What Are Subtle Energies?

By Celia Coates

If you’ve had an experience of subtle energies, you may not be able to explain or prove it, but you’ve learned something about what they are.
If you haven’t, you might understand a little more from the opening paragraphs in two books published a few years ago: SUBTLE ENERGY by William Collinge and VARIETIES OF ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCE by Etzel Cardena, Steven Jay Lynn, and Stanley Krippner.

Collinge began with a quote from Lao-Tzu:
“Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond form. Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound. Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.”

Then he described the experiences of two different people,
“Walking down the street in a strange city, he felt a sudden pull to enter a certain cafe. There sat an old friend he hadn’t seen in years.

After lying facedown on the earth for twenty minutes, she realized that all her tension and depression had left her. She felt rejuvenated and infused with fresh energy.”

He continued,
“Real forces are moving within our bodies and the world around us – unseen, unheard, and some undetected by even the most sensitive scientific instruments. In recent years researchers have coined the term ‘subtle energy’ to describe these forces. While an understanding of subtle energies has been part of many cultures and spiritual traditions for millennia, Western science is only now beginning to acknowledge they exist.

 Earlier in this century (the 20th), Albert Einstein showed through physics what the sages have taught for thousands of years: everything in our material world – animate and inanimate – is made of energy; and everything radiates energy. The earth is one enormous energy field – in fact, a field of fields. The human body is a microcosm of this – a constellation of many interacting and interpenetrating energy fields.”

In the book about anomalous experiences the three authors wrote:
Tales of strange, extraordinary, and unexplained experiences with the ‘unknown’ have long fascinated artists, scientists, and the lay audience. The period of the 19th century European Romanticism was a time of deep interest in alterations of consciousness; such works as George Eliot’s THE LIFTED VEIL featured reputed parapsychological phenomena as a central part of their plot. In the 20th century, the Surrealist movement paid special attention to automatic writing and drawing, altered states of consciousness, and dreams. …  At the beginning of the 21st century, popular interest in such topics as near-death experiences, purported parapsychological phenomena, and mystical events has remained very strong. This can be explained, in part, because many anomalous experiences seem to hold great significance for those who have them or even for those who just vicariously partake of them.”

Many people assume that because they have not had one of the blindingly obvious beyond-ordinary experiences such as a near-death experience, a life saving premonition, or a healing recovery from a terrible disease, that they have not had an experience of subtle energies. But there are many, many genuine subtle energies experiences that we all have that are more like the “pull” to turn aside and encounter an old friend in an unexpected place than like having a chance to glimpse the white light of heaven.

When we try to figure out whether or not what we’ve experienced is from the intangible fields of interpenetrating energies that surround us, it is important to have the right kind of open mind – an inquiring approach that is neither too skeptical nor too accepting. The advice from Lao-Tzu is useful: look, listen, and grasp the details of subtle experiences as you would for more solid and ordinary ones. Then question if there are any simple ways to explain what happened. I’ve told the story before of the man in my office who noticed the ceiling lights flicker once and then later flicker again while he was talking about his life. He was convinced that this was a meaningful message from another dimension and would not believe the real cause – a drain on the electrical power caused by the air conditioning system switching on.

Evidence of the non-tangible fields of interacting energies may not be measurable but these subtle energies certainly can be experienced. There probably are things that we’ve known in our own lives that we’ve brushed aside as unimportant or as misperceptions. Perhaps it’s time to take a second look. When we re-examine them, it’s a good idea to be ready to set aside the events that have an ordinary explanation – like the flickering lights. As we become increasingly familiar with what is, and what isn’t, an experience of subtle energies, it’s also important to notice the times when we respond to one of those “pulls” and nothing special occurs. We can observe these phenomena in a variety of forms – in and around the body, through our minds and states of consciousness, and beyond ourselves in the spiritual dimensions. As the three authors noted, these energies can be experienced as unusual events that have significant personal meaning.

This is a tiny amount of information about a vast part of life, but it’s a beginning. It  might encourage you to pay attention and to become curious about what you’ve experienced. Maybe that coincidence was more than a coincidence, maybe the friend who told you about a dream that warned them of danger wasn’t just imagining things, and maybe it wasn’t just an unexplained “spontaneous remission” when someone recovered from a terminal cancer. Become curious, ask questions, explore…….

WINN will publish future posts with more to say about subtle energies – it’s a central focus for this magazine.

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SUBTLE ENERGY: Awakening to the Unseen Forces In Our Lives, William Collinge, PhD, Warner Books, 1998.

VARIETIES OF ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCE: Examining the Scientific Evidence, Etzel Cardena, Steven Jay Lynn, and Stanley Krippner, The American Psychological Association, 2000.

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  1. Lisbeth Bagnold says:

    For consideration: The message of Laozi (Lao Tzu) can be interpreted in another, yet equally informative, way. Though you Look — the formless cannot be seen. While Listening, it is beyond sound. Try to Grasp the intangible — it cannot be held. The experientially “known” can remain unknowable. Yet it exists.

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