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 Fundamentals
Agriculture introduced complex societies with thousands of inhabitants. It was a tremendous change of human life, bringing new needs as well as a new view of the world. Most of all, the agricultural world needed order.
Cosmologies were formed to confirm the idea of a universe devoted to organization and strict order. Society was cyclic, as it had been before agriculture, but instead of daily cycles with little meaning reaching from dusk to dawn, elongated periods became the norm. The rhythm of the year became more important than that of the day. Life became the cycle of sow and harvest. Seed led to birth, which led to growth, then to withering. Death was the Reaper (see the image below).
To a large extent, the pre-agricultural world was one of chaos. Little was known, less was controlled, and not much could be foretold about the very next moment. Agriculture introduced longtime planning, and the conviction that the future could be mastered.
So, this also had to be true for human life, and the force behind it. Systems of cultivating and influencing the life force emerged, as did very intricate and complex ideas about its nature. The human body was like a field, in as much as it contained a great number of parts that needed to be kept in a certain order, a balance, or it would certainly deteriorate. The life force had to flow about, like irrigation, but with moderation, or it would damage its container.
Through the era of agriculture, ideas and beliefs about a life force became increasingly complex. The life force became less of a hidden mystery, and more of a circumstance among many others in the world, needing to be considered, cultivated, and mapped. This can be seen very clearly in the many Medieval pictures of Zodiac Man, the human body divided according to the twelve Zodiac signs, like the illustration here. Each body part was governed by a Zodiac sign, deciding its state and fate.
It is also evident in the Chinese tradition about the life energy qi flowing along a number of meridians (see the next page) in the body. Elaborate systems of stimulating and influencing this flow were developed, such as acupuncture, where needles are used for it.
Everything in the world, including the life force, was to be controlled and furrowed.
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: