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Energy in spirituality, refers to a widespread belief in an inter- or intra-personal forces, for which no evidence has yet been found by the physical sciences. Believers assume spiritual energy to be of a different type than those known to science, and therapies involved are often classed as alternative medicine. Various ideas pertaining to spiritual energy have been postulated in various cultures, prominent amongst them are:
- the Christian idea of the soul or spirit
- The traditional Chinese qi
- The Indian Chakra, Shakti, Prana or Kundalini
- The Japanese idea of Reiki
- The New Age/paranormal aura
- The "orgone energy" of Wilhelm Reich
- The morphogenetic fields of biologist Rupert Sheldrake
- The Odic force of chemist Carl von Reichenbach
- The Islamic way of "Ruqeeyah"
Vital energy or life force is known under different names in different cultures, such as qi in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ki in the Japanese Kampo system, doshas in Ayurvedic medicine, and elsewhere as prana, etheric energy, fohat, orgone, odic force, mana, and homeopathic resonance.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Premise of Energy Therapies
Though there are varying approaches, "energy therapies" are typically based on the assumption that, as everything in the universe is made of energy, this energy can be manipulated in order to heal. Various techniques have developed which claim to be able to heal at this energy level.
Various forms of mysticism often associate "bad energy" with disease, and "good energy" and healing powers. Most theories claim the ability to actively influence one's "energy." For example, acupuncture purports to have beneficial effects on the human body by manipulating its natural flow of energy, whilst scientists argue that it works physiologically by blocking or stimulating nerve cells and causing changes in the perception of pain in the brain. Reiki is a similar procedure in Japanese culture which claims to manipulate the qi (ki) through the laying-on of hands. Other methods like Yuen and the Berkeley Psychic Institute method purport to transmit "energetic force" without physical contact.
Theories of spiritual energy are not validated by the scientific method, thus are dismissed as non-empirical beliefs by the scientific community. Theories of spiritual energy are considered to be pseudoscience.
"Energy psychology" includes a collection of diverse techniques aimed at healing emotional, cognitive, spiritual and physical distress. [How to reference and link to summary or text] The field of Energy Psychology is not recognised or accredited by professional bodies such as the British Psychological Society.
Some techniques under the umbrella of "energy psychology" include:
- Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
- Tapas Acupressure Technique
- Applied kinesiology (Brain Gym)
- Therapeutic touch
Claims related to energy therapies are most often dubbed as anecdotal, rather than based on empirical, evidence. The history of such claims about spiritual energy (most often dubbed as pseudoscientific) is long. Many people have attempted to gain credibility by associating with forms of energy that were poorly understood by scientists. In the 1800s, electricity and magnetism were in the "borderlands" of science and the subject of considerable electrical quackery. In the 2000s, quantum mechanics and grand unification theory provide similar opportunities for empirical claims of spiritual energy being physically manifest.
"Spiritual energy" is often equated with empirically understood forces. For example, some believers in the "aura" equate it with electromagnetism, claims that have not yet been supported by experiment. Believers support their claims by arguing that electromagnetic fields are used in standard medical procedures, such as radiation therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and magnetic resonance imaging. However, these techniques involve the use of large electrical and electronic devices to manipulate magnetic fields and the physiological mechanisms by which these techniques affect the body are well-understood, quantified and have been supported by repeated experimentation. It is therefore unlikely that the body's magnetic fields can be affected by touch or psychic intervention.
Followers of scientology believe spiritual energy can be quantified using an e-meter; the legitimacy of such a claim is disputed. The e-meter in fact measures the well-understood Galvanic skin response.
Several people, for example, the magician James Randi have for many years (as of 2004) offered one million US dollars to any person capable of repeatedly detecting psychic energy fields. No one has demonstrated this ability in a controlled situation. (see The $1 million challenge)
- Quantum psychology
- Vibrational medicine
- Electrical quackery
- Vitalism - a general term for a force that animates living things.
- "Psychic surgery" From a practitioner's viewpoint (Chapters 32 & 33 of Memoirs of an Artist as a Masseur by Valentino Zubiri)
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