This is a huge topic with no simple answer, but there are some insights I can give that I hope will be helpful to anyone just starting out on their feng shui journey and looking for some clarification about this.
The feng shui bagua
The feng shui bagua is a grid that can be laid over the plans of any building to reveal which aspects of the occupants’ lives are located in which areas. The version you can see here is a simplified diagram showing the nine main areas.
The Compass Method
The Compass method involves taking compass readings to discover which direction the house is facing, which then determines how the bagua is aligned. This system works well for houses situated in their own plot of land where there is a strong awareness of orientation because of an external influence such as the daily movement of the sun from east to west.
In my experience, though, this is not so applicable to urban dwellings, where there is much less awareness of solar orientation or interaction with “heavenly chi”. It also does not work in cultures that have their own specialized system of geographical orientation, such as Bali, where “north” is the direction of the sacred mountains in the middle of the island and “south” is all the coastal areas, be they north, south, east, west, or anything in between.
The Compass method has also become unreliable because Magnetic North is shifting at the rate of 40 miles per year due to unusual changes in the earth’s molten core. Magnetic fields generated by equipment within a home can also seriously interfere with obtaining a correct compass reading.
For all the reasons I’ve explained here, I rarely use the Compass method myself.
The Front Door Method
In the Front Door method (sometimes known as the Three Door Gate system), the orientation of the bagua is determined by the main entrance through which people and energy enter a building. You can find some information about how to apply the bagua using this method in my Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui book, and there is a brief description online here.
This method is based on human chi rather than heavenly chi, and can be used for huge mansions, tiny apartments, underground cellars, and every other type of building you can think of. It even works in the complex spiritual orientation system of Bali. It is particularly good for modern dwellings such as apartments and is much simpler to learn and use than the Compass method. It has widely been adopted by feng shui consultants in the US, so is sometimes known simply as the Western method of feng shui.
Don’t mix the two
What doesn’t work is to mix the two systems. You pick one and go with it. If you try to apply both bagua methods to the same building, the results you get will be confusing and ineffectual.
If you’re interested to know my personal preference, in most situations I use the Front Door method. This is not because of any intellectual conclusion I have arrived at but because the hand sensing technique I have developed in over 35 years of doing space clearing work allows me to actually FEEL the chi energy and bagua areas that the Front Door method is based on. It is therefore not theoretical but extremely tangible to me. Not only that but I can also discern the quality and ease of flow of the chi.
For this reason, I start each feng shui consultation in the same way that I begin a space clearing consultation, by hand sensing the entire inner perimeter of the place, starting from the chi portal of the main entrance. I don’t know of any other feng shui practitioners who work this way, but the level of information this allows me to access is far deeper than simply walking round and observing with my eyes. As I’ve discovered on many an occasion, appearances can sometimes be deceptive.
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