I don’t think it’s in his books, but Glenn Morris liked to entertain people back in the day with a cute idea about the conversion of St Paul. He reckoned Saul (as he had been then) must have had some contact with Christians, whom he spent time persecuting, and they must have got some ch’i into him, which then took its time working through his system. By the moment of that famed encounter on the road near Damascus, the energy had transformed him — so he experienced a kundalini event with attached vision that sent his life (and ultimately the world) in an unexpected direction.
If so, it was a clever move on behalf of whoever put the energy into the man. But is it even possible? Did these early Christians know about ch’i? Did they know how to gather and transmit it?
There are of course huge numbers of words like ch’i, words which mean spiritual power, but literally ‘breath’, in all civilizations and periods. “Breath” is the literal meaning of the word ch’i, just as it is the literal meaning of the word prana in India. Not everyone realises that ‘spirit’ is another such word — “respiration” comes from the same root, as indeed does “inspiration”.
Once you start looking for such words, they can spring up in the unlikeliest of places. Psyche was a word in Greek long before it was one in English, a word meaning something like “soul”; not all will know its derivation from psukho, “blow”. It is thus another breath-spirit word. Many have called the psyche the ‘breath-soul’. (Meaning ‘ch’i soul’.)
Analysis of Homer shows that, for Greece in his era, there were at least two soul-substances, psyche being one. A good case can be made for the idea that the other, thumos, was also considered a form of breath (see Onians 2011.) The difference between them was that thumos always remained with the body, whilst the psyche could leave it in OBE and survive it in death — the system is thus very much a recap of the Taoist xing and ming for example.
The deeper you delve into thumos, the more interesting it gets for the modern ch’i kung practitioner. The “extraordinary knowing” we noticed earlier was well known to Homer and seen as the result of gods ‘breathing thoughts’ into you; “I have breath” could mean “I have wisdom” (see Onians, p. 59), and thumos itself was the source of poetic inspiration and the means of visual imagination. Love was the ‘breath of Aphrodite’ according to Euripides, and Perseus’ OBE to Hyperborea was driven by ‘breaths of a bold heart’ according to Pindar. Beauty ‘breathes around’ goddesses, or is breathed from their eyes.
The later pneuma of the Stoics was a more scientific approach to similar concepts… and that brings us more or less up to the time of Jesus. Among the Greek terms used in his time for the same stuff is dynamis, and there’s an interesting moment that (as with all details of Jesus’s actual practices) appears to best unedited effect in Mark (5:25-34 in this case). This is that story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, and merely touched Jesus’s clothing to find herself fully healed. Jesus thereupon realises that ‘power [dynamis] had gone out of him.” As John Hull points out in Hellenistic Magic and the Synoptic Tradition (1974), this indicates that there is an impersonal power with Jesus which is doing the work, and he knows it. It seems to flow ‘like electricity’ as Hull says, and it is this flow he notices — very clear from the gospel itself.
A reading of Palmer’s Qigong Fever will come up with many modern equivalents to this biblical moment. Whether with chi’i kung, or with whatever Jesus was practicing, as Conner says in Jesus the Sorcerer (2006):
Power is… available to those who master the techniques required to access it. Techniques can be taught…
Quite simply, from these and other new testament mentions (there’s some very interesting stuff in Acts, I seem to recall) it is clear that ch’i was known to Jesus and that he worked with it in a way not dissimilar from other workers of the period. If his ch’i was really so strong, and it rather looks that way, there’s no reason at all why Glenn’s idea should not be true, since he clearly must have been teaching people to use the dynamis for themselves.
It’s also rather interesting to consider how the messianic, sectarian and apocalyptic synthesis of Christianity grew from an environment of ch’i-based miracle-working in that period, just as the messianic, sectarian and apocalyptic synthesis of Falun Gong, say, grew from a modern Chinese version of a similar environment. These are not the only two examples of that phenomenon, of which we have not seen the last. As Glenn says, ‘constants should not surprise’. Just like the human mindstate system that powers visionary or healing experiences, the power involved itself crosses cultural ‘divides’. There is a huge amount of variation in human spiritual training, but there is a huge amount shared between systems too, which sometimes allows us to relate some very disparate people and periods togather.