Raising the Dead and Returning Life – Emergency Medicine of the Qing

Raising the dead and returning life – what can we learn from the Qing?

Before becoming a writer, I studied Chinese Medicine and this post is inspired by issues common to health practitioners and healers. It’s also a review of a book called Raising the Dead and Returning Life – Emergency Medicine of the Qing Dynasty by Bao Xiang’ao.

When Raising the Dead came out I just had to have it. Today it sits on my shelf, a few slots away from Unschuld’s Huang di Nei Jing (pretty much the bible of modern Chinese Medicine). My reason for buying it was that I wanted to get to grips with how traditional cultures approach death.

On never providing assistance that wasn’t asked for

My motivation for this was a problem I had with a caution given to me about helping people. The caution was first always ask permission from the non-material aspects of the patient before treating them. And second never, ever provide assistance or treatment unless it is asked for.

These seemed to me to be reasonable and sensible approaches – basically mind your own business, I got that. But the logical extension of not providing assistance unless it’s asked for is that you can’t help someone in a life-threatening situation. I find this confronting and, as you can imagine, I thought long and hard about whether this was a valid approach. It also got me thinking about whether or not this sort of thinking plays a part in traditional cultures’ approaches to death. I hoped Raising the Dead and Returning Life might have some answers.

No safety net

The book reminded me that the view of life as precious knows no boundaries. I was moved by the sense of urgency that infuses the book, for the prescriptions and methods described within reflect a culture with no safety net. In the Qing dynasty, traditional cures were matters of life and death.

Indeed it seemed that the information I was looking for was right there on the first page:

‘Even if there is not the least bit of life force left in the victim, you should still do all that is humanly possible and heed the command of heaven. You cannot see death without trying to rescue the person’.

The word death here refers to ‘loss of consciousness and other conditions that are life-threatening’ as a consequence of attempted suicide.

On reading this statement, I accepted its point of view and decided to change my perspective. I decided that if the circumstances arose, I would always help. But things have changed.

Back to where I started

One of the things that prompted me to reconsider – and essentially go back to the advice I had been originally given – was the following passage. it comes from a book called Spiritual healing and Australian flower essences by Erica Rappel. This was passage was ‘written’ by one of her guides:

‘When you are born, there are certain things that are predetermined by you, and one of these things is your time of passing. There are only two ways of altering this choice. The first is by suicide and if you choose this course, there can be no progress forward until you return to complete that lifetime and face the lesson that you were trying so hard to avoid’.

In general the teachings I hear agree with the words of Erica Rappel but I offer a slightly different perspective. This refinement concerns what might be meant by ‘your time of passing being predetermined’. I suggest that rather than considering that people have a predetermined year or a date of passing, that we instead consider each person as having a general trend. Such trends are very clear in face reading – for example if you have big ear lobes you can reasonably expect to have a long life. Of course, if you don’t have big earlobes you may still have a long life but you will have to work that bit harder to attain it!

Your time of passing is not part of some divine plan

According to my hearing, this is as far it goes: your time of passing is not part of some divine plan. Your lifespan is related only to the accident of birth and how well you care for yourself. When you read on this site about how ‘the heavens control man’ this is not a reference to day-to-day events, this is a reference to the spiritual aspect.

This is a good time to reiterate another thing my guides tell me: things do not happen for a reason. It is a fallacy to suggest that bad stuff is somehow predetermined. To be more specific, and to relate this back to Raising the Dead, suicide is not predetermined. Poor sods who kill themselves were not ‘meant to die’ because it was part of some ‘cosmic plan’.

Do everything we can

As is told to me, we must do everything we can to help people. In every way possible we must promote life and prevent suicide taking place. The reason for this is that once the person has decided to take their life and has taken action then, I am told, one should not attempt to bring them back. I admit that I find this confronting, but my commitment to presenting what I hear overrides my personal view.

However, there is one important clarification. The teaching I hear is that one is allowed to give first aid in the case of an emergency, even where the person involved cannot directly ask for help. Where you are not allowed to help is where the person has begun the process of killing themselves and would need some form of resuscitation.

What can we learn from the Qing dynasty?

So what can we learn from the Qing dynasty? We can recognise in ourselves the same living and breathing aspects of creation that leap from the page of Bao Xiang’ao’s book. We can pay attention to the words expressing how precious life is and how we should do everything in our power to preserve it. But my understanding is that we must not interfere by reversing the actions of a person who has taken action to kill themselves.

As the purpose of feng shui is to provide a path to care for the sick, the poor and the dying, I urge you to think about what you can do for others. In Australia, Lifeline (phone 13 11 14) is a tireless resource for those in crisis seeking help. As well as phone help they offer a range of self-help tools including a coping kit. Perhaps read up so you can be ready to share with someone who needs it?

Wishing you Health and Happiness,