Achieving immortality in Taoism is about cultivating oneself to awaken the spirit, which will then be clear and conscious after physical death. In Taoism, all venerated beings were once normal human beings who became immortal through cultivation. To understand what it means to be an immortal, it helps to distinguish between the two main types of immortality in Taoism:
“Earthly Immortal” describes people who practice Taoist methods to live long and healthy lives so that they have more time to awaken their spirits. Someone is said to be an Earthly Immortal if they live to be one hundred years or more, live life to the fullest, preserve their youthfulness within old age, and die peacefully when they are ready.
The intention of Taoist cultivation is to become a Celestial Immortal, meaning to awaken the spirit, release the ego-self, and enter the Tao. John Blofeld best captures what it means to be a Celestial Immortal in his book Taoism: The Road to Immortality:
“An immortal is one who, by employing to the full all his endowments of body and mind, by shedding passion and eradicating all but simplest and most harmless desires, has attained to free, spontaneous existence—a being so nearly perfect that his body is but a husk or receptacle of pure spirit. He has undergone a spiritual rebirth, broken free from the shackles of illusionary selfhood and came face to face with his “true self,” aware that it is not his personal possession, being no other than the sublime, undifferentiated Tao!
“With the vanishing of his seeming ego, he sees himself no longer as an individual, but the unchanging Tao embodied in a transient cloud-like form. Death, when it comes, will be for him no more than the casting off of a worn robe. He has won to eternal life and is ready to plunge back into the limitless ocean of pure being!”
Why We Call Our Members Celestial Immortals
Master T.T. Liang would always say, “Imagination Becomes Reality,” and would encourage students to imagine within themselves they have acquired skills and have mastered their art.
Therefore, we choose to call our members “Celestial Immortals” to help people enter the mindset of already being a Taoist Immortal, because from that state of mind, it’s easier to practice and be like an Immortal. Your imagination can become reality because when we start to imagine ourselves in a certain way, it opens and stimulates the subconscious mind to respond in kind, thus opening the inner pathways within our mind-body to bring about the possibility of immortality.
That said, we must also consider that everyone is an immortal already, we just haven’t awakened to it. We all have the seed and potential to fully realize our immortality. In the end we call our members “Celestial Immortals” because they already are.