"That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below"
- Emerald Tablet
For ages, the Sun and the Moon have been used as symbols of the masculine and feminine principles as an expression of polarity. The interaction between these two forces are said to give birth to the many manifest things, but the harmonization of them reveals another principle. They have been mystically represented for ages as deities, or as a Solar King, a Lunar Queen, with the Star always being hinted at indirectly.
In Western Traditions they are often referred to allegorically as pillars. This along with the use of other symbolic representations allow for the Alchemist to pass along teaching that are dense with multilayered meaning and use. For the use of Internal Alchemy, these refer to (among other things) the three channels symbolically related to the Sun, the Moon and Star (or Lightning).
While philosophically this can refer to many things in existence, which any good symbol that is meant to convey a universal principle should, internally these principles are depicting aspects within ourselves. We see this hinted in the many different traditions that attribute the Sun and the Moon to the eyes. For example, in Shinto there is the myth of the deity Izanagi, which after entering the underworld came to cleanse himself in a river. When he washed his face, the deity Amaterasu (Sun deity) was born from his left eye; Tsukuyomi (Moon deity) was born from his right eye; and Susano-O (Thunder/Storm deity) was born from his nose. Here we see a connection between the three depictions of the Sun, the Moon and in this case, Lightning as depicting the three energies, each being attributed to a deity.
Energy Channels as the Sun and Moon
"With regard to the human body, one's own body is a whole Heaven and Earth, and also contains the Sun and the Moon. The body is Heaven and Earth; Water and Fire are the ingredients; and the cyclical movements of the Sun and the Moon are the Fire Phases."
- Wang Jie (14th Century) Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine
When working with the three channels of the body, it is important to remember that it is more beneficial to be focused on the internal sensations than the abstract ideas. While the abstract ideas link many myths, legends and religious iconography, these symbols and details of the myths become more important later on in the process. For now it enough to understand that the effects of stimulating the Solar channel works on the masculine traits such as expansion, activity, protection, heat and movement while the Lunar channel works on feminine traits such as contraction, receptivity, rest, coolness and stillness.
The center channel is accessed only by the balancing of the two polar channels. Without this balance, one channel will inevitably be dominant over the other. The polar channels are used to stimulate the center channel, so once the two are in balance you will be able to work more directly with the “Middle Pillar”, or center channel. This is an important distinction because there are many who take up practices that are designed to work with the center channel, but do not do the work to make the center channel accessible. This is one major reason they don't get the results the practices are meant to have.
Solar and Lunar Channels in Taoism
On a physical level, the Microcosmic Orbit works a balance between the two main nervous systems, the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain, brain stem and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The central nervous system receives and records all the information gathered through the senses and governs our conscious thinking processes. The peripheral nervous system governs our sensory and motor functions. By moving the energy up the spine and observing the effect with the mind, then lowering the energy while being aware of the sensations of the body, we create a balance between the two systems.
In our modern Western society, we have been taught to believe that the mind and body are separate. We have been raised to believe that thinking is of the mind and feeling is of the body. However there is no real mind body separation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, the kinds of thoughts and emotions can be traced to specific organs. Often people who tend to have stubborn or angry dispositions are treated for ailments of certain organs. As their treatments take effect, the disposition changes.
To assist in the connection between the two channels (Governor & Conception Vessels), the tip of the tongue is placed on the roof of the mouth, which also makes a connection of mind and body. Later the placement changes depending on the particular work, but for now place the tongue behind the teeth.
Stage 1 - Guiding The Energy With The Body
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth to close the circuit. Relax the muscles of the body so that it feels as though your skeletal frame is holding up your body like a coat hanger, as opposed to your muscles. Relax the inner organs so that you feel the weight inside the body sinking.
With each inhale raise the hands and the energy as you rock forward on your feet. As you exhale bring the hands and the energy down the front of the body as you rock back onto the heels. Continue for as many cycles as you can mindfully maintain.
Stage 2 - Guiding The Energy With The Eyes
Continue with this for as many cycles as is comfortable, rotating the eyes up the left as you inhale and down the right as you exhale.
The rotating of the eyes is a closely held secret technique that is common throughout many cultures around the world. In the book, Taoist Yoga: Alchemy and Immortality is says:
“Roll round the positive yang and negative yin (i.e. the two eyes) to shake the brain in order to pull out from its center spirit which has developed and will then emerge from the mysterious gate”
Chi’ien Feng Lao Jen said: “The sun and the moon when turning round unite positive yang with negative yin so that a glorious light emerges from the center of the brain. If you only gather the outer alchemical agent during the “inner copulation” of the male and female principles and do not gather the inner alchemical agent during the phases you are like a cart without wheels or a boat without rudders.”
Stage 3 - Guiding The Energy With Intent
Then exhale and follow the swallowing feeling with the energy, moving it down into the dantien/hara (lower abdomen) and back down to the perineum. As the energy moves down, bring your conscious awareness to the internal feelings of the body.
Repeat this cycle for as long as is comfortable.With each inhale, bring the energy up into the head and be aware of any changes in color, or any movements against the back of the eyelids.
Make your exhale is about twice as long as your inhale. This is to correct the imbalance of a primarily externally aware life, and direct your awareness inwards. At this stage it is important that you are able to feel the energy moving throughout the entire orbit without any gaps in the sensation. If you find that there are areas of the body where the kinesthetic sense of the energy is lacking, go back to a previous stage of the practice.
Solar and Lunar Channels in Yoga
In Yogic traditions, the two polar channels are related to the left and right sides of the body as well as left and right hemispheres of the brain. The right channel is called Pingala Nadi and is connected with Solar energy. The left channel is called Ida Nadi and is connected with Lunar energy. Fire is the elemental energy of the Sun, and Water the elemental energy of the Moon. The two channels are used to create a balance between stimulation and sedation in the body as well as regulating the chakra that exist in the central channel called Sushumna Nadi.
Once the energies are balanced the center channel is opened, which stimulates energy to rise within this channel and stimulating the chakra to open like a blooming flower. The opening of the center channel and activating of the chakra spins the energy. This forms a toroidal vortex of energy that flows with its central core within your body, and forms an electromagnetic field traditionally known as the human aura.
While this energy is always there to some extent, the purification and full activation of this energy is referred to as a spiritual awakening, and in Yogic traditions described as awakening Kundalini. The imagery of Kundalini awakening is depicted as a serpent, or two serpents moving up a rod or up the spine. This imagery has been used all around the world in virtually every culture.
On a more physical level, the two channels that form the left and right channels are connected to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, while the central channel connects to the central nervous system and the vagus nerve. The Chinese orbit connect to the spinal tract with the central nervous system along the solar channel, and the peripheral (and specifically the vagus nerve) along the front for the lunar channel. Keep in mind, although these channels connect to the nerves, it would be a mistake to say that they ARE the nerves.
Seen from this perspective, the practice of balancing the two channels could be seen as the balancing of the stimulation between the two nervous systems. In our everyday society many people suffer from an overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous systems, which have damaging long term effects, and is a symptom of prolonged stress.
Long term effects of an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system (stress) include the narrowing of perception, loss of cognitive processing, hyper-vigilance (paranoia), slower reaction time, loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision), loss of night vision, loss of depth perception, impaired near vision, loss of fine and complex motor skills, inhibition of organ function in the stomach, large and small intestines, increase in heart rate and blood pressure, increase in respiratory rate, breaking down of glycogen by the liver, weakening of the immune system, constriction of blood vessels leading to organs, weakens adrenals and more.
Some of the more common complaints that accompany the stress response from an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system include insomnia, headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, malnutrition, stiffness, aches and pains of body and joints, memory loss and poor muscle motor function.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Stage 1 - Alternating With The Hand
Hold your right nostril closed and inhale slowly and deeply, feeling the air as it enters the left nostril and filling the left channel. Visualize the left channel filling with light so that at the end of the inhale, the entire channel is filled with energy and light.
Switch nostrils so that the left is closed and exhale through the right nostril. Visualize this energy moving from the left channel to the right channel and you exhale through the right nostril.
Then inhale through the right, filling the right channel.
Switch nostrils again so that the right is closed and the left is open and exhale, bringing the energy from the right to the left channel. Continue this for several breath cycles, alternating the energy from the right to the left channel as you breathe.
Stage 2 - Alternating With The Hand And With Mudra
Pinch the nose so that both nostrils are closed for a count of sixteen seconds, while bringing the energy from the left channel to fill the center channel. Then release the right nostril and exhale for a count of eight while bringing the energy from the center channel to the right. After you exhale, follow it immediately with an inhale, bringing the energy in and filling the right channel. Pinch the nose and hold the breath for a count of sixteen, bringing the energy up the center channel. Release the left nostril and exhale for a count of eight. Continue this pattern for as long as comfortable, maintaining a breath ratio at a 2:6:4, inhaling for four seconds, holding for sixteen and exhaling for eight each time.
Note: As with the Microcosmic Orbit, you can use your eyes (while closed) to help direct the energy. While the energy is moving up the right channel, bring your eyes from looking down and to the right, to the point in the middle between the eyebrows (Ajna/3rd eye center). When the energy is moving to the left bring your eyes down and to the left. The eye movement should move together with the breath, and aids in manipulating the movement of energy.
Stage 3 - Alternating With The Eyes And Will
Begin to develop awareness of the breath in the nostrils. When you breathe in, your whole awareness should flow with the breath from the tip of the nose, through the nasal passages, up to the eyebrow center (Ajna/3rd eye). And when you breathe out, your whole awareness should flow with the breath from the eyebrow center to the tip of the nose (The tip of the nose is associated with the base center).
Become aware of the triangular form of the breath between the nostrils and the eyebrow center. The base of the triangle is at the level of the upper lip, its sides are the right and left nasal passages, and its apex is within the eyebrow center.
First, feel the breath moving in and out of the left nostril, then the right nostril. Then be aware of the breath as it flows in and out through both nostrils together.
Once you are established in this breath awareness, begin to consciously alternate the flow of the breath between the two nostrils and practice it psychically without the use of hands blocking the nostrils. (This is possible by internally switching dominance from the sympathetic to parasympathetic branches at will, which cause the corresponding nostril to dilate while constricting the other.)
Consciously inhale through the left nostril to brow center and exhale through the right, then inhale through the right brow center, and exhale through the left.
This is one round. After completing four such rounds, inhale and exhale through both nostrils simultaneously, visualizing the passage of the breath forming an inverted V-shape.
Continue in this way; an inhale and exhale through each nostril, then one breath through both nostrils. Count the rounds from 100 back to zero. 100 - inhale left nostril, exhale right nostril; inhale right nostril, exhale left nostril, inhale both nostrils, exhale both nostrils 99- repeat, 98- repeat, 97- repeat, 96- inhale both nostrils, exhale both nostrils, and so on.
Revealing the Star - Opening the Center Channel
The Alchemical Wedding
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“Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.”- The Kybalion
'Alchemical Wedding’ is a rare and special Amulet that holds the power to bring peace, equilibrium and a sense of wholeness to those who wear it.
The occult power of the Alchemical Wedding Amulet lies in reaching the consciousness of Love’s true dimension.
The Alchemical Wedding is the union of all opposites, particularly the union of conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine, positive and negative, Yin and Yang, fire and water. Energy extremes can be challenging on their own, but their union creates harmony and balance in all things.
The sacred Marriage of Opposites, the Hieros Gamos of antiquity, is in fact a conjunction of two elements. One is of masculine nature, represented in this Talisman by the Sun, and the other is of feminine nature - the Moon, both conjoined by means of a third element, Mercury, which is androgynous and does not act directly, but facilitates and tempers the action of the other two.
The Alchemical Wedding Pendant is a powerful artifact designed to truly harmonize and holistically integrate our masculine and feminine aspects, as well as recover our long lost primordial equilibrium of the original androgynous state.
This rare Alchemical Wedding model was created at a most auspicious astrological time, when the Sun is powerfully located in its Home Sign of Leo, the Moon equally powerful in Cancer (also its Home Sign) and with Mercury residing exactly at the mid point between them, acting as a mediator and helping us become conscious of our true primordial nature, which is androgynous and therefore a complete, fully realised being.
The Alchemical Wedding Pendant is composed of two parts, a hollow cylinder (Mezuzah) and a close cap. During the ceremony, the magical components are inserted into the cylinder, the signatures and magic squares of the sun and the moon are inscribed on a papyrus. Additionally, Solar elements are added to help attract the sun energies (24k gold leaf, sun stone, sunflower petals and saffron) as well as Lunar elements to help attract the moon energies (globules of pure silver, moon stone and raw cotton). The pendant is sealed and suffumigated at the end of the ceremony.