Discussing the concept of energy with reference to the mind and body separately and at the interface between the two is fraught with difficulty: possibly more so than almost any other area of investigation, even including the vexed topic of the unconscious mind. This is because that while there is some agreement on energies that cannot be measured, paradoxically, there is little consensus regarding the nature of others which can: how they might best be measured and interpreted (in particular) and the effects that these different energies have on mind and body. It is an important issue because these same energies lie at the core of explaining how the mind works and also how we might optimise their flow for most effective personal development.

Broadly speaking, there are four divisions or classes of energy in the body: (i) electro-chemical energies characteristic of neural responses within the body (including the brain) which can be measured directly, (ii) field energies from within the body measurable by sensors attached to the skin, (iii) electromagnetic field energies usually described as aura detectable outside the body at varying distances and, lastly, (iv) purely “mental” energy. The first class is measured by placing electrodes at various points: these measure minute differences in voltage and frequency at specific places and are very precise. The process is called electromyography (or EMG). It might seem rather obvious, but data collected by this method is seldom useful in analysing the workings of the mind. Even though the brain has, to a limited extent, been “mapped”, it would be fatuous in the extreme to claim that where a thought is located or occurs can be determined according to physical co-ordinates. (I am not claiming, though, that this can never be done. Just not at the moment.) W.G. Penfield and T. Rasmussen (1950) first mapped the mind – literally – by electrical stimulation of the brain.

The second and third class, also a type of EMG (sometimes called sEMG) and EEG – electroencephalography - which use electrodes either attached directly to the skin or located set distances away from, and not touching the body, measure energy in the same way although the result is best thought of as a field. Signals are amplified (because they are so small), and rendered visible by an oscilloscope showing the result on a screen, or recorded on paper. The difference here lies in the interpretation of data. Electrodes attached to the scalp, for instance, can give only a generalised picture (the field) of what is happening inside the brain: experience, expertise and intuition combine to allow the practitioner to interpret the data.

This question of interpretation becomes debatable when dealing with data gathered measuring auras. And within within the ambit of auras are all those energies occasionally described as “subtle energies”. Objections range from the need to reconcile miniscule changes detected in the raw data with enormous ambient electro-magnetic fields to the need to manipulate the same raw data by the addition of potentially un-related inputs. As a reality-check and counter-blast to the first, showing the proof, the next time you approach your radio try touching the aerial without effecting the signal! Curiously, one’s personal field can effect a sensitive instrument like a radio: it is curious that the reversal of the process, the earth’s field, for instance, should be seen as sufficient grounds for scientific objection. The other accusation – that practitioners have to interpret data with colours filters on photographs, and so on, is no more rational an objection than we might make to meteorologists producing satellite/radar weather maps showing bands of rain as green or blue. Have you seen green rain recently? Kirlian photography, which shows auras, is not generally accepted as being scientifically valid or proven – the commonest objection being that the photographic process is affected by moisture on the surface of the subject – but the results can be convincing nonetheless. (It is tempting to compare the funding and manpower devoted to machines looking for subatomic particles – the famous CERN device, for instance – and wonder what would happen if the same effort went into exploring human energy fields?)

On the other hand, there is by now, quite incontrovertible evidence, that measurements taken using sEMG placed on the chakra points and acupuncture points used in traditional Chinese medicine show energy meridians and auric energy fields. Similarly, EEG data shows “brain-waves”. No-one doubts that the raw-data in terms of frequency (i.e. vibration rate) or voltage can be demonstrated. Only the interpretation is open to be challenged. “Brain-waves” are most useful to the self-developer in that as well as being symptomatic of certain states of consciousness they can be modified in a reversal of the process whereby a particular state of consciousness can be induced.

The common factor for all three classes, irrespective of the interpretations that can be placed on the data is that the data itself, gathered by EMG and ECG is perfectly coherent in itself, without reference to anything else. In the fourth class of psychic (and possibly, corporeal) energy we delve – literally- in to the un-measurable. That is not to say that these energies are not susceptible to estimation or comparison, merely that there are – as yet – no ways of calibrating the perceived quantities. To confuse matters even further, though, there are two types of energy in this class: (i) that energy that is confined to the personal mind/brain, and (ii) energy that flows in an out of both mind and body. Sigmund Freud coined the term libido to describe the former and this term was taken over by Jung – albeit with important changes to its significance. Founders of other schools of psychoanalysis, such as Alfred Adler and Roberto Assagioli saw a much greater rôle for the will as a distinct psychic entity , but emphasised its energising nature, to the extent that, at times in practical terms libido and will become synonymous. Generally, however, there is not much difference of opinion as to the nature of the libido as the energising force in the mind/brain or psyche: psychologists might argue about its disposition or placement in the “mind-map”, but, curiously – as it cannot be directly measured – they all, almost without exception, agree on its existence.

The dimensions and condition of the individual libido, however, can be established by evaluation of other mental phenomena – not necessarily pathological (in the sense of the mind being diseased). One characteristic of the libido upon which both Freud and Jung agreed was that the libido is an interiorised force: it cannot exist outside the body and exists as and absolute quantity in the individual. It can, like all forms of energy and mass, be transformed into something different – another form of energy – but, short of death, it can never be destroyed. As an illustration, think of it as a sausage-shaped balloon: you can move the air around by squeezing, but the total quantity is never changed. It cannot be added to nor the totality diminished. Perceptible and measurable changes occur in both the balloon and in humans when the libido changes its nature. These changes are the only proof of its existence.

Similarly we have to find and evaluate changes that become evident in the psyche for evidence of energy that flows both in and out of the body, the last of the types of energy. There are many names for this form of energy, and though there are some points of contact there appear to be some significant differences. Typically called chi, qi (or any variant of that spelling), chakra, actinic- or odic-force, bio-cosmic energy, élan-vital, kra/okra, kundalini, orgone, prana, and so on. I maintain that these are not synonymous terms at all: even cursory examination of anecdotal evidence of the various types show some crucial differences between these types of energy, orgone most of all. The key characteristics they share, however, are that they move, energy from outside the body can be internalised (and vice versa) and that they cannot be seen or measured except by comparison. Chi like chakra energy flows along meridians, prana comes in at least five different forms (including a kundalini form) and flows along the same meridians. Chi and prana are so close as to be identical. Some authorities assert that both chi and prana occur in negative forms (as in the sense of having an opposite “charge”, not that the effects are necessarily bad). The latter characteristic is held to be particularly true of orgone.

Orgone energy, the only form of psychic energy to have been discovered and investigated - to a limited extent as yet - on a thoroughly sound scientific basis tends to be rubbished by the scientific community generally, who have by and large, shied away from experimental validation of his theories. There is, fortunately, a growing body of psychiatrists and scientists who are prepared to take on the doubters to the extent that there is now a College of Orgonomy for clinicians content to use orgone in medical (as opposed to “alternative”) therapy.

The chief characteristic of energy is that it flows: it moves. (With the exception of Newtonian potential energy, so called because although momentarily static, it has the power to move or propel.) All four classes of energy can be shown either to move or to cause motion and chemical change, and the manner of movement of those energies is what causes us to be human, to have a self, a conscious and an unconscious mind and explains how we move and interact with the outside world. Once we begin to understand the nature of those energies and how their movement can be manipulated we shall be on the way to understanding how our conscious and unconscious minds, as well as physical selves – which are a reflection of the mind - might be further and better developed.

© James Henshall, 2010

Author's Bio: 

James Henshall, author of Riches On Earth, now writes for pleasure and profit and runs his own training and personal self-development consultancy.

He read psychology at the Universty of Wales, and graduated summa cum laude in 1978; he competed his doctorate six years later in 1984.

James has worked extensively in secondary, further and higher education and training since then, but also successfully branched out into the commercial and financial services sector in the 1990s, eventually becoming MD of an electrical installation company and running a profitable property portfolio.