by Tom Bender
The front page of the November 6, 1997 Los Angeles Times announced that a National Institutes of Health advisory panel has strongly endorsed use of the ancient Chinese medical practice of acupuncture for treating certain conditions. They noted "very clear-cut evidence" of its successful action, and that it is less invasive, and with few side effects compared to conventional treatments.
For a major governmental player in the US medical establishment to make such an endorsement of a practice based on chi is remarkable - particularly with the panel noting "there is no evidence that confirms this theory". What is perhaps most remarkable is that in endorsing something denied by our conventional scientific concepts, they are challenging the adequacy of those very scientific concepts!
It is an indicator that a fundamental shift is occurring in the basic beliefs of our culture. That shift is from a materialistic view to one that acknowledges, as over a hundred cultures have in the past, the existence of an underlying "life force" permeating all of Creation. The chi underlying acupuncture is the same chi in the earth which is central to the Chinese art of feng-shui, used for aligning ourselves with the energetics of place. And all appearances indicate that this earthly chi is the same energy as the earth energies involved in European-based geomancies, dowsing, and various practices in other cultures.
Millions of people in our own culture have now experienced this chi - in martial arts, tai-chi, meditation, hatha yoga, bodywork, acupuncture, dowsing, or other contexts. Even with our sciences having yet to pin down its specifics, implications of its experience are immense. It requires acknowledging our connectedness with all life. It requires acknowledging cellular and psychic communication, and that we cannot lie. Beneath any false words, truth communicates instantly and unfailingly. It requires acknowledging the diseases of the spirit endemic in our culture, and the value of the health of all Creation to our well-being. Acknowledging chi changes our whole world view. Even the Marines are now using Akido training!
An interesting picture has emerged from a recent reexamination I've made of the energetics of place in different cultures. Every culture has of course emphasized and developed certain aspects of place energy, while virtually ignoring others. The feng-shui tradition of China provides us with a broad and relatively comprehensive philosophical basis for energetics of place. It gives us probably the most impressive written record of approaches dealing with chi in the environment. The Chinese have also demonstrated extensive approaches to environmental modification for improving local chi patterns. They have made extensive use of astrological information in siting. Yet there are major gaps in their approach and dimensions where other traditions have pushed the frontiers of understanding even further.
The mapping of energy flows and concentrations in the earth has been well developed in the European geomantic tradition, which also has located buildings relative to that energy in the earth. The Australian Aboriginal tradition has developed use of such energy lines in the earth even further, using them for long distance communication.
Relative to the built environment, the Japanese have developed the role of li or intention to great refinement and great power. Contemporary work in our own culture has not reached the refinement of the Japanese, but is developing a tradition specific to our own conditions and time. The Khmer culture in Cambodia shows immensely powerful roles that our built environment can fulfill in connecting us with energy from the spirit world. The Yoruba in Africa have shown the emotional power that can be developed afresh in our building drawing directly upon intimate connection with that world.
African cultures - from the !Kung to the Yoruba and the Dagara, along with the Wiccan tradition in Europe and many other cultures, have worked powerfully with community raising of energy, and the roles it holds in cultural survival and health.
Energetics of place also involves information and communication. African cultures have worked strongly with personal interaction with energy to access ancestors and other beings in the realms of energy. Native American, Aboriginal, Celtic, Greek, and many other traditions work with direct communication with, and through, the individual elements of nature. The Australian Aboriginal tradition has developed to a high level use of the unique and specific connections to the spiritual realm from different natural sites. The Khmer tradition in Cambodia has demonstrated how buildings can be used to enhance such connections.
These are only a few examples that stand out, for their special developments, from the almost universal use of chi in cultures worldwide. What is exciting is that these are living traditions which can be learned from, shared, melded, and forged into a living tradition for our own culture.
Chi and Healing
The role of chi, li, and other energetic concepts in human health and healing has been the first dimension of our culture to develop sophistication and clarity approaching that of traditional cultures. Faith healing in Christian Pentecostal churches, use of chi in meditation and health, hands-on energetic healing in many contemporary spiritual traditions have all developed similar vision and effectiveness. That clarity can now be brought to bear on extending our understanding of interplay with those dimensions in our surroundings.
Collectively, these dimensions of energetics leave us with a grasp of immense new possibilities. They leave us also with a need for research, testing, combining, and transformation into a living and valid dimension of our own lives. They give us, as well, sources from which to begin to gain that wisdom.
The recent work of dowsers and energy workers such as Joey Korn, Jim Wallace, Sig Lonegren and others has shown that earth energies are not immutable. They move and change. We can ask the balancing of negative energies, the focusing and relocation of positive ones. We can call upon them, and they respond - it would appear almost consciously - to our requests for aligning with our lives and activities.
The Energetics of Place
Just as human energy bodies are damaged by rape and abuse, we've found that the energy bodies of our communities are damaged by place rape and abuse, from greed-based activities such as overlogging, overfishing, extractive agriculture, energy and material mining And we've found that healing of those energy bodies is both possible and essential in both cases if true healing is to occur.
We're learning how the chi of place and people interact; how our love or anger remain in a place to affect the next users; how gifts of honor and pilgrimage are bestowed on both a place and its subsequent visitors. We're learning how to generate and direct group energy to sustain the joy and health of our human communities and the natural communities within which they live. The potentialities for people working with earth energies are expanding in scope, depth, and concrete application.
We are also discovering through the energetics of place strange and amazing things that recently seemed to exist only in the land of mythology. Reincarnation, the ongoing existence and accessibility of our ancestors in the realms of energy, the roles of our minds and hearts in our interaction with the worlds on both sides of our skins, the coexistence of the past and the future in our lives, the role of sacredness are all part of this suddenly expanded world we are being brought to acknowledge. Such things are changing our sense of the world we inhabit.
The energetics of chi in place holds value to our individual and community well-being equal to the energetics of chi in our bodies and our individual health. We're learning to create places with souls, gardens for our spirits, and ways to pattern our relationships for nurture rather than exploitation. In short, we're learning to move, live, and act in the realms of energy as well as the material realms they generate.
Science and The Energy of Place
This restored vision of energetics of place gives also a challenge to our sciences. We know the power of those sciences in what they have unleashed from the atom, from material resources, and into rather insignificant end uses. Those sciences contain power, but not wisdom to guide that power. Much of that wisdom lies within the realms we touch through energetics.
Our sciences have also become timid. They have become more comfortable filling in details of the known, and following the lead of funding for short-term material profit rather than addressing the great remaining areas of unknownness. Those areas now beckon with great opportunity.
Energetics is one example of the Chinese chih chung - invisible relationships at a distance. It is an example of the "invisible" which has been directly experienced and confirmed by many, and whose actuality can no longer be denied by our sciences. But it is only one of many.
Electricity, and the energy of the atom were not long ago both elements of this invisible realm, though static electricity and lightning gave visible hints to researchers. But ask a physicist today about magnetism. What is it? How does it transmit power through space and vacuum? And what about gravity? Here is an incredible thing, right before our eyes, of which we really know virtually nothing. What immense forces it relays invisibly over immense distances! But how?
Look up at the Moon tonight. Its mass is immense. Simple mechanics tells us what incredible forces gravity applies to the Moon to keep that mass in orbit and from shooting off on a tangent into space. This is far more than invisible rubber bands. What is it....and how does it work? What power, that the Moon and Sun are able through enormous distances to pull the entire oceans of our planet six feet into the air twice a day! This, too, we experience, cannot deny, but cannot yet explain.
We lay a challenge here for our sciences - to learn and understand these things, to reach for the wisdom they contain as well as the power, and to find the fullness and connection that we have seen implicit in them. It may take a new generation of scientist - raised with open hearts and spirits, with less hubris, and willing to risk opening themselves to the powers involved in these realms. Whatever it takes, the challenge and opportunity are before us.
That opportunity is there also for our entire culture. There to see and test what is for us a new vision of our universe and our relation to it. This a vision proven through 100,000 years of continuous culture, yet a vision that has to be reborn, reconfirmed, and transformed in each moment in each of us. It is the missing dimension of connectedness, wisdom, and meaning for which our souls and our planet have ached. It is essential to our survival and to the evolution of which we are part.