chi, the universal energy: are chi/qi therapies the key to health?

By Marcia Montenegro, December 2010, Revised October 2022

Note: The author of this article experienced what is known as qi/chi or universal energy when involved for many years in Eastern and New Age practices. Please note that information is either from given links or from books which are listed at the end.

Qigong has been a popular health exercise and treatment in the West, and now there is qi-ssage, which is a massage based on qigong principles:

Like qigong, Qi~ssage focuses on balancing and enhancing the flow of energy through the body's energy channels, or meridians, in part through the power of your mind, or your visualization, and, most importantly, the unconditional love from your heart..... There are twelve major energy channels in your body and hundreds of energy points all over your body. Each of these points affects the balance and flow of your body's energy; however, only a couple dozen of these energy points are vitally important in helping you heal and in helping you experience and maintain your optimal health and wellness. From a site promoting qi-ssage at https://rb.gy/0tzvbc

The excerpt above reveals the spiritual beliefs at the heart of qi-ssage and all practices based on belief in chi (also spelled as qi or ki). Until rather recently, health practices in China, and in many countries, were based on spiritual beliefs, not on science or objective data. Chi is viewed as a universal energy that needs to be harmonized for peace, health, and happiness. So what is qigong (also written as chi-kung)?

Qigong combines meditation, breathing techniques, movement and visualization to promote healing and a sense of well-being" (Lee). Qigong and qi-ssage are both based on the concept of qi or chi (also spelled ki and sometimes transliterated as ch'i), which is a foundational belief of Taoism, a religion that developed from early Chinese Shamanism, 3000 to 800 BCE. From Eva Wong, Taoism, Chapter 1, "Shamanic Origins," Boston & London: Shambhala, 1997).

Aside from qigong and qi-ssage, practices based on beliefs in chi or qi, the meridians, and related to chi include, but are not limited to:

Acupuncture, Acupressure, Shiatsu, EFT/Tapping, Reflexology, Qigong, Traditional Chinese Medicine (which is not biologically or scientifically based), Tai Chi, Aikido (a martial art) and Feng Shui

There are many others given under different names. Please be aware of the fact that references to chi or meridians may not be given in the names or descriptions of these practices. Instead, terms may be used such as energy, channels, energy points, non-invasive, biofield, electric field, currents, somatic, bodily, or there may be the use of scientific sounding terms in order to lend a false credibility to the material.

Qi Roots

Around 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the shamans in China posited a force in the universe, in nature, and within them. By cultivating the force within (qi or ch'i) through various exercises, movements, special diets and herbs, breathing exercises, and meditation (altered states), they believed they could enhance their life force to be healthier and live longer. Some even taught that you could attain immortality. The exercises were also used for divination. This is the origin of Qigong.

Chinese shamans used these exercises and meditations to commune with nature and natural forces and to increase their powers of healing and divination. (Kenneth S. Cohen, "What is Qigong? at http://www.cloudhandstaichi.org/couldhads what_is_qigong.htm).

Qigong was absorbed into Taoism:

Qigong was the ideal way for Taoists to realize their goal of wuji, an empty, alert, boundless state of consciousness, and xing ming shuang xiu, "spirit and body" cultivated in balance, (Cohen).

Guiley writes that

There was no centralized authority or doctrine, so the teachings of Qigong and Taoism spread over the centuries via many teachers and an abundance of textual writings, spawning numerous sects.

The concept of Chinese qi/chi was attributed to and developed by philosophers such as Lao-tzu, Confucius, Mencius, and others between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C., and qi was considered to be "the source of vitality, harmony, creativity, and moral courage,"
(Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience, Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 1991, 627).

In the Chinese worldview, the relationship between heaven, earth, and man was paramount. This is reflected in the various categories of qi: Heaven Qi, Earth Qi, and Human Qi, which are each further subdivided. Heaven Qi contains planetary and Weather Qi, which are each also subdivided further. For example, Planetary Qi includes astrology and spiritual guidance. Earth Qi contains Natural and Human Made Qi which are both subdivided. Natural Qi includes vegetation, mountains, etc.

Human Qi includes Social and Personal Qi which are each subdivided: Social Qi includes things such as neighbors and local events, while Personal Qi includes ideals and beliefs, sensitivity, health and life force (see Belinda Henwood, with Howard Choy, Feng Shui, Pownal, VT: Storey Books, undated, 6).

Another factor to take into account is that, according to these beliefs, there is positive energy, sheng qi, which moves along curved lines, and negative energy, sha qi, which strikes quickly in straight lines, (Henwood, 6; Guiley, 201).

Any practice based on chi consistently has a spiritual element:

Qi means "breath" or "air" and is considered the "vital-life-force" or "life-force energy." Qigong practitioners believe that this vital-life-force penetrates and permeates everything in the universe. It corresponds to the Greek "pneuma," the Sanskrit "prana," or the Western medical conception of "bioelectricity." From https://rb.gy/xzofdv

Bioelectricity and other terms (such as biofield and bioenergy) are used in many New Age practices to give a false impression of credibility. Like prana and life force, chi is a spiritual concept whose claims are without validity. For more information on these energy concepts used today, see CANA article, "The Religion of Life Force Energy."

Qi By Any Other Name is Still Universal Energy

As mentioned, chi/qi has parallels to prana (the divine breath of the cosmos in Hindu thinking) in India. Prana is a supposed energy upon which all things depend for health and life, (Guiley, 626). Guiley explains that it is also known as the universal life force and bioenergy (Ibid, 629-30). Other common terms are vital energy, vital force, or, most commonly in the United States, the life force. Manipulating, channeling, and balancing a so-called universal life force is the basis for many alternative healing methods and is sometimes termed energy healing.

Chi is the essential element in the origin and use of Reiki, acupuncture, Tai Chi, and Feng Shui. One of the purposes of Tai Chi is to facilitate the flow of qi through the body, (Guiley, p. 599).

Just as acupuncture, chakra balancing or shiatsu massage can adjust the flow of energy in the body, so can Feng Shui adjust the flow of energy around us. (Henwood, 6).

The chi must flow not too quickly and not too slowly, and will stagnate or become destructive if it is blocked (Henwood, 6). Additionally, the yin and yang (female and male) components of chi must be in balance, (Guiley, 200, 627).

Qi and Sorcery

Universal life energy, chi/qi and prana are also linked in many cultures to supernormal powers and sorcery. Tantra yoga allegedly cultivates the flow of prana in order to raise psychic powers, and prana is the source for exploits in Hindu magic (Guiley, 627). In alchemy, this universal force is called spiritus; the occult Kabbalah (Qabala) terms it astral light; and hypnotist and New Thought pioneer Franz Mesmer called it magnetic fluid (Guiley, 626). Qi is also claimed as the source of power for levitation and other occult feats (Guiley, 327).

One traveler who chronicled his occult encounters in 19th century Asia wrote that he learned from a Hindu holy man that the vital fluid, the agasa or akasha, was the cause of all phenomena and was the moving thought of the universal soul, directing all souls, as well as being the force of which the adepts had learned to control, (Louis Jacolliot, quoted by Guiley, 327). [The adepts are practitioners of occult powers].

Alternative energy healing and healing using qi is nothing other than occult and psychic healing. It is a technique based on esoteric beliefs about manipulating or channeling an unseen force and is universally practiced in the occult. Recipients of this healing may feel better temporarily, but later may become ill again, or may experience odd bodily sensations, tremors, nightmares, sleep difficulties, and other unpleasant effects.

God's Breath and Qi

Some have tried to validate chi as the breath of God.

God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7; Job 27:3); all living creatures have the breath of life (Genesis 1:30, 2:7, 6:17, 7:22; Psalm 104:29), and God's breath is referred to as playing a role in creation (Job 37:10; Psalm 33:6), but this breath is not a force or energy. The breath of God is an expression describing God's power to create and sustain life; in fact, the Hebrew words used here are also translated as life or spirit. Man and animals breathe (are alive) because God has given them life.

God's power to create is not man's power nor does it belong to the universe, and God's power is not a force to manipulate or channel for healing or anything else. Man does not have the right to access God whenever he desires or to appropriate a power that he believes is God or is from God, nor can this be done. Nor should anyone attempt to appropriate a power from what is called the universe. When efforts are made to do this, a power may be channeled, but it is not from God. In fact, the attempt to channel or manipulate such a force is the underpinning of sorcery. Such a power is a counterfeit power or force from a personal intelligence that is evil and wants to deceive and destroy. Jesus described this personal source of evil (Satan) as a thief:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Moreover, there is no scientific basis for energy such as qi. It is invisible, unquantifiable, unpredictable, and un-testable as an ingredient, element, or other organic material. I do not contest that something called qi exists. Rather, I assert that it is not from God and that, in the long run, it is not beneficial but rather is destructive to life and to the spirit.

Did Jesus Use Qi?

Jesus did not heal by channeling a universal energy or qi, but was acting with the power of God. As Acts 10:38 says,

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

The power of God was not coming through a technique or secret teaching, but as an aspect of his deity. Jesus conferred this power specifically to His disciples; they did not do anything to get it. Rather, Jesus

gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness, (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:13-15, Luke 9:1).

It is Christ's authority over illness that Christ gave the disciples, not a secret teaching or technique. This authority over disease was only one aspect of his power and authority as the Son of God. He also demonstrated authority in His teaching (Matthew 7:29), authority over demons (Matthew 8:28-24, Mark 5:1-17, Luke 8:22-25, and other passages), authority to forgive (Matthew 9:5, also in Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24), authority over nature (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:36-41, Luke 8:22-25), and authority over death (Matthew 9:23-26; John 11:43-45).

After His resurrection, Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). In John 18:20, Jesus made it plain that he had no secret teachings:

I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.

Jesus' ability to heal was not only a sign of his fulfillment of prophecies of the Messiah, but magnified the glory of God. After the blind man by the side of the road was healed in Luke 18:35-43, he followed Jesus, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God, (verse 43). This same praising of God happened after Jesus healed the paralytic (Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:10-12, Luke 5:22-26), and when he healed the lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others...so that the multitude marveled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel (Matthew 15:30, 31).

No alleged healing using chi can compare to what Jesus did because neither chi nor any universal force or life force is coming from God or is associated with God. It is a counterfeit power and therefore will be weaker and not lead to true healing or to the truth of God.

Qi Raises Questions

By definition, a force or energy has unknown attributes and is blind to human need. How can a force show compassion, or bring healing, peace, or harmony? To do so would require an intelligence exercising will and choice, traits lacking in an impersonal force.

How does one reconcile belief in an impersonal force with the belief in bad chi and good chi? Bad or good chi indicates moral sensibility and purpose, which are attributes of a personal intelligence. Yet chi and prana are supposedly not personal. One should ponder whether he/she can be comfortable with such a contradictory situation.

Qigong, qi-ssage, or other chi therapies may make the person feel better, but there may be a spiritual cost and, ironically, a physical cost as well.

The power of chi, or any other system dealing with qi energy, pales in comparison to the power of Christ, who was given authority and power over all authorities, powers and dominions, both in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20, 21; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Peter 3:22).

If you do not know that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10: 11, 14), the Living Bread from heaven (John 6:33, 51), the promised Messiah (John 4:25-26), the Lamb who atoned for sins (John 1:29, 36; Revelation 5:12, 7:10, 22:1, 3), the Door to pastures of eternal life (John 10:9), and the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 6:9), consider these words about and from Jesus:

For this is the will My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. John 6:40

And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Matthew 28:18

Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Mark 14: 61, 62

Selected Sources

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience. Edison, NJ: CASTLE BOOKS/Books Sales, Inc., 1991.

Henwood, Belinda with Consultant Howard Choy. Feng Shui. Pownal, VT: Storey Books, undated.

Lin, Henry B. The Art and Science of Feng Shui. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

Linn, Denise. Feng Shui for the Soul. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1999.

Too, Lillian. The Complete Illustrated Guide to Feng Shui. Boston: Element Books Inc., 1996.

Usui, Mikao and Petter, Frank Arjava. The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2003.

Wong, Eva. The Shambhala Guide to Taoism. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1997.

Recommended Resource

Examining Alternative Medicine: An Inside Look at the Benefits & Risks, by Paul C. Reisser, Dale Mabe, and Paul Velarde. See especially chapters 5 and 6 on energy and chi/qi.

 

 

 

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