What is Qi / Chi in Feng Shui?
Qi as the key feng shui concepts
Feng shui is the art, philosophy and science of creating healthy, safe, resourceful homes and workplaces. This art is based on fundamental principles of balance and harmony (yin and yang). The purpose of feng shui is to increase your overall vitality or life force, called by the Chinese: Qi or Chi. This concept is present in many cultures; for example, the Japanese call it Ki, in Hindu tradition, it is called Prana and Christians call it the Holy Spirit.
Ambient and radiant energy is present everywhere, and like art, it is expressed in many forms and behaves in different ways. The key function of feng shui is to maximise positive energy and minimise the negative, draining ones. The more energy you have, the more you can do. In fact, everything could be said is one energy in motion (E=mc2). There is a distinction between your personal chi, other people’s chi and the environment’s chi. Potentially our personal chi has the most power over others and the environment.
Definitions of the concept of qi/chi
The classical Chinese definition of qi
Qi is usually translated as ‘breath’ or ‘air’ or universal life force. Qi is the most important aspect of Chinese medicine. Qi is “the idea that the body is pervaded by subtle material and mobile influences that cause most physiological functions and maintain the health and vitality of the individual.” (Micozzi, 2015). Classical feng shui texts suggest that qi gathers on the surface of the water (feng shui = wind–water).
“The Classic says that if qi rides the wind it is scattered; if it is bounded by water it is held. Ancient men gathered it, causing it not to be scattered and curtailed its area of circulation. Hence this is referred to as fengshui. The method of fengshui is, first of all, to obtain water and secondly to store from the wind.” Guo Pu, Gu Ben Zang Jing Nei Pian (Book of Burial Rooted in Antiquity), in Jin Dai Bi Shu, no. 42, vol. 5 of Ji Gu Ge
The classical feng shui doesn’t tell us what qi is because it doesn’t know what it is in essence. The classical feng shui is just trying to define and characterise the behaviour of qi – what it does. The classical feng shui tells us absolutely nothing about the intrinsic nature of qi – how qi is in and of itself. The classical feng shui, especially the compass school, is trying to define qi with a mathematical, quantitative mindset with qualitative features of reality such as size, shape, geometry, location, direction, motion and so on – features that can be captured on a feng shui compass – luopan and with feng shui astrology. It is trying to describe qi in terms of its behaviour, what qi does, not what it is.
“Qi circulates through the earth according to the geodetic force of the earth. It gathers where the geodetic force stops. The qi follows the trunk of a hill and branches along its ridges. The Classic says that if the qi rides the wind it is scattered, if it is bounded by water it is held.” Guo Pu, Gu Ben Zang Jing Nei Pian (Book of Burial Rooted in Antiquity), in Jin Dai Bi Shu, no. 42, vol. 5 of Ji Gu Ge
To sum up, if you know how qi behaves, it’s very useful because you can manipulate, moderate, mediate and modulate qi and qi flow. But if we only know what qi does, we only know about its relationship between itself and other things and how it’s affected by other things. Physics, physical science and electrical engineering are the best tools to unravel how it works. So, we still don’t know what qi is and its intrinsic qualities and characteristics independent of its relationships with other things, independent of its behaviour. This is called the problem of intrinsic nature.
Qi concept in other cultures
Most cultures around the world have a similar concept of life force, so the concept of qi is not unique to Chinese culture. For example, this life force is called prana (India), lung/loong (Tibetan), ki (Japan), barraka, sakina (Islam), neyatoneyah (Lakota Sioux), num (Bush People of the Kalahari), pneuma, ichor (Greece), ruah (Jewish), aether (Latin), akasha (Hindu), asha (Iranian), astral light (Theosophy), awen (Welsh), bliss fields (generic), inua (Inuit), ka (Egyptian), maban (Australian Aboriginal), mana (Polynesian), manitou (Anishinabe), mumen (Latin), orenda (Iroquois), presence, light (generic), seid (Norse), shekinah (Jewish), teotl (Aztec), väki (Finnish), vital force or élan vital (Bergson/vitalism), Holy Spirit (Catholic), life force or The Force (StarWars) or just energy in popular culture. Or perhaps a metaphor/construct/concept….
The modern and scientific definition of chi – charge and consciousness
In physics, charge (Q) is the closest concept to chi. A charge is composed of positively and negatively charged particles which would fit the concept of yin and yang, which is a matter of attraction and repulsion. Also, plasma (which is a cloud of charge) relates to chi, and scientists suggest that 99.9% of the visible universe is made of some form of plasma. See the video below about plasma to understand the electrical, ambient and radiant nature of chi. One oriental feng shui book, the Burial Book, states “Chi is dispersed by the Wind and gathers at the boundaries of the Water.” The Oriental people accurately noticed that chi is attracted to water, which is confirmed by science, i.e. water attracts a charge. Dan Winter and I are probably the only experts to define chi as charge. Most feng shui authors regurgitate the old adage that chi is a life force without understanding what it is and without explaining what this mysterious ‘life force’ is.
However, some authors suggest that chi is everywhere, which would exclude charge since there are places where charge is not present. For example, objects that have an equal number of protons and electrons are electrically neutral. This means that the positive and negative charges balance out, resulting in no net charge. In a perfect vacuum, where there are no particles, there is no charge. However, quantum physics suggests that even vacuums are not entirely empty due to quantum fluctuations, but these are on a scale that does not involve conventional electric charges as we understand them in macroscopic terms.
qi = charge + consciousness
Some scientists could argue that charge is just another external description of the behaviour of qi – just one perspective, as it is from the outside in terms of its behaviour. Some researchers suggest now that qi, from the inside and its intrinsic behaviour, is pure consciousness.
In short, qi could be described from two perspectives. Physical science could describe it from the outside, from a quantitative perspective, in terms of its behaviour as a charge. And qi, from inside, from a qualitative perspective, in terms of its intrinsic nature, is constituted of forms of consciousness. This is a kind of panpsychism in action, which is the ancient view that consciousness is the fundamental, ubiquitous, underlining feature of reality – the type of panpsychism that is or could be stripped of any mystical connotations. To my understanding, so far, nobody has postulated this simple and elegant working definition and explanation of what specifically qi is: charge and consciousness.
More on charge…
The concept of ‘chi’ (or ‘qi’) in traditional Eastern philosophies, particularly in feng shui and various Chinese practices, is often subject to various interpretations and discussions. While chi is commonly understood as a vital force or energy that permeates everything, its comparison to physical phenomena like electric charge can lead to intricate discussions.
Chi as a Universal Life Force
In many Eastern philosophies, chi is considered a universal life force that exists everywhere and in everything. It’s not just confined to living beings but is also believed to flow through inanimate objects and spaces. This understanding of chi is more metaphysical than physical. It encompasses a broad range of experiences and phenomena, not easily quantifiable or measurable by conventional scientific methods.
Chi vs. Electric Charge
The comparison of chi to electric charge is intriguing but potentially misleading. Electric charge is a physical property of matter that can be measured, quantified, and is governed by the laws of physics. It exists in specific particles (like electrons and protons) and can be absent in certain spaces or conditions.
Chi, on the other hand, as per the traditional beliefs, is omnipresent and not confined to the physical and measurable properties of matter. It’s more akin to a spiritual or life energy that transcends the boundaries of physical laws as understood in modern science.
The Limitations of Scientific Comparison
Some authors argue against equating chi with any physical phenomenon like charge, precisely because chi is believed to be present everywhere, unlike charge which can be absent or neutralised in certain conditions. This viewpoint suggests that chi operates on a different level or dimension that is not fully encompassed by our current scientific understanding.
Chi in Practice
In practices like acupuncture, tai chi, and feng shui, chi is manipulated or harmonised to achieve health, well-being, and environmental balance. These practices are based on the understanding that chi flows through channels or pathways in the body or space and can be influenced by various factors, including physical alignments, balance of elements, and mental and spiritual states.
A Metaphysical Perspective
From a metaphysical standpoint, chi could be considered an all-encompassing energy, integral to the fabric of existence, transcending physical properties like electric charge. This view aligns with the Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions where chi is an integral concept, guiding principles of living and well-being.
While the comparison of chi to electric charge is intriguing, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations of such analogies. Chi, in the context of Eastern philosophies, extends beyond the realm of physical properties and measurable forces. It is a concept deeply rooted in a holistic understanding of the universe, where every entity and space is interconnected through this vital force. This understanding of chi encourages a broader perspective, where the focus is on balance, harmony, and the subtle interplay of energies in our lives and environments.
More energy = more everything
Obviously, others and poets talked about similar insights. For example, William Blake said beautifully and concisely, “The World, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” echoing the consilience of knowledge and wisdom, matter and consciousness. And then Blake marvels at “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”
“Information is physical.” Rolf Randaur
“I regard consciousness as fundamental, matter is derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. There is no matter as such; it exists only by virtue of a force bringing the particle to vibration and holding it together in a minute solar system; we must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of all matter.” Max Planck, 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics
More and more people recognise that we now live in the age of energy. From the Internet to all forms of communication to energy medicine to quantum physics – the fact is we are now living in a world where at least half of what is influencing and controlling us is in energy form.
Watch Dr Bruce Lipton (Biology of Belief) explaining what is chi/qi and how environmental factors affect our biology and behaviour
Factors affecting chi
There are many factors affecting qi:
- environment / feng shui
- the global situation
So, feng shui can affect your chi and the chi of your environment, but it’s not the most important factor. Nelson Mandela was affected by the chi of his prison cell, but his personal chi and chi of others was the key influencer.
In feng shui, your qi is influenced by many things, such as light, colour, plants, shapes, the arrangement of furniture, etc. Together, these characteristics create the chi of the home and workplace. Chi is maximised when extreme environment characteristics (yin and yang) are in balance.
In quantum physics, there is the concept of the observer effect, which states that observing a situation or phenomenon changes that phenomenon. Some researchers suggest that consciousness is an informational field or morphic field in which all phenomenon takes place. Others suggest that we live in a holographic/virtual / matrix/simulation reality where we are the co-creators of this reality.
Qi as a frequency
All energy travels in waves or frequencies, and each element has its own frequency band. Recognising and enjoying a particular element opens our minds and hearts to the natural energy resonant with the element. Through this process of resonance, we begin to pull in. When a C note is played on the piano and a guitar is nearby, the guitar string automatically will begin to resonate and make a C sound. In a similar manner, as you feel natural energy, you can begin to resonate with all the frequency of nature and open yourself to increase your access to it. In a sense, each element is like a particular channel on TV. All of the stations are always being broadcast. When we turn to a new channel, we pick a different frequency. The frequency is always being sent out regardless of whether or not they are being picked up. When elements are rich and vibrant in pure natural energies, then these particular frequencies are awakened in you and you can begin to access these energies. A fresh rose, for example, is one of the most healing frequencies in nature (80/100 – hence the name of my feng shui school – The White Rose Feng Shui School).
“If a geomancer can recognise ch’i, that is all there is to Feng shui.”
Sarah Rossbach, author of Feng Shui Design
Scientific evaluation of qi
Chi has been publicised and studied by the Chinese government, and researchers suggest that the principal scientific view of chi is that it is a low-frequency magnetic field (Sun, 2012). Read this paper by Michael R Matthews on Feng shui and the scientific testing of chi claims. Spoiler alert: This paper is very critical of the whole concept of feng shui and qi in particular: “Chi explanations are incompatible with both a methodological and an ontological naturalist understanding of science.” states Mattews, probably the number one critic of feng shui (just read his book: Feng Shui: Teaching About Science and Pseudoscience (Science: Philosophy, History and Education) – an expensive read ie hardcover about £82 and Kindle £101! I’ve got it and read it – I should summarise it for you all one day:). But read it for yourself and let me know if Michael R Mattews hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
Learn to recognise chi
To find comfort, we are automatically attracted to situations that include the element we need most. Some people love to sit in the sun, while others enjoy long baths. This often is because one person needs more fire energy while another requires more water energy. When our hearts are open, we are attracted to what we need, and when our hearts are closed, we are repelled by the elements we need most. For example, when you’re depressed, you may dread going for a walk in nature when that is just the thing you need to do and your intuition is telling you to do so. “When it comes to your physical health – as well as the health of your life – your own intuition always alerts you to imbalances in your body, mind and spirit.” says Caroline Myss, so listen to your intuition.
How to measure chi
“Whatever cannot be measured, cannot be real.”, said Max Planck and then the management thinker Peter Drucker said: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Feng shui, in a nutshell, is about how to manage and moderate chi and chi flow. Many specific aspects of feng shui can be measured with different meters and instruments, for example, electromagnetic pollution and, therefore, solutions and ‘cures’ can be measured too. Other more subtle aspects, such as ‘predecessor chi’, which is a residue left by previous owners of the property, are more difficult to measure (although new developments in space conditioning offer hope of measuring it and changing it). And obviously, we use our senses to detect subtle energetic changes in our homes and workplaces. Also, our language can help us to identify if these sensory experiences are real or not. For example, if you say, ‘I feel the tension in the office’, you are probably right. On the other hand, if you say, ‘I think, there is tension in the office.’ – probably you were just imagining it. If, after installing a geopathic stress harmoniser and negative ions generator, you sleep better and have more energy in the morning – these interventions are most likely working and are real.
Electrical nature of life
In this introduction to the electrical nature of life, plasma, charge and chi – you can get a good overview of how chi fits into modern feng shui and the science behind it.
Dirty electricity affects our energy – watch the part where Paul talks about dirty electricity – from 1.03.