Ok, ok, ok! Put down the crystals friend. I'm not insulting your sense of energy and the flow of cosmic forces through the human experience. Well, I'm not directly insulting those sensibilities, but I am questioning how we understand the language of Chinese Medicine and by extension a whole host of "New Age" concepts like energy healing, auras, chakras, vibrational medicine, and many many others. And by the way, the New Age is hardly New any more. It fact, it has it's own vocabulary, jargon, and style that gives it a distinctly dated feel.
So here's the rub: Saying that Chinese Medicine or Reiki or Yoga or Aura Atunements are energy medicine makes a significant assumption about the nature of reality -- an assumption that is based on a distinctly Western understanding of what it means to be real and extant and is heavily influenced by the moral dimensions of Christian thought, especially the sort of Christian thought that was brought to the American colonies by our ancestors. So there are really two dimensions of assumptions that I want to explore. The first has do with what is real and the second has to do with Satan waiting for your in the wilderness. Let's begin.
Primary Assumption in the term Energy Medicine: You can understand what is real and you are distinctly part of "real"
This assumption asserts that reality is a collection of solid objects that are animated by another force called "energy" or "spirit" or "vibration," and it is this other force, separate from the solid objects that it animates, that creates the activity of life. It doesn't matter which word you use to describe this separate force because they are all touching on the same idea, and they all conjure a similar image to mind -- that of the meat-filled, skin bag human excited and propelled by an ethereal, mysterious force that might be translucent like Casper, glow from the fingertips like an Xman, or pulse around the body like a rainbow disco show only visible to those with the gift.
This image presumes that human beings are composed of two opposing, dualistic natures, one of substance with little character which is plagued by base instincts and another of heavenly light and cosmic potency that is glorious and mighty to behold (if you have that ability of course). Hold on champ! We've got a problem - dualism is a fundamentally limiting perspective. Instead of understanding and knowing the infinite complexity of existence, we're stuck with only two forces to make sense of our experience.
"But that sounds just like Yin and Yang," you say! "Aren't you a Chinese Medicine practitioner? A student of Dao? How can you dismiss this idea?"
The thing is, you're almost right. It is almost Yin Yang Theory. Except that Yin and Yang are just parts of a complex system that is not based on two things. It's based on one thing: Dao. Which emanates to two things: Yin and Yang. Which begat the three things: Heaven, Human, Earth. Which birthed the four seasons and the five elements and then the ten thousand things (i.e. everything else). Yin and Yang are part of a larger constellation that is not about substance but about movement -- about change. In fact, Yin and Yang are concepts that reflect the way that things change, not what they are but how they move from one state of being to another. It is a constant question of interplay and dynamic transformation. To be one thing is to stagnate and ultimately to descend into permanent suffering.
Assuming that you can manipulate the energy of something demands that the energy of whatever you are manipulating is a component part of a mechanized whole, that it is like gas in a car or circuits in a computer. Standard biomedicine doctors are trying to fix the parts of the substance (the things they can observe and measure), and contemporary energy workers want to work with the ethereal (the things they can sense and feel). Each group is really doing the same thing -- being a mechanic who is repairing the part of the structure or spirit that is broken. But what if you are not actually made of substance or spirit? What if you're not really made at all in the way that most of us think of it. You're not a peanut butter sandwich and you're not a multi-phasic dimensional ghost. Stop assuming you can repair anything and/or stop assuming you have magic powers. I wanted to be McGyver and I wanted to be Hermione too but that ship has sailed. You can help bodies remember how to be whole and functional, but it's not because you shot invisible light and good vibes out of your forehead and fingertips, or because you replaced 1000 knees in surgery.
Now let me be clear....
You can't help bodies return to physiology and dynamic health with magic, nor can you do it with biological science. This is not a rational science apologia. The acupuncture needles aren't stimulating cytokine/immunoglobulin/heat protein cascades through your lymph/immune/cardiac/myofascial systems either. Well they might be doing those things if we could actually measure them (which we can't seem to... but one day amiright?), but that's not why it works. At least, that's not why it works within the framework of the system that created that tool. Chinese Medicine is not dependent on lab tests and petri dishes, nor is it dependent on belief or electric energetic forces. It is reliant on the observation of dynamic movements in nature, the earnest effort to understand those movements, and to apply the concepts that those changes represent to the human condition. Because as it turns out, we aren't actually separate from anything around us. We don't have dominion over all the other things on the planet. The idea that we are superior or wholly unique from everything else is part of that morality stuff I mentioned earlier. Gosh we have so much to talk about.
And I guess this explanation still isn't very clear.
How about a comparative example?
Setting: Ancient times - when people were superstitious and dumb