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4 Spheres of Life and Te

To what do the 4 Spheres of the 4 Ascendant Taoist Tradition refer? Why are they important?

Dear Friend,

“Te” is a driving concept in old school Taoism, and can be best understood as “Spiritual Power.”  Spiritual power has both a mystical and non-mystical meaning.  In this article we’ll take a brief look at the non-mystical.  Articles on Taoist mystical components are elsewhere on the site.

In its non-mystical sense, Te refers to the ability to determine one’s own direction, and shape one’s own self.

To understand how that is achieved, one must understand the spheres and what is meant by the word “Ascendant.”


The 4 Spheres Overview

The formal name of the 1,500 year old 4 Ascendant Tradition, “4 Ascendant Spheres Purity Adept School of the Tao” has a very specific meaning.

The name itself has had some variation, according to the teacher and the time period.  The word, “spheres,” has also had mansions, elixirs, heavens, governances, domains, provinces, worlds, ching, and fragments stand in for it.  The sphere refers to a region of power, rules, and scope.

The 4 spheres are Social, Martial, Qi, and Tao.  Each sphere has a different rule set, and different series of choices that leads to power.  Power in one sphere also does nothing to automatically grant power in another sphere.  The spheres are exclusive.

The Nature of Te

The term, “Ascendant,” refers to a graduated escalation of power moving from one sphere to the next.  That power refers to the ability of the Higher sphere to intrude into and destroy the Lower Sphere.

It does not refer to the ability of a Higher sphere to have power in a Lower sphere.  For example, a person can accumulate tremendous spiritual power (Tao Sphere), yet have no power or recognition within the Social sphere.  If he or she wants to have power in that sphere, he or she might leverage experiences originating from the Spiritual sphere, but that act of leveraging would actually be a social act and not a spiritual act.

In the issue of day to day living, much of life’s confusion and bungling up of the sense of fairness comes from not understanding that different acts belong to different spheres or that problems must be addressed according to the domain that they come from.

Social, for example, will never address issues of Spirituality.  Spirituality will never address issues of Social.

It is very easy to render yourself completely powerless and unhappy by not recognizing what goes where.  Sometimes a person that is completely frustrated in life can easily eliminate his or her frustration by creating this separation, because it eliminates a lot of wheel spinning, and makes choices more effective.

Warm Regards,

Taoist master signature

Master Mikel Steenrod
Keeper of the Gate of Man and Heaven
(Lineage Holder of the 4 Ascendant Spheres Purity Adept School of the Tao)

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