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.
A Demanding Spirit
Life Energy Fundamentals
In agrarian society, everything must have a purpose and be put to use. Primeval man marveled at the mysteries of life, but agricultural man needed to explain the mysteries systematically, to bring order and predictability to the world.
Creation stories from agricultural traditions show this very clearly. They explain at length how the world was created, one thing after another, and more importantly: the use of all these things. The stars were calendars. The vegetation and animals were food. The whole world was made for and surrounded man. But man was a mere servant of the deities.
This is quite outspoken in the old Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish, where the god Marduk (see the image above) declared that mankind should be created to serve and bring offerings to the gods. Genesis 2, the second creation story of the Bible, is another clear example of this. God let all the creatures of the world parade before Adam, so that he could name them and regard them as his, to do with them as he pleased. But when he broke God's rule, he was forever condemned.
The primary concern in agricultural society was order, and obedience to it - for the purpose of cultivating the land, but also to govern the thousands of people this society was able to feed. Everything in this society was formed to propagate and affirm that order.
So, the life force became something that needed and fostered discipline - a force aimed at conforming man to society. The Indian life energy prana is a good example, accessible only to the appeased mind, mainly by meditation and similar exercises of controlling the mind as well as the body. The life force was something that you had to work to get, and you got it only to the extent of your effort.
Also, the life force was becoming less personal. It was an ether existing all over, of which people could feed much like the animals of a farm were fed by their owners - if they conformed to the terms. The life force was believed to have a will of its own, working its ways through man, and not the other way around.
To Homo rudis, the life force had been a tool for the mind, but in agrarian society the human mind was a tool for the life force. This is very distinct with the Holy Spirit of the Bible: it belongs to God, who is the ruler of all, and it acts on humans according to His will (see the illustration on the next page). The humans were no longer free to utilize the life force according to their wishes, but had to obey in order to receive it at all. The most obedient ones got the most of it. Humans could do nothing but stay pious and pray to receive it.
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: