Life Force

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What do you understand by the concept of “life force”?

What is the relevance of “life force”, as you have defined it, for the possible future integration of osteopathy into UK health care provision?

Life force as a concept is an ambiguous notion which is more of a philosophy than something that has a physical entity. It is for this reason that Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) have an inherent problem in practice within the UK health forum. Predominantly due to the lack of scientific evidence available at present. The argument mostly centres on the word “holism”. Holism is a central characteristic of alternative medicine (Fulder 1995) and commonly recognised as the unity of mind, body and spirit and it has been influential in attempts to redefine health. However this concept of vital force causes a great deal of controversy in medicine, as whilst it is used extensively in traditions of healing systems, in orthodox science they are disputed and too evasive for biomedical scientific institutions to grasp.

Life force to me is many different ideas; embryonic stage of life; breath, state of mental health; physical health; energy fields surrounding and within the body; and spirituality (religious and non-religious). It is a notion that has been around since the beginning of time that has evolved with time and with man. It creates a purpose for rituals and aids cultural development also giving a person/community something to believe in, for example, the way Egyptians prepared bodies of their Pharaohs in order to preserve their spiritual life force. (CBO LRP 2)

Where does this life force come from then? According to many ancient philosophies the living body (human or animal), radiates warmth and energy. This energy is the life force itself, and assumes as many names as there are civilisations.

The Taoists call life force energy Chi (Qi) and charted its movement through the body. Indian yoga adepts call it Prana and used it for healing. In the West, Dr. Wilhelm Riech discovered the same energy and called it Orgone energy. It is known as Ruach in hebrew, Barraka in islamic countries, and Ch'i in China. In Japan the energy is called Ki and it is from this word that Reiki is named.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Qi is a form of energy flowing along unseen meridian channels throughout the body. Qi is not visible. Everything in the universe has Qi. The human body is a type of Qi. According to ancient qigong texts, Original Qi is created by the parents which with time, age and any prolonged illnesses diminishes the reserves of Qi in the body. In the course of every object it inevitably involves matter; therefore all things can result in the creation of Qi and in the exchange of Qi. We not only have to consider our flow of Chi but also we must be careful of the food that we eat Grain Qi, the air that we breathe Cosmic Qi (Svoboda and Lade p19) and the thoughts that we have and the fact that many of us don't know we have Chi (or don’t acknowledge it) until we impede it's flow and become ill.

It is interesting to note that so many diverse cultures have evolved the same theory; for example, Ayurvedic medicine in much the same way as ancient Chinese medicine has Prana which links the spirit, mind and body together and breath is an important aspect of an organism’s prana which can be replenished “instantly” or in from well digested foods (Svoboda and Lade p49). It should be noted that although prana is considered as being a life force that keeps the body alive and healthy, it comes from 3 distinct sources: the sun, the air and the ground (Sui 1990 p3-4).

In the early western world of medicine Hippocrates applied rationale to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks’ supernatural beliefs that the body is influenced by internal and external factors. He separated these beliefs from medicine and applied nature to the causes of diseases. His methods were developed further by Galen...
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