Energy—Psychic and Physical

There is a lot of talk these days about personal energy, psychic energy, subtle energy, and suchlike. A person may have a good energy, or good 'vibrations.' Someone may work with a person's energy field in the body. We may feel energy in our spine or heart area. A piece of poetry may have 'good energy', and so can a group of people.

People who use the term in this context generally assume they are talking of the same sort of energy that a physicist talks about, or at least something of a similar ilk. In fact they are two very different concepts, and we do ourselves a disservice by assuming they are the same. We mislead ourselves, and we unnecessarily alienate the scientific community who have their own clear view on the nature of energy.

In physics, energy has a clear mathematical definition, and can be precisely quantified in established units. Psychic energy, on the other hand, has no formal definition, and cannot be measured in the same precise way. On the contrary, it is detected and assessed personally. It is a felt experience. And the nature and intensity are subjective evaluations rather than objective measurements.

Well-established laws apply to physical energy. The total energy in a system is conserved; it cannot be created or destroyed. Psychic energy does not appear to obey any such laws. The 'energy' felt in a group of people has not come at the expense of 'energy' from another group of people. Or if we feel the "good energy" of painting, the painting hasn't lost any energy.

The radiation of physical energy obeys an inverse square law. Double the distance from an object and the energy received is one quarter of what it was before. Ten times the distance and the energy decreases to one-hundredth. Yet medical intuitives seem to pick up the 'energy' of a person in another continent as easily as someone in the same room, and prayer appears to reach across equally vast distances with little attenuation in the effect. Whatever is happening is not obeying a basic law of physical energy.

Since physical energy and psychic energy behave so differently, it is clear that we are dealing with two totally different phenomena. So why do people claim that it is the same as physical energy, or something closely allied?

One reason is the felt sense of this 'energy'. In some cases the experience may involve a sensation of warmth, an impulse to move, a sense of pressure or some other activity. It certainly feels similar to the way energy feels in the physical world, nevertheless it is not a physical phenomenon. It is an inner experience, a sensation appearing in consciousness, and that sensation happens to have somatic qualities. We accept that when we dream, the images are in the mind, and, in most cases, do not correspond to events in the physical world. Yet when we have somatic imagery, i.e. physical-like sensations, we assume that there must be some corresponding physical activity. It certainly feels like it. But the feeling is deceptive. They are just experiences in the mind; forms arising in subtler levels of consciousness.

A second reason that people want to identify these experiences with physical energy is to give them some validity. If they are related in some way to physical energy, or if we could measure them in some objective way, then they must be real. In effect, people are appealing to the materialist worldview for validation of a subjective experience. This is somewhat ironical. On the one hand, they are saying that there are phenomena beyond scientific materialism; on the other hand, they are appealing to that paradigm for their validation.

We do not appeal to physical science to validate our experience of love. The experience is its own validation. We know what we are feeling, and what it means to us. Similarly if we feel something good about a person, that experience is real. It does not need to be couched in pseudo-scientific language to validate it.

The same with talk of frequency and vibration. One might claim that a crystal, or herb, or even a person is vibrating at a higher frequency. But this is not the same as the frequency of physical energy systems. There's no precise measurable rate of such a vibration, and probably no physical vibration either. It is just a way of expressing a feeling that something is purer, more in harmony, or whatever.

Appealing to concepts in the physical science often has the opposite of the desired effect. Science cannot detect any 'energy' coming from a person across the room, or measure the frequency of some herbal remedy, so it easily dismisses such experiences, relegating them to the realm of delusion. Rather than saying, "these people are detecting something we know nothing about," they are more likely to say that it clearly is nothing to do with energy as they conceive of it, and therefore dismiss it entirely.

Moreover, by trying to appeal to a physical definition of energy, we miss the true significance of what we are experiencing. The experience itself is very real. Far more real than the energy science describes—which, after all is said and done, is only an abstraction, a way of explaining the behavior of the material world. With these subjective experiences, the reality is immediate. It does not need defining, measuring, or validating. It is a direct first-hand experience; a very real manifestation of consciousness.

Rather than trying to look for some possible correlation in physical reality, and lumping all these experiences under the general category of energy, we should delve into the experience itself. What are we actually feeling? If it is warmth in the heart, or a tingling in the spine, describe it as such. What does it feel like? Where exactly is it? How is it changing or moving? What is it showing me? By being more conscious of what the actual experience is, we open more fully to it, and to the value it may hold for us. We will learn much more that way than trying to match it with physical energy. And hopefully both the scientist and the mystic will come to understand each other better.