Evidence-Based Spirituality — Part 8 of 10
Ah, Spring! Can there be any more joyful English sound than the birds of spring, sight than the sun on the ivy, after a long and not altogether easy winter?
Still, chi work made my winter easier. One need only begin Chi Kung to feel the warmth of chi appear. This warmth is connected to consciousness and isn’t the same as the kind of warmth yielded by other kinds of exercise. It is however, in my opinion, very related to what Andy Goldsworthy (who “officially” knows nothing of chi) experiences in making icy works of art such as these:
As he says:
Felt better once I had begun working; warmth began to flow and I was able to work without gloves. Art generates its own energy and warmth — different from the heat produced by physical work — something I cannot explain. After a few hours, the work collapsed. A wave of cold went through me and I had to put my gloves back on. (Goldsworthy 2008.)
He might not be able to explain it, but any practitioner of Chi Kung can, and methods of working with this basic wai chi, external chi, are amongst the first things you will learn — pick up Takahashi and Brown 1986 or Liang and Wu 1996, amongst others, if interested.
To me, this is easier to test than almost anything else. First, do people feel it? Then, can’t it be detected? Or at least some residual EM? So many interesting questions… do people move chi when they are spiritually advanced, even if they don’t realize it? As I circled chi in the arm-heart pattern this morning, I thought, if I had a SQUID here, might I not get some sort of reading? I can’t work out if this has been tried properly yet. Chi has been proven to exist in principle and to be manipulable by Chi Kung (or qigong if you prefer pinyin) but there’s so much more to test! Elmer Green’s stuff on energy, done in a Mahatma-style copper room, is excellent.
All of this vitalism is ruled out by our current science, purely on dismissivist grounds. Robert Becker (1998) is an absolutely amazing example — his work showed small levels of electromagnetism throughout living bodies, which was connected to salamanders’ abilities to regenerate limbs, and could even cause full regeneration in the limbs of frogs who normally wouldn’t regenerate. (BTW anyone thinking there is a link between this, our human bone marrow-based regeneration, and Bone Marrow Nei Kung, is onto something IMO. Did you know a child can regenerate fingertips?) But Becker, despite having been replicated, is also ignored as ‘vitalism’.
Becker also used his careful techniques to look for acupuncture points electromagnetically, and found them, which is why Jwing-Ming Yang recommends reading him (2003). Surely of great importance? (For one thing, only some of the points were found in the same places as you find them in the acupuncture atlases…) I hope someone in China is following up! Or has falun gong ruined the party?
Here’s another great one: two beginning Taoist techniques still used today (see Kohn 2009, Chang 1988) are for men, control of ejaculation, and for women, cessation of menstruation. The Taoist theory is your body puts a lot of energy into these reproductive processes, and you need to recycle that energy rather than wasting it — assuming you’re not trying to have a kid. (Yes, that also means there could be good energetic reasons for celibacy, although the Chinese might regard it as a somewhat blunt instrument. As Douglas Wile says (1992), for Christians, sex is for procreation, whereas for the Chinese, ejaculation is for procreation, but sex is for pleasure, therapy, and salvation.) Now put that alongside PMS, the cause of which is still basically admitted to be completely unknown, and some other interesting male equivalents such as ‘Post Orgasmic Depression’ and ‘Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome’.
Some tests would be interesting here. Get suffering members of both sexes to do the appropriate Taoist exercises and check up on them at monthly intervals for a year. Of course you need dedicated people. But if you improve their systems and mental states, you also show that Taoist concepts of jing have something to them. (Which I have little doubt is true, but this is about evidence.) If they come out believing that sex energy and spiritual energy are strongly related, so much the better for them.
Maybe I’m slightly less keen on ‘psi’. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, and it’s not that I don’t have experience of it — it’s that we’ve done so much of it already. The idea of Glenn Morris that ‘enlightenment is a biological process’, which makes so much sense in India or China but so damn little in the body-hating ex-Christian West (and yes, monotheism and body-hatred correlate IMO) really hit me like a ton of bricks when I got it. My spirituality is very body-based; the body is its locus, its site, the temple we all live in. I started to realize that the warmth of energy flow and the power of internal jing forces were indeed related to the amount of contact with shen (self or spirit) that I had in my life. Jana Dixon wrote a book I haven’t yet read called The Biology of Kundalini. When you’re having visions and your saliva turns sweet at the same time, it seems to me that testing the saliva is worth a go.
Is anyone else interested in this stuff? Let’s not forget that in what I would call real Christianity (the stuff that goes on in convents and monasteries) all sorts of weird bodily stuff happens too. Murphy has produced a great guide (1993), and there are some interesting experimental results. I think this is a major aspect of evidential spirituality. It’s something you can touch and feel easily. When the energy in your body throws you across the floor (common in kundalini risings) you know you’re not in Kansas any more.
That of course doesn’t mean the directions mentioned by Tart in experimentation aren’t interesting too — next post more on those.