Life Energy Beliefs
Life Force Ideas Around the World
Here are the A entries of life energy beliefs around the world and from antiquity to the present. An edited and expanded version of this Life Energy A to Z is published in my book Life Energy Encyclopedia
Actinic force see odic force.
Acupressure is manual pressure treatment of the acupuncture points and
meridians, intended to stimulate and correct the qi flow. See also
Acupuncture (in Chinese zhenjiu) is a Chinese method, possibly
originating already in the stone age, where needles are used to stimulate
energy points and their meridians in the body, in order to stimulate and
correct the qi flow and thereby cure the patient. The oldest text mentioning
acupuncture is Huangdi Neijing (Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor)
from around 500-200 BC. Acupuncture is traditionally used against a
number of diseases, and to ease pain. A similar method of treatment is
moxibustion (zhongguo), the burning of dried leaves from the moxa plant
(wormwood) on acupuncture points. See also acupressure.
Air has always been a subject of much symbolic thought, because of its
intangible nature, and its importance to our survival. Many concepts of a
life force are based on conceptions of the air, and often the term used for
the life force is similar or synonymous to the word for air, such as in the
Chinese qi, the Hebrew ruach, or the Latin spiritus (see these words). It is
one of the four Greek elements: air, earth, water, and fire – but not one of
the Chinese five: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. See breath and oxygen.
Aither see quintessence.
Akasha/akasa is the Hindu concept for ether (sometimes translated
'space'), which among other things carries sound. It is not a qi synonym,
which in Indian is prana (see that word). Theosophy uses the word akasha
for its theory on astral light (see that word).
Akashic records see astral light.
Akwalu ('a kind of light') is a concept among the Akawaio indians in
Guyana, for a spiritual quality in people. Its counterpart is akwalupo
('without light'). The word akwa means light, shine, life, and is used to
Alam al-mithal is Arabic for the world of ideas (see this concept).
The alchemist. Woodcut by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1553.
alchemy ('the chemistry', where the definite article 'al' is of Arabic origin)
was, except for research into chemistry, mainly during the late Middle
Ages and the Renaissance also a complex teaching about the order and
internal truth about matter. Alchemists tried to transform common metals
into gold, but also saw this as a symbol for human strife for completion.
See also archaeus and telesma.
Alexander technique is a massage technique developed by the Australian
actor Frederick Mathias Alexander (1869-1955), where among other things
neck massage is used to open for energy to flow through the spine and up
to the head, which leads to improved posture, movement, thought,
breathing, and speech.
Ambiroa see andriamanitra.
Amma see mulungu.
Anamorphosis is a distorted image that is seen correctly in a different
form of viewing. Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972) used it for his theory
from around 1928 about nature's inherent strife for increasingly complex
forms – especially in biological bodies. He took both the term and its use
from the biologist Richard Woltereck (1877-1944). Although Bertalanffy
saw energy flows in this, anamorphosis is far from the idea of a life
Anamorphosis by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533. The strange object by the floor becomes a skull when seen in a certain angle (below). See Anamorphosis.
Andriamanitra is a concept in Madagascar for a deceased ruler who has
become regarded as divine. The Christians of this culture also use this
name for the Biblical god. It is sometimes mentioned as a synonym to qi,
which is misleading. The human spirit is called avelo or ambiroa. See also
Angin see semangat.
Ani are evil spirits according to the people on the Pacific island Ponape. It
is far from the idea about alife energy such as qi, although sometimes mentioned as a synonym to it.
Anima see soul.
Anima mundi see world soul.
Animal electricity is a theory by the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani
(1737-98). In the 1780's he observed how electric impulses created muscle
spasms in frogs, and drew the conclusion that there was a particular
electricity within living creatures. He saw it as a liquid flowing from the
brain. Thereby he was a precursor to electrophysiology, the role of
electricity in living organisms. The word galvanization is from his name.
See also electricity.
Galvani's laboratory and frog experiment. See Animal electricity.
Animal gravitation see animal magnetism.
Animal magnetism is a concept used by the Swiss physician Franz Anton
Mesmer (1734-1815), who treated his patients with magnetism from
specifically designed tubs. He developed his theory when he was in his
forties, after earlier speculations about animal gravitation, where he
supposed the celestial bodies to influence people's health. He has given his
name to mesmerism, which nowadays refers to hypnosis. His theories
about magnetism don't come that close to the concept qi, especially since
the former is a power outside the body, and outside the control of the will.
See also magnetism and electricity.
Animatism (from anima, Latin for 'soul') is a concept used by the English
social anthropologist Robert Ranulph Marett (1866-1943) for the belief in a
supernatural force independent of a soul or will, like mana (see this word),
which he studied in Melanesia. He also called it preanimism, because he
believed – in opposition to Edward Tylor – that prehistoric people were
too primitive to imagine a world with souls or spirits. See also animism
Animism (from anima, Latin for 'soul') is the theory that all animal life is
created and filled by a soul of life force. The term was introduced by the
German physician and chemist Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734). The English
anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) used the word for a
theory about the birth of religions, which he presented in 1871. Tylor
thought that through sleep and dreams, primeval people had gotten the
impression of a world soul, and the worship of that soul was the source of
religion. See also animatism and soul.
Ankh is the old Egyptian name for life or life spirit. The concept also
included the idea of eternal life through this force. Its hieroglyph is a
picture of one particular part of a sandal, because it is pronounced with
the same consonant sound as ankh. See also sekhem.
Antigravity is a name for theories on isolating gravity, so that travel
between celestial bodies can be done with minimal power. See also
electrogravity. It has little to do with life energy concepts like qi, although it is sometimes mentioned
as a synonym.
Anut is a concept from the island Kusaie (Kosrae) in Micronesia, which
seems to refer to spirits and medial ability, but is not a synonym to qi and other life energy concept. The
priesthood was called tomon anut.
Apana see prana.
Archaeus was by the Neoplatonic Paracelsus (1493-1541) and the
alchemists regarded as a ordering life-principle, similar to what Aristotle
(384-322 BC) called entelechy (see this word). Arcaheus really means 'the
oldest principle' or 'the oldest'. Paracelsus thought of archaeus as evenly
spread in the human body, a spiritus vitae (life spirit) that nourished from
spiritus mundi (world spirit). Paracelsus also spoke about mumia (see this
word), a healing “balm” of the body, attached to the blood. See also spirit.
Arealoha is sometimes mentioned as a synonym to qi, and was introduced
by Francis Nixon. But the concept she used was vivaxis (see this word).
Arunquiltha is a concept used by the Australian Aborigine. It is
sometimes mentioned as a synonym to the life energy qi, but they seem rather to have
used the term churinga (see this word).
Astral body is the expression for a part of the human being, which is
supposed to be able to leave the body in astral projection or astral travel,
where the mind senses places and perspectives far away from where the
body is. The expression astral body is used among many movements
within New Age, and occultism of the last centuries. See also astral light
and life ether. It is comparable to the soul, since the personality is included
in it, or follows on its travel.
Astral light is the Theosophy concept for a cosmic ether of light, which is
an ordering principle for the universe. The Theosophists also use the
Indian term akasha (see this word). The concept may have been invented
by Helena P. Blavatsky (1831-91), one of the founders of Theosophy.
Theosophists also regard this ether as a kind of catalogue of everything
that has happened, a complete history of the universe and all its creatures.
They call this the akashic records.
Astral projection see astral body.
Astral travel see astral body.
Ata see atua.
Atua is the word for spirits or ghosts among the Maori on Easter Island. It
is far from the concept of lif energy such as qi. Atua is also used about the traditional deities.
Spirit is called ata. The Maori concept the closest to ideas about life energy
is mana (see this word).
Aura (Latin for air or wind, Greek for breeze – the meaning charisma or
halo is of later origin) is frequently used within New Age. One example is
Kirlian photography, where lights in different colors are said to radiate
from living beings, varying in brilliance and proportions according to
mood and health (see also HEF). The first claim to have documented such
color radiation came from the London physician Walter Kilner (1847-1920)
in 1911. He also introduced the term aura for this. Kirlian photography
was commenced in 1939 by the Russian electrician Semyon Davidovich
Kirlian (1900-1980). In Antique Greece, Aura was the goddess of the
morning wind. Ideas about a body of light, and the light's effects on man,
existed already with the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c.582-500 f.Kr.),
who also claimed that this energy could have a healing effect. The Swedish
mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) regarded each human being as
surrounded by a spiritual sphere.
Kirlian photo of a hand. See Aura.
Autocracy see dynamis.
Avelo see andriamanitra.
Axé/asé/aché is a magical force behind all movement and change in the
universe, according to African traditions in Brazil. This force is
everywhere and can be handled with rituals. In the martial art capoeira, the
term is used for energy developed through training.
Ayik is the name of a subterranean spirit that creates fear, in the African
tribe Elgonyi. They call spirit and breath rono. The psychoanalyst C. G.
Jung (1875-1961) studied the tribe in 1925 and wrote about ayik, which is
sometimes mistakenly mentioned as a synonym to life energy such as qi, whereas rono seems
to be quite similar.
Life Energy Beliefs from A to Z
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) explained and how to exercise it.
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What the Greek philosophers believed about the cosmos, their religion and their gods.
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