The Three Transformations: The Alchemical Art of Jing, Chi, and Shen


The triad of transformations entails the purposeful manipulation of jing, chi/qi, and shen (alternatively referred to as vital, astral, and mental for adherents of Hermeticism), representing an age-old meditation methodology of profound significance.

But strangely enough, it is not often clearly explained or even acknowledged in many training methods (I am well aware it is a model you see in different systems my point is that it is usually hidden behind walls of unnecessary theory and the point is lost), really in modern times it is thanks to practitioners like Sifu Mark Rasmus, Jake Green, Bob Smith (Sixty Skills) that we have clear teachings like the three transformations openly available to all. When I started though all the energies where discussed the experience of each and the process of identification was very much a trial-and-error process, reading Rawns ‘A Bardon Companion’ and checking his message board, not to forget the Bardon groups on Yahoo. But still nothing ever explained things so simply as the Three Transformation, which thanks to Sifu Mark Rasmus, I learned in 2012, and more recently Sixty Skills made available for free via Perseus.

Why is it important?

Because it allows practitioners to manipulate their energy matrix actively. By learning how to perform the three transformations, practitioners gain the ability to convert vital energy into astral and mental energy, and vice versa. This capability enables them to control their energy and specify which form of energy they choose to work with, whether it’s at the vital, astral, or mental level of existence. This control over energy is fundamental for practitioners of meditation, yoga, and magic, as it empowers them to enhance their physical performance, develop out-of-body experiences, and navigate different levels of reality more effectively. All of this is absolutely key but is rarely clearly explained in any of these traditions.

Passive versus Active Transformation

As mentioned above, the Three Transformations allows you to actively transform these energies. As humans there is already a passive transformation taking place. We need vital energy to live and to sustain all our physical and energetic systems. This is normal and is also something that happens passively in many systems, over a period of time changes occur as large amounts of raw material get transformed and in turn feel their awareness and capacity to think much improved. But it is unplanned, passive and far slower than consciously planning the process.

Why is identification important?

As emphasized at the outset, discerning these energies often entails trial and error. In certain systems, practitioners may remain oblivious to these subtle forces, whereas in Hermetic and Yogic traditions, these energies are codified. However, they often linger as mere theoretical constructs, devoid of direct experiential understanding for many. This knowledge vacuum underscores a missed opportunity, as once comprehended, the process appears straightforward, requiring not decades, but a mere weekend to grasp. Armed with this understanding, exercises assume a newfound depth, where anticipation of requisite mental energy precedes endeavors, yielding superior outcomes. Mastery lies in deciphering the puzzle pieces, discerning factors that influence exercises positively, thereby enabling strategic planning and ensuring ready access to vital, astral, or mental reservoirs. For example, if needing to study for long periods of time we need mental energy, knowing this in advance we can prepare accordingly.

How do we identify Vital Force?

To identify vital energy, it’s essential to understand its characteristics and manifestations. Vital energy, also known as “jing” in traditional Chinese theory, is the energy generated by living things. It is associated with physical vitality, strength, and the basic life force present in all living beings.

Here are some ways to identify vital energy:

  1. Physical Sensations: Vital energy often manifests as physical sensations of vitality, vigor, or strength. It can be felt as a sense of aliveness or vitality in the body.
  2. Health and Well-being: Vital energy is closely linked to overall health and well-being. A person with abundant vital energy tends to have good stamina, resilience, and resistance to disease.
  3. Physical Performance: High levels of vital energy can enhance physical performance, including strength, endurance, and agility.
  4. Energy Practices: In energy practices such as qigong or yoga, practitioners often focus on cultivating and harnessing vital energy. Sensations of warmth, tingling, or pulsation may indicate the presence of vital energy during these practices.
  5. Mind-Body Connection: Vital energy is not just physical but also has mental and emotional components. A strong mind-body connection, where mental clarity and emotional balance support physical vitality, is indicative of abundant vital energy.

By paying attention to these signs and engaging in practices that cultivate and harness vital energy, individuals can become more attuned to its presence and effects in their lives.

How do we Identify Astral Energy?

Identifying astral energy, also known as “qi” or “chi” in traditional Chinese theory, involves recognizing its subtle and dynamic nature, which influences emotions, sensations, and consciousness. Here are some ways to identify astral energy:

  1. Sensory Awareness: Astral energy often manifests as sensations in the body, such as tingling, warmth, or a sense of expansion. These sensations may occur during practices like meditation, qigong, or energy healing.
  2. Emotional States: Astral energy is closely tied to emotions and feelings. Heightened emotional experiences, such as joy, love, or serenity, can indicate the presence of astral energy.
  3. Intuition and Gut Feelings: Astral energy is associated with intuitive insights and gut feelings. Pay attention to subtle inner guidance or instincts, as they may be influenced by astral energy.
  4. Energy Flow: In energy practices like qigong or tai chi, practitioners focus on cultivating and circulating astral energy throughout the body. Sensations of energy flow, such as waves or currents, can indicate the movement of astral energy.
  5. Mindfulness and Presence: Astral energy is often felt most acutely in moments of deep presence or mindfulness. Cultivating awareness of the present moment can help individuals tune into the subtle vibrations of astral energy.

By developing sensitivity to these signs and engaging in practices that cultivate astral energy, individuals can deepen their understanding of its presence and effects in their lives.

How do we identify Mental?

Identifying mental energy, also known as “shen” in traditional Chinese theory, involves recognizing its abstract and conceptual nature, which influences thought processes, intellect, and consciousness. Here are some ways to identify mental energy:

  1. Thought Patterns: Mental energy is closely associated with thoughts and mental processes. Pay attention to your thought patterns, including analytical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and creativity, as they reflect the presence of mental energy.
  2. Clarity and Focus: Mental energy often enhances clarity of mind and concentration. When you feel focused, alert, and able to comprehend complex concepts, you are likely tapping into mental energy.
  3. Intellectual Insight: Mental energy facilitates intellectual insight and understanding. Moments of epiphany, deep understanding, and realization indicate the activation of mental energy.
  4. Abstract Concepts: Mental energy deals with abstract concepts and ideas beyond the physical realm. Engaging with concepts such as philosophy, mathematics, metaphysics or even your tax returns involve the utilization of mental energy.
  5. Problem-Solving Abilities: Mental energy enables problem-solving and decision-making processes. When you effortlessly devise solutions to challenges or make logical deductions, you are leveraging mental energy.
  6. Inner Reflection: Mental energy supports introspection and inner reflection. Engaging in self-analysis, contemplating existential questions, or exploring personal beliefs involves the activation of mental energy.

By becoming attuned to these signs and engaging in practices that stimulate mental energy, individuals can enhance their cognitive abilities, deepen their understanding of themselves and the world, and cultivate greater mental clarity and insight.

Path of Enlightenment

The path of enlightenment, refers to the movement of consciousness from a more gross or physical state to a more refined or spiritual state. This journey involves the transformation of energies from vital (jing) to astral (qi) and then to mental (shin) levels. This is something you experience every time you perform the Three Transformations. Here’s a breakdown of the path of enlightenment:

  1. Transformation of Vital Energy (Jing) to Astral Energy (Qi): Initially, the practitioner focuses on converting vital energy, which is the energy emitted by all living beings, into astral energy. This conversion process allows the energy to become less constrained by time and space, as astral energy is timeless.
  2. Transformation of Astral Energy (Qi) to Mental Energy (Shin): Once the energy has been elevated to the astral level, it can then be further refined into mental energy. Mental energy operates beyond the constraints of physical form and space, representing concepts and ideas without spatial limitations.
  3. Benefits of the Path of Enlightenment: Engaging in the path of enlightenment enables practitioners to actively manipulate their energy matrix and gain control over their energy. This control facilitates experiences such as out-of-body experiences and enhances spiritual development.
  4. Understanding Levels of Reality: Practitioners learn to identify and work with different levels of reality, recognizing that energies manifest differently depending on the level. By understanding and harnessing these energies, practitioners can achieve greater spiritual growth and personal development. Beyond the mental we move to Akasha and then onto Non Dual Light.

Overall, the path of enlightenment involves the conscious transformation of energies from a gross physical state to more refined spiritual states, leading to enhanced spiritual experiences and personal growth. We can also reverse this process and we get the ‘Path of Manifestation’, I am sure you can see how this would work now.

Vital Energy as a Base

As the title suggests, without a strong foundation in working with Vital Energy then we have very little resources to convert. We need the raw material so need to work on building our capacity, we then need to work on decreasing the time required to reach our maximum capacity of Vital Energy. Essentially getting to a point where we feel further breathing of that material does very little and is not worth the time spent.

  1. Foundation for Energy Conversion: Vital energy serves as the foundation for converting into other forms of energy, such as astral and mental energy. This conversion allows practitioners to access a wide range of energies and enhance their abilities beyond their innate energy levels.
  2. Stress Adaptation Model: Similar to physical training, working with vital energy follows a stress adaptation model. Consistent practice increases the amount of vital energy available, leading to greater vitality and resilience over time.
  3. Impact on Health and Well-being: The state of one’s vital energy affects overall health and well-being. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drug use, or lack of sleep, can deplete vital energy, leading to reduced energy levels and susceptibility to illness.
  4. Efficiency of Energy Conversion: While it’s possible to convert mental energy into astral and then into vital energy, it’s generally a less efficient process compared to converting vital energy into astral and mental energy. Therefore, maintaining a robust vital energy base is crucial for optimal energy manipulation.
  5. Long-Term Effects: Accumulating vital energy through practices like the three transformations can have long-term benefits, including increased strength, neurological response, and immune system function. However, it’s noted that while vital energy can enhance longevity and overall health, it may not drastically increase lifespan beyond a certain point.

Key Takeaway

Understanding and practicing the three transformations of energy (jing/chi/shen or vital/astral/mental) is crucial for spiritual and energetic development, enabling individuals to identify, engage, and manipulate different states of existence.


  • The three transformations involve converting vital energy to astral energy to mental energy and back again, with additional transformations beyond mental energy into akashic and non-dual light states.
  • These transformations are relatively easy to teach because they represent states of being encountered frequently in daily life.
  • Mastery of these transformations is essential for advanced meditative practices, allowing practitioners to identify discrete states of existence and work with them consciously.
  • The process involves both physical and mental development, including the building of pathways, tissues, hormones, and neurotransmitters necessary for sensing and engaging different levels of reality.
  • Proficiency in the three transformations is particularly important when working with energies of planets and kabbalistic letters to avoid energetic overload.
  • Advanced practitioners can learn to generate energies and sensations simultaneously across multiple levels of reality, enhancing their manifestation abilities.
  • The ability to perform the three transformations allows practitioners to be specific in their energetic work, preventing energies from blurring and facilitating the identification and manipulation of different energies.
  • Learning the three transformations is crucial for preventing overwhelm and imbalance in the body and mind by shifting energies between states.
  • Overall, mastering the three transformations is considered one of the most practical and important exercises in the hermetic tradition, providing a foundation for spiritual and energetic growth.
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