Ghosts, Demons and Immortals

I hope you all had a lovely Halloween, hah, hah, haaa!

There are five basic types of human death; either we become a god, a ghost, a demon, an immortal, or a supportive ancestor.

Most people die and are forgotten, even their descendants forget them in a generation or so. Most people are mostly forgotten in seven years. People who die young, or die with a lot of unfulfilled potential may linger a bit longer. People who lived long fulfilling lives are generally remembered by their descendants simply as supportive ancestors, the more time that passes, the more generally we feel their support. I don't know how my deceased grandparents would feel about me writing a blog, they didn't live to see the internet, but they loved books and innovation, so I feel fairly sure that they would be regular readers if they were still alive.

But it is also safe to say that my grandparents are not completely resolved. I still wonder what they would think, and thus they live on through me and the many other people that knew them.

All ghosts, gods, demons, and supportive ancestors eventually become immortals--they become one with Dao-- they become undifferentiated from the totality of everything known and unknown. The Hindu God Shiva is one of the oldest gods, but eventually he too will be forgotten.

As you may have gathered, Daoism has a vast cosmology which is capable of incorporating new material, new world views, and also subsuming older cults, and mythologies. One of the "cults within the cult" is the quest for Immortality, called Xian in Chinese.

Ge Hong's Shrine (the Immortal of Medicine)The cult of Xian is extremely diverse. While there are some general suggestions about how to go about becoming a Xian, even manuals and programs to follow, there really is no method that works every time. Even though there are routes by which one may become a xian, like "Rising up in broad daylight with one's dogs and chickens," every process of becoming Xian is truly unique for that person, time and place.

One thing I can say however, is that to become a xian, one must leave behind no unresolved entanglements, no lingering or unfulfilled commitments. An Immortal in that sense is the opposite of a ghost.

Going a little deeper into the subject, it is possible to be still alive and to have begun taking on a ghostly presence. Poor diet, drugs and aggressive behavior, all lead to what we call in Chinese Medicine, "deficiency." Deficiency, as a key concept in Chinese Medicine, takes many different forms, for instance it effects each organ differently and may only be noticed in one organ. From a Daoist point of view, "deficiency" is a draw for ghosts to feed and eventually take up residence in one's body. Ghosts if you remember, are weak commitments; commitments too "deficient" to follow through.

Thus we have one of the most basic connections between Chinese Medicine and Daoism. But don't think I'm letting you gongfu people off the hook. Gongfu, at its most basic level, is about establishing strong commitments. In Chinese Medicine the most potent way to "tonify" (the opposite of deficiency) the spleen and kidneys is through routine exercise. Health in this sense, completes the incomplete, it transforms ghosts into immortals.