Simply Homeopathy: Exploring Further

The Vital Force: Another Perspective

The Vital Force and Prana

The concept of the Vital Force comes from the homeopathic lexicon and that of prana from the yoga tradition. In this article, we want to briefly explore the use and meaning of these two terms to try and understand their similarities and differences.

The term the Vital Force is used in homeopathy to describe an energy whose essential characteristics are described by Dr.Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, in his Organon of Medicine, aphorism 9. “In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual Vital Force (autocracy), the dynamis that animates the material body (organism), rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious vital operation, as regards both sensations and functions, so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.” (Organon of Medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, with explanation by Joseph Reves, Homoeopress Ltd. 1994; Page 19)

Thus, without the Vital Force, the physical body would remain inanimate; in fact what distinguishes the living body from a dead one is the presence of the Vital Force. The action of the Vital Force is to keep the organism operating with “unbounded sway” and ideally no matter what challenge is presented to the Vital Force from the outside world, the system is able to meet that challenge with equanimity. Health is a positive state in which we are constantly responding and adapting to the rhythms of life.

One could compare the Vital Force to the conductor of an orchestra, whose job it is to keep the different instruments in tune, playing the right note at the right time at the right volume. No one instrument is allowed to take control and run its own agenda and the result is beautiful music, rather than a cacophony of sound. So too the Vital Force as it maintains the whole organism in “admirable harmonious vital operation” The Vital Force is the energetic link which connects the individual with the universal, so that the individual can achieve the “higher purpose of existence”. Hahnemann does not elaborate here as to what this purpose might be and it is beyond the scope of this article to explore this further, but his use of the word “spiritual” [Vital Force] as opposed to “material body” may give us a clue. The material body is merely an instrument or tool to be used by the individual in pursuit of the spiritual path.

When an individual becomes ill, it is due to the inability of the Vital Force to provide an equal and opposite answer to the external world, resulting in the display of signs and symptoms. So we can see that the primary disturbance occurs on an energetic or Vital Force level, followed by suffering on a material level - emotional or physical. It is when the person loses their spiritual connection that symptoms arise.

In yoga, the concept of Prana is analogous to that of the Vital Force, as this quote from the Prasna Upanishad shows:

“Prana burns as fire; he shines as the sun;
He rains as the clouds; he blows as the wind;
He crashes as the thunder in the sky.
He is the earth; he has form and no form;
Prana is immortality.
Everything rests in prana, as spokes rest in the hub of the wheel.”
(The Upanishads 1987 Penguin Arkana, Eknath Easwaran, Prasna Upanishad II.5&6, page 160)

Prana is described as an animating principle, infusing all living things with vitality and strength. This Upanishad, one of the great classic yoga texts dating back some 2 millennia, compares Prana to the sun whose life-giving rays bring life to all it touches, without discrimination. It is all pervading, supreme, sustains life and, like the Vital Force, differentiates between life and death. It is a constant, given force, which cannot be diminished or die. “As when the queen bee goes out, all the bees go out and when she returns all return”, so too do the senses depart when Prana departs and likewise return.

A modern yogi, Andre van Lysebeth, describes Prana as “cosmic energy in its entirety, ...Undifferentiated universal energy...everything in the universe that moves is a manifestation of Prana; thanks to Prana the wind blows, the earth trembles, an axe falls, an aeroplane takes off, a star explodes, a philosopher thinks. ...Prana exists in our food, water, sunlight, but it is neither vitamin nor warmth nor ultraviolet rays. Air, water, food, sunlight: all convey Prana on which all animal and vegetable life depends. Prana penetrates the whole body, even where the air cannot reach. Prana is our true nourishment, for without Prana there can be no life. Vitality itself is no more than a special and subtle form of Prana, which fills the whole universe. To make itself manifest on the material plane, the spirit uses Prana to animate the body and its organs.” (A. van Lysebeth, Pranayama, the Yoga of Breathing, Unwin Paperbacks 1979; page 4)

Interestingly, van Lysebeth quotes extensively in his book from Dr. C. de Hufeland’s The Art of Prolonging the Life of Man, about the Vital Force when explaining Prana. De Hufeland was a contemporary of Hahnemann’s, a personal friend and in his journal, Hahnemann published some of his articles about homeopathy, which back in the 1800’s was still in its infancy. So it seems that more learned scholars than this writer had made the connection between the Vital Force and Prana.

Another modern master, B.K.S. Iyengar describes Prana as “the energy permeating the universe at all levels. It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual and cosmic energy. Prana is the hub of the Wheel of Life.” (B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Pranayama, George Allen Unwin 1981; page 12)

In common with homeopathy, the practice of yoga works on the energetic plane, on the pranic level, to reduce and eliminate blockages and disturbances so that the person can achieve a greater sense of freedom and ease in their life and increase their connection to the spiritual life.

We can say that both yoga and homeopathy affirm the concept of an animating, life giving energy, without which the manifest world as we know it would not exist. There is a universal Prana or Vital Force and out of that comes the material world in all its myriad manifestations. We can call it a spiritual energy, from which source all life flows and on which all life depends.

Both disciplines hold in common the aim of reducing suffering, increasing the freedom of the individual in their life and expanding their spiritual connections.

Let us leave the last word to the Bhagavad Gita, dating from the fifth century BCE to second century CE (scholars cannot agree), where Krishna explains to Arjuna the philosophical vision which underpins the practice of yoga and with which I am sure no homeopath would disagree:

“Freedom from fear, purity of heart, constancy in sacred learning and contemplation, generosity, self-harmony, adoration, study of the scriptures, austerity, righteousness;
"Non violence, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, serenity, aversion to fault finding, sympathy for all beings, peace from greedy cravings, gentleness, modesty, steadiness;
"Energy, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, a good will, freedom from pride- these are the treasures of the man who is born for heaven.”
The Bhagavad Gita,, trans. J. Mascaro Penguin Books, 1962, Ch.XVI, 1-3)

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