A Very Quick History Of Energy Methodologies
Human beings have been practicing energy-based healing for as long as there has been religious practice. Suffice it to say, prayer is a form of energy healing and people have been praying for as long as we have had concepts of deity.
In fact, as you review the history of medicine, only in the last two hundred years, with the standardization of Western medicine, has spirituality been excised completely from a medical modality. Up until very recently, spirituality and medicine were integrated practices.
Shamans have existed around the planet for all of human history. Their work with spiritual factors and herbal medicine predates any formalized medicines. The idea of magical healing harkens back to shamans and has been a part of human history for as long as there has been a human history.
Roughly 6,000 years ago, people all around the world began constructing pyramids. These structures can be found on almost every continent, including North and South America, Africa, ancient Mesopotamia, India, Indonesia and even Europe. Supernatural energies were a cornerstone of the belief systems of most people who constructed pyramids. Often it was believed in these societies that pyramids focused supernatural energies to provide physical, emotional and spiritual benefits to those inside. How this factored into medicine is unclear, yet it does appear that the pyramids played some role in energy medicine for the elites in those early civilizations.
The oldest formal energy medicine still in active practice today is likely Chinese Medicine created thousands of years ago. The oldest surviving classical texts in Chinese medicine only go back to several hundred years BCE, but it is very likely that Chinese medicine predates these texts by thousands of years.
The oldest known mummy, Otzi the iceman, was found in the Otzal Alps of Europe. He lived around roughly 3,300 BCE. His body was tattooed with acupuncture points and meridians. This suggests that human being were exploring energy medicine in one form or another all over the world at least 5,000 years ago.
Qi, Yin and Yang, and the Five Elements theories were created in China. Bringing one’s energy back to balance has been the goal of this medicine ever since. Restoring energy balance was a common theme among energy medicines spanning the globe. China, Greece and India shared their knowledge among each other resulting in the widespread adoption of five elements/form/phrases of energy as the basis of medicine. For instance, Aristotle, living around 340 BCE, echoed Chinese theory in describing five energy Elements and their importance in health and disease.
The self-cultivation practice of Qi Gong for balancing one’s qi was an early development in Chinese energy medical practice. In India, the corollary to Qi Gong was Yoga, which was designed to cultivate and move prana, a synonym for qi.
The oldest known Ayurvedic Samhita medicine texts, written in India, were likely written around 100 BC. Again, it is hard to know what deeper knowledge preceded those surviving texts. Yet it is clear that for much of the next two thousand years, Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine were the most popular standardized and professional energy medicines around the globe. For 2000 years, Chinese medicine slowly spread across Asia, becoming the primary medicine for the greater part of the world’s population at that time. Arab and Greek medicines combined and flourished throughout most of the Mediterranean in the early centuries AD. Though the world was divided among many different forms of medicine, energy medicine continued to predominate globally until only the last few centuries.
By the early middle ages, the roots of Western biomedicine took root when physicians in the Islamic world began to focus on scientific study and inquiry. Textbooks by these physicians were translated into Latin where they then proliferated in Europe. At that moment in history, the medical world first divided between scientific inquiry in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East versus energy medicine popular throughout the rest of the planet.
Energy medicine, however, was in no way deterred by the adoption of scientific study. In fact it was in the heart of the scientific world that the next energy medicine was created by a Western-trained physician.
At the turn of the 18th century, a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann developed a completely new form of energy medicine that did not in any way relate to qi, yin/yang, Five Element or prana: homeopathy. Hahnemann showed the world that water could be a container for energy and could hold the energy of whatever substance was placed inside it. He placed herbs in water then diluted the water to greater and greater levels until the water itself contained none of the original herb. Yet, despite the fact that the herb was no longer in the water, the energy of the herb was encapsulated in it. The more dilute this solution, the more powerful the energy medicine impact on the patient. Today, in India alone, 100 million people rely on homeopathy as their primary medicine. It is widely valued across Europe. While remaining a relatively small market in the United States, homeopathy is a multi-billion dollar industry globally.
Western biomedicine became the primary medicine around the globe by the end of the 18th century. Yet, despite its success, energy medicines did not shrink away as one might expect. Instead, their growth began to accelerate. For thousands of years, only a handful of energy medicines dominated the world. Yet Hahnemann appeared to light a spark that would keep growing for the next two centuries.
One hundred years after Hahnemann, and inspired by his discoveries, an English physician, Edward Bach, used an intuitive method of identifying healing flowers. By collecting dew on the petals of specific flowers, Bach created another new energy medicine, which is often called Bach Flower Remedies. These flower essences were considered capable of returning emotional and spiritual balance to a patient.
While one can argue that aromatherapy was first created at the first temple or stupa that utilized incense to stimulate spiritual reflection, the use of essential oil fragrances for healing was developed as a healing art in the early 1900s by European scientists and physicians. The first textbook on aromatherapy was written in 1937 by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé, who proffered that fragrances of essential oils helped to stimulate the body to heal itself.
Around the same time aromatherapy was being developed, Faroese-Danish physician Niels Ryberg Finsen created modern light therapy for which he won a Nobel prize (employing light to treat diseases such as lupus). Light therapy, also known as heliotherapy, uses concentrated light to heal the body. In a more modern context, lasers such as blue lasers have become a popular healing method.
In 1922, Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui introduced the world to Reiki, a non-touch method of transmitting Universal Qi to a patient in order to balance and heal him/her. This method mirrors elements of ancient Chinese medicine but also adds spiritual symbols as a tool for healing.
In the 1970s another energy healing method became popularized by Dora Kunz and Dolores Krieger. Their method, known as Healing Touch, focused on balancing chakras (energy centers first defined in Ayurvedic medicine and ancient Yogic texts) to heal the body.
Of course, human beings live in a sea of ideas and many more healing methods abound that I have missed. This is especially true in just the last several decades. New ideas are always churning at the surface. Suffice it to say, the dominance of biomedicine has in no way quelled interest and demand for energy medicine. If anything, that demand is experiencing a renaissance as the limitations of Western medicine become more clear. Energy medicine has been practiced throughout all of human history. It has been standardized, professionalized, and embraced by the masses. This has been true for thousands of years. In the United States alone, millions of people turn to it every year.
Reprinted with permission from EM Level 2, 2016, Ethan Borg, LLC.
Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist Ethan Borg, L.Ac., has created a new energy methodology called Eminus (commonly known as EM), built on the pillars of classical Chinese energy medicine, feng shui, and modern ideas of anatomy and physiology. Visit www.eminusmirus.com.