December 23, 2005 at 6:10 pm #9568
I friend of mine sent this to me and at any rate something to read about “The Three Worms”, this is not my article so I share this only to fill in the void until other’s responses are answered…snowlion..happy holidays
The Three Worms
An exploration of the concept of Three Worms in Taoism and Chinese Medicine.
An interesting but little known tradition in Daoist (Taoist) practice and Classical Chinese Medicine is the concept of the Three Worms which live in the body and must be eliminated for true health and (in Daoist theory) immortality. This short paper approaches the subject of the Three Worms (and what has traditionally been done about them) using several texts to give a broad view of how the Three Worms were seen, the traditional means used to eliminate them, herbs and dietary practices used to kill the worms, and, finally, some suggestions about integrating this into a modern clinical practice.
Id like to start by thanking Heiner Freuhauf, Ph.D. for sharing some of his clinical and textual research on the subject. His work is a key link to restoring an important Classical therapeutic method into modern Chinese Medicine practice.
Daoist practice has been a tree with many branches which has grown over the past 2500 to 3000 years. From reclusive shamanism to organized religion to philosophical tea parties, Daoists throughout time have formed so many schools, cults (1), and reclusive mountain communities (monasteries and hermitages) that even just cataloging them all would be a large undertaking. Daoist Alchemy is a term we use to describe the group of Daoists who sought, by some means (internal or external), to extend life and reach a definite state of spiritual exaltation while in the body. Immortality was the operative word, and described a menu of options for the practitioners, who could decide if they wanted to ascend to heaven in broad daylight, stay alive on the earth forever, or let everyone think they died when their corpse was actually an illusion cast upon a stick.
Many people love the colorful tales of the Daoist Immortals, which still form an important cultural motif in modern Chinese civilizations. Most people stop at an amused appreciation of the legends, and see no benefit from exploring the practices which claim to bestow immortality on an aspirant. However, as Chinese Medicine grows in popularity around the world, and Western scholars go beyond the Communist-synthesized TCM (2), it becomes apparent that the Daoist roots of Chinese Medicine are of extreme importance historically, philosophically, and even clinically.
Certainly some of the Daoist medical practices will strike the modern reader as suspicious. Namely, the use of talismans and invocations. However, I encourage the reader to consider the similarities of the shaman/priest to the psychotherapist/counselor, both who use concepts and systems largely unintelligable to the layperson to effect a behavioral, emotional, or spiritual cure in a psychologically troubled person through language. Demons are no longer a superstition if YOU find one in your living room! However, this paper isnt about Taoist psychotherapy, however interesting and misunderstood that area may be. I mention it only to point out the need for new thinking and research into an area which has been all too rapidly dismissed and forgotten in our modern, scientific era. The Communist mentality, based as it is in Dialectical Materialism, violently rejected, suppressed, and attempted to destroy anything which was ‘spiritual’ or ‘superstitious.’ Let us not do the same.
Historical and Theoretical Background
Daoist Alchemy has been divided into two schools: internal elixir (nei dan) and external elixir (wai dan). Like most divisions, this is mostly for conceptual convenience, and doesnt truly reflect a strict division amongst the historical practice of Daoist Alchemy. Briefly, the internal elixir school believes that meditation (qi gong) and visualization practices are sufficient to bring about the change of conciousness desired. Some of these practices focussed strongly on the conservation and transformation of sexual energy (jing). The external elixir school sought to gather or produce a substance or drug which would confer immortality. Thus the pill of immortality. The importance of this schools contribution to medicine, chemistry, and metallurgy should not be underestimated (It is hoped that Joseph Needhams Science and Civilization in China will be reprinted soon). One example is the character for pill, which shows its affiliation with the red (cinnabar) elixir. Logically, the first people in China who made pills were the alchemist/doctors. The external elixir school also had a strong following of sexual practitioners, both men and women, who sought to use the interplay of yin and yang in the bedroom as both a metaphorical meditation on the mutually engendering polarities in nature and as a means to produce a highly charged ‘elixir’. (The controlled stimulation of sexual hormone production would have strong effects on the nervous and immune systems, and could possibly slow biological aging through presently unknown hormonal pathways.)
While some present-day historians and authors posit a strict ideological division between the internal and external schools of Daoist alchemy, it is much more likely that most practitioners combined the two, using herbs to enhance meditations, and visualizations to aid their medicines. Indeed, this is the constant position of the classics.
Here I must digress to briefly discuss the influence of Buddhism on Daoism in Chinese history. Buddhism, introduced to China around 200 C.E. (700 years after Lao Zi wrote the Dao De Jing), was a well-funded missionary religion, intent on converting the world. This movement entered into China, where Daoism was a respected, accepted shamanic/spiritual tradition which was non-conversionary and reclusive in nature. As Buddhism began to use glitzy, gold-embossed temples to woo the politicians and the upper class, Daoism saw the threat the new religion posed and responded by organizing around a Daoist Pope.’ They began to compete with Buddhism for survival and political influence. Daoism was, from the start, a philosophy which rejected visible political involvement and popular appeal, as is evident in Lao Zis famous abdication of his government post for the seclusion of the Western mountains. However, when faced with the cunning, well-funded Buddhist missionaries, who began to ridicule Daoisms easily misunderstood esoteric practices, the religious Daoist orthodoxy was formed to preserve some essence of indigenous religion in China. Nevertheless, Buddhism won imperial favor, and throughout the following centuries, a bitter feud took place between the two religions. Buddhists burned Daoist books, Daoists wrecked Buddhist temples, Buddhist influenced government officials forced Daoist monks to convert to Buddhism or be killed, Daoists wrote texts suggesting Buddha was a reincarnation of Lao Zi, and on and on. Eventually, the two religions were largely merged in the popular mind, and it remains so to this day. Most temples use symbols of both religions–the Ba Gua over Kuan Yin, the Eight Immortals next to Sakyamuni, etc. The ideological censorship which occured within Daoism as it struggled to maintain its existence has been largely overlooked. In my opinion, this is due to the taboos surrounding what was the essence of Daoist Alchemy: sex and drugs. At one point, there were many sexological texts in the Daoist Canon. According to Douglas Wile, these were censored and removed some time in the second millenium. Daoist drug use, however, survived via the medical tradition, though in a watered-down form.
In an effort to understand the main conflict between Buddhism and Daoist Alchemy, I have come to the conclusion that Buddhists couldnt tolerate the idea that enlightenment, immortality, or spiritual experience could come through the ingestion of a pill. (A similar conflict led to the prohibition of LSD, psylocybin, mescaline, and other psychedelics in the 20th century U.S., despite that countrys claims to protect freedom of religion’ and the ‘inalienable right to…pursuit of happiness.’) For Buddhists, morality was 1/3 of the spiritual path (the three legs of the Buddhist path are Dharma-the teaching, Sangha-the religious community, and Sila-the keeping of moral precepts), and no spiritual progress could be made without adhering to the moral precepts of Gautama Buddha, which included no sexual misconduct and no drinking intoxicating liquors as moral dogma. Thus, the Taoist acceptance of plant entheogens as a valid approach to producing spiritual experience was a direct threat to Buddhist dogma and the social control it afforded the ruling class. When people believe that their material suffering comes from their moral weakness, and not from inept politicians, they are much more concerned with their inner guilt than with social revolution. In a similar vein, the Taoist traditions (well probably never know how widely they were practiced or known) of sexual meditation, including certain sects which practiced group sex, were undoubtedly discomforting to the celibate Buddhist clergy. Testament to the efficacy and secret appeal of these practices is the Tantric Buddhist tradition, which is said (by Buddhists, nonetheless) to be the quickest (and most dangerous) path to enlightenment. However, it has been a highly secret fringe practice in Buddhism, probably unknown to the mainstream Buddhists.
This background is meant to set the frame for the Taoist concept of Immortality, not as a result of adherence to a moral code, but as the result of a therapeutic regimen more medical, pharmaceutical, and physiological than religious in concept. It is hoped this will shed more light on the Taoist contributions not only to Chinese Medicine, but to scientific thought in general.
This leads us back to the Three Worms. Parasites, which can include fungal, protozoan, and bacterial infections, all have different ways of affecting their host organisms. In some sense, the less powerful parasites are the most insidious in their effects. Visible worms, which can lead to painful cramping and passing of worms in the stools, are more easily diagnosed and eliminated than a fungal invasion, such as Candida albicans, a yeast who is currently a popular parasitic pet in the west. Candida can lead to a variety of chronic symptoms, hard to pin down and recalcitrant to treat. Depression, lethargy, digestive discomfort, chronic fatigue, poor memory, and all sorts of gooey discharges are all related to Candidiasis. And what does Candida feed on? Mostly grains and sugars!
So the Daoists said there was a worm in each Dan Tien (Elixir Field–the three main energy centers). The one in the lower abdomen causes lust in addition to intestinal distress. The one in the heart center causes anxiety as well as heart and lung diseases. The one in the forehead (Third Eye) center caused psychic distress and attachment to worldly things. They feed off of grains, and endeavor to kill the body for their feast.
To have any hope of living a long time, the Daoists counselled, one must abstain from grains while killing the Three Worms with herbs, exercises, and a diet of vegetables and mushrooms.
Have you yet read Daoist Dietetics for more information?
When enough people write in and comment about this essay, I will write more.
(1) Here we use the word cult not to denote some Evil Satanic group, but to designate a small, inwardly focussed group of practitioners who share a secret practice or world-view. Cults are generally much more peaceful than those who persecute them. The American Heritage Dictionary gives the following definition: An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest. Return to source
(2) Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is the official title for the systematized, streamlined version of Chinese Medicine created under the aegis of Chairman Mao. Return to source
Entheogen is the currently promted term used to encompass the variety of substances which produce (-gen) the inner (-en) experience of the divine mystery (-theo). See Johnathan Otts Pharmacotheon for a more detailed discussion of this lexicon. Return to source.
Quotes and Sources:
Taoism: The Parting of the Way
by Holmes Welch
Beacon Press, Boston. 1957, 1965, 1972
[Ko Hung] gives several formulas for killing the Three Worms who, according to the Interior Gods hygeine school, resided in the bodys vital centers. He recommends avoiding garlic, mustard, and so forth for one hundred days before an alchemical experiment. He considers sexual hygiene essential to the quest of immortality. The most important thing is to return the semen to repair the brain. (Pao Pu Tzu)December 23, 2005 at 7:41 pm #9569
During the summer of 2005, while taking the 5th consecutive meditation course at Dao mountain in the Catskills, mostly to complete certification requirements, but also for personal cultivation, I had an interesting experience. All of the courses were intense and very deep as the qi field is getting more and more responsive to inner cultivation at this place, the group qi amplifies it and the deepening of the teacher and all adepts.
During the last review course I took there, Greatest Kan and Li, several powerful experiences opened up for me. One was where I had the feeling of completely being physically dissolved, I could not feel my physical body at all. Another was while meditating inside the deep inner earth, and resolving ancestral incompletions, I felt a distinct feeling that an insect-like beast was leaving. This has also happened during other meditations. Since that time, I have felt a deep shift in my sexual and other cravings, in the sense that they have for the large part left and calmed down, I have become much more stable.
Daoist concepts of the five guardians and three monsters:
(Eva Wong, “The Shambhala Guide to Taoism”, P.44-57)
The Rise of Mystical Taoism (300-600 CE)
“The world of the Shang-Ch’ing Taoism: a world where guardian spirits live inside the human body; a world where mystics fly to the sky and journey among the stars; a world where absorb the essence of the sun and moon to cultivate immortality; a world where the highest attainment in life is to merge with the Tao in bliss and ecstasy…
The Internal universe (the human body):
The Five: Next in importance are the Shen (spirits) that protect the five viscera: the heart, liver, lungs, spleen and kidneys. If these spirits leave or become weak, the internal organs will not function effectively and bodily functions will not be regulated, each organ is associated with a color… Many lesser shen live in each part of the body down to each joint and pore. Health and longevity require all the shen to be bright and pure.
The Three Monsters: Monsters also reside in the body. They live in the cavities near the three gates along the spine. each gate is associated with a dan tien and controlsactivity in it… if the gate is locked, energy will not be gathered in that dan tien. the monsters have the ability to close the gates and affect the energy level in each dan tien. according to Shang Ch’ing belief, the monsters thrive on our desires, and the grains we eat. therefore, to eradicate the monsters, the Shang Ch’ing Taoists practiced fasting and abstinence from grains. another way to eradicate the monsters is the still (fuse, balance and harmonize, Ed.) the inner heart-mind and eliminate the craving.
In the Shang Ch’ing scriptures, the monsters are sometimes depicted as attractive and good looking, sometimes as misshapen and ugly. When an individual does not realize that the monsters are harmful, worldly things and even unethical deeds can appear attractive. However, when the individual realizes that the monsters can shorten life, the entities will become repulsive and ugly. In actualizing the internal universe, the first step to eradicating the monsters is to see them in their undesirable shape, or what is called their “true form”. When Shang Ch’ing Taoists speak of “seeing the True Forms”, they are refferring to the brilliant and radiant form of the guardians, and the ugly repulsive form of the monsters.December 24, 2005 at 12:09 am #9571
Thank for posting this very interesting article. I am interested in who wrote it and what the follow up is?
How is grain abstention going for you (if you practice it)?December 24, 2005 at 10:12 am #9573
Thanks, several things start to make sense now. It is my feeling that these three worms or monsters are crucial in once cultivation. That they are seen as repulsive I can agree with that.
At least in my brain, it is very usefull to see them like described in the Shang Ch’ing scriptures. It is something I can relate to very easily and makes it workable. I will take a closer look at these Shang Ch’ing Taoists.
In my work and because of my personality I encounter a lot of astral junk and I am very sure I need to clear myself regular, even daily. But I never had tools to clear it in a way I felt ‘clean’ enough. Working with these ‘worms’ might be a better way for me.
And I had a similar experience with a giant astral bug. During a treatment by a man who just came back from Taiwan where he lived for years, this giant insect appeared and came in my body. I was being treated and I am still not sure if it was because of the unclear energy of the man himself or because of me. But never before or after I met an astral insect again.December 24, 2005 at 9:50 pm #9575
Thanks for posting Heiner’s piece. He raises the interesting question, as to whether they are physical parasites; however, this doesn’t deal with the possibility that whatever is physical also has an astral form. In hindu practice this are the Three Knots that require untying.
Taoit inner alchemy practice has numerous methods for dissolving these core channel blockages onw hatever level they occur- jing (physical parasites), chi (enrgetic blockages), or shen (entities that drain you by enticing you to feed their greed, lust, etc.). You could siimply use a modern term to describe them – Your Resistance.
I just finished a lesser kan and li retreat in holland with 40 people. Probably ten of them reported seeing dark black entities or insects leaving their body – without any prompting or previous discussion of that possibility.
The buddhists tend to focus on what you need to destroy, they see a lot of evil and suffering in this plane and polarize against it. I don’t think that is an effective strategy. I focus on what you want to create or grow, and how to create a clean, clear light body from opening direct communication with t he life force. Once you integrate your innate spiritual powers (de, or te called virtue in some translations) with your core energy channels, as they become conscious, you stop feeding all parasites and they either wither and die or they move out, looking for a host that will feed them. Sometimes they exist at very deep levels, so it takes deeper practice to oust them.
MichaelDecember 24, 2005 at 11:32 pm #9577
Excellent..I value this explanation, I had this article and I am glad I saved it ; and shared it. It has now brought more value than ever. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and your family!..SnowlionDecember 25, 2005 at 2:47 pm #9579
It is probably useful to point out like michael has done above, that people (like myself) tend to give human, animal or insect like forms to things that are sometimes formless in astral or deeper planes.December 26, 2005 at 12:48 am #9581
You probably already know about flower essence, but I wanted to let you now about these.
Australian Bush Flower Essence produce both single flower and combination formulas.
For example, the “meditation essence” is designed to, among other things. ‘………..enhance access to higher self while providing psychic protection and healing of the aura’. I mention this one in relation to
your exposure to astral junk as mentioned above.
Another called ‘electro essence’ has been recently used in Chernoble in treating people continually exposed to the radiation there with good results. It’a also good for neautralising EMFs from computers and other electrical devices.
Others, such as boab are good for clearing negative karmic connections. To quote, ‘boab can help break the chains that have been around human conciousness for thousands of years’
Might make a handy adjunct. Regards, matDecember 26, 2005 at 3:33 pm #9583
Thanks Mat, ‘coincidentally’ I am very much looking for these kind of tools.
I already found some helpful tools that works with pyramids and octaeder energy. Our house and its inhabitants (human and non-human) are the perfect try-out. My friend is checking our immunity every week to see if it is improving, and it is so far. We still have two weeks to go before the whole house is covered in a 13 pyramid/octaeder structure.
But I will surely take a look at these essences. I really appreciate your feedback.
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