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The Embryo of the Tao

abracad, · Categories: buddhism, externally authored, spirituality

A Return to the womb

By Travis Edwards

In Western psychology there is a term known as the inner child which represents the most pure and innocent aspect of ourselves. In popular psychology this term 'inner child' refers to the sum of all our mental and emotional memories stored in the sub-conscious mind from conception through pre-puberty and the consensus in psychotherapy or counseling is to heal this aspect of ourselves by identifying and eliminating the dysfunctional patterns of behavior that have resulted from those sub-conscious memories.

In a deeper spiritual sense the inner child can also mean our true self or soul or likened to that of our intuition, whichever phrase is used they virtually represent the same thing. Our inner child force is linked to a higher intelligence capable of perceiving every event we undertake such as action, thought or words spoken yet it does not over think or over analyze like our so called conscious mind, it just simply perceives. The inner child depicts a state free from any torment of mind (thoughts/habitual tendencies) social conditioning, labels or concepts that typically manipulate and mislead the human psyche.

Carl Jung is often referenced as the originator of the inner child concept which he used in his studies of archetypes which he thought of as a dynamic substratum of forms common to all humanity, upon the foundation of which each individual builds his or her own experience of life through culture, personality and life events. Jung first used the term archetypes in an essay he wrote titled 'Instinct and the Unconscious' in 1919. However truth is that Jung's idea of archetypes were based in part from Plato's theory of forms.

In Greek 'arche' translates as primal source and 'type' can translate as form or image so basically archetype can be translated to the 'pattern underlying form' or 'primordial form.'

The inner child denotes a semi-independent entity subordinate to the waking conscious mind.

Both Jung and Plato would refer to the inner child essence as having both conscious and unconscious forces which could be influenced positively or negatively according to a persons outer actions.

The works by Jung can be resembled with a lesser known source such as the ancient Hawaiian Kahuna tribes who had a more highly developed system of psychology and mental health than is present even today. The Kahuna spoke about people having not just one source of mind but three minds – the conscious, unconscious and higher conscious minds. The ancient Hawaiians called the Conscious Mind 'Uhane' which translates as soul or spirit. They called the unconscious mind 'grasshopper' and the higher conscious mind 'Aumakua' meaning parental spirit which included many ancestors and gods who were worshiped under this term. One particular shaman from the Kahuna known as 'Daddy Bray' said that mankind is made up of material and spiritual parts, comprising equally of both like a magnet with one pole in matter and one pole in spirit. The pole in matter refers to the waking conscious mind which we identify with as our ego bodymind, the part of us we constantly call 'I' when we say "I think, I am, I do, I have'' etc. The pole in spirit however refers to the higher conscious mind and its connection and potential to reconnect with the source of all creation, the absolute, but I also believe the pole in spirit incorporates the aspect of the inner child archetype because it too represents a higher prospective of ourselves in which we can work with to bring about a higher consciousness and inevitably merge closer to the source.

An interesting point of contention is how the inner child archetype has been esoterically referenced too in most religions and spiritual/shamanic practices and texts.

For example in the Bible in Matthew 18 it is written; 'At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ''Who then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?''

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ''Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.''

This verse can be interpreted in a variety of ways but in my opinion it is pointing towards an esoteric knowledge that dates back much further than Christianity.

This same introspection seems to have also been taught in Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism but never was a term used such as 'inner child.'

Such traditions have practiced for thousands of years ways to uncondition the human experience by means of meditative techniques or disciplines, shamanic ritual, asceticism, yoga or qi gong to name a few.

''The inner child perceives everything yet it does not think or analyze what it perceives, it just simply perceives.''

This focus on simply perceiving without forming sense based concepts is what they refer to in the Eastern practices as 'pure awareness' or 'the witness', the one who is witnessing every phenomenal event – an observing unbound by the mind's sensory constructs and analytical interpretation. Meditation and the yoga systems are practices aimed at escaping the mind's sense bound matrix by returning us to our original essence where spirit and soul (vital breath) combine to reform a state of innocence - our inner child.

I call this journey a 'return to the womb'. Not a womb in the physical or tangible sense of course but a return to a state that predisposed our personalities and social conditioning. A state that was completely natural. All of life begins from the womb and it is of no surprise that the ancient sages in the East began their spiritual work from this centre. But I stress once again to not think of this centre in the physical sense but rather as a state of spiritual emergence. This centre is known as the germinal vesicle.

'This germinal vesicle is something great. Before this our body is born of our parents, at the time of conception, this seed is first created and human nature and life dwell therein. The two are intermingled and form a unity, inseparably mixed like the sparks in the refining furnace, a combination of primordial harmony and divine law. Therefore it is said: 'In the state before the appearance there is an inexhaustible breath.' Furthermore it is said: 'Before the parents have begotten the child, the breath of life is complete and the embryo perfect.' But when the embryo moves and the embryo vesicle is torn, it is as if a man lost his footing on a high mountain: with a cry the man plunges down to earth, and from then on human nature and life are divided. From this moment human nature can no longer see life nor life human nature. And now fate takes its course: youth passes over into maturity, maturity into old age, and old age into woe.

Therefore the Buddha, in his great compassion, let the secret making and melting be known. He teaches one to re-enter the womb and create anew the human nature and life of the ego; he shows how spirit and soul (vital breath) enter the germinal vesicle, how they must combine to become a unity in order to complete the true fruit, just as the sperm and soul of father and mother entered this germinal vesicle and united as one being in order to complete the embryo. The principle is the same.'(1)

Ancient Taoist texts made frequent references to this theory as a sure fire way to finding what our true essence is. The Taoist sages stated that this germinal vesicle was the ruling principle of consciousness and life, placing great emphasis on the fact that to not understand this sacred alchemy was to forever be lost searching in the outer world.

Also in these Taoist texts there is references to 'womb breathing'. Womb breathing is internal breathing, the movement of the subtle breath that occurs in the womb before the child is born and begins breathing through the lungs. In meditation the breath becomes subtle and internal, mirroring the state in the womb.

In the popular Taoist text known as the Tao Te Ching, the most translated Eastern text and second in history only to the bible, we can find reference to this ancient alchemy of the inner child once more. The author Lao Tzu asks in verse 10 of the Tao Te Ching; ''Carrying body and soul and embracing the one, Can you avoid separation? Attending fully and becoming supple, Can you be as a newborn babe?''

What Lao Tzu was pointing to was a peeling back of layers, finding the absence of conditioning and mental analysis to simply perceive without discrimination. As a newborn baby does. This is the Primal Virtue.

According to the ancient Taoists this primal virtue receives and views everything as being infused with the light of Tao.

This wonderful perception sounds fantastic but is not easily achieved. Due to our heavy conditioning throughout our 'education' years it is a heady task to break the shackles of the mechanical ways of society. Our innocence is soon worn away by the harsh realities of the so called 'real world' and expectation to conform and compete becomes the template for living. Yet for those who do not wish to conform, preferring to listen to the intuitive and creative nature of their inner child, they are soon to realise the struggle within that lay before them. They search for meaning and belonging in a strange world, such intuitive beings remain stuck on the question of what happened between my infancy to now? How did life become so complex, why has my perception changed? How did time become so formulated, regimented and demanding?

The inner child creativity I mention here is the true essence of our evolution. In his breakthrough book Creative evolution Henry Bergson suggested that evolution is motivated by an 'elan vital', a vital impulse, meaning humanity's naturally creative and vital force. It is this creative impulse that sets us free and evolves us. Bergson's reasoning was that in the creation of all living things there exists this vital impulse accounting for diversity and differentiation. These tendencies can be defined as instinct and intelligence which allows for intuition to guide us back into our true reality - this original impulse. Impulse suggests the act of spontaneity and this is indeed the manner in which our inner child desires us to function. Taoist teachings mention spontaneity as an essential factor for connecting with Tao; the underlying stream of creative force that governs and sustains all of life, and the alchemy of spontaneity is such, that different to Darwinisms survival of the fittest, it requires ones self to adapt to change in an intuitive manner favourable to ones own evolution.

Bergson used a term 'duration' which referred to a more individual subjective experience of time as opposed to a mathematical or mechanical form of time as Darwinism would suggest. In Creative Evolution Bergson suggests that the experience of time as duration can best be understood through creative intuition rather than intellect.

The individual subjective experience of time may be measured by someone's own perception of the duration of the indefinite and the continuation of unfolding events. This explanation of time is also how the ancient Taoists tried best to describe it and like others before him Bergson discovered that time perception is ultimately a construct of the brain that can be manipulated and distorted due to alterations in phenomenal events.

As infants we had yet to learn of the limitations of 'time' that human history has shaped it to be. Being taught to think and act in a linear fashion has been the indoctrination of all nations despite some cultures who once knew nothing of this concept of time such as the Eastern and shamanic cultures. In our infancy and early childhood our duration of the indefinite was indefinite because life as we knew it always was this spontaneous continuation of unfolding events and 'time' seemed to last forever. We were also less constrained emotionally- we cried when we needed to, we shouted when needed, we were natural and responded accordingly. We knew nothing of taboos, we knew nothing of wrong or right because we saw everything for what it was without discrimination. This non-discrimination of events is a penultimate teaching in Buddhist and Taoist teachings hence why they teach to drop the notions of wrong and right.

The Zen masters have long known that to learn of ones true nature it was imperative to become once again like a child. To act as natural and spontaneous as possible. Zen masters were known to be somewhat outlandish in their behavior and never advocated suppressing any emotion. In fact they expressed it often, meaning that if anger arose it may come out. If they felt like crying or being sad it was not suppressed.

As children we were already gurus so to speak, we were already that which we desire to become now but due to conditioning and identifying with thoughts that we are only this body-mind ego we have lost sight of that state.

Our true nature - as illuminated beings is and has always been present. We are just not awake to this reality due to the obscuring conditioning of our psyche. Clinging to limitation and attempts to control the ceaseless flow of phenomena and processes (the impermanent) forever keeps us in our eggshells.

As adults though, we have the capacity to identify and work our way back to that once pure and unadulterated state as the inexhaustible breath-spirit. The embryo of the Tao is in reach for all of us. Although invisible to the naked eye we do remain connected to the universe via our naval centre. The Hindu symbol of Aum depicts this well and is its true esoteric meaning. The Aum symbol shaped like a 3 depicts a person sitting side on with the middle of the symbol representing the invisible umbilical chord to the universe, our secret pathway back to our true womb in the universe as infinite awareness. We are that.


(1) The secret of the golden flower, Richard Wilhelm and Carl Jung, Harcourt Brace and company books. 1962


Filed in: buddhism, externally authored, spirituality

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