The Path – Being Like A Spirit (pt 1)

Excerpt taken from The Path by Prof. M Puett & C Gross-Loh 

Chaper 6 – On Vitality: The Inward Training and Being Like A Spirit

(Pg 125)

‘The Inward Training says that everything we experience comes from energies called qi and that the most ethereal of these energies-the ones that give us that exhilarated, alive feeling-are the energies of divinity…

The notion of divine energies was hardly an unusual one in antiquity. In fact, it was a pan Eurasian concept: in India, there was a notion of prana, or “breath”, and in Greece there was pneuma, or “breath of life”, “soul”, “spirit”. All described a sense that some ineffable, unseen life force coursed throughout the cosmos and was responsible for the origins of life itself.

Today many people would be sceptical that feelings of vitality come from divine energies. But qi is a useful metaphor for what it would take to make us feel more alive, and we can learn from it even without believing it to be true. All we need to do is think of those energies in an (p126) as-if way: What does it mean to act and to live as if we were cultivating qi?…

We commonly hold a dualistic worldview: God versus humanity, matter versus energy, mind versus body-we think of these as separate things. But the Inward Training holds a monistic worldview, teaching that every single element in the world and in human beings is composed of the same thing: qi. Everything, whether it is mind, body, matter, or spirit, whether it is earth, people, animals, or air, is composed of this very same substance.

But although qi exists in everything, there are infinite graduations of it, rocks, mud, earth, and other inanimate parts of the cosmos are composed of a low and coarse qi – what we might call turbid qi.

As qi becomes more highly refined, it becomes “vital essence”. What sets vital essence apart from all else is that it exists only within things that have life. It is a life-giving force found in plants and animals.

And finally, when qi is at its most ethereal and refined, it becomes divine qi. This sort of qi is so highly energised that it actually affects things around it. This qi is spirit itself. Spirit goes beyond being a life-giving force; it gives living beings consciousness.

A plant has life-giving qi, or vital essence, but it can never be divine; it can never have a spirit. It can never think and process the world. It merely exists in the world. Spirits, though, being divine qi, are fully and vibrantly (p127) alive. They have full clarity and see the world with flawless consciousness. To be able to see the world so fully is what allows them to act in the world in transformative ways.

And what about us? What sort of energy are we composed of?

We human beings are a combination of the turbid qi of the earth below, and the divine qi of the heavens above…

The energy of rocks and plants and spirits remains constant. But human beings are different from all other things on earth in that this jumbled combination of energy shifts constantly in us…

It is difficult to hold onto our spirit. It is more typical for us to spend our days doing things that drain us of it.’

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