Difference between classical feng shui and modern, progressive feng shui

Different schools of feng shui

There are many different types and schools of feng shui. Many feng shui schools don’t agree with each other and sometimes they even propose completely conflicting solutions. This is usually because they address different levels of thinking about space and time in different times and places Think about feng shui as a form of art or cooking – no art/cooking style is better than the others – they’re just different expressions of the same function and the form follows the function depending on circumstances. There are universal feng shui truths and there are local/cultural feng shui truths. It’s best to follow a checklist of how to choose a feng shui consultant for your needs, a person-centred feng shui consultant (read about how to choose your feng shui consultant).

Classical feng shui vs contemporary feng shui

Classical feng shui vs modern feng shui

There are basically two approaches in feng shui at the moment:

1) Classical feng shui which includes form school and compass school based on ancient Chinese classical feng shui texts.

2) Modern feng shui is an applied feng shui which includes and transcends the classical feng shui and also utilises modern, evidence-based environmental sciences and approaches such as environmental psychology, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), electromagnetic pollution and radiation, dirty electricity (DR), geopathic stress, ergonomics, cognitive ergonomics, space conditioning (in feng shui called space clearing and clutter management) and more. Evolution of any discipline follows a similar pattern of transcending and including what came before it (not repressing the past, not hating the past, just transcending and including it). Modern feng shui understands and validates classical feng shui contributions and goes beyond and evolves this discipline further into a truly universal and holistic study as well as evidence-based discipline Modern feng shui prehends classical feng shui and makes its a subject of study because only modern feng shui has scientific methods available to study and understand classical feng shui.

As a rule of thumb: follow modern developments in feng shui

Be aware of dogmatic, divisive, traditional, ‘authentic’ or ‘real’ feng shui which can give you all kinds of ‘false problems’. A lot of traditional feng shui is culture-specific and may not apply to life in the modern western world. Would you use an old map of China to navigate your journey in the UK?  Most traditional, ‘authentic’ feng shui doesn’t take into account modern problems such as electromagnetic pollution, geopathic stress and sick building syndrome which research suggests can cause all kinds of health problems (watch this video about the dangers of electro-smog). If there was such a discipline as an ‘authentic’ feng shui, it wouldn’t call itself that in the first place. It’s only unauthentic feng shui that calls itself ‘authentic’. Don’t follow any feng shui tradition that doesn’t make sense to you and is fear-based. Find out what type of feng shui resonates best with you and your belief system and your culture. For example, I offer vastu shastra consultancy (which is an Indian system similar to feng shui) for people who come from that culture, although strangely enough, many Indian clients prefer feng shui to vastu shastra. Horses for courses.

A critique of classical feng shui 

Before I explain what’s problematic with classical feng shui, please let me be clear – classical feng shui works and I use different aspects of classical feng shui but I don’t stop there. I have the courage to be creative and open up new possibilities for feng shui and what it can offer for humanity.

1) Classical feng shui hasn’t evolved
On many levels, classical feng shui is archaic because it hasn’t taken into account the environmental changes that have occurred in the last 4000 years. Classical feng shui hasn’t evolved a modern vocabulary and in some ways, it is like candle makers who missed the electricity boat. Electricity put candles out of business. Candles are a niche and there is a small need for them but electricity (progress) rules. Classical feng shui hasn’t got a word ‘progress’ in its vocabulary and uses obscure, outdated vocabulary that needs to be explained.

Modern feng shui borrowed and embraced the needed and related vocabulary from other modern disciplines, such as environmental psychology, semiotics, biophilia, quantum theory, etc. Modern feng shui is progressive and evolves by including and transcending the classical feng shui. Modern feng shui doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

2) Classical feng shui is not evidence-based
We live in an age where science rules. People don’t just believe in superstitions or because a book says so. Unfortunately, classical feng shui hasn’t been researched extensively as opposed to modern equivalents of feng shui such as environmental psychology, etc. There is a time in any discipline that it has to scrutinise itself and become evidence-based – classical feng shui hasn’t done that (yet).

Modern feng shui is evidence-based because there is research that supports how different aspects of feng shui work and modern feng shui is courageous enough to look at the research. Read Why People are Attracted to Astrology, Divination or Want to Know the Future?

3) Classical feng shui can be divisive and exclusive
Unfortunately, the language of classical feng shui can be interpreted as divisive and exclusive, especially when it claims that it is the only ‘authentic’ way to do feng shui and that modern feng shui doesn’t exist. For example, many classical feng shui teachers and authors translate ‘feng shui’ as ‘wind and water’. This is divisive and shows a lack of understanding of the whole concept and gives people a false problem. ‘Feng shui’ means ‘wind-water’ or better still ‘windwater’.

Modern feng shui sees reality as one continues spectrum, as one whole interconnected system that doesn’t need conjunction ‘and’ to unite or connect ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ or ‘spirit’ and ‘matter’ or ‘wind’ and ‘water’. Modern feng shui includes and transcends classical feng shui by moving to the next logical and integral level of modernity. Modern feng shui offers a bigger perspective on how environments affect people.

4) Classical feng shui is not creative
New living conditions with all kind of environmental stressors require new and creative solutions. Classical feng shui just repeats the same old same old. It doesn’t even recognise new environmental threats. At best, it only reinterprets itself or repackages itself. There is nothing new in classical feng shui.

Modern feng shui continually reinvents itself, creates new possibilities and experiments with new and rich ways to evolve.

5) Some classical feng shui concepts are fear-based, superstitious and not accurate
Any system of belief that has existed for thousands of years and haven’t updated itself to modern life will have some form of fear-based perceptions. In the early stages of human evolution on this planet, humans didn’t understand many things and assign power to external forces. From a basic survival level, the external world has a lot of power over you and if you don’t understand the power distribution you may start to believe that this is actually true. Yes, the external environment has influence over you and sometimes even some power over you but you have the power to see that and also you have the power how you are going to perceive that and respond to it. For example, one client who was brain-washed by classical feng shui myths asked me if her son’s specific health physical issue (which any doctor or physiotherapist could decipher in seconds) was caused by one of the trees being taller than another outside her house. And I have countless, similar examples where people give away their power and common-sense to fear-based, nonsensical, mythical classical feng shui.cHow do you unplug from mythic, superstitious, disempowering and fear-based classical feng shui? Elevate and update your thinking to more rational levels. The more accurate and empowering way to see the relationship between us and the external environments has been illuminated by the lives of Nelson Mandela, whose prison cell’s feng shui didn’t make him weak, on the contrary, Victor Frankl who’s spirit wasn’t broken by the brutal feng shui of four concentration camps (Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Türkheim) and Buddha who realised that the perceptions of external reality are illusions.

Modern feng shui is evidence-based and evolved beyond superstitions, magical, mythical thinking that unfortunately is still present in classical feng shui.

Is feng shui invented or are we discovering it?

There is a question of how feng shui originated. Has feng shui been discovered through simple observations about how environments affect people? Or, has feng shui been created to meet the demands and challenges of environmental factors. The feng shui concepts such as yin and yang, five elements, bagua, etc don’t exist as such out there in the real world. These quasi-philosophical concepts are just ancient attempts at describing how the world might work and mental models used to help to moderate physical factors in order to create harmonious environments for working and living. Modern feng shui is inventive and creative – continually evolving to meet the demands and challenges of modern life, such as electromagnetic pollution, sick building syndrome, modern psychological stressors and even spiritual needs. Feng shui is in a similar situation as mathematics, which has discovered the underlining numeric patterns governing nature and at the same time invented useful mathematical concepts such as zero, negative numbers and imaginary numbers to manage physical reality. So, to answer the question, most probably feng shui has been discovered and is being created at the same time which has implications for the applied feng shui and theoretical feng shui.

Difference between classical feng shui and modern, progressive feng shui

Modern feng shui is not just a more powerful version of classical feng shui, just like a light bulb is not a more powerful candle. You cannot build a light bulb by building better and better candles. A light bulb is a different technology, based on deeper scientific understanding. Modern feng shui is based on the science of environmental psychology and just like electricity transformed society, modern feng shui has the potential to impact so many aspects of our lives including our security needs, our health, our performance, our happiness and satisfaction and even our cities and countries.

By the way, a big part of modern feng shui is recognising modern environmental stressors such as electromagnetic pollution, dirty electricity and it impacts on the energy flow in your home and workplace (which didn’t exist 3 000 years ago, when candles ruled and when feng shui was first formulated).

Having said that, one can still use classical feng shui, like one can use a candle (although they contribute to air pollution so ideally, it’s better to avoid using candles) but there are clear limitations to what classical feng shui can do for your modern needs.

Difference between classical feng shui and modern feng shui

Difference between classical feng shui and modern feng shui

Classical feng shuiModern feng shui
Form schoolForm school
Compass schoolCompass school
Space conditioning (in feng shui called Space Clearing and Clutter Management)
Geopathics and geopathic stress
Electromagnetic pollutions and stressors
Plus evidence-based related disciplines and multi-disciplinary modalities such as:
Environmental psychology
Environmental sciences
Ergonomics and cognitive ergonomics
Sick Building Syndrome (air pollution and quality, noise pollution, lighting, etc)
Holistic wellness disciplines
Neuroscience (especially to do with good sleep habits and environmental stressors)
Design and interior design
Semiotics (the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation)
Ecology & Biophilia
Sleep science
Longevity disciplines
Practical Spirituality Practices / Spiritual Health / Spiritual Intelligence


In short, modern feng shui is more comprehensive with a bigger perspective, inclusive, progressive, evidence-based and flexible way of addressing modern environmental problems.

Find out more about the difference between compass bagua and modern three-gate bagua

Read more about How to Understand and Decode Feng Shui using Logic, Science, Intuition, Instinct and Common Sense

Posted in Classical Feng Shui, Modern Feng Shui.