image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

A previous post from last August explored some of the many lessons contained in the "Thirteen Postures Song," one of the mysterious Tai Chi Classics.  

Last month, while participating as the "Author of the Month" on Graham Hancock's site, I revisited the "Thirteen Postures Song" to comment on a different aspect of that amazing poem, one which I find very pertinent in the discussion of the ancient myths of humanity. It is so important, in fact, that I believe it deserves comment again here, for the benefit of those who may have missed it previously.

The "Thirteen Postures Song" initially appears to be concerned with cultivating skill in martial arts for the purpose of defeating opponents in physical combat when necessary. It describes the attainment of such a level of kung fu that one achieves "action like stillness," and a "mysterious and uncanny" ability to adapt to the opponent's every move.

However, as the previous discussion linked above demonstrates, this achievement of "action like stillness" clearly has a spiritual dimension, as well as important parallels to the central message of other sacred texts from around the globe, including the central message of the Bhagavad Gita.

And indeed, as we continue reading the rest of the "Thirteen Postures Song," we see that it does not really seem to spend much additional thought on defeating opponents, but instead begins to discuss the cultivation of the invisible force of qi or chi, and the achievement of a state which it describes with the metaphor of a "never-ending springtime" or (literally) a "never-aging springtime."

The entire poem, along with my best effort at a fairly literal translation of the characters is reproduced again below for convenient reference: 



(those characters found online in various places -- the above are found in this online version here). 

And my translation (with apologies in advance for any errors, although I believe this translation to be fairly accurate, if very literal): 


Thirteen Collected Dynamics: Do Not Lightly Esteem ["do not take them lightly"]. 

[Their] Life-Heart and Head: [It] Issues from the Waist / Kidney Region. 

The Transformations and Turnings of Empty and Solid: [You] Must Keep in Heart-Soul-Mind. 

Chi Everywhere in the Body, the Human Body: Not Steered into an Obstacle [usually translated to mean "not hindered or obstructed"]. 

Stillness [in the] Center of Initiating-Action: Action Like Stillness. 

Because of it, the way that you Adapt to the Opponent's Moves: Indeed Mysterious and Uncanny. 

Each Posture [each "dynamic" or "force"] Learn by Heart: Come to Know its Usefulness and its Deepest Essence. 

Acquire / Will Come all-Unconscious: Effortless Mastery or Advanced Skill [literally "kung fu"]. 

Deeply Engrave and Hold the Heart-Mind in the Place of the Waist / Kidney Region. 

In the Abdomen area [be] Relaxed and Still: Chi Gallops, Flying-up -- Yes! 

Tailbone Centered and Straight: Divine Energy [from there up through] The Top of the Head (like a string through a thousand coins). 

The Benefit of a Body Filled with Lightness and Agility: [it is achieved by] Hoisting or Suspending the Top of the Head (as if hanging from above). 

Follow the Slender Thread [perhaps meaning "to the deepest, thinnest ends of the roots"]: Push Towards what you Seek. 

Flexing and Opening and Closing: You will Hear it or Know it from Within Yourself. 

The One who Begins this Path: Must necessarily have this teaching Transmitted from the Mouth [of a teacher]. 

Practice your Skill [literally "kung fu"] Without Stopping, Without Resting: the Way is by Your Own Study -- your own Cultivation. 

Regarding the Usefulness of this System: What Guideline or Standard shall we Make or Observe? 

The Heart-soul and the Chi Arrive as the Sovereign: the Bones and the Flesh are the Monarch's Ministers and Officials. 

Towards What Goal does all of this Push or Impel us? 

The Benefit of Desired Long Life and Delay of Aging: a Never-Aging Springtime. 

A Song -- Ah! A Song -- Oh! A Hundred and Forty. 

These Written Characters -- Genuine, Clear-cut: Right in Conduct, Without any Suspicion. 

If one does Not Toward this Direction Push, Seek, and Go . . . 

In Vain all that is Spent on Achieving Skill [literally "kung fu"]: Sighing, Loss, and Regret. 

The metaphor of a "never-aging springtime" is extremely important, because (along with the focus on the cultivation of the "divine energy" of chi) it appears to point towards the connection with that realm which the ancient texts and myths of humanity point towards as the source for all life in this world -- the Invisible Realm, which is even sometimes explicitly referred to as the "seed realm."

If indeed the "Thirteen Postures Song" is about the cultivation of connection with the invisible world, the way in which it tells us that we cultivate that connection is worth examining more closely.

I believe that there are two lines in the poem, found "back-to-back," which provide us with a very important insight into the path we take towards the goal that the poem says we should be pursuing.

Here are those two lines: 

The One who Begins this Path: Must necessarily have this teaching Transmitted from the Mouth [of a teacher]. 
Practice your Skill [literally "kung fu"] Without Stopping, Without Resting: the Way is by Your Own Study -- your own Cultivation. 

These lines are extremely interesting and worthy of examination. They almost seem to be contradictory. The first line tells us that we must necessarily be shown the way by the mouth of a teacher, and the second tells us that the pursuit is somehow on our own.


What does it mean?

The first line selected above says that "the one who begins this path must necessarily have this teaching transmitted from the mouth." In other words, it is generally necessary for the meaning to be shown in some way. After Daniel-san waxed the cars and painted the fence, he "knew the moves" but he did not know what he knew. He needed Mr. Miyagi to actually enable him to see it. 

It is very common to find ancient wisdom passed down through a master-to-disciple relationship. This is found in Yoga, in the martial arts, and in some of the texts describing ancient Greek philosophy, for instance (and see also the important text by Peter Kingsley, entitled In the Dark Places of Wisdom). 

But then follows the next line, which adds an additional angle (and note that these lines are found right together in the poem itself, one following the other, just as presented above). 

There we see the poem telling us: "Practice your Skill [literally "kung fu"] Without Stopping, Without Resting: the Way is by Your Own Study -- your own Cultivation." 

So, there is the necessity of one to show us, but then the poem tells us that "the Way is by Your Own Study -- your own Cultivation." We must both "be shown" and then "Practice without stopping" in order to actually cultivate this "Way" that the "Thirteen Postures Song" is describing. 

I believe that this pair of lines is very appropriate to the study of they sacred myths given to humanity as well. I cannot tell you what they mean -- and neither can anyone else. The act of receiving what they have to say and the knowledge they wish to impart to you "is by your own study -- your own cultivation." 

However, as mentioned above, if Daniel-san is never shown the layers of meaning that are beyond the act of waxing the car or painting the fence, then he would never be able to then "practice and cultivate by his own study." This situation, I believe, describes much of what has happened in places where the esoteric understanding of the myths and scriptures has been suppressed or cut off (particularly in "the west" -- which is what led to the realization over the years, accelerating in the twentieth century, of men and women from western cultures looking for and searching out answers which could be found in places where this tradition had not been so thoroughly suppressed or cut off). 

So both lines are very important to our understanding of the myths and what they have to tell us. 

The "Thirteen Postures Song" itself is actually talking about the cultivation not only of prowess at martial arts or kung fu but also about the cultivation of chi, and of the connection with the Invisible Realm -- as (I argue) are the ancient myths of the human race. 

One additional aspect in the poem which points towards that Infinite Realm, which I had not noticed back in August 2015, is the fact that the number of the "Thirteen Dynamics" themselves comes from the "five directions" and the Eight Angles (of the Bagua, which contains the Eight Divinatory Trigrams -- divination being rather indisputably involved with connecting to something beyond the purely material realm). 

That much I did mention in the blog post linked above -- but note that five and eight (adding to thirteen) also create what we call a Fibonacci progression (5, 8, 13 . . . the next in the series would be 21, etc). This connects to the concept of the Golden Ratio and to Phi -- and as I argue here, to the Infinte Realm as well (Phi being a numerical concept which, like Pi as well, "touches infinity" in that it goes on forever without any known repetition). 

Much more could be said here, but the main point is this: the cultivation of the wisdom and the Way involves the Infinite Realm, it is usually conveyed to us through esoteric means, which requires some initial guidance "from the mouth" (traditionally, this has been in the form of a "master-to-disciple" relationship), but that ultimately each man or woman must "go in" themselves, gain the gnosis themselves -- no one else can do it for them. 

I believe there is much to meditate upon in these words from the Tai Chi Classic text (and indeed, to meditate upon daily, as the "Thirteen Postures Song" in fact instructs us to do).