The ecologists first brought it to our attention - coal reserves are running out fast and we've already decimated the earth's tree population almost to extinction. It was easy enough for most people to dismiss the ecologists along with little old ladies who knit mittens for their cats and nose-warmers for squirrels, but when the Arab sheikhs imposed their oil embargo everyone was forced to acknowledge the truth. There really is an energy crisis.
Energy has become the word on everyone's lips. Every man and his car waiting in a petrol ration queue is talking alternative energy, every housewife with a home heating problem is discussing natural energy over the back fence. It might be love that makes the world go round, but as the world's activities threaten to grind to a stop, it dawns that love is just another form of energy. Frightened governments are putting their money on atomic energy research while private enterprise is backing investigations into everything from chicken droppings (they produce methane gas) to windmills to solar energy. And psychic energy isn't far behind.
Such fringe phenomena as telepathy, psychic healing, psychokinesis (PK: the moving of matter by mind-power), dowsing, telegnosis (psychic reading of the history and associations of objects) and other paranormal events have become almost respectable and are receiving serious attention from the more adventurous members of the international science community. Hard-headed scientists in the USA, UK, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia and Australia are taking the lead from the most hard- headed of the lot, the scientists of the Soviet Union - many of whom are financed by their governments. Extrasensory perception has emerged from dim Victorian back-parlours to hit the bright lights of the scientific laboratories.
Called bio electronics in some circles, paraphysics in others, this new area of research is generally known as parapsychology and has engaged some of the finest scientific minds in the world. In Czechoslovakia it is known as psychotronics and one of the leading Czech researchers is Dr Zdenek Rejdak, whose association with Swami Satyananda was confirmed by his stay at the Bihar School of Yoga during the early seventies. Speaking in Japan at the fifth annual conference of the International Association for Religion and Parapsychology (Nov. 1976), Dr Rejdak defined psychotronics (and thus parapsychology) as:
"the science which, in an interdisciplinary fashion, studies the distant interactions between living organisms and their environment, internal and external, and the energetic processes underlying these manifestations (in order) to supplement and widen man's understanding of the laws of nature." Parapsychologists are no longer concerned to prove that psychic (psi) phenomena really take place, that they are not merely clever tricks arranged with mirrors, bits of string and magnets. Researchers have established that psi events are genuine happenings and have focused their efforts on finding out how they are brought about. Investigations have revealed that psi phenomena are energy interactions or manipulations of energy. However, the kind of energy involved is something of a mystery, for it is not presently included within the framework of modern science. This psychic energy has been found to affect a whole range of laboratory recording equipment from voltmeters and magnetometers to Geiger counters. However, the fact that these instruments are sensitive to this new energy does not mean that it is necessarily the same kind of emanation these machines were built to record. Just because it registers on a Geiger counter, for instance, does not prove that psychic energy is identical with atomic radiation. That it also registers on devices selectively sensitive to electricity and magnetism indicates that psi energy might be a kind of composite energy that includes, but extends beyond, the presently known range of electromagnetic radiation. Most researchers agree with the Soviets that psychic energy "may have origin in electrical activity or electromagnetic fields, but the nature of the energy is entirely different."
The generally accepted hypothesis at the moment is that psychic energy is biologically based. That is, it originates in, or is closely associated with, the body and encompasses both physical and mental energy. Thus it is most widely known as bioenergy.
There is a considerable support for this hypothesis, gathered from the monitoring of the physiological changes experienced by psychics during laboratory tests of paranormal events. For instance, as part of his usual experimental procedure, Dr Grenady Sergeyev took readings of the brain waves, heartbeat and pulse rate of Neyla Mikhailova during her numerous demonstrations of psychokinesis. He found that while Mikhailova was causing objects to move without touching them, his instruments recorded a tremendous vibration throughout her body and its surrounding force field. Her heart and brain waves also pulsed in unison with this energy vibration, indicating that the energy Mikhailova used in her psychic feats is intimately connected with her whole body. Reports go on to state that: "After doing these tests, Mrs Mikhailova was utterly exhausted. There was almost no pulse. She'd lost close on four pounds in half an hour. The EEG (brain wave pattern) showed intense emotional excitement. There was high blood sugar and the endocrine system was disturbed. The whole organism was weakened as if from a tremendous stress reaction. She had lost the sensation of taste, had pains in her arms and legs, couldn't co-ordinate and felt dizzy." At one time, after making a seven hour film of her abilities, Mikhailova was temporarily blind.
This evidence leaves no doubt that psychic or bio-energy is from the body and is the same energy that activates every aspect of the metabolism, from the functioning of the glands, to the brain, to the heart. It is the power behind the emotions and the operation of the senses. Other Soviet investigators have recorded changes in brain wave patterns which coincide with the reception of telepathic signals, and researchers in the USA have shown that the volume of blood in the body alters during telepathic interactions. Sister Dr Justa Smith, in America, demonstrated that psi energy affects enzymes, and Dr A. Puharich has documented the influence of telepathy on the chemical activity of the nervous system. There is a large amount of such data pointing towards the understanding of psi energy as whole body as well as mind energy.
From the USA, Dr Andrija Puharich reports that after an experiment in receiving telepathic messages, his subject Eileen Garrett suffered the following symptoms: a brief but severe attack of abdominal cramps followed by three closely timed evacuations of watery stool; a blood pressure drop of 25 points; slowing of the pulse from a norm of 99 to 66; flushed complexion; pinpoint pupils and brightly shining eyes. After the cramps passed, Mrs Garrett reported feelings of relaxation and exhilaration accompanied by great mental clarity. Two further experiments demonstrated an unusually high degree of telepathic sensitivity at the time. Once again we can see that psi energy is widespread throughout the body. However, these symptoms specifically point to great arousal of the parasympathetic nervous system. Activation of this network results in a slowing of the heartbeat, dilation of blood vessels (causing the skin to flush, eyes to shine), contraction of the pupils, and greater motility of the gastrointestinal tract. It is also accompanied by feelings of relaxation, well-being and even pleasure. Thus psi phenomena are not only connected with the nervous system, and its associated glands and organs, but would also seem to be powered by the same energy that powers the body processes.
It becomes obvious how parapsychology meshes with yoga when we compare these findings with the tantra yoga concepts of man and the universe. The tantric view of the cosmos is a more picturesque account of the energy field theory that fascinated Einstein and is the basis of much current physics research. To the yogic seer outer space is not empty, it's a network of overlapping energy fields emanating from the sun, moon and planets. Matter is gross energy vibrating so very slowly that it is perceived as tangible and solid or, as the physicists would have it: matter is composed of atoms, which are tiny cohesions of positive and negative energies.
Even this 'too, too solid flesh' is not as solid and static as it appears. Biologists have revealed that our bodies are constantly in a state of flux, being continually demolished and rebuilt at cellular level. These processes are collectively called metabolism (from the Greek words 'change' and 'to throw') in recognition of the dynamic nature of human being even at the physical level. Those interactions which break down tissue and nutrients release energy, while those that rebuild require the absorption of energy. Energy out, energy in, energy out - a continuous pulsation of energy.
The physical body is only the visible end of a whole spectrum of energies constituting the human organism which the yogi experiences as a five-dimensional force field. Each interlocking dimension or sheath (kosha) is perceived according to the speed of the energy waves in that dimension. The sheath of energy which vibrates most slowly is recognized as the physical body. More refined energy pulsing at a faster rate constitutes the pranic or etheric body which vitalizes the physical body and links it with the mind. Progressively more refined energy, vibrating at yet faster speeds, goes to make up the mental, intuitive and bliss bodies. Thus, to the yogi, matter, consciousness and energy are one. In the yogic experience energy is all, and so it is not surprising that tantric and yogic scriptures contain detailed and technical knowledge of energy functions without and within the human body. Just as Eskimos make subtle distinctions between many different kinds of snow, and thus have many different words for what is to us a single phenomenon, so yogis have different names for energy, depending on the sphere and nature of its operation.
Vital energy associated with living creatures, what we think of as life force, is generally called prana shakti or simply prana.
"... from prana indeed all living beings are born and, having been born, they remain alive by prana. At the end they merge into prana again."
Taittiriya Upanishad Briguvalli:3
Pranamaya kosha is the second dimension of human existence, constituted of prana which parapsychologists are now calling bioenergy or psychotronic energy. Pranamaya kosha has also been called the pranic, astral, etheric, counterpart and pre-physical body. It holds much the same shape and dimensions as its flesh and blood vehicle, although it is capable of expansion and contraction. Clairvoyants see it as a coloured, luminous cloud or aura around the body, radiating from within the concealing outline of the physical body like the sun flaring from behind the eclipsing moon. Researchers working with Kirlian high voltage apparatus obtain a similar effect and are fairly sure that it is emanations from the pranic body that they are capturing on film.
"Verily, besides this physical body which is made of the essence of food, there is another, inner self comprised of vital energy by which this physical self is filled. Just as the fleshly body is in the form of a person, accordingly this vital self is in the shape of a person."
Taittiriya Upanishad Brahmandavalli:2
It is in this dimension that bio-energy is generated, stored and circulated through a network of flow-ways called nadis. Prana manifests in the physical body in five main forms, each responsible for a different aspect of metabolism and sensual functioning.
"Just as an emperor posts his officials in different parts of the realm to govern them, similarly the chief prana allots functions to the lower pranas. Prana himself resides in the eye, ear, mouth and nose; apana is located in the organs of reproduction and excretion; samana abides in the stomach and governs the digestion; vyana moves in the nadis and udana resides in the nadi running through the centre of the spine ..."
Prana is responsible for inhalation and works in the mouth and nose. It converts water into sweat and urine and controls glandular secretions. Its sphere of operation is from the nose to the heart. Apana is responsible for excretion and the expulsion of impurities and circulates between the navel and the soles of the feet. Samana is formed in the limbs and operates between heart and navel. Vyana is associated with blood circulation, nervous activity and co-ordination, originating in the anal region. Udana is active in the throat and heart and maintains muscular strength.
The after-effects of psychic demonstration - the collapse of the senses, endocrine imbalance, lack of co-ordination and so on - would indicate that the energy consumed by psi activity is the prana that powers physical functioning. The psi energy expenditure is so great that prana is drained from the body, which then suffers a collapse for want of power.
Of the three major pranic channels - ida, pingala and sushumna - the first two seem to be active during psychic interactions. Ida nadi is generally associated with the moon and lunar energy, passive receptivity and the parasympathetic nervous system. Puharich commented on the massive activation of the parasympathetic system experienced by Eileen Garrett when she was acting as a telepathic receiver, suggesting that the energy involved here is the prana conducted along ida nadi. On the other hand, pingala nadi is associated with the sun and solar energy, the initiation of activity and sympathetic nervous system arousal. Puharich found that the best conditions for initiation or transmission of a telepathic message were those in which the sender's sympathetic nervous system was stimulated, suggesting that the energy for telepathic broadcast is the prana conducted along pingala nadi.
Further indications that the energy discovered by parapsychologists is the prana of yogis, comes from Dr Sergeyev's biological force field detectors. These instruments are capable of picking up energy emanations from the human body at a distance of up to twelve feet. On one occasion Sergeyev set up the detectors around a body declared clinically dead. No physiological activity in the form of breath, heartbeat or brain waves could be recorded. Yet Sergeyev's instruments detected electromagnetic force fields pulsing from the corpse, signalling the release of energy. Moreover, the graphs from the corpse were similar to those made during Mikhailova's psychokinesis activity. It seems that the vital life-force that deserts the body at death is the same energy that is drained from the body during psi activity. There are also numerous reports by clairvoyants, describing energy spiralling out from corpses up to three days after death. This could also be the reason for the convention in many religions of laying out the corpse for at least three days before burial or cremation. This information would not surprise yogic seers who have experienced that death is due to the departure of vital energy from the body. In fact, when speaking of death, they say, 'the pranas have departed'. The post mortem radiations are the final release of energy which transports the consciousness from the body it used to inhabit.
"When a man dies, the thought held in the mind merges with prana. Prana and udana accompany the soul and take him to the place of his desires."
All this would indicate that yoga and parapsychology are more closely related than it would at first seem, with parapsychology providing scientific validation of facts that have been known to yogis for ages. This in no way belittles these researches, for it must be admitted that the presentation of this knowledge in yogic scriptures is often deliberately vague (the details being filled in by oral instruction from a guru). It could benefit from a restatement in terms that make it more accessible to today's world. However, yoga was and is a science based on experiment and verification through direct experience and it has much to offer the sleuths of the supernormal.
Although psi abilities are regarded as obstacles or at least distractions on the spiritual quest, yogic sages are familiar with these powers, known in Sanskrit as siddhis. (See especially Mahanirvana Tantra and the third chapter of Patanjali's Yogasutras.)
Yoga has a well-delineated map of altered states of consciousness and the means to reach them, and yogic techniques constitute a methodology for inducing the optimum conditions for the manifestation of super-sensory powers. This greatly facilitates scientific researches which presently hinge on the co-operation of rare natural sensitives.
While forging new concepts of consciousness and energy, parapsychologists also have to forge a new language to express these concepts. However, they would find in tantra yoga terminology a highly evolved, precise and technical language of the metaphysical. Take for instance, the distinction between savitarka samadhi and nirvitarka samadhi. In the first state there is identification between consciousness and the essence of the object. There is direct cognition from past to future but the space/time dimension still exists. In the nirvitarka state, time is transcended; knower and known, consciousness and object, are indistinguishable. Only pure awareness of the self remains. To most people bliss is bliss and they aren't interested in splitting hairs, but these subtle distinctions are the very stuff of science and philosophy.
Through the study of psychic interactions, parapsychologists are trying to add to our knowledge of the nature of energy so that we can mobilize more of our personal energy resources. This is also the aim of every spiritual seeker, for the achievement of the heights of consciousness development requires the generation of enormous amounts of energy and total insight into the laws governing energy manipulation. The new scientists and the yogis agree that matter, consciousness and energy are one, and we must also agree that mutual co-operation will be of the greatest advantage in achieving our common aim.