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Inside Chi Flows Naturally:
Blessings upon all during the (Western) New Year! Asia follows a
lunar calendar, and won’t celebrate the Year of the Golden (Metal) Tiger
until Feb.14, 2010. I will prognosticate upon Tigers in a future
newsletter. Just know that Tiger years can be a wild ride.
I was invited to present a paper at the International Summit on
Lao-tzu and Taoism in Beijing in November 2009 . The Chinese use pinyin
(Laozi & Daoism), and so my paper, attached below, is written in
pinyin. One thing that attracted me to attend was the Chinese government
explicitly “endorsing” Taoism by allowing Taoists, for the first time
ever, to hold their opening ceremonies in the People’s Great Hall on
Tianamen Square. There were about 1000 Taoists of all stripes and
schools attending, including adepts, scholars, and priests.
photo: 1000 Taoist delegates pose for a panoramic photo shoot in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing.
For a mere $90. you could buy a photograph of this priceless moment. That’s capitalism thriving in the heart of Communism.
This Great Hall is normally reserved for the Communist Party congress.
It was China’s way of saying that is is time for Taoism to come out of
the closet and be proudly displayed as part of China’s unique
contribution to world culture. The Communist party would not normally
endorse any religion. It seems they’ve finally grasped that as long as
people are going to adopt one, better to choose China’s indigenous
Taoist religion rather than foreign religions controlled by the Pope,
Dalai Lama, or some Ayatollah. Cynics would say this is just a political
power play to muscle in on the God-business, even though Lao-tzu’s
brand of Taoism had no references to deities. It’s all about playing in
the chi (qi) field.
photo: Great Hall of the People,
Tianamen Square. Faux Greek columns slapped upon Soviet box architecture
really take one’s breath away….as in aesthetic asphyxiation. Tao of
Preppie-ness: I am caught wearing a tie for the first time in
decades…managed to find one with Taoist theme of immortal pine trees.
Whatever their motives, it bodes well for Taoists within China getting
increased recognition and support. More significantly the center piece
of the opening ceremonies was the publication of 3-volumes on Taoist
Internal Alchemy, soon to be available in English (no new secrets that
haven’t already been unveiled in Healing Tao courses…:)
Before the falun gong debacle derailed public qigong development in
China back in 1998, the Chinese government, according to my well-placed
sources, was all set to scientifically study and validate Taoist
internal alchemy’s amazing power to change and heal the mind and body.
Perhaps that will now get back on track. Seems like history is speeding
to catch up with my own pet theory, that “neidan gong” (and its sister
qigong) are destined to play a central role in an evolving global
spiritual science that will shape itself in future decades as a
synthesis of religion and physical longevity science.
Which brings us to my Beijing conference paper:
What is the Role of Daoist Qigong and Inner Alchemy in the West?s Emerging Science of Consciousness? At
18 pages, it’s short for the breadth of topic, yet very readable, i.e.
non-technical. Read it if you dare to be one of the new breed of
illuminati attuned to the future, arriving daily, pressing upon us like
an invisible steamroller flattening our old assumptions about life.
Although my paper covers a wide range of scientific studies on subtle
energy, and discusses different notions of “reality”, what I find most
interesting is that it is fundamentally about “religious imagination”
vs. “scientific imagination” and their synthesis as “alchemical
imagination”. I also document the historical-cultural process of
“appropriation” of Daoist sciences by Westerners and their motives for
importing ancient Chinese spiritual high-tech into our scientific
photo: Buddhist grottos at Luoyang,
ancient Chinese capital. One of our Daoist group was a ‘heng” musician,
who took up my suggestion to play more deeply if he sat inside the
To further spice up my essay, I am including photos of my
post-conference trip to other parts of China. This includes the
birthplace of Lao-tzu in Luyi, the birthplace of the I Ching in Anyang,
famous caves of Dao Immortals in Jinhua and views of a 160-year old Daoist’s body, naturally self-preserved.
Also included: important reminders on the winter sale ending Jan. 15, and 8 totally different video clips now posted on youtube.
Enjoy – and your FEEDBACK is always welcome. I learn a lot from my readers. Just hit reply.
photo: summer Tao bookstore at
Heavenly Mountain – possibly the best collection of Taoist esoterica on
the planet. The statue is of a “demon-busting” deity who I have asked to
purify all my DVD’s and audio courses (and their buyers!).
Discounts apply to any order for Michael Winn DVD or homestudy audio
courses. Sale continues until midnite, Friday, Jan 15, 2010. A nice gift
of spiritual self-cultivation and good health that you can give
yourself or a friend.
1. 15% off any order of $75. or more (before s/h).
2. 20% off order of $150. or more.
3. 25% off order of $300. or more.
4. 30% off order of $600. or more.
Just pay the full price on the online shopping cart and then send an email afterwards to firstname.lastname@example.org
confirming you are eligible for the discount as a Chi Flows Naturally
newsletter reader. If anyone did order previously and did not ask for
the discount, email Jan, my office manager, now and she will credit it
to you. You may also call her at 888 999 0555 (or 828 505-1444).
Great Book Deal: Buy One, Get One Free.
Here’s the deal: I sell nine of Prof. Livia Kohn’s books on Daoism
(preferred over Taoism by scholars) on my website. If you order ANY one
of those titles, I will ship you a FREE copy of Health and Long Life:
The Chinese Way by Livia Kohn and Stephan Jackowicz. She overprinted,
and thus I am able to make this generous offer.
To read more detailed description of each book:
The other titles would all make great gifts, about which you can read more on my website:
1. Daoist Body Cultivation (with excellent chapter by me!)
2. Daoism and Chinese Culture
3. Women In Daoism
4. Divine Traces of the Daoist Sisterhood
5. Cosmos and Community:
6. The Way of Highest Clarity
7. Myth and Meaning in Early Daoism.
8. Internal Alchemy: Self, Society,and the Quest for Immorality.
(also with excellent chapter by me!)
9. Health and Long Life: The Chinese Way
photo: author, diving into the Tao,
here the “Way of You Tube”. But as the last one to enter the water, will
he drown in the sea of millions of videos swimming about in the belly
of the Internet Beast?
As you may have noticed, I am a “late adopter”. I try to wait at least
five years before adopting the cutting edge of digital technology. I
looked at a crackberry, er… blackberry the other day, and politely
declined to get one. Too many fancy doodads squeezed onto one small
screen. I’m a simple guy.
So now….drumroll….. I’m proudly announcing my debut on YOU TUBE.
Not just one video, but EIGHT of them, all at once, and all completely
new cuts (different and longer than the clips currently on my site. Good
way to preview them before buying a new one (sale ends Jan. 15,
My geek friends tell me to encourage you all to go click on a video, to
build the count and attract other viewers. Or you can even subscribe
when I get around to posting short Tao talks or lessons, you’ll be
instantly amongst the digital “first knowers”.
After the conference, I went scouting for interesting new sites for
future China Dream Trips. And I was well rewarded. It takes time to
uncover the many jewels hidden within the Middle Kingdom.
photo: local delicacies served on China Dream Trip. We do eat well
on this trip – every meal is a huge 20-course banquet. The local
cuisines on the trip are completely unavailable in Chinese restaurants
in the USA. I am so spoiled by the fabulous food on these trips that
I’ve stopped eating in stateside Chinese restaurants.
There is still space on the May 2010 China Dream Trip, which promises
to be one of the most special ever offered. Mantak Chia is coming to
celebrate atop Mt. Wudang the 30th Anniversary of the Healing Tao. It’s
ony every other year that I offer the option to meditate atop Mt. Hua,
either in a monastery or Taoist cave.
Get the full juicy detailed 2010 itinerary & photos from past Dream trips:
We can accept last minute signups but the airfare price may go up a few hundred dollars.
photo: I love Taoist cauldrons – each
one is unique, and has its own esoteric symbology. Here the two handles
are yin-yang forces, the three canopies represent the three “vaults” or
heavens. The cauldron itself is explained in the I Ching by hexagram
50, The Vessel, as the place where all streams of life experience meet
and are transformed.
Photo: body of a 160-year old Taoist sits in lotus meditation
position, unchanged from the moment of death ten years ago. Local
officials claim his age is well documented. No preservatives. Anyang,
This essay documents and speculates on the appropriation of Daoist
qigong and neidan into Western culture, where the controlling belief
system is scientific materialism. Widespread faith in science makes it
the defacto dominant religion of the West, with theoretical physicists
as high priests of its cosmology. Scientific faith in natural law
paradoxically implies a religious trust in whatever created those laws.
Daoists believe qi is the force governing natural laws, and developed
energetic sciences to interact with them. In what ways do the two
sciences, East and West, overlap in theory and applied method?
?Qi science? is a summary term I use for all qigong and neidan methods,
in contrast to ?material science? that dominates physics, chemistry,
biology, medicine and psychology, etc. in the West. Qigong includes
Daoist martial arts, medical and spiritual qigong. These are mostly
?waidan? or external alchemy practices, i.e. they regulate circulation
of post natal qi (physical plane) to improve health or increase
?Neidan?, inner alchemy, covers any method accelerating transformation
of yin, yang, and yuan qi in order to crystallize a person?s highest
essence, i.e. make the spiritual substance of a human being more real.
This potentially permits human will to function beyond death, i.e.
achieve immortality. This inner alchemical process is multi-dimensional.
It happens within three Daoist heavens, which I simplify as post-natal
or physical form (houtian), pre-natal or subtle form (xiantian), and
primordial or formless chaos-unity (hundun). In this essay I?ve combined
waidan and neidan together, as both are based on the same yin-yang and
five phase principles that govern Daoist qi science.
I?ve spent thirty years as observer-scholar and key participant in the
appropriation of qi science by the West. As past president of the
National Qigong Association (USA), founder of Dao Alchemy Research
Institute and Healing Tao University, I saw a dialectical tension
arising between Daoist ?change by cultivating your human qi? paradigm
and the Western ?proof of result requires physical measurement?. It
shows up most dramatically in conflicts Westerners face in choosing a
Qi science measures a person?s whole qi field, then cultivates wellness
by harmonizing sick qi within it. Western medicine measures the sick
body part, then separates and attacks it. Defining successful outcomes
depends on how each person measures their overall health. The standards
of ?measurement? are key to evaluating the two sciences.
Many Westerners are disillusioned with
Judeo-Christian religions. They are also dissatisfied with its
replacement by modern science, though gladly accept its material
blessings. Their appropriation of qi science is partly an attempt to
fill a spiritual emptiness. They are attracted to the feeling of
embodiment and the reliability of results that Daoist methods offer as
an ?energetic science?.
Western seekers may pursue Daoist
religion, and find difficulty fully accepting it. Racial discrimination,
language barriers, cultural irrelevance of Daoist-Buddhist-Confucian
dynamics, disinterest in religious uniforms, statues or doing complex
rituals to invoke Chinese deities, and secretive nature of Daoist
esotericism are reasons why few Westerners have joined the major temple
sects of Complete Perfection (Quanzhen) or Celestial Master (Zhengyi)
This exclusion had the side effect of
stimulating the birth of a Westernized Daoist culture. Importantly,
this new culture centers around extracting Daoist qi sciences from their
religious context, so they fit more comfortably into the ruling Western
paradigm. This extraction and scientific reframing helps qi sciences
gain acceptance. I attended a meeting of fifteen top American teachers
of qi sciences in June 2009. They voted to collectively put up a website
called ?American Dao?. The intent was to improve the acceptance of qi
science by the American public, not to disrespect their much loved
Qi sciences are focused within the
body, are easy to physically experience, and allow a practitioner to
?self-measure? the effectiveness of any given method. That makes them
easy to appropriate. Faith in ?qi? may be religious at core. But
systematic qi cultivation in daily life feels inherently more ?whole
body-centered? and scientifically effective for a Westerner than
conventional religious prayer to an abstract deity/God. Note that prayer
focused on a specific material outcome is gradually being ?scientized?,
i.e. studies suggest prayer has influence at a distance. This type of
prayer could be defined as a kind of qigong.
Western Daoist adepts are prone to
using concepts of quantum physics and computer metaphors rather than
Daoist deities to explain to themselves what is happening as they do
qigong or neidan. This marriage of the two cultures, however misguided
Western scientists and Chinese Daoists alike may feel it is, has
continued inexorably since publication 35 years ago of ?new age
science? books like The Tao of Physics (Capra, 1975), updated recently by The Field
(McTaggart, 2002). These authors have little in-the-body Daoist qi
skills. What?s important are their questions: is qi science a ?real?
science? Can I directly contact and shape the quantum field?
The answer to the question of ?which science is more real, qi science or
western science?? will ultimately involve defining the difference
between three types of human imagination: traditional religious
imagination, material scientific imagination, and Daoist alchemical
The appropriation of Daoist qi science is
occurring simultaneously with the emergence of a new Science of
Consciousness in the West. Science is steadily encroaching on the
terrain of the mind that was once reserved for religion. Currently
focused on a narrow field called ?contemplative neuroscience?, its
headline studies involve studying the brains of Tibetan monks. MRI tests
proved meditation can change physical brain structure (Davidson, 2004).
A far more compelling case for the verifiable reality of subtle energy is found in James Oschman?s seminal Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis (2002) and a sequel book. He
cites hundreds of science studies detailing probable mechanisms of
subtle energy flow and healing in humans. He covers the ?biophysics of
internal coherence?, liquid crystal molecular arrays that act as
antennas, resonance between heartbeat and pulsations in cell DNA, impact
of posture on emotions, how every cell has an electro-magnetic field
that can be manipulated, and evidence of a ?dual? body communication
system in which subtle pulses of information are sent before the slower
nervous system initiates action.
The problem, he says, is not a lack of
scientific evidence to support subtle energy theory. It?s that most
doctors, biologists, psychologists, and other ?applied? scientists still
believe in an older nervous system science that is 50 years out of
date. Oschman is not defending Daoist qi theory, just showing that
humans emit and can control extremely subtle material forces even during
a simple body massage.
Qi sciences are designed to systematically
access the subtle energetic matrix underlying the more dense physical
biology. For Western Daoists, the Tibetan monk brain studies are
extremely rudimentary, and not big news. The value of ?contemplative
neuroscience? in their eyes is mostly to help Westerners open their
minds to practical qi science. For them, proof is in their practice.
Empirical evidence for the efficacy of qi
science in medicine is substantial. Ken Sancier, Stanford Research
Institute senior scientist, compiled 3500 studies of qigong that
demonstrate its ability to help heal most chronic illness
(www.QigongInstitute.org). His database has Chinese scientists like Feng
Lida proving qi emission changes the DNA in living cells. In another
study seven major biological changes were measured in high level Chinese
qigong masters, including a dramatic increase in emitted sound
frequency, rising from 60 mhz up to 400,000 mhz. Daoists would say these
are ?qi effects?, not the qi itself.
Daoist teacher Mantak Chia had his brainwaves
tested during a simple Inner Smile meditation. The scientist was amazed
that unlike Zen, Tibetan, and Christian monks previously tested, all
four levels of Chia?s brainwaves (beta, alpha, theta, and delta) rose
simultaneously and stayed elevated all day. Results from other subjects
only changed one type of brain wave, and dropped quickly within minutes
after meditation ended. (Eggetsberger, 1998). This suggests there are
wide variables within the field of qi science yet to be studied.
Despite qi science?s potential to lower
health care costs and reduce an epidemic of stress-caused disease, its
appropriation is largely grass-roots, due to resistance institutionally
ensconced in old science models. But hospitals are beginning to embrace
?integrative medicine? and insurance companies are paying for taiji
Daoist claims of a qi-based reality eventually be ?proven? in the West
by instruments? Alternatively, will Western science change its
definitions of consciousness and allow a convergence of the two
sciences? Or is there a spiritual divide between qi science and
empirical science that will ultimately prove un-crossable?
full body view of 160 year old Daoist, next to a living Daoist (still
mortal). I met the student of this teacher’s student. The story is that
the 160 year old adept asked his body be left alone, sitting in a sealed
cauldron, for 3 years after his death. At 2.5 years after his death,
the police, freaked out by the falun gong mania, opened the seal. Police
report states that a “blue green vapor floated out of the sealed
cauldron”. Was this cloud his immortal spirit, that had been continuing
to work using the body as a grounding wire into this plane?
Qi science?s fundamental operating principle
is ?gan ying?, or harmonic resonance. Gan ying could also be translated
as ?cause and effect?, i.e. whatever you resonate with will cause you to
act in a particular way. Gan ying could also be defined as ?karma?
(destiny), since the yin-yang and five phase qi patterns in each human
body are like a complex tuning fork resonating with sun, moon, planets,
Yin-yang pulsations in the qi field arise
from a universal yuan qi, Original Breath. Communication within the qi
field between anything vibrating at the same frequency is instantaneous.
Strike one tuning fork and a distant second fork, tuned to the same
frequency, vibrates. Gan ying allows Daoist adepts to practice distant
healing and communicate with planets or stars, if they have the skill to
attune to the right frequency. It makes ?xuan xue?, or paranormal
ability, into a skill that can be systematically cultivated.
Gan ying is what allows the Dao principle of
human microcosm and Nature?s macrocosm to precisely mirror each other.
It explains why a human body?s circadian rhythms are enmeshed with
seasonal cycles. Gan ying is called ?correlative physics? in the West.
It parallels the phenomenon in quantum physics of two electrons at a
distance simultaneously ?dancing? with each other. It propelled the CIA
to hire psychics and develop the science of ?remote viewing? to gather
intelligence. The older relativity theory of objective causative action
posits interaction between particles which cannot move faster than the
speed of light. In correlative physics, the time factor is removed. The
unified fabric of space communicates with itself, simultaneously, from
two different points. Qi science shares this similarity with quantum
is the most experimental and multi-dimensional of the qi sciences.
Neidan adepts explore the inner space of their minds, a mirror to
quantum physicists exploring outer physical space with instruments.
Alchemical probing into the ?dark unknown? (xu) that births a person
through the mingmen (?gate of destiny?) located between the two kidneys
parallels physics attempt to crack the mystery of ?dark energy? that
births the galaxies. A Daoist?s vision of harmonizing Nature?s three
heavens parallels the vision of a quantum physicist bridging the gap
between subatomic, human, and galactic worlds:
convinced?time does not exist. Space and time will turn out to be useful
approximations, similar to a notion like “the surface of the water”. It
loses meaning when we describe the dynamics of individual atoms forming
water and air: at very small scale, there isn’t any actual surface down
and time are like the surface of the water: convenient macroscopic
approximations, flimsy but illusory and insufficient screens that our
mind uses to organize reality. Time is an artifact of this approximation
in which we disregard the large majority of the degrees of freedom of
reality. Thus “time” is just the reflection of our ignorance.
are no objects, only relations. A consistent way of thinking about
nature?refers only to interactions between systems and not to states or
changes of individual systems. I am convinced this way of thinking about
nature will end up to be the useful and natural one in physics”. – Carlo Rovelli, Physicist. Quantum Gravity (2004)
Daoist would agree, but say the natural yin-yang and five-phase laws of
qi already govern Rovelli?s ?relations? and ?interactions between
systems?. Western Science of Consciousness
currently lacks even a theoretical medium for consciousness. Qi science
has explored and defined its medium as qi for millennia, and in this
sense is far more advanced. The question lingers: is ?qi? a religious
belief or the verifiable medium of consciousness?
photo: in a Daoist temple, the desk of a diviner beneath a chart of
the I Ching, which maps out the fundamental yin-yang principles of
Daoism and how they dynamically change.
In material science, a theory is true if you
repeat the same experiment and get consistent results. So scientist A
must consistenly get the same result as Scientist B. In
qi science, truth is achieved by each person using their body-mind as a
laboratory and repeating each experiment (qi method) until they get a
consistent result. But because each human is recognized to have unique
energy patterns, it is expected that Dao adept A using the exact same
method as Dao adept B may get consistently different results, i.e.
Both sciences are systematic systems of acquiring new knowledge and seek consistency. But
there are two divergences between the subjective ?self-measuring? of qi
sciences and the objective ?instrument-measured? methods of science.
One, the only instrument currently able to
measure and respond to changes in the qi field is the human body-mind.
The fastest super computers are primitive, even stupid compared to
average human intelligence and skill. Two, in qi science it is expected
that two different people practicing the same method will get different
results. Everyone has the same fundamental meridian system, but
body-minds are polarized into unique patterns, creating different
responses to the ?experiment? of practicing qigong or neidan.
The subjectivity inherent in qi sciences is
disguised in empirical science by the presence of an objective
microscope, telescope, spectrometer or supercomputer. Material
scientists pretend the presence of such instruments has removed their
personal influence. But it does not remove them from designing both the
experiment and the instrument, from their ?soft? interpretation of the
hard data, or from their personal energy field affecting the hard data
itself.. It?s the classic ?observer is never separate from the
suggests Western science is entirely the product of a particular kind
of imagination. Every technology ever invented first existed inside a
human mind. When we ?invent? something, we move it from inner mind space
to outer space, and give it substance. Qi science works the same way,
but in the opposite direction. Its methods are
designed to absorb the larger invisible qi field and give it a more
concrete inner reality in our body-mind. The point is that ?imagination
creates reality? in both sciences.
Cultural bias at fundamental levels of
perception are well documented in studies of Asian and Western children.
Given the same picture and asked what they see, Asians saw the whole
image, and Western kids saw specific objects within the image. This
?whole field? awareness highlights an essential difference between
Western material and Chinese qi science:
Aristotle focused on objects. A rock sank in water because it had the
property of gravity, wood floated because it had the property of floating. He did not mention the water. The Chinese considered all
actions related to the medium in which they occurred, so they (studied
water and)understood tides and magnetism long before the West did.
Other research suggests Asians are right
brain dominant, and Westerners are left brain dominant (Tsunoda)., due
to language difference of written conceptual-alphabetic symbols vs.
pictographic writing (Shlain, 1998), A fascinating question: did
right-brained, whole picture hard-wiring in Chinese brains lead to the
development of inward focused qi sciences? And left-brained,
object-focused hard-wiring in Western brains lead to externally oriented
a similar cultural filtering alter the experiences that adult Asian and
Western qi scientists might have? My experience teaching qi sciences
around the world confirms this. Different racial groups are likely to
have different archetypal images arise in meditation.
Another relevant example: a leading Chinese
qigong researcher in the US gave a comparison of studies in China on qi
deviation, or negative side effects of qigong, to an audience of
American qigong adepts (Chen, 2009). But he didn?t realize those studies
would have very different results if done on Western qigong adepts. I
know from decades of teaching experience that qi deviation is quite rare
in the West. Why the disparity?
Qigong can suddenly release feelings in
Chinese that are commonly suppressed in order to present a harmonious
?face? to family and society. In the West it is expected that one
express those individual feelings, so for them qigong enhances the flow
of feeling. For a Chinese, the feelings could be culturally disruptive.
My conclusion: the ?emotional energy fields? of Chinese and Westerners
are shaped differently. This is an example of cultural interpretation
distorting hard scientific data ? and where deeper knowledge of qi
science could correct it. If a Science of Consciousness is to mature in
the West, the scientists themselves will need qi science skills in order
to better interpret their hard data.
From qi science perspective, the design and
interpretation of many scientific experiments in the West are distorted
by cultural bias or ignorance of qi meridians or qi effects. This is
seen clearly in the heavy emphasis scientists give to studying the brain
with MRIs, etc. Thousands of experiments give a very detailed and
interesting brain map, and raised hope secrets of the mind will soon be
cracked. But the brain is not the mind. The ?overstudy? of the brain
(and correlated understudy of the intelligence of the whole body) simply
reflects Western scientists intellectual beliefs about the primacy of
their own head.
Qi science treats the entire body as the heart-mind (xin). The
brain and its sensory openings is controlled by five vital organ
intelligences, with the heart as ruler. Three dantian or ?energetic
brains? gather qi from the collective field and feed it into a network
of meridians to shape our human reality. The brain is just physical
The heart?s electro-magnetic field is thirty times greater than
that of the brain, and sends more signals to the brain than vice versa
(Heart Math, 2002). Vital organ qi is the software that shapes the
sensory, feeling, and thought data running through the brain. A shift to
whole-body scans would be much more useful to the Science of
In this view, brain scans only present a
narrow slice of the body-mind picture. Brain scan interpretations fail
to account for energetic forces shaping the hard data. Empirical science
may be highly accurate, but only limited half-truths can be inferred
from it. Qi healers know this well. X-rays can detect a tumor, but only a
skilled qi adept can identify and shape shift the qi pattern of emotion
and perception that may be supporting that tumor.
In this sense the two sciences, East and
West, are complementary, and over time may converge to share their
strengths. That will not occur until material scientists overcome their
arrogance and judgments about energetic sciences. A good example is the
20-volume Science and Civilization in China, whose
volume 5 on physiological and spagyric (laboratory) alchemy does an
admirable job of describing them historically (Needham, 1983). But
Needham clearly believes inner alchemy never ?worked?, that it?s a
failed proto-science with no ?reality? other than in the adept?s quaint
or superstitious imagination. It?s only virtue was in helping birth
I am a modern adept who has verified qigong
and alchemy?s benefits over three decades in promoting vastly superior
health, healing power and spiritual awareness in myself and thousands of
students. In my view, Needham is close-minded and unscientific in his
study of Daoist qi science. He represents the attitude of an older
generation of scientists.
Science of Consciousness is arising in the
West now partly because a new generation of scientists practice Asian
meditation at home, and want to integrate their experience into
scientific culture (Usatynski, 2009). The leading theorists of the
popular Integral Science of Consciousness, with its Combs-Wilber matrix
of consciousness mapped out into stages and states, both admit to doing
Asian meditation and movement practices (Wilber, 2000) (Combs, 2009).
is a quiet revolution amongst young Western scientists fed up with the
rigid notions about quantum physics held by institutional Big Science.
These scientists are attempting to unify their own meditation-inspired
mysticism with quantum physics, and are publishing their ideas direct to
the public on the internet. Peer-reviewed science journals will not
entertain such ?unscientific? speculations about Consciousness itself
being the missing fifth element in the search for physic?s Holy Grail,
the Grand Unified Theory.
Websites like www.spaceandmotion.com
present a simple ?new unified theory of physics? based on spherical in
and out standing waves moving through conscious space. This creates the
toroidal effects (see the site for animated illustrations) using
theories that precisely match Daoist yin-yang theory perfectly. The
website includes a section on Daoist philosophy. Will these
?marginalized scientists? eventually become the leaders of future
spiritual science movements?
photo: toroidal mobius strip shows yin-yang dance.
Photo: Lao Tzu (Laozi) is the premier
symbol of longevity in Daoist culture. This statue is in Luyi, Henan
province, said to be his birthplace. Lao zi can also be translated as
“ancient child”. A living “immortal child” is attracted to the temple. I
felt a very strong presence here, perhaps only from several millenium
of reverence showered upon this place, perhaps from the Old Boy himself?
The quest for immortality has recently
achieved scientific respectability in the West. Its leading edge
theorist is inventor Ray Kurzweil, who predicts nano-bots injected into
the bloodstream will repair diseased organs. Eventually humans will
become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs. Our brains will be
merged into supercomputers that download holographic images from vast
databanks to guide us and allow unlimited virtual sex. Kurzweil pops 200
pills a day to slow down his own aging process until the exponentially
rising curve of nanotechnology innovation defeats death at the cellular
He believes we?ll achieve physical immortality in his lifetime
(Kurzweil 2005). The mainstream anti-aging science field has a less
sci-fi and more modest ambitions of extending life by 20 years by genetic
engineering and stem cell treatments, and periodically renewing
ourselves until technology improves and we reach 1000 years. (de Grey,
In the West
immortality is a technocratic achievement of science conquering bodily
inefficiency. In Daoism longevity is sought as extra time needed to grow
one?s ?de?, innate virtue or spiritual power. A cultivator must align
with heaven and earth, show high virtue and serve humanity before
immortality is achieved. The Eight Immortals of popular Chinese culture
are all paragons of virtue, and humbly take no credit for good works.
Some immortals are driven by their own poor health to even deeper compassion.
A Daoist might
view engineered physical immortality to be harmful to the balance of
Nature. It blocks the flow of qi and information exchange that human
death offers heaven and earth. Without equal spiritual development, long
life might be hellish. Qi sciences have spiritual immortality as their
ambition, not physical immortality. Even Dao immortals physically die,
but their ?yang? or substantial light body continues creating and
expressing virtue in higher dimensions, or post-death acts as a conduit
between heaven and earth.
physical immortality seekers separate scientific process from moral
issues. They are often driven by a fear of death. For a qi adept, it?s
the opposite. It?s a given that consciousness extends beyond death.
Anyone of high virtue benefits humanity and their ancestors, even if
immortality is not achieved. If one embodies personal harmony, by gan
ying it radiates out to society and cosmos.
you teach someone the alchemical secrets of Heaven, and they use it to
cause harm, you are responsible. It?s this moral concern that
historically created a veil of secrecy around neidan and slowed its
spread. Western Daoist are lifting this veil, but will have a big job
shifting the value system in the West about immortality.
The short answer: they overlap, but are
fundamentally different. When physicists talk about ?energy?, it is
impersonal, a random mechanical force of nature. When a Daoist speaks of
?qi?, it is intelligent and purposeful. The qi field governs the
personal and impersonal (ren and feiren) in patterns that can be known
and navigated by a skilled Dao adept. This speaks to the fundamental
split between scientific materialism, which holds that human
consciousness arose out of the random appearance of matter, and
religion, which holds divine consciousness precedes and purposefully
The Daoist view is pan-psychic: all matter is
alive and conscious. The body of Nature is the expression of mind of
Dao. Trees, humans, mountains, planets, stars are living entities.
Humans are a microcosm of the divine field, and have a special
salvational and hence religious role in harmonizing their personal
destiny with the qi field of Heaven, Earth and the Five Directions. In
Daoist cosmogony, a primal egg or gourd cracks open and unleashes the
yin-yang forces of creation.
Floating inside the yolk of this primal egg are yuan jing (prime
matter), yuan qi (primal movement of breath), and yuan shen (original
spirit or intelligence). This trinity devolves into pre-natal and
post-natal heavens before returning to its original state of chaos-unity
(Girardot, 1981). Note that qi science?s idea of eternal cycling
between ?chaos-unity? and states of physical organization preceded
modern acience?s Chaos Theory by several millennia.
Quantum physicists do not include any human
qualities in their Big Bang theory or quantum field. Consciousness is a
random fluke of amino acids from space landing in earth?s primal sea a
few billion years ago, and achieved human status only in the last five
million years. This is a fundamental problem for the budding Science of
Consciousness: where was human consciousness during the Big Bang? Again,
without a permanent medium, material science will always be ?outside?
consciousness trying to look in. Qi Science looks from the inside out.
Some curious parallels arise in the
archetypal geometry underlying the two sciences. The Dao qi field
consists of three forces: yin, yang, and yuan, essentially negative,
positive, and neutral. They are governed by an
operating system of five forces: fire, water, earth, gold, and wood,
organized into eight deep cosmic qualities symbolized by I Ching
Quantum theory polarizes particles into a
threesome of electron, proton, and neutron. The holy grail of physics is
a Grand Unified Field theory that integrates the five fundamental
forces of Nature: electro-magnetism, gravity, weak, strong nuclear and a
fifth unifying force as yet undiscovered. The atomic table organizes
all elements into eight levels of electrons. Physics latest attempt to
unify everything is super-string theory, which suspiciously resembles
the Daoist theory of yuan qi vibrating everything into existence in
photo: ancient ceramic torus with eight I Ching trigrams inscribed on it.
It raises the question: do these parallels
arise because both sciences are the product of human imagination, which
reflects a single underlying truth? Another curious overlap is between
qigong and the most fundamental shape in physics – the torus, or donut,
or figure-8 infinity symbol on its side. In physics it describes many
things, from the design of red blood cells to the shape of plasma
fields, galaxies, and black holes. Digital readers are strongly urged to
immediately visit graphical depictions of the torus in Nature on: http://www.smeddum.net/articles/matter.htm and http://www.spaceandmotion.com.
The first site explains gravity as the underlying force of
consciousness that unifies all matter. This theory parallels the Daoist
theory of ?yuan jing? or primordial essence as the omnipresent original
space or substance that subsequently divides into yin-yang and five
phase waves of qi.
Nassim Haramein?s paper on ?Spacetime Torus Topology? (http://www.theresonanceproject.org/research.html)
shows how fundamental the torus shape is to all spinning movement in
the universe. Daoist have observed for millennia that qi moves in
spirals and that this spin is yin-yang and five-phase polarized.
photo: torus on left maps the
pentagram (= 5 phases in Daoist Qi science). Torus on right shows sense
of yin-yang expansion and contraction which torus holds in equilibrium.
torus is a very common shape articulated in qigong, in which spiraling
arms circulate qi in and out of the body?s core trunk (adept?s core
channel = hole of the donut). Neidan often create a torus-like flow of
qi once the crown (bai hui) and perineum (hui yin) are energetically
opened and qi flows in the chong mai (core channel). This may be another
example of qi science re-creating a shape microcosmically within the
human body what Nature creates (and physics studies) macrocosmically.
Morphogenetic fields are memory data banks that shape the instinctual
and genetic patterns of different species. This is correlative physics
applied to biology. It explains how one monkey transmits a learned
behavior to the whole field, the famous ?100th Monkey
Syndrome?. When enough monkeys acquire a new trait it is ?uploaded? to
the morphogenetic field, which then becomes a ?genetic habit? of monkeys
born later. It thus explains the group instincts of animals.
A similar kind of species-field thinking is evident in the 2nd century Daoist alchemical treatise, the Cantonqi.
It notes similarities and differences between things control their
behavior. Humans can tap into this principle to manipulate yin-yang
forces in Nature. The adept uploads his Yi or creative intent into the
collective field by alchemically concentrating and refining it at
critical times in sun-moon cycles. The adept merges into and shapes the
Chinese beliefs about ancestral influence
could be seen as morphogenetic sub-fields controlling family lineages.
?Ancestral jing? is the equivalent of Sheldrake?s ?genetic habits?.
Ancestors are living presences within the blood that constantly shape
one?s biological, psychological, and spiritual life. One function of
neidan is to harmonize relations with ancestors, via ritual skill or
adepts ability to communicate with a disturbed ancestor.
fields also offer a new way to view lineage transmissions in neidan.
When you do a practice, you are resonating with the field created by all
previous adepts. It could also resolve questions about apparent
past-life recall; such memories may not be
personal, but rather downloads from the larger morphogenetic field.
Material science has no method for changing ancestral patterns other
than risky manipulations such as genetic engineering.
gan ying by focusing their intention to internally shift the ancestral
field. This is difficult to measure, but this is the first theory in the
new Science of Consciousness to posit a medium for consciousness
This question is asked by philosophers of
science. This defines the critical distinction between religion and
scientific materialism. Notions of God, absolute states, and prime
creators/deities are idealist. Greek Platonism draws a strict line
between the Ideal and the Real, making it idealist. Atheists argue
social needs, not supernatural forces, give rise to human spiritual
values, making them realist. Religious values arising from the ideal
cannot be described nor tested by scientific materialism. It is the
Yet neidan, the repository of Daoist qi
sciences? deepest spiritual ideas, is fundamentally materialist. The
written character for qi is a grain of rice with vapor rising from it.
The rice suggests the material nature of qi, and the vapor its ability
to transmute into subtle form. In Dao cosmology, the realm of
chaos-unity, yuan jing (Original Essence) is described as immeasurably
fine primal matter, yet it?s the same substance from which all ordinary
matter or post-natal jing is derived. To a Dao alchemist, prime matter
Modern scientists manipulate physical matter,
and out comes cars, gadgets, clothing, the goods of modern life.
Alchemical scientists manipulates subtle matter to dissolve old memory
patterns inside our mind, and a new body and subtle perceptions
materialize. Both material science and qi science are transmuting
matter. But the alchemist claims to transmute deeper levels of matter,
and ultimately prime matter.
continuous alchemical transmutation of jing, qi, and shen transcends
the idealist-materialist split. This is mirrored in major Daoist
classics (Yijing and Daodejing), which emphasize Dao as process of
eternal change, a bellows that is always emptying and filling (Ames,
1998, 2003). There is no boundary line between spirit and matter in Dao
cosmology. Alchemy?s primary purpose is to make conscious and
substantial the presence of spirit within matter and vice versa. The
issue is not ?phenomena are controlled by divine forces? beyond modern
science, but rather a practical problem: how can human develop the
ability to measure and responsibly shape those subtle forces?
Daoists view the qi field as alive and
responsive to human need. Qi sciences focus intent and cause the qi
field to respond more quickly and tangibly to our needs. Is the same
principle operative in material science? Physicists spent decades
focusing their imagination on finding subatomic particles, and they got
their need satisfied when the particles finally appeared for a
Physicists later gave up on finding the ?ultimate particle? and are
now focused on the ineffability of dark matter. But did inserting a $5
billion dollar particle accelerator into the process simply amplify the
imagination of the scientists, thereby conjuring up the particles,
rather than prove their permanent existence?
the imagination of a qi scientist and Western scientist fundamentally
different? The most interesting aspect of quantum physicists are their
dynamic imagination, their continual cosmological reinvention of the
universe. Both sciences dream up new experimental processes and invent
new ways to manipulate their version of polarity and the five
fundamental forces of nature. Likewise, the experimental nature of
Daoism produced thousands of different qigong forms, many schools of
neidan and variants on cosmology.
At root, both
sciences are ways to methodically accelerate the power of human
imagination, but focused on different outcomes. Alchemical science is
the marriage of scientific imagination with religious imagination, and
the new Science of Consciousness in the West is cautiously following in
A global study
of myth reveals metallurgical alchemy was humanity?s first science.
Historically alchemy preceded the development of organized big religion
and much later it paved the way for modern day material science. All
modern technology can trace its roots back to the metal workshops of
laboratory alchemists. Alchemy was historically present in every major
society on every continent (Eliade, 1962). In China, the conventional
thinking is that waidan, external alchemy, laid the groundwork for
modern neidan in the 10th century, as well as for numerous
scientific discoveries like gunpowder. But there is extensive evidence
that the functional principles of inner alchemy were practiced by
Taoists long before laboratory alchemists fired up their cauldrons
(Roth, 1991, 1999).
Alchemy consumed far more of Isaac Newton?s time and writings than his Principia Mathematica.
It was his obsession with alchemy that led to his postulating the laws
of gravity. Newton died still believing Nature?s physical laws were
dependent on a higher spiritual force. Sir Robert Boyle, the father of
modern chemistry, was likewise a life long laboratory alchemist.
Psychology was similarly influenced. Karl Jung spent the last fifteen
years of his life obsessively trying to crack the codes of obscure
alchemy texts to discover the mechanism for how the mind transforms its
light and shadow sides.
Modern science has already mastered external
alchemy by force rather than the traditional persuasion. It can bombard
lesser metals to cause them to lose enough electrons to become
gold. But this has little relation to internal alchemy, the science of
communicating and cooperating with the inherent intelligence within
matter in order to ignite its creative spark.
The Science of Consciousness has taken at least a half step in this
direction. Looking back from the distant future, we may see that
alchemical science merely veered towards extreme materialism (as a form
of external alchemy) for a hundred years before resuming its original
alchemical pursuit of reclaiming and refining the spirit hidden within
matter, and the matter hidden within spirit. Already there is discussion
within the field of quantum physics and relativity as to whether this
kind of material science has evolved as far as it can go, bound by its
strict interpretations of materiality separated from consciousness.
viewpoint and aspirations of Daoist inner alchemy embraces, yet goes
well beyond the limits of laboratory alchemy turning lead into gold, or
Jungian ?psychic alchemy? turning negative emotions into positive ones.
Qi science posits a direct relationship between the alchemical adept and
ALL the forces of the cosmos, achieved by cultivating the medium of qi
within the body of the adept. Just as historically this inspired the
development of both religion and science, it seems likely
The function of science is not to verify knowledge of some
pre-existing reality, whether we call it Nature or Divine. Rather both
qi and material sciences exist to amplify the human imagination in
creating new realities. Scientific methods crystallize the expression of
human free will by giving consciousness a more substantial form.
Material science, although young, has been wildly successful and
adopted globally because its technological applications allow our
imagination to produce whatever tangible material benefit we dream of
having. We could say that the human religious imagination, judging by
the variety and prevalence of religions across the globe over thousands
of years, has been equally successful in producing communities around an ?intangible result or faith?.
Qi science, by
contrast, has kept a much lower profile, but historically the alchemical
imagination is the oldest of the three types of imagination. Internal
alchemy in particular has developed and tested over many millennia a
body-centered technology that initially directs the imagination to the
interior. It is not enough to merely know techniques; the adept must
align and merge with elemental forces flowing within and without to be
Qi science makes more tangible the feeling of
our authentic inner self, promotes healing, and expands our
consciousness to create new realities in multiple dimensions of time and
space. Qigong and neidan are designed to empower our spiritual virtue
and unfold our highest destiny, which is ultimately self-realization of
the immortal nature of consciousness itself. Imagination
could be defined as the expression of ?self? as it realizes it is born
from the larger field of eternal consciousness and has mysteriously been
given free will to create within that field.
The religious and scientific imagination are slowly converging in
a new Western Science of Consciousness, aimed at finding systematic
ways of improving inner life. Qi science methods, being much older, are
far more advanced than Western science in their ability to empower human
beings and holistically integrate body, mind, and spirit.
We could rephrase this, and say that the
imagination of Daoists is far more mature than the imagination of
Western consciousness scientists. Dao science has already achieved its
Grand Unification Theory of five fundamental forces and a path for
harmonizing the three heavens. It has identified the medium of
consciousness, and has more skill in working at a distance, in measuring
subtle changes in humans, and in integrating morality into its science.
Daoist Qi Science has been developing
applications of its yin-yang and five phase theory in many fields of
Chinese culture. These ?soft qi sciences?, like the soft sciences in the
West of psychology, sociology, and economics, are subject to wide range
of speculation and interpretation. In China they include Chinese
medicine (perhaps the most substantive), qi healing, feng shui,
astrology, city planning, military strategy, nutrition/diet and
calendrical forms of prediction, philosophy, cosmology and metaphysics.
Daoist qi science terminology already
permeates Chinese culture, so it is already deeply embedded in their
racial modes of thinking and perceiving. In this sense it is applied to
everyday life by billions of people, who, for example, will speak of
?hot qi quality of ginger? before cooking and infusing it into their
Contemplative neuroscience is essentially
dependent on existing qi sciences, if we expand the term to include
other Asian spiritual methods. It relies wholly for its data upon
meditators already skilled in qi sciences of different Asian traditions.
It is unknown at this stage how or if objective measuring instruments
of material science will benefit qi science or help its practitioners.
Benefit to qi science is more likely to come from the power of
western-style scientific imagination that Western Daoists bring to bear
as they extract and integrate qi science into their new culture. This
could bring new applications of qi science in psychology, medicine,
sports, longevity science, social planning and possibly influence
quantum scientists in making new discoveries about the nature of
consciousness that are needed to keep quantum theory evolving.
Western Daoists may ultimately inspire the
unification of the Western religious and scientific imagination into a
dynamic new culture and a new alchemical science that has not yet been
imagined. This new science may evolve to become more ?real? than either
traditional Daoist qi science or current Western material science. It all depends to what extent it fires the alchemical imagination of those who practice it.
photo: special thanks to my main translator and guide, Rachel Sun,
standing here flanked by flags of the many nations attending the
Wishing that all fully harness the power of their imagination in 2010,
“Who takes Heaven as his ancestor, Virtue as his home,
the Tao as his door, and who becomes change — is a
Sage.” — Chuang Tzu, Inner Chapters
“The Tao is very close, but everyone looks far away.
Life is very simple, but everyone seeks difficulty.”
— Taoist Sage, 200 B.C