by Dylan Charles
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.” –Max Planck, ‘Where Is Science Going?’
There are some mysteries in life so common that nearly anyone can experience them, even though no one can fully explain them. The phenomenon of Chi, a universal life-force energy, and that of DMT, the psychedelic visionary compound produced within many plants, mammals and even humans, are integral parts of natural life that can greatly elevate mind, body, and spirit when experienced by an ordinary person.
Our society, primarily organized around labor, consumption, and the ethics of profiteering and exploitation, renders the spirit and our sense of natural wonder nonessential, for the most part. As a result, life too easily becomes unfulfilling and dull for people in our splendid, but meaningless material world, and too many of us come to find ourselves in a rut, one dull day after another, and life loses its significance.
Yet whatever toils we may face, we all do so together under the splendor of the cosmos, as individual sparks of consciousness amongst a shimmering collective, and we can choose to make ourselves available to mystery, wonder and curiosity, as not all of the riddles of this life have been solved. Inspiration is instrumental in the upkeep of morale and spirit, especially in these toxic times, and it has forever been a key motivator of human achievement. The ability to allow for mystery and to give respect to uncertainty is a source of boundless inspiration at a time when discouragement is the norm.
The personal discovery that a person has real-world access to the astounding mysteries of Chi and the life-changing effects of DMT can be a dramatic catalyst for personal transformation. It often forces a severe re-construction of one’s worldview, re-informing one of the deep connection we all have to the natural phenomenon of the earth and instigating a needed re-evaluation of priorities toward those more openly centered around beneficial and practical habits. These powerful natural phenomenon have the power, when directly experienced, to wake people up to their higher potential and to inspire a break from the ordinarily self-destructive patterns of normal life.
Chi – The Life-Force of Chinese Medicine
Chi is the common term used in Chinese medicine, martial arts and internal energy arts for the universal life force which permeates all things. It is a broad concept used to identify a wide range of meta-physical and spiritual concepts that play in the balance between life and death in our universe. Chi, as a philosophical concept, offers a complex and subjective cosmology which seeks to illuminate the inter-dependent relationships among all living systems, big and small.
For some, this concept presents an uncomfortable paradox in our logical world, and the experiential evidence of practicioners of these arts is incongruent with a scientific denial of the authenticity of the many phenomenon associated with Chi. Many millions of people regularly experience exceptional health and wellness, as well as mystical experiences, as a result from dedication to these arts, but only recently have these concepts begun to gain credibility in the Western mind.
Acupuncturists and studios offering training in Tai Chi, Qi Gong and meditation can now be found in most American cities, and there are growing enrollments in Western schools for the regulated professional medical science of Chinese medicine. As a healing modality for therapy of pain and recovery from injury, Chinese energy healing continues to gain credibility among Western medical disciplines. While it is difficult, however, for the concept of Chi to be immediately understood and appreciated by most Westerners, the effects of Chi training are numerous, beneficial and eye-opening. According to John Vervaeke, Ph.D., a cognitive scientist and student of Qi Gong, some of the phenomenological properties of the direct experience of a dedicated practice cultivating Chi may include:
- Synesthetic properties – experiences which bridge the cognitive and the physical aspects of life.
- The sensation of a magnetic force or some guiding or leading force moving within and without the body.
- The accompaniment of a ‘liquid’ intelligence, a fluidity of thought and action, a feeling of being in the ‘zone’.
- Projected and extended feelings of mentally and physically operating outside of the body.
- Mystical experiences, often inducing ineffability, as they are difficult to articulate but generate happiness.
- A feeling of resonating and of oneness.
- A feeling of seeming to be dynamically connected to the environment.
- The marked ability to see deeper into reality.
- The interplay of polarity, such as the dynamic between intense concentration and absolute effortlessness.
- Mystical experience leading to permanent changes in personality and a sense of openness.
- Enhanced cognitive properties like insight, mind-sight, and foresight, such as picking up on people’s mental states.
Although the Chinese have been studying and developing a system of holistic medicine around the concept of Chi for thousands of years, the scientific evidence to support the existence of chi is still largely limited to the experiences of those who practice and work with Chi, meaning that, as an actual science, it has yet to even become a fully-developed hypothesis. Skeptics are keen to argue that personal, direct experience with Chi is most likely a response to expectation conditioning and a repeated anticipation of response, but this explanation is unacceptable given the vast numbers of people who experience practical results by following proper training guidelines. Who feels it, knows it.
Part of the confusion over Chi is the magical language traditionally involved in Chinese martial arts training. For example, the colorful metaphors and visualizations that are a part of the advanced integration of mind and body, which is a main focus of Chi training, are rather poetic and mystical, frequently drawing on nature and the characteristics of animals in order to explain relationship and form. For example, the simple movement of raising the hands above the head may be referred to as ‘pulling down heaven’, or the posture of lifting one leg and the opposing palm upward in a balanced stance may carry an elegant name such as ‘golden rooster stands on one leg’.
In Chinese medicinal philosophy, Chi travels throughout the body along meridians, which are looked at as vessels for energy that are not directly associated with cellular tissue. These meridians cannot be seen, but can be sensed with such certainty that a commonly-accepted map of the body’s meridian lines and acupressure points is widely utilized by acupuncturists and healers as a scientific expression of the body’s energetic system.
The closest Western scientific concept similar to this is bio-electricity, which involves viewing the passages of the nervous system and other body tissue as conduits for the low-voltage electricity that is produced within the human body. The study of bio-electricity is practical and is aimed at many of the same goals as the energy meditation practice of Qi Gong, such as maintaining optimal health and a swift recovery from injury. The US Army has even developed bandages that cover wounds with a material that creates pathways for bio-electricity to flow around the wound, greatly reducing the pain of severe injuries and shortening healing time.
Still, there is no repeatable experimentation that translates the concept of Chi into the measurable electro-magnetic spectrum of material science, and, therefore, it remains a mystery and food for skeptics.
In spite of this, there are many accessible methods of training for the cultivation of Chi and its employment in optimal health, wellness and longevity. There are competent schools and teachers of many forms of the Chinese energetic arts in most areas. Additionally, one can begin to develop a personal practice starting with the straightforward Taoist meditation techniques of Mantak Chia, or begin learning from the more elaborate instructional programs of medical and sports Qi Gong offered by Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang of the YMAA, author of The Root of Chinese Qi Gong.
DMT – The Spirit Molecule
DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, the visionary chemical compound found in abundance throughout the plant kingdom and in many mammals, is naturally produced inside the human body. It is most plentiful in the pineal gland, which is considered to be the potential biological locus of human consciousness and the seat of the soul. The pineal gland is known as the third eye, or the point source from which consciousness manifests itself in the human body. It is suspected that, when a persona falls asleep, DMT is released into the brain from the pineal gland to induce dream states of consciousness, and also that, when a person dies, a flood of this chemical is released, accounting for the consciousness-expanding effects of near-death experiences and for the movement of the psyche into realms beyond waking life.
The molecule itself is simple in structure and can be synthesized or extracted directly from plants. Dubbed the ‘spirit molecule’, by researcher Dr. Rick Strassman, this commonly-found compound baffles modern science because of the effects it has on human consciousness.
Although the substance is naturally occurring and apparently a necessary part of conscious life, at present it is listed by the United States Federal Government as a Schedule I controlled substance and is illegal to produce, distribute or possess. The suppression of DMT, a substance so commonly found in nature, is construed by many as a sign of an established ‘war on consciousness’. Speculation exists that visionary states reached under the effects of DMT are intentionally kept out of reach of the masses because the lasting psychological effects of the DMT experience can have a markedly culture-busting and paradigm-shifting result. Causing people to question primary cultural narratives and mainstream societal programming, psychedelic transformation with DMT is dangerous to the status quo; if too many people experience these effects, then our cultural bias towards exploitation and annihilation would be redressed.
There is growing popular interest in the psychoactive effects of this drug, especially after the work of Dr. Strassman, who clinically observed the mysterious similarities among the psychedelic visions of over 400 subjects during his legally-sanctioned exploration of this chemical in the 1990’s. Given the large number of subjects who vividly described having life-altering spiritual experiences that seemed to dissolve the ego and support the idea that all life forms are inter-connected at a common spiritual level, DMT has acquired the popular nickname ‘the spirit molecule’. Many of the individual experiences recorded in Dr. Strassman’s experiments exhibit unexplainable similarities to each other, leading to the question: Does DMT bring human consciousness into attunement with spiritual dimensions that exist in parallel to our commonly-shared material world?
The proper use of this substance has traditionally been the domain of Amazonian shaman who for thousands of years have been drinking the thick and unpleasant-tasting psychedelic brew Ayahuasca. This ancient concoction of at least two common Amazonian plants is widely accepted in South America as a tool in shamanic healing practices. It allows experienced healers to mitigate the individual suffrages of one’s psyche occurring between the physical and spiritual realms while also radically purging the body and psyche of latent negative energies.
The process of healing and cleansing through the use of Ayahuasca is legal in South America. It is also legally accessible to Americans domestically through commitment to the church of Santo Daime, which regularly serves this brew to its parishioners in ceremonies taking place in many major cities throughout the US, including New York and Washington, DC. There is also a growing popularity in tourism that brings Westerners to ceremonies with legitimate healers and shaman who are trained in the usage of Ayahuasca and where ordinary people can experience firsthand the potent and life-changing effects of this medicine.
The author and consciousness explorer Daniel Pinchbeck has helped to bring recognition of the transformational aspects of Ayahuasca and concentrated DMT, rationally advocating them as a means of reconfiguring one’s psyche so that a re-prioritization of values can occur, ultimately alleviating a dependence on cultural norms, which contribute to exacerbating world calamities. In his epic and thoughtful account of some of his harrowing journeys with psychedelics, Breaking Open the Head, Pinchbeck makes the rather compelling case that the powerful and paradigm-shifting effects of Ayahuasca have found a rightful place in our modern society as a tool for drastically recalibrating our relationship to the earth and for re-thinking our societal institutions and the purpose of our culture.
Jonathon Miller-Weisberg, enthno-botanist and conservationist, presents in his book, Rainforest Medicine, the fascinating cosmology of an Ayahuasca shaman from the Sequoia tribe in Ecuador. He makes the case that Ayahuasca is a celestial consciousness that is currently working to introduce itself to as many Westerners as possible as a means of self-preservation in the face of an overwhelming ecological assault on the Amazon, its indigenous people and traditions. In his book, Weisberger describes in colorful detail the cosmology and mythology woven into the mystique of Ayahuasca medicine, while also offering to Westerners practical and critical advice on respecting and honoring the sacred importance of this visionary experience.
The effects of DMT on human consciousness can be profound and permanent, and many vocal proponents of this experience, such as Terence McKenna or Graham Hancock, attribute profound psychological and philosophical awakenings to this experience. Perhaps the greatest benefit of experiencing DMT may be the reintroduction of the sacred into contemporary consciousness and into ordinary life. It also has the curious side-effect of inviting mystery and inspiration that can powerfully renew daily life.
In the world of interesting and unexplainable phenomenon, the curious examples of human Chi and the visionary effects of DMT stand out as two mysteries that have been influencing human health and well-being for thousands of years, but still defy logical explanation. The greatest barrier to the experience of these phenomenon is the preclusion that they don’t really exist, just because they are yet unexplained by science. These are mysteries that lie in wait of scientific explanation, not mysteries that owe an explanation to science.