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Taoism, magic and science...
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9/21/12 12:25 PM
There are a lot of threads on topics so I figured a new one was in order. The Taoist lineage I hold has a long history of exploring 'latent abilities' (siddhis) as well as what one would term magic. As part of a contribution to this important area of exploration I'll offer the following modern commentary and information for others.

There is a great references for some of this in form of John Michael Greer's excellent books like "Blood of the Earth: an essay on peak oil and magic" and "The Druidry Handbook".

There have been some interesting modern developments in learning more about latent abilities that provide some good commentary on both mechanisms, protocols for studying them as well as pitfalls. One example was a class where the Taoist Master who taught me gave an open healing demonstration. He performed a qi emission healing on a woman diagnosed with breast cancer (double mastectomy was prescribed) while her physician was present. He had the physician confirm the presence of the lumps in her breasts in a hotel room at the class site and then performed the qi emission. Then the physician went and re-did the diagnosis with the result being "no presence of any lumps".

However the doctor insisted that this was impossible and said he would not be quoted as saying anything had occurred until he could see x-rays. These later confirmed that the lumps were gone but the doctor then changed his story saying "I must have been mistaken with the diagnosis in the first place."

So when there is no open mind for the effects, then no matter what the results there will be "no latent abilities" from a supposed expert.

In China the latent abilities have been studied fairly extensively with the Master (and at least 12-15 others with similar abilities) taking part in experiments at a university. None of the papers are available in English, as far as I know. One included having masters change the centre frequency of lasers by focusing on them (I have participated in a similar study over here). So they consider the effects real and have been looking into mechanisms.

And this opens up two areas that are somewhat problematic. The first is that many practitioners consider qi to be outside of present science; of course this premise makes it difficult to form any real hypotheses as well as get any real scientist to be interested in your proposed study. It also potentially negatively influences experimental set-up thereby either eliminating or modifying results. Many studies also focus on 'wild' claims further making it difficult to study latent abilities in any scientific manner.

From my experience and study qi is readily explained by existing scientific knowledge and there are some very easily-explained mechanisms. The mechanisms can be exploited to increase the effects as well as create new ones.

Fu are used in Taoism and this is very similar to western 'ritual magic'. Again, I think there are scientific explanations that also provide great avenues to explore and learn more about mechanisms. Understanding mechanisms should allow better ways to enable the effects.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 1:20 PM as a reply to yuri k.
Yuri Kuzyk:
From my experience and study qi is readily explained by existing scientific knowledge and there are some very easily-explained mechanisms.


What are these mechanisms?

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 3:17 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
Yuri Kuzyk:
From my experience and study qi is readily explained by existing scientific knowledge and there are some very easily-explained mechanisms.


What are these mechanisms?


One is the same principle used for wireless chargers. A tuned circuit can utilize energy from a source located some distance away. If you know how a circuit is tuned then a small signal can easily affect it.

In the case of the laser I affected the circuitry controlling the thermoelectric cooler thereby modifying the cavity of the laser; this resulted in a changed center frequency.

In order for us to generate signals (albeit very weak ones) we need to have a lot of neurons fire synchronously at a specific frequency = 'jhana'

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 3:59 PM as a reply to yuri k.
Yuri Kuzyk:
Jason B:
Yuri Kuzyk:
From my experience and study qi is readily explained by existing scientific knowledge and there are some very easily-explained mechanisms.


What are these mechanisms?


One is the same principle used for wireless chargers. A tuned circuit can utilize energy from a source located some distance away. If you know how a circuit is tuned then a small signal can easily affect it.

In the case of the laser I affected the circuitry controlling the thermoelectric cooler thereby modifying the cavity of the laser; this resulted in a changed center frequency.

In order for us to generate signals (albeit very weak ones) we need to have a lot of neurons fire synchronously at a specific frequency = 'jhana'


Thats a metaphor, not a mechanism (albeit a good metaphor)

The mechanism would be faraday's law, which is not applicable to brains.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 5:25 PM as a reply to m m a.
m m a:
Yuri Kuzyk:
Jason B:
Yuri Kuzyk:
From my experience and study qi is readily explained by existing scientific knowledge and there are some very easily-explained mechanisms.


What are these mechanisms?


One is the same principle used for wireless chargers. A tuned circuit can utilize energy from a source located some distance away. If you know how a circuit is tuned then a small signal can easily affect it.

In the case of the laser I affected the circuitry controlling the thermoelectric cooler thereby modifying the cavity of the laser; this resulted in a changed center frequency.

In order for us to generate signals (albeit very weak ones) we need to have a lot of neurons fire synchronously at a specific frequency = 'jhana'


Thats a metaphor, not a mechanism (albeit a good metaphor)

The mechanism would be faraday's law, which is not applicable to brains.


Sure it does. There are a number of RF circuits for wireless power transfer (the small amounts I'm talking about) that don't require a ferrite-core inductor. For example we use them in MRI where we can't put ferrite into the bore. You just need conductors - which could just be ions.

Marino's paper is very old but there is definitely an effect of external EMF's on the brain:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15066545

And whatever is a receiver is also a transmitter...

Edit:

Even better example is the Black Ghost Knifefish which uses EMF for location and communication. There used to be a good paper online describing the mechanism and I'll see if I can find it again.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 5:29 PM as a reply to yuri k.
Um... this is usually where I'd get into an academic debate where we throw papers at each other, not really talking about the same thing (who said anything about ferrite cores? Do you think i think the brain doesn't have a measurable emf?) and ultimately I walk away safe in the knowledge that my academic degree coupled with the fact that your statements are incompatible wiith prevailing scientific notions, that I am 'right'.

But I'm not going to do that.

Instead I'm going to ask a few questions;

What is the PHYSICAL MECHANISM by which qi interacts with the PHYSICAL world, with measurable cause and effect? Is qi substantially different than an EMF? Are you suggesting that your neurons are properly 'tuned' to 'resonate' with the other EMFs? What does Marino's paper have to do with qi?

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 5:38 PM as a reply to m m a.
m m a:
Um... this is usually where I'd get into an academic debate where we throw papers at each other, not really talking about the same thing (who said anything about ferrite cores? Do you think i think the brain doesn't have a measurable emf?) and ultimately I walk away safe in the knowledge that my academic degree coupled with the fact that your statements are incompatible wiith prevailing scientific notions, that I am 'right'.

But I'm not going to do that.

Instead I'm going to ask a few questions;

What is the PHYSICAL MECHANISM by which qi interacts with the PHYSICAL world, with measurable cause and effect? Is qi substantially different than an EMF? Are you suggesting that your neurons are properly 'tuned' to 'resonate' with the other EMFs? What does Marino's paper have to do with qi?


There are a number of animals, up to and including dolphins, that use electric fields for various purposes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroreceptor

Do we need to invent "qi" that is outside of present scientific understanding to explain these biological EMF emitters and detectors?

I'll be patient and wait for a friend's dissertation on the genetics of the black ghost knifefish genes. He expects to find genes that code for the sense organs to be also present in humans...

"Qi" is just an easy way to refer to energy without being at all specific. The physical mechanism for interaction is the same for energy-matter interactions understood by physics.

The reason for invoking Marino and the rest of the theory here has to with explaining aspects of observed demonstrations involving qi.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 7:48 PM as a reply to yuri k.
I agree with everything you said, except that why use the word qi if 'energy' is a more accepted, less controversial word that actually has scientific meaning? If they really are the same, that is.

But I don't know of any kind of 'energy' that can be harnessed to heal people in the manner you described earlier.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/21/12 10:04 PM as a reply to m m a.
This isn't too far off topic. Animals are very good at perceiving this energy. When I say very good, I just mean that they don't filter out their reactions like humans do. So if you're afraid, an animal will feel it and react accordingly, whereas a human will feel it and maybe try to ignore it.

I used to have a dog that lived next door and he would go crazy the moment anyone walked past, including me most days. But then some days i noticed he wouldn't bother barking, he would just stand and look. On those days I was more relaxed.

One day i had to go in there next door. I went to open the gate but got scared because he'd rush me and start barking (big dog by the way). Then I decided to do it without looking at him, so that my mind could pretend in my mind that he was sitting there relaxed. And he did. Cool huh?

As I closed the gate behind me later I looked at him and thought "shiiiiiiit" and he immediately started leaping at the gate and growling.

Black ops! emoticon

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/22/12 2:05 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
I have two dogs myself so I'm very familiar with the effect you're describing CCC. However, I don't see any particular reason to describe it in terms of 'energy'. I think dogs, and perhaps animals in general, are simply very good at picking up on lots of minor external queues. If you're tense, or scared, or stressed out, they read it in your body language, your smell, any number of small subtle signals in posture and action.

Animals are very good at reading others, but I don't think it comes down to energy.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/22/12 3:27 AM as a reply to m m a.
More in general, I think it has to be admitted that there is something about theese things that happens and that is not easily explained by our actual scientific knowledge.
However, since there are measurable effects, I think it's reasonable to assume that the causes has to be measurable as well to some degree.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/22/12 8:02 AM as a reply to M N.
As an acupuncturist, I've come to think of qi as a very contextual term with a lot of different meanings. Usually it just stands in for normal physiological functions: air qi, for example is obviously related to breathing. But designating it as qi comes with a very different understanding of how energy from breathing may pertain to other things in the body. So, it is an understanding of energy from an empirical perspective in which systems and connections between systems is emphasized over discreet organs or functions.

More in general, I think it has to be admitted that there is something about these things that happens and that is not easily explained by our actual scientific knowledge.


That is also true. You can experience qi emission and all kinds of weird phenomena related to the funny energy feeling. I don't know about shrinking tumors - that kind of thing always seems to be happening very far away to very few people.

Also, in regards to qi, as well as acupuncture, I think we undermine our credibility when we put forth questionable science as explanatory fact. It's a strong temptation, though, because to many scientists, if it's unexplained, it's bullshit. There should be some process by which anecdotal reports and subjective experience can be granted a degree of validity.

On the other hand, it seems to me that Taoism has been even more prone to mushroom culturing than Buddhism. I did qi gong for 10 years, but never really felt that I got the straight dope, or the real benefits. And I have no idea who would tell me without becoming involved in discipleship to find out.

I'd love to see some hard-core qi gong revelations in the energy practices section here. It seems a bit fallow. The best post has been on Tummo, over at KFD. What else is out there?

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/22/12 9:58 AM as a reply to M N.
Mario Nistri:
More in general, I think it has to be admitted that there is something about theese things that happens and that is not easily explained by our actual scientific knowledge.
However, since there are measurable effects, I think it's reasonable to assume that the causes has to be measurable as well to some degree.


I definitely agree - but my main thesis is that we could push the boundaries of 'what we don't know' back with some serious study. However, I'm not positive that we will ever be able to fully put everything neatly into "science".

And I don't think that is necessary or desired. There is a great book called "The Blood of the Earth: an essay on magic and peak oil" by John Michael Greer that really delves into this point.

"Philosophers and psychologists down the centuries have tried to bring our attention to two important but generally neglected facts: we know more than we realize and we affect more than we realize. Look at the human organism from an evolutionary standpoint and this isn't hard to understand. Our rational, conscious, symbol-using minds are recent and rather rickety structures built by evolution over top of a superbly adapted mammalian nervous system.

I could list any number of other examples, but I trust my readers will have gotten the point: a great deal of what goes on in our lives depends not on our rational, linguistic, symbol-using minds, but on an intricate and richly communicative nonrational substructure inherited from our animal ancestors, most of which we never notice and much of which is highly resistant to any kind of conscious control. The main current of our industrial culture, which has made the rational mind central to its core cultural project and fixates on a particular mode of conscious control, has few resources to offer for dealing with that substructure, other than ignoring it, white-knuckling it, or drugging it into temporary submission. There are better tools t hand, though: the tools of magic."


The point of not throwing out science unless required is whether there is utility in the enterprise. I think there are some compelling aspects to using what we presently know as explanations for mechanisms since they offer some framework to make sense of areas that otherwise are basically completely non-rational.

In the case of the breast lump healing there is a more magical hypothesis: the master used two aspects of qi latent abilities. The first is the way that far larger sources of energy, available locally, may be tapped and channeled to perform a task. We had meditated many times in the room where the healing was performed and every time such activity is performed in the same place then the surrounding is 'structured' to facilitate both storage and retrieval of qi.

The second was using the energies of the group. Depending upon the connection (emotional as well as on an energetic level) it is possible to chain together a group and then channel their energies. In the case of the breast lump I could clearly feel this effect when he performed the healing. I have also used this for some of my own work.

Both of these are possible within the boundaries of science. I also think both explanations also lead to interesting lines of inquiry.

RE: Taoism, magic and science...
Answer
9/22/12 6:12 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
I'd love to see some hard-core qi gong revelations in the energy practices section here. It seems a bit fallow. The best post has been on Tummo, over at KFD. What else is out there?


I agree, this is something I wanted to read about too haha.
But more importantly, someone should add more stuff to the related entry in the DhO wiki ( http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/Energy%20Practices%20Portal?p_r_p_185834411_title=Energy%20Practices%20Portal )