Monday, August 3, 2015

"Split a piece of wood; I am there" -- the Force is all around us

Gospel of Thomas translation: Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer (link).

David-Dorian Ross has devoted much of his life to the practice of Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Gung (or Qigong). He has won eight gold medals in US competition and a World Silver and two World Bronze medals in worldwide Tai Chi competition performances. Together with martial arts film superstar Jet Li, he has made it his mission to try to spread the message of the beneficial aspects of Tai Chi and Chi Gung to at least a hundred million people who have not previously known about them!

Here is how he has described the force which is called chi (or hei) in Chinese culture and in writings going back hundreds and even thousands of years (and which can also be spelled qi in the Roman alphabet, under the convention that the letter q is generally used to represent a sound that is pronounced like a "ch"-sound in Mandarin):
Qi is not only a human, or even animal characteristic: everything in the world has energy -- plants, animals, even rocks. Qi is all around us, circulating in the air, vibrating in the colors we see, and literally raining down on us from above. The Chinese word for weather is tianqi: heavenly energy. Essentials of Tai Chi and Qigong, 121.
In other words, chi sounds very much akin to what was described as "The Force" in the very first Star Wars movie from 1977 -- a movie that resonated so well with so many millions of people that it became  an enormous box office sensation that year and remains the number-six-grossing film in North America of all time (I certainly remember the impression it made on me the first time seeing it that year, at my best friend's birthday party in the theater that is now a Planet Granite in Belmont). Below is the famous initial description of the Force by Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness in an Oscar-nominated performance:

In that brief video clip, Alec Guinness / Obi-Wan explains: "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power: It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us -- it binds the Galaxy together."

In other words, the description is nearly identical to that given by Tai Chi and Qigong master David-Dorian Ross when trying to convey the concept of chi or qi. But, although his description of chi was written well after the initial box office release of Star Wars, we can see that the concept of chi has been known and described for literally thousands of years, such as in the inscription from a jade artifact from China dated to around 380 BC that was described in the preceding post examining one of the mysterious texts that are known as the Tai Chi Classics.

Star Wars is thus popularizing an extremely ancient concept in a very accessible manner and one which has captured the imagination of hundreds of millions (billions?) and continues to do so to this day. It is a concept that has been written about in China for at least 2,400 years, and has undoubtedly been understood and practiced for much longer than that.

In fact, the descriptions of chi given by David-Dorian Ross and in texts such as the Tai Chi Classics, the Tao Te Ching, and the jade inscription from 380 BC have clear and direct parallels to concepts which I believe can be found at the heart of virtually all the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions from virtually every continent on planet Earth -- which can all be shown to use the awesome motion of the celestial spheres as a way of conveying truths about the invisible realm to our understanding, the invisible realm or spirit world or realm of the infinite which is in fact present in all living things and indeed in every single molecule of the universe.

The invisible realm surrounds and interpenetrates the visible or material world, and according to the ancient wisdom preserved in many sources around the world, it is the true source and fountain from which the visible world emanates or is projected (see for instance the discussion here, especially the extended quotation from Lakota holy man Black Elk, as well as the discussions in many, many other previous posts).

I believe that it is not an exaggeration to assert that the ancient myths and sacred texts and traditions of the world were in fact originally intended as powerful teachers to guide us towards regaining our awareness of and connection with the life-giving infinite source. As some of the Tai Chi Classics (including the Song of the Thirteen Postures examined in the preceding post) tell us, the invisible force of chi is already in us from the moment of birth or even before: we don't have to "gain more" of it but rather become attuned to it, within us and all around us.

The ancient myths are teachers for connecting with the infinite on many levels, which we are all designed to do.

Below is a short video clip of David-Dorian Ross showing a way of experiencing this force for yourself:

As the Thirteen Postures Song tells us, entering through the door on the journey traditionally requires a personal teacher -- but then there must also be a lifetime of continual cultivation and practice and study on one's own, for which each will ultimately "hear it" or "know it" from within himself or herself.

Although it has been obscured by nearly seventeen hundred years of teaching its stories from a literalistic perspective, I believe that it can be conclusively shown that the collection of ancient scriptures commonly known as the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments) was intended to teach this very same awareness of and connection with the infinite (within oneself and the rest of the universe, even the rocks and trees) that all the other myths and scriptures of the world were intended to convey.

Indeed, some of the texts in the same family or genre as those which became the canonical New Testament scriptures (but which were rejected and even outlawed by those advocating a literalistic or externalized approach to the stories and allegories) make statements and declarations that sound nearly identical to the descriptions of chi from the ancient texts of China, or of the Force as described by Obi-Wan!

For instance, in the Gospel of Thomas, one of the most important of the so-called "Gnostic Gospels" or texts that were left out of the canonical New Testament and thus forbidden by the end of the fourth century AD (and which has been discussed in some detail in previous posts such as "The Gospel of Thomas and the Divine Twin" and "The Gospel of Thomas and the Everlasting Spring"), there is this very interesting teaching:
Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there." [Gospel of Thomas 77; translation by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer].
In this very concise but extremely direct little vignette, we have Jesus telling us that he is the infinite, and the source of all that has ever come forth. Where do we find the infinite? The infinite is everywhere, in all things, in every single atom or molecule of the visible (projected) material universe.

Even if we split a piece of wood: there is the infinite.

This is a very powerful image, and very much in keeping with David-Dorian's teaching that qi is found in all things, even plants and rocks, and with Obi-Wan's teaching that the Force "binds the Galaxy together."

Elsewhere in the gospels (both those that were rejected by the early literalist leaders and those that were included in the canonical New Testament) and also even more directly in some of the letters attributed to the one who calls himself Paul, we are told that this infinite is within us as well. This can also be shown to be the message in other sacred myth-systems, such as that found in the Bhagavad Gita and in the Mahabharata which contains the Gita (discussions and videos here and here).

And yet, for at least seventeen hundred years, this understanding of the ancient scriptures as powerful teachers to help us become aware of and attuned to the force of the infinite within us and all around us has been suppressed (the Gospel of Thomas, quoted above, was literally buried in a sealed jar beneath some lonely cliffs along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt since the fourth century, because these teachings were forced to "go underground").

In fact, the very same Gospel of Thomas tells us that the ones it labels as "the Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so" (39).

It's as if our planet had a host of stories and written guides for cultivating and using the Force, and a group deliberately set out to destroy all knowledge of them.

Why would anyone want to do that?

The good news is that the teachings have not been totally obscured. They are preserved quite powerfully in the world's myths, which are like a precious inheritance to humanity. And they are preserved in ancient systems such as Tai Chi and other martial arts, as well as in Yoga, all of which are deliberately designed to help us become attuned to the cycles of the universe and to the flow of this infinite divine energy which is both within us and also in every single other person and creature we meet and every other thing that we see (even within a piece of split wood!).

And, the popularity of films such as Star Wars show us just how powerfully this concept resonates with us.

For this reason, we should be grateful to teachers like David-Dorian Ross (and Jet Li) who are preserving and passing on aspects of this ancient knowledge to millions who have not known about it before.