Do Superhumans Exist?
There have always been extraordinary claims about masters with superhuman abilities. Martial arts masters, mystics, spiritual and psychic healers, and qi projectors are universal in some form or another across all cultures. Along with these 'superhumans,' fakes are universal. Many of the 'tricks' used by such charlatans have been foisted upon the uninitiated for centuries. In the age of science, superhuman claims are met with skepticism, and rightly so. Many claims have been disproven scientifically, especially after the 19th century. However, just because there are fakes, it doesn't mean that none are real. We've all seen plenty of fake smiles but that should never lead us to believe that no smile is genuine. Nevertheless, it all begs the question: are superhuman abilities possible?
Searching for SUPERHUMANS: ENERGY looks to answer this question. This is the first installment of the Searching for SUPERHUMANS trilogy, a docuseries that explores modern masters who can demonstrate extraordinary abilities. These programs are the result of a special collaboration between two renowned experts, Lee Holden and David Verdesi.
Lee Holden is a YMAA author who has published 18 instructional videos on qigong with YMAA. He pioneered the advancement of qigong in the United States with Qi Gong with Lee Holden, an instructional series that was picked up by American Public Television and broadcast on PBS. Holden is also a Chinese Medicine practitioner and founded his own 'Holden Qi Gong.'
David Verdesi is a self-proclaimed anthropologist, scientist, mystic, and life coach. A native of Italy, Verdesi adopted a multidisciplinary approach to the exploration of superhumans that incorporated qigong, yoga, martial arts, Buddhism and even quantum physics. Verdesi says he is the subject of an upcoming documentary by renowned documentary maker Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford Coppola).
Searching for SUPERHUMANS: ENERGY includes 3 chapters: Inner Potential of Energy, Power of Mind, and Cleansing Past Conditioning. In addition, there are three interviews by Lee Holden. These feature Deepak Chopra, Reverend Deborah Johnson, and Robert Peng. The inclusion of these bonus interviews provides a lot more content, extending the running time to well over three hours.
The documentary juggles three presentations. Verdesi travels the world to some spectacular exotic locations to meet with masters propounding superhuman abilities. These are interspersed with Holden providing additional context along with 'follow along' demonstrations to help you experience qi sensations. Holden also conducts the interviews with Chopra, Johnson, and Peng. These are three separate extended interviews where Holden engages his interviewee on a wide variety of related topics, practice, spirituality, metaphysics and much more.
Can Energy Be Projected Outside Your Body?
Verdesi begins his quest in Borobudur, the magnificent 7th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Java, Indonesia. Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage site and provides a spectacular backdrop for any sort of energy work. It is the most visited tourist site in Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, and remarkably, the scenes shot here are relatively bereft of tourists.
In Indonesia, Verdesi introduces Bagus, a master energy worker. The video show Bagus emitting electricity from his body as part of his healing treatment on Verdesi. He uses a leaf like a wand, claiming that it provides a buffer. Without it, he claims he could injure Verdesi, perhaps even kill him. Astonishingly, you can clearly see the spark from the leaf to Verdesi's flesh. Bagus also lights a small lightbulb just by holding it.
For scientific or skeptical minds, this pushes the boundaries of what is possible. There are animals that can produce electricity like electric eels. But humans? There are also tricks that allow a person to build up static electricity, enough so that they can emit a static shock or light up a bulb. Benjamin Franklin experimented with static electricity in this manner, which led to his foolhardy kite-flying in a lightning storm.
Bagus' demonstration is far from scientific. It is visible and palpable (if Verdesi's flinch is to be believed), but there needs to be a lot more controls for this to be science.
Nevertheless, it's an intriguing demonstration, one that captivates the imagination. The electrical spark appears genuine, not some special effect done in post-production. Of course, being a skeptic myself, I'd have to experience this directly, and even then, I might not believe it.
I Left My Heart in Indonesia
After that, Verdesi ventures to another Indonesian temple to witness a Kecak. A Kecak is a Balinese Hindu dance, also known as a monkey chant. I've witnessed a live Kecak, albeit a tourist performance, in Bali. I always find Kecak very moving. One of my favorite examples is in Ron Fricke's non-narrative documentary Baraka. If you've never seen one, they are intense trance rituals that honor the Hindu monkey deity, Hanuman. The Kecak in Searching for SUPERHUMANS: ENERGYis a small one, a starter that might ease a naïve viewer into the art form.
Verdesi uses the Kecak as a segue to a visit with another master to lick red hot irons. Licking hot irons is an ancient trick, like fire eating. With enough saliva and quick exposures, it's possible not to get burned. However, don't try this at home. Most of us have burned our tongues with a hot fork, which is much cooler than cherry-red iron. Verdesi claims this is a method to increase internal power, but nothing comes of it after the licking.
For those of us who've visited Indonesia, we know it is a magical land. Bali is one of those locations where I found myself thinking that I wouldn't need much to live there – a modest job and a place to live and meditate. Even though I never made it to Java, seeing Borobudur brought me right back. And if you've never been, this is a nice postcard from one of the most beautiful paradises on earth.
The League of Superhumans
Verdesi leaves Indonesia and travels to a studio space to assemble 'the League' – a group of his hand-selected superhumans who demonstrate their skills. There's an Argentinian telekinetic, a Russian with X-ray vision, and my personal favorite amongst these sorts of paranormal demonstrations, a qi projector who can knock over adversaries without touching them. Each takes a turn demonstrating their abilities in various ways.
The qi projector didn't work for me. In martial circles, 'no touch' knock outs are mocked. I have experienced qi projectors who have elicited a palpable sensation within me, but my skeptical mind writes that off as the power of suggestion. And I have witnessed some astonishing demonstrations of qi projection so I'm not completely close-minded to the possibility. But don't let me sway you here. You just must watch it and judge for yourself.
Just Breathe… and Feel the Qi
Sandwiched in between Verdesi's travels, Holden offers some thought-provoking comments from a studio about what might be behind Verdesi's superhumans. It's a quiet contrast to the incredibly scenic Verdesi travel log. Apart from the League's studio, Verdesi has a keen eye for awe-inspiring sacred spaces that are so epic, they look like they're out of a fantasy film. These are sacred dream locations, ideal settings to meditate and practice, and it's reaffirming to see them used as such.
As a noted qigong master, Holden presents the ideas in his segments from a qi focused lens but in a balanced way that accommodates other philosophies. He also gets you to feel your own qi, assuming you haven't felt that already. Through simple 'follow along' exercises, Holden produces qi you can feel. These methods work. You will feel the qi.
Based on some fundamental qigong methods, Holden presents these with such simplicity that you can do them while watching from your couch. And once you learn them, you can use them anytime. They are steppingstones toward a self-cultivation practice. As a longtime practitioner and occasional teacher of qigong, I knew most of these or at least some variations upon his concepts. However, there was one that was new to me, and I confess that I'm going to poach it if I ever teach qigong to beginners again.
The bonus interviews really shine. The interviews are laissez faire, just Holden talking with his subjects and a casual conversation, but it's a delight to watch leading thinkers grapple with these concepts and share insights with each other. I found Reverend Deborah Johnson's interview especially engaging, mostly because I was unfamiliar with her work. You cannot have explored the New Age to any depth without encountering Deepak Chopra and Robert Peng is a renowned qigong master, so I was passingly familiar with their work already. But Johnson had escaped my attention until now and it is always a delight to discover a new maverick in these fields. Holden's interviews offer a nice sampling of what each interviewee is about.
How the Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary
I found Searching for SUPERHUMANS: ENERGY to be entertaining and educational. Although I was skeptical of some of the superhumans, I admired Verdesi's sense of theater, right down to the usage of flaming torches for his forest and cave expeditions. In the era of tactical LED flashlights, torches are a tad contrived, but they did have a certain romantic flair. Holden's sections serve as fine introductory explanations of what might be happening, and his interviews held ample room for you to stretch your imagination about what might be possible for human self-cultivation.
The two following installments of this docuseries are Searching for SUPERHUMANS: MIND and Searching for SUPERHUMANS: MEDITATION. MIND includes Episodes 4 (Energy of Combat and Healing) and 5 (Feeling Frequencies) with bonus interviews with Tami Simon and Wim Hof. MEDITATION has a discussion of Vairochana: 7-Point Meditation Posture with bonus interviews with Mantak Chia, YMAA video author Marisa Cranfill, Bruce Lipton and Dan Siegel.