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The Perennial Medicine
by Thea Elijah
Transcript of The Perennial Medicine CD
I’d like to speak now about what I call the Perennial Medicine. The Perennial Medicine is not a specific healing modality per se, like acupuncture or osteopathy; rather it is a significant set of values, beliefs and assumptions about healing: what it means and how it happens. It’s important to talk about this because medicine always reflects cosmology, the values, beliefs and assumptions that a culture holds about the meaning nature of life, the universe, and being human. These basic beliefs and assumptions which are inherent in any cultures medicine include that culture’s answers to questions like, What is the highest good? (because how can we define health without this standard?) What is the causative power or agency of change—in other words, what has the power to make us get ill, and conversely the power to make us get well? These are very important assumptions that are built into the medicine, and may not be shared from culture to culture. Deep questions are inherent in medicine; even questions like, What is the meaning of life? Why are we here, and what happens next, after this life? All of this is inherent in a culture’s cosmology, which informs its medicine.
Luckily, a healer does not have to be a philosopher, but every healer is a living, practicing embodiment of her/his culture’s deepest philosophical principles. You do not have to have thought out for yourself, “well, because I am doing this, it means that I believe that the meaning of life is this.” But that is what you are acting from. The healer embodies the deepest philosophical principles and cosmological orientations of the culture, even without thinking about it.
As healers, in any culture, we do what we do on 2 levels. We do what we do on the level of being embodiments of very deep cosmological principles. And we also do what we do on the level of overt methodology: prescribing herbs, sticking in needles, or waving rattles and beating drums, prescribing anti-seizure medication and doing surgery—all of the physical, technical aspects of the art. And we need to be well-trained and very skillful in these outer, more overt aspects of the methodology, but that is only half of what we are and what we do. The other half is this cosmological embodiment; that is what empowers the methodology that we use.
It is possible to find many excellent healers who help lots of people to get well, with no awareness whatsoever as to the cosmological implications of what they are doing, nor any idea why what they are doing is working. This is OK. Implicitly, unconsciously, the healer draws upon her cultural cosmological heritage as an orientation for her work. No awareness is necessary because of this congruence between the implicit beliefs and cosmological orientation of the healer, and the underlying methodology of the medicine. It is actually not necessary or important at all—except in one situation: When the culture of the healer and the cosmological orientation of the modality don’t match. Suddenly there is a need to state explicitly things which never needed to be stated explicitly before, to create more congruence, and more effective usage of the modality.
I began thinking about all of this after a faculty meeting at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture in which we were trying to put into words what it is that we hold so precious in the 5 Element tradition, and consider so vital, so unique, and worth protecting at any cost. Particularly this line of thought came up when contrasting the 5 Element tradition and its gifts with the TCM tradition and its gifts. How do we preserve the gifts of our tradition, and what are they, anyway? If the 5 Element tradition is more than just a series of protocols, which we are not always able to agree on anyway, then what are we actually about?
At that time, what I came up with was this statement:
Health that has been restored due to the cultivation of virtue is not the same as health that has been restored simply due to the dispelling of illness.
The physical manifestations of health may appear to be the same, but on the level of the spirit, the difference is incalculable.
When we focus solely on dispelling illness in order to restore health, a priceless opportunity for the spirit is lost.
When our healing strategy has as its aim the evocation of the client’s own original nature as its catalyst for the transformation of body mind and spirit, the results are profound for both practitioner and client.
The client experiences healing as a transformation that occurs from within; and the practitioner is also transformed through the continuous practice of aligning with The Most High in ourselves for the sake of our client.
Through the cultivation of virtue (in both practitioner and client), illness is dispelled and health is restored.
This is a radically different stance from what modern medicine, in the West, is thinking and doing. It’s day and night. Black and white. It’s a whole other orientation towards health. To cultivate virtue, and on the path to virtue illness falls away versus, let’s get rid of this, and let’s get rid of that and let’s fix the broken thing. And from this came the realization that there are two different kinds of medicine. I now was no longer thinking just about 5-element versus TCM, nor about acupuncture versus Western medicine, ancient versus modern; all of those categories went away and I realized, there are two different categories of medicine.
The Significance of Cosmology vs. Modality
The most significant aspect of any system of medicine is not the technicalities of how the healing is implemented, but whether that system of medicine orients itself in relation to a central model of perfection, which constitutes both the goal and the agency of healing, or whether it orients itself in relation to the dispelling of illness and the avoidance of death.
All of these different modalities suddenly didn’t seem so different from one another any more. They were either about working from and moving towards this central perfection, or they were about not dying, not being sick. From this perspective I therefore realized that 5 E acupuncture is NOT unique! It is not unique at all. It is one of many traditional medicines that orients itself in relationship to virtue rather than avoidance of death.
The Perennial Medicine
Throughout history, until recently, most civilizations have had healing systems which are based around bringing the client into greater and greater alignment with a central notion of perfection. This is the common place; this has been the common place for virtually all peoples on the planet, all over the globe, until modern times.
And every culture, every civilization until modern times has also had a basic cosmology (basic beliefs and assumptions about the nature of life and being human and what we’re here for) that has had more in common than different when we look underneath the skin. Everybody here in this room, if you look at our surface, we look rather different, but we all have exactly the same bone structure, we all have a heart and a stomach and a liver in basically the same place doing basically the same things, and so with cultures through time, all around the world until modern times, sharing, as their bones, as their skeletons and organs, the same cosmology, the same belief structure, with different hair, different color eyes, different color skin. And there are people these days who are speaking, studying, writing about this in terms of something called the Perennial Philosophy.
The main topic of this talk today is that if there is a Perennial philosophy, and medicine of necessity reflects cosmology, then there is also a perennial medicine, a medicine that is The Medicine with the same bones, the same organs, the same similarities of inner structure.
Let me talk a little bit about What Is the Perennial Philosophy? What are these cosmological basic bones and organs that appear over and over again in different cultures.
1) A Supreme Reality, Hologram, Transcendent Consciousness, God, Tao exists.
One: is that there is a supreme reality. A unity. A oneness. A hologram if you will. A transcendent reality. The first tenet of the Perennial philosophy is simply that this exists. You can call it Tao. You can call it God. You can say Allah. You can say Jah. You can say Brahmin. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but the first tenet of the Perennial philosophy is that this transcendent unity IS. This is a fundamental tenet of the perennial philosophy and therefore of perennial medicine and (I will note) NOT of modern medicine.
2) Manifestation is a continuous outpouring from this source.
The second tenet of the perennial philosophy is that all manifestation is a direct, continuous outpouring from this source, from this oneness. Everything that shows up is showing up out of the unity; there is nowhere else for it to come from, and it is not separate from, as it arises up from Tao. It is the breath of the Creator. It’s in every major religion, every major philosophy: manifestation is a continuous outpouring from this Unity, from this transcendent reality.
3) It is also returning to this source, and at one with source throughout the rising and falling back again.
Everything is like waves coming up out of the ocean of Tao and then falling back into the ocean of Tao; rising and then returning to its source. I’m assuming you know some things about other religions, other philosophies; this should be sounding familiar from a number of different systems. There’s this rising up out of the void, out of the Tao, this breathing forth of the divine creation. And we appear to be separate, like separate waves, (but the waves never really are separate from the source, they just seem separate), and then go back into the source again, without ever having disconnected at any point.
4) Therefore YOU are not separate nor of a different substance or nature than this source.
Every being in this room, every one of us, is a wave that has emerged, that is, in this moment, in the process of emerging from that ocean and is not separate the whole time, of arising from this ocean and returning back into this ocean (nor is anyone else you’re hanging out with). Take a moment just to feel that. I am a wave coming out of an ocean and I’m not separate from that ocean. And there are these other waves here, brother and sister waves in the same ocean here next to me. And we are all arising out of the same ocean together. It’s a different orientation. Already, think, how different would it be to be in the treatment room feeling this, thinking this. This is a Chinese fundamental assumption. This is a fundamental assumption of the Perennial Medicine, of the Perennial philosophy (and not of modern medicine, nor of modern philosophy). Each of us is not separate nor different in substance or nature or source.
5) Something is getting in the way of directly perceiving this.
Another tenet of the Perennial philosophy is: Something is getting in the way of our directly perceiving our complete and utter, inseparable Unity from Source, and everyone else’s complete and utter inseparable Unity from Source at every moment. Again, this should be sounding familiar from many different religions, different philosophies. Something is getting in the way of directly experiencing this sense of being completely at one with (not separate from, not different from) Source, unity, oneness. Different manifestations of the perennial philosophy speak about this differently: we are in a fallen state, we are living in a state of sin, we have lost the Tao, we have fallen from Paradise… All of these have a different way of saying: we’re not getting it, we’re not living from there.
6) There is a way to return to, and live from, the direct experience of union with source.
And, a fundamental tenet of every philosophy and every religion until modern times, is: there is a way to return to and to live from the direct experience of Union with Source. I find this very heartening, that in every philosophy and in every religion, none of them say “Yeah, you’re stuck with that, sorry. Gotta live that way. LOSER!” In every culture and every civilization on the planet, through all of time, until recently, you are not doomed to the illusion of separation. Every single one says there is a way, it is never too late, you can do this.
7) To the extent that you achieve this while you are alive, you will be glad that you did after you die.
Another tenet of the perennial philosophy is that, To the extent that you achieve this while you are alive, you will be glad that you did after you die. This also is conceived of in many different ways, but again, they’re different on the outside, they all boil down to the same thing. It may be that the reason why you’ll be glad that you came into unity, or glad of the extent to which you came into the realization of unity during your life, is because when you die you won’t have to be reborn as a squid or you’ll go to heaven versus hell, or you won’t have to go 50,000 more times around the wheel of Karma, whatever it is. But always, there is the sense, in all of the philosophies, that the extent to which you achieve realization of unity within your lifetime you will be glad that you did when you die. And this is very important for the medicine as well, because it’s a whole orientation of why we live and what is health and what is it that we are actually aiming for. Just not to die? Or what state we are in when we die (which gives us a lot more to do, in a way, in terms of health while we’re living).
8) Health is simultaneously a manifestation of progress towards a state of identity, or union, with an ideal state which is both individually human microcosm) and universal (macrocosm).
Another tenet of the Perennial philosophy is that this progress towards a state of union with Source is equally an individual human state of perfection, that we can come into a human state of perfection (union with Source), and it is also a Universal perfection. That Unity is a macrocosm/microcosm thing, a fractal. In all of the perennial philosophies, there is a human perfection and equally a cosmic perfection, and health lies in not just making yourself healthy within yourself, it’s how my perfection and the universal perfection come into perfect relationship. There’s a kind of fractal recapitulation of the macrocosm and the microcosm. So the perfection of the universe, the shape of the universe, the nature of the universe in balance is also the perfection and the shape and the nature of myself in balance. And, there’s a relationship between us. This is very different from modern medicine, which assumes that health is something that can be achieved by individual units as opposed by health being, in part what’s going on in your internal balance, but equally much, how are you interacting with the universe? It’s springtime! Are you taking that into account? There’s this way in which it’s absurd, in any perennial philosophy medicine, to think that health could be an individual matter. It is a Cosmological matter, and it is an Ecological matter. Directly, health is a matter of ecology, within you, around you, and how you fit into the unfolding movement of the cosmos.
9) At the heart of the Perennial Philosophy, there is always an indescribably ultimacy, and a describable penultimacy—in terms of qualities, attributes e.g. 5 Elements, 99 Names, Directions of Medicine Wheel.
The Source, Tao, God, whatever you want to say, is ultimately indescribable. It can be directly apprehended—potentially by anyone—but cannot be defined. “the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” That’s what I mean by, “there is an indescribably ultimacy at the heart of every perennial philosophy.” And there is a describable, next step down, a describable pen-ultimacy in terms of qualities and attributes.
For example the Tao is unspeakable, but we’ve got these 5 elements that we can talk about. The 5 elements are clearly not things—nobody thinks they are things; they are qualities. Allah is the unspeakable, the One unity, but we’ve have the 99 names of God, which are qualities, The Generous, The Splendorous, The Compassionate, The Strong. The Great Spirit is apprehendable but unspeakable, and then we’ve got this Medicine Wheel with its 4 directions which are primary qualitative distinctions. Nobody thinks the North is a thing; the North is a quality. Same with the animals power spirits. They’re not things; it’s not “a Bear,” it’s the quality of Bear-ness, which is one of the ways in which, when source moves into manifestation… Like a prism, you have this pure white light and this breaking out into color—we’ve have these first notes, these pure notes, these lights that come out of the white light. And different systems have different systems of speaking of what the qualities are as they come out of indescribability into describability. So here is where the philosophies diverge, the medicines diverge, but they are nevertheless structured in the same way: indescribable ultimacy/describable pen-ultimacy. Every single system has an indescribably ultimacy and a describable pen-ultimacy, which is described in terms of qualities and attributes.
The overt cosmology is taken from this second level, the pen-ultimacy, the medicine wheel, the 5 elements, the 99 names. The medicine is also taken from this second level, this pen-ultimate level, because it’s the thing that you can talk about. It’s the deepest, most close to the source thing that we can talk about. It’s the thing you can teach, and (and this is very important!) it is the thing that if you’re not currently in a state of attainment, you can work with. If you are purely in the Tao, if you are utterly God-realized, you don’t need a modality. You are the healing. If, however, you just believe there is such a thing as God-realization or enlightenment, or perfection as it lives in human form, and you haven’t personally attained it yet, you get a job as a healer, generally in some alternative healing modality. Because of this pen-ultimate level, which gives rise to the modalities, I can be a healer without being a fully realized being myself. I can work with the map and I can tell from this map that you need to go west; you need a little more Water; your North is shaky or your Metal is out of balance. This second level gives us the opportunity to do something for our clients without being Enlightened already, to help them on their way to health.
I think this is important, and I mention it in part because I’ve heard some healers say that you can’t take somebody someplace you’ve never been and you can’t help someone to progress further than you’ve progressed. I have found this not to be so. Thank goodness that nobody’s got to wait for me for their enlightenment! If you’ve got a map and a compass then you know that health is that way! Even if you are not there yourself. You can stand there pointing the way. That is the power of the penultimate, the power of the map. So there’s an up side and a down side to it. The up side is: you don’t have to be enlightened yet to be able to use a map and a compass and say, “Health is this way.” And, of course, the shortcoming of the not-quite-ultimate is that it’s not quite ultimate and eventually everybody, every one of us, is going to have to go beyond the map to get there. The map too will be gone when we return to Source, but in the meanwhile it’s very, very helpful.
This is an overall sketch of what I mean when I talk about the perennial philosophy, and therefore when I speak of perennial medicines, whether it’s working with the medicine wheel, whether it’s Ayurveda, whether it’s Chinese medicine, whether it’s Unani medicine, whether it’s any of the many, many different perennial healing traditions. They all share these fundamental belief structures and assumptions which are profoundly different than the belief structures and assumptions that I assume that everybody in this room has grown up with. This is important to note: that we are working with a medicine that assumes that we assume things that we generally do not in fact go around assuming. This is why we need to have these conversations and discuss explicitly how we can make the shift to congruence so as to be able to access the full power of perennial medicine healing modalities.
Differences Between Perennial and Annual Medicine
1) Annual vs. Perennial paradigms
Let’s look directly at the differences between the Perennial Medicine and what I suppose I will call, by contrast, the Annual Medicine, (Modern medicine). If it’s not a Perennial medicine, it’s an Annual Medicine. It’s a fitting term, in part because one of the things that is true about the Perennial medicines is that they are based on deep principles, the refining of which goes on for the rest of eternity, but nothing becomes negated. We never say, “Whoa! Suddenly there’s a 6th Element!” or, “No, the Water element isn’t true after all.” It’s more like the working out of details. There is progress in the medicine. It does evolve, but in a very different way than Annual medicine evolves. Annual medicine is all about what we’ve now discovered to be untrue. A progression of errors. Continuous Copernican revolution, paradigm overturning previous paradigm. This is why it’s fitting, I think, to call modern medicine the Annual medicine and the other the Perennial medicine. It keeps coming back anew, and of course evolves, but in a very different way.
2) All of the forms of Perennial medicine are designed to work with the continuous arising of manifestation from source.
Annual medicine works with that which is already in creation.
In perennial medicine, we draw upon the power of the Creator to change the creation, whether we conceive of the Creator as God or Tao, using the power that is ceaselessly preceding material manifestation. We are coming into creation right now. Right now. There is a power in that. The Tao is giving us forth now; Creation happens now. And so we tap into that source.
When we stick a needle in Kidney three, what are we doing, and why does the client change instantaneously? They change instantaneously! From a measurable level their hormonal balance changes. The hot flashes may stop. This is because between the last quantum nothing moment (the moment of rising up and falling back into the flux of chaos) and this quantum nothing moment, the return and the appearance have shifted. Sticking a needle in Kidney 3 is a way of drawing forth the waves differently. I will get more specific about how that happens, but I wanted to mention to you that you’re doing it already. It’s already happening. This is not just philosophy, this is practical application of how the Tao continuously gives rise to manifestation. This is what all the forms of perennial medicine, whether you’re working with the medicine wheel or 99 names with or with the Elements, are working with.
This is very different from Annual medicine, which is the result of a series of mechanical or chemical interventions. Notice even how your body shifts as we shift the conversation. Add chemicals to change the hormonal balance. Do surgery. Give electroshock. Remove the tumor with a knife. Add Prozac, change the depression. We are working completely within the already created, using things that are created to affect other things that are already created. This is very different than: it is the Tao which heals, and, that which gives birth to manifestation is giving birth to it Right Now and it rises and falls back.
3) In Perennial medicine, the agency of healing is the central perfection e.g. it is the Tao that heals, it is God that heals (depending on whether you’re in a theistic or non theistic paradigm, which are nevertheless ultimately the same). And it is through alignment with this central source that the practitioner is able to help the client align, and thus heal.
Perennial medicine is practiced from the direct perception of the hologram, the direct perception of the arising from the Unity—or at least the faith that you would have a direct perception of the hologram if you were having a better day. That does work as well. How do we work within a holographic unity, to change manifestation as it comes up out of source? How do we train ourselves to be more directly aware that we are God’s exhale, we are the Tao’s outpouring, we rise from the void every moment and go back to the void again, so that we can more effectively use nonmechanical means to help the wave pattern of someone’s existence to arise from the ocean of Tao differently?
Because of the way we live, all of this can be very hard to keep in mind from moment to moment—and it’s even harder to keep in body. So having mentioned all these concepts I want to also ground it by taking a moment to give all of us a chance to check into “oh, what can I do inside myself, where do I go to be more in touch with, that each manifestation right now is coming out of the void; that these are waves on the ocean; that the waves could come differently out of the ocean”. How does your body feel right now as you sink into that paradigm? What does that feel like? Remember it, because you’re going to need to re-find it again to make a new habit out of it.
And now let’s switch back into the Annual medicine, and everything’s biochemical and this is all that there is, these chunks, these lumps, these people and we just do things here in the creation and one thing affects another and you can get something done. You pick it up and you move it. And it’s all pretty permanent to be separate until you die. Does your body feel different now? Does the room feel different now? There’s a real shift to where we’re living here in what I call the K-mart mentality. Life among the things.
And then shifting back again, because this is going to have to become a real habit, in order to access the full power of the perennial medicine. It’s a real biochemical shift, isn’t it? Your nervous system is different, your endocrine system is different, your consciousness is different, and as you learn to dwell here, your senses start functioning differently as well.
This to me is a very important thing. It’s not just mental, it is not just a mind paradigm. Where do you go in your body? What do you do in order to remember, in order to be in touch with the direct awareness that all manifestation, including yourself, including myself, is a wave rising out of the ocean. What’s happening right now is waves rising out of the ocean, and they could come out of the ocean differently. If we don’t know that between this appearance and disappearance into Tao and the next appearance and disappearance into Tao the whole world could change, then we miss the opportunity. If we think that matter is permanent and manifestation just is, and the only way to change things is to clunk them against each other, we are missing all that could happen between this breath and the next. That would be missing a lot. You could spend a lot of time jabbing Kidney 3 without tapping into that source, that power that could allow your client on that table to open her eyes and say, “I feel completely changed.” and never want another cigarette and not have arthritis nor headaches nor confusion in her love life. This is the power that we access when we are working in the paradigm of the perennial philosophy and the perennial medicine.
To me one of the most important questions for any practitioner is, “What do I do, daily in my life, to remember the habit of staying in the state where I can access the hologram?” Because how different will our treatments be when we’re in this place where we know that all we’re doing is helping people come into existence, manifest straight from the source in greater alignment with source.
4) Annual medicine is about raising the quality of life, and avoiding death.
Perennial medicine is about raising the quality of life, and preparing for death.
Another very important difference between the perennial medicine and the annual medicine is the whole issue of death, the issue of what happens when you die. In the annual medicine, in modern medicine, anything that happens after you die is not figured in; basically in annual medicine, you die, it’s the end. That’s it. We try to prevent it and after that there’s nothing, at least nothing that has any application to your life. It is not possible to understand Chinese medicine in those terms; it ceases to make sense. All of the perennial medicines cease to make any kind of sense, if death is the end. This is not how they are conceived of, this is not the basic fundamental assumption that runs through the entire medicine. Yes, clearly, death is the end of something; it does appear to be a significant shift, but in the perennial medicine it’s not about avoiding death. It’s about dying well, dying in the right condition. And it does appear that dying well and dying in the right condition takes longer, so you end up living longer as you come more and more into alignment with Right Death. This orientation, that it’s not about avoiding death but preparing for the best possible death, for dying in the best possible state, has profound orientational effect on how we practice with clients who do not have life-threatening or terminal illnesses, who have problems with hangnails, who are in despair b/ c their lipstick color was discontinued by the company (this is an actual person that I’m thinking of from my practice). All of this comes directly into the treatment room, if this is what I’m working with, how do I help this person to be in the best possible state to die well? All of a sudden I have a lot more of a sense of orientation of what it is that this medicine has to offer my lipstick friend, if we think that what we’re mainly here to do for someone is help them prepare to die in the best possible shape to move through death to what comes next in greatest possible alignment with the source.
The Continuum Between Annual and Perennial Medicine
On a continuum between the annual medicine and the perennial medicine, I would say that there are 4 levels. I see people practicing in 4 different ways.
1) Annual Medicine: Using a substance to affect a substance
The first level is using a substance to affect a substance (versus using a quality to affect a substance), this is basic annual medicine, practicing on the level of the creation, this is all that there is this creation and we practice on the level of the creation. We do some very, very fine work sometimes, sometimes that’s the thing to do, so go ahead and do it. Somebody has a splinter, take it out. There are many things to do here on the level of the creation affecting the creation, but know that that’s what you’re doing and choose to do it as appropriate. When it’s done beautifully it’s done in such a way that rectifies something in the creation so that more from pre-creation can come into it.
2) Magicians—some shamans—for the sake of manipulating the creation, tapping into the waves’ source. Who’s in charge? What’s it all for? (And where will you be stranded when you die?)
The next level is what I call the level of the magicians and some shamans (not all shamans, I’m very well aware of that), where for the sake of manipulating the creation, the Tao is tapped into. Tapping into the wave’s source as a way of manipulating the creation. As a magician, I’m standing here among the waves, among the manifestations, and my basic loyalty is to the creation, to the manifestation, and most particularly my loyalty is to how I’d like it to turn out here in the manifestation, but I’m going to tap into something that is pre-creation in order to change the manifestation to my will. Personal will is very important to practicing on the second level, the level of the magicians. Yes I see both manifestation and source, I know both manifestation and source, but I’m on the side of the manifestation and I’d like to preserve my manifestation. This can be very very powerful, very very effective. People say wow, that’s magic, that’s amazing, and yes, yes it is, it is magical amazing stuff. From the point of view of the perennial medicine, however, an important question arises: Who’s in charge? What is it all for? What is it for the sake of? Who decides what’s the highest good? You and your will? Or, the Tao and its Will. And that’s an important question. When we are in magicianship, it’s very effective in terms of changing the creation while you live. In terms of making you ready to die, and go back into Source, if you’ve spent quite a lot of time working on making the manifestation come out the way that you want it to come out, I’m not so sure what shape that’s going to leave you in when you return to source. You know what I mean about that?
3) Health as harmony: living well as the servant of Tao
The third level, health as harmony, coming into ecology, or living well as the Servant of the Tao, is the idea that health is to be found in tuning into which way the Tao is trying to move in your life. It’s springtime, let’s move like springtime. Or aligning with God’s will in a theistic tradition. What is the Creator trying to create? What is the source giving birth to right now, and living in alignment with that. The I-Ching is a document that’s very much about this third level of healing. How do I follow the currents as they come from source out into manifestation and live in alignment with that? What would be the pure note if I allowed the pure note to arise? Who would I be, if I were the pure note as I arise this moment from creation? Give it a try, just sitting here right now, opening to: I’m not going to be who I think I am, and I’m not going to be who I want to be; I open myself to the will that is my origin, I let my life move, and let the nature of my being arise as source would have it arise, without trying to make it come out some other way than Tao brings it forth. This is the nature of source points. This is mostly what we do 5 Element in acupuncture. A great deal of what we’re doing is helping people by being the servant of Tao, to help people lead much fuller lives as they open to the Tao flowing directly into their lives, filling them, flowing into them, feeding them, nourishing them. Not necessarily looking how we think we want it to be, but truing up the manifestation to the source.
4) Heading home, living well to die well. Die before you die. Merge, union, return like waves to source and be born anew every moment. Only possible with total qualitative alignment.
The 4th level: the 4th level is what I call the level of heading home, living well to die well, or the level of “die before you die”, merge, union, return like wave to source so that we can be born anew every moment, which is only possible with total qualitative alignment at source.
If #3 is about living well from the Tao then #4 is about dying well into the Tao. When we’re talking about health as living well, from the Tao, essentially it’s still about God’s exhale, about the Tao’s outpouring, the waves arising, the coming into existence. It’s still about how the Tao moves into the world of manifestation and being able to do that more cleanly more purely, opening to be able to receive and expressthat energy, but you’re still living looking towards life, looking towards manifestation. The 4th level is turning around; you’re actually no longer living looking towards life. That’s what I mean by the level of heading home. That’s why, in Taoism, it is said that the sage faces North. The Chinese conceive of everybody as standing like the Emperor, facing South. His Fire, his heart, faces the south; his kidneys face North. This is the stance of Emperorship. To be the Emperor, the manifestation of the Tao, of the heavenly mandate as it flows into the world, is level 3. To live in your life as the Emperor. But to live as the sage is to turn and face North, no longer facing the world, to be facing towards death; to be living with your face, in a sense, in shadow. Living, but not looking towards the world of manifestation. Looking towards union, living for the sake of union, looking towards the return.
This is a path that not everybody is interested in; it’s not everyone’s orientation. I don’t know why that is; but that does seem to be the case, that some are Emperor and some are Sage, or sometimes at one time in our life we live as Emperor and then comes the time, (usually when we know we’re dying anyway) when it becomes time to begin to live as sage and think about dying well. Nevertheless, even though it is not everyone’s path, it is very important to note that this is within the design of the medicine and that the use of the medicine is not only to come forth from the Tao cleanly, clearly, perfectly, fully, and able to live well, but it is also to help prepare people for union at the end of their life, OR NOW. So this is both the whole issue of: to the extent that you come into union while you were alive you will be glad that you did when you die. And it is also, when it is the achievement of sageliness, the ability to die in every moment, completely. How many of us are dying completely every moment? For the most part, what we tend to do is arise out of the Tao, and then adhere to creation, and say, “I AM! and I Am This! This is what I am, and Tao, if you want to keep filling that, that’s great, but I’m going to stay me-as-I-am. I do not want to die. I want to be, and I want to be Me.” And a little bit of us says, “OK, I’m willing to change, I’m willing to let go of who I think I am, I’m willing to let go of my identity and die and be renewed in each moment.” But what percentage of us is dying completely to be renewed each moment? We can opt for the large cycle or the small cycle of death. If we are not willing to die before we die, that in us which will not die before we die will die when we die, or, we can make smaller cycles of dying as much as possible so as to be living more purely from the Tao—and frankly, it has been shown, in all the perennial medicines, that if you’re willing to die before you die, you live longer, because the Tao can give birth to you and renew you completely with every moment. Although if you actually are dying before you die in every moment you actually don’t care that you live longer. But, there it is anyway.
Now I’d like to present a diagram of Source giving rise to manifestation, and manifestation returning back to Source. I’m doing this because I would like to describe on a very practical level how Chinese medicine works, the actual agency or efficacy of it, the means by which change happens. It works through the power of resonance, as I am going to explain and hopefully demonstrate.
For those of you who are listening to this lecture on CD, you can see the diagram printed directly on the CD. It looks like a series of rings, or concentric circles, with a little circle in the very center labeled “Source”—or, in the case of the CD diagram, the center is left appropriately empty, symbolizing the Void. Stretching from the central source are lines emanating out through the layers like rays of the sun.
This is meant to be a picture of source giving rise to manifestation. You’ve all seen the way, when we throw a pebble into a pool, rings move outwardly from the center in bigger and bigger circles? Just so, Source giving rise to manifestation. If we wanted to be more accurate ad 3D in our model, we’d show this as actually a torus, a donut shape, with the manifestation rising up from the center in a spiral or vortex, up out of the void in the center, out to the edges of the donut, where it is then all sucked back in spirally in a whirlpool vortex, down the other side of the donut.
For now, though, we can keep it simple by using this spider webbish-looking concentric circle thing, and you’ll know what I mean.
We can picture this source of healing, the central perfection, as being like the center of a wheel. As all things emanate from this central perfection they fall in larger concentric rings around this central wheel. The rings are the realms of existence; they are rings of greater and greater effability (the opposite of ineffability), greater concreteness, greater distinction.
The first ring is the first realm in which there is any manifestation of distinction whatsoever: The realm of the logos, of cosmology. e.g. the 4 directions of the medicine wheel, the 5 elements, the 99 names of God. (Every system has a different number of primary qualities, primary distinctions, just as every system of music has a different number of notes as their octave cycle.)
On this diagram, these lines emanating from the first circle are what I’d call lines of pure note. If we think of the source here in the center as being white light, these are the colors of the rainbow. It’s an important shift, from source to first manifestation: the manifestation of primary qualitative distinctions. Where the white light breaks into colors, where the soundless breaks into notes…
The spokes are the first distinctions, and then these primary distinctions shine out through the realms of manifestations the Correspondences. The correspondences are how the first distinctions move through the different realms of application. There is the realm/ circle, of the heavenly directions, there’s the realm/ circle of the weather, there’s the realm/ circle of the colors, there’s the realm/ circle of flavor…
For instance, if we say that there are 5 of the primary spokes, e.g. the 5 elements, this one would be, perhaps, the line or pure note known as Wood. And as this pure note travels through the realm of weather conditions it is wind, and as this note travels through the realm of directions it is East, and as it travels through the realm of flavors it is sour, as it travels through the realm of color it is green. This is the same note, the same energy, traveling through the realms, similarly to the same note being played on a whole bunch of different instruments. True, it’s going to sound different on a violin than on a flute, but it’s the same note. And in this sense, sour is the same note as fingernails, or shouting. Just as in a orchestra that is out of tune, if one clear note can be sounded, all the instruments can use that as a standard of perfection… to come back into tune. Just so when the note Wood is sounded (for instance by needling liver 3), that note on every level of the body, mind, spirit, comes into tune, or greater alignment, with that pure note. (The fingernails come into alignment, the anger comes into alignment, the bile comes into alignment.)
Why this is important, is that, this is our map of health and our route home again. We can look at a situation and say, “oh, your fingernails are a mess, you’re puking bile, you’re angry all the time, your face is green and all you’ll eat is pickles. I know which note is being sounded loudly and out of tune.” I need to bring a pitch pipe in, and I know which note it is I need to blow, because through looking at this note as it’s moving through a whole bunch of instruments, your whole orchestra is a mess because this note is not true. Blow that clear note and everything comes back into alignment with that note. The power of source is able to move through into the realms of manifestation in true and we can live from source in alignment with source, and this is also where we ebb clearly and cleanly back into source.
Or in another case we might be called to pick this line, which represents the pure note of Earth. We look at this note as it arises out of source, and at how’s it doing as it moves through the realms. Well in the realm of somebody’s digestive system, they’re puking their guts out; or in the realm of their ability to manage the ecology of generosity, they’re always doing favors and not receiving any. In the realm of the generation of flesh they’re pitifully bone thin or they’re encumbered with extra weight.
We can look at look and see oh, b/c I know what the pure note is, I can tell if somebody is off and I know where they’re headed back onto no matter which way they’re off: I know it’s yellow and singing and fragrant, so it’s Earth.
The most important thing is the note, knowing the note, sounding the note. The perennial medicine is about the sounding of pitch pipes to the body mind spirit to help people come back in the alignment with the spokes of the wheel b/c the spokes of the wheel are what allows the Tao to flow smoothly into your life. If you’re in alignment with the spoke, the source flows out into your liver, into your spleen, into your kidney. They’re also what you ride home. Your existence flows forth, and you can flow back home along that spoke.
All of it is a kind of a tuning, aligning to these pure notes. Again, every system has a different system of notes: some of them have 4, some have 5 some have 99, whatever. The notes are qualities that move through all the levels of manifestation, and that are actually all that there is: everything in existence is a mixing of qualities; everything is these qualities of light at play.
The Perennial Medicine as Resonance Medicine
Compare again to Annual, mechanical causality.
The standard of health in all perennial medicines is kind of a hierarchy of pure note. They are resonance medicines where, just as when you lean your guitar up against the speaker and you put on a Bob Dylan CD, your guitar starts humming when Bob makes sounds that resonate with the capacity inherent in that string. What we do, how we heal, is we blow notes at guitar strings and remind the guitar, oh, that note had fallen silent or that note was out of tune, and come back into tune again.
Therefore to be a practitioner of this kind of medicine, the most important thing is to learn your modality well, from the sense of being able to learn: What are the pure notes (in this case the 5 elements) and how do I sound them cleanly and clearly? How do I blow a pitch pipe to make those notes sound, to give that direction, that calling forth, that awakening remembrance to the places in this person’s instrument that are off? One of the things we can do, one of the ways we can sound a pure note, is we can use external aids to help us sound those pure notes. Like using these beautifully straight clean Metal needles into certain spots that we know of old b/c of where they are on the body will sound those notes for us when we touch them. Or by using external aids like herbs which sound notes or combinations of notes very cleanly, clearly, purely for the body mind spirit to recognize. Or to use crystals, feathers, power animals, homeopathic somethings of something, it doesn’t matter, but to know well in your modality what are the sounds, and how to sound them clearly, and if possible to learn to do so with our own body, with our spirit, with our words as well. Because it is far more confusing to an instrument needing to tune up to sound one note with your needle and a whole other note with your demeanor. The message doesn’t come across as well. But you don’t actually even need the needle if you can sound clearly and cleanly enough the note with your body, with your voice, with your words. And of old, in Chinese medicine, they would speak of the wu shing shi yao, the medicine without form, and say explicitly, you can do these points, you can give these formulas, but they are not going to be very effective without the wu shing shi yao. Because this is not a mechanical medicine. This is a resonance medicine. How true a note? In a resonance medicine it doesn’t matter how much or how hard, it matters how true the note, that’s the efficacy.
Through all this detailed description, getting more and more discrete, the manifestation is still never separate from the source; it’s continuously arising out of and falling into source. But the point is that it’s still all one thing—there is the Absolute (source) and there is the relative (manifestation), and the Absolute and the Relative are one, and they are sort of different but they are not different, but we have talk about them as being different (and yet the same at the same time).
This is where intention comes in. Intention is important here. What we mean by intention is important here, because there’s a lot of weird stuff that passes for intention but was actually just a fantasy you had in mind while you were doing what it is you were doing. This is not intention. It’s not, ah well, this is what I meant. So what is intention? It has everything to do with resonance, and the practitioner’s ability to embody a vibration, a pure note.
I recently came up with a definition of treatment block as “Anything that prevents the body and mind and spirit from recognizing a good suggestion when it hears one.” And part of the reason why I like that definition is b/c it blatantly acknowledges that there is something in the body mind spirit that generally recognizes a good suggestion when it hears one. This is again one of the fundamental assumptions of the perennial medicine, all you have to do is bring the truth and falsehood falls away. All you have to do is blow the real note, all you have to do it say: Remember? And people say, “right, that’s who I am. I am Greater Mountain Stream. I am Abundant Splendor. I am Spirit Path. Right.” All we have to do is blow the note. All we have to do is make a good suggestion. And there is something in us, known as the heart, which is straight from source, which says, Yes. and this is why all you’ll have to do is bring the note, bring the true note into somebody’s presence, and if there isn’t a treatment block they’re go OH RIGHT and just return right to it, coming into alignment with the true note.
When the true note is sounded, we go back into alignment. What I am calling alignment is like these lines on the diagram. What I am calling alignment is being in a clear line between the power of source giving rise, and the manifestation coming clean and clear.
When someone is ill, or not in alignment with Tao, something’s got to make that bridge between the perfect which is not manifesting, and the illness which is manifesting. This is where the practitioner’s intention comes in. Intention is the practitioner’s alignment for the sake of making that bridge for the client between the Source and the manifestation. The practitioner becomes the needle, becomes the line, becomes the conduit so that the true note can be heard and the out-of-tuneness can correct itself.
Intention enables the movement between the Source and the manifestation by holding in alignment through your being the connection between the two. There is the power of source, and there’s your client with a headache. There’s the absolute perfection with the pure note arising from it and there’s this situation, here in the world of manifestation, where th note has been forgotten or distorted. Intention is when, as practitioner, I become the bridge by sounding that note from Source here in the world of manifestation. Now the client, in the presence of that clear note, by resonance can come back into tune, into alignment. Now the arising from and falling back into Tao can happen more cleanly and clearly. This is known as healing.
This is very different from working just with mechanical causality in the creation. This is about moving from the uncreated into creation and being the bridge between the uncreated and the creation. That is what makes the waves come differently.
Now we’re going to do a brief exercise. Does everybody have a pen? Put your pen down in front of you. Do a little body check, how is my body? How does it feel right now? And do and emotions check, how are my emotions, how am I feeling? Check into your mind, what’s my mind like? Check into the room, what’s the room like?
Now, from this awareness, pick up your pen.—OK, now you can put them back down again, and we’re going to pick them up again with intention. What we’re going to do is become aware that there is source preceding this manifestation, and that we, just like everyone else, we are a conduit for source coming into manifestation, and what we’re going to do, from this place of being the needle, being the through line, being the needle aligning between source and manifestation, we are going to say, “In the name of the Most High, I pick up this pen.” And then pick up the pen.
So join me, “In the name of the Most High, I pick up this pen.”
Check into your body, your emotions, the state of your mind, the feeling in the room, and put down your pen. Did that feel different?—And what if it’s a needle you’re picking up. How will you pick up that needle? With what awareness? With what intention? What will you be aware of, and be bringing through your body in a straight, clean, clear line from the absolute into the relative, so as to change the way that the source gives rise to manifestation, because when you are in alignment and holding intention, you are part of how source gives rise to manifestation. It happens through you. And this is the power of the perennial medicine, of which we must be aware in order to practice truly the modality that we’ve been given.