Life Energy

- towards understanding the integrating forces of life

 By Peter Lund Frandsen, Denmark

Presented at
The International Council of Reflexologists Conference
Rome, Italy, September 2001

Within the alternative or complementary healthcare sector very often the word energy is being used. Many therapist claim to be modifying the patients body energy flow, balancing the life force, or even replenishing the patient with cosmic energy. And maybe this is what they do.
But many practitioners, when asking them about the concept of energy, only have vague answers like: Body energy is "something" flowing in the body, or it is the force that keeps us alive, or it is some kind of electricity.
In the following we shall take a closer look at energy from various perspectives, and we shall see how research from many different fields, when combined is beginning to extend our picture of living processes and give us a deeper understanding of the body. A picture, where the living body is seen as a compilation of closely interconnected parts on all levels from the sub-atomic to the macroscopic.
Maybe the most exciting is, that this newly acquired knowledge appear as an extension and not as a contradiction to our well established sophisticated knowledge of physics, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology and medicine. Thus, a scientific background for many alternative therapies is now beginning to appear and perhaps we will soon see medical researchers investigating these promising fields at large scale. At least clinical trials of alternative therapies will gain much more impact when we understand the mechanisms of how the methods work.

Energy is the ability to perform work

Classical physics: We thought, we knew it all…
We will start our journey by looking at energy from a physicists viewpoint:
If you ask a physicist what energy is, he might give you the classical definition: Energy is the ability to perform work.
Energy can take several different forms as for example electrical, electromagnetic, chemical, mechanical or nuclear energy to name a few.
An important property of energy is that the sum of energy is constant. This is true for a closed circuit as well as it is true for the whole universe. Energy can not be consumed, nor can it be produced. But it can change from one form to another. Whenever work is performed energy is always converted from one form into another. We can illustrate this concept by imagining a tropical island:

Fig. 1 Energy transformations on Coconut Island

1) Energy in the form of sunlight shines on the island and hits a coconut palm. In the leaves of the palm tree light energy is converted into chemical energy in the process known as photosynthesis.
2) This chemical energy is again converted partly into mechanical energy sucking water and nutrients from the earth up into the tree and partly into assembling a growing coconut.
3) Once matured and becoming too heavy to resist the force of gravity, the coconut will fall down and during the fall so called potential energy is converted into kinetic energy (energy of movement).
4) Now, in our example the coconut happens to hit the head of a reflexologist relaxing in the shade! In the impact of hitting the head kinetic energy is transformed into heat and elastic energy slightly deforming the head.
5) Luckily, it didn't hurt too much and the reflexologist decides to eat the coconut lying so conveniently next to him.
6) Inside the body chemical energy of the coconut is converted in a series of steps making the reflexologist feel fresh and energetic, so he starts to treat a pair of feet. This involves conversion of chemical energy in the muscles into mechanical energy of massaging the feet.
Of course, this is an over simplified example, but it serves the purpose of illustrating, how energy is constantly able to change form. But the total sum of energy always remain constant.
This behavior of energy has been well known for centuries and is part of what we call classical physics.

Albert Einstein



Einstein with Niels Bohr

Quantum physics: - then new thoughts came around
In the early 20th century new theories began to develop describing the physical properties at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. According to physicists such as Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Max Planck and others, classical physics is not invalid, but should be regarded as a special case in the much broader theory called quantum physics.
When quantum physicists look at atoms and elementary particles, they are studying extremely small particles moving very fast (with a magnitude of the speed of light), and in these circumstances strange things happen. Space, distance and time is usually considered as something fixed and linear, but in quantum physics they become relative and dependent on the observer. This is described in Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein himself described it in this very simplistic way: "When you are sitting with a beautiful girl, an hour seems like one minute. But when you are sitting on a hot oven, one minute seems like an hour".
Another important finding by Einstein is expressed in his famous equation:

E = mc2

stating that the energy of a particle (E) is directly proportional to its mass (m), or in other words, matter can be converted into energy and vice versa.
Niels Bohr discovered the so called particle - wave duality. In studying the behavior of electrons he found, that at the same time they could be seen as particles, that is, objects with a certain mass, and as waves of energy.
Combining these findings lead us to conclude, that with equal right all matter can be regarded as either physical particles or waves of energy. And this is not only true for individual atoms, it is indeed true also for living organisms. We are all energy! Quantum physically speaking we could say that a human being is the interplay of numerous dynamic forces, that are interconnected to form a whole. And it is also important to realize, that this whole, which we call a human being, is not an isolated phenomena. According to quantum physics we are actually all dependent on and connected to all other matter or energy in the universe!
Does this sound familiar? For many complementary therapies, this is one of the fundamental presumptions.

- but still something is deeply hidden!
These findings have been very difficult for the physics community to accept, They were developed in theory by some incredibly bright minds using complicated mathematics, but they have stood the test of time and during the 20th century, with the invention of more sophisticated instruments, more and more experiments have proven them to be true.
Quantum physics has profound philosophical and religious consequences, which is probably why it takes so long to penetrate into the collective consciousness. We all very willingly benefit from technological advances such as computers and mobile telephones made possible by quantum physics, but we are mostly very reluctant to change our basic view of the world and ourselves.

Despite all the advances in our understanding of nature made by quantum physics, we still don't know exactly what energy is. We know a lot about energy forms, how they can transform from one to another and what effects they generate, but we don't know precisely what lies behind them. It is still "something deeply hidden" as Albert Einstein put it.
Many discoveries in modern physics have been driven by the search for "natures smallest building block". For many years the atom was believed to be the fundamental part out of which everything else is constructed. This was a convenient theory which was consistent with the laws of classical physics. The atom still obeys the basic rules of movement, conservation of energy etc.
But discovering that an atom is actually constructed as a nucleus with electrons orbiting around it, and that the forces acting between these parts follow the rules of quantum mechanics, forever changed the way nature should be perceived.
Further developments have shown that the nucleus of an atom is made up of protons and neutrons which again are made of even smaller particles called quarks.
Will this development ever stop? Will we ever find a "fundamental particle?
For each step closer - for each new generation of elementary particles that has been discovered, it has become increasingly obvious, that even though our senses may tell us something else, all matter is connected and can best be described as local condensations in an indefinite field of pulsating energy.

"You cannot discover new oceans,
        unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore"

Now you may be thinking: What does all this have to do with zone-therapy or reflexology? What has it got to do with the self-healing forces of my patients?
Conventional western medicine has developed according to the classical view of the world. The discoveries of biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology all follow the laws of classical physics and have had a tremendous success in fighting certain diseases, but also have serious drawbacks and fails to be effective with a long range of health problems.
The frontier of medical science now stands reluctantly at the age of the quantum physical paradigm, and as we shall see, if one dares to apply quantum physical reality to biological organisms, a whole new world of possibilities open up. A world where many so called alternative therapies suddenly make sense also on the theoretical scientific level.

Let us take a look at some of the energy forms found in the human body:

Energies in the body

Mechanical energy in tissues
Any kind of motion taking place in the body requires chemical energy to be converted into mechanical energy by our muscles. No matter whether it is the heart beating or a leg moving, the same process takes place. Chemical energy is converted to mechanical energy used in motion or temporarily stored as potential energy in a raised hand or elastic energy in tendons and fascia. This is all familiar classical knowledge, which is true down to the level of tissues as collections of cells. But what about cells and the interior of cells?
Until recently we have envisioned the cell as a kind of membrane bound bag containing a soup of chemical substances. Biochemical reactions, which have been studied in very great detail, were believed to take place in this cytoplasmic solution, where enzymes, proteins and other molecules were floating freely around in a random fashion (see fig. 2).
During the past 20 years a new view of the cell has emerged. We now know, that cells are filled with fibers, tubes, and filaments forming a so called cyto-skeleton or cytoplasmic matrix. Furthermore it has been shown, that special "linking" molecules extend from the inside of the cell, through the cell membrane to communicate with the connective tissue outside the cell. These linking molecules or "integrins" also extend inward to connect to the nucleus of the cell (see fig. 3).

Fig. 2 Classic view of a cell

Fig. 3 Contemporary view of a cell
These discoveries have a profound impact on the concept of living tissue. The boundaries between cells, cell nuclei and extracellular space are not nearly as defined as we may think. Rather than perceiving tissue as a collection of individual cells held together by connective tissue, we should think of tissue as a continuous web-work embracing the entire organism. Scientists have named this web-work The Living Matrix.
Turning back to the concept of mechanical energy, we now know, that when we as reflexologists massage the feet of a patient, we not only convey mechanical energy to the skin. The energy is transferred into the continuously interconnected web of cells being in mechanical contact with all other cells of the body and even into the nuclei of the cells.

Biological electronics - living tissue as transistors
In the nervous system energy is exchanged in the form of electricity, which is a current of flowing electrons. Electricity in nerves spreading as relatively slow waves of depolarization propagated across the nervous cell membranes has been studied in detail by biophysicists for centuries.
That electrical energy is also present and plays an important role on a more subtle scale is more controversial. Information about this has been around for a long time, but only now, supported by new evidence, it is gradually becoming more accepted.
If we compare the electricity in nerves to an ordinary electrical cord supplying energy to a TV-set, we may then compare the electronics of the TV-set to the electronic properties of living tissue. Electronic devices are made of transistors, which are semi-conductors, resistors, capacities, etc. Connected in a proper way they are able to process information. Recent discoveries actually show, that living tissue may very well act in a similar fashion. Most of the molecules that make up our living matrix are able to function as semi-conductors and react to and emit electromagnetic energy.

Electromagnetic fields in the body
Whenever there is an electric current, a flow of electrons, this always sets up a magnetic field in the surroundings. This was first demonstrated by the Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted in 1820, when he by accident noticed, that a compass needle would change direction if placed near a live electrical wire. The opposite is also true: Moving a magnet close to a wire will induce an electric current.
Looking at the body it is obvious, that a multitude of electromagnetic fields must be produced by various tissues.
The strongest magnetic field is associated with the heart and large blood vessels. Blood is an excellent conductor of electricity containing many charged ions, and as the heart beats the blood is being pushed through the cavities of the heart and trough the great vessels in a spiral like fashion. This in turn sets up a magnetic field pulsating in sync with the heart beats (figure 4). This is exactly how the field of the body is envisioned in polarity therapy!

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 6
Another magnetic field is present around the head produced by the currents in nerve cells of the brain, particular in the structure called corpus callosum which is a massive bundle of nerve cells connecting the two hemispheres of the brain. The associated magnetic field is pictured in figure 5.

Even though these biomagnetic fields are among the strongest in the body, they are still extremely weak compared to other magnetic fields such as the magnetic field of the earth or those produced by industrial magnets. And it has only recently become possible to actually detect and measure these fields accurately using a sophisticated device, the so called SQUID-magnetometer (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device).
Knowledge about magnetic influences on the body have been around for long. One of the first to utilize magnetism in treatment was Franz Anton Mesmer in the late 18th century, but unfortunately he was met with fear and ridicule by his contemporaries, partly due to the strange things he was doing and partly because of the dramatic show-like way in which he performed his therapy. In the USA several scientific commissions investigated his work concluding it was unacceptable. This is probably one of the reasons why it has taken so long for the academic establishment to realize, that subtle magnetic biofields actually exist and can be utilized in treatment.

Magnetic fields in therapy
One way of using magnetic fields in therapy is to facilitate the healing of fractures in bone. Despite the fact, that conventional medicine in general still regard biomagnetic fields as non-existent or at least insignificant, it is fascinating, that a method based on these same fields has been developed. In Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) a magnetic field is applied across the site of the fracture, which induces a weak electric current in the damaged tissue. The pulsating field mimic the natural electrical currents generated in the bone during movements and conveys information that triggers the regenerating activities of the body.
In order to be active the magnetic field pulses must have a very low energy and an extremely low frequency of about 7-8 Hz.

In the 1990's some exciting experiments was started using the SQUID-magnetometer to detect the magnetic fields radiating from the hands of trained practitioners of various healing therapies. It turned out that, compared to non-therapists, the trained practitioners would produce fields which were up to one thousand times stronger, and furthermore the frequency of the fields lay in the extremely low frequency range with most activity around 7-8 Hz.
These were only preliminary studies and did not prove that any healing actually took place, but we have here some profound findings in terms of combining ancient practices of energy medicine with modern science. We are now able to demonstrate, that therapists emit strong pulsating magnetic fields with exactly the same properties as those used by medical science to initiate tissue repair!

Everything vibrates
If we look again at the smaller details of matter: molecules, atoms, and even elementary particles, one common property of these fundamental building blocks is vibration. Atoms, molecules and the chemical bonds between them are not solid, static particles as we may believe. They are constantly vibrating at a specific rate and while doing so they emit subtle electromagnetic radiation and add their share to the biomagnetic field of the body.

When waves meet - or the secret language of the body
As mentioned above, according to quantum theory, particles and objects can with equal right be perceived as waves of energy.
What is characteristic about a wave? It goes up and down, it pulsates, oscillates or vibrates. This pulsation is described by the length of the pulsating waves, the wavelength or the equivalent, frequency, meaning how often the waves pulsate.
Another important property of waves is the phenomena called interference. Whenever two waves meet they interfere with each other, they mix, and a so called interference pattern is produced (figure 6). This pattern is able to hold information. The combination of the two waves yield something more than the sum of the parts. (An example of the general principle we see again and again in nature: The whole is more than the sum of the parts). This principle is well-known in for example radio communication, where a radio signal consists of a so called carrier wave upon which several other waves are superimposed, thus making it possible to carry information.

Another example is sound waves. A single pure sound wave such as it is produced by a sinus generator, sounds completely anonymous, clean and tiring for the listener. But combining many sound waves and resonances from for example the wooden reed, mouthpiece and bell of a saxophone reveals completely different sounds definitely carrying the information: This is a saxophone. Combining the sound waves of two or more saxophones produce a new quality: Harmony (Even though some people may choose to call it disharmony!).

Sound examples:

Pure sine wave 440 Hz:  (450 Kb)

Pure sine wave 450 Hz:  (450 Kb)

Combined wave 440+450 Hz:  (450 Kb)

In a similar way, the countless subtle waves of energy sent out from all parts of the body on all levels combine in different patterns and thus is able to convey information. We may say that the tissues, cells, molecules, atoms and elementary particles of the body all whisper together in some faint secret language, of which we are just beginning to understand a few syllables.

Aura - or biofield

What makes the difference between a dead corpse and a living person?
Trying to summarize what we have discussed so far, a complete view of the living organism is beginning to appear. It seems, that it makes good sense to imagine the body with all its components on all levels of organization to comprise a living matrix, an interconnected web-work of communicating parts. The communication taking place in many ways by the exchange of energy in many forms, chemical, mechanical, electrical and electromagnetic, with the important aspect, that every part of the organism constantly is in contact with all other parts of the body.
We have seen how various body parts contribute to what could be called the biofield of the organism. A complicated electromagnetic field which is the fascinating interference pattern set up by adding the billions of energy waves being emitted from the body.
What makes the difference between a dead corpse and a living person? Could it be energy?!
Historically, western medicine is for a large part based on the study of dead things. Dead bodies have been dissected and studied in great detail. All kinds of dead tissue has been examined in a multitude of ways. No wonder many biological scientists find it so difficult to embrace the concept of life energy!
A 70 kilogram human being consist of some 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = 7×1027 atoms.
When we look at a person from the outside, with the senses we have available, it might look as though the body remains stable and unchanged for long periods of time. Well, small adjustments take place. The hair grows, wounds heal and so on. But actually it has been shown that 98% of the body's atoms are being replaced each year! What controls all this activity? How do all these cells, molecules and atoms find out when it is time to be replaced and how to do it, and still keep intact the overall structure of the organism?
Wouldn't it be necessary to have some kind of organizing power, a life force to keep things together?
Is it possible, that this life force is the same as the web-work of oscillating energy waves, that a person can be said to consist of?
Could it be identical to the energy of life, the Qi or Chi envisioned in China or the Prana worshipped in India?

How large is the biofield?
You may wonder: How large is this biofield? Where does it end?
Usually we say, at least in the western world, that the body ends at the surface of the skin. This conception desperately needs revision. The biofield certainly extends further than the skin. Sensitive persons are able to see the aura around a person and even use it as a diagnostic tool. Practitioners of various applications of energy therapies such as Qi-gong Reiki healing and others are very familiar with how one can work with the physical body at a distance.
Being a radiation of electromagnetic energy the biofield never ends! That is a basic property of electromagnetism. It propagates forever into the universe. Its strength weakens proportional to the square of the distance but there is no point at which you could say it stops.
This notion of course has profound philosophical implications, for some they will be comforting and reassuring, for others deeply frustrating or unbelievable, but it seems to be a fact of life, that we as human beings, as well as all other beings and all other matter in the universe, are deeply connected across space and time to each other and to the total sum of everything that exists. And this is not only an ancient mystic belief of the orient, it is a proven consequence of modern physics with solid mathematical theories supported by validated experiments.

Of course, dramatic development in science and the understanding of nature and of ourselves are not easily accepted. Historically there has always been a great deal of skepticism and resistance towards giant leaps or changes in paradigm. It was not easy to accept the fact, that the earth is not center of the universe, that it is even round. It was not easy to accept the concept of bacteria as the cause of infectious diseases and so on.
Likewise, today the quantum physical view of the universe and its implications for biological science is far from accepted by mainstream science. Partly because understanding the beauty of the mathematical theories behind quantum physics is, unfortunately, only for those gifted with an unusual mathematical talent. Partly because our sensory systems are not able to show us everything in the world. And on a more practical level because western medicine has developed into a huge self-controlling scientific-industrial complex, with huge economical interests and a great deal of inertia, that it takes decades to turn into a new direction.

But luckily enough, as reflexologists we can take advantage of these overwhelming new ideas right away in our everyday work.
Sitting at the feet of a patient, treating the zone of the liver, it makes good sense to imagine the harmony of wave patterns emitted from the patients liver, saying: "Hey there, this is the liver, I am feeling kind of sick". It is just like a band playing The Liver Blues. Then imagine the zone of the liver, and listen how the liver's representation in the microsystem of the foot is playing the same tune. Then turn your imagination towards the biofield of your own body playing The Healthy Liver Polka, and how it is transmitted trough your hands and fingers. Eventually it blends with the patients biofield and perhaps it will succeed in persuading the patient to play a different tune! At least the patient is offered a chance of change and is shown on the most basic level a way to proceed. Then it is up to the conductor of the band or the inner doctor of the patient to take action.
Is this what is actually going on during a treatment session?
Could the biofield be the mysterious force of life so intensely sought after?


"Advances are made by answering questions.
        Discoveries are made by questioning answers."

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