In search for describing the Chinese term Qi (氣) I found: Ki in Japanese, Prana or Shakti in India, Gi in Korea, Ka in ancient Egypt, the ancient Greeks called it Pneum, for native Americans it was the Great Spirit, in Africa it’s known as Ashe and in Hawaii as Ha or Mana and the list is not yet complete.
In all those old philosophies, Qi expresses the life force which animates the forms of the world. It is the vital energy or circulating life force that is thought to be inherent in all things. A living being is filled with it. A dead person has no more Qi – the warmth, the life energy is gone. The Egyptian described the same concept very similarly. A living person has the Ka and in a dead one Ka left the body. They also believed that the Ka was sustained through food and drink. This is then the reason why food and drink offerings were presented to the dead. In traditional Chinese medicine, Qi is believed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance. A healthy individual has more Qi than one who is ill. However, health is more than an abundance of Qi. Health implies that the Qi in our bodies is clear rather than polluted and turbid; it is flowing smoothly like a stream and does not appear to be blocked or stagnant.
In martial arts (or acupuncture) the capacity to perceive the flow of Qi or to actually see or feel it, is something that can be cultivated through Qi Gong training. During the practice one cultivates the capacity to perceive Qi on different levels. It seems like a potential to be yet expressed. One could say it is like fullness and/or emptiness (compared to yin and yang concept) when we perceive ourselves and the world around as fluid and spacious. In those concepts it is not just experiencing our body to be comprised of patterns and flows of Qì, but we also get to understand that ‘emotions’ and ‘thoughts’ are forms of energy. When a person understands this concept, it is possible to control and deviate the opponent’s energy with our own. Posing the question “Have you ever tried to pick up a child or a dog who did not want to be lifted?” Joe Hyams offers the result: “They both seem to be heavier—this is because the mind is truly a source of power, and when a mind and body are coordinated, Qi manifests itself.”
But Qi is more than the above. It is also the life energy one senses in Nature, the vibratory nature of any phenomena, the flow and tremor that is happening continuously at molecular, atomic and subatomic levels. The Earth itself is also moving, transforming, breathing, and alive with it.
Let’s compare this old (oriental) wisdom with modern (western) one through the eyes of a modern physics: a String theory. The Official String Theory Web Site explains it as follows: Think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension is in the string, different musical notes will be created by the string. These musical notes could be said to be excitation modes of that guitar string under tension. In a similar manner, in the physics field named ‘string theory,’ the elementary particles one observes in particle accelerators could be thought of as the ‘musical notes’ or excitation modes of elementary strings. In both, the string must be stretched under tension in order to become excited. However, the one dimensional objects called strings in the string theory are floating in space-time; they aren’t tied down to a guitar. Nonetheless, they have tension. The essential idea behind string theory is then: all the different ‘fundamental’ particles of the standard model are really just different manifestations of one basic object, a (vibrating) string. Open strings can merge into closed loops of pure energy. Is this “energy” concept just a coincidence or something more when compared to the Qi?
Finally I would like to ask if this wisdom and knowledge (potentiality, feeling others’ “energy”, …) could be used also in a leadership process?