Internal Alchemy
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Internal Alchemy

Self, Society, and the Quest for Immortality

Paperback 34.95 USD
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Livia Kohn and Robin R. Wang
256 Pages
January 2009
ISBN 978-1-931483-11-7


Internal alchemy (neidan) has been the dominant system of Daoist spiritual practice since the Song dynasty, when it was defined as the complex integration of multiple forms of Daoist self-cultivation. Its practitioners transform body energies into subtle levels of spirit and pure cosmic being, hoping to find illumination by returning to the fundamental order of the cosmos and in the process reconcile physiological training with intellectual speculation.

Bringing together the best work of leading scholars in the field, this book provides a thorough and easily accessible introduction to this important tradition. The volume begins with a general survey of the cultivation methods that form the backbone of internal alchemy and an analysis of its understanding of the human body and the terminology it employs. Next, it presents the historical development of the tradition with its major schools and a detailed discussion of key concepts, such as mind, inner nature, and destiny.

Following this, presentations focus on specific practices, such as the emergence of the spirit through the top of the head, the activation of internal visions in Thunder Rites, the sexual comingling of energies in duo-cultivation, and the body visions and transformative techniques employed specifically by women. Next come two contributions on the contemporary application of internal alchemy in China and its transmission and understanding in the West. The work concludes with comparative studies on Kundalini Yoga and Hermeticism.


Livia Kohn
Modes of Mutation: Restructuring the Energy Body
Sara Elaine Neswald
Internal Landscapes
Guangbao Zhang
History and Early Lineages
Xichen Lu
The Southern School: Cultivating Mind and Inner Nature
Stephen Eskildsen
Neidan Methods for Opening the Gate of Heaven
Shin-yi Chao
Summoning the Thunder Generals: Internal Alchemy in the Thunder Rites
Xun Liu
Numinous Father and Holy Mother: Late-Ming Duo-Cultivation Practice
Elena Valussi
Female Alchemy: An Introduction
Robin R. Wang
To Become a Female Daoist Master: Kundao in Training
Michael Winn
Daoist Internal Alchemy in the West
Stuart Sovatsky
On Being Moved: Kundalini and the Complete Maturation of the Spiritual Body
Althea Northage-Orr
Western Parallels: The Esoteric Teachings of Hermeticism
Index 243