I suppose I would describe myself as a Taoist. I've always been attracted to the cleanliness and simplicity of Taoist thought, and over the past few
years I've been practicing (on and off - and at the moment, more in the breach than the observance) t'ai chi and its associated meditative
One of the things I like about Taoism is that it's not "moral" or "prescriptive" in the sense that Western religions are. It's more like, if
you get healthy, you'll tend to do the "right" thing... except there is no "right thing". It's kind of hard to explain... but the point is,
there are no commandments, and there is no original sin. If, on the other hand, you want to become healthier mentally, physically and spiritually,
there are some practical (and rather difficult) exercises you can do that will help.
The Taoist take on all this is that we have eight bodies, all of which coexist on gradually more refined levels of "reality" (whatever that means).
They are all interconnected and influence each other.
The first body is the one we're all aware of, the physical body. In order to tread the Taoist path, you first start by sorting out your physical
problems with the gross movements of t'ai chi. This however is an iterative process, and as you deal with more refined levels, physical issues may
The second level is the "chi body" aka in the west as the "aura". This is the level that acupuncture works on. Standing meditation practices
allow you to clear areas of "stuck" chi, which feeds back into increased health on the physical level. As you work through problems in these bodies
you may find that you interact with the
Third level, which is the "emotional" body. How we handle our emotions is through varying the level of tension in the physical body - hence
interaction continues as you clear emotional blockages.
The fourth body is the "intellectual body" which allows you to understand and analyse situations and evaluate truth and falsity. You have to have
all of these four bodies in pretty good working order before you start activating the higher functions.
The fifth body is the "psychic" body. This is the level of intuition, of being able to dip into the universe's total sum of knowledge and
accessing the information you need. Naturally, there is so much contained here that a sound emotional and intellectual grasp is vital or you are lost
in a welter of true or false information without a compass to guide you.
The sixth body is the body of manifestation. This is the ability to influence events at a distance so that things "just work out". The use of
affirmations and positive thinking in the West is one of the attributes of this body.
The seventh body is the body of individuation. I don't understand this too well (I only really understand the first two or three levels on a
personal basis) but it seems to be that which encompasses everything else in you and sets you apart as an individual. I'm sorry that this isn't
very satisfactory but I'm doing this from memory.
The eighth body is the body of the Tao, and is the thing that allows you to merge with the Universe. Obviously this is the most heavy-duty
meditational activity and, frankly, I have only the vaguest understanding of what this means.
Why pay any attention to any of this abstruse stuff?
Good question... well... all I can say is that I've learned a lot, on a mental, physical and spiritual (though I hate THAT word and find it's mostly
used by pretentious AHs) level from my t'ai chi teachers. In particular I'd recommend this guy
, with whom I studied
for one memorable week. I did a course called "opening the energy gates of the body", and the thing about Bruce is that when he teaches the course,
he literally opens each of the energy points he's talking about for you by direct transmission.
What this means in practice is that you are one of perhaps 200 people standing in a room. Bruce is on a small dais at one end. You all assume as
correct a standing meditation posture as you can muster, and Bruce will pick a particular energy gate, and transmit its location to you. For example,
there are energy gates on the inner face of each shoulderblade. Just take a moment and see if you can FEEL your shoulderblades. From the inside, not
using your hands, dummy! No, I couldn't, either, much less particular points on the inside face of each one.
Nonetheless, when Bruce started transmitting, #### me if I couldn't feel a fizzing vibration in exactly those spots. In previous lessons with other
teachers I'd noticed I got more out of the exercises when they were around, and one of them does transmit to some extent - but when Bruce does it,
you're really not in any doubt. When he was working on the energies of the spine, I swear to (your non-existent) God it felt like someone was
pushing a metal rod down the inside of my spinal cord. It didn't hurt, it just felt like real pressure - but it did feel distinctly metallic. Go
figure. A couple of years later I found out that the elemental energy associated with the brain and spine is metal.
I know how this sounds. All I can say is that this is my personal experience, and I'm not here to BS. And Bruce can simply DO STUFF that other
people can't - and indeed think of as physically impossible. It is for these reasons that I give his opinions on the Taoist "eight body" model
more weight than those who just quote scripture. Plus, it makes sense to me from my own experiences in life.
Taoists, btw, don't really believe in a "soul" as such. There's a process that you can go through (if you have the will, time and energy) to
become immortal, however. This is not physical immortality - it's to do with solidifying other aspects of you so that when you physically die you
can still go on as an entity, carrying your memories and intellect with you. Not too many manage this, however, although memory fragments may be
incorporated into other living beings giving rise to stories of reincarnation.
That's the Taoist line as I understand it. How much of it I believe I'm not sure myself, but in my experience they know how to get some really good
practical results. I know that the practices, when I do them (inertia! damn you, inertia, fickle jade!) make a big difference to me mentally and