Man Born of Man Alone: Male Motherhood in the History and Reception of Daoist Alchemy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This chapter deals with the male appropriation of motherhood as a metaphor for transformation in religious texts and practices. Particular attention is given to its historical uses and modern reception in the Daoist alchemical traditions. Through a textual study of the central Daoist text the
Daodejing, gendered metaphors, particularly relating to motherhood and infancy are identified
and analysed as key components of the texts cosmology, ethics and soteriology. Shifting focus from textual to practical examples of the appropriation of feminine procreativity, an introduction to key concepts of the so-called alchemical traditions of Daoism is provided. Reversing or inverting the cosmic decaying process was a central idea of Daoist alchemy, which, through varying means, sought to compound an ́elixir ́ of longevity through meditational practices which rested upon the widespread idea of the generation of an ́immortal infant ́ or embryo in the imaginary womb of the adept.
Finally, the chapter outlines the contemporary reception of the Daoist male womb metaphor, in two international religious communities and describes the case of a Christian-Daoist synthesis of alchemical meditation prevalent in the mystical practices of The Soul Power Institute.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Religious Studies
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaternità e politeismi
Subtitle of host publicationMotherhood(s) and Polytheisms
EditorsF. Pasche Guignard, G. Pedrucci, M. Scapini
Place of PublicationBologna
PublisherPàtron editore Bologna
ISBN (Print)9788855533782
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch