Very similar ideas or concepts managed to seep into many different cultures spanning the globe. One concept is the various translations of certain symbols or word meanings, in this case in English translated roughly to “breath” or “spirit,” has similar meanings in cultures across the globe throughout history. The meaning is interpreted in a slightly different way in each culture and the words are different in construction, however, the shared meaning or interpretation seems to span across many different ancient languages and cultures. When studying the in-depth meaning of the word etymology in Egypt, Greece, India, North America, China, and other smaller subsets of extinct cultures, it is remarkable that each one could independently develop such a similar meaning with little interaction between them, unless they did have interaction at some point in history. Below illustrates in detail the history and meaning of “breath” or “soul” – deciphered and examined within the context of each culture.
In ancient Egyptians referred to it as “ka” and the ancient Greeks referred to it as “pneuma”. In India it is called “prana”, in Africa it’s known as “ashe” and in Hawaii as “mana”. For Native Americans it is the “Great Spirit” and for Christians it is the “Holy Spirit”. In traditional Chinese culture it is called “Qi” (or “Chi”), literally meaning “breath”.
The ancient Egyptians believed that a human soul was made up of five parts: the Ren, the Ba, the Ka, the Sheut, and the Ib. In addition to these components of the soul there was the human body. The other souls were aakhu, khaibut, and khat.
Pneuma (πνεύμα) is an ancient Greek word for “breath,” and in a religious context for “spirit” or “soul.” It has various technical meanings for medical writers and philosophers of classical antiquity, particularly in regard to physiology, and is also used in Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and in the Greek New Testament. In classical philosophy, it is distinguishable from psyche (ψυχή), which originally meant “breath of life”, but is regularly translated as “spirit” or most often “soul”.
Prana (प्राण, prāṇa) is the Sanskrit word for “vital life” (from the root prā “to fill”, cognate to Latin plenus “full”). It is one of the five organs of vitality or sensation, viz. prana “breath”, vac “speech”, chakshus “sight”, shrotra “hearing”, and manas “thought” (nose, mouth, eyes, ears and mind; ChUp. 2.7.1).
In Vedantic philosophy, prana is the notion of a vital, life-sustaining force of living beings and vital energy, comparable to the Chinese notion of Qi. Prana is a central concept in Ayurveda and Yoga, where it is believed to flow through a network of fine subtle channels called nadis. Its most subtle material form is the breath, but it is also to be found in the blood, and its most concentrated form is semen in men and vaginal fluid in women. The Pranamaya-kosha is one of the five Koshas or “sheaths” of the Atman.
Prana was first expounded in the Upanishads, where it is part of the worldly, physical realm, sustaining the body and the mother of thought and thus also of the mind. Prana suffuses all living forms but is not itself the Atman or individual soul. In the Ayurveda, the Sun and sunshine are held to be a source of prana.
“Ashe” is a Yoruba word used in Western part of Nigeria. “Ashe” is something like an all-pervasive spiritual energy. It is also a term comparable to “Amen.” It could be translated as “so be it.
In anthropological discourse, mana as a generalized concept is often understood as a precursor to formal religion. It has commonly been interpreted as “the stuff of which magic is formed,” as well as the substance of which souls are made.
The Great Spirit or Great Mystery is generally believed by Native cultures to be a supreme being that is personal, close to the people, and immanent in the fabric of the material world. To the Hopi, “the Great Spirit is all powerful. He taught us how to live, to worship, where to go and what food to carry, gave us seeds to plant and harvest. He gave us a set of sacred stone tablets into which he breathed all teachings in order to safeguard his land and life. In these stone tablets were inscribed instructions, prophecies and warnings.”
The Holy Spirit is seen by mainstream Christians as one Person of the Triune God, who revealed His Holy Name YHWH to his people Israel, sent His Eternally Begotten Son Jesus to save them, and sent the Holy Spirit to Sanctify and give Life to his Church.
Qi (or Chi) energy, in Taoist thought, is the “life-force”. The concept of Qi is based on the ancient Chinese initial understanding of natural phenomena and Qi is regarded as the most basic substance of which all creation is comprised. It is believed Qi permeates everything and links all things together and even at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels everything in the universe results from the movements and changes of Qi.
As Fritjof Capra explains in his book “The Tao of Physics”, everything is energy. All of manifest existence is energy and quantum physics demonstrates that there is a unity behind all existence and in that unity matter forms in one huge, coherent vibration of energy, continually forming and reforming.
Qi has traditionally been described as the vibratory nature of reality and quantum physics has advanced what is called the “String Theory” which suggests that the fundamental constituents of reality are small strings, vibrating at different frequencies and like vibrating violin strings producing notes, these vibrating stings produce particles such as electrons and photons, which do not exist at any one given fixed point and that split and absorb one another, forming different particles and amazingly it even suggests that consciousness affects the behavior of these particles, which in turn suggests that within the conscious awareness of Qi energy in the “quantum mind” we have the potential to manifest our own reality.
At the heart of the nature of Qi is the concept of yin/yang which imparts the idea of how contrary forces are interconnected in the nature and how they give rise to each other in turn. Yin and yang are the basic components of Qi and only exist in relation to each other, as opposite sides of the same coin. There is a perception in the West that yin and yang correspond to evil and good, but Taoist philosophy discounts good and bad, as moral judgments in preference to the idea of balance. Yin and yang interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects and either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in certain things at certain times and over time these manifestations will ebb and flow as the tide.
Dualities such as female and male, dark and light, low and high, cold and hot are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang.
• Yin is the feminine principle, its essence is slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, the Earth and the Moon.
• Yang, by contrast, is the masculine, fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, the sky, and the Sun. yet, there are no rigid borders between Yin and Yang and they rely on each other to “be”.
The Taoist doctrine of yin and yang includes its own theory of change. Taoism sees change as opposites interacting with each other to both compliment and oppose in a balancing act between harmony and disharmony according to the principles of which are set forth by the I Ching.
It might be easier to grasp the working of the simple balance between two parts, male or female, yin or yang, from whatever perspective fits your belief system by comparing possible outcomes based on given inputs in terms of computer programming language. Computer programs are written in binary code, which consists of only two symbols, 0 and 1, in essence representing broken and unbroken pathways. No matter how complicated a program, it can still no more than combinations of 0’s and 1’s illustrating how simple elements can be interconnected to create things of great complexity.
As stated before, from the perspective of quantum physics, with a conscious awareness in the “quantum mind” the potential exists to manifest a new state of reality. This can be achieved by harmonizing the flow of energy for mental, spiritual, physical and even environmental prosperity.
Disharmony may occur from four basic “imbalances” of energy. Achieving harmony cannot be accomplished by dealing with a single part alone. Instead, the alignment of universal personal energy as a whole determines how its intrinsic elements behave.
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine in such disciplines as Qigong, Tai Chi, acupuncture and herbal medicine believe that balanced and free-flowing Qi results in health and formed a unique system to diagnose and cure illness in accord with the awareness of Qi in respect to the physical body. The approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine in that their understanding of the human body is based on a holistic approach to wellness through the understanding of the movement of Qi energy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine asserts that the body has natural patterns of circulate in channels called meridians and the treatment of illness is based primarily the rebalancing the flow of yin/yang within them and removing any blockage that may be restricting the flow of Qi energy. But, the rebalancing of yin/yang and releasing natural flow of energy to promote wellbeing is not limited to the field of medicine.
Any given system, be it biological, chemical, social, philosophical, political or economic could be brought into harmony with the application of these same holistic principles of the balance of the energy of which they are comprised. The only obstacle to doing so is our perception of these things as separate and distinct “things”, but our perception of separateness is merely an illusion. It is a perception based upon habitual ways of conceiving of ourselves separate and distinct “things”, set apart from everything else. As we deepen our awareness of the Taoist ideas of Qi and yin/yang we become more aware of this illusion of separateness and the interconnectedness of all things in the “quantum universe” and with that awareness we awaken to the potential of manifesting reality on both the macro and the micro scale of existence.