Confucius appeared upon the scene when the people of China were feeling that this form of religion—animism—was somehow in need of readjustment. His tenets were almost entirely speculative and philosophical, and he was Lao Tze's contemporary, though his senior in age.
Lao Tze, on the other hand, worked for the reconstruction of Chinese philosophy through mysticism rather than logic. As an Imperial librarian, he had access to books of 'ancient philosophy', which seem to have exerted a great influence on him, and he often quotes from them. His followers seem to have pursued this link with the past back to a point where magical rites and thaumaturgy were an important part of the 'ancient' (Shinto) system.
There are four main influences in Chinese philosophy. Shinto, with its pantheon and unashamedly magical rites, batded with the negativity of Buddhism, imported from India. There was no decisive victory for either. Confucius, like Plato and Aristode, was a superb political and ethical thinker—but his precepts did not exercise a sufficiendy powerful influence to overcome the older cults. Lao Tze's system, to some extent rooted in Shinto, and containing all the apparatus for development into a magical cult, ceased to be a reformation, and served as the vehicle through which the magical operations of tradition were passed down from a now defunct Shinto. Thus it is today.
In his book on the Tao, Lao Tze frequendy refers to the 'Power of the Tao', and the 'Secrets in it', and similar obscure phrases have given adequate scope for the development of occult practices.
While Confucius and Lao Tze met, and are reported to have liked one another, subsequent rivalry between the two schools grew until it reached the proportions of almost open hostility which are evident today.
Confucians will have nothing to do with the teachings and practices of Taoism. They repudiate the mystical doctrines and occult rites alike. Buddhists, on the other hand, have their own mystical and magical systems, which do not differ radically from those of the Tao—at least in externals.
These pages are mainly concerned with the occult phenomena practised and guarded by the Chinese of the Taoist persuasion.
Remarkable in the study of magical practices there is no disguising the fact that many of the operations found in European 'Black Books', and known to be undertaken by Western sorcerers, are paralleled in Chinese magic.
In the case of Hindu magic, for example, relatively few links with European sorcery can be found. Yet a Chinese wizard of the Middle
Ages and his Western counterpart might well have understood each other's motives, and even certain rituals.
Willow-wands and water-divining, spells cast through wax images, superstitions connected with builders, and a whole host of other points immediately spring to the mind. There may be some Semitic connection here: for most of the European magical rites are derived from such books as the Key of Solomon, the Sword of Moses, or the two Alberts —well known to be rooted in the Jewish-Assyrian-Chaldean systems.
It is possible that some of the rites may have entered Europe through the Arab impact in Spain and Italy. Certainly English and other sorcerers went to the reputed 'Occult Universities' of Spain, to study the Arabian system. And the early contact of the Arabs with China is well known. Even today, certain superstitions about not destroying paper (an item brought to Europe by the Arabs) are shared by Chinese and Arabs alike—but by no other peoples.
Magic mirrors are among the most important instruments of the Art in China. Ko Hung, one of the highest authorities on this, regarded
them as essential in the constant battle against demons; and it must be remembered that these spectres are at the bottom of almost everything. Protection against evil, death and disease, can only be secured through combating the demons which control these phenomena. Success, riches and victory—the so-called Positive Advantages—can likewise be attained through the co-operation of the spectres within whose domain these subjects fall.
The use of magical mirrors was twofold: reflected within them was to be seen the true shape of the demon,* which only revealed under compulsion. Once he had thus been seen, his powers were severely curtailed, and his attacks on the possessor of the mirror ceased. Celestial happiness also attended the owner of one of these priceless objects: one man actually became Emperor through its aid, as we are told in the Si-King Tsah-ki.
Wang Tu, of the Sui Dynasty, published a rare booklet in which the virtues and importance of the Magic Mirror are exhaustively described, and illustrated by his own mirror, which he received from the great Heu Sheng himself. "Whenever you bear it in your hand," declared this savant, "hundreds of demons will flee." Decorated with a unicorn, animals of the four quarters of the Universe, and other mystical symbols, it contained a representation of the Order of the World according to the Taoists, inscribed thereon. "Whenever the sun shines on this mirror, the ink of those inscriptions permeates the images which it reflects, so that they cannot possibly show any false shapes."
It was in the second year of the Ta-Yeh period (a.d. 606) that Wang Tu started out for the Chang-ngan country to test this amazing object's virtues.
The author claims that his chance came soon. Staying at a wayside inn, he learned that a mysterious girl lived there, and the innkeeper wanted to know something about her. Fetching his mirror he saw a spectre reflected therein—none other than the mystery girl. Coming to him, she begged him not to kill her by means of the magical mirror. Confessing that she was a thousand years old, she admitted to having been cast out by a demon who owned her, and after various adventures found herself there.^
Deciding that she wanted to die, she drank some wine, changed into her true form of a vixen, and expired on the spot.
* Cf. Magic Crystal: Its manufacture and use, as given in Francis Barrett: The Maguí or Celestial Intelligencer, London, 1801.
f Such Succubi and their habits in Europe are described and discussed in Refs. 80 and 81, Bibliographical index infra.
the occult art in china
Was this article helpful?
Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.