When reading this it sounded familiar to the concept of a Buddha being created in Buddhism and reincarnation no longer being a mechanism of rebirth.
The Secret of the Golden Flower leaves us with a practice which develops this seed by the turning of energy around the body, bringing it up from the base of our spine, up to the left part of the body into the center of the forehead, and then down and out again. This is all done while sitting in stillness and breathing which acts as a bath over all of the body. This, as Jung describes, is the fundamental doctrine and symbolism behind the baptism that is experienced in Christianity. The Golden Flower is this technique which also adds in the importance of focusing on the tip of the nose for long periods with the eyes slightly open.
Though these practices to some may sound odd, these practices are found over and over again throughout Yoga practices and meditational practices in Buddhism. They are practiced this way because they are useful. I would highly suggest reading the first part of this book if you want to learn more about how the practice operates and why they do what I have described, as it’s apparent in the writings.
The second part of the book is Jung’s commentary on the teachings of the Golden Flower and why he finds it essential to explore in one’s life. Jung’s analysis of this practice is why I picked up this book in the first place because in reading more of the collective works I have seen him referencing this book more than once, and now I understand why. Much of what Jung discusses in terms of the Animus and Anima are taken from this ancient Chinese teaching. Any Jungian can follow that the Animus greatly resembles the Yang of Chinese teachings and the Anima as Yin. Jung describes these two forces of our psyche as competing forces which continuously are trying to dominate the other. The individual self, however, is the goal of bringing these two forces in unity so that the individual can become a complete person. Jung discusses how when one of these forces are out of balance, it can create our disorders not only in the individual but also in culture and society. These effects not only live in those individuals or societies at the moment but are passed on as seeds (genetics and historical culture changes) for the long term. In this sense, Jung also suggested that individuals not try to adopt another culters way or views as their own because they are possibly incompatible genetically and culturally. Jung implied that it is essential for a person to learn tools and methods to create their private practice or path forward through life, using what is also most culturally applicable to the individual.
Jung’s views on cultural effects go in great opposition to what is generally taught today where culture is believed to not be an influence on personal belief systems and success. Jung also explores the importance of taking responsibility for individual actions and making good choices because of the impacts they have on not just personal experience, but also how they change a culture. According to Jung, individual changes both good and bad effect us long term through culture.
Although a short read The Secret of the Golden Flower leaves me with some questions answered. It provided me with an understanding as to why in culture today we see so much turmoil and unrest towards opposing views, and why shift takes place. The change I am discussing is the shift from the strong scientific mindset obsessed with technological advancement and truth, to the post-modernist chaotic view of reality, which represent the power of the consciousness and the opposition of the unconscious. The undeniable result of this cultural shift on our planet is aggressive opposition. It is my hope that others would read this book and find that they have a responsibility to themselves and their culture to take action to improve themselves.
Though Jung would be excited to learn that his views are proven again and again to be true, he would also provide a warning that was very clear to his mind in his time with WWI and WWII just ending. The problem is that when dramatic shifts of power happen, war and aggression is the result. The only way to break this spell and cycle is to realize that unity is critical, and unity must occur on a micro level within each of us before culture can adapt it.
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.
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