Maya del Mar's Daykeeper Journal: Astrology, Consciousness and Transformation
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by Nancy Humphreys

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 2.

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 star!

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 Shui that 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.”

Fu Xi pakua

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):

Wen Pakua

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 Wen’s system 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 Completion”.

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. 

1 For a visual look at the geometry of this, combine yang and yin into the interleaved 6-line patterns.                                   

I Ching Hexagrams