Chi - Primordial Life Force and the Cultural connection

Chi is the life force which sustains life...the essence behind what moves let us say. We don't have an equivalent in the west but Reich came up with an interesting idea about 'orgone' energy, which he used successfully with his patients in the U.S. The ancient alchemists of Europe called the force behind nature - ether - ''a medium where electromagnetic waves are transmitted ''(Oxford dictionary.) Let's look deeper and focus on some details of how one functions with Chi and how one can see Chi in a culture and society.

Chi is energy and is manifest in everyday life in the functions of healing, yoga, aikido, tai chi, music, sacred ceremonies, meditation physical growth and spirituality.

Living Chi in the environment can be detected by dowsers, healers and psychics. In china there is a practice called Feng Shui where a chi consultant advises others on ways to direct, connect and tap into Chi. These advisers are used in the building of monasteries and any building ie a bank, government memorial etc. For example it is imperative that the site of a temple be in harmony with the earth currents of Chi. These currents are called 'dragons veins' in China. The ancient Druids and Celts were also aware of these sacred currents in the earth and built special structures to trap the energy at various times of the year. Stonehenge was one of these special structures whose shape has baffled scientists for years. Throughout Europe there is a complex web of li lines which are similar if not identical to the dragon veins. At special points on these lines of Chi have been built sacred sites. Annually people would visit these centres and dance, pray and rejoice at the coming of spring, summer or winter.

The great pyramids were also designed to tap into the Chi so as to enable the Pharaoh to be entombed for centuries without decaying. The pyramid attracts chi to itself due to its unique shape and has been the subject of much scientific and new age investigation. Certain plants have high amounts of Chi and are looked upon by ancient cultures as being sacred with a special healing property. Sometimes these plants were hallucinogenic and others not. The Chinese have held a fascination with the 'old man plant' called ginseng which has almost a miraculous and mystic connotation given to it. It is believed to be very potent for sexual power as well as general vigour, lung and stomach problems. In Sth America peyote was seen as a sacred substance with power, used by the shaman and the Australian Aborigines had a sacred plant, pituri which was traded between tribes all over the continent.

In traditional cultures it was believed that Chi could be transferred if one ate a part of an animal. For example in Burma it is believed that drinking the blood of a tiger gives one courage, power etc. In a similar way some plants were used to calm the mind and have been used to open the gates of the spirit world. In India marijuana has been used by the saddhus or (roving spiritual seekers) of the Shaivite sect to induce spiritual awareness often to the consternation of other yogis. Plants are used to balance the chi in the body by cooling or creating more heat or dispersing wind or phlegm. In Chinese and Indian medicine to name a few plants are used to balance the body humours. Conversely some plants have been seen to be toxic and ones to be avoided eg. excesses in garlic, onion, deadly nightshade family plants tomatoes, capsicums ..... mushrooms, and other substances like meat. In some body types these may deplete chi. But it depends on your constitution.

Some animals have held a curious fascination due to their natural chi also and the substances from them were regarded highly. In India the cow is sacred due to its connections with the God Nandi the bull. Milk, yogurt, and ghee in that country almost take on a sacred quality. Ghee in particular is used in special religious ceremonies to fuel the sacred fire or ajni in temples etc. This is believed to bring blessings. In fact the chi of fire itself is a source or contact with the supernatural world in numerous indigenous cultures and is the focal point of healing ceremonies. The corroboree for example focuses itself around the fire and the fire-walking dance is a way to muster the chi of courage and fearlessness as it burns up past negative chi. Also in Chinese medicine the fire element and the heart chi is important for the circulation of blood in the system. The fire element is the seat of joy and life. In some yoga circles it is believed to meditate on a sheep’s coat is peace giving and to meditate on a tigers skin gives special pranic (energy) power. The power associated with the tiger in oriental culture is legendry. The tiger chi si the power or life force chi of the physical body. It rules the lungs and the metal element of the five elements. It is associated with courage.

It seems to me that the ancient cultures tapped into the essence behind what they saw working around them and called it Chi- prana- ether while western science studies the material thing, force weight motion, etc. I essence one system looks on the inside and the other the outside and observes it. One is more intuitive and the other rational. In the end the world is the same but we derive different slants on things and extract different meanings which suite us.

Gerard Menzel
Wild Lotus Martial arts


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