What did the ancient Chinese sages know about quantum physics?
Updated: Mar 27
Advanced science is finally catching up with Chinese medicine. Quantum physics – the most rigorous of the sciences – has proven what the ancient Chinese sages have known for centuries: that everything is made of energy at its most elemental level, and that changes in the relationship of this energy impact physical reality. Put another way, we are all part of the same fabric of life through which energy flows. Quantum physics proves in scientific terms how everything we do affects everything else. Essentially, we are all one.
Quantum physics focuses on the unifying field, where everything interacts and nothing exists in isolation. Chinese medicine, one of the oldest, and continually practiced, medicines on the planet shares the same fundamental understanding of matter, energy and interconnection, as modern physics.
Some of the most remarkable concepts that modern science introduced include:
quantum physics proves that at the sub-atomic level, “solid” material objects disintegrate into wavelike patterns of energy
quantum insight reveals how every atom is connected to, or “entangled” with, every other atom throughout the universe, creating a vast web of interrelationships (implying particles cannot be described independently)
quantum mechanics argues that how the observer observes nature determines what is ultimately seen, suggesting that our minds and thoughts influence what we observe in physical reality
Chinese medicine, and more broadly Chinese philosophy, proposed a similar understanding this universal connectedness more than five centuries ago. Ancient Chinese sages interpreted life as a great web that moves in wavelike motions – where an action in one area of the web would cause unpredictable effects in other parts of the web. This, in essence, is the science underlying quantum physics as well as chaos theory. As the classic text of Chinese medical knowledge, the Huang Di Nei Jing states: “From ancient times it has been recognized that there is an intimate relationship between the life and activity of human beings and their natural environment.”
Like quantum physics, Chinese medicine views the body as an energetic system. Qi, which is often translated as energy or vital life force, flows in a regular pattern through a system of channels – or meridians – to all parts of the body. Even more modernist interpretations which view Qi as information (carried along the meridians and accessed at certain points) also echoes quantum theory. Clinical research has proven that an electrical current flows along the meridians and that acupuncture points act as amplifiers which stimulate electrical signals throughout the body. In this way, the body can be thought of as a type of transmitting / receiving antenna with the autonomic nervous system (ANS) as its signal carrier. This is how a single word, touch, action – or needle – can produce such a meaningful impact within us and on the world around us.
Chinese medicine postulates that the key to health is for Qi to stay fluid and maintain its movement throughout the body’s web. When the flow of Qi is free and unimpeded, there is harmony and balance in the body. When Qi is blocked or deficient, however, there is an imbalance which can lead to disharmony and disease. Indeed, when Qi is blocked, this stagnation of energy signals an obstructed or inefficient transmission of bodily information (which can lead to additional, more destructive structural accumulations of blood or phlegm).
While the ancient Chinese saw the body as an energy system, it is imprecise to say that Qi is only energy. To the Chinese, everything in the universe is a manifestation of Qi. While Qi may assume different forms and functions, it is always one, in essence. Sometimes, Qi is rarified, like energy. Sometimes it is dense, like matter. The same idea is expressed in Einstein’s famous Theory of Relativity (E=mc2) which tells us that mass is simply another form of energy which can never be destroyed, only transformed. In other words, matter and energy are actually two aspects of one reality. Likewise, our bodies, while seemingly solid, are actually energetic configurations that are constantly changing and transforming.
Chinese medicine helps restore the body to balance and good health by working on the energetic level to impact the mind, body and spirit. The eastern emphasis on how our emotions and lifestyle impact our well-being reflects the quantum insight that a change in one aspect of our own personal universe impacts and changes the rest of our physical reality and heath. Moreover, Chinese medicine also asserts that illness often manifests first at the energetic level of the body before becoming structurally or physically visible / apparent. Acupuncturists work with this energy directly and strive it keep it balanced and free-flowing to prevent illness from taking hold. Indeed, it seems fair to say that the fundamental science underlying many of the traditional healing traditions such as acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki and meditation are more closely rooted in high-energy physics rather than chemistry or molecular science.
Quantum physics may even hold the key to explaining the phenomenon of spontaneous healing. In quantum theory, human intention influences the structure of the world and our actual state of existence depends in part on how we observe it and what we choose to see. Our thoughts have the power to shift the universe on a particle-by-particle basis to create our physical life. We literally become what we think about and believe in. In this way, objective reality is replaced by our own observer-created reality. What this means is that no phenomenon is real until we perceive it. The material world that we know simply does not exist in the quantum world until we actually observe it. Similarly, we create our own reality of healing when we wake up every morning. It is up to each of us – our thoughts, beliefs, intentions and actions – to lay a solid, healthy foundation for our own spontaneous healing. Our life – and health – can become what we imagine and believe in most.
The concept of Qi – and the belief that humans are electrical beings – is what makes Chinese medicine distinct from any other medical philosophy in the world. Our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies abound with electromagnetic and subtle energies that form the very foundation of our health. When this energy system is strong, abundant and flowing smoothly, we experience health and vitality. In contrast, when our energy system becomes weakened, deficient or blocked, we experience pain, illness and disease. Chinese medicine uses a holistic approach to diagnose energy imbalances and identify their root cause. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and other modalities can unblock and strengthen your body’s innate energy and healing mechanisms. Because your acupuncturist will focus on correcting the root cause of your imbalance, you can expect to experience more profound and lasting health changes, as opposed to merely masking your symptoms.