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In ordinary usage 'ki' means 'air' or 'state of mind'. In ancient Chinese philosophy, 'qi' (or 'ki') referred to the vital energy that fills each human body as well as the whole universe (Shimazono 2004: 287). It is by means of the ki that we are 'animate corpses' and through which we interconnect with other human beings and the surrounding world.

Ki-energy is not present in a corpse. It is applicable to various factors such as climatic conditions, an arising social condition, as well as psychological and pathological conditions. For instance, a Japanese person might say that 'heaven's ki is bad' when there is bad weather. Or when two persons are getting on well together, they use the expression 'ki ga au\ which literally means that 'ki accords with each other'. In contrast, when a person faces an unstable situation, which generates fears or suspicion, an expression such as 'ki mi ga warui may be used, which means 'the taste of ki is bad'.

According to Yuasa, 'Ki energy has a psychophysiological character that cannot be properly accommodated within the dualistic paradigm of thinking' (Nagatomo 1992: xii). Similarly, Suzuki has pointed out: 'This is a difficult term to translate into English. It is something imperceptible, impalpable that pervades the entire universe' (Suzuki 1959b: 149).

Professor Hiroshi Motoyama has been conducting research in the field of ki-energy employing a measuring device that he invented called AMI (Apparatus for Meridian Identification), an apparatus for measuring the function of meridians and their corresponding internal organs.5

An example of how ki-energy is used in meditation to achieve a kundalini experience is given in the following account by Motoyama. After practising meditation for six months, sometimes all day long, he observed:

When I was gathering my consciousness into the lower abdomen in order to balance ki-energy in my body, so that the energy of the upper part of my body would become evenly distributed, while the lower part would be packed with the energy, I suddenly experienced, after engaging in this practice for less than twenty minutes, a pillar of hot and voluminous fire shooting up from the base of my spine through the central tube of my spinal cord. My entire body was scorching hot, and no sooner had I realized it than my body swiftly became afloat twenty to thirty centimetres in mid-air, even though I was still assuming a meditation posture. Although my body was terribly hot and my consciousness was almost hazy, I could clearly grasp the event that was taking place. After ten to twenty seconds, my body descended to the floor with a thump. For about a week after this experience occurred, I felt my entire body to be extremely hot. This was an experience of awakening the kundalini.

Prior to this practice I had been engaging in 'winter practices' outside in which I poured buckets of ice-cold water over my body. I did this regularly from toward the end of January through to the beginning of February. I recall myself shivering in the dead of the winter because it was cold. After pouring many buckets of water, I would stand naked in the cold wintry wind for about an hour while praying to God. My body felt like it was frozen; when I pinched the skin of my body, it was like pinching thick plastic. However, after awakening the kundalini, I no longer felt cold at all during such 'winter practice', and in fact when I poured buckets of water over my body, I could see white vapors rising from all over the body. I felt good, because my entire body was hot.

After having repeatedly gone through the ecstatic state and the awakening of the kundalini for several months, I became able to receive the flow of God without having to enter into any ecstatic state. Consequently, I came to realize that I could exist out of the body while being elevated to the world of God. Accordingly, I gradually became awakened to the world of the divine self [purusa] through the power of God. This was the awakening of a super-consciousness of the divine self.

(Motoyama, 2008)

The notion of ki-energy, or simply ki, without specification that this is a kind of energy, is useful for understanding how mind and body relate. Yuasa wrote:

The substance of the unknown energy ki is not within our [present] understanding. It is a flow of a certain kind of energy unique to the living organism which circulates in the body, although it is uncertain yet what generates such a function. To be more specific, when the flow of ki is examined psychologically, it can be perceived as an extraordinary sensation, as a lived body's self-grasping sensation in a unique situation on the surface of the circuit of the coenesthesis (e.g. a case of a k'-sensitive person).

(Yuasa, in Nagatomo 1992: 70)

The k'-meridians operate at the level of the skin, which is also the boundary wall between the internal and the external body.6

Yuasa claimed that the function of the quasi-body has an immediate effect on both body and mind and for this reason can be viewed as a 'breakthrough' point capable of transforming the existing scientific paradigm in so far as it is still influenced by Cartesian mind-body dualism:

The k'-meridian system is related closely to both mind and body, both spirit and matter, and is a middle system that influences them. For this reason, it is a third term which cannot be explained by Descartes' mind-body dichotomy, but it forms a mediating system that links the mind and the body. Herein lies, it seems, a break-through point that reforms the paradigm of empirical science [established] since Descartes.

(Yuasa, in Nagatomo 1992: 71)

This observation has implications for near-death experiences. During an interview I carried out with Yasuo Yuasa,7 he suggested that the near-death experience could easily represent a way of access to the unconscious quasi-body. The NDE allows the person to step directly into the unconscious quasi-body. The first three circuits are shut down and the individual's body will die. In the case of the NDE, there is no longer a clear awareness of the external world. Both sensory and motor organs are no longer functioning, or their activity is drastically reduced. In Yuasa's view, this could be the reason for the sense of dying, during which ego-consciousness gradually disappears. After an initial phase of transition, often described as a tunnel experience, the mind arises out of the unconscious quasi-body into what has been described as a different realm or dimension of reality. This emergence allows the person to understand him/herself as a disembodied 'soul' or 'mind'. According to Yuasa, this is because the 'quasi-body' has no anatomical counterpart and our sensory perceptions cannot detect it. Yuasa encouraged further study of this circuit, which he considers to be the most fundamental for maintaining life rather than the body. He often emphasized the connection between the unconscious quasi-body and k'-energy, which could possibly explain the strong sense of unity with the cosmos that emerges from both the NDEs and ketamine experiences.

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