by Marinus Jan Marijs
Subtle energies: Cross-cultural-, geographical-, historical- and modern data
The concept of non-physical subtle energies is relevant for different areas of research:
- Out of the body experiences/near death experiences;
- A comprehensive conceptual framework of parapsychology;
- The mind-body problem;
- The concept of higher, non-physical worlds;
- Mystical development;
- Transformations between developmental levels;
- Research relating to consciousness;
- The visual perception of a non-physical light during mystical experiences;
- Teleological forces;
- Research to the existence of (a) non-physical memory;
- A layered hierarchical structure of reality (ontological levels);
- Philosophical arguments/views related to dualism.
To investigate the concept of non-physical subtle energies more in-depth, cross-cultural data are presented here as a starting point for further investigation.
The concept of subtle non-physical energies is to be found all over the world, recognized by many different people, in many different countries and cultures and at different periods of history. The idea is that the world does not only consists of matter which is perceptible to the senses but also comprises a number of forms of subtler matter.
Here below ↓ a map of the world which shows different cultures familiar with the concept of subtle non-physical energies. On the list below, one can find these cultures including the names that have been used within these cultures to describe subtle non-physical energies.
This cross-cultural evidence makes clear that the concept of subtle non-physical energies is not a concept which is limited to a few cultures.
The map of the world and the tables below give an overview of cross-cultural-, geographical- and historical data.These data might be insufficient by themselves to prove the existence of subtle energies. The existence of a ‘consensus gentium’ or agreement between all people (which was an ancient criterion of truth) is not a scientifically sound principle to prove the existence of phenomena, because widely upheld beliefs can be false. However, the cross-cultural data presented here can be a starting point for further investigation.
But the available data are not limited to historical data alone. A large number of modern investigators has developed theories relating to the concept of subtle energies (see here below) This list of investigators includes some of the most brilliant investigators of the human condition like Carl G. Jung, Henri Bergson, David Bohm, Nobel-laureate John Eccles, Nobel-laureate Erwin Schrödinger and more recently Rupert Sheldrake and Ervin Laszlo.
(see world map here above)
- Akkadian: Napisthtu (1)
- Alexandria: Erasistratus: pneuma (2)
- Algonquin Indians: Manitou (3)
- Apache: Dige (4)
- Ashanti: Ntoro (5)
- Australian Aborigines: Arunquiltha, Churinga (6)
- Bantu: Ntu (5)
- Bataks: Tondi (6)
- Bergamo: Galen: Facultas Formatrix (7)
- Bukhara: Avicenna: Anima Mundi (8)
- Cabalists: Yesod (9)
- Candomble: Axé (10)
- Central Africa: Mungo (4)
- Chickasaw: Hullo (4)
- Chinese: Chi (11)
- Christians: Holy spirit (12)
- Congolese: Elima (3)
- Crow: Maxpe (4)
- Dakota: Ton (5)
- Druid: Wouivre, Nwyure (13)
- Egyptian: Ka, Ankh. (4)
- Ekoi: Njom (6)
- Elgony: Ajik (6)
- Eskimos: Sila (3)
- Gelaria: Lambuni (6)
- Germans: Wodan (14)
- Gold Coast Africans: Wong (6)
- Greece; Aristotle: Entelecheia (Formative cause) (7)
- Hermes Trismegistus: Telesma (15)
- Hippocrates: Vis Medicatrix Naturae (2)
- Plato: Nous (52)
- Hawaii: Tane (5)
- Hebrews: Ruach (16)
- Hindu Yogi’s: Prana (17)
- Hopi: Kachina (18)
- Iroquois Indians: Orenda, Oki (3)
- Israel: El, Manna (4)
- Ituri Pygmies: Megbe (3)
- Japan: Ki (4)
- Kalahari Bushman: Rlun (3)
- Kusaie: Anut (6)
- Malagasy: Adriamanitra (6)
- Malaya: Badi (6)
- Maoris: Atua (6)
- Masai: Ngai (6)
- Maya: Itz, K’awil, Ch’ul, Ch’ulel (19)
- Medieval alchemists: Vital fluid (4)
- Moroccan: Baraka (4)
- Navaho: Digin (4)
- Palau: Kasinge, Kalit (6)
- Persian: Baraka (4)
- Peruvian: Huaca (3)
- Polynesian Kahuna: Mana (20)
- Ponape: Ani, Han (6)
- Pueblo Indians: Po-wa-ha (13)
- Roman: Numen, Spirare (4,5)
- Siberut Indonesia: Kerei (4)
- Sioux Indians: Wakonda, Wakan (3)
- Sudanese: Mungo (3)
- Sumerian: Shiimti (1)
- Torres strait tribes: Zogo (6)
- Vietnam: Tinh (4)
- Yaralde: Miwi (21)
- Yaos : Mulungu (6)
- Yoruba: Ori (22)
Modern / Later sources
- Henri Bergson: Elan Vital (23)
- Ludwig von Bertalanffy: Anamorphosis (24)
- H. P. Blavatsky: Astral light (25)
- David Bohm: Implicate order (26)
- Harold Saxon Burr: Life fields (4)
- George De La War: Bio magnetism (27)
- Hans Dries: Entelechy (23)
- John C. Eccles: Psycho-kinesis (28)
- Robert Fludd: Spiritus (29)
- Sigmund Freud: Libido (30)
- Buckminister Fuller: Synergy (31)
- Luigi Galvani: Life Force (23)
- Johan Wolfgang Goethe: Gestaltung (24)
- V.S. Grisenko: Bioplasm (32)
- Samuel Hahnemann: Lebenskraft, Vital Force (33)
- Jan Baptista van Helmond: Magnale Magnum (34)
- Thomas Galen Hieronymus: Eloptic Energy (35)
- Carl Gustave Jung: Synchronicity (36)
- Johannes Kepler: Facultas Formatrix (7)
- Arthur Koestler: Integrative Tendency (37)
- Paul Krammerer: Formative energy (23)
- Ervin Laszlo: Akashic field (38)
- Abraham Maslow: Synergy (39)
- Anton Mesmer: Magnetic fluid (40)
- Charles Musus: Noetic energy (41)
- Paracelsus: Mumia (23)
- Robert Pavlita: Psychotronic energy (42)
- Radiesthists: Etheric force (43)
- Wilhelm Reich: Orgone energy (23)
- Karl von Reichenbach: Odic force (44)
- Charles Richet: Ectoplasm (45)
- Erwin Schrödinger: Negative entropy (46)
- Rupert Sheldrake: Morphogenetic fields (47)
- Rudolf Steiner: Etheric formative forces (48)
- Ian Stevenson: Psychophore (49)
- L. L. White: Unitary principle in nature (50)
- Sitchen, Zecheria; ‘The Twelfth Planet’, 1991;
- Encyclopaedia Britannica;
- Örnek, S.V. ; ‘Religion, Magic, Art and Mythology in the primitives’;
- Ford; Dr. Clyde W.; ‘Where healing waters meet’, 1980;
- Collinge, William : ‘Subtle energies’, 1998;
- Jung, C.G.; ‘On the Nature of the psyche’, 1974;
- Hardy, A., Harvie, R. and Koestler; ‘The challenge of chance’, 1974;
- Jung, C.G.; ‘Alchemical Studies’, 1967;
- The Cabala;
- Voeks, Robert; ‘Sacred leaves of Candomblé’. 1997;
- Mann, F.; ‘Acupuncture’ 1973;
- Holy Bible;
- Devereux, Paul; ‘Places of power’, 1990;
- Kind, S.; ’Mana Physics’;
- Yates, F. ; ‘Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition’,1964;
- Gaynor,F; ‘Dictionary of Mysticism’, 1953;
- Eliade, M.; ‘Yoga, Immortality and Freedom’, 1958;
- Waters, Frank; ‘Book of the Hopi’, 1963;
- Freidel, David; Schele, Linda & Parker, Joy; ‘Maya Cosmos’, 1993;
- Long, M.F.; ‘The secret science behind miracles’, 1948;
- Elkin, A.P.; ‘Aboriginal men of high degree’, 1946;
- Baba Ifa Karade; ‘The handbook of Yarouba religious concepts’, 1994;
- Mann, W.E.; ‘Orgone, Reich and Eros’, 1973;
- Koestler, A.; ‘The heel of Achilles’, 1973;
- Blavatsky, H.P.; ‘The secret doctrine’, 1893;
- Bohm, David; ‘Wholeness and the implicate order’, 1980;
- De La War, George; ‘Biomagnetism’, 1967;
- Eccles, John C.; ‘The neurophysiological basis of mind’, 1953;
- Reichenbach, K. von; ‘The Odic force’, 1968;
- Freud, Sigmund; ‘Collected works’;
- Fuller, B.; ‘Operating Manual for spaceship Earth’, 1969;
- V.M. Inyushin; ‘Bioplasm and its radiation’;
- Mc Cabe, Vinton; ‘Let like cure like, 1997;
- Ostrander, S; .Schroeder, L.; ‘Psychic discoveries behind the iron curtain’, 1971;
- Tompkins, P. and Bird, C.; ‘The secret of plants’, 1989;
- Jung, C.G.; ‘Synchronicity’, 1973;
- Koestler, A; ‘The ghost in the machine’, 1967;
- Laszlo, Ervin; ‘Cosmic Vision – The dawn of the integral theory of everything’, 2004;
- Maslow, A.; ‘The farther reaches of human nature’, 1971;
- Eden, J.; ‘Animal magnetism and life energy’, 1974;
- Muses, C. and Young, A.; ‘Consciousness and reality’, 1972;
- Hammond, D.; ‘The search for psychic power’, 1975;
- Russel, E.; ‘Report on radionics’;
- Reichenbach, K. von; ‘Psycho – Physical researches’, 1851;
- Lewis, H.D.; ‘The foundations of metaphysics in science’;
- Schrödinger, Erwin; ‘What is life?; 1944;
- Sheldrake, Rupert; ‘A new science of life’, 1987;
- Wachsmuth, G.; ‘The etheric formative forces in the cosmos, earth and man’, 1932;
- Stevenson, Ian; ‘Reincarnation and Biology’, 1997;
- White, L.L.; ‘The unitary principle in nature;
- Poortman, J.J.; ‘Vehicles of consciousness’, 1978; in Vehicles of Consciousness Poortman traced the concept of subtle energies in Ancient Egypt, Hermetism, the Greek Mysteries, Ancient Assyria & Babylonia, Ancient Persia, Vedic India, China, etc. In the Western Tradition, based on the theoretical framework of the Qabalah, hylic pluralism engenders correspondences between the various elements functioning on different planes.
As a cosmological thesis, various levels, planes or strata of the world-system are considered. Each plane features a particular kind of rarefied matter. In general, the world-system is divided up in several different planes of existence.
- Russell, Bertrand; “History of Western Philosophy and its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day”, 1946.
Subtle energies and their relevance to different fields of inquiry
Why a multi-perspective approach of subtle energies is needed.
Cross cultural data
While there is substantial cross-cultural evidence, the question is what is its relevance, given the fact that the concept of subtle non-physical energies is difficult to place within a scientific worldview. The data that are given by the traditional sources are very unclear, sometimes in poetic or in metaphoric language which can be interpreted in multiple ways. However there are several important fields of inquiry relating to human existence in which subtle energies could play an important role.
There is a direct correlation between consciousness and subtle energies. To develop consciousness on a certain level one has to develop a certain amount of subtle energy on that level, and if one wants to develop consciousness on a still higher level, than one has to develop subtle energies on that higher level. These subtle energies are not the same as consciousness. So the expansions of consciousness are related to the activation of subtle energies at different levels of consciousness.
That subtle energies have colors which each have a different meaning, is already been mentioned in the first century A.D. by the Greek writer Plutarch in “De sera numinis vindicta”.
These different kinds of colored subtle energies are related to different developmental lines:
- Yellow – cognitive;
- Green – social/interpersonal;
- Blue – moral;
- Violet – spiritual;
- Red – affective.
These different colored subtle energies can all be at different levels of existence according to the developmental lines they correspond with.
Primary and secondary qualities distinction
The secondary properties like color, sound and so on, are primary properties in the higher world spaces. The idea is that all subjective experiences like color, sound, emotion etcetera (qualia) are not properties of the brain but are properties of subtle energies. It is for this reason that a neurophysiological explanation is not possible. In these kinds of processes subtle energies are involved.
Subtle energies are directly related to Kundalini. The human body is surrounded and permeated by subtle energy-fields. When they are drawn into the chakras, they are divided into different sublevels. When the subtle energies of a ‘higher mystical’ level are drawn into the chakras, they become highly concentrated and are divided into different streams at different sublevels.
These streams of highly concentrated higher level subtle energies that form, generate the kundalini force.
The mind-body problem
Descartes’ problem is still one of the central problems within philosophy. (The mind–body problem in philosophy examines the relationship between mind and matter, and in particular the relationship between consciousness and the brain.)
The mind is composed of subtle energies which circulate in the chakras and are subsequently drawn into the big nadis (subtle energy channels), these subtle energies are then transported and distributed throughout the brain by the small nadis. These subtle energies interact with the synaptic units in the brain.
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During spiritual development deeper levels of consciousness come within reach. This is only possible when subtle energies are developed on deeper levels. Different levels of spiritual development are correlated with different levels of subtle energy. This development involves all of the five main groups of subtle energies mentioned above.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
In a substantial part of alternative therapeutic methods, subtle energies are supposed to play an important role. In 1990 Americans made about 425 million visits to providers of unconventional medicine, exceeding the number of visits to all U.S. primary care physicians. In 1998 this number was risen to 630 million visits. But in contrast to conventional medicine, a scientific approach or data about subtle energies are very limited or lacking.
Life after death
The question whether there is life after death boils down to one central issue: Are there within a human, elements which survive the death of the physical body? Subtle energies could provide the answer. The physical body is surrounded, enveloped and penetrated by different kinds of subtle energy fields called the aura. These fields that survive the death of the physical body, and will be the carrier of consciousness after death.
There is a possible connection between subtle energies and non-physical memories (such as memories of former lives) and non-physical information fields, the Akashic –field. (Kosmic memory). See: Laszlo, Ervin; “Science and the Akashic Field”.
The concept of karma within Jain philosophy is described as follows:
“Karmas are constituted of infinitely small ‘Karma particles’. These particles are made up of non-living particles (pudgals) and are scattered and free floating across the universe.
When the soul acts with a passion such as attachment, anger, deceit, greed, etc. it attracts these. These particles on the soul are karma (karmas that do not obscure the true knowledge of the soul are known as Aghati karmas).”
– Original source unknown
This puts the concept of karma clearly in the realm of subtle energies. This makes it possible to replace speculative metaphysics with (visually) observable data. What is called karma is formed by the clusters of subtle energies in the human aura. These clusters can be visually observed as different groups of different colors, their location in the total field, movement patterns and so on. See sections ‘colors and groups’ and ‘movement patterns’ of this website for more information.
Theoretical physicist and Nobel prize laureate Erwin Schrödinger:
“The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further… when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.”
Writings of July 1918, quoted in A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (1994) by Walter Moore
At the beginning of the twentieth century theoretical physics was revolutionized by Einstein’s Relativity theory and by Quantum theory. Both theories lead to results that agree with experiment with great accuracy and cover an extremely wide range of phenomena. As yet there are no experimental indications of any domain in which it might break down (with a possible exception of a black hole). However there is a number of problems, such as the well-known incompatibility of Quantum theory with Relativity theory. Einstein tried to solve this problem. When he became older he was asked if he thought he would succeed in this endeavor, and he answered no. When asked who he expected to succeed in this, he answered: ”If anyone can do it, then it will be Bohm.” To solve this problem, theoretical physicist David Bohm developed an ontological interpretation of Quantum theory. This theory is an alternative interpretation of Quantum theory, which postulates next to the physical world (the explicate order) several non-physical levels of reality called implicate orders. According to Bohm each of these higher levels exist of a subtle non-physical matter / energy, of varying degrees of subtlety. The higher levels organize the lower levels, which at its turn influence the higher levels. Bohm’s theory of implicate levels of non-physical subtle energies corresponds to the concept of higher worlds described by many mystical traditions.
A multi perspective approach of subtle energies
As the above list clearly shows the concept of subtle energies is highly relevant to many important fields of inquiry.
In general it is necessary:
- To replace metaphorical, poetic or symbolic descriptions with clear technical language which can only be interpreted in one way;
- To search for quantifiable data;
- To develop testable hypotheses.
In the last decennia several projects of scientific research in the area of subtle energies have been undertaken. Some have been published in the journals:
“Psycho-energetic systems/ Psycho-energetics” and “Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal.”
There are several approaches to which our knowledge relating to subtle energies can be extended:
A differentiation between different kinds and different levels of subtle energy.
Some of the information relating to subtle energies on mystical levels, will only become available with a spiritual/mystical transformation of the observer. However it is possible to use methods of concentration, by which the majority of those who do this kind of training will be able to see the colored subtle energies of their own aura field, as a test with a small group of people did show. It was shown that when you train 10 to 15 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week you are able to see energies in about 3 to 8 weeks. Testing of this training method with a substantial number of people, could proof its usefulness and efficiency. The possibility of visually perceiving these subtle energies, leads to a qualitative and quantitative improvement of data relating to these subtle energies. It would make it possible to give precise descriptions and to make a better differentiation between different categories of subtle energies.
The effectiveness of concentration or meditation exercises is really an issue. It is necessary to replace the trainings methods that take many years, with methods that work in a few weeks. This is possible with developing the ability to see subtle energies on an emotional/astral level (however to develop the ability to see subtle energies on a subtle or causal level will still take years).
Correspondence, representation, objective measurement
To replace artistic or symbolic drawings of subtle energy systems like the Nadi system with technical drawings, which give concrete information. It is important to know how and where subtle energies are transported and distributed throughout the body.
Relating to alternative healing, there is no reason why one cannot use modern, scientific methods to test the effectiveness of this kind of healing methods.
Healing methods like Qi-gong (Chinese), Reiki (Japanese) or Therapeutic Touch (Western) deal mostly with etheric energies, which are but a small part of the total spectrum of subtle energies. A more extensive approach is necessary (for example cross-cultural comparisons).And empirical testing and scientific validation.
Research related to collective experiences like parallel cultural development, parallel independent discoveries, feeling of group auras, collective mystical experiences, processes of resonating subtle energies. More cross-cultural data can be found in the H.R.A.F. (Human Relation Area Files). Within this system subtle energies are listed under number 774.
Social conformation, validation and verification
A documentary research into traditional literature relating to subtle energies.
Research related to collective fields of subtle energies, such as Rupert Sheldrake’s (collective) morphogenetic fields, and also Ervin Laszlo’s study relating to the Akasha-field.
The solution to the problems that research faces relating to subtle energies can only be solved by a multi-perspective approach.
A single approach simply doesn’t work.
Only phenomenological descriptions do not deliver proof. Furthermore measurements by technical instruments, without direct visual perception of the subtle energies, will lack insight in the functioning of these energies and will not give an overall view. Cross-cultural evidence and social acceptance of the concept of subtle energies are indicative for the existence of subtle energies. But its current application for healing without scientific proof of its effectiveness and lack of insight into the nature and function of subtle energies, calls for a strong theoretical basis and experimental evidence.
So if we have to do justice to the complexities of subtle energies, we need a multi-perspective approach that covers all the relevant fields of research.