Secret of The Golden Flower

The inside of the "golden flower" is a "seeding-place" where the "diamond body" is produced.

The Tao, then, the Way, governs man just as it does invisible and visible nature (heaven and earth).  The character for Tao in its original form consists of a head, which probably must be interpreted as ‘beginning’, and then the character for ‘going’ in its dual form in which it also means ‘track’, and underneath, the character for ‘standing still’, which is omitted in the later way of writing.  The original meaning, then, is that of a ‘track which, though fixed itself, leads from a beginning directly to the goal’.  The fundamental idea is that the Tao, though itself motionless, is the means of all movement and gives it law.  SoGF 11

A man who holds to the way of conservation all through life may reach the stage of the Golden Flower, which then frees the ego from the conflict of the opposites, and it again becomes part of the Tao, the undivided, great one.  SoGF 65

The subtlest secret of the Tao is human nature and life (hsing-ming).  There is no better way of cultivating human nature and life than to bring both back to unity.  The holy men of ancient times, and the great sages, set forth their thoughts about the unification of human nature and life by means of images from the external worlds; they were reluctant to speak of it openly without allegories.  SoGF 69


  … the union of opposites on a higher level of consciousness is not a rational thing, nor is it a matter of will; it is a psychic process of development which expresses itself in symbols.  Historically, this process has always been represented in symbols, and to-day the development of individual personality still presents itself in symbolical figures.   SoGF99

Our text promises to ‘reveal the secret of the Golden Flower of the great One’.  The Golden Flower is the light, and the light of heaven is the Tao.  The Golden Flower is a mandala symbol which I have often met with in the material brought me by my patients.  It is dawn either seen from above as a regular geometric ornament, or as a blossom growing from a plant. 

(mandala)  The pictures came quite spontaneously and from two sources.  One source is the unconscious, which spontaneously produces such fantasies; the other source is life, which, if lived with complete devotion, brings an intuition of the self, the individual being.  Awareness of the individual self is expressed in the drawing, while the unconscious exacts devotedness to life.  For quite in accord with the Eastern conception, the mandala symbol is not only a means of expression, but works an effect.  It reacts upon its maker.  SoGF 102

The magical practices are nothing but the projections of psychic events, which are here applied in reverse to the psyche, like a kind of spell on one’s own personality.  That is to say, by means of these concrete performances, the attention, or better said, the interest, is brought back to an inner, sacred domain, which is the source and goal of the soul and which contains the unity of life and consciousness.  The unity once possessed has been lost, and must now be found again.  SoGF 103

The ‘enclosure’, or circumambulation, is expressed in our text by the idea of a ‘circulation’.  The ‘circulation’ is not merely motion in a circle, but means, on the one hand, the marking off of the sacred precinct, and, on the other, fixation and concentration.  SoGF 103

Thus the circular movement also has the moral significance of activating all the light and the dark forces of human nature, and with them, all the psychological opposites of whatever kind they may be.  It is self-knowledge by means of self-incubation (Sanskrit tapas).  A similar archetypal concept of a perfect being is that of the Platonic man, round on all sides and uniting within himself the two sexes.  SoGF 104

I know a few individuals who are familiar with this phenomenon from personal experience.  As far as I have been able to understand it, the phenomenon seems to have to do with an acute state of consciousness, as intensive as it is abstact, a ‘detached’ consciousness, which, as Hildegarde pertinently remarks, brings up to consciousness regions of psychic events ordinarily covered with darkness.  The fact that the general bodily sensations disappear during such an experience suggest that their specific energy has been withdrawn from then, and apparently gone towards heightening the clarity of consciousness.  As a rule, the phenomenon is spontaneous, coming and going on its own initiative.  Its effect is astonishing in that it almost always brings about a solution of psychic complications, and thereby frees the inner personality from emotional and intellectual entanglements, creating thus a unity of being which universally is felt as ‘liberation’. 

Cont’d …

   The conscious will cannot attain such a symbolic unity because the conscious is partisan in this case.  Its opponent is the collective unconscious which does not understand the language of the conscious.  Therefore it is necessary to have the magic of the symbol which contains those primitive analogies that speak to the unconscious.  The unconscious can be reached and expressed only by symbols, which is the reason why the process of individuation can never do without the symbol.  The symbol is the primitive expression of the unconscious, but at the same time it is also an idea corresponding to the highest intuition produced by consciousness.  SotGF 107

(mandala)   The oldest mandala drawing known to me is a palaeolithic so-called ‘sun-wheel’, recently discovered in Rhodesia.  It also is based on the principle of four.  Things reaching so far back in human history naturally touch upon the deepest layers of the unconscious and affect the latter where conscious speech shows itself to be quite impotent.  Such things cannot be thought up but must grow again from the forgotten depths, if they are to express the deepest insights of consciousness and the loftiest intuitions of the spirit.  Coming from these depths they blend together the uniqueness of present-day consciousness with the ago-old past of life. SotGF 107


(CU)  Whenever the narrowly delimited, but intensely clear, individual consciousness meets the immense expansion of the collective unconscious, there is danger because the latter has a definitely disintegrating effect on consciousness.  SotGF 108

Therefore the instructions, as though warning the adept, say: ‘The shapes formed by the spirit-fire are only empty colours and forms.  /  The light of human nature [hsing] shines back on the primordial, the true.’ 

   Thus it is understandable that the text returns to the protecting figure of the ‘enclosing circle’.  It is intended to prevent ‘outflowing’ and to protect the unity of consciousness from being split apart by the unconscious.  SotGF 108

… the essential autonomy of these elements can be observed in the affects of daily life which obstinately obtrude themselves against our wills, and then, in spite of our earnest efforts to repress them, overwhelm the ego and force it under their control.  No wonder that the primitive either sees in these moods a state of possession or sets them down to a loss of soul.  Our colloquial speech reflects the same thing when we say: ‘I don’t know what has got into him today’; ‘He is possessed of the devil’; ‘He is beside himself’; ‘He behaves as if possessed’.  Even legal practice recognizes a degree of diminished responsibility in a state of affect.  SotGF 110

(gods)  Many of the earlier gods have evolved out of ‘persons’ into personified ideas, and finally into abstract ideas, for activated unconscious contents always appear first as projections upon the outside world.  SotGF 110

… our time is so utterly godless and profane, for we lack knowledge of the unconscious psyche and pursue the cult of consciousness to the exclusion of all else.  Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, coupled with a fanatical denial that there are parts of the psyche which are autonomous.  But we differ from the Buddhist yoga doctrine in that we even deny that such autonomous parts are experienceable.  SotGF 111

… our time is caught in a fatal error: we think, for instance, like Laplace, that God is a hypothesis which can be subjected to intellectual treatment, to affirmation or denial.  It is completely forgotten that the reason mankind believes in the ‘daemon’ has nothing whatever to do with outside factors, but is due to simple perception of the powerful inner effect of the autonomous fragmentary systems.  This effect is not nullified by criticizing its name intellectually, nor by describing it as false.  The effect is collectively always present; the autonomous systems are always at work, because the fundamental structure of the unconscious is not touched by the fluctuations of a transitory consciousness.  SotGF 112

If we deny the existence of the autonomous systems, imagining that we have got rid of them by a critique of the name, then their effect which nevertheless continues cannot be understood, and they can no longer be assimilated to consciousness.  They become an inexplicable factor of disturbance which we finally assume must exist somewhere or other outside of ourselves.  In this way, a projection of the autonomous fragmentary systems results, and at the same time a dangerous situation is created, because the disturbing effects are now attributed to bad will outside ourselves which of course is not to be found anywhere but at our neighbour’s.  This leads to collective delusions, ‘incidents’, war, and revolution, in a words, to destructive mass psychoses.  SotGF 112

Insanity is possession by an unconscious content which, as such, is not assimiliated to consciousness; nor can it be assimilated, since the conscious mind has denied the existence of such contents.  Expressed in terms of religion, the attitude is equivalent to saying: ‘We no longer have any fear of God and believe that everything is to be judged by human standards.’  This hybris, that is, this narrowness of consciousness, is always the shortest way to the insane asylum.  SotGF 112

(gods)The enlightened European is likely to be relieved when it is said in the Hui Ming Ching that the ‘shapes formed by the spirit-fire are only empty colours and forms’.  That sounds quite European and seems to suit our reason excellently.  Indeed, we tahink we can flatter ourselves at having already reached these heights of clarity because we imagine we have left such phantoms of gods far behind.  But what we have outgrown are only the word-ghosts, not the psychic facts which were responsible for the birth of the gods.  We are still as possessed by our autonomous psychic contents as if they were gods.  To-day they are called phobias, compulsions, and so forth, or in a word, neurotic symptoms.  The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but the solar plexus, and creates specimens for the physician’s consulting room, or disturbs the brains of the politicians and journalists who then unwittingly unleash mental epidemics.  SotGF 113

So it is better for Western man if at the start he does not know too much about the secret insight of Eastern wise men, for it would be a case of the ‘right means in the hands of the wrong man’.  Instead of allowing himself to be convinced once more that the daemon is an illusion, the Westerner ought again to experience the reality of this illusion.  He ought to learn to recognize these psychic forces again, and not wait until his moods, nervous states, and hallucinations make clear to him in the most painful way possible that he is not the only master in his house.  The products of the disassociation tendencies are actual psychic personalities of relative reality.  They are real when they are not recognized as such and are therefore projected; relatively real when they are related to the conscious (in religious terms, when a cult exists); but they are unreal to the extent that consciousness has begun to detach itself from its contents.  However, this last is the case only when life has been lived so exhaustively, and with such devotedness, that no more unfulfilled obligations to life exist, when, therefore, no desires that cannot be sacrificed unhesitatingly stand in the way of inner detachment from the world.  It is futile to lie to ourselves about this.  Wherever we are still attached, we are still possessed; and when one is possessed, it means the existence of something stronger than oneself.  (‘Truly from thence thou wilt ne’er come forth until thou has paid the last farthing.’)  It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a ‘mania’ or a ‘god’.  To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is decidedly more meaningful and more productive because it means an act of submission to a higher, spiritual being.  The personification enables one to see the relative reality of the autonomous psychic fragmentary system, and thus makes its assimilation possible and depotentiates the forces of fate.  Where the god is not acknowledged, ego-mania develops, and out of this mania comes illness.   SotGF 114

The teaching of yoga takes acknowledgment of the gods for granted.  Its secret instruction is therefore intended only for him whose light of consciousness is on the point of disentangling itself from the powers of fate, in order to enter into the ultimate undivided unity, into the ‘centre of emptiness’, where ‘dwells the god of utmost emptiness and life’, as our text says.  ‘To hear such a teaching is difficult to attain in thousands of aeons.’  Clearly the veil of maya cannot be lifted by a mere decision of reason, but demands the most thoroughgoing and persevering preparation consisting in the full payment of all debts to life.  For as long as unconditional attachment through cupiditas exists, the veil is not lifted and the heights of a consciousness free of contents and free of illusion are not reached; nor can any trick nor any deceit bring this about.  It is an ideal that can be completely realized only in death.  Until then there are real and relatively real figures of the unconscious.  SotGF 115

2.  Anima and Animus

The word hun is translated by Wilhelm as animus.  Indeed, the concept ‘animus’ seems appropiate for hun, the character for which is made up of the character for ‘clouds’ and that for ‘demon’.  Thus hun means ‘cloud-demon’, a higher ‘breath-soul’ belonging to the yang principle and therefore masculine.  SotGF 115

The anima, on the other hand, is the ‘energy of the heavy and turbid’; it clings to the bodily, fleshly heart.  ‘Desires and impulses to anger’ are its effects.  ‘Whoever is somber and moody on waking … is fettered by the anima.’  SotGF 116

To the psychologist, the anima is not a transcendental being but something quite within the range of experience.  SotGF 116

(eros/logos)   Eros is an interweaving; logos is differentiating knowledge, clarifying light; eros is relatedness; logos is discrimination and detachment.  Thus the inferior logos in the woman’s animus appears as something quite unrelated, and therefore as an inaccessible prejudice, or as an opinion which, irritatingly enough, has nothing to do with the essential nature of the object.  SotGF 118

I have defined the anima in man as a personification of the unconscious in general, and have therefore taken it to be a bridge to the unconscious, that is, to be the function of relationship to the unconscious.  SotGF 119

(unconscious contents)  … it is essential that nothing be taken away from the reality of the unconscious, and that the figures of the unconscious should be understood as active quantities.  The person who has understood what is meant by psychic reality need have no fear that he has fallen back into primitive demonology.  If indeed the unconscious figures are not taken seriously as spontaneously active factors, we become victims of a one-sided faith in the conscious mind, which finally leads to a state of over-tension.  Catastrophes are then bound to occur, because, despite all our consciousness, the dark psychic powers have been overlooked.  It is not we who personify them; they have a personal nature from the very beginning.  Only when this is thoroughly recognized can we think of depersonalizing the, that is of ‘subjugating the anima’, as (the book the Secret of the Golden Flower) expresses it.  SotGF 120

(Yoga)  Yoga teaching rejects all fantasy contents and we do the same, but the East does it on quite different grounds.  In the East, conceptions and teachings prevail which express the creative fantasy in richest measure; in fact, protection is required against the excess of fantasy.  We, on the other hand, look upon fantasy as valueless, subjective day-dreaming.  SotGF 120

The East can reject these fantasies because long ago it extracted their essence and condensed it in profound teachings.  But we have never even experienced these fantasies, much less extracted their quintessence.  SotGF 120

… knowledge of the external world is the greatest obstacle to introspection.  SotGF 121

Careful investigation has shown that the affective character in a man has feminine traits.  This psychological fact has given rise to the Chinese teaching of the p’o – soul, as well as to my concept of the anima.  Deeper introspection, or ecstatic experience, reveals the existence of a feminine figure in the unconscious, therefore the feminine name, anima, psyche, or soul.  The anima can also be defined as an imago, or archetype, or as the resultant of all the experiences of man with woman.  This is the reason the anima, as a rule, is projected on the woman. 


BY UNDERSTANDING the unconscious we free ourselves from its domination.  This is really also the purpose of the instruction in (the Secret of the Golden Flower).  The pupil is taught to concentrate on the light of the inmost region and, while doing so, to free himself from all outer and inner entanglements.  SotGF 122

This detachment is something I am familiar with in my practice; I is the therapeutic effect par excellence, for which I labour with my students and patients, that is, the dissolution of participation mystique.  With a stroke of genius, Lévy-Bruhl has established participation mystique as being the hallmark of primitive mentality.  As described by him it is simply the indefinitely large remnant of non-differentiation between subject and object, still so great among primitives that it cannot fail to strike European man, identified as he is with the conscious standpoint.  In so far as the difference between subject and object does not become conscious, unconscious identity prevails.  The unconscious is then projected into the object, and the object is introjected into the subject, that is, psychologized.  Plants and animals then behave like men; men are at the same time themselves and animals also, and everything is alive with ghosts and gods.  Naturally, civilized man regards himself as immeasurably above these things.  Instead, often he is identified with his parents throughout his life, or his is identified with his affects and prejudices, and shamelessly accuses others of the things he will not see in himself.  In a word, even he is afflicted with a remnant of primal unconsciousness, or non-differentiation between subject and object. 

But if the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining quantity along with the conscious, and if we can live in such a way that conscious and unconscious, or instinctive demands, are given recognition as far as possible, the centre of gravity of the total personality shifts its position.  It ceases to be in the ego, which is merely the centre of consciousness, and instead is located in a hypothetical point between the conscious and the unconscious, which might be called the self.  If such a transposition succeeds, it results in doing away with participation mystique, and a personality develops that suffers only in the lower stories, so to speak, but in the upper stories is singularly detached from painful as well as joyful events.  SotGF 124

The creation and birth of this superior personality is what is meant by our text when I speaks of the ‘holy fruit’, the ‘diamond body’, or refers in other ways to an indestructible body.  These expressions are psychologically symbolical of an attitude which is out of reach of intense emotional involvement and therefore safe from absolute shock; they symbolize a consciousness detached from the world.   SotGF 124

To the psyche death is just as important as birth and, like it, is an integral part of life.  SotGF 124

… as a physician, I make a great effort to fortify the belief in immortality as far as I can, especially in my older patients, for whom such questions are crucial.  If viewed correctly in the psychological sense, death is not an end but a goal, and therefore life towards death begins as soon as the meridian is passed. 

    The Chinese philosophy of yoga is based upon the fact of this instinctive preparation for death as a goal, and, following the analogy with the goal of the first half of life, namely, begetting and reproduction, the means towards perpetuation of physical life, it takes as the purpose of spiritual existence the symbolic begetting and bringing to birth of a psychic spirit-body (‘subtle body’), which ensures the continuity of the detached consciousness.  It is the pneumatic man, known to the European from antiquity, which he, however, seeks to produce by quite other symbols and magical practices, by faith and a Christian way of life.  SotGF 125

(Behind the book [Secret of the Golden Flower]) is a culture thousands of years old, one which has built organically upon primitive instincts and which, therefore, knows nothing of the arbitrary morality violating the instincts characteristic of us as recently civilized Teutonic barbarians.  For this reason the Chinese are without that impulse towards violent repression of the instincts which hysterically exaggerates and poisons our spirituality. 

The man who lives his instincts can also detach from them, and in just as natural a way as he lived them.  SotGF 126

We must never forget our historical premises.  Only a little more than a thousand years ago we stumbled from the crudest beginnings of polytheism into the midst of a highly developed Oriental religion (Christianity?) which lifted the imaginative minds of half-savages to a height that did not correspond to their degree of spiritual development.  In order to maintain this height in some fashion or other, the instinctual sphere inevitably had to be repressed to a great extent.  Thus religious practice and morality took a markedly violent, almost malicious, character.  The repressed elements naturally do not develop, but vegetate further in their original barbarism in the unconscious.   SotGF 126

(equanimity)   Recently I received a letter from a former patient which pictures the necessary transformation in simple but pertinent words.  She writes: ‘Out of evil, much good has come to me.  By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality – taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be – by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before.  I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some way or other.  This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume an attitude towards them (Dissolution of participation mystique).  So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow that are forever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides.  Thus everything becomes more alive to me.  What a fool I was!  How I tried to force everything to go according to the way I thought it ought to!’   SotGF 127

Cont’d …Only on the basis of such an attitude, which renounces none of the values won in the course of Christian development, but which, on the contrary, tries with Christian charity and forbearance to accept even the humblest things in oneself, will a higher level of consciousness and culture be possible.  This attitude is religious in the truest sense, and therefore therapeutic, for all religions are therapies for the sorrows and disorders of the soul.  SotGF 127

Y/Y … But it is only a matter of time until the counter position forces recognition of itself one way or another.  Aping an attitude always produces an unstable situation, which can be overthrown by the unconscious at any time.  A safe foundation is found only when the instinctive premises of the unconscious win the same consideration as the viewpoints of the conscious mind.  SotGF 127

… anyone with a more than superficial desire to understand cannot fail to discover that without the most serious application of the Christian values we have acquired the new integration can never take place.  SotGF 127



Only by standing firmly on our own soil can we assimilate the spirit of the East.  SotGF 128

Describing people who do not know where the true springs of secret power lie, an ancient adept says: ‘Worldly people lose the roots and cling to the tree-tops.’  SotGF 128

If I accept the fact that a god is absolute and beyond all human experience, he leaves me cold.  I do not affect him, nor does he affect me.  But if I know that a god is a powerful impulse of my soul, at once I must concern myself with him, for then he can become important, even unpleasantly so, and even in practical ways, which sounds, horribly banal – like everything belonging to the sphere of reality.  SotGF 129

It is a question of a change in inner feeling similar to that experienced by a father to whom a son has been born; it is a change also known to us through the testimony of the Apostle Paul: ‘Not I (live), but Christ liveth in me.’  The symbol ‘Christ’ as the ‘son of man’ is an analogous psychic experience: a higher, spiritual being of human form is invisibly born in the individual, a spiritual body, which is to serve us as a future dwelling, a body which, as Paul expresses himself, is put on like a garment (‘For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ’).  SotGF 132

… the thing we are trying to express is the feeling of having been ‘replaced’, but without the connotation of having been ‘deposed’.  It is as if the direction of the affairs of life had gone over to an invisible centre.  Nietzsche’s metaphor, ‘in most loving bondage, free’, would be appropriate here.  SotGF 132

In this remarkable experience I see a phenomenon resulting from the detachment of consciousness, through which the subjective ‘I live’ becomes the objective ‘It live me’.  This state is felt to be higher than the earlier one; it is really as if it were a sort of release from compulsion and impossible responsibility which are the inevitable results of participation mystique.  This feeling of liberation fill Paul completely.  It is the consciousness of being a child of God which frees one from the spell of the blood.  It is also a feeling of reconciliation with all that happens, and this is the reason that, according the (the Secret of the Golden Flower), the glance of one who has attained fulfillment returns to the beauty of nature.  SotGF 133

(religion)  Among the great religious problems of the present is one which has received scant attention, but which, in fact, is the main problem of our day: the problem of the progress of the religious spirit.  If we are to discuss it, we must emphasize the difference between East and West in their treatment of the ‘jewel’, that is, the central symbol.  The West emphasizes the human incarnation, and even the personality and historicity of Christ, while the East says: ‘Without beginning, without end, without past, without future.’  In accordance with his conception, the Christian subordinates himself to the superior, divine person in expectation of His grace; but the Eastern man knows that redemption depends on the ‘work’ the individual does upon himself.  The Tao grows out of the individual.  The imitation Christi has this disadvantage: in the long run we worship as a divine example a man who embodied the deepest meaning of life, and then, out of sheer imitation, we forget to make real our own deepest meaning – self-realization. 

As a matter of fact, it is not altogether uncomfortable to renounce one’s own real meaning.  Had Jesus doe this, He would probably have become a respectable carpenter, and not the religious rebel to whom, obviously, there would happen to-day the same thing that happened then.  SotGF 134

Every statement about the transcendental is to be avoided because it is invariably only a laughable presumption on the part of the human mind, which is unconscious of its limitations.  SotGF 135