A Thought Tour of the Chinese Occult

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This video lecture was originally set to be titled “Syncretism in Chinese Occultism,” but we’re going to modify it to “A Thought Tour of the Chinese Occult.” If you’re going to watch this video, then buckle in and settle down, because it’s a long one and I start you off in extremely ambitious territory—the deepest most obscure layer of Eastern esoteric thought.

In our tour of Chinese folk shamanism, we’ll look at two specific practices: the tang ki (spirit-possessed mediums) and dreamwork. Then we’ll review a few more intersecting points of Buddhist and Taoist syncretism, such as the emphasis on meditation and mudras; how Legalist thought has had an impact on the structure and codes of conduct set by orthodox Taoist lineages; and one compelling feature of how Confucianism plays in to the occult: the master-student relationship.

After visiting Confucius, the Buddha, and Lao Tzu, we’ll discuss Chinese folk religions, the very important craft consideration of regional land spirits, what traditional Chinese witchcraft looks like, which will include brief coverage of necromancy and soul dualism (the hun and the po), exorcism, and astral projection in ritual magic.

You are watching Video #5 in a six-part video lecture series.


Taoism is a nature-based religion, philosophy, and tradition of sorcery native to China, formed around 600 B.C. One hundred years later, Buddhism enters China and a modality of it–esoteric Buddhism–is blended in with Taoist magic. This introductory lecture series will cover the ontology, theory, history, and cultural practice of sorcery at the intersection of esoteric Buddhism and Taoism.

Video 1: Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism
Video 2: History of Taoism and Buddhism in China
Video 3: Taoist Sorcery and Its Cultural Practice
Video 4: Taoist Metaphysics
Video 5: A Thought Tour of the Chinese Occult
Video 6: Taoist Magic in Contemporary Times

Introduction to Taoist Occultism [full playlist]:


All videos in this series are closed-captioned for the deaf, hard of hearing, or those whose native tongue isn’t English. I’ve also made my best attempt at accommodating for the blind. If there is room for improvement in these regards, I’m open to friendly critique. Thank you!


Demonology (Bell Chimes In #21),

Photo Credits: www.godsoftaiwan.com; news.ebc.net.tw; www.twgreatdaily.com; www.chinatimes.com; 郭冀銘攝; 三重協聖宮-蓮花太子 (Taipei, Taiwan); 林富士 (newtaiwanshaman.blogspot.com)

Statement of Fair Use: Any copyrighted images are used herein for non-profit, educational purposes and scholarship.

30 thoughts on “A Thought Tour of the Chinese Occult”

  1. This series is great, especially for people, who like me, are interested in Chinese craft. And I'm waiting impatiently for the last part ❤️

  2. I love this series, and this video is an excellent addition! Chinese Witch Wars? Yes! You're doing a great service by explaining these concepts. I keep finding things that resonate with my own work, and new ideas to expand on what I do. Thank you so much for the time and effort you sacrifice to provide these gifts!

  3. Woah, that's really cool, I didn't know that there was a Chinese practice that used speaking in tongues. My parents followed the rural Christian practices that did that (I mean technically I know how to do it, too, but I don't feel comfortable channeling the Christian Holy Spirit now that I don't follow that path anymore), and I agree that it's really interesting how it parallels in giving the common people a direct line to divinity, given that Christians aren't usually allowed to use any form of divination or channeling. What often happens, though, is that if a church group gets too adept at the practice, they will eventually cross a line where a bunch of the church members will be like "Wait a second! That's not in the Bible! This is heresy!" and it'll all fall apart and everyone will have to go find a new church. Some real, magical stuff can happen before it gets to that point, though, like healing miracles and exorcisms. I personally don't believe in Christian doctrine at all these days, although it can be a legitimate pathway to divinity, because that same dogmatism that often holds them back from getting too far also has a lot of other negative things about it that I don't agree with (like being against other gods and religions, or its other hyper-conservative social stances).

  4. Thank you for sharing this! What a though-provoking video. I thoroughly appreciate your take on this. I was raised Catholic but was drawn to Taoism as a child (from what I thought was a Winnie the Pooh book at the library!). This whole series has been fascinating for me and is definitely calling me to dig deeper.

  5. I never tasted vinegar before but I think I'm closer to Taoism than Buddhism, I'm terrified of loosing my identity and what makes me me.
    Maybe I'm not selfless enough or I'm not able to fully grasp the concept yet?
    Anyway thank you for the great video!

  6. Tang Ki is strikingly similar to Umbanda and Candomblé. Religions with a heavy emphasis on spirit possession. It's marvelous how this concept is so antiquity in the history of humanity and still, so alive. Thank you very much for this video series!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. The part on my physical environment, like the lakes and rivers near my house having influence on my practice was some "good stuff". You have the wheels in my head turning. Thanks. ☺

  8. I just ordered your book! I was visiting the British museum a few weeks ago and I was really struck by the Eastern exhibits. They're very different to what we have in europe, I can't help but feel slightly envious! Loved this series.

  9. Benebell! I just had an idea! Maybe you can make an oracle deck of all theTaoist, Buddhist, and Confucius 神仙 菩萨 etc.! What do you think?

  10. It's really interesting the role visualization has on the religious and spiritual notion, with Giordano Bruno's thirty intentions of shadow; his own version of visualizations to memorize in order to artifice celestial influences at a whim, St. Ignatius of Loyola's spiritual exercises where you visualize …well basically all the horrors of the Bible! to the first Panchen Llama's manual which involves visualization of the 4 elemental mandalas and the wheels of protection in order to preserve, after death, a direct uninhibited connection to Buddha consciousness; making the most of the vast emptiness of the death state in order reach and attain to that blessed Buddha field, something that may not happen if those visualization techniques are not applicable and the death state becomes a samsara feedback loop.

    In the beginning of the global religious mood which is known as Shamanism, visualizations, dream quests and psychedelics were used as a means to find truths unreachable any other way; I mean those cave paintings must have been inspired by some really great Psilocybin! My whole spiel here as I wrap up this long ass comment is just that humans everywhere always have used their minds in some fashion to influence the exterior world as a symptom which results through the attainment of the divine, or at least attempted to. It's tradition!

  11. I've watched this video about three times and I'm still absorbing it! I'll probably be back a few more times to be sure. Also, this video reminded me of how great it is that you can learn about something entirely new to you, but in the process also learn more about yourself. I really appreciate the way you laid all that out!

  12. I enjoyed your videos . Taoism practices are from the Yellow Emperors era and probably older . Hinduism and Taoism are both older than Buddhism. You state that Taoism has borrowed from esoteric Buddhism scriptures or spells , or Mudras/hand formations I would not totally agree with your inference. However I look forward to your next video about the pantheon about Deities in Taoism. Tang Ki culture is a very much diverse across Taiwan , Singapore , Malaysia , Thailand and I suppose your summary was somewhat superficial (maybe time constraint)

  13. Another great lecture, thank you, I did have to watch it in parts, too much for me to absorb all at once.. Interestingly, I chose bitter and I do feel most closely aligned with Buddha.

  14. It strikes me that the veneration of bodhisattva is similar to how Catholics feel about Saints. We have a Greek term to help distinguish between veneration and worship. Dulia, or veneration, is reserved for Saints. Hyperdulia is focused on the Virgin Mary, basically veneration x 1000. Finally, Latria, the Greek word for adoration, is shown to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It seems to be a difficult concept for protestants to understand, but there's a very distinct difference.

  15. Yes, it's here, another installment. Is it too nerdy to take notes of these videos? Because that's what I'm doing! I feel so much of what you're saying really hits home for me, perhaps it's the way that so many paths seem synched. .

  16. Thank you for finishing this video and posting it 🙂 I was very happy to see it at the top of my feed this morning.

    Your first section about bodhisattva, buddha, and collective consciousness is really similar to the lines of thought of how I've been thinking that existence works. I agree that this topic doesn't seem to be something that should be reserved and saved until after much education. Whenever someone asks me about my beliefs, I start right here! Because, yes… Everything else I believe in has its foundation here, how this part of existence theoretically works. All of my subsequent beliefs evolve from this foundation.

    I am utterly fascinated by similarities of beliefs that have spread throughout all the world of human culture. It does really make me wonder if there is a truth within the common denominators. I am also just blown away how sophisticated humanity has been for thousands of years, even 10,000+ years. Our capabilities aren't that different, just our base education. The advent of writing and promotion of universal mandatory education are really the the biggest differences between humanity today, and humanity 10,000 years ago.

  17. I ordered your book on my Kindle this afternoon, and I'm reading it already the Tao of Craft, and it reminded me of something that have in a frame on my desk.
    Tao produced the One
    The One produced the two
    The two produced the three
    And the three produced the ten thousand things
    The ten thousand things carry the Yin and embrace the Yang and through the
    blending of the Qi they achieve harmony

  18. I think the Chinese government, or the royal leaders of dynasties throughout the ages, mostly just employ the first part of the Confucius teaching – that the authority can do whatever to you and your job is to obey. I think even in schools and families, very few even know about the second part about the teacher’s responsibility.

    Growing up in China, I always repelled against the Confucius tradition because how stupid it is to obey you blindly? I can’t have my own opinions? I can’t ask questions? Blah blah… and the older and therefore authority figures seems to prevent you from surpassing them rather than take it as their responsibility to make sure you do.

    If not for your video, I wouldn’t even know the second part of the Confucius teaching.

  19. Not sure if the relationship Buddhists have with Buddhas is just one of respect. We take refuge in the Buddhas because they alone are free (and are able to guide you to freedom.) It's not like bowing to a god, sure, but it's not just respect.

  20. I’m only 8 minutes into your video and I’m totally loving it! I practiced meditation with a Hindu teacher for 13 years so this makes total sense to me — and from your other video I’m starting to have an inkling as to the Buddhist/Taoist influence in Asia. I’m not familiar with the bodhisattvas of Asia—rather more the ‘gods and goddesses’ of the Hindu culture. At any rate after practicing meditation for 13 years I can safely say I’m not even close to an enlightened consciousness. It ain’t easy, right?? All I can do now is try to petition to ideals (Buddha, Kwan Yin) for guidance and assistance.

  21. This is a perfect video, and triggers my spirit. So much, of course, resonates with me because of the shamanic energy in the tradition and the culture. I'm definitely trying to learn more about Daoist methods to amplify my odd shamanic connection with Hoodoo and Onmyodo, and of course it all blends perfectly. Thank you for providing a strong basis for my practice.

  22. I'm enjoying your Holistic Tarot book, I decided in December when I bought it, that I would read it all the way through first, then use it as a reference, so far that's working out great and I'm learing a lot. Now I think it's time that I go over to amazon and order your other book The Tao of Craft, which I'm going to go do now.. I've always been interested in anything Chinese, anything Indian ( India) and African..my three favorite subjects. I wonder if it's because it's all in my DNA..lol lol

  23. My father always bowed to certain people also, he would never shake hands with anyone so I learned that as a child so I never shake hands either. Yes I tune into the animal, plant kingdom when I do my gardening to find out through the devas what to plant in each raised bed in my garden and what stone to put in each bed, fertilizer etc. I definitely believe in the dream world and going to different realms to talk to ancestors, I do this almost on a regular basis at night. My dreams are so vivid I keep a journal of them since I've done since the 1970's

    I say the vinegar is sweet. I drink it with water sometimes because I love the flavor.
    My husband has a relationship with the wind, the wind plays with him, there will be no wind but if he says he's going to go burn the trash the wind will pick up. When he's outside and it's too windy he will talk to the wind and ask the wind to let up and it will. I've seen him work with the wind and it's amazing.
    The natures spirits as I said I work with on a daily basis but especially during gardening season, but I also work with animal spirits talking to them, asking them to not eat up my garden and lets share instead. It's been working for many years for me.
    I'm looking forward to the next video.. Thank you for sharing. by the way i ordered your 2nd edition of Spirit Keepers last night. so excited.

  24. Benebell when you comment on the "Mandate of Heaven" and the Chinese Imperial Bureaucracy, it makes perfect sense. And this is true with the Chinese nobles who were ennobled by the Chinese Emperors (Son of Heaven) to be also privy to be educated into the Ceremonial magicks of the Chinese Buddhist Taoist Mystery Schools as the Chinese Emperors were believed to be in the threshold between spirit and the mortal mundane. I concur.

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