October 24, 2009 at 8:47 pm #32429
note: This is a paper I’m presenting Nov. 5-7, 2009 at the International Daoism Conference in Beijing, meeting for the first time in the Great Hall of the People on Tianamen Square. that’s significant that the communists are allowing that, it implies a certain recognition of the revival of Chinese nationalism being extended to its indigenous religion. Supposedly 700 Daoist scholars and adepts from around the world (I think anyone can attend, contact me if interested).
Anyway, love to get feedback and questions, it may better prepare me for the conference presentation and I may rewrite it based on feedback. – michael
What is the Role of Daoist Qigong and Inner Alchemy
in the Wests Emerging Science of Consciousness?
By Michael Winn
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. Neidan, inner alchemy, covers any method accelerating transformation of yin, yang, and yuan qi in order to crystallize a persons highest essence. This alchemical process occurs 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).
Ive spent thirty years as observer-scholar and key participant in the appropriation of qi science by the West. As president of National Qigong Association (USA), founder of Dao Alchemy Research Institute and Healing Tao University, I see 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 healing modality. Qi science measures a persons 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.
Western Hunger for an Energetic Science
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) Daoism.
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 Chinese teachers.
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 body-centered and scientifically effective for a Westerner than conventional religious prayer to an abstract deity/God.
Western 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 qi skills. Whats important are their questions: is qi science a real science? Can I directly contact and shape the quantum field?
Western Science of Consciousness
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 Oschmans seminal Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis (2002). 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 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. Its 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 not big news. The value of contemplative neuroscience is mostly to help Westerners open their minds to practical qi science.
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 Chias 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 sciences 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 classes. Will Daoist claims of a qi-based reality overcome resistance and be proven in the West? Or is there a spiritual divide between it and empirical science that will ultimately prove un-crossable?
Harmonic Resonance vs. Objective Causative Action
Qi sciences fundamental operating principle is gan ying, or harmonic resonance. 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 Natures macrocosm to precisely mirror each other. It explains why a human bodys 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 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 theory.
Inner alchemy 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) parallels physics attempt to crack the mystery of dark energy that births the galaxies. A Daoists vision of harmonizing Natures three heavens parallels the vision of a quantum physicist bridging the gap between subatomic, human, and galactic worlds:
I am 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 there.
Space 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.
There 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)
A Daoist would agree, but say the natural yin-yang and five-phase laws of qi already govern Rovellis 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 for millennia, and in this sense is far more advanced. The question lingers: is qi a religious belief or the verifiable medium of consciousness?
Two Sciences: Subjective vs. Objective Methodology
In material science, a theory is true if you repeat the same experiment and get consistent results. 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. 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.. Its the classic observer is never separate from the observed.
This 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 Influences Shape the Two 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. Nisbett (2003)
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 empirical science?
Does 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.
Science Data Distorted by Scientists Lack of Energetic Map?
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 didnt 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.
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 gave 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. This overstudy of the brain 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 hardware. The hearts 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 useful to the Science of Consciousness.
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 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 its a failed proto-science with no reality other than in the adepts quaint or superstitious imagination. Its only virtue was in helping birth material science.
Yet as a modern adept who has verified qigong and alchemys benefits over three decades in promoting vastly superior health, healing power and spiritual awareness in myself and thousands of students, Needham appears close-minded and unscientific. Science of Consciousness is arising in the West now partly because a new generation of scientists practice Asian qi sciences 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).
Western vs. Daoist Quest for Immortality
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 level. He believes well 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, 2007).
In the West immortality is a technocratic achievement of science conquering bodily inefficiency. In Daoism longevity is sought as extra time needed to grow ones 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.
Western physical immortality seekers separate scientific process from moral issues. They are often driven by a fear of death. For a qi adept, its the opposite. Its 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. Conversely if you teach someone the alchemical secrets of Heaven, and they use it to cause harm, you are responsible. Its 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.
Is the Qi Field the same as the Quantum Field?
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 shapes matter/body.
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 sciences idea of eternal cycling between chaos-unity and states of physical organization preceded modern aciences 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 earths 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 (yijing) trigrams.
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 multiple dimensions/heavens.
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 (www.spaceandmotion.com). The torus is also a very common shape articulated in qigong, in which spiraling arms circulate qi in and out of the bodys core trunk (= 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). Is this another example of qi science re-creating microcosmically what Nature creates (and physics studies) macrocosmically?
Morphogenetic Fields as Ancestral Fields
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. (Sheldrake, 2009)
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 larger field.
Chinese beliefs about ancestral influence could be seen as morphogenetic sub-fields controlling family lineages. Ancestral jing is the equivalent of Sheldrakes genetic habits. Ancestors are living presences within the blood that constantly shape ones 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.
Morphogenetic 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. Neidan applies 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.itself.
Is Daoist Qi Field Idealist or Materialist in Nature?
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 un-crossable divide.
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 its the same substance from which all ordinary matter or post-natal jing is derived. To a Dao alchemist, prime matter is accessible.
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.
The 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. Alchemys 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?
The Marriage of Scientific and Religious Imagination
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 nano-second. 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?
Is 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 its footsteps.
Historical View: Alchemy & Science, Neidan & Waidan
A global study of myth reveals metallurgical alchemy was humanitys 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. In China, waidan, external alchemy, laid the groundwork for the growth of neidan as well as numerous scientific discoveries like gunpowder (Eliade, 1962).
Alchemy consumed far more of Isaac Newtons 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 Natures 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 pursuit of reclaiming and refining the spirit hidden within matter, and the matter hidden within spirit.
The 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 to play an important role in the Wests evolving Science of Consciousness.
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 has been wildly successful and adopted globally because its technological applications allow our imagination to produce whatever tangible material benefit we dream of having.
Qi science has developed and tested over the 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 successful. 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.
The two sciences are slowly converging in a new Science of Consciousness, aimed at finding systematic ways of improving life. Qi science methods are far more advanced than Western science in their ability to empower human beings and holistically integrate body, mind, and spirit. 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 measuring subtle changes in humans and in integrating morality into its science.
Contemplative neuroscience is essentially dependent on qi sciences. It relies wholly for its data upon meditators already skilled in qi sciences of different 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 scientific imagination that Western Daoists bring to bear as they extract and integrate qi science into their new culture. This could bring new applications in psychology, medicine, and possibly influence quantum scientists in making new discoveries about consciousness. It may ultimately unify the religious and the scientific imagination.
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McTaggart, Lynn. 2002. The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe. HarperCollins, NY.
Needham, Joseph.1983. Science and Civilization in China: Physiological Alchemy, v. 5. Oxford University, England
Nisbett, Richard. 2003. The Geography of Thought: How Asian and Westerners Think Differently..and Why. Free Press.
Oschman, James. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. Churchhill Livingstone, 2002.
Rovelli Carlo, 2004 Quantum Gravity: Cambridge Monographs on Mathematical Physics. Cambridge University Press, UK.
Schlain, Leonard. 1998. The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (Penguin NY)
Sheldrake, Rupert, 2009. Morphic Resonance: The Nature of Formative Causation, Park Street Press, UK.
Tsunoda, Tadanobu, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, abstract from unknown publication.
Usatynski, Theordore. 2009. Instinctual Intelligence: the Primal Wisdom of the Nervous System. Flying Cedar Press, Ca.
Wilber, Ken. 2000. A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality. Shambala, BostonOctober 25, 2009 at 1:07 am #32430
>>>note: This is a paper I’m presenting Nov. 5-7, 2009
>>>at the International Daoism Conference in Beijing,
>>>meeting for the first time in the Great Hall of the
>>>People on Tianamen Square. that’s significant that
>>>the communists are allowing that, it implies a certain
>>>recognition of the revival of Chinese nationalism
>>>being extended to its indigenous religion.
That’s pretty surprising, as qigong empowers people–
something a controlling government wants to avoid,
in my opinion.
Now for comments on the paper itself . . .
Many are just musings that came to mind while reading,
and are not necessarily criticisms as such, but
at any rate, away we go:
>>>Qigong includes Daoist martial arts, medical and spiritual qigong.
>>>Neidan, inner alchemy, covers any method accelerating
>>>transformation of yin, yang, and yuan qi in order to
>>>crystallize a persons highest essence.
I think there’s some nontrivial overlap between some
forms of spiritual qigong and neidan. Or by neidan
do you mean only the non-body-movement alchemical meditations?
>>>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) Daoism.
I would say this is also due to the breadth of Daoism.
Alchemical Daoism (as in the Healing Tao) is as different
from Religious/Temple Daoism, as being a Quaker is from
being a Roman Catholic (in the Judeo-Christian faiths).
So, in other words, it is a difference of sects (as opposed to sex).
As for lack of interest, if someone really craves
temple rituals, they can always become Buddhist, which is
far more widespread in the US–no need to seek temple Daoism.
But this is precisely why most come to the Healing Tao:
people want real practices to empower themselves, NOT a bunch
of dogmatic rituals to follow (which IS the nonsense
that people are trying to escape(!) coming
from their upbringing of weekly trips to church).
>>>Western Science of Consciousness
>>>MRI tests proved meditation can change
>>>physical brain structure (Davidson, 2004).
All this testing seems ridiculous to me.
It’s been demonstrated by modern medical science that a
person’s brain biochemistry affects emotional state
(science of anti-depressants) and conversely,
emotional state affects brain biochemistry.
Charge anyone with stage-fright the task of delivering
a speech in front of a crowd, and watch the physiological
With these two things linked, intention affects physiology.
The body-mind is linked with consciousness.
Where is there room for debate?
>>>It makes xuan xue, or paranormal ability,
>>>into a skill that can be systematically cultivated.
This is the fundamental problem. Without a period of
self-cultivation, such skills are not normally had.
Thus initiates may not see immediate results, as compared
to the results that popping an anti-depressant
or an aspirin achieves.
In other words, it is dismissed as rubbish before the
skill is achieved, unfortunately. Unless the initiate
is open-minded . . .
>>>I am convinced time does not exist. [some clipped]
>>>Carlo Rovelli, Physicist. Quantum Gravity (2004)
>>>A Daoist would agree, but
I’m a Daoist and disagree with Carlo.
Time IS change. Change IS time. The two are inseparable.
Nothing is free of change (and therefore time) because
everything is subject to the Tao. Time may flow and
behave differently in higher dimensions, but it still exists.
>>>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.. Its the classic observer is never
>>>separate from the observed.
>>>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),
Side note: My brain-halves switched dominance. I used
to be left-brain dominant, but according to left-brain/right-brain
tests, I’m currently right-brain dominant. Go figure.
>>>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.
I wonder how this will “go over” if you say this in China. 😉
>>>Conversely if you teach someone the alchemical
>>>secrets of Heaven, and they use it to cause harm,
>>>you are responsible.
Regardless of what teachings a person gives out,
if someone is taught correctly, and then that person
misuses/corrupts those teachings for ill-will, then
it’s the perpetrator’s fault. No one can be
responsible for the actions of others. A person
can drive themselves crazy trying to see into the
hearts and minds of students and to try to discern
their motives. Ultimately everyone has to be
responsible for their own actions.
>>>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 (www.spaceandmotion.com).
>>>The torus is also a very common shape articulated in
>>>qigong, in which spiraling arms circulate qi in and
>>>out of the bodys core trunk (= 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).
I’m a mathematician, so let’s be clear here.
Do you mean torus, as in a 3-D thickened circle?
Or do you mean DOUBLE-torus, as in a 3-D thickened figure-8?
A torus is a ring with one hole in the center.
A double-torus has two holes, crossing in the center.
See for torus:
See for double-torus:
>>>The written character for qi is a grain of rice
>>>with vapor rising from it.
I never knew that before.
>>>Physicists spent decades focusing their imagination
>>>on finding subatomic particles, and they got their
>>>need satisfied when the particles finally appeared
>>>for a nano-second.
Yeah, that’s pretty suspicious now that you mention it.
In spite of any comments I made above, I thought
your article was extremely well-written and
StevenOctober 25, 2009 at 1:27 am #32432
Don’t know if these bits trigger anything useful but here goes:
“The error has been in not correctly realising the properties of the One.
Recent discoveries on the properties of Space and the Wave Structure of Matter (Wolff, Haselhurst) confirm that we can understand Reality (Tao) and the interconnection of all things from a logical / scientific foundation. The One Thing / Tao, (Space) has Properties (Wave-Medium) that give rise to the many things (Matter as the Spherical Wave Motion of Space). This then allows us to form the necessary connections for language and logic (as logic requires a relationship between two things). Space and Motion exist a priori (necessary for us to have senses, the cause of our senses). http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Philosophy-Taoism-Tao.htm
page 487 of Hua Ching Ni I Ching book: after one of elders talks about various views of the world “none of them has reached the breakthrough of the spiritual practice of yin and yang. In other words they have not reached spiritual unity” Alchemy deals with yin and yang, Sun and Moon etc and practitioners have repeatedly had to hide their understanding as we know. Chinese culture has unique contribution because it has integrated in a practical way the science of yin and yang into medicine and health routines, as we know.
Best,October 25, 2009 at 2:40 pm #32434
How did you have yourself tested for L-R brain dominance? That might be interesting (if its cheap enough) to test many Western Daoists….
Carlo was not saying time and space’s illusion would end change; just that it would be a different, more direct relationship.
michaelOctober 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm #32436
in the section on torus. I’ll have to investigate further Steven’s question’s on single vs. double torus. If one evolves from the the other, it’s a mute point.
michaelOctober 25, 2009 at 6:20 pm #32438
>>>How did you have yourself tested for L-R brain dominance?
>>>That might be interesting (if its cheap enough)
>>>to test many Western Daoists….
Nothing too “official”.
I just remember taking a few “free” online tests several
months ago (took a couple different ones for more certainty),
and compared the results to similar such tests done
earlier in life, prior to starting the Healing Dao.
My theory on that:
I think the mechanism is that all the body-centered movement
(qigong) and all the visualizations (alchemical meditations)
act as “exercise” for the right side of the brain, as
these are not typical “left-brain activities”.
Then the right side of the brain gets stronger and stronger,
while the left side’s “strength” remains stable; then
eventually the right side “passes” the left side in comparative
SOctober 25, 2009 at 7:29 pm #32440October 26, 2009 at 12:11 am #32442
Here are some pictures of tori.
These are all distinct mathematical shapes, and
you can’t get one from another without passing
through a singularity.
May address the torus-type question I posed . . . S
Here is a picture of a torus:
Here is a picture of a double-torus:
Here is a picture of interlocking tori:
Here are pictures of a “horn torus” (this might be what you want):
(oblique view with cutaway)
Here is a picture of a “spindle torus”:
(interesting because cross-section is a Vesica-Pisces!)October 26, 2009 at 6:27 pm #32444
Here is an interesting website I found
re: physics, consciousness, spirituality, 100th monkey, etc.
relates to your paper . . . SOctober 27, 2009 at 1:36 am #32446
Definitely the coolest torus animation on that site.October 27, 2009 at 1:50 am #32448
I feel that this paper is seeking to find a “unified field theory” such as what einstein was seeking after. The unified field theory is implied but not stated (I guess calling it a unified field theory might draw the ire of mathematical physicists).
The overview could contain a more unified explanation of the underlying structure of “qi Science”, “material science”, religion, medicine and philosophy, giving the implicit assumptions that each contains. The overview could describe that what is being sought is a unified model of the multi-dimensional nature of “reality”, a cosmological model that unifies the measurable physical dimension as well as the experiential dimension of consciousness.
All the atlantean and daoist immortals must be smiling at the new reality that is being created! Great paper!
ChrisOctober 29, 2009 at 12:01 am #32450
I forgot to mention the unified field theory as well.
Or, just learn inner alchemy and create one in all three of your dan tiens.October 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm #32452
I do mention GUT Grand Unified Theory as being incomplete in the paper. The whole paper could be expanded easily into a book – but i already went 5 pages over the paper length limit for the conference…
and why write abook about it, when all that matters is refining one’s practice, and sharing it?
mOctober 30, 2009 at 8:42 pm #32454
good to hear, it was a work night when I read it and didn’t finish the whole thing.
I agree with practice being the most important thing, but if you really want to begin to see unification of material and spiritual technology, don’t you think its about time you started publishing your material? Maybe those that rely only on intellectual stimulation only might make the leap to practice, as books are somewhat more accessible (and require less commitment) to some than audio and video lectures intended only for practice.
I guess the question then becomes whether or not you want to take the time to actually write the book and/or feel its worthwhile, or use that time to practice. That is a fair answer though, I would rather be practicing and going on cool trips than writing a book!October 31, 2009 at 5:22 pm #32456
Or maybe its just inner work vs. outer work.
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