Alchemy In Taoist Practice

External alchemy laboratory equiptment.

In Taoist practice, the term "alchemy" is used in two distinct ways, to refer to either external alchemy or internal alchemy. Let's take a closer look at these two forms of alchemy ...

External Alchemy In Taoist Practice

In the practice of external alchemy, a Taoist practitioner creates and ingests herbal formulas or mineral elixirs as a means of improving physical health and longevity. At certain points in Taoism's history, the quest for Immortality took the form of much experimentation of this kind.

The results were sometimes less than ideal - and death by poisoning not an altogether uncommon outcome. Luckily, we've grown a bit wiser, so that today the vast majority of Taoist external alchemical formulations are not only safe but potentially also quite beneficial for the health and longevity of a human bodymind. 

The form of external alchemy most frequently employed by Taoist practitioners is Chinese herbal medicine: the art and science of combining plants and minerals into formulas which nourish and support the Three Treasures. Some other interesting examples of modern-day external alchemy (whose authenticity I can attest to) include Petri Murien's Tonic Gold, the homeopathic alchemy of Alfons Ven, and U Shein Sayagi's Gold Ash Powder.

Modern-Day Versions Of External Alchemy

Western science has also gifted us with some potent external alchemical formulations. The German biochemist and physicist Johanna Budwig, for instance, developed the Budwig Protocol: a powerful way of making essential fatty acids (e.g. flaxseed oil) water-soluble, and hence more easily assimilated into human cells.

Both of these external alchemical formulations are well worth checking out!

While these all can be interesting and perhaps very beneficial to experiment with, let's not forget that the most down-to-earth and readily available form of external alchemy is our daily diet. Being intelligent about the foods we eat is a foundation for all other Taoist practices.

Read More: Taoist Practice & Diet

Internal Alchemy In Taoist Practice

The second form of Taoist alchemy is internal alchemy -- the cultivation of the Taoist Three Treasures: Jing (reproductive energy), Qi (life-force energy) and Shen (spiritual energy). In internal alchemy practice, it is the bodymind of the Taoist practitioner that is the "laboratory," and the refined energy produced there is the "elixir." Rather than ingesting an external substance, we learn to refine and circulate our life-force energy, via qigong, visualization and Taoist meditation practice. The positive transformations are the result of working directly with mind, breath and subtle energy, in ways that eventually effect the biochemistry of the body.