Invisible Qi

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Scientists study the world with the basic assumption that any phenomena can be analyzed by breaking them down into smaller and smaller elements.

According to this paradigm, the physical sciences are concerned with analyzing physical phenomena. In biochemistry and related subjects such as molecular biology, biomedical phenomena are analyzed. Psychological phenomena are explained as a function of the physiology of nerves leading to and from the brain (Figure 5-2).

Material phenomena

Physical science



Psychological phenomena

The workings of the mind = the functioning of the brain and the neural system.

World view

A philosophy that argues that things can be completely explained by reference to their physical constituents (reductionism).

Figure 5-2

Objective paradigm.

Figure 5-2

Objective paradigm.

As soon as you go beyond this paradigm, you will encounter opposition. Needless to say, one of the most famous paradigm shifts in history occurred when Copernican theory replaced the Ptolemaic. As you know, Galileo Galilei faced great hardship.

My own "paradigm shift" in medicine occurred when I began to study Chinese medicine and to experience qi for myself. I ascertained then that the basic functioning of the human body and the onset of disease cannot be fully explained by Western medicine alone, with its focus on the functioning of the organs, and that the concept of qi basic to Chinese medical traditions is absolutely essential to understanding human health and disease (Figure 5-3).

Figure 5-3

An area of overlap in medical "reality."

Let me explain by way of analogy: An automobile is a machine built using the most advanced scientific technology. If something goes wrong with it, you disassemble it, and replace the broken parts. You can understand an automobile as an assemblage composed of all its necessary parts. This is just one example of reductionism.

The situation is quite different, however, when we consider the computer. You will never be able to observe what is involved in its drawing a picture or making a calculation, no matter how completely you disassemble the computer. Even if you use an electron microscope, you will only see circuits of thin lines.

This is because a computer is a totally different machine from any that has existed before. Information is processed by software, which is unseen. Mind, qi, or consciousness is like the software of a computer (Figure 5-4). Chinese medicine—including the qigong method— could be considered a system of techniques for utilizing the software or information essential to human beings.

Figure 5-4

Differences among machines, computers, and humans.

Software Information

Mind Qi


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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

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