A Fracture in the worldview

An article by Carsten Dohnke

(This article was published in the German Tao-magazine in 1995 and was later taken up by other magazines. The deeper meaning of Qi and a new way of looking at the world is the central theme of this article. After completing his sinology studies—focused on Chinese philosophy, history, and culture—Carsten wrote his master’s thesis on ‘Qi in ancient China’. At the end of his studies he visited and interviewed various experts, healers and taoist masters in the world. This research has changed his life and his view of the world fundamentally and lastingly.)

Qi is often described as the bridge between the material and spiritual realms. Carsten Dohnke shares research findings that vividly illustrate this notion. He highlights that these insights, if we are willing to truly absorb them into our consciousness, will fundamentally alter our worldview.

When my professor told me in 1990 that I should write my thesis not on a taoist text, but rather on the concept of “Qi,” I was disappointed. I replied, “The Chinese themselves aren’t exactly sure what Qi really is. What new discoveries could I possibly make?” The personal research and experiences of the following years significantly changed my perspective. Today, I not only believe that important things can be said about Qi, but what I want to convey in this brief article is the following: A more precise understanding of what Qi is and how it operates will bring about a profound change in our entire worldview. This applies not only to personal spheres but also to fields of science such as psychology, philosophy, religious studies, and medicine.

Most religious and esoteric teachings posit the idea that alongside the purely physical body, humans possess an energy system through which individuals connect with the cosmos. Indian and Chinese cultures have devoted significant attention to this idea, developing the Chakra-Nadi system in India and the Meridian system in China, each with different approaches and emphases. The Meridian system is more rooted in the physical realm compared to the Chakra system, which describes more ethereal aspects of existence.

In the underlying teachings of both systems, it is posited that a network of non-physical channels and centers within the human body is permeated by an energy not immediately detectable. In China, this energy is called Qi, while in India it is referred to as Prana. It is through the existence of this energy that a connection between the physical body and the rest of the universe is established. Thus, humans become a “manifestation of a universal energy and consciousness continuum.” According to this view, the physical aspect of humans is merely the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.” Furthermore, the notion of a separate self, existing apart from the external world, is pure illusion.

From a strictly scientific standpoint, this theory about human nature is considered “completely unproven.” It is absent from our textbooks and universities, has no influence on our traditional religious worldview, and plays a role in the daily lives of few individuals. This is partly because the non-physical dimension of life is difficult to prove—science distinguishes between belief and demonstrable facts. Additionally, it contradicts our entire worldview, which is why research in this direction is nonexistent in the Western world. Although modern quantum physics transcends the dualism of subject and object, it has little impact on humanities-related fields. Interestingly, most scientists engaged in modern physics still live their daily lives within a three-dimensional worldview. Only a few of them, for example, believe in telepathy or other difficult-to-explain phenomena.

Years of Research

In the West, humans are viewed as clearly delineated individuals, upon which all further thought is based. Descartes’ famous phrase “I think, therefore I am” is, from a Buddhist perspective, one of the greatest misconceptions of Western philosophy because it was formulated in a state of “ordinary consciousness,” wherein the illusion of a self always exists due to the deception of the senses. Consequently, Qigong exercises are often explained purely in medical terms: Qigong then becomes health gymnastics, accepted by health insurers and the Western medical community.

It is particularly noteworthy, then, that at the “Institute for Comparative Religion and Parapsychology” in Tokyo, unnoticed by Western science, research has been underway on the Chakra system, meridians, and Qi for 30 years. Similar research is also conducted in China and the former Eastern Bloc countries. However, what sets the Institute for Comparative Religion and Parapsychology apart is its focus on delving into the non-physical dimension of life. The aim of the research is to gain a deeper understanding of human nature and to elucidate the principles of spiritual evolution.

Dr. Motoyama, director and head of the institute, along with a team of scientists, has conducted countless parapsychological experiments over the years. Special measuring instruments were developed for the scientific documentation of these experiments. As I observed during a personal visit, the results are astonishing. Not only has the existence of the Chakra and Meridian systems been scientifically proven, but also their effects beyond the physical realm. An important finding is as follows: Many experiments have shown that individuals who have been meditating for a long time can consciously send Qi through their meridian system to another person. What makes these experiments unique is that they succeed even when both individuals are seated in different electromagnetically shielded rooms.

Therefore, Qi cannot be identical to electromagnetic or similar forms of energy, whose effects could be reconciled with our existing worldview. It is more of a medium that moves between matter and mind. It can support physical functions in the body by flowing through the various meridians. At the same time, it acts wherever directed by consciousness, independent of spatial distance and seemingly through a non-physical dimension that is still largely unknown to science.

This last point is often overlooked even by Chinese Qigong masters. They often explain the sending and receiving of Qi using the model of radio and television waves. However, the fact is that no form of wave traverses any distance; rather, Qi acts directly where the mind’s attention is focused. Herein lies a significant fracture in our worldview.

The scientific exploration of Qi is still in its infancy. Therefore, Dr. Motoyama, a scientist and recognized yoga master, can only formulate what remains to be explored as a thesis:  Based on the results of years of experimental series, it seems likely to him that genuine spiritual progress is accompanied by increased activation of the Chakra or Meridian systems. It does not matter which religious or esoteric tradition a person belongs to.

For Dr. Motoyama, spiritual experiences are thus more than purely mental phenomena; they leave traces in the human energy system and also affect the body. This does not necessarily manifest as externally visible vitality on the physical level. A virtuous mental attitude, which is sought after in many traditions through years of purification exercises and prayers and which is the central element of all religions, is expressed more in subtle changes in the whole being than in an increase in dynamism and life force.

Qi plays the role of a medium through which spiritual and religious experiences are made possible: it is the Qi through which consciousness acts in boundlessness. Dr. Motoyama writes: “

Consciousness possesses enormous power. It can—and does so unconsciously—directly connect us with the minds of other people and other material forms. It is not necessarily limited by the five senses, time, or space. Consciousness is a unifying totality, as mystics have asserted for a long time. The separating boundaries we experience in daily life are ultimately just illusions.“ (1)

 I hope that in the 21st century, we will see a further rapprochement between science and religions. It is important to preserve traditions, but at the same time it is also of global significance to arrive at a unified understanding of the true nature of existence beyond cultural and emotional interpretations. This can not only be helpful for individuals on their path through life, but can also avoid or at least minimise cultural and religious conflicts.  And it is helpful to be able to meet the coming challenges of humanity, which in my opinion can only be solved with a change in our consciousness as human beings and a more profound understanding of what life is and who we are.  Research into the meridians, chakras and qi can be an important key to this.

(1) Chakra-Physiologie (DE) / Theories of the Chakras (EN), Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama