The Secret of the Golden Flower
A Chinese Book of Life

Translated by Richard Wilhelm
Commentary by C.G. Jung
London 1931

Jung GoldenFlower 94

1. Tao 道
The great dificulty in interpreting this and similar texts1 for the European mind is due to the fact that the Chinese author always starts from the centre of things, from the point we would call his objective or goal; in a word, he begins with the ultimate insight he has set out to attain. Thus the Chinese author begins his work with ideas that demand a most comprehensive understanding on our part. So much so, that a man with a critical intellect feels he speaks with laughable pretension, or even that he is guilty of utter nonsense, if he dares launch a purely intellectual discourse on the subtle psychic experiences of the great minds of the East. For example, our text begins : " That which exists through itself, is called Tao". The Hui Ming Ching begins with the words : "The most subtle secret of Tao is essence and life".

It is characteristic of the Western mind that it has no concept for Tao.
The Chinese sign is made up of the sign for "head" and that for "going".
Wilhelm translates Tao by Sinn (Meaning). Others translate it as "Way", "Providence" or even as "God" as the Jesuits do.
This shows the difficulty. "Head" could be taken as consciousness2, and “to go”, as travelling a way, and then the idea would be: to go consciously, or the conscious way. This agrees with the fact that “the Light of Heaven" which “dwells between the eyes " as the "Heart of Heaven" is used synonymously with Tao.

1 Compare Liu Hua-yang: Hui Ming Ching, Das Buch von Bewusstsein und Leben, {The Book of Consciousness and Life), translated into German by L. C. Lo, Chinesische Blätter, No. 1, vol. 3, published by Richard Wilhelm.
2 The head is also the " seat of Heavenly Light".

95 " Essence and life " are contained in the “Light of Heaven” and according to Liu Hua-yang, are the most important secrets of Tao. "Light" is the symbolical equivalent of consciousness, and the nature of consciousness is expressed by analogies with light.

The Hui Ming Ching is introduced with the verse:-
"If thou wouldst complete the diamond body without emanations,
Diligently heat the roots of consciousness1 and life.
Kindle Light in the blessed country ever close at hand,
And, there hidden, let thy true self eternally dwell."

1 In the Hui Ming Ching, "essence" and "consciousness" are used interchangeably.
Lc., p. 104.

These verses contain a sort of alchemistic instruction as to a method or way of creating the "diamond body” which also appears in our text, "Heating" is necessary ; that is, there must be a heightening of consciousness in order that the dwelling place of the spirit can be "illumined”. But not only consciousness, life itself must be heightened. The union of these two produces "conscious life”.

According to the Hui Ming Ching, the ancient sages knew how to bridge the gap between consciousness and life because they cultivated both. In this way the immortal body is "melted out" and in this way "the great Tao is completed".

If we take Tao as the method or conscious way by which to unite what is separated, we have probably come quite close to the psychological content of the concept. In any case, the separation of consciousness from life could not very well be understood as anything other than what I have described above as the deflection, or deracination of consciousness.

96 Without doubt also, the question of making the opposites conscious (“conversion"), means reunion with the laws of life represented in the unconscious, and the purpose of this reunion is the attainment of conscious life, or. expressed in Chinese terms, the bringing about of Tao.

2- The Circular Movement and the Centre
As has already been pointed out, the union of the opposites1 on a higher level of consciousness, is not a rational affair, nor is it a matter of will, but a psychic process of development which expresses itself in symbols.

Historically, this process has always been represented in symbols, and to-day the development of individual personality is still rendered visible by symbolical figures. This fact was revealed tome through the following observations. The spontaneous fantasies of which we treated above, become more profound and concentrate themselves gradually around abstract structures which apparently represent " principles true gnostic archai. When the fantasies are chiefly expressed in thoughts, the results are intuitive formulations of the dimly felt laws or principles, and these tend to be dramatized or personified. (We shallhave to deal with these again later.) If the fantasies are drawn, there appear symbols that are chiefly of the so-called mandala2 type.

Mandala means a circle, more especially a magic circle, and this form of symbol is not only to be found all through the East, but also among us ; mandalas are amply represented in the Middle Ages. The specifically Christian ones come from the earlier Middle Ages.

1 Compare my discussion in Psychological Types, chap. v.
2 For a discussion of the mandala, see Kunstform und Yoga im Indischen Kultbild, Heinrich Zimmer, Frankfurter-Verlagsanstalt, Berlin, 1926.

97 Most of them show Christ in the centre, with the four evangelists, or their symbols, at the cardinal points. This conception must be a very ancient one because Horus was represented with his four sons in the same way by the Egyptians1. (It is known that Horus with his four sons was closely connected with Christ and the four evangelists.) Later there is to be found a clear and very interesting mandala in Jacob Boehme's book on the soul2.

This latter mandala, it is easy to see, deals with a psycho-cosmic system having a strong Christian colour. Boehme callsit the “philosophical eye "3 or the " mirror of wisdom which obviously means a body of secret knowledge. For the most part, the mandala form is that of a flower, cross, or wheel, with a distinct tendency toward four as the basis of structure. (One is reminded of the ieirakiys, the fundamental number in the Pythagorean system.)

Mandalas of this sort are also to be found in the sand drawings used in the ceremonies of the Pueblo Indians4.

But the most beautiful mandalas are, of course, those of the East, especially those belonging to Tibetan Buddhism. The symbols of our text are represented in these mandalas. I have also found mandala drawings among the mentally diseased, and they were patients who certainly did not have the least idea of any of the connections we have discussed5.Among my patients I have come across cases of women who did not draw mandala symbols but who danced them instead.

1 Compare Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians.
2 Forty Questions of the Soule. 1602. first English translation.
3 Compare the Chinese concept of the Heavenly Light between the eyes.
4 Matthews, The Mountain Chant. Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1883-4, and Stevenson, Ceremonial of Hasjelti Dailjiis, Eighth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1886-7.
5 I have published the mandala of a somnambulist in Collected Papers on Analytical Psychology.

98 In India this type is called mandala nrithya or mandala dance, and the dance figures express the same meanings as the drawings. My patients can say very little about the meaning of the symbols but are fascinated by them and find them in some way or other expressive and effective with respect to the subjective psychic condition represented.

Our text promises to
reveal the secret of the Golden Flower of the Great One”.
The Golden Flower is the Light, and the Light of Heaven is Tao.

The Golden Flower is a mandala symbol which I have often met with in the material brought me by my patients. It is drawn either (seen from above) as a regular geometric ornament, or as a flower growing from a plant. The plant is frequently a structure in brilliant fiery colours and is shown growing out of a bed of darkness, and carrying the blossom of light at the top, a symbol similar to that of the Christmas tree. But a drawing of this kind expresses more than the form of the Golden Flower; it suggests its origin as well, since according to the Hui Ming Ching, the "germinal vesicle" is the "dragon castle on the floor of the sea This vesicle is nothing other than the “golden castle”, the “Heavenly Heart”,” the "terrace of life", the "field of the square-inch”, the “house of the square-foot”, the “purple hall of the city of jade”, the “dark pass”, in the “space of former Heaven”. The list of richly significant names is not yet exhausted, for the “germinal vesicle” is also known as the “borderline of the snow mountains”, the “primordial pass”, the “empire of the greatest joy”, the “land without boundaries” and “the altar upon which consciousness and life are made”.
If a dying man does not know this seed place”, says the Hui Ming Ching, “he will not find the unity of consciousness and life in a thousand births and ten thousand aeons”.

99 The beginning, in which everything is still unity, and which therefore appears as the highest goal, lies on the floor of the sea in the darkness of the unconscious. In the germinal vesicle, life and consciousness (or “essence” and "life”, hsing-ming), are still a "unity“1 inseparably mixed like the seeds of fire in the refining furnace".

“Inside the germinal vesicle is the fire of the ruler".
“In the germinal vesicle all wise men have begun their work”

Note the fire analogies. I know a series of European mandala drawings in which something like a plant seed surrounded with membranes is shown floating in water, and, from the depths below, fire penetrating the seed, makes it grow, and causes the formation of a large golden flower from within the germinal vesicle.

This symbolism refers to a sort of alchemic process of refining and "ennobling" ; darkness gives birth to light; out of the "lead of the water-region”, grows the "noble” gold; the unconscious becomes conscious in the form of a process of life and growth, (Hindu Kundalini yoga2 affords a complete analogy.) In this way the union of consciousness and life takes place.

1 Hui Ming Ching, p. 105.
2 Avalon, The Serpent Power. Luzae and Co., London, 1919.

When my patients produce these mandala pictures it is, of course, not through suggestion; similar pictures were being made long before I knew their meaning or their connection with the strange practices of the East, which, at that time, were wholly unfamiliar to me.

The pictures came quite spontaneously and from two sources. One source is the unconscious, which spontaneously produces such fantasies; the other source is life, which, if lived with complete devotion, brings an intuition of
the self, the individual being.

100 When one becomes aware of the latter, it is expressed in drawings, while the unconscious enforces an acceptance of life. Moreover, quite in accord with the Eastern conception,
the mandala symbol is not only a means of expression, but works an effect. It reacts upon its maker. Very ancient magical effects are associated with this symbol because it comes originally from the "enclosing circle” the "charmed circle” the magic of which has been preserved in countless folk-customs1.

The picture has the obvious purpose of drawing a sulcus primigenius, a magical furrow around the centre, the templum, or temenos (sacred precincts), of the innermost personality, in order to prevent "emanation” or to guard by apotropaeic means, deflections through external influences.

Magical practices are nothing but the projections of psychic events, which, in cases like these, exert a counter inluence on the soul, and act like a kind of enchantment of one's own personality. That is to say, by means of these concrete performances, the attention, or better said, the interest, is brought back to an inner, sacred domain, which is the source and goal of the soul. This inner domain contains the unity of life and consciousness, which, though once possessed, has been lost, and must now be found again.
The union of these two, life and consciousness, is Tao, whose symbol would be the central white light (compare the Bardo Todol)2 and the dwelling place of the light is the "quadrant", or the "face", that is, the space between the eyes. By means of these symbols it is intended to make visible the "creative point”, or that which has intensity without extension. It is a point conceived to be connected with the space of the "square inch", which is the symbol for that which has extension.

1 I refer to the excellent collection of Knuchel, Die Umwandlung in Kult, Magic and Rechtsgebrauch.
2 Evans-Wentz, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, 1927.

101 The two together make Tao. Essence, or consciousness (hsing ),
is expressed in light symbolism, and is therefore intensity, while life (ming 命 : life, lifespan), would coincide with extensity
.The first has the character of the yang principle, the latter of the yin.

The "enclosure” or circumambulatio is expressed in our text by the idea of a circular course. The "circular course" is not merely motion in a circle, but means, on the one side, the marking off of the sacred precinct, and, on the other, fixation and concentration. The sunwheel begins to run; that is to say, the sun is activated, and begins to take its course, or, in other words, Tao begins to be effective and to take the leadership. Action is reversed into non-action ; all that is peripheral is subjected to the command of the centre. Therefore it is said: Movement is only another name for mastery.

Psychologically, this circular course would be the "turning in a circle about oneself by means of which, apparently, all sides of the personality become implicated. “The poles of Light and Darkness are made to rotate; there comes a change from day to night”.

"Es wechselt Paradieseshelle
Mit tiefer, schauervoller Nacht"

"The radiance of Paradise alternates with deep, dreadful night”. (Faust)

Thus the circular movement has also the moral significance of activating all the light and dark forces of human nature, and with them, all the psychological opposites of whatever kind they may be.

102 That means nothing else than self-knowledge by means of self-incubation (Hindu tapas). A similar primordial concept of an, absolutely complete creature is that of the Platonic man, round on all sides and uniting within himself the two sexes.

One of the finest parallels to what has been said here, is the description of his central experience given by Edward Maitland, the co-worker of Anna Kingsford1.
1 I am indebted for this reference to my esteemed colleague. Dr. Beatrice Hinkle, of New, York, The title reads: Anna Kingsford) Her Life9 Letters, Diary, andWork, by Edward Maitland, Redway, London, 1896. Note especially page 129 f.

As far as possible I have followed his own words. He had discovered that during reflection on an idea, related ideas became visible, so to speak, in a long series, apparently back to their source, which to him was the divine spirit. By means of concentration on the series, be made the effort to press on to their origin.
He says : "I was absolutely without knowledge or expectation when I yielded to the impulse to make the attempt. I simply experimented on a faculty…being seated at my writing-table the while in order to record the results as they came, and resolved to retain my hold on my outer and circumferential consciousness, no matter how far towards my inner and central consciousness I might go. For I knew not whether I should be able to regain the former if I once quitted my hold of it, or to recollect the facts of the experience. At length I achieved my object, though only by a strong effort, the tension occasioned by the endeavour to keep both extremes of the consciousness in view at once being very great".

"Once well started on my quest, I found myself traversing a succession of spheres or belts…the impression produced being that of mounting a vast ladder stretching from the circumference towards the centre of a system, which was at once my own system, the solar system, and the universal system, the three systems being at once diverse and identical.

103 …Presently, by a supreme, and what I felt must be a final, effort
I succeeded in polarizing the whole of the convergent rays of my consciousness into the desired focus. And at the same instant, as if through the sudden ignition of the rays thus fused into a unity, I found myself confronted with a glory of unspeakable whiteness and brightness, and of a lustre so intense as well-nigh to beat me back…But though feeling that I had no need to explore further, I resolved to make assurance doubly sure by piercing if I could the almost blinding lustre, and seeing what it enshrined. With a great effort I succeeded, and the glance revealed to me that which I had felt must be there…It was the dual form of the Son…the unmanifest made manifest, the unformulate formulate, the unindividuate individuate, God as the Lord, proving through His duality that God is Substance as well as Force, Love as well as Will, Feminine as well as Masculine, Mother as well as Father”.

He found that God is two in one like man. Beside this he noticed something that our text also emphasizes, namely, "suspension of breathing". He says ordinary breathing stopped and was replaced by an internal respiration, " as if by the breathing of a distinct personality within and other than the physical organism." He took this being to be the entelechy of Aristotle, and the inner Christ of the Apostle Paul, the "spiritual and substantial individuality engendered within the physical and phenomenal personality, and representing, therefore, the rebirth of the man on a plane transcending the material”. This genuine1 experience contains all the essential symbols of our text.

1 Such experiences are genuine, but their genuineness does not prove that all the conclusions or convictions forming their context are necessarily sound. Even in cases of lunacy one comes across perfectly valid psychic experiences.(C. G. J.)

104 The phenomenon itself, that is the light-vision, is an experience common to many mystics, and one that is undoubtedly of the greatest significance, because in all times and places it appears as the unconditional thing, which unites in itself the greatest power and the profoundest meaning. Hildegarde von Bingen, a significant personality quite apart from her mysticism, expresses herself about her central vision in a quite similar way. " Since my childhood," she says, "I always see a light in my soul, but not with the outer eyes, nor through the thoughts of my heart; neither do the five outer senses take part in this vision…The light I perceive is not of a local kind, but is much brighter than the cloud which bears the sun. I cannot distinguish in it height, breadth, or length…What I see or learn in such a vision stays long in my memory. I see, hear, and know at the same time, and learn what I know in the same moment…I cannot recognize any sort of form in this light, although I sometimes see in it another light that is known to me as the living light…While I am enjoying the spectacle of this light, all sadness and sorrow disappear from my memory ..."

I know a few individuals who are familiar with this phenomenon from personal experience. As far as I have ever been able to understand it, the phenomenon seems to have to do with an acute condition of consciousness as intensive as it is abstract, a "detached" consciousness (see below), which, as Hildegarde pertinently remarks, brings up to consciousness regions of psychic events ordinarily covered with darkness. The fact that, in connection with this, the general bodily sensations disappear, shows that their specific energy has been withdrawn from them, and has apparently gone toward heightening the clearness of consciousness.

105 As a rule, the phenomenon is spontaneous, coming and going its own initiative. Its effect is astonishing in that it almost always brings about a solution of psychic complications, and thereby frees the inner personality from emotional and imaginary entanglements, creating thus a unity ofbeing, which is universally felt as a " release”.

The achievement of such a symbolic unity is beyond the power of the conscious will because, in this case, the conscious is partisan. Its opponent is the collective unconscious which does not understand the language of the conscious. Therefore it is necessary to have the “magically” effective symbol which contains those primitive analogies that speak to the unconscious. The unconscious can only be reached and expressed by the symbol, which is the reason why the process of individuation can never do without the symbol. The symbol is, on the one hand, the primitive expression of the unconscious, while, on the other hand, it is an idea corresponding to the highest intuition produced by consciousness.

The oldest mandala known to me, is a palaeolithic so-called "sunwheel” recently discovered in Rhodesia. It is likewise founded on the principle of four. Things reaching so far back in human history naturally touch upon the deepest layers of the unconscious and make it possible to grasp the latter where conscious speech shows itself to be quite impotent. Such things cannot be thought out but must grow again from the forgotten depths, if they are to express the supreme presentiments of consciousness and the loftiest intuitions of the spirit. Coming from these depths they can unite the uniqueness of present-day consciousness with the age-old past of life.