By Stefan Stenudd
I'm a Swedish writer and instructor of the peaceful martial art aikido. I've written several books about qi and other lifeforce concepts. I'm also a historian of ideas, researching the thought patterns in creation myths. My personal website: stenudd.com
The life energy exists in many traditions, such as qi (chi) in China, prana in India, pneuma in Ancient Greece, spiritus in Latin, and vitalism in philosophy. Here they are all explained.
Books by Stefan Stenudd:
The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Chinese classic, translated and extensively commented by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained and how to exercise it. Click the image to visit.
Taoism, the old Chinese philosophy of life, based on Tao, the Way. Click the image to visit.
Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal. Click the image to visit.
Life Energy Beliefs S
Life Force Ideas Around the World
Sacred see holy.
Samana see prana.
Satori (Japanese for ‘enlightenment’) is a term within Zen for a moment of mental clarity that one can experience in meditation. It is not the goal of meditation, which in Zen should be completely without goal, but a kind os side-effect that can appear during it. This feeling of enlightenment can remain for a while, but will fade away. Still, the mind of someone who has experienced it is slightly altered, usually having gained a sense of being at peace with the world as it is. Compare peak experience.
Zen monk in a tree.
Seichim is a method of healing, developed in 1979 by Patrick Ziegler, who was inspired by old Egyptian ideas about the soul power sekhem (see this word). Later, Ziegler has written the term SKHM. Diane Ruth Shewmaker expanded this in 1997, calling it sekhem and SSR (standing for Sekhem - Seichim - Reiki). The healing system draws parallels to reiki (see this word). See also ankh.
Seiki (sei means approximately ‘harmony’ or ‘balance’ and ki is the same as qi) is a Japanese treatment introduced by Akinobu Kishi (1949-), with the purpose of creating balance between body and spirit. Compare reiki.
Akinobu Kishi in a seiki session.
Sekhem means ‘power’ and was a higher spiritual energy, the life force of humans, in ancient Egypt. Its hieroglyph is a scepter, showing its link to royal power. Sekhem was the name of the scepter that Egyptian kings held in their right hand. It is also the name of a mythical city, which was said to be Heaven on Earth. The healing energy of sekhem is linked to the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet (the name means ‘she who is mighty’), who was the goddess of healing, later also of destruction. The Egyptians divided the human being into nine parts, whereof eight were immortal. Khat was the mortal body, and the others: ka, ba, khaibit, akhu, sahu, sekhem, yb, ren. See also ankh.
Semangat is the word in Malaysian tradition for the life force, which exists in plants, animals, and people, but also in certain places and things. This force can be weakened or stolen, which leads to disease and can be cured magically by healers, bomoh. Under the influence of the world religions, the Malaysians have introduced a higher life force or soul, which can only exist in humans. It is called roh, after the Arabian ruh (see this word). Angin is the word for wind, which is one of the four elements that all living things consist of. The word semangat is mostly used for a fixation, an obsessional interest in something, especially an art form – possibly related to inspiration (see this word). Inability to devote oneself to this interest leads to disease and weakened semangat. See also badi.
Shakti is a Hindu deity, a feminine counterpart to Shiva. The name means ‘power’ and refers to a cosmic creative force – somewhat comparable to the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet (see sekhem). As a synonym to life energy such as qi, though, the Indian concept prana (see this word) fits better.
Shape power is an expression for energy appearing within particular shapes, such as the pyramids of Egypt, which are by some regarded to be healing because their shape concentrates a cosmic healing energy. The pyramid effect was first examined by the French researcher Antoine Bovis (1871-1947) – see also brain radiation. These healing shapes are often regarded as multidimensional. The expression shape power might have been introduced in 1997 by Dan A. Davidson in his book with the same name.
Sicun were among the North American Oglala Indians protective spirits in stones. They were personal and could help their owners. When the owner of one stone died, the protective spirit was free to move to another stone and another owner.
Sila/silap inua is an Eskimo expression for the atmosphere and the weather, as well as the deity of air. Sila is both the air that we breathe and the energy that rules all – from the world as a whole down to individual creatures.
Simagere see kerei.
Sixth sense is an expression traditionally used for a perception beyond what the five senses of the body (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) are able to register. Precognition, the ability to be aware of events ahead of time, is one, but in general any keen ability to see through appearances. See also psi.
Scalar electromagnetism is a theory from the 1990's by the American military systems analyst Thomas E. Bearden (1930-), about a basic energy in all of cosmos, which can affect gravity, time, and other phenomena. Bearden saw substantial martial applications to his theory. This energy is compared to Zero point energy (see this expression).
SKHM see seichim.
Smoke must certainly have amazed mankind since the dawn of the species. Smoke rising from a fire, or the steam from boiling water, also the misty exhalation air in cold weather, may very well have inspired ideas about hidden forces in the air. The ritual of tobacco smoking among the American Indians, where the smoke exited their bodies together with the exhalation, is another example, surely adding excitement and bewilderment to the ritual. The tobacco smoke was by the Indians regarded as having healing power, and was a way of communicating with their deity. See also gas.
SOEF (Subtle Organizing Energy Fields) see tachyon energy.
Somatid (Latin for ‘small body’) is the name for a life force particle that the French microbiologist Gaston Naessens (1924-) in the 1940's claimed to have found in the blood, with the help of a powerful microscope of his own invention, which he called somatoscope. The particle, a minimal reproducing life form, emanates light and is movable. Naessens described it as a life spark, a manifestation of cosmic energy. By studying the changes of the particle through certain stages, he predicted approaching illnesses, among other things. He also made a medicine based on these theories, called 714X (his initials G and N are the 7th and 14th letters of the alphabet, and X is the 24th letter, chosen because of his birth year 1924). In 1989 he was accused of malpractice, but acquitted. Before Naessens, the French biologist Antoine Bechamp (1816-1908) had similar theories about a minimal life particle, in his view a plant, which he named mikrozyma, and claimed to be present in every living cell.
Soul (in Latin anima, in Greek psyche) is in European tradition thought of as an incorporeal part of the human being, with an unclear connection to the spirit (see this word). Often there is little or no distinction between soul and spirit, which can be particularly misleading in the study of the beliefs of foreign cultures. In Christian traditions, the human being is seen as a trinity of spirit, soul, and body. The soul is frequently regarded as more or less a mirror or shadow of the body, maybe even sharing the same traits. It is also connected to the emotions, which have obvious bodily expressions. Where the spirit is usually connected to breath, many traditions link the soul to the blood – and the heart, which reacts clearly to emotions but rarely to thought. A soul is something that also animals can have, contrary to spirit. Also in death, the soul is seen as something more substantial than the spirit: it has a kind of body, a spatial presence, and a concrete connection to the souls of other people. The spirit is closer to being a synonym to qi than the soul is, in beliefs that encompass both. As for the many traditions with other ideas than the trinity of spirit-soul-body, the terms soul and spirit should be used with caution, if at all. They may be misleading, and hide from us possible deviations from our own beliefs and conventions.
Anatomy book illustration by Andreas Vesalius, 1555.
Soul of the universe is an expression introduced in 1948 by the American astronomer and biologist Gustaf Strömberg (1882-1962), for a dimension beyond the physical ones, which is the origin of the universe. Out of it come force fields that are the patterns and organizing principles of everything created. He also claimed that consciousness and memory belong to this force field.
Spin see torsion.
The Holy Trinity, by El Greco 1577. The Son is in the arms of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the white dove, indicating its link to air.
Spirit (Latin spiritus, Greek pneuma) is an expression that comes rather close to that of qi and the life force. Generally, the word has two types of meaning: one concrete and one abstract. The former is connected to the bodily breathing of air, and the latter is an incorporeal perspective, to some extent everything in the perception of oneself that is not purely corporeal. Breath given an abstract perspective probably has to do with the invisibility of air: what cannot be seen but exists nonetheless, and is of vital importance. Breathing differs from the heartbeats in being easily controlled by the conscious mind, which makes it appear to be closer to the individual self-awareness, or simply the I. The will to breathe is a clear parallel to life will. Air, one of the four elements of ancient Greek tradition, is symbolically linked to thought and abstractions, for example in astrology. The emotions, on the other hand, are linked to the element water, and are described as more corporeal. They also tend to find bodily expression, such as tears, laughter, and so on. In western tradition, the soul (see this word) is regarded as linked to the emotions, therefore closer connected to the body than the spirit is. That makes the soul closer to the element water. It is possible that speculations about the process of thought have led to conceptions of the spirit, whereas emotions have given ideas about the soul. In the New Testament of the Bible, Paul defined the human being as consisting of three parts: spirit, body, and soul. In some Christian traditions, the soul is something that animals, too, can have, but the spirit is unique to humans. Still, in common use of the terms, the distinction between them is sometimes unclear. But when the word soul is used, something more bodily in character is implied, a somewhat concrete thing, intermingled with the physical body and its organs, and existing in relation to it, maybe as its foremost driving force. The spirit, on the other hand, is regarded as an opposite to the body, although a guest in it. Ancient descriptions of the spirit, and of people’s experience of it, can be difficult to distinguish from the modern concept of the conscious mind. In psychoanalytical terms, then, the spirit comes close to the conscious, whereas the soul is near to the unconscious or subconscious. The word spirit is also used for the idea of conscious creatures without bodies. Such spirits can be good or evil, ghosts of the deceased, or incorporeal beings of other kinds. They are normally invisible, but can sometimes become visible to humans or animals. Often, but not always, they are believed to be immortal. The difference between ghost and spirit is normally that the former is always the spirit of a deceased person, but this has not always been the case. For example, the Holy Spirit (see this expression) has in Bible versions of old been called the Holy Ghost. Neither in the case of ghosts, nor other types of spirits, can it be taken for granted that they are spirits of the same kind as the spirit dwelling in a living human being. There is often a clear distinction between the spirits of living humans, and the other ones. Whether this distinction is made by the teachings of Christianity or existed prior to it, is difficult to decide. It is easy to find parallels to the western ideas about the spirit in other cultures, but far from sure that such comparisons are correct. What we translate as spirit may have quite different connotations in other traditions. Most, if not all traditions have ideas about some kind of life surviving the body – or originally existing without one. In these beliefs, life is not only seen as biological dynamics, but as a kind of consciousness, a personality separate from those of other beings. The spirit is not regarded as only a life energy of sorts, but one with conscious awareness. It might simply be an ancient concept for the mind (see this word), which gives the impression of being incorporeal, although based in the body. See also oxygen.
Spirit photo by Jay J. Hartman, 1875. See also its back side below.
Spiritus is Latin for ‘spirit’ and originally ‘wind’. See spirit.
Spiritus animalis (soul spirit) is Latin for the Greek concept pneuma psychikon. See pneuma.
Spiritus mundi (world soul) see archaeus.
Spiritus naturalis (natural spirit) is Latin for the Greek concept pneuma physikon. See pneuma.
Spiritus sanctus see Holy Spirit.
Spiritus silvestris see wild spirit.
Spiritus vitae see archaeus.
Spiritus vitalis (vital spirit) is Latin for the Greek concept pneuma zotikon. See pneuma.
SSR see seichim.
Steam see smoke.
Subtle energy see dielektric energy.
Sun, the star and life source of our solar system, is of fundamental importance in ancient myths and ideas about the world. Its emanation of light and heat was quite evident already to primordial humans, and thereby also its importance to all Earth life. In most mythologies, the sun’s role is central and utterly essential. Ideas about a supreme deity often seem to be inspired by the sun. That may also be the case with the creator god of Genesis 1 in the Bible, originally. Sunrise and sunset have been of importance in human beliefs in a world creation, as well as a coming destruction of it – especially where this is believed to be cyclic. The fact that the sun affects the world, in spite of its distance from it, has certainly led to thoughts about ethereal forces at work in the world, such as life energy concepts. It has also been the basis for mankind’s attention to celestial phenomena, for example in astrology. In most myths, the sun is paired with the moon, where the former represents day, and the latter night. Symbolically, this has also been compared to light and dark, life and death, and many similar opposite pairs.
The sun and its occupations. The people in the picture are involved in things astrologically related to the sun, which is on top, in a carriage with its ruling sign Leo on the wheel. Woodcut from the 1530's, by Hans Sebald Beham.
Synchronicity is a concept used by the German psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) for apparent coincidences that are related in a meaningful way. It is sometimes mentioned as a synonym to life energy such as qi, which is misleading.
Synergy is a term within natural science for a compound that may have different properties than any of its parts. The American anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) introduced the term within the social sciences, for patterns that appear in the whole but are not traceable in the parts. She looked particularly at the relation between aggression and cooperation. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) applied Benedict’s theory to the ability of creative persons to combine intellect and emotion, or other opposing sentiments, into a whole. It is sometimes mentioned as a synonym to life energy such as qi, which is unlikely. Maslow comes closer to qi with the concept peak experience (see this word).
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
BooksI have written two books on the subject of life energy: Qi: Increase your Life energy and Life Energy Encyclopedia. This website has material from the latter. Here are the two books: