Chen Zhixu on Essence, Breath, and Spirit


Essence (jing), Breath (qi), and Spirit (shen) affect one another. When they follow the course, they form the human being; when they invert the course, they generate the Elixir.

What is the meaning of "following the course"? "The One generates the Two, the Two generate the Three, the Three generate the ten thousand things."(1) Therefore Emptiness transmutes itself into Spirit, Spirit transmutes itself into Breath, Breath transmutes itself into Essence, Essence transmutes itself into form, and form becomes the human being.

What is the meaning of "inverting the course"? The ten thousand things hold the Three, the Three return to the Two, the Two return to the One. Those who know this Way look after their Spirit and guard their corporeal form. They nourish the corporeal form to refine the Essence, accumulate the Essence to transmute it into Breath, refine the Breath to merge it with Spirit, and refine the Spirit to revert to Emptiness. Then the Golden Elixir is achieved.

Source: Chen Zhixu (1290-ca.1368), Jindan dayao (Great Essentials of the Golden Elixir), ch. 4.



(1) Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue), sec. 42.


Chrome bullet   This is one of several translations from texts of Internal Alchemy available from the Golden Elixir website. See the complete index.