Reflections on the 30-Year Legacy and Evolution of the Feng Shui Society by Jan Cisek

A personal account of Jan Cisek*

Let’s go back to a cosy Tuesday evening on cold November 9th, 1993, at Gina Lazenby’s flat in London. Gina, me, Mark Beakhouse, Graham Gun, and a cuppa or two, chatting about the charming wisdom and promise of feng shui. It’s here that Gina (with her genius of marketing) threw in the idea of starting the Feng Shui Society (FSS) – an easy-going gang to spread the cool vibes of feng shui. And, just like that, the rest, as they say, is history!

Zooming 30 years forward (blimey, how time flies!), I find myself pondering about the grand old times of the FSS. This society has turned into a beacon of knowledge and wisdom, spreading the essence of feng shui far and wide.

The FSS has grown into a treasure trove of ancient know-how, connecting age-old wisdom with our bustling, modern lives, making sure that the magic of feng shui is a piece of cake for everyone to grasp. It’s brought a wave of harmony and spark to numerous homes, offices, and lovely little corners of the world, optimising the flow of energy and rejuvenating spaces with happy vibes.

“feng shui is a physical affirmation, a ritual”

The FSS has been the heart of a vibrant community of feng shui buffs, offering a mix of workshops, friendly chats, and reads to anyone eager to learn and grow personally and spiritually. It’s woven a tapestry of people who are keen on living a balanced life filled with good vibes and prosperity.

The commitment of our society to uphold the real-deal principles of feng shui has made it a trusted brand name. It’s stood strong against the watered-down and commercialised versions, ensuring that the profound teachings of feng shui are passed down with respect and true spirit to the future chaps.

Looking back at the whimsical and transformative journey of the FSS, it’s clear that its birth was a shared dream, a meeting of energies destined to light up and uplift many spirits. The enduring charm and the transformative stories of the society are a living testament to a legacy (just check our YouTube channel for over 150 videos with talks and conference recordings where I presented a few times as well) built on harmony, yin-yang balance, and a dash of ancient magic!

In the Beginning…

Those of us who were around in the early days of the FSS can’t help but reminisce about the buzzing excitement and the fascination that came with exploring the world of feng shui. London was our regular meetup spot, but we also had our little gatherings in various regions to chat about our experiences, discuss interesting case studies, and, of course, learn a thing or two new!

We were all about experimenting, keen to try everything on ourselves and always eager for a bit of help from our clients. It was a journey of discovery, a journey of understanding the subtle art, philosophy and science behind feng shui. The air was filled with enthusiasm, a sense of community, and a shared passion for uncovering the mysteries of harmonious living. We were mentoring each other on different aspects of feng shui professional development (which I personally still do and receive on a regular basis). It was a time of learning, sharing, and embracing the beautiful principles of balance and energy, and let’s not forget, it was a heck of a good time!

Deciphering Feng Shui

In those days, we had different teachers popping in, each one bringing their unique spin to feng shui. So, there was this buzzing need to get all the feng shui jargon straight! Chinese can be a bit intricate with its elaborate, metaphoric, esoteric and poetic terms, as well as magic thinking, a real noodle-scratcher for us Western folks. We were on a mission to redefine what feng shui really means, translating it from its traditional, culturally rich roots to a more down-to-earth language that everyone could get their heads around. We wanted to make feng shui a friendly, accessible chat topic, breaking it down from its profound, culture-specific, belief-based nuances to practical lingo that could be shared with the public.

The literal translation of feng shui into ‘wind-water’ didn’t mean much to the public and needed explanation (especially when it was quite often mistranslated into ‘wind AND water’, which completely misread the original concept behind it – I elaborate on this in my blog Feng shui means wind-water, NOT wind AND water. Here’s why.). My favourite definitions of feng shui that showed up then are: “feng shui is a physical affirmation” and “feng shui = intention + ritual” or just a ritual (‘ritual’ defined as an intentional, transformative behaviour, event or act – backed up by extensive research into priming, anchoring and placebo), and the old classic “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” by Winston Churchill, to name a few. At the core of all feng shui schools and approaches is the aim to create healthy, supportive and vibrant environments for working and living that work. And that can be done with a host of tools for mitigating negative environmental stressors and enhancing positive factors.

The prominent topics of discussion were the cause-effect phenomenon, cognitive biases and belief-driven processes. While some principles of feng shui can exhibit cause-effect thinking in their association of spatial arrangements with life outcomes, the lack of scientific substantiation categorises them closer to magical or superstitious thinking, offering psychological solace and perceived control to its practitioners. The confirmation bias can lead individuals to notice and remember events that confirm their superstitious beliefs while ignoring those that contradict them. Nonetheless, the cultural and subjective value of feng shui, coupled with its emphasis on positive outcomes, harmony and balance (placebo effect), can have meaningful impacts on individuals’ perceptions of and interactions with their environments. Niels Bohr, Danish quantum physicist and Nobel Prize winner in physics, when asked why he, a scientist, used a culture-specific, belief-driven intervention/ritual of feng shui (i.e. a horseshoe above his front door), said, “I understand that it works whether you believe in it or not.” This shows how to go beyond feng shui and yin and yang dualistic thinking. He also said, ” “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.”

Sharing Feng Shui: Feng Shui Society’s Journal

We were bursting to share our discoveries with the world, so setting up a Feng Shui Society Journal just seemed like the thing to do! I had the lovely task of being the Editor, and we’ve rolled out four editions that found homes in London and other places. We dived deep into a myriad of feng shui topics, stuff we were absolutely eager to share with everyone out there – a range of diverse topics such as: WindWater: Water – the most vital part of feng shui; What is geomancy; EMF How to cope with modern feng shui’s pet hate; Chalet Tiara: Feng shui has inspired Julia Stephenson; The Famous Acropolis: Did the Greeks invent feng shui?; The Mysterious Underground Energies: Learn to dowse for geopathic stress; Feng Shui Logos: Designing your identity with feng shui; Planting By The Moon: Timing is everything; VAASTU: An overview of Hindu version of feng shui; THE I-CHING ORACLE: The mystery unfolds. Are we on the brink of decoding the most mysterious book in the world. The past is hidden, the future uncertain – can I-ching help?; BAU-BIOLOGY: Introduction to the discipline; BARCELONA: Discover the feng shui of the city; THE GREEK GODS AND THE BAGUA: Find out about cross-cultural similarities of the bagua map and more…

Read these four editions of the Feng Shui Society Journal (you can also download them): Summer 2000, Autumn 2000, Winter – Spring 2001, Summer – Autumn 2001

Finding What Fits: Testing and Tailoring Feng Shui

We’ve received a wealth of claims from classical feng shui, and you bet we put them to the test to see what really does the trick! Some hit the mark, and some… well, not so much. We rolled up our sleeves and got really stuck in, keen to assess how feng shui can be applied in a practical, everyday sense, evidence-based fashion. My love for environmental psychology was my compass, guiding me to scrutinise many claims through a scientific lens. It was all about sifting through the wealth of knowledge to find the nuggets that really worked in real-world scenarios!

Uncovering Feng Shui and How Feng Shui Meets Environmental Psychology

In any field, there’s always that initial buzz when you’re experimenting with different ideas, and it was no different for us with feng shui. After playing around with various concepts, maps and models, we quickly realised that some things didn’t quite live up to the hype. And thus began my journey to dig out the evidence-based gems of feng shui, with my background in environmental psychology becoming a super handy tool and now doing my PhD research in feng shui as well, as part of my continuing professional development (CPD). It helped me sift through the claims and see which ones really held water.

In a yin and yang of things, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater, though! While some claims might be lacking in the scientific research department, they still hold loads of value and genuinely work. Take, for instance, the classic feng shui model of the five animals or the armchair landscape configuration—a concept with a thousands-year legacy!

Within feng shui, the prospect and refuge theory, whipped up by British geographer Jay Appleton in 1975, can be seen through the lens of the four or five celestial animals configuration. We’ve got the Green Dragon, symbolising growth; the White Tiger, our protector; the Black Tortoise, our steady support; and the Red Phoenix, the beacon of vision and opportunity. Sometimes, the Yellow Snake pops in, keeping everything grounded and balanced.

This setup represents a cosy, balanced environment, pretty much like an armchair landscape configuration, offering both a clear view (prospect) and a safe spot (refuge)—key ingredients in feng shui. It’s all about creating spaces where you can have a good look around while feeling safe and snug—a harmony that’s quite appealing, promoting positive chi and bringing prosperity and happiness to those around you.

So, in essence, feng shui, with its celestial animals or armchair landscape configurations, aims to whip up environments (be it a bedroom or workplace or positioning a new building) that hit the sweet spot between awareness and protection, maxing out on comfort, safety, and pleasant vibes. It’s all about aligning well with the principles of landscape topography and environmental psychology, seeking that human craving for balance while dishing out aesthetic pleasure and positive energies.

Other examples of evidence for some feng shui claims come from research on biophilia, nature, plants, colour, epigenetics, semiotics, (cognitive) ergonomics, transpersonal psychology, electromagnetic radiation, geophatics, priming and placebo/nocebo effect, and environmental stressors.

Raising the Bar: Professionalism in Feng Shui

It quickly became crystal clear that we needed to establish some proper professional standards for both feng shui practitioners and schools. And that’s precisely what we’ve been developing and refining constantly, just as any discipline needs to do to stay professional. We were the first professional organisation in the world to develop standards and ethics. The values of the FSS don’t just stop at professionalism and ethics, though; they extend to education, innovation, wellness, harmony, and building a tight-knit community.

We’re all about upholding the highest standards and pushing the boundaries in feng shui, all while fostering a sense of togetherness and shared passion among us. It’s not just about bringing balance to spaces; it’s about creating a balanced, harmonious, and forward-thinking community, all committed to learning and growing together in the fascinating world of feng shui.

Some insights…

Looking back, a few things stand out as insights and learnings.

  1. Feng shui can influence your life, but it doesn’t control you, nor define you as a human being. You’re more than feng shui.
  2. Going beyond feng shui gives perspective and helps to understand how it works and makes you think better.
  3. If there is just one thing that you need to check to improve feng shui, it is your bedroom. If you sleep well, which includes making sure that you get enough deep sleep, you will most likely wake up rejuvenated and ready to face the world.
  4. There are many ways of doing feng shui. Keep studying broadly different aspects of feng shui (classical and modern) and other related disciplines with a curious mind and then evaluate them using common sense and critical thinking.
  5. Other… love your home…

Stepping into the Future: AI Meets Feng Shui

The future of feng shui? It’s all about AI! We’ve already got these nifty AI apps that can jazz up your home or workplace design in a jiffy, following your specific wishes or hints/prompts. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we’re social creatures who love human interaction, so there’s definitely still room for the human touch.

AI holds the promise of shaking up the world of feng shui. It opens up the doors to automating and exploring various aspects of feng shui in new ways, such as cataloguing and analysing patterns, removing personal bias from interpretations, boosting professionalism, scrutinising claims and much more. This fresh, novel approach to feng shui is pretty thrilling!

AI and large language models (LLM) such as ChatGPT or Bard are changing the game with their sophisticated capabilities. You could easily be fooled into thinking you’re chatting with another human! AI is already transforming healthcare delivery, and it can pen essays, sort out coding, and create amazing interiors in minutes (Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Dall-E, etc. – and a host of many interior design websites using AI – see the photo of a bedroom, below – done in seconds! at AI is a fabulous tool, much like feng shui, reminding us to weave feng shui into our lives rather than shaping our lives around it.

Many of us feng shui buffs, including myself, are already embracing remote consultations and are eagerly awaiting the day when VR headsets (cheaper and easier to use) will allow us to step into clients’ spaces virtually as part of our work. For all you feng shui enthusiasts out there, you can pop your questions to ChatGPT and get some pretty knowledgeable replies, depending on how well you frame your questions. In the world of AI, it’s all about ‘garbage in – garbage out’. I’ve had a go with ChatGPT and other LLMs and received responses that could easily match the insights of seasoned feng shui pros, and in minutes! So, if you’re involved in feng shui, teaching or training, keep a close eye on AI (and learn prompt engineering)!

Looking ahead, I can’t wait to see what the next 30 years have in store for the FSS and feng shui. The FSS has been moving with the times, balancing between Heaven and Earth (wind-water), drawing from its rich past to shape a brighter, more informed and relevant future for all its members, consultants, and the public. Here’s to evolving, innovating, researching and continuing our journey in the fascinating world of feng shui!

Jan Cisek, MSc, FSSA, PhD Researcher

*Disclaimer: These reflections are my own personal perspectives on my unique journey with the FSS and do not necessarily reflect the views of the FSS or its Members.

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