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
There can be no doubt that speculations about a life force of some kind, as well as other spiritual perspectives, will go on. They are also sure to connect to the evolvement of the natural sciences, probably also to influence it - although indirectly, and without being credited for it.
For example, there is yet to appear some life energy concept sharing the perspectives and complexity of modern string theory. It might need to redefine the very idea of movement and its nature, thereby somewhat returning to the initial questions of Homo rudis: Why and how do we move at all? String theory will call for rephrasing the question to: What is movement?
String theory, as well as quantum mechanics, may also stimulate a shift from the common use of the term energy in reference to a life force, to such concepts as movement, dimension, pattern, vibration, attraction, and quality.
Another perspective in need of renewed attention is that of the mind, the greatest mystery of all. Since the early 20th century, psychoanalytical theories, especially those of C. G. Jung (1875-1961, see his portrait above) about archetypes and synchronicity, and the orgone of Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957, portrait above), to some extent also Sigmund Freud (1856-1939, portrait above) in his theories about libido as well as his ideas about the importance of dreams, have touched on the psyche and its relation to reality. Such research is probable to continue, and will definitely lead to new suggestions of life force principles, maybe more along the line of a life drive, or a life will.
Even more intriguing would be ideas about the imagination as something reaching beyond the brain, and given reality equal to that of the material world. Future speculations will surely not hesitate to question our concept of reality, thereby opening for investigations of the influence of our imagination on the world that surrounds us. There may be a need for moving the borders between what is real and what is not.
Some of the ancient ideas of a life force have already proven to be persistent. Both Indian prana and Chinese qi are popular in vast circles of present society. The Holy Spirit of the Bible is another concept with millions of believers. The future may keep them around without much change, or adapt them somewhat to future scientific paradigms, if that can be done with a reasonable stretch of the imagination.
It has to be remembered that old life force ideas and other spiritual concepts can remain even in a society where they lack complete believers. As with religion as a whole, spiritual beliefs have always been questioned and doubted - more or less - and still managed to remain. They have been utilized also by people who were not totally convinced of them, but found them useful for one or other purpose.
A belief of old tends to survive a lot of doubt, as long as it is not outright impossible to believe anymore. Modern Christian fundamentalism and creationism show this clearly. We all know for sure that the Earth is not flat, and not the center of the universe, but wherever there is room for some little doubt, there is also room for far-fetched speculation and appropriate parts of ancient beliefs.
Most life force concepts, though, are rarely of central importance in religious beliefs, so they tend not to be supported that vigorously. In order to remain, they need more support than the mere doubt of scientific proof to the contrary.
In any case, our past has shown us the necessity of treating our beliefs and ideas seriously, because of their vast importance in our lives and in the cultures we form. The future will certainly show the same, without end.
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: