Part 2

(Investigator 175, 2017 July)

(Link to Part 1)


Early humans must have observed how loss of blood could produce physical weakness, even death. It appears that very early in time they came to believe that the force that gave life to humans was either a component of the blood, or else it was some external force that was "absorbed" by the blood and that when the blood was lost, the life-force departed from the body and death followed.

Such beliefs are mirrored in ancient tradition, "… the blood is the life" (Deuteronomy 12:23), "… the life of the flesh is in the blood," (Leviticus 17:11); and "The Spirit being diffused and going through the veins, and arteries, and blood, both moveth the living Creature, and after a certain manner beareth it." (Corpus Hermetica, IV, 47). Many cultures accepted the idea that humans had originally been created from blood; thus, in Babylonian myth, humans were said to have been created from the blood of Merodach, the son of Ea; similarly, according to the Koran, man was created from "congealed blood" (Koran 96).

Because of its association with the creation process and some supreme deity, blood was increasingly perceived as a particularly "sacred" substance, and many special restrictions evolved concerning the disposal of blood. It was not to be ingested by humans, "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." (Genesis 9:4) and, "Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh." (Deuteronomy 12: 23). Blood was to be either returned to the creator, or poured upon the ground, "… thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water." (Deuteronomy 12: 24).

In many cultures, sacrificial blood, especially human which was considered the most potent, served as a means of returning the life-energy to the various deities; indeed many, like the Incas and Mayans, believed the deities would die if deprived of this nourishment, (Crawley, 1971, p. 13). Sacrificial blood was also perceived as a powerful "cleansing" agent for baptism into a new faith, thus Mithraic baptism required candidates to kneel below an altar upon which a bull was sacrificed. As its throat was cut open they were drenched by the flow of living blood, an act considered to wash them clean of their past sins and prepare them to be accepted into the faith.

It was widely accepted that most of the saviour deities had sacrificed their own blood for humankind, and, by this means, provided their followers with divine redemption and salvation; a new life, washed clean of sin. Many religions use this concept allegorically, as for example in the words of the Christian hymn, "There is power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb."

 In time, other less brutal methods came to be substituted for human and animal sacrifices; the vivifying energy of blood was replaced by liquids such as water, beer, milk or wine, "… the blood of the grape" and thus the "blood of the earth," a spiritual beverage that invigorates gods and men. (Encyclopædia Britannica, vol.  26, p. 840)

To the ancients blood was a fearsome substance filled with awesome energy, and many of the restrictions regarding the shedding of blood were devised, not so much for moral purposes but, to avoid the release of the powerful and mysterious soul-power that blood contained (Robinson, 1971, p. 715). Most fearsome of all was menstrual blood which, according to Pliny, was so filled with noxious energy that it could sour new wine, and render infertile crops and fruit trees exposed to it (Book VII, XV.); it was even claimed that venomous snakes were born of the buried hair of menstruating women.

Certain ancient Greeks, e.g. Erasistratus and Galen perceived the body as an apparatus that "distilled" the vital-spirit, (the pneuma) which flowed from the heart to the brain, where the sanguine humour (blood) was added and it was then distributed to the other organs, via the nervous system. Certainly, by the time of Galen, (circa, 129 – 200 A.D.) it was widely accepted that the blood was the real source of life, because it contained the "vital-spirit". Later theorists only reinforced this belief, and so we find that, even in the 1620's, at about the same time that Harvey was providing a scientific explanation for the circulation of blood, a colleague, Robert Fludd, was proposing the idea of a universal, or "catholic" spirit, a force, he claimed, was emitted from the sun to give life to all things. Acting like a miniature sun the human heart. "…distributes the vital spirit to the rest of the body by a process of circulatory currents, in the same way as the sun's catholic spirit spreads across the earth. (Hellman, 2001. p. 9).


Pliny referred to "air" as, "…that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air."  (Book II. IV). Air had long been thought to be involved with the life-principle for not only did breathing cease with death, but, although invisible, air, in the form of wind, had the power to move even heavy objects, so it seemed logical that air, one of the four elements, must contain some special "animating" or life giving power.

It was uncertain as to whether this animating principle was the air itself, or something within the air. Empodocles (504 to 443 BC), believed that the actual essence of life was a form of "subtle fire" that was present in all matter, including the air. Some, like Diogenes even claimed the soul was composed of air, a substance described by Aristotle (1987) as, "… the primordial principle from which all other things are derived, it is cognitive; as finest in grain, it has the power to originate movement." (Book 1, II)

In numerous creation myths the "breath of life" was the animator and sustainer of life, and deities were frequently depicted as shaping inanimate substances such as dust or clay into human form and then breathing life (air) into them, i.e.  "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."   (Genesis 2:7). This is a reference to the Hebrew nph, (nephesh), either a life force, or an animating spiritual-energy, related in particular to the concept of drawing breath, or "to breathe."

We can find further references that connect nephesh with the life principle; "… all flesh in which is the breath of life…" (Genesis 6:17); "… two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life." (Genesis 7:15). In 1 Kings we find a reference to the widow’s son who fell sick and died, "…and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath (nephesh) left in him"; (17:17). Despite his death, he was restored to life by Elijah, "… the nephesh (life) of the child returned and he revived". (17:22) and finally, in the Book of Job, we find, "In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." (12:10)

Many ancient cultures believed that the blood vessels were filled with air; the ancient Egyptians believed that humans were animated by the "breath of life" (tjaw n ankh), a substance that entered the body either through the right ear, (Nunn, 1996 p. 103), or through the nose, "As for the breath which enters into the nose, it enters into the heart and the lungs. It is they which give to the entire body." (Nunn, p. 55, quoting from the Ebers papyrus)

For the Hindus and Buddhists Prana, (Sanskrit, for "life force" or "breath of life", Feuerstein, 1987), was a form of breath, a life-current, thought to exist within the air. As one of the three substances that composed the human body, it was perceived as a form of life-energy drawn into the body with each breath.

To the Chinese, this energy was known as Qi, or ch’, "vital or heavenly air" (Mainfort, 2004, p. 38) and was believed to originate in the sun. Chi was perceived as a form of radiant energy, "… strong enough to blow the tails of comets as if in a strong wind." (Teresi, 2002, p. 149)

Variations on this theme remain part of the Eastern culture; in Thailand a form of alternative therapy is practised; known as Chi Nei Tsang II, this therapy is based upon a theory of, "… "good Chi" and at least ten kinds of bodily "wind" (flatus), including the "sick or evil wind."  (Raso, 1996)

Although Galen discovered that blood, and not air, flowed through the veins and arteries, his findings were generally ignored. Western medicine continued to teach that the arteries were filled with air and spirit, (Hellman, 2001, p. 7), a concept that was more acceptable to the Christian Church. While this belief was finally discarded in the West after 1628, when Harvey published his book De Motu Cordis, as Mainfort (2004) observed, it remained an essential element of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) until around 1830 (p. 39)
Ancient Eastern medicine considered humans to have been created from a combination of elemental substances, in TCM these were earth, fire, metal, water, wood,  in Ayurvedic, air, earth, ether, fire and water. These beliefs remain the cornerstones of both TCM and Ayurvedic, the latter still claiming that five elemental forces, (air, fire, water, earth and space), combine in the body to form three harmoniously balanced pairs of doshas, (the tridoshas, to convert five elements into three pairs water is made a component of two of the doshas), and that mental or physical illness was due to imbalances between the doshas.
These beliefs appear to have influenced Hellenic medicine, for around 450 BCE Empedocles proposed a somewhat similar concept involving a connection between the "four" basic elements (air, fire, earth and water); and four bodily humours. Like the Eastern model, it proposed that all matter, including humans, had been created from these four basic elements, with the characteristics of each individual being determined by their own "unique balance" of these elements, with the predominant element producing the primary characteristics of physical appearance and behaviour of the individual, while the other elements played a subsidiary role.

This model, which dominated Western medical philosophy until the Middle Ages, attributed all sickness and disease to imbalances, either a deficiency, or a surplus of one or more humours, (elements), in the body. Although the humoural theory was an attempt to explain life in a more secular context, it was really only a variation of the vitalistic concept, merely substituting vague elemental forces for a divine animating power which the ancient Greeks referred to by a variety of terms, including Arche, Apeiron, Nous or Pneuma.

Arche was the original source, the "first principle" which, according to Thales of Miletus, was water. His pupil Anaximander disagreed; arguing that "contrary" elemental forces, particularly fire, could not emerge from water, he proposed another alternative, a mysterious substance called Apeiron, a "fifth element", a superlunerary substance, which, because it had the inherent power to combine the opposite characteristics of all things, was able to take on the properties, shape and substance of all things, and to give life to the entire cosmos.

Nous was the purest, most powerful substance in the cosmos, a form of natural intelligence with knowledge of, and power over, all things. To Anaxagoras it was the original intelligence that had first brought order out of the primeval chaos and then implemented the processes necessary to produce the existing cosmos.

The Logos, or Pneuma, (literally, air, wind, spirit, or the "breath of life"), was thought to be a universal animating substance; although a purely spiritual force, it contained an innate ability to create all forms of physical  matter, and to shape and animate all forms of life. First mentioned by Heraclitus it was embraced by the Stoics, and later by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who viewed it as s the divine word of God that, when uttered, brought the world into being, (c.f. Isaiah 55:11); it is also the substance referred to in John 1.

After Aristotle established a clear distinction between organic and inorganic materials, both vitalistic and scientific theories of life became increasingly concerned with organic (living) matter. However, this did not result in the complete demise of the old traditional concepts, and there remained an interest in such issues as the "inherent power" within nature and living matter, and, in particular, how this interacted with, and affected, the spiritual component of humans.

From the Renaissance onwards, Western medicine began to increasingly break free of the old traditional methods; becoming more empirical it openly began to challenge what had previously been accepted as untouchable "holy writ". However, while the new approach began to sweep away many of the old superstitious and counterfeit pseudo-scientific beliefs, they never became completely extinct; rather they found refuge on the fringes of medicine as alternative options, areas that appealed when orthodox medicine failed.

In addition many of those on the fringe of medicine were ever eager to use contemporary scientific discoveries to prop up their traditional or alternative beliefs. Thus, we find that after William Gilbert published his book, De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure, ("On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, and on That Great Magnet the Earth"), in1600, the "vital energy" component, which had formerly been perceived as a divine, spiritual force, was increasingly represented by alternative practitioners as magnetic energy, the newest wonder of that age.

Magnetism was mysterious; apart from its physical attraction of certain objects, some even believed that it was able to exert an influence over living objects, including human beings. Even more sensationally, it was claimed by some like Jan van Helmont, (1580-1644), that certain individuals were so filled with this potent magnetic energy that they even had the power to forcibly discharge this "magnetic fluid" into other humans, completely overwhelming their will. Such ideas were not new; similar claims had been made about certain individuals, especially witches and magicians, from ancient times.

These people were said to be able to use their sinister powers to manipulate people,  to harm them with the "evil eye", or to deprive them of their "life-force" by  "binding up" their sexual and procreative abilities. With the advent of these new theories these ancient claims were given a degree of "scientific" validity, the suggestion being that, perhaps these individuals had actually possessed some form of real power, one that was "magnetic" rather than magical.

A major influence on the spread of magnetic beliefs was Franz Anton Mesmer, (1734-1815). A scientist, and a showman, he adopted many of Helmont’s ideas, and was particularly influential in spreading these new ideas throughout Europe. He believed that the entire universe was filled with a mysterious magnetic force which he called ‘animal magnetism’; not only were humans susceptible to the actions of this energy but that all human illness was due to internal imbalances or blockages of this substance.

By the mid 18th century the advent of the Leyden jar, and a rotating friction machine to create static electricity, had exposed the public to a new natural phenomena, electricity, and very soon the concept of an electrically based life-energy began to replace the former magnetic theory.  In 1791, Galvani had published his book, De Viribus Electricitatis in Motu Musculari Commentarius (On the effect of electricity on the motion of muscles), in which he proposed that "animal electricity" was the vital life-component, and that all animal bodies contained two forms of electrical energy, "…positive in the nerves and negative in the muscles" (Hellman, 2001, p. 24). He believed that it was the discharge of positive electricity into the nerves that caused the muscles to move.

While such theories led to research into the use of electricity to move the limbs of paralyzed patients, the concept was largely sidetracked by a horde of quacksalvers who promoted electricity as a miraculous healing tool. As Hellman (2001), observed,
"Newspapers and rumour mills were filled with reports that electricity had been used to cure an astonishing range of maladies, from constipation to paralysis, from headaches to herpes." (p. 19).

As McCoy (2000) reported, electrical gadgets of all shapes and forms proliferated to such an extent that it became necessary for warnings to be issued that, if over-used these machines could deplete one’s "vital energies" producing all manner of diseases. (p. 56). 

The increasingly "scientific" approach of the latter part of the 19th century saw the gradual passing of these former concepts and the "life-force" was increasingly perceived as an electro-biological force. Nevertheless the former ideas remained popular with writers such as Bulwer-Lytton, and much of the popular fiction presented the idea that electricity could be used to reanimate the dead, ("The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", by E. A. Poe), or even to create life, (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley).

The expansion of European powers into Egypt and Asia in the 18th-19th produced an increased interest in Eastern religious and philosophical concepts; many of which were merged with preexisting Western mystical ideas, for example, the concepts of Reincarnation and Karma.

Reincarnation had been part of ancient Greek philosophy, taught by Plato, Socrates and Pythagoras and was also part of the Jewish kabalistic literature, (gilgul or "cycles of life"), while the Eastern concept of karma had many similarities to the Christian concept of predestination. One group in particular, the Theosophists, wholeheartedly embraced many mystical and traditional Hindu and Buddhist teachings, especially the concept of a vital, life giving energy, prana.

These vitalistic theories proposed that the "vital energy" was a divine, heavenly, or cosmic force. Very early in time the Sun and its rays had been identified as its source and this continued to be accepted by many, "…the vital force which emanates from the sun…"  (Powell, 1925, p. 2). As Hall (1928) observed, solar worship "…was one of the earliest and most natural forms of religious expression" (p. 49), the Sun being revered by many primitive races, "…as the proxy of the Supreme Deity." (p, 49). Indeed it appears that most religious beliefs were simply variations of the solar theme of an eternally reborn sun-god, and everywhere, humans acknowledged their dependence upon the sun. In temples, past and present, the ubiquitous eternal flame burned as a symbolic representation of the Sun’s eternal life giving energy.

The presence of such a flame in the Jerusalem temple strongly suggests that, even Judaism, was originally a solar religion, and that their concepts of Yahweh originally evolved from the image of the life-giving energy of the Sun.

Indeed, many Jewish myths indirectly refer to solar worship, e.g. Samson’s hair was a representation of the rays of the sun, "Why did Samson (name derived from Shemesh, the sun) lose all his strength when he lost his hair? " (Carpenter, 1920, p. 27).  Christianity too is based upon solar myth, for, just as the Sun was thought to enter a vast subterranean cavern each night, from whence it emerged the following morning, so too Jesus, the "light of the world", was born in, and emerged, in his glory, from a subterranean cave. 

The concept of the sun’s rays as the initiator and sustainer of human life led to a belief that the body must possess certain means to "receive" this energy and channel it into the body whence it would then flow freely within the body. The idea of the subtle vital force (prana) and the channels (nadis), along which it flows, are first mentioned in the earliest Upanishads dating from circa 7th-8th century BCE.  The heart was said to be the centre of 72,000 nadis, and the place into which the senses retreated during sleep, (in many ancient civilisations, e.g. Egypt, Homeric Greece, the heart was also considered to be the seat of waking consciousness).

In ancient Egypt similar imaginary channels, known as metu, were believed to carry, "…blood…air, mucus, urine, semen, disease-bearing entities and also malign or benign spirits…"  (Nunn, 1996, p. 44). In Ayurvedic these channels are known as srotas, in Chinese Acupuncture, meridians.

Over time the concept became increasingly more complex, with Ayurvedic evolving a system of sixteen separate channels that existed on both a visible and invisible level, even including one channel for the flow of intelligence, and another for the flow of thoughts through the mind.

Around the second century BCE, we find the first references to the Tantric concepts of chakras and mantras, (spiritual channels created by words or sounds). The chakras, (Sanskrit "wheels" or "circles"), were defined as centres of energy, able to receive the various forms of normally undetectable, non-physical forms of energy, especially prana, which was claimed to enter the body through the Crown Chakra, (the seventh chakra or Sahasra, located at the top of the head), and then to "flow" through invisible "channels"- in a fashion similar to the flow of blood. According to Krieger, (1997) the chakras are, "…of major importance at the supraphysical level, where they act as the principal agents for focusing energy to the physical body." (p. 58). As these various Vitalistic concepts evolved in the various cultures, it gradually came to be accepted that: -

a) Life would be sustained only whilst this energy continued to flow within the body, 
b) Good health depended upon the unrestricted flow of this energy through the body; and
c) The energy must be maintained in a constant state of "balance" neither too much nor too little.

In earlier times, when negative health had been primarily attributed to divine punishment, or the malicious influence of evil spirits, treatment had been primarily of a religious character, prayers, incantations, fumigations and herbs that were antagonistic to the evil spirits were used to drive them out; however as more secular vitalistic theories began to evolve, the emphasis changed towards developing treatment regimes that would ensure an unrestricted flow of the life-energy.

With each culture developing their own unique methods, the result was a proliferation of different forms of so-called "alternative" and "complementary" vitalistic therapies.

Most of these emphasize a holistic approach, using only "natural" principles and medicines to maintain or restore a normal unrestricted flow of life-energy, for, it is claimed, "artificial" drugs interfere with the body’s natural energy potential and restrict the flow of this vital energy.

It is commonly claimed by many alternative therapists that natural, herbal medicines do not contain chemicals! Such claims are completely ludicrous since all substances, both organic and inorganic, contain chemicals; they are either deliberate falsehoods, or products of the sheer ignorance of alternative practitioners who seem to be often unaware that even something as natural as an orange contains some one-hundred and forty different chemical compounds.

Alternative therapies tend to deny, or at least ignore, the existence of such things as disease and infections. They claim that what orthodox medicine perceives as "disease" are merely indications of physical or mental "disharmony" in the body; internal "imbalances" or "blockages" to the natural energy flow, and that the particular location of the "problem" is indicated by its effects upon whatever particular organ lies directly adjacent to the "blockage." (Drury, 1981, p. 118)

Accordingly, unlike orthodox medicine, which treats a specific health disorder, vitalistically based therapies use a variety of different techniques to discover, and remove, the many possible causes of the interference with the energy flow. As Stanway (1979) observed, these might be, "…chemical (from faulty eating, drinking, breathing or elimination), mechanical (spinal malalignment, muscular tension, stiff joints or bad posture) … "(p. 105).

In general, most alternative therapies use one of the following therapeutic approaches: -
1)    The use of indirect treatments such as naturopathic, homeopathic or herbal remedies that are said to encourage the body’s natural healing processes;
2)    Direct bioenergetic therapies, that claim to use life-energies to restore a positive balance and revitalize the internal life-energy balance, and so cure any dysfunction.

Within the scope of the first category are those holistic therapies that direct treatments to the whole organism, rather than to treating a specific disorder. Of these, Naturopathy is possible the best known, with the vitalistic concept of, "…the vis medicatrix naturae as its philosophical linchpin." Bradley, 1999, p. 41). A form of holistic therapy, it utilizes a variety of treatments such as therapeutic counselling, prescribing plants, herbs and their extracts, programmes of exercise, massage, manipulation of the joints and spine, and dietary regimes that include fad diets, fasting, or the use of specially developed nutritional types of food, treatments, all claimed to stimulate the individual’s internal, self-healing process. 

The second category primarily comprises those alternative forms of treatment which are designed to manipulate those "…numerous forms of energy alien to physics …" (Raso, 1995, p. 33).  Generally referred to as "bioenergetic" or bio-electromagnetic therapies, these are based upon the alternative belief that the human body is actually "… a localized dynamic interaction of several principal force fields that span a spectrum of vitality, life-force and creative living energies." (Krieger, 1997, p. 36).

In the past the vital life-energy was often associated with the aura; said to be discernible as a field of radiance surrounding the bodies of certain individuals, in particular, those who were "chosen" or were exceptionally holy. The aura was believed to be a manifestation of the divine "glory" that so filled their body that it burst forth as a radiant glow, and thus, in the example of the enlightened Moses, it was said that, "…the skin of his face shone" (Exodus 34:29). There was a long-standing belief that these "special" people had the ability to heal by transferring some of this divine power into the sick, an act that could overwhelm the evil spirits or negative forces that were believed to cause disease and sickness. Although this had originally been primarily a religious belief, gradually became more a tenet of vitalism, and by the late Middle Ages was increasingly taking on a pseudo-scientific perspective, so that by the 17th-18th centuries it was being widely identified with magnetism and electricity, early concepts of the "bioenergetic techniques" that were to become such a major component of alternative therapies in the 20th century.

In the West one leading proponent of the bioenergetic theories was the Theosophist C.W. Leadbeater; he adopted a number of Hindu traditions, in particular the belief that humans were composed of a number of separate bodies, the visible physical body, and the "etheric double" (aura), which was, "…not visible to ordinary sight… (p. 2).  In traditional Hindu lore the etheric double a vital component of human existence for it was the part of the individual that it absorbed prana, the vital cosmic energy that gave life to the body; for this reason it was known in Hindu as, "Prânamâyakosha, or vehicle of Prâna" (Powell, 1925, p. 3). This was said to act as a nexus between the individual and the cosmos, conveying, "…undulations of thought and feeling from the astral to the visible denser physical matter, (Leadbeater, 1927, p. 3), and, without this ‘vital’ connection, "…the ego could make no use of the cells of the brain." (p. 3).

Leadbeater claimed the invisible etheric double consisted of at least two "etheric envelopes" or, fields of energy, around the body. While the Etheric Double projected only about one centimeter from the body, the other part, the Etheric or Health Aura, was between three and five centimeters deep. Although invisible, according to those able to perceive it, this field it was a pale violet-grey or blue-grey in colour and faintly luminous, (Powell, 1925, p. 4).

Practitioners of bioenergetic techniques, which include Therapeutic Touch, Rei-ki, Auric Massage, Pranic Healing, Qi Gong and other types of so-called "psychic" healing therapy, generally refer to this Health Aura as the "human energy field" (HEF) and claim it is composed of some of the universal animating energy that "radiates" from the body, combined with specific patterns of mental and physical energy that reflect the function and operation of every body organ. Indeed, according to Kunz and Peper (1995), our every thought and emotion are displayed as, "…characteristic patterns of energy" (p. 214) within this HEF. The bioenergetic healers claim that they have the "ability" to see the colours and patterns within the HEF, and that any disturbances to these patterns indicate problems to the health of the individual are clearly visible as ominous dark patches. In this way, they claim, they can make a fast and easy diagnosis of the health problem.

Healing too is claimed to be easily performed by the use of bioenergetic techniques; as Krieger (1993) observed,"When a person’s energies are out of balance, the person becomes ill." (p. 46); thus since all illness is caused by imbalances in the energy flow, it only requires the therapist, (healer), to bioenergetically "rebalance" the patient’s energies by transferring some of their own positive life-energy into the patient’s HEF. The transferred energy enables the patient’s depleted energy levels to be restored and rebalanced, and that this process activates the patient’s own internal healing process, returning them to full health.

This ability is not restricted to a few, special people for, according to Krieger (1986), everyone has the "ability" to transfer positive healing life-energy into others; it is a "natural human potential" that we all possess.

The unfortunate legacy of Vitalism is the large variety of erroneous beliefs and counterfeit-scientific theories that it has engendered; these include: -

1.    Clairvoyance:  It is claimed that energy from our HEF is absorbed by our clothing, or objects that we carry; psychics and clairvoyants, who claim to have "extra-sensory" abilities, insist they can detect these residual traces of life-energy on objects that we have touched. One particular form of divination was that of the touchstone. A fortune-teller would give the subject a special stone to hold in their hands for a short period of time; after it was handed back the diviner claimed to be able to perceive the life energy that had been transferred into the stone, and, from that, could predict the individual’s future.  A modern variation of this fraud is to ask a gullible victim to hand over their money so that the fraudster can either "read" the energy, or bless the money, by instilling their own positive energy into the money, so that the victim is guaranteed to have good luck in the future. At that point, by using some form of distraction, the fraudster departs, leaving the victim out of pocket. 

2.    Transference: If it is possible to believe in the existence of a positive life-force, then it is possible to conceive the opposite, malevolent beings, that attached individuals with negative energy. To the ancients these were real physical forces that could be projected into a victim; as such they were also thought able to be transferred out of the victim, either to another person, an animal, or even into some object. Thus in Mesopotamia the sick would place a loaf of bread on their head and recite a sacred incantation three times; then, after wiping the loaf over their entire body, (to absorb the evil influence), they would cast the loaf at a dog. If the dog ate the loaf the evil would be successfully transferred.

Throughout history, dogs and cats remained popular targets of this practice, and as late as the 16th century there are references to Scottish witches transferring human suffering and disease to cats and dogs. It was also a common practice in Scotland to pass a cat over a person suffering from fever, to absorb their illness. Ancient rabbinical literature mentions the process known as pigeon therapy, in which prayers were chanted over a person with jaundice, and then a pigeon placed on their navel. It was believed that this act would transfer the jaundice into the pigeon, then, when the bird was allowed to fly away, the disease would disappear with the bird. According to Chapter VII of The Magus, a 19th century grimoire, "So in the cholic, if a live duck be applied to the belly, it takes away the pain, and the duck dies." (p. 38). In similar vein we find in Mark 5: 11-13 the story of how Jesussupposedly expelled an evil spirit from a "possessed" man and transferred it into a herd of pigs.

The belief that negative energy could be transferred between humans and animals can also be found in certain unusual employment requirements of past ages. One such example was to be found amongst Falconers and Cadgers. The Falconers, who were responsible for caring and training the birds, and the Cadgers who carried a wooden frame known as a cadge, on which the birds were carried in the field, were required to be men of "chaste behaviour" since it was believed, men who frequented harlots could transfer their "contagion" to the extremely valuable birds. 

3.    Life After Death – Ghosts: In many cultures the life-energy, or spirit, was considered to be a "divine" force, and, as such, able to survive physical death, and even to return to Earth, to help or harm those left behind. This was the basis of many ghost stories and such practices as the propitiation of the dead and ancestor worship especially in China, where relatives of the dead person went to a great deal of trouble to ensure the deceased was happy in their grave. To this end they employed Feng Shui doctors to locate the most suitable sites for the dead.

4.    Life After Death – Heaven, Resurrection and Reincarnation:   The belief that a part of the individual could survive death gave rise to many and varied concepts of the afterlife. It must have made some degree of sense to the ancients that, if the spirit survived death. it needed a "dwelling place" where it could continue in its earthly role, It was assumed the dead would need their tools and personal possessions, a  practice that appears to be at least 50,000 years old, dating from when Neanderthals and Homo sapiens began burying their dead with their everyday tools. This practice reached its ultimate level of excessiveness amongst the Egyptian pharaohs.

Later the idea developed of a resurrection; some, like the Pharisees even claiming that the body would rise from the grave in an actual "physical" resurrection, an idea that was to influence the formation of the resurrection myth of Jesus.

It appears that a natural sense of justice and injustice greatly influenced the perception of life after death, and many cultures depicted the punishment meted out to sinners, and the rewards for the faithful, in the afterlife.  This necessitated the creation of another level of after-death existence, an elaborately location where the faithful would be able to enjoy an eternal life of pleasure, while those who had sinned while alive were banished to another place, where they lived in eternal torment.

5.    Vampirism:   Since blood was believed to contain a form of "life-energy" it must have appeared logical to assume that demons and malevolent spirits, who were not really "alive" in the real sense of the word, would attack humans to drink their blood so that they might obtain some of vital life-giving "essence" and so gain for a short period of time an artificially sustained form of life. Folklore is filled with these creatures such as Lilith the first wife of Adam, the Horseleech of Proverbs 30:15; the Lamia, Burcolakas, and Empusa of Greece, the Arabic Algul, the European Incubi and Alfs, the Malaysian  Penanggalan, the Scottish Baobhan-Sith, the Rumanian Nosferat, and the fictional Dracula.

6.    Spontaneous Generation: This was the belief that certain types of organisms could form spontaneously, without the need of intermediate developmental processes such as eggs, or offspring; It was believed that certain types of rotting matter produced special gases, (miasmas), that contained a form of life-energy and spontaneously produced life forms; this was also believed to be the source of such diseases as Cholera and the Black Death. In ancient times when the biological origins of insects, frogs, and fishes were unknown, this was a widespread belief, e.g. Exodus 7:17, "... all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout the land of Egypt."

This concept received its greatest impetus from Aristotle who claimed that shellfish, limpets, oysters, and fleas, were born spontaneously from the mud of the sea-beds; that crabs developed from certain shellfish, especially those with a curved form; Jellyfish were formed spontaneously from sea-water; and that spiders were born from other insects with a similar form and appearance. He claimed that some forms of life, formed from morning dew, some from leaf mould, mud, or decomposing manure, while mosquitoes came from earthworms, and ticks from couch grass.

7.    Philosopher’s Stone: This was considered to be the receptacle within which resided the original divine life-power. Like the Greek Apeiron it contained the fundamental life-energy that was able to shape, or reshape substances,  and, so could transmute anything it came in contact with, returning it to that most noble, and original substance, Gold.

8.    The Elixir Vitæ and the Fountain of Youth:  Early Christians believed that, having been given a pure and uncorrupted divine life-force, Adam and Eve were destined to be immortal; however, this divine potential was lost when they "sinned"; as a result, all humankind was destined to age and die. However, some believed that if they could obtain an infusion of the divine spirit, which, according to the Alchemists, was contained within the Elixir Vitæ, they would be able to banish sickness, aging and even death. Later this idea became incorporated into myths and traveller’s tales of fabulous lands, where it was said this magical liquid might be found in a natural spring. It was from such sources that reports of the legendary Fountain of Youth originated; the magical water that flowed from this fountain was said to be able to restore youth to the aged and when drunk regularly, would ensure eternal life.

9.    Preformationism: The belief that an infinitely minute human form was present in every egg, or sperm, and that the act of conception merely triggered a process that enabled it to grow into a human child.

10.    Emboîtement: The belief that, at the moment of creation, God had created an infinite number of embryos, and that, within each embryo were innumerable other embryos all waiting their time to be brought forth. (Hellman 1998, p. 68).


Aristotle (1987). De Anima: On the Soul. Lawson-Tancred, H. (Trans) New York: Penguin Books.
Besant, A. (1921). Theosophical Society. In, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. James Hastings, J. editor, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clarke; volume 12, 535-537.
Blundell, N. (1985). The World’s Greatest Mysteries. Bungay, Suffolk: Chaucer Press Ltd.
Bradley, R.S. (1999). Philosophy of naturopathic medicine. In, Textbook of Natural Medicine, eds. J.E. Pizzorno and M.T. Murray, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2nd ed. 41-49.
Brodie, F.M. (1990). No Man Knows My History, 2nd ed., New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
Bulwer-Lytton, Sir Edward, 1965, The Haunted and the Haunters. In, Favourite Stories of Hypnotism, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company.
Carpenter,  Edward, (1920).  Pagan  And Christian Creeds: Their Origins And Meaning, London:  George  Allen  & Unwin Ltd.
Carroll, R.T., (2002). The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Corpus Hermetica, Book IV, 47, The Key, at www. ancienttexts. org/ library/ Egyptian /hermetica/index.html
Crawley, A.E. (1971). Life and Death, (American). In, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Hastings, J. (editor),  Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, vol. 8, 13-14.
D’Alviella, G. (1971). Animism. In, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Hastings, J. (editor),  Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, vol. 1, 535-537.
De’ath, R. (2000). French Letters and English Overcoats: Sexual Fallacies and Fads From Ancient Greece to the Millennium. London: Robson Books.
De Selincourt, A. (1955). Herodotus: The Histories. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd.
Drury, N. (1981). The Healing Power. Sydney: Australia & New Zealand Book Co.
Encyclopædia Britannica. Rites and Ceremonies. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., (1986), volume 26,   816-889.
Feuerstein, G. (1987). Prana. In Encyclopedia of Religion. Eliade, M. (editor in chief), New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., vol. II, 483-484.
Frazer, J. G. (1922). The Golden Bough. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.
Gélis, J. (1991). History of Childbirth. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Hall, M.P. (1928). The Secret Teachings of All Ages. San Francisco: H.S. Crocker Company. 
Haller, J.S. (1986). The Great Biologic Problem: Vitalism, materialism and the philosophy of organism. New York State Journal of Medicine, 86(2), 81-88.
Hellman, H. (1998). Great Feuds in Science. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Hellman, H. (2001).  Great Feuds in Medicine. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas nelson & Sons,
Hume, D. (1783)  Essay II - On the Immortality of the Soul. In, Essays On Suicide, and the Immortality Of The Soul. London: M. Smith
Koran, (1987). Translator N. J. Dawood. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.
Krieger, D. (1986). The Therapeutic Touch: How to Use Your Hands to Help or to Heal. New York: Prentice Hall Press.
Krieger, D. (1993). Accepting Your Power to Heal: The Personal Practice of Therapeutic Touch. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bear & Company Publishing.
Krieger, D. (1997).  Therapeutic Touch Inner Workbook: Ventures in Transpersonal Healing. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Company.
Kunz, D. and Peper, E. (1995). Fields and their clinical implications. In, Spiritual Healing, Dora Kunz, compiler. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books – Theosophical Publishing House.  213- 261.
Leadbeater, C.W. (1927). The Chakras. Wheaton, Illinois: The Theological Publishing House, (1987 edition).
McCoy, B. (2000). Quack! Tales of Medical Fraud From the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press.
Mainfort, D. (2004). The Physician-Shaman: Early Origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Skeptic, 1, 36-39.
Nunn,  J.F. (1996). Ancient Egyptian Medicine. London: British Museum Press.
Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, volume XIII, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 398.
Pliny The Elder, (1938).The  Natural History. H. Rackham, (trans.), London: William Heinemann Ltd.
Poe, E.A. (1981). The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. In, Edgar Allan Poe: The Complete Tales of Mystery and Imagination, London: Octopus Books.
Powell,  A. E. (1969). The Etheric Double. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books.
Raso,  J. (1995). Mystical Medical Alternativism. Skeptical Inquirer, 19:5,  33-37.
Raso, J. (1996). The Dictionary of Metaphysical Healthcare. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books..
Robinson, H. W. (1971). Blood, In, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.  Edinburgh: James Hastings, (editor), volume 2, pp. 714-719.
Shelley, M. (1995). Frankenstein. New York: W.W. Norton,
Stanway, A. (1979). Alternative Medicine: A Guide to Natural Therapies. Adelaide: Rigby Ltd.
Teresi, D. (2002).  Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science from the Babylonians to the Maya. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Walker, B. (1970). Sex and the Supernatural.  London: Macdonald Unit 75.