Out of This World, 5


5. (pp. 71-86) "Crane-Riding, ... Ghost-Brides".

pp. 71-2 the nature of hsien (immortals)

p. 71

"although he conceals his true nature

by the square pupils of his eyes,

by the tops of his ears, which reach the top of his head, and

by the feathers covering his body."

"He will have a garment of feathers,

will ride on a lightbeam or saddle a star,

will float in emptiness ... .

His bones will shine like jade,

his face will glow,

a halo will surround his head, all

p. 72

his body will emit supernatural light and will be as incandescent as the sun and the moon." (MT, p. 69)


"he can hide in the sun, in the moon, or in the stars." (MT, p. 250)

MT = Isabelle Robinet : Me’ditation taoi:ste. Paris : Dervy Livres, 1979.

pp. 72-3 instances of attainers to immortality

p. 72

"An-ch>i Sheng ... obtained the power of invisibility and ascended to heaven after having lived in the Lo-fu Mountain of Kwangtung province eating only water-rush stalks".

{cf. the bullrushes of Mos^eh, who likewise ascended to heaven}


"And the second-century B. C. E. alchemist Liu An was renowned for having prepared an elixir that not only allowed him to ascend to heaven, but also his poultry and dogs when they licked the vial he dropped into the courtyard upon his sudden takeoff." {psychedelic drugs affect animals}

p. 73

"Emperor Shun ... learned from the two daughters of Emperor Yao, Nu: Ying and O Huang, how to fly and creep like a dragon."

pp. 72-4 flying vehicles for riding to heaven {cf. trips aboard flying saucers}

p. 72

"The alchemist Shao-kun, under the Han emperor Wu Ti (141-87 B.C.)" asserted (PA, p. 26) :

"I can rein the flying dragon and visit the extremities of the earth.

I can bestride the hoary crane and soar above the nine degrees of heaven."

p. 73

"The famous emperor Chi reached the heavenly immortals by ascending to them on a winged horse, or according to another version on the back of a long-bearded dragon capable of carrying seventy people at once." (PA, p. 18)


"K>u Yu:an (332-295 B.C.E.) wrote an allegorical poem about flying over the Kun-lun Mountains in a chariot carried by dragons and preceded by Wang-shu, the charioteer of the moon." (PA, pp. 14-7)


"a flying chariot (fei-ch>e) during the reign of the emperor Ch>eng T>ang (eighteenth century B.C.E.) ... was built instead by the tribe of the Chi-

p. 74

kung, known from other testimonies to consist of single-armed, three-eyed people riding striped horses." (PA, p. 19)

PA = Berthold Laufer : The Prehistory of Aviation. FIELD MUS OF NAT HIST, ANTHROPOLOGICAL SER 18:1, Publication 253. Chicago.

p. 74 levitating saint

"the seventeenth Giuseppe Desa of Coppertino is held by the Catholic Church to be the patron of aviation." {Actually. levitation is a praeternatural power having no relation to mechanical aviation!}

[cf. the levitator Home (supra, p. 24)]

p. 76 near-death experience; bilocation; temporary extraction of souls; out-of-body experience

"Many such occurrences were collected in the Record of Researches after Spirits (Shen-shen chi) by a certain Yu Pao, whose brother experienced temporary death for several days, during which he "had witnessed all sorts of things relating to kuei and shen in the heavens and on earth." (RSCh, pp. 126-7)

"A Posterior Record of Researches on Spirits (Shen-shen hou-chi) ... explains one case of bilocation by describing the free soul of a person as a perfect duplicate thereof."

"Skillful magicians are said to be able to extract ... from their bodies ... the souls of beautiful women, who then have no recollection of the occurrence , ... in a dream." (RSCh, pp. 100-2)

"A twelfth-century story reports that a young man called Chien-pu and also Shun-yu was "able to emit his own shen" and thus obtain information on things going on elsewhere." (RSCh, pp. 103-4)

RSCh = J. J. M. de Groot : The Religious System of China. vols. 4-6. Leiden : E. J. Brill, 1901-10.

p. 77 walk-ins

"A case of ... animation of a body of the deceased by the soul of a different person is reported by Chang Tu, a ninth century officer, in his Records of the Manifest Apartment (Sun-shih chi).

{This is likewise an Ajivika practice.}

The General Description of Strange Things (I-wen tsung lu) ... ascribes to a kuei the capacity of sneaking into a fresh corpse in order to come back to life."

p. 79 female tan-c^i in Simha-pur

"In Singapore, female tang-chi specialized in otherworldly journeys for "soul raising" (khan-bo^ng) or necromancy. Soul raisers sought out the help of Kuan-yin to guide them through the spirit world. During every se’ance they reenacted a sort of new Divine Comedy, talking with spirits in hell, imitating their voices, ... continuing until they found the ghost they were looking for."

p. 80 ghost brides : "the phenomenon of "hell marriage," which is ... the marriage between a ghost bride and a human groom."

"A special female tang-chi is in charge of the oracle of the Little God in Chiali. The bride-to-be, the ghost of a girl who has died in childhood, requests a wedding ... by appearing in the dream of someone in her family ... . It is the job of the medium ... to assist the family in the marriage. ... The wedding actually takes place and looks like a real wedding, except for the fact that, when she appears from the taxi {rickashaw}, the bride is a dummy two and a half feet tall, dressed like a dead person in three layers of clothing".

p. 81 conjuring the spirits of stars

"Not unlike the early sixteenth-century German magician Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, ... the standard Taoist operations concerning stars ... include conjuration, installation of stars in one’s body, and walking on stars. The last one ... is particularly interesting : the stars of the constellation of the Dipper take the adept through the three gates of the nine heavens, where he shows each keeper a talisman and says the keeper’s name; the keeper then lets him enter. The adept comes to the golden gate, the gate of paradise, where his talisman is checked by the guardians of the four poles, who let him pass after consultation with the emperor of the golden gate. Having reached the heaven Yu Ch>ing, where there is no spatial direction, he eventually enters a paradise , in the middle of which grows a jade tree with golden branches, surrounded by dragons. [MT, p. 308]

The closest Western analogue to this is the so-called "Mithra liturgy," a magical Hellenistic text in which the stars help the adept in his heavenly ascent". [infra, p. 207 " "the Mithra liturgy" ..., describing the otherworldly journey of the initiate after death beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, as far as the throne of the Supreme god who sets in motion the stars of the Big Dipper."]

pp. 82-4 Taoist ritual conjuring spirits

p. 82

"communications with otherworldly presences ... are dispatched to the secretaries of the celestial kings and dignitaries :

the golden gate in the jade capital of heaven,

the gate of the four bureaus of the three realms,

the bureau of the great sovereign of heaven,

the court of the celestial pivot in the highest purity,

the office of the eastern peak Tai, and so on. ...

To extend the invitations, the high priest relies on messenger gods.

p. 83

[quoted from TRChS, p. 66] Let the mounted gods gallop each in his own direction and give (his documents) to the right office, penetrating on high the Golden Gate of the Jade Capital and below in the bright waters and dark earth. ...

The above is announced to

the jade lasses of the Three Heavens charged with transmission,

the messengers of the roads through the clouds of the Nine Heavens,

the officers of merit of Orthodox Unity,

the great generals of the molten metal and fiery bells,

the potent officers in charge of memorializing on this day,

the clerks mounted on the flying dragons – all the gods of transmission.


The ritual of announcement ... was devised by a Taoist movement of the tenth century C.E. called the orthodox method of the heart of heaven (t>ien-hsin cheng-fa). By the end of the twelfth century, the practice of fa-piao (dispatching the memorial had become the norm. ... ...

The priest is transformed into a cosmic being


whose __

is __



a cloud of ink,



scattered stars,



a mountain, and



like a forest of swords.


This giant hides behind the Big Dipper,

summons his celestial and terrestrial souls, and then

starts walking on the stars of the Dipper in order to reach the golden gate and be received by the Emperor of Heaven.

At the same time he is purified by "the nine phoenixes that destroy filth" and incorporates energies from the stars."

"the six masters and four saints ... leave the golden gate behind them and descend to earth in a chariot of cloud carried by a team of cranes." (TRChS, p. 78)


"fragrance ascends to heaven, taking the form of celestial seals and drawing to the altar the

p. 84

immortals seated on colored clouds, "all the generals and marshals of outer space." (TRChS, p. 80)


"Two documents written in red ink assure that the gate of heaven is open and the "stellar winds" are favorable. The priest prepares for the "unicorn walk," ... so that he can meet the potentates of heaven. ... . ... the priest is sending to heaven the "red infant," an energy from his lower abdomen, through the stars of the Dipper to a "silent audience before the Supreme Emperor."" (TRChS, p. 83)


"The six masters and four saints come again upon invitation in their cloud chariot.

A message is taken to the Emperor of Heaven by means ... "of the five colors";

accompanied by powerful gonging and drumming, the potentates of the four

p. 85

winds are summoned through a "sword dance"; ...

tea is presented to the Master of Jade Purity".

TRChS = John Lagerwey : Taoist Ritual in Chinese Society and History. London : Macmillan-Collier, 1987.

p. 85 visualizations concerning writing-equipment as praeparation for ritual walking on the Big Dipper (Tao Tsan 1221 -= S^an-c^>in Lin-pao Ta-fa, in TRChS, p. 156)

Visualize the __

as __

red inkstone


dish of water



golden strips


green dragon

"visualize the dippers of the five directions enveloping the body.

Walk the huo-lo Dipper, ... and

visualize yourself entering the Three Terraces and the Big Dipper."

p. 86 Green Heaven; tones sung; freeing the soul from hell

"In another ritual, a writ of pardon is obtained from heaven; it is issued by the chief of the teaching of the Green Heaven ... .

... hymns are ... sung on increasingly higher tones" (TRChS, p. 197).

"The descent into hell in order to release a departed soul (... the ritual called attack on hell) is ... beyond the gate ... in the kingdom of darkness.

There, at the center of hell, he performs a powerful exorcism to release the soul of the deceased and, summoning the "divine soldiers of the Five Camps," he smashes ... a paper fortress. The family of the deceased help in the destruction." (TRChS, pp. 216-28)


I. P. Couliano : Out of This World : Otherworldly Journeys. Shambhala : Boston, 1991.