Sometimes when I tour with Brick + Mortar I will get lucky and find a used bookstore within walking distance of our venue. I’ll typically return burdened by an armful of books purchased with my daily food money. One of my favorite finds so far as been “Tao Magic: The Chinese Art Of The Occult” by Laszlo Leqeza.
Being a stupid westerner, my familiarity with Taoism comes by way of Alan Watts and Lao Tzu, both of whom seem to be rather dismissive of magical practices. Finding a book full of Taoist talismans, charms and magical diagrams came as a pleasant surprise.
From the introduction:
“Taoist graphic art was first and foremost a practical magic enabling man to communicate with the spirit world and influence the workings of the invisible forces of nature for his own benefit…On a deeper philosophical level, the diagrams may be understood as embodying the concepts of Taoist philosophy. They are to help us harmonize the sexual polarities, the yin and yang, within ourselves, and to place us i harmony with the turbulent energies that act upon our lives and the universe. At the most profound level of all, they point the way to the core of Chinese mysticism. We can intuit the truth that reality is not a succession of separate moments, or an infinite number of separate “things,” but a seamless web of eternal change, like the currents of a river, or clouds blown by the wind; that “being” and “non-being” are complementary, just as the fretted stones which we see depicted in the diagrams are given their shape by erosion, and the surrounding silence gives music it’s form.”
The book gives some in-depth descriptions of magical practices associated with the talismans and charms as well as some cultural context to better explain how the practices came to be.
Many of the diagrams share an uncanny similarity to western occult sigils and diagrams…only with more playful usages of abstraction and representation.