Chapter II

Literature Review
     Many cultures define health and illness in the framework of the flow of vital energy through the body.  Illness is believed to result when the flow of energy is not in balance or is interfered with.  Among the more developed and medically effective applications of this concept are India's Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Many of the concepts of these two systems are very similar and share much in common as there is a long history of exchange of ideas and concepts between these two cultures.  TCM views illness as an imbalance of two types of energy yin and yang which simultaneously exist in everyone and everything and within each other.  "Ayurvedic theory states that all disease begins with an imbalance or stress in the individual's consciousness. Lifestyle interventions are a major Ayurvedic preventive and therapeutic approach." (1992 NIH)  Western culture long maintained a similar belief, inherited from the ancient Greeks, in the concept of the balance of the four humors in Hippocratic medicine.  This concept was passed into the New World and combined with other traditions in Latin America to evolve into the modern practice of curanderismo where things might be classified as:
...having qualitative (not literal) characteristics of hot or cold, dry or moist. According to this theory, good health is maintained by maintaining a balance of hot and cold. Thus, a good meal will contain both hot and cold foods, and a person with a hot disease must be given cold remedies and vice versa. Again, a person who is exposed to cold when excessively hot may "take cold" and become ill. 
(1992 NIH)

Another related Western idea was the theory of "animal magnetism" which was put forward by Parcelsus (1493-1541) who believed the stars influenced humans through some type of magnetic force and later Van Helmont (1577-1644) suggested each individual radiated a form of animal magnetism which influenced others (1992 Mind Power 40).  This background led to the growth of hypnosis in the work of Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) who "...theorized that the two halves of the human body acted like the poles of a magnet, and that illness was caused by an improper distribution of this magnetism" (1992 Mind Power  40).  And in our contemporary culture we have the tradition of mental healing also known as prayer or faith healing.
Prayer and mental healing techniques fall into two main types. In Type I healing, the healer enters a prayerful, altered state of consciousness in which he views himself and the patient as a single entity. There need be no physical contact and there is no attempt to "do anything" or "give something" to the person in need, only the desire to unite and "become one" with him or her and with the Universe, God, or Cosmos. Type II healers, on the other hand, do touch the healee and describe some "flow of energy" through their hands to the patient's areas of pathology. Feelings of heat are common in both healer and healee. These healing techniques are offered only as generalities. Some healers use both methodologies, even in the same healing session, and other healing methods could be described. There exist many published reports of experiments in which persons apparently were able to influence a variety of cellular and other biological systems through mental means. The target systems for these investigations have included bacteria, yeast, fungi, mobile algae, plants, protozoa, larvae, insects, chicks, mice, rats, gerbils, cats, and dogs, as well as cellular preparations (blood cells, neurons, cancercells) and enzyme activities. In human "target persons," eye movements, muscular movements, electrodermal activity, plethysmographic activity, respiration, and brain rhythms have been apparently affected through direct mental influence. (1992 NIH)
We shall focus on the traditional Chinese view and shall first discuss the traditional conception of this energy flow involving points (which can be stimulated both by external pressure acupressure and/or by acupuncture needles).  Secondly, meridians, consisting of groups of these points.  Thirdly, the division of these meridians into yin or yang (negative and positive).  Finally, the further division of the meridians further into a five element classification scheme.  After this conceptual groundwork has been applied we shall then turn to what Western science has to offer in way of explanation of the observed effects of this particular medical system and/or view.  The final topic to be covered will be the highest "development" of this world-view, in the practice of movement and breathing exercises known as Qigong, which claims to build one's life force and give one the ability to have some control over its flow.

Explanation of the TCM  concept of  human energy flow

Although most people assume that inert matter is completely solid or dense, it is energy that binds the protons, electrons, and neutrons within each individual atom.  Inanimate matter, then is simply energy at a different rate of vibration than most other forms of life.  Energy therefore is the absolute basis for all forms of life and matter in the universe.  (1985 Chang 57)
The vital force or energy that is seen to course through all of us is known as "Chi" or "Qi" in Chinese and "Ki" in Japanese.  There is no exact meaning or definition of this concept as it encompasses more than just vital force "everything in the universe, organic and inorganic, is composed of and defined by its Qi" (1983, Kaptchuck 35).
The concept of Ki can be further clarified by a metaphor first introduced by Locke (1989), who likens the energy within each of us to a two-headed match that emanates energy from both ends.  The bottom part is in our "center," the tanden, located approximately two inches below the navel.  Our center is eternally lit and emanates energy in the form of vibrations.  This concept allows us an avenue of  awareness of our bodies and gives us the eventual ability to control our physical selves within the confines of nature.  The other end of the match, our mind, is likewise lit and allows us knowledge and wisdom and to become aware of our mental potential and to cultivate these potentialities.  In Locke's metaphor, Ki can refer, on the one hand, to the physical power within, the intense power emanating from our center, a power controlling our movements.  The other end portrays another variation of Ki, the power of the mind, the power of consciousness, the piercing power of knowledge which leads to wisdom.  (1990 Seitz 462-463)
This view of Qi is then divided into the opposites of yin (negative) and yang (positive).  "Polarity is the most pervasive principle of the manifest material universe, providing the boundless dynamic force which makes the world go round" (1994, Reid 24).  "Without polarity material worlds and physical bodies could not exist, and without polar fields energy could not function, essence could not take form, and the rhythmic cycles of nature could not transpire" (24).  However, "there are no absolutes" and yin and yang must, necessarily, contain within themselves the possibility of opposition and change" (1983, Kaptchuk 8).  Thus, the Chinese "hypothesized the principles of Yin and Yang as the major philosophical counterparts revealing the phenomena of nature" (1986, Shen 134).  "From these principles, three systems were derived: the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water), the Zang Fu (internal organs), and the meridian system" (134).
     The five elements are a further division of the conceptual system that classifies things into a corresponding element.  However, the application of this system medically is "often too rigid to describe physiological functions accurately" and is at times ignored (1983, Kaptchuk 349).  The elements are arranged in a creative cycle (fire, earth, metal, water, wood) and a destructive cycle (fire, metal, wood, earth, water).  Generally, (in concert with the meridian system and yin and yang principle) the creative cycle is for increasing energy or tonification and the destructive cycle is used for lessening energy  or dispersion.  This application is used both for medical purposes and what in the martial arts is known as dim-mak (Chinese) or kyusho (Japanese).  The martial aspect is a particularly interesting one and, until recently, has long been kept secret, as one can use it to cause a knock-out or death with very little force (1994 Dillman 27-28).
     The flow of Qi through the body is seen to be via the meridian system composed of acupuncture points (also known as pressure points).  "The electrical conductance of skin at acupuncture points is normally higher than that of the skin in general" (1995 Cumunetti 328).  Electric current in the skin was orbitally studied in psychology and physiology in experiments where a weak electric current is applied to a point on the skin that is circuited, the electrical potential changes and the resulting wave is recorded on a graph (1993 Yasuo 113).  One application of this phenomenon is the lie detector.  "This phenomenon was discovered in the beginning of this century, and when Jung saw the experiment in its initial phase, he apparently remarked that the skin is a window to look into the unconscious" (113).
     These points and meridians are seen to be functionally related to corresponding internal organs.  Since there are several hundred acupuncture points "the Chinese classified them into twelve main groups and a few subsidiary ones" with each being assigned a relation to a particular organ function (1971 Mann 37).  Thus, when one speaks of an organ, in TCM, it is not in reference to the actual physical organ but the energy meridian it is seen to correspond to.  The energy is seen to flow from the ground up the front of the body and down the back with the front being yin and back yang.  The twelve meridians in the order of energy flow, along with their corresponding element and yin or yang state are the following:
                          Organ          Element          State
                         Lungs             Metal                Yin
                Large Intestine          Metal                Yang
                        Stomach          Earth                 Yang
                         Spleen             Earth                 Yin
                         Heart               Fire                   Yin
               Small Intestine           Fire                   Yang
                         Bladder           Water                Yang
                        Kidney             Water                Yin
                   Pericardium            Fire                  Yin
                Triple Warmer           Fire                  Yang
                  Gall Bladder           Wood               Yang
                        Liver                Wood                Yin
All of these are bilateral and occur on both sides of the body.  Eight additional meridians that serve as "energy reservoirs" exist that are very important for distributing energy to the other meridians.  The extraordinary vessels act as qi reservoirs and thus, do not have a set flow pattern. One of their main functions is to supply or tonify the twelve meridians with qi when any one of them has a shortage as well as to drain off or sedate qi when any of them has an excess.  Due to this functionality they have to be able to distribute qi flow in different directions.
     The pericardium is seen as a protective sheath around the heart and the triple warmer "is not a single self-contained organ, but rather a functional energy system involved in regulating the activities of the other organs" (1994 Reid 61).  You will notice a distinctive pattern of two organs with the same element designation but, opposite yin-yang "charges" and also that it is a circular flow that proceeds via a yin-yin (negative to negative) to yang-yang (positive to positive) cycle.  This is known as the diurnal cycle and the flow moves from one organ to another every two hours.
     Acupuncture points and their meridians when utilized as a medical treatment have also been described without the concept of the energy flow by Western science as follows:
The ways in which treatments involving acupuncture points are believed to work can be described in a scientific framework, e.g., stimulatation of nerves, counter irritation treatments, stimulation of the body to produce its naturally occurring chemical compounds, and belief.  Sometimes scientists can learn about the modality of effect by the speed at which the effect occurs, or about the influence of  belief by experimentation on animals (and some acupuncture treatments do in fact work on animals).  It is generally not considered necessary by most Western practitioners to invoke Chi as an explanation. 
(1995 Huston 41).

However the energy concept is not totally alien to the Western world view either:
Bioenergetic research is not unknown to western science. Harold Saxton Burr in 1935 described a system of electro-dynamic fields (1935 Burr).   He worked with the electromagnetic currents in the bodies of salamanders and then in humans which he finally named L-fields (life fields) (1973 Burr).   Robert Becker reconfirmed Burr's work and applied DC current to regenerating salamander tails
and healing human bone fractures. In his work with the National Institutes of Health (1992 NIH) Becker clarified that the perineural (nerve sheath) network is highly conductive (1985 Becker).  B.E.W. Nordenstrom has described theVascular interstitial closed circuit as a system of preferential ion conductance pathways comprising a network of biological circuitry (1983 Nordenstrom).  There is some suggestion that even more subtle energies resonate in the human system and may be projected over substantial distances. (1991Jahnke 22)
Such research has come to be known as bioelectromagnetics:
Bioeletromagnetics (BEM) is an emerging science that studies how living organisms interact with electromagnetic (EM) fields. Electrical phenomena are found in all living organisms, and electrical currents in the body can produce magnetic fields that extend outside the body. Those that extend outside the body can be influenced by external magnetic and EM fields. Changes in the body's natural fields may produce physical and behavioral changes. (1992 NIH)
TCM energy theory is also very similar to Franz Mesmer's belief that:
...disease and healing were part of natural cosmic law, and that space was filled with special 'animal magnetism' through which 'the magnetic influence of the heavens affects all parts of the body.'  Any interruption in the natural ebb and flow of this universal substance had a direct effect on the nerves, thus causing disease.
(1992 Mind Power 42)
As well the NIH informs us:
Modern theories of acupuncture are based on laboratory research conducted in the past 40 years. Acupuncture points have certain electrical properties, and stimulating these points alters chemical neurotransmitters in the body.  The physiological effects of acupuncture stimulation in experimental animals have been well documented, and in the past 20 years acupuncture has become an
increasingly established health care practice. An estimated 3,000 conventionally trained U.S. physicians have taken courses to incorporate   acupuncture in their medical practices. Acupuncture is one of the most thoroughly researched and documented of the so-called alternative medical practices. A series of controlled studies has shown evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of a
variety of conditions, including osteoarthritis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, asthma, back pain, painful menstrual cycles, bladder instability, and migraine headaches. Studies on acupuncture also have shown positive results in the areas of chronic pain management and in the management of drug addition, two areas where conventional Western medicine has had only a modicum of success.
(1992 NIH)
Regardless of whether Chinese or Western terminology is used to describe the functioning of the points and meridians, research shows that they have an effect on both humans and animals.
      The importance of the mind and its relation to disease, and thus energy flow, in traditional Chinese medicine can be seen in the fact that it believes that strong emotions can be unhealthy.  "It is only when an emotion is either excessive or insufficient over a long period of time, or when it arises very suddenly with great force, that it can generate imbalance and illness" and "internal disharmony can generate unbalanced emotional states" (1983 Kaptchuk 129).  "Thus, joy hurts the Xin (heart), its Qi being dissipated; anger harms the Gan (liver), its Qi increasing; grief harms the Fei (lung), its Qi Congealing; thinking harms the Pi (spleen), its Qi becoming stagnant; sorrow harms the Xinbao (pericardium), its Qi being weakened; fear harms the Shen (kidney), its Qi decreasing, and shock harms the Dan (gall bladder), its Qi becoming chaotic" (1986 Shen 135).
     This relation between the mind and illness has only recently received serious consideration by Western science.  A growing field that looks at this relation is psychoneuroimmunology, which studies the interactions between behavior, the brain and the immune system.  This field believes that the immune system controls neural function, and the central nervous system controls the immune system and "the existence of neural- immune interactions permits behavioral-psychological events to enter the matrix: if neural processes regulate immune processes, then there is a pathway by which psychological factors could impact immunity" and "conversely, if immune processes alter neural function, then they can also potentially impact on behavior, emotion, and thought" (1994 Maier 1005).  Thus, "there are a number of important relationships between immune, endocrine, and behavioral factors and most importantly, these relationships are not unidirectional" (1994 Laudenslager 760).  Chiropractors are beginning to use the emotional concept of Chinese medicine along with the psychoneuroimmunology theory to treat certain physiological disorders that are caused by emotions.  Scott Walker, D.C. is a leading proponent of this method and believes that "emotions are physiological rather than psychological" and "physiology of emotions is generally an arousal of the autonomic nervous system" and he also reminds us that "Pavlov was a physiologist rather than a psychologist" (1991 Amaro 6).  This method is not currently learned in chiropractor schools but, as part of their continuing education at seminars conducted by such people alker.  A local chiropractor I interviewed,  uses very similar technique to treat emotional imbalances and he can, as well, detect and correct energy imbalances.  The method that he generally uses to discover and correct such problems is called muscle testing and is based on applied kinesiology principles (see also 1991 Sancier 371, 1985 Diamond).
     The energy flow theory of points and meridians and their relation to the mind/body connection has been explained by Western science under the "Thalmic Neuron Theory" or TNT.  This theory is very similar to the view of psychoneuroimmunology and assumes that  the central nervous system (CNS) plays a role in all disease processes.  The theory states that "the CNS not only processes incoming physical and chemical information from the periphery, it also sends out physiological commands to the periphery in order to maintain homeostasis for the entire body" (1994 Lee 285).  Further, it states that disease is a result of the CNS's learning ability (pathological habituation) resulting in deranged central neural circuitries which leads to chronic disease states and these states "can be reversed by dehabituation through manipulation or modulation of the abnormal neural circuits by physical means (physical neurmodulation) like acupuncture, or chemical means (chemoneurmodulation) such as Chinese medicine, homeopathy or other modern medical techniques in a repetitious manner to mimic the habituation process" (285).  This theory results in five general principles:
1.  Every dysfunction arising from the periphery,....will either immediately or eventually lead to an equivalent derangement in the equivalent neural circuitries within the CNS.
2.  The CNS then responds by instituting corrective measures, resulting in the   normalization of these neural circuits which then correct the deficiencies in the diseased part of the periphery to end the disease process.
3.  If the normalization of the physiological programs embodied in the neural circuitries in the CNS is impaired, the initial derangement may remain status quo or can cause other neural circuits to go awry.  Hence the disease either stays chronic or progresses.
4.  Any event that can adversely affect any central circuitry is therefore capable of   inducing pathological changes, resulting in diseases.  Overly intense emotions such as anger, grief or fear can cause the central circuitries to malfunction.  ...Likewise, devastatingly strong physical stresses such as excessive heat, cold, humidity, etc. are equally capable of setting up neurophysiological derangements within the CNS.  These resultant malfunctions in the CNS can not only themselves cause physical illnesses, but can also set up such conditions as to increase the individual's susceptibility to other pathogenic processes.
5.  The CNS itself can also malfunction due to aberrant biochemical reactions stemming from say, genetic diseases like manic depression, Huntington's, chorea, etc. (286).
The theory also recognizes meridians but, states they only exist in the brain and do not exist in the periphery and are buried deep in the CNS and that "chi is nothing more than neural transmissions" (288).  These transmissions can be felt "since spontaneous neural discharges do occur along these meridian pathways centrally" and "are equivalent to the flow of chi and can sometimes be felt subjectively as a sensation traveling along these pathways on the body surface" (288).  Mann, lends some support to some aspects of this role of the CNS when he states, "in some places the course of meridians follows the pathways of nerves or the position of dermatomes, in others it does not" and "in most (but by no means all) instances a neurological explanation fits in with more of the observed facts than with the hypothetical meridians" (1971 228).


     Breathing and movement exercises to build and control Qi have been developed and claim great therapeutic benefits.  These exercises are known as "Qigong" or "Chee Kung" in Chinese and "Kiko" or "Ki Atsu" in Japanese and have much in common with Indian Yoga.  Qigong is one of the five branches of TCM along with acupuncture, massage, herbology, and nutrition.  The exercises are of two types, active qigong and passive qigong.  Active qigong has obvious movement and looks like a dance whereas passive qigong  focuses on the internal and breathing.  Thus, active qigong is more like exercise and passive qigong is more like mediation but, it is not a rigid classification and there are overlaps between the two; as in the yin and yang principle there is some of each in both.  Breathing is the most important aspect of this art because "to the Chinese air was non- material and could therefore only be a vehicle for the forces of energy" (1971 Mann 49).  Qigong defined as "manipulation of vital energy, '...has been practiced in China for thousands of years" and "it is based on the premise that 'Qi,' or 'vital energy,' is a life force which runs throughout the body and can be developed and directed by Qigong exercises" (1986 Psi Research 40).
     "The cure of disease is said to be due to the effects of Qi, which under the influence of mind conduction, flows along the meridians and attacks the diseased site" and "Qi also operates systematically to moderate the human body's immunological functions" (1986 Shen 139).  "In respect to mind-body effects, "medical practitioners "clearly understood the value of Qigong in treating certain diseases" (138).
     The Thalmic Neuron Theory explains this benefit as a result of:
The peripherally originated stimulations from the breathing apparatus, together with the imagery-induced, neocortex-originated stimulations on the composite homunucleus, stimulate the respiration related neural circuitries and drive the chi or neural transmissions along these channels, normalizing and strengthening the neuronal functions along the way to maintain harmony or hemeostasis for the
entire body...(1994 Lee 298)
Or, in plain English, "internal chi drives respiration and respiration drives internal chi" (1994 Lee 298).
     Even if one rejects qi theory it is still accepted by skeptics that qigong has health benefits and they explain it's benefits as follows:
Since such exercisers generally include a mixture of low-impact isometrics and stretching exercises, the physical health benefits should be obvious.  As for mental and spiritual benefits, these can be explained in two ways.  One is  the simple fact that regular exercise is good for one's mind and promotes a feeling of physical well-being.  More interesting perhaps is the proved effect that meditative- type mental-relaxation exercises can have on one's health.  It has been proved that if one forces one's mind to relax, then one's blood pressure, respiratory rate, and so on, are reduced.  (1995 Huston 41)
Qigong much like yoga involves stylized poses with meditation , stretching and breath exercises.  The qigong exercises include various mind and body conditioning techniques which can probably best be summed up as starting out with easy tasks and building up to very extreme tasks over a period of months and years.   There are qigongs designed for health, longevity and martial arts.  The martial applications were noticed as side effects of the other types and further refined.  Health qigong is used to treat certain conditions and prevent others.  A qigong master is able to use his life energy to help others, similar to reiki or therapeutic touch.  Longevity qigong is used to slow the metabolic processes of the body to extend life. Various forms of martial arts qigong exist and are generally divided into two groups the external or hard styles and internal or soft styles.  Many of the qigongs overlap one another in their intended purposes.  For example a martial qigong known as Lin Kong Jing (powerful empty force) is trained in to develop the qi to the point where aggressors can be repelled without physical contact yet, this also gives the qigong practitioner a stronger external qi healing ability.  In Japan Kozo Nishino practices a qigong which produces similar results except he combines the martial application and healing application by "repelling" his clients to strengthen their qi.  Observers see this as similar to magnets repelling each other [reminicent of the animal magnetism theory] while clients say it feels good and strengthens their qi (1995 Neff 60).  One client, Masaaki Morita, an engineering graduate, commented on the repelling: "I don't particularly want to fly, but I fly" (60).  At a Lin Kong Jing seminar conducted by Richard Mooney, in which I was a participant observer, I noted a very similar response by many of the participants as they appeared to be involuntarily pulled forward and pushed back by qi.
     Several types of Qigong practice are recommended for different conditions and among the more widely practiced styles in China are the following:
1) The Relaxation Exercise (Fang Song Gong).  This type of Qigong is the most popular and easiest to learn.  In some ways it is similar to the Western relaxation response advocated by Herbert Benson.  It is useful in the treatment of a variety of conditions including hypertension, glaucoma, peptic ulcer, spastic colitis, and asthma.
2) The Internal Cultivation Exercise (Nei Yang Gong).  This technique emphasizes the cultivation of Qi and methods of directing the Qi to the Dan Tien point (umbilical region) or the Yang Quan (middle of the sole of the foot), from which Qi is transferred into the Dan Tien, accumulating vital energy.  This is effective in treating weak and
asthenic persons.
3) New Qigong Therapy (Guo Lin Gong Fa).  This is a special type of Qigong in which  patients are taught to exercise while walking and breathing simultaneously.  Different speeds are recommended for different diseases.
4) Crane Circling Exercise (He Xiang Zhuang).  This method comprises five segments of dynamic exercise (Zhan Zhuang).  The technique stresses calm and relaxation, and the exercises easily lead the patient into the Qigong state. Some negative side effects have been reported from people using this technique.
 5) The Induction Dynamic Exercise.  This is a kind of motion exercise generated from the dynamics of Qi.  The exercise enables a patient to perform a dance or acrobatic pattern far more expertly than he or she could carry it out without being in the Qigong State.  It is indicated for certain motor dysfunctions and arthritic disease, and it helps athletes and dancers to perform more efficiently than usual. (1986 Shen 139).
"In spite of these differences, there are common principles to which every type of Qigong has to adhere: mind moderation, body moderation, and breathing moderation" (1986 Shen 139).  This leads to the ability to feel Qi and to direct it to specific areas with many qigong systems seeking to complete a circuit between the conception and governing meridians (the centerline front and back of the body) which is known as the small heavenly circulation.  "An individuals sense that the flow of Qi is small or large will vary according to how intensely the patient is practicing Qigong" (139).
     Not only is the practice of Qigong believed to be beneficial but, if one gains enough experience with the control of Qi and becomes a master then you can possibly use your Qi to heal others.  It apparently seems that healing improves your ability to effectively control your Qi, because "it is of the utmost importance for the advanced Qigong practitioner to exercise Qi" (1986 Shen 139).  This healing concept is very similar to that proposed by Franz Mesmer who believed "the healers function was to restore balance by acting as a human magnet and channeling the vital force to the affected area" (1992 Mind Body 42).  Mesmer "discovered that he could improve his patients' conditions simply by passing his hands over their bodies and downwards towards their feet...he decided that his own body must be a magnetic channel" (1992 Mind Body 40).  This described method of healing is nearly the same as that practiced by Qigong healers (and many other types of "energy" healers) when they "treat" patients.

Cross Cultural Concepts of Life Energy

From the practice of Qigong it is also believed one can begin to acquire special "powers" that are a by-product of the training.  "Cross-cultural commonalities exist within the methods practitioners advocate for developing psychic abilities.  Procedures associated with sensory restriction or overload are often used (Mishlove, 1983)" (1993 McClenon 113).  "All over the world, individuals seeking altered states of consciousness constructed cosmologies based on the inner worlds they 'discovered'..." and "they found that special mental exercises increased the incidence of anomalous experience" (114).  Contemporary meditators recall similar experiences; a Chinese student states:
I have no idea whether qigong [meditation] can give me the sixth sense.  But ...there is indeed an unnamed "gas" [qi] functioning inside the body.  When playing qigong you can really feel entirely visionary and detached.  (114)
"The modern parapsychological theory coincides with that of the yogis: extrasensory information is like a signal lost in the noise of normal human consciousness; if this noise is reduced, the signal can be received more clearly (Honorton, 1977)" (114).  "Parapsychological research literature supports belief in a psychic capacity to affect another's physiological state and various experiments indicate that gifted healers may benefit their clients paranormally (Broughton, 1991; Edge et al., 1986)" (120).
     The !Kung San of Africa's Kalahari Desert see life energy as num which stored in the lower abdomen and at the base of the spine and can be made to boil through dance and healers can project healing nun or pull sickness out of the ill (1997 Cohen 24).  !Kung Shamans are the masters or owners of the num and shoot arrows of nun into students bodies to help them achieve the proper state of consciousness (24).  The Australian aborigines cultivated life energy as a form of healing and spiritual power and those that had this energy were seen to be able to communicate telepathically (24-25).  "In Voices of the First Day, a classic of aboriginal spirituality, author Robert Lawlor notes that, like the Chinese, the aborigines concentrated on an energy center four inches below the navel,..." (25).  Native American tribes also use the subtle healing energy concept.  "The Navajo say that the Winds (nilch'i) gave life to human beings and all of nature" (25).  "In SiSiWiss, 'Sacred Breath,' an indigenous healing tradition from the Puget Sound region of Washington State, healers project power to their patient through dance, song and laying on of hands" (25).  In Hawaii, powerful healers are known as Kahuna Ha, "Masters of the Breath," absorb their power from places in nature, dancing, and deep breathing exercises (25-26).  This Hawaiian practice, known as Huna utilizes the vital life energy it calls mana in its healing rituals. In Mexico the practitioners of curanderismo see life energy in a similar way to qigong practitioners as seen in the following:
...all persons, animals, and certain objects can either emit or absorb vibrating energy (vibraciones).  This vibrating energy can either be positive or negative in both form and effect. ....According to this theoretical premise, illness can be considered as a concentration of negative forces within a person's body.  These negative forces, depending on their origin and their purpose, can effect a person
 physically, mentally, or socially.  In their efforts to restore their patients' health, the curanderos use material objects to manipulate these vibrations, thus altering or correcting the patient's surrounding force field. (1997 Trotter & Chavira 63)
"North of the Himalayan Mountains the cultivation of the Qi is called Qigong.  South of the Himalayan Mountains energy cultivation is called Pranayama, an aspect of Yoga. (1991 Jahnke 11)"  The Indian concept is thus, very similar to the Chinese; the energy is seen to flow in meridians known as Nadis and the pressure points are known as marma.


The application of the Western scientific method and Western allopathic medicine to examine the benefits of Qigong specifically has been undertaken only recently.  As Qigong has breathing exercises as a major component there are some Western studies that have documented the benefits of breath.
 The Framingham Study on risk factors for cardiac disease, completed in 1970 [sic]  by the National Heart and Lung Institute, found that decreased vital repiratory capacity (breath volume in relation to tissue uptake) was directly associated with increased mortality (1970 Kannel).  In Australia an extensive 13 year study completed in 1983 which measured similar parameters of long life, demonstrated
 that respiratory capacity was 'a powerful determining variable', more significant in predicting longevity than tabacco use, insulin metabolism or cholesterol levels
(1983 Cullen et al).  (1991Jahnke 23)
As would be expected China took the lead in researching this area of its cultural heritage.  "In 1978 a new policy was announced by the Chinese government to scientifically research Qigong and thousands of people began practicing Qigong and scientists began to conduct research with Qigong masters" (1986 Shen 138).  "Advancement of Qigong practice and research achievements eventually stimulated the governments approval of the establishment of the Chinese Society of Qigong Science and Research in April 1986" (138).  The Ministry of International Trade & Industry in Japan has a committee examining practical uses of qi energy (1995 Neff 60).  The Chairman of this Committee, Professor Shigemi Sasaki, reveals that more than ten companies are paying for qi research at Tokyo's University of Electro-Communications (60).  The consumer electronics corporation Sony has a research team on the qi question as well (60).
It is a well-known fact that the human body and living organisms are endowed with energy activities such as bioelectricity.  Broadly speaking, the measurements of brain waves and the electro-potential of the skin are a kind of biophysical measurement.  ....The research which has thus far been performed on the human body, however, is limited to the study of the internal mechanism of the human body, using the skin as a boundary, as it were. Chinese scientists, going one step further, started to study the field of energy activity created outside of the human body.  Theoretically, it was probable that if there was an electric phenomenon inside of the human body, then it would have a certain activity outside of the human body. (1993 Yasuo 132-133)
Some of the more "exotic" research conducted on Qigong has the appearance of impossibility and magic about it unless one observes it from the perspective of Einstein's theories of relativity and quantum mechanics which have lead to modern discoveries which suggest psi phenomena might have some scientific merit and that "whatever the utlimate nature of reality, it seems at least that everything in the universe might be connected in ways that we do not yet fully comprehend" (1992 Mind Power 109).  Such ideas as quantum mechanical theory and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle can be related to Qigong research as explained in the following:
Eastern thought sees men as integral to the universe, no more important nor less important than anything else.  Furthermore, as a part of it, he is involved in it, and it in him.  He is a part of nature studying itself.  This insight is shared by many western [sic] scientists, including quantum physicists and people such as Carl Jung, the psychologist who has done so much to bridge the gap, in every sense,
between the two hemispheres [especially with his concept of synchronicity]. (1988 Page 108-109)
Evan Harris Walker and Helmut Schmict are among the physicists who have "observation theories" that link psi phenomena, such as that claimed by some qigong practitioners and researchers, to quantum physics (1992 Mind Power 109).  "Walker has described consciousness as the brain linking with the external world via the senses to form a kind of quantum mechanical system (1992 Mind Power 109).  The work of Dr. "Hal" Puthoff with the concept of zero-point energy (explained below) has lead to some interesting ideas of the universe as a "sea of energy" which might be tapped for many uses some of which could be considered psi phenomena as explained in the following:
Throughout mankind's cultural history there has existed the metaphysical concept that man and cosmos are interconnected by a ubiquitous, all-pervasive sea of energy that undergirds, and is manifest in all phenomena.  This pre-scientific concept of a cosmic energy goes by many names in many traditions, such as ch'i, ki or qi (Taoism), prana (yoga), mana (Kahuna), barakah (Sufi), elan vital (Begsonian metaphysics), and so forth. Complementary to the above metaphysical concept, contemporary physics similarly posits an all-pervasive energetic field called quantum zero-point energy, a random, ambient fluctuating energy that exists even in so-called empty space. (The adjective zero-point means that such energy or activity exists even at a temperature of absolute zero where no thermal agitation effects remain.) is now understood that vacuum fluctuation effects play a central role in large-scale phenomena of interest to technologists as well, such as the enhancement or inhibition of spontaneous emission (the process, for example, by which we see the environment), the generation of short-range attractive forces between closely- spaced materials, and the possibility of extracting useful energy from vacuum fluctuations, the "Holy Grail" of energy research. Should we further consider the possibility the such random vacuum energy might be subject to influence by consciousness or intention, then, given that it is well understood by physicists that a restructuring or "cohering" of vacuum energy would have physical consequences for matter, animate or inanimate, such could provide a rational basis for psychokinesis, healing or other processes that are part and parcel of the pre-scientific view.  (1997 Puthoff i)
     The medical usefulness of Qigong is still a matter of dispute and much of the research tends to focus on the healing power of masters rather than the benefit of practicing the exercises.  However, research has shown "some substantial evidence of the function of Qigong" in many experiments (1986 Shen 140).  "In China, organic and functional Qigong-treatable diseases, documented in publications include: essential hypertension coronary heart disease, rheumatic heart disease,  heart arrhythmia, asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease silicosis, peptic ulcer, chronic hepatitis, spastic colon, hemorrhoids, myopia, headache, dizziness, neurasthenia, mild and moderate cases of myasthenis gravis, and subacute and chronic stages of stroke" (139).    Some research suggests that there can be more than a single manifestation of Qi which would be in accord with the yin and yang conception of the theory.  "Two kinds of external Qi, functionally speaking, were suggested by Feng; that which depresses the growth of coliform bacillus has a destructive effect, and that which promotes growth has an enhancing effect" (1986 Shen 140).
Other experiments conducted with Chi-Kung therapy demonstrated the tremendous and rapid efficaciousness toward sinus allergies, hemorrhoids, prostrate gland problems, and aging.  In the hospitals, clinics and health organizations of China, Chi-Kung therapy is chief among the other treatments, such as chemical therapy, surgery, and acupuncture.  Chi-Kung therapy cures and prevents diseases, whereas
the other treatments only treat diseases." (57)
Researchers have reported that after Qigong treatment the following effects were observed:  "Changes in the way light was diffracted through liquid crystal, after a Qigong master sent his Qi to it for 15 minutes, from a distance of 10-50 cm;...a 60-80% reduction in the number of bacteria, about a 30% reduction in cervical cancer cells, and about a 50% reduction in influenza viruses after a Qigong master performed exercises around petri dishes and test tubes containing them" (1986 Psi Research 40-41).  One of the more interesting phenomena is the occurrence of Bigu "a state in which a person maintains a normal life with little or not intake of food and water" subsisting chiefly on the energy or qi taken from the environment (1997 Lu 247-248).  The Chinese Military Academy of Medicine has studied this "state" and a Medical Anthropology Ph.D. candidate I corresponded with was attempting to get funding to study a group of individuals in a Bigu state.
     Cancer has been one of the most commonly "cured" forms of disease by qigong.  "The simple truth is that every style of chi gong adheres to three principles: (a) achieving a state of tranquility, (b) relaxation and release of tension, (c) commitment and development of willpower" (1990 Dong 90).  These principles are important factors in fighting cancer.  Leshan (1977) has advocated psychological elements in cancer causation since the fifties.  External qi has as well been documented as being effective against cancer.   "Recently in a preliminary experiment, Chen demonstrated that the external Qi of a Qigong master could depress the growth of cultured BEL 7402 human liver cancer cells" and other researchers have "revealed that external Qi directed at peripheral blood in vitro can induce increase of plasma cAMP and can enhance the phagocytic function of macrophages" (1986 Shen 140).  Dr. Feng Li-da, vice- president, General Hospital of the Chinese Navy, Bejing, and professor of immunology, Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has reported the following:  "by transmitting external chi for one minute, a chi gong expert can destroy 90 percent of colon and dysentery bacilli, and in ten minutes 60 percent of a flu virus" and "in sixty minutes, the rate of destroyed uterine cancer cells is also around 60 percent, and that of destroyed gastric cancer cells 25 percent" (1990 Dong 96).  Dr. Pao Long published a study in Guolin Research Report involving 2,873 terminal cancer patients that participated in an experiment where qigong therapy was used to treat them.  "Within a six-month period, 12% of the patients were cured and 47% showed significant improvements in their conditions" and "41% showed no improvement"  (1985 Chang 57).
     Anti-aging effects of qigong have been noted by several researchers.  Xu Hefen and associates at the Jiangsu Provincial Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine conducted a study with 200 retired workers, aged 52-76, who were divided into a qigong group and a control group of nonpractitioners, each consisted of 50 men and 50 women (1993 Hefen 137). The qigong group practiced qigong, self-massage, and relaxation for one year at least half an hour every day.  Results reported were that active levels of the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) increased dramatically in their experiment group for both males and females compared with controls (p<0.001) (1993 Hefen 137).  SOD protects the cells from superoxide damage which can cause aging of body tissues resulting in wrinkling, skin pigmentation changes, and joint damage; and it may induce cancer and other immune system disorders (1980 Greenwald 455-63).  In a similar experiment at the Shanghai Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Shanghai Qigong Institute researchers reported a significant increase in SOD in 116 subjects after two months of qigong training (1990 Ming 32, 1991 Sancier 369).  This study also measured estrogen levels from a sample, each of  27 subjects, chosen from the control group and the experiment group.  Comparison showed no change among the controls but,  in the qigong group estrogen levels increased for women and decreased for men (32).  Similar results were obtained by Ankun and his group with his data suggesting "Qigong exercises play an important role in establishing homeostasis of sex hormones..." (1991 Ankun 157).
     Hypertension and its relation to aging has been the subject of long term qigong research.  Qigong helps to adjust the autonomic nervous system helping relaxation which inhibits the sympathetic nervous system while the parasympathetic nervous system returns to the normal condition thus, "the parasympathetic nervous system helps to slow down heart rate and normalize hypertension" (1993 Lee 12).  Wang and his group found 16 patients with high blood pressure felt better by practicing qigong as compared to just taking a rest and their blood pressure was significantly reduced by this practice rather than simply taking a break (1990 Wang).  The Shanghai Institute of Hypertension conducted a 20 year study on 204 hypertensives in which qigong practitioners demonstrated stable, lowered blood pressure along with alleviation of other disorders of age such as diabetes and coronary heart disease when compared to controls (1991 Ankun 155).  "In the Qigong group of 104 cases, effective results at consecutive stages (5, 10, 15, and 20 years of follow-up) stabilized in 85-90.02% of the patients as against 66.67- 69.07% in the control group" demonstrating Qigong as an effective treatment (P<0.01- 0.001) (154).  The qigong group and control group were both given small dosages of antihypertenisive drugs and follow-up analyses demonstrated 47.70% of the qigong group reduced intake due to stabilized BP, while 30.85% of the control group increased dosage (154).  The researchers found that "the significant difference (P<0.05) between the two groups indicates that long term Qigong exercises can hinder the development of cardiovascular lesions and slow up the aging process" (155).  Xianbiao of Xiamen University conducted a six month study of 204 hypertensives divided into qigong and control groups with both groups receiving dosages of antihypertensive drug.  Results in the qigong group showed decrease of DBH with increase of HDL plasma cholesterol and improved blood viscosity and platelet aggregation abnormalities (1991 Sancier 369).  "A 6-year follow-up showed that the clinical effectiveness of treating hypertension was 87+3% and 68+1% for the two groups respectively" (369).
     Research is ongoing to determine if emitted Qi from Qigong masters has any actual physical effect.  "Biofeedback research has now made it clear that consciousness can control various physiological functions, not only brain waves, but also the electric response of the skin and the heartbeat, including blood volume" (1993 Yasuo 59).  "Researchers at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai have shown that human energy displays electromagnetic properties when flowing within its own meridians, but takes on characteristics of light energy, somewhat similar to lasers, when emitted out from the body through the hands" (1994 Reid 262).  This "emission of the external Qi has proved to be closely related to mind conduction" (1986 Shen 140).  This Qi "beam of energy projected from the healer's hands traveled over distances of 26-165 yards without a drop in power" and "penetrated 4 inches of leather, 2 inches of wood, 2 inches of brick, and two sheets of iron" (1994 Reid 262).  "Recently, Lu and his group, using liquid crystal and a He-Ne Laser instrument have demonstrated that 7 out of 14 Qigong masters emitting external Qi were able to produce double-beam refraction while directing their palm toward the liquid crystal.  Different strengths of Qi from the Qigong masters have produced different degrees of double refraction" (1986 Shen 140; 1986 Psi Research 40).  Lu and his group have also measured the effects of external qi (emitted by qigong master Dr. Yan Xin) on tap water, 0.9% saline, 50% glucose solution, and 1.5 mg/ml medemycine solution using a SPEX 1403 laser Raman spectrometer; their measurements lead them to conclude that external qi influenced the structures of these solutions (1997 Lu 325-338, also in Ziran Zazhi (The Nature Journal) in Chinese, vol. 11, pp. 567-571, 1988).  Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) was used to examine the effect of external qi on phase transition of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline (DPPC) liposome (artificial lipid membrane) with the result that a new large thermal absorption step was induced at 46 degrees C or 51 degrees C with the new step being ten times larger than the original phase transition absorption peak of 41.5 C (1997 Lu 339-344, also in Ziran Zazhi (The Nature Journal) in Chinese, vol. 11, pp. 572-573, 1988).  External qi's effect on the absorption of UV light of calf thymus DNA and yeast RNA was measured using a Swiss KONTRON UVIKON, Model 860 demonstrating "varying extents of the hyperchromic effect, which could be caused by the breaking of hydrogen bonds in the nucleic acid chains" (345-353, also in Ziran Zazhi (The Nature Journal) in Chinese, vol. 11, pp. 647-649, 1988).  The effect on a syngas system (H2  +CO) demonstrated that CO2 could be produced at room temperature by external qi (355-362, also in Ziran Zazhi (The Nature Journal) in Chinese, vol. 11, pp. 650-652, 1988).  Emitted qi was able to affect the bromination of hexane causing a color change when it was directed at a mixture of bromine and n-hexane kept at room temperature and insulated from light (363-371, also in Ziran Zazhi (The Nature Journal) in Chinese, vol. 11, pp. 653-655, 1988).  This effect was also observed when qi was applied from remote distances and controls demonstrated no color change.  One of the more astounding experiments, that requires a firm belief in quantum mechanics, documented qigong master Dr. Yan Xin changing the radioactive decay rate of  americium isotope 241 (measured using a flat-surface type high purity germanium gamma spectrometer, model GLP 44510/15) (373-386, also in Ziran Zazhi (The Nature Journal) in Chinese, vol. 11, pp. 809-812, 1988).  This is very significant as "the decay rate of a radioactive source is usually extremely stable and cannot be altered even by such physical or chemical processes as high temperature, high pressure, high electromagnetic field, strong acid, or strong base"(385).  This experiment as well documented the ability of the isotope to be effected from distances of 100 meters to 1900 kilometers.  In another related experiment the half-life of americium 241 was changed and ultraviolet absorption of deionized water was effected when Dr. Yan Xin emitted qi from the United States directed to the experiment in Beijing, China, a distance of over 10,000 kilometers (387-399, also in ZhonghuaQigong(China Qigong) in Chinese, vol. 1, pp. 4-6, 1993).
     Various methods are employed to detect and measure the external manipulation of Qi.  "Koo reported that so-called external Qi emitted by highly experienced Qigong masters can be detected using an infrared radiation receiver" and he identified it as "low frequency infrared radiation" (1986 Shen 140).  Another method employed "an AGA 750 Thermal Image Instrument" to measure "thermal image change in the arm and hand of a Qigong master exercising Qigong" it was observed that "temperature rose 2 to 4 degrees centigrade while the image of the flow of Qi linked up in a line much more marked and much clearer than prior to exercising Qi" (140).  Both the thermal and image change disappeared and reverted to the original state when Qi flow was stopped and "in healthy persons, this phenomenon did not appear, no matter which procedure a person was taught to perform" (140).
Wang discusses the biological effects of infrared radiation.  First, the thermal effect is produced by far infrared radiation.  Second, the nonthermal effect is produced by near infrared radiation.  Third, absorption and penetration of infrared radiation are influenced by pigmentation of skin, degree of reflection and distal permeability. (140)
Wang used a lithium fluoride crystal or LiF(Mg, Ti) themoluminescent dosimeter with a positive response to measure the presence of a "qi-field" at a qi-emitting lecture conducted by qigong master Dr. Yan Xin (1997 Lu 315-324, also in Proceedings of the Second National Academic Conference on Qigong Science, Qingdao, China, August, 1988, in Chinese).
     Applications for qigong have been found for pilots of military aircraft.  A qigong maneuver (Q-G) has been developed for use in experiments by the Chinese Air Force for dealing with high G-stress.  "The experimental results showed that, when performing the Q-G maneuver, even during high G-stress, the intrathoracic pressure remained negative or marginally positive, being close to resting values" (1992 Zhang et al. 801).  "So the Q-G maneuver, owing to its respiratory characteristic, might solve the incompatibility between the oxygen systems of aircraft and anti-G maneuvering" (799).
     Research on animals has been conducted to attempt to eliminate psychological influences in experiments with emitted qi.  Anesthetized cats and rabbits were recorded for EP and EEG as a qigong master emitted qi and was able to change both readings (1991 Sancier 370).  One experiment on rats has suggested that emitted qi can damage tumor cells and inhibit their growth.  The qi treated rats:
...1) were healthier and more active, 2) their tumors could be excised more readily, 3) their tumor volume and mass were less were less (e.g., 1.32 g compared with 2.2 g for control (p<0.01), 4) the number of tumor cells per unit area of examination were less (p<0.01-0.001), 5) the areas of necrosis and bleeding of the tumors were greater, suggesting that the tumor cells were being killed, 6) their hemoglobin content was much higher (p<0.01), 7) their tumor growth rates and metastasis were slower, 8) their peripheral lymph nodes were larger and more abundant (3 or 4 compared to 2 or 3 for the control), 9) their spleens were more normal and cells in these organs were in a more active regenerative state, 10) infiltration of their lymph cells into the tumors were more obvious, and a number of irregular macrophages were found in the lymph sinus, and 11) visual inspection revealed differences in color.  (1991 Sancier 373)
Research on plants has, as well, shown some interesting results.  An experiment with rice (Japanese indica) had the following results:  "1) the percentages of seeds that germinated were generally greater for the Qi-treated seeds than for those of the controls, and 2) significantly greater germination rates occurred when the seeds had been Qi-treated in the time periods of 08:00-08:30 and 16:00-16:30" (1991 Sancier 375-376).
     The following issues have been raised with regard to problems in some of the research coming out of China:
a)Too few subjects, no controls, not enough control subjects or           not controlling those variables that can be controlled...
b)Not enough testing of qigong against other modalities....
c)How to measure competence?... [of the teacher or healer]
d)Vested interests....
e)Unconfirmed diagnosis and cure....
f)Vague or outdated diagnostic labels....
g)Sloppy reporting of procedure.... (1997 Cohen 349-350)
Fortunately, the situation is improving and research is being conducted more extensively in the U.S. which should yield more acceptable results and standards for the scientific community.  With some of the more esoteric claims this is apparently quite necessary as many of the claims leave Westerners with the cultural impression of "I'll believe it when I see it."


The concept of the energy system of the body has resulted in many applications and practices.  There are many ways of conceiving of this life-force whether it be as Qi or as nerve transmissions it still involves some type of bioenergy.  This concept is certainly worthy of more rigorous investigation by Western science and medicine.  The concept of this life force can have very tangible results in many areas as stated by Tart:
If ki is nothing more than an imagined picture, a deliberate but arbitrary visualization, the forms in which we image it should be almost unlimited, since we can imagine almost anything.  The fact is, though that visualizing ki as something fluid that is flowing freely, while subjective, has objective effects ...Images, the subjective, can be a very effective way of guiding your body.  So in some ways, ki is subjective and imaginary, but it can be an effective use of imagination. especially if the visualization is strong and appropriate.  By analogy, the electrical flow comprising the program in a computer is subtle and
 subjective compared to the solid reality of the hardware.  Without a correctly written program to guide it, though, the hardware doesn't do anything useful. (1987 343)
The traditional Chinese system may have much to offer and teach to Western science and medicine that we are only now beginning to learn and independently confirm.  The system is based on very long periods of observation of the human condition and much of the information is difficult to access because it is very intertwined with the diverse and complex culture in which it evolved.
Western philosophy and science since the modern period have developed while focusing on the physical world as external in nature.  In contrast, traditional philosophy and science in East Asia developed as a kind of practical anthropology to actualize the original human nature latent in the mind and body. (1993 Yasuo 188)
We are beginning to untangle beneficial practices from the superstitions and legends that accompany traditional cultural contexts, such as healing systems, and often explain them to suit our Western scientific belief model.  However, we must be wary of the danger involved in such an ethnocentric undertaking so that, in the translation, nothing of great value is lost simply because we cannot explain it.  We must remember that very often cultural practices have valid reasons for existence (see 1996 Harris, The Cultural Ecology of India's Sacred Cattle) that have very little to do with their stated purpose and in traditional health systems they might have an unseen yet, valid health basis.

Chapter 3