Holy Flames and Tongues of Fire ... in Christianity, Chinese Culture, and Esoteric Buddhism ... Are Just a Minor Stage of Chi Purification
Let me tell you about a very rudimentary stage of cultivation gong-fu.
My best friend told me of a story that really impressed her when she was a little girl in Taiwan. Seems there was a poor couple where the husband was a scholar. The wife married him because of his virtue and purity and didn't mind they were poor. One day the scholar was invited by two families to write up a divorce decree for a rich family. Divorce was something people rarely did in those days and was considered almost a sin or calamity. EVen to be involved in it was considered vile. Nevertheless, the man agreed to write up the decree (and thus become involved in the affair) because of the big amount of money he was offered. He wrote up the divorce decree, had both couples sign it, and went whom with his silver.
From that moment on, his own relations with his wife soured. She told him, "I married you because you were pure and you could see the spiritual energy from your shoulders and head, but now it's gone. What did you do? I would rather you get back your virtue and purity rather than have the money."
The lawyer, realizing that in helping the divorce he had lost his inner virtue in the pursuit of money, doing what he knew was wrong for gain, had lost his gong-fu. He therefore went back, made some excuse to see the divorce decree he had written (saying he had forgotten something), tore it up and returned the silver. When he got back home, his wife said his gong-fu had returned.
Now what was that all about?
One time I saw a Vampire movie in Hong Kong where a "big boss" just promoted could not be touched by a ghost or vampire (I cannot remember which) because he had these tiny etheric flames issuing from his shoulder and the top of his head. I laughed when I saw these flames in the movie and thought, "How stupid is this," as I usually did with all sorts of things before my understanding progressed. Moral there-- respect things you don't understand, but that's another story.
Then one day in meditation, due to a special form of the skeleton meditation I practice, one of those etheric flames appeared on my left shoulder blade (LEFT is the chi side of the body). About an hour later another one appeared on the right shoulder blade, because the two shoulders opened up at different times. Then later, another one appeared on the top of my head (that one I couldn't see but could feel).
What was it? Just a very low stage of gong-fu corresponding to chi and chi mai purification. Everybody goes through it.
Anyone who just cultivates a virtuous mind, as did the scholar (turned lawyer) can achieve this state of gong-fu. Just being pure in mind is a state of cultivation, so it will naturally appear if your gong-fu is good enough. That's why it's also called a state of virtue, of exhibition of virtue. Using the virtue angle is just another way of describing it.
The big boss in the movie, because he had been promoted, was shown with them, too. Why? Of course the movie writers don't know too much about gong-fu but it had to do with his good fortune. The good fortune of promotion means yang chi rising, and it's a yang chi phenomenon. BINGO! The yang chi frightened away the ghost or vampire, or therefore could not come close. Presumably the writers found this stage mentioned in an old Tao school book
Off to Bali we go ... did you ever see those 12-year old Balinese dancing girls with costumes having golden flames on their shoulders ? Guess what that's supposed to represent? The same stage of virtue and purity, or should I say, gong-fu attainment. Move over to Christianity and you'll quickly realize that this etheric flame talked is the tongue of fire the Apostles experienced after Jesus died and they experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit. Since none of the Apostles, with the exception of John, had samadhi, you know it was just a low stage chi phenomenon.
Higher still there's the stage of "dragon bones" I should mention for the skull.
When your gong-fu gets higher you temporarily form two sort of hornlike protrusions out of your head which are used by the body as exit points for the ascending chi in the head to push all sorts of dirty chi out of the skull region. When I went through that my teacher was happy and told me that's what the horns of Yamantaka, in the Tibetan tradition, represent. In the mediaeval European statues of Moses, you can also find he has horns on his head, which are called the "horns of wisdom," and they represent this same stage of attainment. The tongues of flame found in Christianity are even lower than this in terms of cultivation stages.
Why are the chi flames on the top of the head called "horns of wisdom"? Because by this stage of cultivation you're starting to do real chi purification ... and cultivating wisdom.
Guess what? This too, is just low level cultivation stuff. It's not even samadhi. It's just chi purification.
Next we can talk about so many sacred chakras floating above the head, just like in the story Journey to the West, but we'll have to keep that for later.
Why am I telling you this? To help you understand just the minor stages of gong-fu all spiritual practitioners go through, to help you realize that any stages and transformations are no big deal and not to cling to them, and to also help you realize the New Age crowd doesn't have a clue about the real spiritual path, proper cultivation practices or the stages of cultivation.
This isn't major stuff, but just minor stuff at the level of chi mai purification. When you read about the Christian Apostles of Jesus experiencing tongues of fire, it was just a tiny stage of rudimentary chi cultivation. It's ironic that with such low stages, which aren't even the stage of a samadhi master, so many people turn to such people as authorities on spiritual matters and bypass the real experts, who are the only ones qualified to comment on things with definitiveness.
I always tell people to read Tao and Longevity to really understand the transformations of the path or pick up Measuring Meditation, and this is just minor stuff that doesn't really merit mentioning, but it serves to prove my point and goes to show you what I always tell you -- lots of the gong-fu you find in old spiritual books is real, you can achieve it too, the true spiritual path is nondenominational, and if you are following people who have no experience with this stuff, you've got to realize they don't have a clue and if they don't have a clue ... well, you figure out the rest.
Hope that helps.
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