onsdag 20 april 2011

Misunderstanding the character qi, and then running with it

Qi is the tone that all of Chinese medicine is played around like chords in a beautiful piece of music. Qi is a very complex thing, and one of the major hurdles in thought between Chinese medicine and its much younger cousin the current version of Western medicine.

Since Western medicine is linked to Western science, and since Western science during the early 1800´s decided to start linking its knowledge to machines as measuring devices, this means that Western science is always locked at the current level of technological development. Any answer from research can only be ”As far as we can decide in this trial with the current equipment we have today as of 4.03 in the afternoon”. The full scope of qi is not measurable by technology yet. Maybe it will be some day.

Chinese medicine went the route of training its clinicians to consciously feel the various levels of qi and health in a human being, and to do so with great skill and precision. The system they work from is huge. It is based on experience, theory and research over 2500 years, on one of the largest populations on the planet. It is repeatable again and again, with different physicians following the same system. Like one of my teachers commented when we were discussing the Heart: ”They had bamboo models of the heart and how it pumped in China at 100 BC, but they never focused on this. I think that´s interesting. Instead, they went, yes, so it´s a pump, but what´s it really about? What´s in it?”

Many people who work with Chinese medicine make the mistake of excusing themselves to Western practitioners or Western medicine in general and adopt their language. Often this means they throw out qi as a concept, and treat ”health” or ”the nervous system” or similar things. A bit sad, but there you go. Chinese medical politics have actually veered towards this as a whole in China. Since the first university courses in Chinese medicine in China, after the ”cultural revolution”, Chinese policy seems to have made the choice of trying to adapt to the West and thus also to Western medicine. This has meant that in the universities, TCM is taught, not CCM: that is, chinese medicine as seen through a Western medicine lens instead of the old system in its entirety. Diagnosis is made in Chinese medical terms but through a Western medicine eye, and treatments work the same way. This then spread to the West, where it became – if possible – more watered down, and is now nearing the level of extinction.

Books have been written about qi, and uncountable texts over the past 2500 years of Chinese history. I´ll not go too deeply into it now, since it would make for a very, very long post.

The point was that different schools in the West teach this in different ways. I found out the official line of the course I´m at a few weeks ago, where a teacher informed us in no uncertain terms to ”not call qi ”energy”” but instead ”vitality”. There are indeed problems with the fact that New Age has taken the word ”energy” and, well, turned it into New Age, but adapting your language to something else usually means you have lost, unless it is very consciously done. Here it´s probably done partially to please the biomedical and academic side of the university. Pity. Adopting the language of an opponent means that they already won. Good Western science is not an opponent to good Chinese science, but the bad Western science I have met in scores surely, and unfortunately, is. To be fair, the fluffy, untrained New Age-version of things is as much of an enemy to CCM too. Adapting your thinking and language to please them is a long way down the slippery slope of losing skill and quality in Chinese medicine.

(Note: today we were berated by another teacher for calling it ”energy”. It should be called ”universal energy”. ”And still she turns”, as Galilei said.)

Qi has been mistranslated by many Western writers. Instead of the original meaning of ”energy”, as in the energy that makes things alive, as in the energy that is everything and exists at different frequencies of matter, it has been translated as ”breath”. So, all texts where you see ”breath” in relationship to a translated text on qigong, meditation or the Internal Martial Arts, substitute for ”energy”. Please. A panda that eats, shoots, and leaves, is dangerous. Remember: punctuation and good translation saves lives.

Qi contains both energy, vitality and some way of moving very complex information. It also weaves together with your mind, at several different, clearly defined levels, and into your organs and all through your body. It then weaves your being into the organic whole of the universe. All this, is what Chinese medicine have systemized, researched skills for, and aims to understand, diagnose, and help treat imbalances in.

Qi. Without it, you´re dead. With it, you can drink coffee.