Solving the feng shui puzzle
If you haven’t been confused by some feng shui claims or suggestions, you haven’t been around feng shui for long. I’ve been studying and practising feng shui for almost 30 years and I’ve been puzzled by many contradictory statements from different feng shui schools. That’s why early on I’ve decided to figure it all out using logic, science, intuition, instinct and commons sense, as well as practical observation. And to date, I’ve done over 10 000 feng shui consultations onsite and remotely, for homes and workplaces. I’ve studied Environmental Psychology, psychology, NLP, ergonomics, priming, placebo effect, cognitive sciences and more to give me a good framework and background to think clearly and systematically about feng shui. My approach to researching and using feng shui is to be open-minded and sceptical at the same time. Otherwise, one can be easily duped by all kinds of false problems, half-truths and superstitions.
If your premises are false – your conclusions are likely to be false too
Many schools – ‘many ways to skin the cat’
There are two main feng shui approaches or schools: classical and modern. They agree and disagree on many aspects of feng shui. That is expected when old and new clashes. Read about the difference between classical and modern feng shui schools
What is science for?
Science gets updated on regular bases (even on science), so don’t quote me in one year from now. The function of science is to inform us how feng shui might be working (although some people don’t like the answers – read my blog on how feng shui works). In many ways, science is universal knowledge and wisdom. Science creates facts and it’s evidence-based. Science works everywhere, every time, for everyone – it’s universal. Electricity works in the same way everywhere – it might have a different voltage in different countries but it works the same way. Science is constantly updated to keep it honest and it has self-correction build in. In can be said that wisdom is timeless but knowledge can have an expiration date. So science is not one thing but a set of related disciplines.
We all have an inbuilt, evolutionary, animal-like and almost automatic ability to detect a threat and distinguish between safe and unsafe environments. It has been honed over 200 000 years of human evolution on this planet. Instinct is designed to keep us safe and survive so we can thrive as a human race. When it works well, we feel safe and can flourish personally and professionally. When it doesn’t work well, we feel stressed. And stress is one factor that can affect our ability to notice the danger. An unnecessary stress overdrive can cause anxiety and stop us from noticing the real danger. “Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” said Oprah Winfrey, pointing to the idea of morphic resonance or collective memory which was proposed by Rupert Sheldrake, the author of The Science Delusion.
“There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.” Niels Bohr
Intuition is similar to instinct and has bases in instinct. The difference between intuition and instinct is that intuition requires some conscious awareness or thinking. Psychology suggests that intuition is the subliminal processing of information that is too complex for rational thought, e.g. mate choice. Intuition is learned and not innate as opposed to the instinct that is an innate, ‘hardwired’ towards a particular behaviour or response. “The only real valuable thing is intuition.” said Albert Einstein who also said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Common sense and sometimes called crowd wisdom is a social, shared and group thinking intelligence and sound, practical judgment and culmination of years of observation concerning everyday matters. In short, it is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and use rules of thumb or heuristics. As Voltaire’s saying that “common sense is not so common” suggests that application of common sense is still not very prevailing.
Data, facts, truth
“There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.” said Niels Bohr, Nobel prize winner in physics, differentiating between Newtonian and Quantum truths. In the age of fake news, the difference between data, facts and truth can be compared metaphorically to the difference in strength of toilet water, cologne water and perfume.
…biggest problem might be that you don’t know what you don’t know
What is logic for?
Logic helps us structure our thoughts. Logic, obviously, by itself, doesn’t guarantee the truth because if your premises are false – your conclusions are likely to be false too. As in this classical example: all yellow things are made of cheese – the moon is yellow – therefore the moon is made of cheese. The other side of logic is that illogical arguments are more effective than logical ones. Aristotle made an assumption that things are either true or not true (“the most certain of principles”) which can make conventional logic blow up on occasions – for example, take this sentence: “this sentence is false”: is that true or false?
Why people are superstitious and believe in predictions and conspiracy theories
Philosopher Karl Popper, in his book The Conspiracy Theory of Society, argues that “conspiracy theories are based on the idea that a social outcome is evidence of an intentional order, and that random occurrences are rarely, if ever, relevant.” The psychology behind this is that people discount unintended consequences and prefer to view certain events of being the result of an intended cause. Although Popper was investigating conspiracy theories, we can see how superstitions and predictions fit the same pattern where a divine force is in charge. Michael Shumer offers three basic explanations for the question Why People Believe Weird Things, which is the title of his book. One, credo consolans – people believe in superstitions because they want to. Two, superstitions offer immediate gratification and simplicity because simple explanations are immediately gratifying while reality is often complex and challenging. And three, morality and meaning – predictions provide proof of eschatological meaning and morality from a higher power and absolves one from choice and responsibility. It’s always easier to find blame in the outside circumstances and external forces (stars, destiny, fate, God, karma, government, luck, etc) that one’s choices and take responsibility for them. The humanity that believes in superstitions just needs to wake up and grow up (hello!, there is no Santa).
“A problem is a way of creating a future. When plants grow and evolve they do so by way of problems, developing features to avoid predators, to maximise light or to retain moisture.” Claire Colebrook
Top pointers to how to understand and decode feng shui
1) Use your common sense. If it doesn’t make sense or is too good to be true – it probably is.
2) Use logic and your logic intelligence.
3) Employ your intuition and instinct – does it feel safe?
4) Ask simple questions such as ‘how does it work?’ Educate yourself about the subject. As a beginner, your biggest problem might be that you don’t know what you don’t know.
5) Ask for evidence and research.
6) Experiment and do one feng shui intervention at a time to see how it works in your particular context.
7) Still confused – call your feng shui expert.