Richard G. Petty, MD

Energy and Fields, Prana and Qi

I just had a kind and important letter from a correspondent:

Dear Dr. Petty,

I enjoy reading your reviews in Could you allow me to ask a question here?
I saw in a couple of reviews you oppose the idea of “Everything in this world is made of energy.” Could you recommend some books which can explain this more beside Entangled Minds?

Thanks & Best Regards

One of the problems that I explore in detail in Healing, Meaning and Purpose is what I refer to as “Physics envy:” the attempt by non-specialists to use physics to buttress comments about “Energy” in biology and healing. Comments that would produce apoplexy in most practicing physicists. Within the last few days I have been listening to some CDs by a biologist in which he makes the usual claim that quantum physics “proves” that the universe in made of energy and that consciousness and matter are inextricably linked. He then goes on to say that the famous equation E=MC2 proves it, despite the fact that we are still waiting for a rapprochement between quantum and relativistic theories. To his dying day, Einstein remained skeptical about quantum mechanics.

The biologist may be right. The trouble is that his evidence is not.

The loose usage of the word “energy” may make people wotking in biology and healing look foolish and ill informed, and it is guaranteed to prevent any meaningful dialogue between biologists and physicist. This is not a semantic argument but a practical one.

When someone says, “I like his energy,” or “the arrangement of the furniture has good energy,” or I got his to tap his hand and that cured his energy,” what do these statements actually mean?

According the Lawrence LeShan, the idea that “energy” is some universal substances that is the basic building block of the universe arose from a slogan created by a popularizer of science in the early 1950s. The original slogan was that the “Universe is made up of energy,” with the corollary that all solid matter was simply congealed energy. This was some years before the development of modern field theory. Journalists, broadcasters and science fiction writers commonly wrote about converting matter into energy, though this is impossible according to the current understanding of the laws of physics.

Energy is always manifested as a state of a particular field. It may be manifested as a matter-field or an energy-field. When one form of being is converted to another, its energy is passed on. I am indebted to Professor Chris Clarke formerly of the University of Southampton for an excellent metaphor: “when one form of manifest field converts into another, its energy is like a relay-runner’s baton that is passed on, but always requires a runner; though without the baton there’s no point in running. The universe is made of energy in the sense that without the energy the fields could not actualize; the universe is also made of fields, in that without the fields there would be nothing to carry the energy.”

There is only one energy and its different manifestations – electricity, the strong and weak forces, and so on – are fields.

There is an extremely interesting idea in philosophy, called “Energy monism,” that proposes that energy and consciousness are aspects of one another. This is an attractive concept about which I shall have a bit more to say on another occasion.

This concepts about “energy” as the fundamental force of the universe later became consolidated with a wonderful example of an inappropriate use of metaphor: Qi and Prana were equated with energy, though nobody schooled in Chinese or Sanskrit would translate the words that way. So many New Age ideas conflated “Energy” with Qi and Prana, and some even went so far as to claim that matter is no more than a series of vortices in the primary “stuff.”

I once termed some of the common intellectual fallacies, Petty’s Paralogia:

  1. The inappropriate use of metaphor
  2. The King’s New Clothes phenomenon
  3. Moving the goalposts

If you are looking for some more reading, it depends a little on the level that you are looking for.

Here are one or two that I have recently found interesting, useful and very readable:
Healing Beyond the Body by Larry Dossey
Decoding the Universe by Charles Seife
Radical Knowing by Christian de Quincey
And finally for Energy Monism, Paradigm Wars by Mark Woodhouse is excellent.

If these do not give you what you need, do let me know: I have scores of other recommendations. You may also find some of the lists that I’ve put up at Amazon may guide you, for example this one.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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