7. The New Age Laws of Energy

Let me give you some back-story about energy. My work in the New Age was based on the concept of healing with energy. In the New Age, this energy is referred to as chi (or qi or ki), prana, or the life force (among other things). The idea is that this energy is what flows through us (like blood in our veins), holds the universe together, animates life, and connects us to each other. It forms the basis of most metaphysical and New Age philosophies and healing practices; the health of your energy is thought to be the basis for your physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and survival.

photo of Your Aura and Your Chakras bookIn my own psychic readings and healings, for instance, I used my capacity to sense my clients’ energy (I used my energy to sense their energy and diagnose any problems) inside the area of their peripersonal space (also known as the aura). With the information I gathered, I might move my clients’ energy around with my hands if they or I felt that it was blocked.

I could also pick up specific things about my clients’ emotional health, their attitudes, and their personalities, based upon what I felt in their personal energy field. Nearly all New Age and alternative healing modalities are based on the concepts of energy flow and energy blockages – and thousands of people like me have built careers by creating untold numbers of energy cleansing and diagnostic systems to address these blockages.

This concept of energy is absolutely central to New Age philosophy, where people make endless distinctions about different kinds of energies. For instance, there’s the physical energy of your body, the energy of your emotions, the energy of your thoughts, and the energy of your immortal spirit. Each type of energy ostensibly has its own pattern, speed, and frequency (in many areas of the New Age, the body is seen as containing the lowest or basest frequency, while the spirit is seen as containing the highest or most valued frequency).

In my area of the New Age, we also made distinctions between the energy of the aura (your peripersonal space), the energy of the chakras (energetic vortices that are thought to maintain and distribute energy throughout your body and your aura), and the energy of angels, devas, fairies, gods, goddesses, the spirits of dead people, extra-terrestrials, and the Supreme Being (in my area of the New Age, God was not a human-like creature, but was rather the primordial sentient energy from which all other energies arose).

We also identified the distinct energies of all of the inhabitants of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms*, as well as the energies of all of the stars and planets in the galaxy. Everything had its own distinct, purposeful, and meaningful energy.

*Bach Flower Remedies, aromatherapy, and homeopathy are examples of healing modalities that take advantage of the specific beneficial energies inside natural substances. Interestingly, the same substance, for instance, a rose, has different healing properties in each of these three modalities. Proponents of each explain that different preparation modes and different delivery methods account for the energetic dissimilarities of the same substance in different applications. An non-paranormal analogy might be the fact that polyester pants, gasoline, and baby oil come from the same source, but through different preparations become entirely distinct things.

In this spiritual/metaphysical belief system, we are all thought to swim in a sea of vibrating and fluctuating, yet distinguishably separate energies. Nothing is ever lost, and no one ever really dies or disappears, because their energy continues to exist – perhaps infusing itself into the etheric ocean, or perhaps remaining distinct for all time (this idea was the basis for my belief that my soul existed throughout many lifetimes, including my Atlantean one).

When I studied scientific dis-confirmations and skeptical refutations (this distinction is extremely important, more later) of the energetic healing and psychic work done in the New Age, I was quite able to keep all of the dis-confirming information at arm’s length – because from my viewpoint, the researchers got everything completely wrong in the area of energy. They didn’t seem to understand energy at all!!

Strangely, they kept looking for a merely physical or electrical basis for the skills psychics utilize. For instance, one study measured the electrical voltage power of brain waves and concluded that the waves were too weak to travel out of one person’s brain, through the air, and into the skull of another person (who could then interpret the thoughts contained in those traveling brain waves). I laughed out loud at this study, as would anyone in my culture, because none of us claimed that we sucked brain waves out of the air with our skull bones!! We read other people’s energy with our energy, for goodness sake, so why didn’t anyone perform experiments on energy?

Late one night, after about two months of careful circling, and careful reading of topics I knew to be suspect, I visited The Skeptic’s Dictionary and finally clicked on the topics of energy, chi, prana, and the life force – and I was utterly floored.

I had no idea – none – that the concepts of energy I had held so dear were not verifiable in any way whatsoever. No auras, no chakras, no energetic meridians, no ghostly emanations … none had ever been confirmed, not even with extremely sensitive equipment. In fact, all of them had been disconfirmed numerous times. Why had I heard none of this?

Why was I told in the New Age that Kirlian photography, for example, actually photographs auras? It doesn’t! Why was I told that the energetic meridians were scientifically proven? They weren’t! In the New Age, we could wave (or hurl) study after study at you – and all of our studies proved the existence of chi, prana, energetic meridians, the aura, the chakras, psychic abilities, energetic healing, the power of prayer, the power of meditation, reincarnation, the afterlife…. We knew these things were true and we could prove them! How had Robert Carroll – a man whose scholarship I had so admired – suddenly become such an incompetent researcher?

I left Skepdic in a kind of horrified daze and pored over the Internet and the books in my local library – searching for proof of the energy concepts that formed the basis of my entire healing career. I studied electrical engineering and electronics, physics and magnetic forces, and … nothing.

Sure, I found plenty of books that swore up one side and down the other that this metaphysical energy existed and could definitely be measured – but instead of swallowing those books whole, I began to research the authors. What was their background? Where did they get their information? Who performed the experiments they wrote about, and with what equipment? How were the experiments performed? Who funded the studies they cited? What in the hell was going on here?

Next post: 8. The fundamentals of a fundamental disagreement

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2 Comments

Filed under Cognitive Biases, Energy, Metaphysics, New Age, Skepticism

2 responses to “7. The New Age Laws of Energy

  1. Priscilla

    I am enjoying reading through this story. Thank you for sharing it. It’s really fascinating. Aside from the fact that your story itself is so interesting, you are a very good writer! I can see why your books have been successful. And your field is very interesting to me, I love the brain.

    Just a note: aromatherapy is not based on the so-called energy of volatile plant oils, but on their chemical properties and the effects they have on the body, and to a lesser extend their psychological effects (which may or may not be physical in nature.)

    It is entirely different from homeopathy! In homeopathy the “remedies” are mere water, whereas in aromatherapy we have volatile oils, which have proven chemical constituents.

    It’s true that some people make really ridiculous claims about aromatherapy, but that’s the case with any modality, I think.

    • Thanks Priscilla. I included aromatherapy with the energetic healing modalities because of the spiritual and ephemeral cures that are so often attributed to them (such as emotional balance, spiritual wellness, and increased wholeness), but I do agree that aromatherapy derives its purported benefits from the presence of volatile chemical compounds in the essential oils. A more precise category for all three of these modalities would likely be essentialism or vitalism, which I’ll explore in later posts.

      For me, the interest is that one substance, for instance the rose, can treat catarrh, tinnitus, and hay fever in homeopathy (Rosa Damascena), while it can treat apathy and resignation in California Flower remedies (California Wild Rose), and in aromatherapy, depending on the type of rose and the extraction process, it can treat depression, anxiety, asthma, heart disease, anorgasmia, stress, and grief, among other things.

      Mountain Rose herbs notes that rose essential oil has these properties: “Antidepressant, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, depurative (rids the body of impurities in some way), emmenagogue (causes menstruation somehow), sedative, tonic,” while the Aura Cacia essential oils site offers information about the energetic healing power of rose essence: “anyone who has inhaled fresh roses or their essential oil knows the aroma strengthens the heart spiritually and emotionally as well.” Wow!

      Esoteric Oils has an extensive list of the ways rose can affect your energy as well (including clearing, cleansing, and purifying female sex organs). So while aromatherapy is different from homeopathy in its preparation and in the fact that measurable chemical compounds do exist within the essential oils, it is a form of essentialist and vitalist medicine as well. Which is certainly not to say that aromatherapy is always presented that way. But it is presented that way often enough (for instance, in every health food store I’ve ever been to) to earn the comparison.

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