Hi. So previously I have briefly discussed New Age concepts of the Afterlife. I thought I would another element of this worldview. The concept of "vital energy / lifeforce energy / subtle energy is an essential element to virtually all "Alternative Therapies", which form a major part of New Age, whether it is Yoga, Tai Chi / Qi Gong, Reiki, Pranic Healing, Therapeutic Touch, Accupuncture, Homeotherapy, Feng Shui etc etc. This is a very ancient concept, as we have solid archeological proof that the practices of Yoga date to at least around 3000 BC, within which the concept of Prana (vital air) is an essential part of it's teachings and practices. Some researches have shown a similar (or near identical concept) to be found in almost every culture, the most obvious example being the Chinese term Chi. Many modern reasearches have coined their own terms, for example: Orgone, BioPlasma etc. (Throughout my blog I will use the term Vital Energy or Prana).
Basically speaking, this concept proposes that all living things are sustained by this vital energy, wether human, animal, plant, bacteria etc, and that no life could exist without it. Perhaps a good comparasion for those unfamilar with the concept could be the reliance of electric goods on a flow of electricity. Along with this basic concept goes the systems through which Prana functions, the Subtle Body/'ies (The aura), Chakras (Spinning centers of consciousness and energy), Nadis (Subtle Nerve pathways, pretty much identical concept to the Chinese concept of the Meridian).
Now, the existence of Prana is a hotly contested issue. Scientifically speaking, it's a concept specifically related to the field of Physics, with many of it's applications in medicine. Most Physicist's do not believe in the existence of Prana, citing no real Scientific proof of it's existence, nor seeing any need for it to fill any gaps in modern physics. Also, a significant percentage of Medical profesional's do not believe in the existence of Prana, and refer to any alternative therapies that work with this concept as being quack or fraudulent.
Now, there is in fact a small but growing field of Scientists investigating the field of Pranic research, probably the two most well known being Hiroshi Motoyama and Valerie Hunt, who have both produced very strong evidence to support Prana as a valid Scientific concept. There are also many more which I will mention later as I go deeper into this concept. Most sources regard Prana as being primarily sub-quantum in nature, however also having measurable effects on magnetic fields and different sources of radiation. (Like many other things, I will go deeper into this later.)
Despite the Scientific skepticism, many people like myself become believers in this concept due to personal experience. As a quick example to start, the first time I ever felt it was the first time I was given Reiki, about 5 years ago. The lady who gave it stood behind me with her hands hovering above my head. I had no idea really what to expect, and very quickly I felt a warm pulsating flow of "energy" moving downwards from the top of my head into the rest of my body. For about a week afterwards I had a constant pleasant sensation on the top of my head (corresponding with the Crown Chakra - Sahasrara in sankskrit) which was accompanied by a dramatic shift in my thought processes. Soon after this I started practicing Hatha Yoga, through which I continued to have experiences which I believe can only be explained properly with the concept of Vital Energy, Prana. Now, the experiences are an everyday occurence, and I have had many particularly unique and dramatic ones.
Skeptics usually explain these experiences as examples of Placebo effect and consider that they can be fully understood within standard biology (ie reactions of the nervous system, and the release of hormones into the blood). Alternatively, conservative Christians don't deny that there is an supernatural element to this phenomena. Once again however, they consider this to be another example of demonic activity.
I will leave it here, as I am still laying down the foundations of future discussions. Feel free to comment.