Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Kohn, Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism

Kohn, Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism

Ratings: (0)|Views: 148|Likes:
Published by Keren Mice
Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism
Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism

More info:

Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Keren Mice on Jan 21, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

06/02/2013

pdf

text

original

 
Eternal Life in Taoist MysticismAuthor(s): Livia KohnReviewed work(s):Source:
Journal of the American Oriental Society,
Vol. 110, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1990), pp. 622-640Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 07/05/2012 07:46
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
.
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
 American Oriental Society
is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
 Journal of the American Oriental Society.
http://www.jstor.org
 
ETERNAL LIFEIN TAOISTMYSTICISM
LIVIA KOHN
BOSTON UNIVERSITY
The exact natureof immortalityor transcendenceas a religiousidealof ancientChinahaspuzzledscholarsconsiderably.It seemscertainthat, despitetheir claimtophysicalimmortality,theancientsall had to dieintheend. Still,whythis claim? Onepossibleanswer is thattheyhadindeedthe feelingof livingforever,that theyhad founda state whichallowedthem tosurvive.There are anumber oftexts whichcontinuephilosophicalTaoismintheTaoist religion.Theyallspeakof eternallife,they areall mysticaldocuments, i.e.,directlyinformed by a religiousexperiencewhichtheytry to definein the termsof theirworld-view.These materials showthateternallife wasattainedin one of twomodes:as an ecstaticgoing-alongwiththe transformationsoftheuniverse,or as anenstatic unionwiththe Tao.Moreover,the textsmakeitquiteclearthatthehuman bodywas thoughtof asthe mainvehicleof survival-butabodydefinedas areplicaofthecosmos andoriginallyindestructible.
THEMMORTALITYOMPLEX
I
THE CHINESEHARACTERor
hsien,
"immortal"or"transcendent,"canbe writteneither
',
or ibl:bothgraphsdepicta manona mountain.AnothervariantI@,usedin the Shih-ching
"tE
for"todancewithflyingsleeves"(Ode220),is definedintheShuo-wenas "livinglongandvanishinginflight"(Shuo-wenchieh-tzuchu,8A.38b).This word,usedfor"vanish-ing inflight,"isrelatedtoA,"torise up."Thecom-mentarytotheShuo-wenfurtherspecifiesthat
fhfi
s"to reacholdageandnotdie,"whileIdis "tomoveawayandenterthe mountains."Theobviousbasicimplicationofthetermis thereforetwofoldfromthebeginning:theideaofatake-off,aseparationfromnormallife,beitin anecstaticdanceorbygoingintothemountains,andthe notionof longevityandthecompleteavoidanceof death.Theconnotationsofthe termvarywithtimeandauthor,anditisthereforenotimmediatelyclearwhatconcreteideasandreligiousbeliefsthe Chinesegener-allyassociatedwithhsien.TextsfrombeforeandduringtheFormerHan dynastytogetherwithnumer-ousarchaeologicalfindsare generallyacceptedasdescribingactualbeliefsof the time.However,sinceWangCh'ung's
E3R
Lun-hengAi4 atthelatest,onefindsacriticalawarenessoftheimpossibilityofbypassingdeathentirely.Immortalsthenbecomeincreasinglyaliterarymotif,whilethe religionbeginstoorganizethemaccordingto type.Morethanthat,immortalitytechniquesaretestedand developed,andcollectionsofrecipesanddescriptionsof practicesarefoundin increasingnumbers.Inpoetry,Transcendentsgenerallyrepresentimagesof freedom,lightness,andbeauty.Inreligion,theyareseentobelong-livedandbeyond death,theyhavemagicalpowersandcancontrolnature,theyaretheoneswhopopulatethe otherworldlyhierarchyabove.By theSungdynasty,the wordhsienhas beeninflatedto sucha degreethatit canrefertoanyonewhohasdonesomethingextraordinaryorwhois in somewayspecial.Storiesfrequentlyemphasizesuchpersons'magicalpowers,theirjoyfulease,andtheirtricksternature.InmodernChina,theyare likefairies:beauti-ful,young,supernatural,livingabovetheclouds.Still,theconceptincludesnotionsof the improbable,thefantastic,andthemarvelous.
1
Inhis"Tao-hsu-p'ien"ilI4(ch.7;Forke1907:332-50)hedescribestheascentintoheavenofa numberoffamousHan-dynastymagiciansandimmortals.AboutLiShao-chun 4aptheremarksthat"hepartedwithhisbody,"andsincehumansdonothaveshellstocastoff,heobviouslymusthavedied.AboutWangCh'iao
IX
?hementionsthathedidnoteatandhadnoclothingandremarks,"Howcanfrozenandstarved peopleliveanylongerthanothers?"622
 
KOHN:
EternalLifein Taoist Mysticism623In general onemay saythat the ideasmostcloselyrelatedto theconceptofimmortalityortranscendencearelongevityandflight, i.e.,apermanenceonearthanda freedomfromall mundane strife.Twootherimportant conceptsareenergyandparadise, i.e.,theconceptthatall lifeismadeupfrom someprimordialstuffwhich,whenusedcorrectly,willgive magicalpowers and eternallifeandtheideathatbeyondtherange of human visionthere isa realm ofpermanence,ofbeauty, of aglitteringradiance where the TrueOnesmake theirhome.The earliest formulationsofthese idealsof immor-tality are foundin theChuang-tzu a:
f
and theCh'u-tz'u#A, and later authors tendtogobacktothesetwoearly texts again andagain.TheChuang-tzuismostfrequentlycited in itsdescriptionofthe "FreeandEasyWandering"idAit,anexpressionthatreferstoan attitudeofspontaneityandinstinct,free-domfromcircumstanceand strife(Fukunaga 1946).TheCh'u-tz'u,in the "Far-offJourney" s9itprovidesthearchetypaldescriptionofthemysticalexcursionintoheaven(Fukunaga 1970). Importantmotifs,suchas thelightnessofthebody,theact offlyingintothesky(Murakami1956:185),the useofnaturalphe-nomena(thunder,wind, etc;Wen1956:175)ascar-riages,theidentification ofthewriter withthepowersofheaven,are alltypicalfeaturesoftranscendentexistence(Gulik1941:33;Schafer 1973:121).Theultimatefreedomisthenexpressed as the loss ofanyconsciousidentity.Afamousexampleofthis isChuang-tzu's"butterflydream"(Watson1968: 49).Anexceptionallycleardescriptionis also found intheLieh-tzu:After nineyearsIgave upspeakingandthinking,did not knowthe differencebetween benefit anddamage,did notknowwhethermymasterwasreallymy master,noryetthatanotherwas my friend.Outerandinner ife hadcompletelymelted ogether.There-afterthe five senses alsomeltedogether,Icouldnotdeterminewhither hesensationsame. My mindwasfrozen, my bodyfree, fleshand bones seemed ohavebecomerarefied.Idid notknowonwhat my body rested,nor didIknowwhat was undermy feet.Iwas bornehitherandthither, ike a leafthat falls from a tree, or like adrychaff, withoutknowingwhetherhe wind wasridingonmeor Ion thewind. Graham1960:36)Theimmortal ortranscendent statehere isobviouslyastateofmind. Itconsists of aclosing-in of knowl-edge, at thesametime there is afeeling offreelyfloating along.This state is connectedwithmundanelifein two ways:on the onehand,it is found intheconsciousrealizationof theTao whichpervadestheuniverse in continuouschangeandas suchisalwaysverycloseby."Onecould seeitquiteclearlyifoneusedthesoulforseeinginsteadof theeyes" (Gulik1940:89). Onthe otherhand,it is a refinement ofthebody.Everyindividualcan refinehis materialbodythroughvarioustechniquesand meditationsto suchadegreethathecan attainperfect lightnessof thebodyandthe abilitytoflythroughthe air(Chou1974:144).Once ahigh degreeofrefinement has beenattained,thebodyconsistsonlyofch'iA,breath, ether,orenergy,which is thefundamental stuff ofalllife.Everythingin naturehasits ownch'i-sospecializedthatthe termoftenseems untranslatable(Liu1970:70).Theemanationsradiatingfrombeingsarecalledch'i as is the matterfrom whichtheyaremadeuporiginally. Bytreatingthe basic stuff of creation in thepropermanner,everyonecanbecomefinerandfiner,untiloneisonlythefine matteritself.This thenenablespeopletoflyandascend intothehigherregions of the cosmos(Maspero1971:479).
II
Thebackgroundof theimmortalitycomplex and itshistoricaldevelopmentareshroudedinmystery.Gener-allyspeaking,thereisevidence forastrong concernwithlonglifearound the fourthcentury
B.C.,
whenthephilosophyof theLao-Chuangtraditionfirstdeveloped (Yu 1965:87).The sameperiodseestheoriginof theearliest works that wouldbecome thecore of theCh'u-tz'u, thissouthern andshamanisticallyoriented text.DuringtheHandynasty philosophy,longevity concerns,and shamanismwere joined intoonecomplex, alsoincorporatingcosmological, astro-logical, and medicaltheories. Atthis time, trans-cendencewasprimarily understood as amechanicalprocess: onereceived divinematerials from the im-mortalsalready residinginparadise, thentransformedthem forhuman use in aritual procedure, appliedthemto oneselfand thus could becomean immortal(Shih-chi
t
A, 28).It wasonlynecessarytogettheproperdrugtoopenthegates ofheaven (Chou 1974:14).Towardtheendofthe Han, innercultivation andphysicaltechniquesseemto havereceived more atten-tion. In the 4thcentury
A.D.,
strongevidence for amoremagical approachtoimmortality is suggested inKoHung's
I;
itPao-p'u-tzu
It
4+ #(Murakami1956:39).Theissue iscomplicated bythe fact that theHan,thoughintensely concernedwith the unification

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->