Since time immemorial there have been acknowledgment of an energy system in the human body. These ancient teachings describe a non-physical energy that exists. Different names and components are used; however, most describe how this energy travels along a pathway and the pathway is correlated towards specific energy centers.
Ancient Egypt and European Alchemy
In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which most researchers attribute to the Pyramid Texts of the 3rd millennium BCE, there is an energy body referred to as sekhem. The text describes this sekhem as a life force that runs through channels in the body. It explains that the sekhem can be increased through simple breath work. Much is written about the need to harmonize the sekhem for a fulfilled life.
Egyptian tradition speaks of an Egyptian God they call Heka. The name Heka is literally translated as “activating the Ka”. Ka is really explained as your spirit body. There are many theories in Egyptian Alchemy that perceive the human body as having a defined difference between soul and spirit. The Ka being the spirit body that exists before, during, and after physical life. Although, in the Book of the Dead there are no specific references to individualized energy (chakra) centers, it does speak of the human body as being the channel where the spirit of the human meets with the physical realm.
There are a myriad of other European alchemy schools of thought that are believed to have originated from the Ancient Egyptian hermetica traditions including India, Greece, China, and Islam for example. In Greece the Pythagoreans discussed the existence of the luminous body of light that every human has. Paracelsus (1493-1541 CE), a Swiss alchemist, called “the spiritual force in matter which strives towards perfection and towards the building of forms” Illiaster. He theorized that when an infant was born, its spiritual heaven and seven organs that have their own power correlated to the plants and heavens was also born.
There are literally hundreds of references in ancient texts that use the number seven when speaking of the human development spiritually and energetically. There are diagrams from European alchemy that show the spiritual pathway for development being connected to seven stars in the heavens. Other writing shows that each of these seven stars is associated with a character defects that must be overcome to continue on the spiral path that travels up and down a pathway of the body in order to ascend into transformation.
Ancient Goddess Religions
The Ancient Goddess Religions in Europe have described the life force as a spiraling, serpent (Brigit) energy that symbolizes the life force and power of the person. This spiral flows the energy along pathways once it is awoken and activated.
It is important to note that in nearly every ancient mythological description of any Goddess or God there is a description of a serpent power. It is not perceived to be a negative power but rather a power that awakens.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) appears in history before 200 BCE and in the 2000 years since the underlying concepts and philosophies have not changed. In TCM the life force energy is referred to as chi. Chi begins the pathway flow in the lungs and travels on a network of pathways that are called meridians. TCM describes all of life has a flow of energy from the two poles of energy, the yin (earth) and the yang (heavens).
The theory is that all disease is a result of disturbance of the chi. Disturbances are influenced from all things that are part of the network as a whole, including the emotional, mental, and spiritual energy flows of energy. The flow of energy begins at the base of the spine and flows up to the top of the head through two major meridians referred to as the governing and conception vessels.
Along the meridians in TCM, along the meridians are individual points that can access the chi to redirect it, clear it, or strengthen it. These points are the basis of acupuncture and acupressure.
There are some very specific examples of acupoints in TCM and the chakra’s generally referred to today. The Gate at the Source or Life Gate Fire in the yin energy flow of the conception vessel 3 is located in the same area of the sacral chakra. This chakra or Gate both are theorized to be connected to the sexual energy and the kidney organ. The Sea of Energy which is the conception vessel 8 is thought to be the entry point of chi. This is where the prana or life force energy is flowing. In chakra philosophy this specific spot is known as the Solar Plexus which is thought to be the will of the human or the ‘Agni’ (the fire of a person). The Sea of Tranquility (conception vessel 17) is located where the heart chakra is theorized to be. The Bai Hui (governing vessel 20) also known as the 100 convergences is where the heavens are thought to enter the human spirit and is the same location as the crown chakra (thought to be where an individual connects with Divine energy).
In Tai Chi (Great Energy) the philosophies are similar to TCM. Tai Chi is a martial art that can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in China (618 – 906 CE). Tai Chi philosophy is to create a heightened state of consciousness through physical, emotional and mental health. The movements are thought to open and redirect chi along meridians. As the chi is strengthened it will balance the yin and yang energy by putting the “pearl” or center of energy into the flow. The lower dan tian is the energy field of the lower part of the physical body concerned with the physical energy and sexual energy. The middle dan tian is the central part of the body. The upper dan tian is the upper part of the body where the energy is transformed into a spiritual energy.
Qigong is dated back to the Sung Dynasty (960 – 1279 CE) and is a philosophy of breathing exercises and movements that enhance the energy flow. They refer to the energy as qilchi. The purpose of Qigong is to feel the Tao or the universal energy. Like other Chinese theories they theorize that the yin and yang energies must be balanced and flowing freely. The jing (the essence of the body), qi (internal energy) and the shen (spiritual energy) are all interrelated and interconnected creating the balance and harmonizing of the yin and yang energies.
In the Taoist philosophy, the chi energy is referred to as ki and flows from the base of the spine to the top of the head. All the energy is shifted into spiritual energy as it flows upward.
Native American Beliefs
There are no ancient texts that can be referred to in the Native American culture, there is oral tradition and artifacts that can give an idea of the ancient belief system. The Aztec God Quetzalcoati is represented by a 1000 petaled sunbursts that reflects spiritual illumination of a serpent. There is an Incan representation of the deity Viracocha with a halo as a reflection of an internal light force that reveals a mystical knowledge. The Navajo still have a doll that they insert tiny stones into the same locations of the chakras. The Cheyenne’s teach how to balance themselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually through the Medicine Wheel. The Hopi teach that the human body and Earth itself were created in the same way. Each having an axis (meridian) that had specific vibrational centers located on it. In the human body there was one at the top of the head, the brain, the throat, the heart and just below the navel. In Lakota and Iroquois teachings the energetic body ascends when the body dies into a light body. They teach that the seven rays of the rainbow correlate and influence the human mind during life (which they refer to as the spinning dream of temporal existence).
Aboriginies of Australia have a Rainbow Snake that is a protector of land and life. The serpent is considered to be the source of all life. It exists as both a positive source and a destructive source just as the Kundalini Shakti is.
The Kabbalah is a Jewish mystical tradition from the first century. It refers to the direct transmission of spiritual wisdom to become one with the Infinite Source. This is achieved through visualization, breathing, movement, and meditation. The belief is that their are four levels to experience. Asiyah is action, yetzirah is formation, brivah is creation, and atzilut is emanation. There are correlations between the four levels, the four souls, and the four bodies with a goal to join the body and spirit as one resulting in complete balance. The sefirot or spheres of human consciousness is what gives form to the world through the Tree of Life. Each sphere is a link between the physical world and the infinite source. Each sphere is mapped into seven levels which directly correlate to what is considered the traditional chakra system.
Within the Kaballah the central pillar of the tree corresponds to the human spine, the right and left columns are the yin and yang energies, and the path flows from the highest point on the Tree of Life down to connect each of the sefirot.
Even within the ancient texts of the Christian faith there are representations that show the life energy and its representations through the Seven Sacraments. The sacrament of Baptism is representative of physical and spiritual new life. This is the same as the Root chakra overall and spiritual representation. The sacrament of Communion is representative of the joy in living and union with people (Sacral spiritual representation). The Sacrament of Confirmation relating to individuality, the Sacrament of Marriage being a sacred union, the Sacrament of Confession as a cleanse, the Sacrament of Ordination being of service, and the Sacrament of Extreme Unction as a Divine reality all correlate as well to the traditional chakra philosophies.
There are far more correspondences that exist in ancient texts. This is only a small representation to give a snap shot view that man has always known of the existence of energy and its flow. The energy flow is not simply a physical reality, but thought to be a connective energy between the physical and the spiritual. Every philosophy stresses the importance and vital need of balancing this energy. There is a misconception existing that energy bodies and energetic theories of healing are some new age fad. In fact, philosophies are based upon ancient wisdom texts and oral traditions. In truth little has changed throughout the ages except the names used that refer to the energy system. Whether it is the Universal Life Force, Infinite Source, Goddess, God, Supreme Being or the Tao Universal the goal of energy system therapies is to find the Divine Spiritual Source.