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Elan Vital

  • Date Submitted: 05/10/2010 10:55 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 42.3 
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Elan Vital
What is it that makes one form of life more advanced than another? From one point of view, we can say that some beings are literally more alive than others. This 'aliveness', that the French philosopher Henri Bergson called the 'elan vital,' has manifested itself more powerfully within them. As living beings become more 'vitalised' the intensity of their consciousness increases; so another parallel way of looking at evolution is to see it as a process by which living beings become more and more conscious.
Thus, we can say that because the 'elan vital' is relatively weak inside them, plants only have a small degree of consciousness, which manifests itself in the way they react to changes in their environment; while animals like sheep and cows are more conscious than, say, insects, because they have a much fuller awareness of their surroundings. And we human beings, as the latest products of the evolutionary process, are more 'vital' and also more conscious than any other animal: we're the only animals that have self-awareness, for example, the only animals that are conscious of death to any degree, and also the only animals that are conscious of the past.
The 'elan vital', or 'life force', is inside us all. It's the vital energy which we give out as we go about our daily lives, which we expend when we think, when we work, when we use our senses to perceive what's happening around us, and which we also need to maintain the healthy functioning of our bodies. It's this energy which is recharged inside us when we sleep, which drains out of us when we've been doing too many things and our senses have been overloaded with external stimuli, and which also passes out of us when we die. The Chinese word for this 'life energy' is Chi, and acupuncture and the exercises of Chi Gung and T'ai Chi are based on it, while in Sanskrit the word for it is Prana, and it's the principle underlying the exercises of hatha yoga. Strangely, even though everybody accepts...

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