Monday, 16 February 2015

Ch'i

We might want to use a Chinese term to describe what is not normally accepted as 'real' in Western culture only because it cannot be quantified. But we do not have to accept all aspects of the Chinese term as it would be expressed in Chinese culture. It is just that this alien word (to Westerners) may be the best that we have to hand. I use Ch'i rather than Qi deliberately. Qi is the genuine Chinese article whereas I have appropriated the word Ch'i for Western use precisely because it has been rejected in China. 

This is not the same thing as, say, the Way of Wyrd. Wyrd is more implicitly directed by the Fates or Norns or Odin or some active force in Nature (as you would expect amongst Westerners) whereas the Dao, of which Qi is a manifestation, is a flow without direction, just a constant balancing of opposites. My Ch'i (as opposed to Wyrd or Qi) is not dissimilar from Orgone, another more modern variant on the theme, and is a monist materialist concept. In the end, you either sense it in yourself or you don't and, if you don't, so be it.

This is not to assume a Western vitalism. There is no reason to suppose that Ch'i does not have a material base albeit one that might change our perception of matter. Nor does it necessarily arise outside of ourselves or be connected to the world as a force that is greater than ourselves. It is probable (we think certain) that there are many individuals with Ch'i rather than a great Ch'i in which all individuals participate. The Ch'i gives out an illusory image of the universal (a theme of our Tantra series) because, since Ch'i exists here and there, evolved materially within us as individuals as our life force, then that Ch'i and this Ch'i (it is believed) must be connected so that evolution itself and the world possess Ch'i. There is no necessity in this 'leap of faith'.

This fallacy is an attractive alternative to God but it is not just that it cannot be evidenced (neither can God) but, as we say, it is not necessary. All the Ch'i we need is obtainable within us and in the relationship of ourselves to our environment and those closest to us. High emotion is Ch'i. Detachment is Ch'i. Desire is Ch'i. Withdrawal is Ch'i. The myth of universalism may be socially useful and comforting but not only is it not necessarily true but it threatens to overwhem the life force within us, our own Ch'i, by immersing it in nature or in the 'divine' or in the social as a form of loss of self that is little more than death before its time. To kill the integrated mind-body 'ego' is to kill the person without benefit other than a lifting of current and often creative anxieties.

Ch'i is an individual's vital energy, necessary for action, managed by a well-integrated will. The Ch'i of an individual can be degraded by negative external forces (including the death instinct) - by poor environment and the actions of others above all but also through a failure of will. Thus we do not have to become essentialist or animist in presuming some universal Ch'i at all. We can see Ch'i developing in us and our predecessors throughout the evolutionary process - on a path where we, humans, may be the terminus or mere staging post to something trans-human with even more energy than we have. We may want to assume that part of our individual mission is to enhance the Ch'i of others.

The cultivation of one's own Ch'i is a life's work. There is wisdom in seeing it as malleable to one's state in time, an elderly and mature Ch'i is different in quality, though not more valued, than a young and vibrant Ch'i. The old seek the vibrancy of the young but the young trade this for the experience of the mature. Ch'i also spreads out from the individual or it can be drawn in. Its influence is its glamour or its charisma. Its expressions are imagination and desire as well as brute power. It is moral not because it is required to be moral by the universal or the social but because it becomes absurd to be cruel and greedy. Bankers, bureaucrats and lawyers rarely have good Ch'i but it is not impossible that they might.

The body has a Ch'i that is both mental and physical. Good health represents the balance and flow between the mental and the physical. If you are ill and it is not absolutely organic, something is blocking your Ch'i or you are out of balance and have insufficient Ch'i or your Ch'i is being exhausted by external forces. Only you can know what you require - including outside help. Medicine here is the search for that which externally can restore Ch'i and internally restore balance. In this sense, we have much to learn from radical Western and from Eastern cultures evemn if we would be fools to abandon modern science when it comes to organic crises and failures. Ch'i may be physical or mental in its aspects but in its totality it cannot be divorced from the body or be operative without a mind.

There is no shame in categorising Ch'i medicine as 'placebo' or as complementary to more obviously materialist organic and psychotherapeutic methods. Ch'i is a third pre-emptive base line of health alongside those lines requiring organic and psychotherapeutic expertise. Ch'i is also a benign environmental solipsism. The world's aesthetic beauty and calm becomes an extension of oneself and returns to heal the inner self, adding force to Ch'i. Good Ch'i affects desire for the world, moderating it to what is most central to the person and enables a measured acquisition of goods - not only health but wealth, energy and luck.

A person aware of their own Ch'i constructs a safe and secure environment for itself without body armour against others or indulging its own fears and anxieties by choosing the death-options of religion, addiction or intellectualism. A Feng Shui mentality is not magic but an alignment of the perceiving mind with environmental reality. A Feng Shui of society does the same task by placing all persons in alignment with their Ch'i. There is no English word for this thing, this being-in-relation-to-the-world which cannot be reduced to matter in our understanding yet is ultimately part of the material base of an integrated mind-body. It is beyond science but also greater than spirit or mind. It is the existing of ourselves.