Healing the Enlightenment

Charles Butler

When dark energy was discovered in the late 1990s, I was struck by a paradox.  The known characteristics of this energy were seemingly identical to those of the Chi I was familiar with as a practitioner of Reiki and a student of tai chi and other Taoist martial arts.  Yet, as a scientist who accepts that the spiritual and physical realms are both real, I could not see how two virtually identical energies could be separate quantities.  Out of curiosity, I asked what the consequences might be if they were indeed interchangeable.  These consequences proved to be more far-reaching than I would have guessed.

A note in passing:  Some have suggested that quantum zero-point energy is the physical quantity that should be compared to Chi.  I leave this for others to debate.  The consequences would be unchanged.

Dark energy is thought to have been created at the earliest times in the expanding universe and to be part of its underlying structure.  Accounting for perhaps 70% of the mass of the universe, it pervades every material object and even what we call empty space.  Though its presence is imperceptible to those of us immersed in it, its effect on the universe as a whole is great.

Chi is also said to be part of the underlying fabric of the universe.  An ancient Chinese creation myth, included in the writings of Chuang Tzu, describes the universe as having been born in a huge explosion.  After a period of time during which the fireball expanded rapidly, two great opposites, Yin and Yang, emerged.  These were forever contained in a sea of invisible energy, Chi, that pervaded all material things.  Its presence is generally imperceptible to those immersed in it, but its effects can be great.

More interesting than the characteristics of Chi that are similar to dark energy are those that are not now known to be.  Perhaps the most apparent is that Chi responds to the intent.  Chi can be concentrated or made to flow from one place to another by an act of will.  As a Reiki practitioner, I regularly move Chi through myself into another.  I can feel the Chi flowing, and sensitive subjects can feel themselves receiving it.  The touch of a powerful Reiki Master can cause ones arm to feel warm or to tingle.  Tai chi warriors are able to concentrate Chi and perform amazing feats which they would not normally be capable of.  Chi is real, and its ability to be moved and concentrated with the mind is real.

But if Chi is universal, then it and its properties must be available to the entire planet, not just followers of certain Asian philosophies.  They are.  Prayer, healing by the laying on of hands, acupuncture, T’ai Chi, Reiki, shamanism, voodoo, meditation of all sorts, seeing the accomplished task in advance, and a host of other acts of will all do the same thing:  they move Chi/dark energy with the intentional mind.  The prayers of a Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Christian, Moslem, or the acts of a shaman or a curandero are just moving the same Chi/dark energy with a different understanding of the process.  This thought might upset many Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Christians, Moslems, shamans, and curanderos, but it will make sense to yet others.  Some physicians practicing under the medical model may decide that a good fraction of their healing success is from the same source.  This thought might upset many Western physicians practicing under the medical model, but it will make sense to many others.

Probably the most theologically and philosophically significant ramification is this:  If this all-pervasive Chi/dark energy responds to the will of humans and, perhaps, that of all creatures, then either the Chi/dark energy must be intelligent itself, or something that owns it must be tuned to the will.  One can imagine that the theologians, philosophers, humanists, and atheists would have a grand old time sorting this one out.  Some among them, however, might be more fascinated by the implication that it matters relatively little if we use prayer, Reiki, burning candles, meditative states, prayer wheels, tai chi, Qigong, allopathic medical practices, another means, or all means to move Chi/dark energy.  They would realize that good could be done in any event.  Many theologians, philosophers, poets, and even politicians and scientists would join this group.  They might ponder the relationship of all this to love and decide to start a movement to use this great power, this ability to interact with the Universe, to change the world.  It's a nice thought.

The most exciting possibility to me is this:  In the mid-1700s the writings of a group of European intellectuals ushered in the so-called Age of Enlightenment.  These philosophical rationalists successfully introduced the idea that only rational thinking was legitimate, that mystical or spiritual thinking or pursuits were a hindrance to the progress of society.  If Chi and dark energy are identical, the artificial rift these men created between the mystical and the rational can finally be healed, and we can get on with it.  Think what life could be like if rationalism and mysticism coalesced.  The people of Earth—all the people of Earth—could find an entirely new way of existing.  Ironically it would be a way that could not have occurred if the Enlightenment had not occurred:  Life would include ever-expanding science and technology, but a science and technology informed by the wisdom of the spiritual, perhaps even of love.

In the mid-seventies, environmentalists pointed out a number of issues that appeared to be taking us inexorably toward a cusp, or critical point, that would occur sometime in the first third of the 21st century.  The issues were the usual ones:  population, food production, air pollution, water pollution, atmospheric heating, and the like.  Today it is apparent to many that the critical point will involve a far broader range of human experience than the environment.  But it will come, and it will be the source of a major paradigm shift.

There have been only a handful of such shifts in human history.  Many may see this as a crisis, and so it will be.  But one Chinese word for crisis translates as "dangerous opportunity."  Humankind could move into another dark age characterized by ecological disaster, pandemics, and world political chaos.  But we could equally well find ourselves in an era in which love and understanding begin to really take hold.

I say this because something is changing.  Rationalism, as expressed in science, has begun to develop a modest tolerance of mysticism, the essential part of the human experience that the Enlightenment split off from the mainstream of culture.  Medical practitioners are discovering that what they call complementary methods actually work and are a valuable adjunct—or alternative—to their traditional medicine.  Physical scientists are increasingly running into observations that cannot easily be explained within the old paradigm and thus are becoming ever-so-slightly more open to answers provided by mysticism.  Brain scientists are discovering things about the human brain that cannot easily be explained within our current paradigm.  In short, the Enlightenment is beginning to be healed.  And if science decides that Chi and dark energy are identical, the change will be greatly accelerated.  So may it be.

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Charles Butler has a M.S. in nuclear physics and a Ph.D. in experimental solid-state physics.  Over the first 30 years of his career, he held positions at two national laboratories and two universities.  In 1984 he changed his emphasis from research and teaching to the study of applications of artificial neural networks.  He and a co-author produced three books for The MIT Press on this subject, and he worked in that area until being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2003.

Dr. Butler spent 25 years in conservative Christianity, becoming a lay theologian with an interest in comparative religion.  In 1975, he left this pursuit, eventually embracing Taoist philosophy.  He is a Reiki practitioner, a member of The Monroe Institute and of its "DEC" healing arm, and has studied Taoist philosophy as well as tai chi, Qigong, and related martial arts for a number of years.