The question of what is meant by vital force in Taoism is usually asked by students that read texts from the Taoist Alchemical Tradition or are martial artists.
In the 4 Acendant Spheres Purity Adept Tradition, the third sphere of power refers to Qi. That Qi is an entire sphere of power within the 4 Ascendant means that a great deal of time has been dedicated to building knowledge about it, and developing training methods for it.
So, you’ve come to the right source for questions regarding Vital Essence or Qi (also called chi or ki).
Vital Force is called by several other equivalent names: Vitality, Essence, Vital Essence, the Breath of Life, or the Vital Breath. These are all names for the energy of life itself.
Vital Force is a type of qi. It is different than many other forms of qi, because it is higher up on the energetic scale. It is stronger and has special healing and life-giving properties.
In the body, it is able to substitute for the lack of other qi types, because it is undifferentiated. That means it has the potential of being shaped into any other qi.
Think of vital force as being the Swiss Army Knife of Qi. If you are lacking a particular type of qi within your “toolbox,” you can always use vitality.
There are some serious limits to vital force.
- You have a limited reservior of vital qi that is given to you at birth.
- Each day a small amount of vital qi is used, if you are at normal health.
- Recovery from injury or illness uses a large amount of vital force.
- Sex uses vital force.
- It can be replenished, but only with special training (through herbalism or a practice known as Golden Bell Qi Gong), and great effort.
- When it is depleted, you die.
That’s right, vital force determines the maximum length of your life span!
Of course, having a solid grasp of qi and vitality is of life-saving importance to you.
Master Mikel Steenrod
Keeper of the Gate of Man and Heaven
(Lineage Holder of the 4 Ascendant Spheres Purity Adept School of the Tao)