The Taoist Soul Body:
Harnessing the Power of Kan and Li by Mantak Chia.
Destiny Books, November 2007. Maya would have loved this book. So many of the things she
was interested in are in it: biology,
astrology, healing, sexuality, spiritual
growth to prepare for death of the body,
Qi Gong, and even the I
Ching, an ancient metaphysical system like the tarot or the Sabian
symbols that Maya used in her daily calendars.
For me the most interesting thing in
the book is its implications for the I Ching, but
more on this later.
The main focus of Taoist Soul Body is the
Taoist theory and practice for achieving immortality. By immortality
is meant the process of reversing aging through work with both the
heart and sexual energies and ultimately readying the body to release
its spirit beyond its physical boundaries. To achieve the “alchemy” of
spiritual growth and release Mantak Chia explains why and how we
should reverse the energies of Li (fire), and Kan (water), within our bodies.
Chapter 1 opens with several pages about the energies of Li (fire)
and Kan (water). Chia follows with discussion of scientific
studies of the electrical fields of the human heart and brain; Chinese
astrology; organs and their systems in Chinese medicine; DNA; sexual
and life force energies; and the “formula” for reversing
the centers of fire and water in the body. This
reversal is accomplished through various inner Qi Gong practices that
involve our organs, glands, spine, pulse, lymphatic system, and meridians
and points. These Qi Gong practices are taught in Chapters 3 and 4.
Before beginning those immortality practices, Chia
suggests preparation with a darkness meditation. The Dark is the
subject of Chapter 2, and it includes information for The Total Darkness
Retreat offered at Chia’s
place in Thailand. Here he offers information about the chemistry of
consciousness during prolonged darkness immersion and the requirements
for undergoing it, including special nutrition
to help reap its benefits.
Chapter 5 ends the book with supplementary practices such as the Big
Dipper Practice, the Animal Protection Practice, and a mixture of Western
understanding of glands and amino acids as they relate to the inner
landscape of the brain in a Taoist practice called Nine Sacred Mountains.
The astrology component in the book is relatively small, but it is
interesting in the way it fits in with the other topics. Take the Big
Dipper Practice. Each of the stars in the Big Dipper are tied into
the Taoist view of the organs and inner landscape of the brain. The
Big Dipper Practice is also related to the darkness meditation in Chapter
In keeping with Taoism being a philosophy based on
change, I was chagrined to be caught up in my own stagnant thinking
about the stars. Early in the book Chia explains the Taoist belief
that we are all connected to the energy where the earth’s North
Pole points, and this changes every 2,150 years because of the gravitational
pull from the Sun and Moon.
So, at present Polaris is due north of the earth’s axis. 2,000
years ago it was Thuban. 2000 years from now it will be Vega. I never
dreamed that “North Star” might not always be the same
I first encountered one of Mantak Chia’s books
in 2003. It was called Taoist Cosmic Healing: Chi Kung Color Healing Principles for Detoxification and Rejuvenation. I confess that ever since
my childhood when I came across a before/after
set of photos of cleft palate surgery in my father’s dental supply office, I’ve
been totally squeamish about anything anatomical. As a librarian, I
couldn’t even look at the pages of Gray’s Anatomy.
Yet I bought Chia’s book because of its exquisite anatomical
pictures of the human body.
I’ve never managed to finish reading it. My
eye just keeps landing on the illustrations. Not since the Taschen
Press Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings has a book affected me this way. Chia’s
illustrations promise a whole new understanding of the human body in
all its spirit/physical glory and its connections with the universe.
I can only compare the illustrations to Kirlian’s hotly-debated
photographs of “auras” around the human form. But Chia’s
pictures are even more fabulous than those.
Chia has moved to a new depth in The Taoist Soul Body. Here
he is creating a truly cosmic explanation of Taoist healing and linking
it to Western science and medicine. Throughout the book there is a
fascinating mixture of East and West. Why is he doing this and who
is Mantak Chia? This book lists his many works, the Chinese masters
under whom he has studied, his award of Qi Gong Master of the Year,
and his development of the Universal Tao System and Training Center
in Thailand. But he is much more.
While the cover of Taoist Soul Body tells much about the
contents of this slim 162-page book, it is the
heart energy rotation illustration on page 88 that shows who Mantak
Chia really is. Within the figure of a man in the picture are three
pakuas (or baguas), the eight-sided objects used for Feng
you can find in any Chinatown shop. Along the outer edges of pakuas are the eight trigrams, or three-line symbols that are also used for
the I Ching. Inside a pakua is often a mirror, or, as here, the taijitu, or “yin-yang symbol.”
But the pakuas in this book are not the prehistoric
Fu Xi ones (like the one above) that you
see in the Chinatown stores. That one has the
trigrams, Ch’ien (heaven)
at the top and K’un (earth) at the bottom. This pakua
has the trigram, Li (fire) at the top and the trigram, K’an (water)
at the bottom. Other trigrams are also in different
places on this octagon.
This pakua is King Wen’s pakua. King Wen was the creator of
the ancient I Ching. R.L. Wing’s The I Ching Workbook mentions
the importance of this pakua (page 162):
The King Wen arrangement of the trigrams [on his pakua] is something
of a mystery to scholars. Also referred to as the World of Phenomena
or Senses, it is said to represent the cycle of growth and decay in
nature. Some scholars maintain that this arrangement can be deciphered
only by higher beings and refers specifically to the external manifestation
of divine thought.
This book by Mantak Chia about the benefits of reversal of Li and
Kan energies in the body is the first place I’ve ever
seen any explanation about the King Wen pakua.
Explaining the Taoist “alchemy” for immortality, Chia
states that fire above water in the body leads to “burnout” and “drying
up” inside, i.e., aging. On the other hand, water above fire
leads to a steaming “cauldron” in the center of the body
that can be used for healing, longer life, inner
enlightenment, and spiritual transition through death.
Chia does not talk about the I Ching in the Taoist Soul
Body, but Kan and Li are trigrams from King
of 64 geometric figures called hexagrams.
These figures are called hexagrams because
each figure is created from a pair of three
line symbols (called trigrams). A pair of
trigrams results in six lines, and “hexa” is the Greek
term for six.
In the I Ching, fire above water signifies
hexagram #64, “Before
Completion,” and water above fire signifies hexagram #63, “After
Yes, you read the hexagram numbers right! “After” comes
before “Before” in the I Ching. That oddity forces
one to notice that these two hexagrams make
a pair. The before/after reversal suggests the fanciful notion that
the way one visualizes the future leads one back to the path that leads
up to that future. In any event, this pair of hexagrams, #63 “After Completion” and
#64, “Before Completion” complete the I Ching.
According to Mantak Chia, Li (fire) and Kan (water),
the trigrams that form hexagram #63 and #64, are emanations of yang and yin energies
in and around physical bodies. His examples
of bodily-derived yang and yin energies
within fire and water are: chi, a Chinese concept; emotions;
temper; and sexual energy.
But two other trigrams that are used for the I Ching contain
pure yang and yin energies. These are Ch’ien (heaven) and Kun (earth). Heaven and earth, when doubled, create the pair of hexagrams
that begin the I Ching: #1, “The Creative” and
#2, “The Receptive.”
Through the doubled energies of pure yang and yin in “The
Creative” and “The
Receptive” flow “the 10,000 things” that are born
from the mysterious Tao. Thus, one glimpses
that the I Ching is,
among many other things, a cosmic system of
pairs of hexagrams that flow from birth through
death, and perhaps, back around again.(1)
Chia’s little book is so densely packed with
information that I doubt, even in China, there would be more than
a handful of people who understand all of it. However, for anyone
interested in the topics it covers: aging, Chinese astrology, the
topology of the inner mind in relation to the outer world, Qi Gong,
sexual energy generation, Chinese medicine and its connections with
Western medicine and science, the I Ching, sacred animals
of China, and the Total Darkness Meditation at Chia’s Thailand retreat, it’s
certainly worth a look.
a visual look at the geometry of this,
combine yang and yin into the interleaved