Over the years, I have put forth the view that Classical Feng Shui is a scientific practice. Now, I have espoused that view of Feng Shui all over the world, when I teach Feng Shui, BaZi and Mian Xiang at seminars. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that my comments had created a buzzing debate over the question of what creature Feng Shui is – is it scientific practice? Pseudo-science? Or purely belief? Hence, I thought I would address this issue in more depth and explore the scientific side of Classical Feng Shui.
You have to Believe in Feng Shui, so it’s not science.
Wait a minute – you also have to believe in your doctor, before you go and see him or her. You also have to believe in your lawyer before you appoint him to defend you in a case. Does that mean that the entire body of medical science is not valid if you don’t believe your doctor’s diagnosis? Of course not.
When people exhort that Feng Shui is not a science or not scientific, the problem is, people may not understand what science is to begin with. The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. According to Wikipedia, science can be defined simply as “any systematic field of study or the knowledge gained from it”. So, how does Feng Shui measure up against this definition?
There is no doubt that Classical Feng Shui is a systematic field of study: by systematic I mean it has basic models, basic principles, empirical evidence and most importantly, documented observation. It is not made up. It is not this today, that tomorrow. It is not without logical explanation.
How do scientists arrive at scientific conclusions? They conduct experiments, observe the outcomes, repeat those experiments if necessary to ensure a consistent outcome and then document their observations. Feng Shui has basic models and principles: the Five Elements, Yin and Yang, the He Tu, the Lo Shu, the principle of Cosmic Trinity are examples of principles at the core of Feng Shui and many Chinese Metaphysical practices. What about empirical evidence? This has been accumulating since the Tang Dynasty! Ancient classics contain not only descriptions of landform and the principles of Qi, but drawings of mountains and water.
New books and new theories on Feng Shui, adjusted to the modern world that we live in, are constantly published and written in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The study, and the body of knowledge, is constantly growing, not unlike scientific practices like medicine and engineering.
In any science, a critical component is observation. Feng Shui is a component of Physiognomy, which is one of the Chinese Five Arts. It is known as a science of observation of the environment. Many of the principles in Feng Shui are the result of observation by practitioners since the Tang Dynasty, which are then documented into classics like Qing Nang Jing (Green Satchel), Ru Di Yan (Entering Earth Eye) and Zi Bai Jue (Purple White Verse). Some of the classics that form the basis of Feng Shui study are not original classics that propound new ideas, but weed out the observations that did not pan out and the ones that did. Feng Shui until the early 1900s was exclusively for Imperial use only. So the research was often carried out from one generation to another, without breakage or pause. This enabled observation of what worked and what didn’t, over the span of several hundred years.
Today, whilst not all Feng Shui masters can claim affiliation to lineages, those that do, document their cases extensively and thoroughly, so that the body of knowledge collected during their lifetime, can be passed on to the next generation of the lineage, so that they may continue to observe the outcomes, and grow the body of knowledge.
Science is not just physics, chemistry and biology. That is an extremely narrow minded perception of science. Science encompasses amongst other things, social sciences like anthropology and sociology, earth sciences like geography (traditionally perceived as an ‘arts’ subject in Malaysia) and applied sciences such as engineering, computer science and psychology.
You can’t touch it, you can’t see it, how do you measure it?
Many people also point out that it is hard to accept Feng Shui as a science because it is not possible to measure Qi. Again, that is a flawed perception.
Before Michael Faraday (1831-79), electricity and magnetic forces couldn’t be measured. Does that mean that until Faraday’s time, electricity and magnetic forces did not exist? Electron microscopes helped pioneer the field of virology or the study of viruses. But does that mean before that, viruses did not exist? Quasars and blackholes cannot yet be actually measured but no one disbelieves Stephen Hawking when he talks about the wormholes in the universe, even if no one has actually seen one to know how it works, except on Star Trek.