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Is Energy Real?

If You Can't See It Or Touch It, Does It Exist?

Kilrian photography image

Many people in Western cultures have trouble accepting the concept of subtle energy--also called chi, ki, qi, prana, mana, the bio-energetic field, and many other names.

It has no measurable, tangible presence. This makes it easy for most people to ignore, and for skeptics to dismiss. But does subtle energy's non-material character necessarily mean that it doesn't exist?

Of course not! Our lives are full of non-material realities.

The World View of Philosophical Materialism

Western culture is still so caught up in the matter-based, mechanistic world view that arose from Newtonian physics, that most of us are skeptical of things that can’t be seen and touched.

We’re still steeped in the doctrine of materialism, which basically holds that nothing except matter exists.

But our culture’s materialist, mechanistic version of reality is not only in conflict with how people have viewed the world for most of recorded history. It is also in conflict with the views of most scientists today, as well as with reality as most of us experience it.

If we stop and think about it, our own experience tells us that there is so much more to reality than what we can see and touch.

The Reality of Thoughts and Feelings

For example, I can’t imagine anyone denying that love (or any strong emotion) is real—but we can neither see nor touch nor smell nor taste nor hear love itself (although we can certainly experience its effects).

The same with thoughts. They can’t be directly perceived by any of our senses—yet who would deny that thoughts are real?

So our own experience directly refutes the world view of materialism.

Modern medicine, embracing the Newtonian world-view, at least until recently thought of and treated the body primarily as a machine. They simply ignored the life force (or consciousness or energy) animating our bodies, thoughts, and emotions.

But in our hearts, we know that we are more than fancy machines or complicated computers. We know—because we experience it every minute of the day—that there is more to the world, and more to us humans [and other life forms], than what we can see and touch.

And if thoughts and emotions are real, it seems reasonable that subtle energy might well be real, too--even though we can't measure it or prove it scientifically yet.

How Do We Decide If Something Is Real?

So is energy real? I guess it depends on the internal mental rules or definitions--often sub-conscious--by which we separate our experience into "real" and "not real."

Depending on those rules and definitions, we admit some things into the category of what we call "real," while excluding others as fiction, lie, imagination, myth, hallucination, or mistake, and just ignoring still others because they don't fit into our model of reality.

Science and medicine have their own rules about reality, and those rules are, of course, useful. I'm not arguing against science and medicine. I'm just saying that they're not the only valid set of rules possible.

And my internal rules (shaped by my own experience) say that unseen things like emotions, thoughts, and subtle energy are real. How about you? Is energy real?

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Image by Emmanuel HEREDIA (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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