Concept Note

So-called subtle energies are employed by the vast majority of protagonists of the contemporary holistic milieu. To explore the role of these energies in the area of holistic healing and spirituality (1800-present) is the aim of this conference.

Ideas, practices, and experiences involving sublime life forces have circulated for millennia in various parts of the world. Traditions postulating the "flows" of these vital powers or substances through the channels and centers of a likewise subtle body are probably best known from their occurrence in South and East Asian techniques of self-cultivation (e.g., , prāṇa, kuṇḍalinī). Since the 19th century, elements from these traditions have been mingled and supplemented with similar concepts of European origin (e.g., animal magnetism, Od, Orgon) and disseminated on a worldwide scale. The globalisation and entanglements of these discourses have resulted in a plethora of practices, schools, and currents that still influence today's therapeutic and spiritual field.

This conference focuses on two major themes: On the one hand, practices and interpretations of energy healing, and, on the other hand, concepts of kuṇḍalinī within modern yoga and transpersonal psychology. Furthermore, the conference features contributions on the role of subtle energies in transnational exchanges, tantric traditions, gender discourses, nationalist movements, life reform, UFO cults, martial arts, and eco-spirituality.

Main topics of the conference

  • Historical processes leading to modern subtle energy-based practises
  • Theoretical models of subtle energies, vital forces, and the mind-body complex
  • The boundary-work between the sciences and emic explanatory models
  • Energy healing in the past and present
  • Kuṇḍalinī concepts in modern yoga, transpersonal psychology, and alternative religion
  • Subtle energies in socio-political and transnational contextus