Anyone who's ever watched the Star Wars movies will be more than familiar with the concept of the Force - the mysterious metaphysical power deployed by the Jedi Knights, and their opponents the Sith, which makes possible remarkable feats of telekinesis, psychokinesis, healing and mind control. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi explains the Force to Luke Skywalker as "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together." It might sound like the fantastic stuff of science-fiction but Star Wars creator George Lucas actually based the concept of the Force on a very real form of subtle energy which is a key component of many Eastern faiths, particularly Hinduism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism, as well as being the force harnessed in the many and various systems of yoga and martial arts. The existence of this energy is a subject which I touched upon in a previous article (Martial Arts - Ancient Wisdom of the East) and the time has come to return to the subject in greater depth since the harnessing of subtle energy plays an important part in the system of coaching and therapy we use at Phoenix.
Science has been aware for some time now that matter makes up only about 5% of the universe. The other 95% is filled with some form of energy that science refers to by many different names, including Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Zero-Point Energy. These modern scientific discoveries are merely confirming what ancient wisdom teachings have always stated - that the whole of creation is permeated with a subtle life essence which can be harnessed on a personal level through activities such as meditation, visualisation, rhythmic movement, breathing exercises and chanting. This energy is what the Chinese refer to as chi or qi, the Japanese call ki and the Indian yogis prana. It is the quintessence of the alchemists, its Hebrew name is ruach, occultist Eliphas Levi called it the Astral Light and it is most commonly known in the west by the names Vril, Orgone or Odic Force and in physics as aether. It is the energy harnessed in all forms of Oriental healing, such as acupuncture, reflexology and reiki, as well as being the force deployed by martial artists when they perform eye-catching feats such as splitting bricks with their bare hands. Such feats are not achieved through mere brute force but rather by the harnessing and focusing of subtle energy, enabling it to be deployed with the lethal efficiency of a laser. Chi flows through the body via a complex network of meridian lines but these meridians can become clogged by factors such as tension, stress and muscular tightness, rather like blocked arteries, leading to a breakdown in the body's natural rejuvenation systems and consequent physical and mental ill-health. Yoga, martial arts and forms of ancient Chinese medicine are designed to unblock these meridians, allowing the chi to flow smoothly throughout the whole system as nature intended. The more you practice, the more strongly you will be able to perceive the energy as the pathways are gradually cleared, enabling the chi to circulate unimpeded.
So what exactly is chi? According to the teachings of both eastern and western philosophy, chi is commonly believed to be the radiant electro-magnetic energy of the sun, which is why it is traditionally associated with heat, light and fire and why the practice of cultivating it is referred to in alchemical texts as "The Operation of the Sun". Water, air and matter are all permeated with chi. This is why breathing is deemed so important in the practice of meditation - when we breathe properly we absorb chi from the air which in turn extracts energy from food and provides muscles with energy, allowing us to move about in daily life as well as grow and metabolize. This connection with the breath is further reinforced by the Hebrew name for chi, Ruach, which means wind, breath, mind, spirit, and is particularly associated with the life-breath which God breathed into Adam to animate him at the dawn of creation. Nourishment, digestion and elimination are all driven by this vital life force and proper mastication of food is one of the keys to releasing it in healthy quantities. Some foods are richer in chi than others, hence the importance of good diet. Practices such as the ancient Kriya Yoga breathing technique, which I learned from Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship, are specifically designed to aid in the absorption of this vital life force. Chi also has a connection to the mind and methods can be employed to store up its energy and use it constructively. Like other forms of energy, chi cannot be created or destroyed but it can be absorbed, transformed and rerouted through the cerebro-spinal and sympathetic nervous systems of a human being.
My first experience of the tangible perception of chi came whilst practising the Kung Fu and Tai Chi workouts contained in a series of videos fronted by Hollywood actor David Carradine and his Sifu - martial arts Grandmaster Kam Yuen. After repeated practice of the Kung Fu forms taught by Carradine and Yuen, I began to become aware of this chi as a curious and blissfully calming magnetic sensation pulsing between the palms of my hands. The energy was palpable - so much so that I could actually move it about with my hands and manipulate it. As someone who'd always been fascinated by the notion of superpowers, the discovery of chi was a hugely important milestone in my own personal journey of self-discovery and one which excited me greatly. The therapeutic benefits of working with chi would prove to be a major lifeline for me when I was suffering from work-related stress 10 years ago. I've described in previous blogs how I was referred to a well-being class run by meditation and mindfulness specialist Caroline Miller where I learned a vast array of new techniques which enabled me to manage my stress levels better. One of the most powerful skills Caroline taught was Qigong (also known under the variant spellings Chi Gong and Chi Kung) - a form of meditation-in-motion, similar to Tai Chi - in which slow, flowing movements are combined with rhythmic breathing to ease the flow of chi through the body's energy meridians, inducing a calm, meditative state of mind in the process. Qigong is practised throughout China and worldwide for recreation, exercise, relaxation, preventative medicine and martial arts training. I'd already experienced the sensation of chi-flow previously thanks to David Carradine's workouts, but it was during Caroline Miller's classes that I first had the experience of actually being able to see chi in the form of a translucent shimmering green light streaming from my fingertips as I practised the Qigong forms. The ability to see chi and auras is usually a sign that the frequency range of a person's sensory perception has expanded beyond the normal boundaries of the visible light spectrum - a not uncommon bi-product of performing energy-type work.
As a result of this experience I was inspired to undertake more advanced Qigong training under Edinburgh-based instructor Elena Alvarez and her master Kris Deva North. North, himself a direct disciple of Taoist Grandmaster Mantak Chia with whom he has co-written several books on the subject, taught me the advanced microcosmic orbit exercise - a powerful energy cultivation technique which uses chi to harness the body's natural sexual energy, known as jing to the Chinese and kundalini in Indian yoga, and route it round through the meridians in a circular motion to effectively form an electric circuit. Successful practice of the microcosmic orbit transmutes sexual energy into psychic energy and increases bodily vitality by preventing jing (kundalini) from being dissipated during sexual activity. The benefits of this exercise are incalculable and too profound to explain in any detail here. Suffice to say that its not without good reason that the Chinese consider Qigong to be synonymous with alchemy - the key to immortality and eternal youth - and believe that the ability to successfully control chi and jing constitutes the fabled philosopher's stone. The erroneous belief that celibacy is a prerequisite to enlightenment is based largely on fundamental misinterpretations and mistranslations of ancient scriptures describing the benefits of rerouting sexual energy around the meridians in this way. The key to spiritual development is the siphoning off of the jing but none of the techniques for doing so require chastity on the part of clergy or anybody else. One can reroute the energy and still enjoy a perfectly healthy and vibrant sex life. This strong connection between the human sex drive and the subtle energies of chi and jing is the reason why poltergeist activity is so often centred on homes in which a pubescent teenager resides. The paranormal phenomena so often witnessed in these cases, such as instances of telekinesis, is the result of the heightened sexual energies awakened within young people during puberty. In such circumstances, the phenomena unleashed can be erratic, alarming and highly destructive, but these same powers, when properly and constructively harnessed, also have the potential to be a strong force for good. These are what Hindus refer to as the siddhis - the spiritual, paranormal and magical powers attained through bringing chi and jing under control by highly advanced practice of meditation and yoga. As I conducted daily practice of the exercises taught to me by Kris and Elena, I began to find that the energy streaming from the palms of my hands was able to create ripples on the surface of water as well as other small but tangible phenomena which validated that what I was experiencing was no mere trick of the mind. If I could achieve that after just a few short years of Qigong practice, then is it really any wonder that Grandmasters with a lifetime's experience in the field are reputed to be able to launch a man across a room with a mere touch of a finger?
In the east, knowledge of chi was traditionally passed down orally from master to disciple via lineage-based systems of instruction. George Lucas drew considerable inspiration from these ancient systems in creating the Jedi Knights of Star Wars who, with their Master-Disciple relationships, their fusion of meditation with fighting skills, strict moral code and ability to manipulate "The Force", can be seen to have many parallels with the martial artists and yogis of the Orient. Whilst belief in subtle energy has been an integral component of eastern spirituality for thousands of years, the materialistic west has been slower to embrace the concept - at least on the surface - though notable believers throughout history have included Plato, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and renowned psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung. Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 - 1815), one of the forerunners of modern hypnosis, believed that all animals were capable of exerting and absorbing this magnetic life force and that illness was caused by its flow becoming blocked. Mesmer treated his patients using magnets and oak tubs part-filled with iron filings. The now well respected scientist Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943), despite being persecuted for his beliefs during his time, patented several bioelectric inventions with health-promoting properties that were based on the discovery of radiant energy extracted from the aether using high voltage, high frequency DC pulse generator circuits. Many of these inventions changed the state of biological cells, tissues and organisms within the human body by using specialized electric fields which were then used to suppress growth of unwanted organisms and promote the growth of healthy tissues. Russian scientist, Georges Lakhovsky (1869 - 1942) believed that all organisms acted as receivers and transmitters of high frequency oscillations and built several devices based on this principle, including oscillating circuits and the Multi-Wave Oscillator.
In 1845, Baron Von Reichenback came up with his theory of Odic force which appeared to both support and explain the phenomenon of hypnotism and Mesmer's animal magnetism. Just as with other theories of a universal life energy, it was proposed that Odic force permeated all forms of life and that it was somehow related or similar to electricity, magnetism and heat. Reichenback also believed that Odic force was radiated by most substances. Proponents of Odic force claimed that it could be seen surrounding magnets, crystals and living beings as auras but that only sensitive people could perceive it. Rather than basing his theory on the philosophy of chi energy or taking a spiritual view on the subject, Reichenback associated Odic force with biological electromagnetic fields, an approach which complemented the work of Tesla, Lakhovsky and Mesmer combined. By far the most notable figure in the entire 'life force energy movement' of recent times was psychoanalyst and scientist, Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). Reich's scientific research into what he termed Orgone energy ('org' from orgasm and 'one' from o-zone) was much more extensive and credible than any of the other researchers before him. Reich went on to build Orgone accumulators; boxes made from a combination of organic and non-organic layers, which encapsulated the Orgone energy inside them which could then be scientifically measured and observed by using a modified Geiger counter. Reich used these boxes to successfully treat a large number of patients who were suffering with various illnesses, including several cancer patients. Unfortunately, Reich was heavily persecuted by the authorities and his work was suppressed; he was forced to destroy all Orgone accumulators and made to burn any of his books or documents which mentioned Orgone energy. He died of heart failure in a federal prison in Pennsylvania in 1957.
The concept of life-force energy gained a wide following in the west with the publication of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novella The Coming Race in 1871. The book told the story of a subterranean race who had mastered the use of an energy-form known as Vril which could destroy like lightning, replenish life, heal, or cure. The book became hugely popular and was endorsed by theosophists, notably Helena Blavatsky, William Scott-Elliot and Rudolf Steiner, as being based in part on fundamental occult truths. Hitler and the Nazis took the story as gospel and became obsessed with Vril, believing that harnessing and weaponising its power could provide the key to victory in the Second World War and aid in their plans for world domination. The SS, under the orders of Heinrich Himmler, even mounted a 16-month expedition to Tibet in an attempt to discover the secrets of this life-force energy. Pulling the strings behind all this was a sinister group of occultists known as The Vril Society, thought to have been a highly secretive inner order of the ultra right-wing Thule Society which itself played a major role in bringing Hitler to power, believing him to be their new messiah. The Vril Society believed this subtle energy originated from what they called The Black Sun - a void at the centre of creation. Austrian engineer Victor Schauberger, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, was forced to conduct Vril research for the Nazis in the Mauthausen concentration camp while under constant threat of death. Predictably the Nazis focused only on the possible military application of his ideas. Schauberger worked under the close surveillance and control of SS troops to design an anti-gravity motor for a prototype “flying saucer” powered by Vril. Later, invading Russian forces tore apart his apartment in a desperate attempt to gain the secrets of his inventive mind. Even liberation did not help Viktor’s position though. He was held as a prisoner for over a year by the American occupation troops and eventually forced to “sell” all his patents for one single ticket which was to allow him to get back home to Austria, but he died a broken man only five days after his arrival home in Linz. The unscrupulous actions of Nazi Germany then Soviet Russia and eventually Cold War America to use his inventions for their own selfish purposes, completely ruined and finally destroyed his life. However, Schauberger's legacy lives on to this day in the form of the ultra-secret saucer-shaped aircraft developed from his research by the US Air Force and which have been responsible for most of the UFO sightings in the vicinity of the infamous Area 51 facility at Groom Lake in Nevada over the last four decades.
In the western world, the prevailing attitude towards subtle energy has been to deny its existence, ridicule and discredit those who promote the concept and to suppress the knowledge from the general populace. The hugely influential American Freemason and Confederate General Albert Pike (1809-1891) wrote in 1871: "There is in nature one most potent force, by means whereof a single man, who could possess himself of it and should know how to direct it, could revolutionize and change the face of the world". Explaining the need to keep this truth from the masses, he continued, "Fictions are necessary to the people, and the Truth becomes deadly to those who are not strong enough to contemplate it in all its brilliance. In fact, what can there be in common between the vile multitude and sublime wisdom? The truth must be kept secret, and the masses need a teaching proportioned to their imperfect reason". Wow. Just allow that to sink in for a moment or two. Today, many sceptics will still tell you that chi, prana or vril is a pseudo-science and will argue that its existence can't be proved. They're entitled to their opinion but they're wrong. In the UK, the cash-strapped NHS spends £25 million on acupuncture every year - not something you'd expect unless medical chiefs were completely satisfied as to the clinical benefits. Although the official western view of such matters is one of scepticism, the subject of chi is actually taken very seriously indeed by more enlightened members of the scientific community and those in positions of power and responsibility. At the height of the Cold War in the late 1970s and early 80s, the US military and the CIA ran an operation dubbed 'Project Jedi' which sought to explore the military potentialities of this energy and focus on creating soldiers who could use it for spying and combat purposes. The project was designed specifically for use by elite Special Forces and envisioned as potentially revolutionizing warfare. Among those involved in the experiments were renowned psychic and spoon-bender Uri Geller and martial arts instructor Guy Savelli, who claimed to have vast knowledge of ancient secret techniques such as the death touch, as well as “reflex-reaction, touch sensitivity, concepts of power and invisibility, and mind-striking techniques.” Savelli's “mind striking” powers were purportedly so advanced that he was able to throw grown men across the room, as well as kill small animals such as hamsters with a thought, earning him the nickname “Hamster Killer.” Project Jedi was eventually disbanded in the 1990s but the project was popularized by the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster The Men Who Stare At Goats, starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor, itself based on the 2004 book of the same name by journalist Jon Ronson, the title of which refers to having psychics stare at goats or other animals to try to physically affect them with their thoughts.
The intelligence community are still very much interested in chi to this day and an email disclosed by Wikileaks indicates that the Vatican is also fully aware of the existence of subtle energy and is involved in high-level international talks to discuss the possibilities of harnessing it as an alternative clean energy source and a means of powering anti-gravity propulsion systems. So why the need for all the secrecy? Well, as with any other form of technology that has the potential to change the world, nobody wants to give their rivals a heads-up on the latest discoveries, developments and possible applications. Think back to the space-race when the Americans and Soviets were vying to be first to reach the moon. The same with the atomic bomb and the development of high-tech aircraft such as the stealth bomber - no major power wants to show its hand while there is a risk of its own findings being taken and used against them on the battlefield. There are also considerable commercial and economic considerations to going public about the existence of a potential source of unlimited free clean energy, as well as numerous corporations with vested interests in ensuring that such an energy source never sees the light of day. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church is understandably reluctant to disclose information which could validate the teachings of other faiths, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, nor do they wish to publicise the fact that the "miraculous" healing powers attributed to Christ could potentially be available to all and were not just unique to one man who lived two thousand years ago. My understanding is that there is currently a major division within the Vatican between progressive liberals who favour full preemptive disclosure of the truth about chi and more conservative elements who fear the potentially negative repercussions of the church publicly endorsing eastern concepts and practices which it has hitherto denounced as occultism. This dispute is widely expected to come to a head under the papacy of Pope Francis, who favours a more open and progressive approach and whose concerns about climate change are said to be the main driving force behind his willingness to go public about chi as a potential alternative to fossil fuels.
We can only hope that a time will come when selfish commercial and sectarian interests and international political conflicts are set to one side, enabling chi to be used for the greater good of mankind and the planet. Meanwhile there is still plenty that we can all do to enhance our own lives and health by utilising chi constructively on a personal level. Here at Phoenix we're firm proponents of the benefits of energy-cultivation techniques such as yoga and martial arts. When chi is flowing unimpeded, one enters the same trance-like high-performance state as that experienced during hypnosis and meditation. Time slows down, the senses become heightened and thought processes become clearer, enabling us to transcend the normal boundaries of human achievement. I can personally attest to the enormous health benefits of working with chi. Regular practice of energy work can lift you to supernal heights of inner peace and serenity and it's not without good reason that yogis and martial artists associate it with rejuvenation and longevity. Although I've discussed the superhuman abilities associated with mastery of chi, it cannot be emphasised strongly enough that the attainment of such paranormal powers should never be the actual goal of energy work. Such phenomena develop as a bi-product of these practices but anyone embarking on this path for the sole reason of attaining occult power will be gravely disappointed. The true object of energy work should always be to find a sense of inner bliss and contact with the divinity within. Approach the work with sincere motives and the right mindset and you'll find that magic starts to happen when you least expect it. But those who seek power for power's sake will, like the Nazis, ultimately reap a karmic whirlwind. This subject will be covered further in my forthcoming book, Rise Like a Phoenix, details of which will be released soon. Meanwhile, if you're curious to learn more about how we incorporate energy work into our healing and transformative programmes at Phoenix, and how you can benefit from these techniques, check out our website at phoenixcoaching.co.uk or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org