Energy (esotericism)

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This article is about spiritual energy. For other uses, see Energy (disambiguation).
"Subtle energy" redirects here. For the mystical concept of psychospiritual bodies overlaying the physical body, see Subtle body.
Spiritual practices and ideas often equate life energy with the breath.
Energy medicine - edit
NCCIH classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Mind-Body Intervention
  3. Biologically Based Therapy
  4. Energy Therapy
See also

The term energy is used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine to refer to a variety of phenomena.[citation needed] There is no scientific evidence for the existence of such energy.[1] Therapies that purport to use, modify, or manipulate unknown energies are thus among the most contentious of all complementary and alternative medicines. Claims related to energy therapies are most often anecdotal, rather than being based on repeatable empirical evidence.[1][2][3]


Electro-metabograph machine

Concepts such as "life force", "physiological gradient", and "élan vital" emerged from within the spiritualist movement and later inspired thinkers in the modern New Age movement.[4][page needed]

The field of "energy medicine" purports to manipulate this energy, but there is no credible evidence to support this.[1]

As biologists studied embryology and developmental biology, particularly before the discovery of genes, a variety of organisational forces were posited to account for their observations. With the work of Hans Driesch (1867-1941), however, the importance of "energy fields" began to wane and the proposed forces became more mind-like.[5][page needed]

Modern research science has all but abandoned the attempt to associate additional energetic properties with life.[6] Despite this, spiritual writers and thinkers have maintained ideas about energy and continue to promote them either as useful allegories or as fact.[7]

Forms of esoteric energy[edit]


Early psychical researchers who studied mediumship and spiritualism speculated that an unidentified fluid termed the "psychode", "psychic force" or "eteneic force" existed within the human body and was capable of being released to influence matter.[8][9] The idea of ectoplasm was merged into the theory of ectenic force by some early psychical researchers who were seeking a physical explanation for reports of psychokinesis in séances.[10]

The existence of ectoplasm was initially hypothesized by Count Agenor de Gasparin to explain the phenomena of table turning and tapping during séances. Ectenic force was named by de Gasparin's colleague M. Thury, a professor of Natural History at the Academy of Geneva. Between them, de Gasparin and Thury conducted a number of experiments in ectenic force, and claimed some success. Their work was not independently verified.[11][page needed][12][page needed]

Negative energy[edit]

The idea that some kind of "negative energy" is responsible for creating or attracting ghosts or demons appears in contemporary paranormal culture and beliefs as exemplified in the TV shows Paranormal State and Ghost Hunters.[13]


Main article: Qi

The concept of "qi" (energy) appears throughout traditional East Asian culture, such as in the art of feng shui, in Chinese martial arts, and in spiritual tracts.[citation needed] Qi philosophy also includes the notion of "negative qi", typically understood as introducing negative moods like outright fear or more moderate expressions like social anxiety or awkwardness.[14] Deflecting this negative qi through geomancy is a preoccupation in feng shui.[15] The traditional explanation of acupuncture states that it works by manipulating the circulation of qi through a network of meridians.[16][ISBN missing]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "energy - (according to New Age thinking) - The Skeptic's Dictionary". 2011-12-19. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  2. ^ "Some Notes on Wilhelm Reich, M.D". 2002-02-15. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  3. ^ "Reiki". 2000-12-01. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  4. ^ Bruce Clarke. (November 8, 2001). Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-11174-4. 
  5. ^ Magner, Lois N. (2002). A History of the Life Sciences (3rd ed.). New York: M. Dekker. ISBN 9780824743604. 
  6. ^ "Vitalism". Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  7. ^ Jonas, WB; Crawford, CC (March 2003). "Science and spiritual healing: a critical review of spiritual healing, "energy" medicine, and intentionality". Altern-Ther-Health-Med. 9 (2): 56–61. PMID 12652884. 
  8. ^ Garland, Hamlin (1970). Forty Years of Psychic Research: A Plain Narrative of Fact. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press. pp. 127–128. ISBN 9780836952810. 
  9. ^ Spence, Lewis (1960). An Encyclopaedia of Occultism; A Compendium of Information on the Occult Sciences, Occult Personalities, Psychic Science, Magic, Demonology, Spiritism, Mysticism and Metaphysics (Reprinted ed.). New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books. p. 133. ISBN 9780486426136. 
  10. ^ Randall, John L. (1982). Psychokinesis. London: Souvenir. p. 83. ISBN 9780285625402. 
  11. ^ Blavatsky, H.P. (2007). Isis Unveiled (1st ed.). Radford, VA: Wilder Publications. ISBN 9781604590883. 
  12. ^ Randi, James (1995). An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural: James Randi's Decidedly Skeptical Definitions of Alternate Realities (1st St. Martin's Griffin. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-15119-5. 
  13. ^ Fahy, Thomas (2010). The Philosophy of Horror. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky. p. 77. ISBN 0-8131-2573-1. 
  14. ^ Bryan W. Van Norden (March 2011). Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy. Hackett Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 1-60384-615-8. 
  15. ^ George Leonard (1998). Asian Pacific American Heritage: A Companion to Literature and Arts. Taylor & Francis. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-203-34459-0. 
  16. ^ Lawson-Wood, Denis; Lawson-Wood, Joyce (1983). Acupuncture Handbook. Health Science Press. p. 133. 

External links[edit]