An apple just from the branch - rosy and firm, with a crisp vibrance that is an almost palpable halo of freshness. An apple in the market - polished but not radiant, a little blurred at the edges; no flaw, but slightly veiled as if the fine dust of decay has already settled. What's the difference? Prana, vitality, life force.
Prana is the energy that creates and constitutes the whole universe. It is present in all that moves and does not move, but is especially powerful in living things from fish to fowl, from plants to man. Clairvoyants see prana as a dynamic interplay of colour hovering around every sentient being like lightning in a storm cloud, and call it the aura. Scientists call it bioplasma and measure its sphere of influence just as they would a force-field.
In the USA, Drs. Burr and Northrop of Yale have mapped and measured the emanations of this energy body using sensitive voltmeters. One of their classic experiments was to connect voltmeters to two trees and record the fluctuations in their L-fields (L for Life) over many years. Investigators working through the medium of Kirlian high-voltage photography have also shown a longstanding interest in 'auras' of trees and plants, and quite a body of information has been accumulated on the biological energy of plants.
Dr. Thelma Moss reports that Kirlian photographs of fresh, healthy leaves show a pattern of bubbles and veins in the interior and a radiation flaring beyond the leaf itself. Every species has its own pattern, and the health and vitality of the plant are reflected in the brightness, colour and motion of the light flares.
One famous experiment establishes the connection between emanations captured in Kirlian photographs, L-fields and prana. Investigators cut away one third of a leaf, yet the photo showed the whole leaf intact. The energy pattern of the whole persisted, like the phantom limb experienced by amputees, until more than two-thirds of the leaf were cut away. After this the pattern faded and the leaf died. On the other hand, this ghost pattern was influential in 'healing' a damaged leaf, during which process dark areas were suffused with a rose-colored cloud of fresh energy. Thus the bioplasmic body of the plant, like Burr's L-field, serves as an organising matrix which determines the nature and health of the organism, exactly that function which yogis claim to be the chief characteristic of prana.
There is now no doubt that plants are veritably vibrant with prana, and in The Secret Life of Plants, authors Bird and Tomkins have amassed an enormous body of scientific data that not only supports this contention, but also demonstrates that plants interact with other living organisms, including humans, at the pranic level.
It is the pranic dimension in man, called by yogis pranamaya kosha, that vitalises his physical body. The energy generated within the pranic, or bio-plasmlc, body motivates the mind and mobilises its flesh and blood vehicle. Through this subtle body we are sensitive to the play of energy in the cosmos, acting on and reacting to the pranic fields of the living things in our environment.
That plant radiations can also affect mankind is usually overlooked despite the tradition of healing with herbs and flowers that is as old as man himself, and most people are totally blind to the pranic potential of the plants we use as food. It is in this particular connection that Tomkins and Bird give details of the pioneering efforts of biochemist Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer tested the finer dynamic forces in plants, animals and humans by dissolving an extract of living matter in a solution of silver nitrate. This solution produced brightly - coloured concentric patterns (like mandalas) on filter paper, and reflected the flow and the intensity of bioenergy in the plant under study.
Pfeiffer demonstrated how life force pulsates from natural foods, but not from inorganic minerals and synthetic vitamins, which are relatively dead. For instance, testing vitamin C from natural sources such as rose hips, he established that the pattern of vitality was far stronger than for artificial vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Pfeiffer's work supports the so-called 'health cranks' who maintain that the body's requirements can only be met by organic vitamins and minerals, found in balanced proportions in natural food. Pfeiffer established that synthetics do indeed have a lower biological value. He is quoted by Tomkins and Bird as saying:
"A natural organism or entity contains factors which cannot be recognised or demonstrated if one takes the original organism apart and determines its component parts by way of analysis. One can, for instance, take a seed, analyse it for protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, moisture and vitamins, but this will not tell its genetic background or biological value".
However, as Tomkins and Bird point out, there has been a method developed for establishing the biological or pranic value of food. Andre Simoneton, a French engineer, makes it possible with a simple pendulum on a piece of string, similar to that used by water diviners for dowsing.
Dowsing with a forked stick or pendulum has been practiced for thousands of years in all the great civilisations from China to ancient India, from Egypt to Greece and Rome. In this technological era it has won acceptance from international mining companies who hire dowsers to locate oil drilling sites and ore deposits. Hard-headed scientists in both Russia and America are devoting their time and talents to the serious research of dowsing and why it works. Where it might have been ignored years ago, Simoneton's work would now get respectable attention.
The subtle radiations emitted by organic matter affect the motion of a pendulum, causing it to swing and spin. By measuring the distance of a pendulum's arc, and the speed of its spin, Simoneton was able to measure specific wavelengths which indicate the intrinsic vitality and relative freshness of different foods.
On the basis of his findings, Simoneton divided foods into four general classes. On a scale of zero to 10,000 angstroms, he found the basic human wavelength to be about 6.5 thousand. Foods that have wavelengths between this and 10,000 angstroms, he regarded as those of the highest quality. In this first class are fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, ocean fish and shellfish. In the next class, with radiations 6.5 thousand to 3,000 angstroms, are eggs, peanut oil, wine, boiled vegetables, cane sugar and cooked fish. The third category, with very weak radiations below 3,000 angstroms, is comprised of cooked meats, sausages, coffee, tea, chocolate, jams, processed cheeses and white bread. The fourth category exhibits practically no life force and includes margarine, conserves, alcoholic spirits, refined white sugar and bleached flour.
Simoneton found that food with a vital radiance of 8,000 to 10,000 angstroms also caused the pendulum to rotate at the amazing speed of 4-500 revolutions per minute over a radius of 80 millimetres. Those between 6,000 and 8,000 spin at 3-400 revolutions per minute over a radius of 60 millimetres. However, meats, pasteurised milk and overcooked vegetable, which all have a value of less than 2,000, are too low in energy to cause the pendulum to revolve at all.
Simoneton's investigations provide strong support for those who advocate a vegetarian diet based on whole grains and fresh vegetables, for these are the foods most abundant in life force. Wheat, for example, has a value of 8.5 thousand angstroms which rises to 9,000 when it's cooked. Vegetables are most radiant when fresh from the garden, losing about one third of their potency by the time they reach the shops, and another third when cooked. The exception is tubers, which are usually fortified by cooking. The potato, for instance, is measured at only 2,000 when raw, but when boiled this shoots to 7,000 and to 9,000 when baked. The emanations of legumes (dhal) - peas, beans, lentils, etc. - are lessened by drying but register a hearty 7,000 to 8,000 when fresh. Fruits are best eaten just ripe, for they become increasingly valueless as decay sets in.
As far as flesh foods are concerned, Simoneton finds them to be almost valueless. Meat has only second class vibrations at best, and this sinks to low in the third category by the time it is cooked. The exception is freshly cured ham which is enhanced by the process of salting and smoking. Sea foods must be eaten raw to gain their full value, otherwise they drop into the second category.
According to Simoneton's data, the effects of food processing are disastrous. Milk has a value of 6.5 thousand angstroms when fresh, but loses ninety percent within twenty-four hours. After pasteurisation there are no bioenergy radiations at all. The same is true for pasteurised fruit and vegetable juices, and for canned fruits. The fresh juice of sugar beet is rated at 8.5 thousand, but refined white sugar drops to 1,000 or less, while white, granulated sugar gives a reading of zero. Other processed foods like margarine, alcohol and bleached white flour also give readings similar to dead matter.
Dehydration, on the other hand, causes little loss of vigour. Sun-dried fruit was found to retain its vitality and, if soaked in water for twenty-four hours, would radiate almost as strongly as when freshly picked. Water is not normally radiant, but unlike other liquids is capable of being vitalised by association with minerals, human beings or plants. Some waters, such as the famous healing waters of Lourdes, Simoneton found to radiate as high as 14,000 angstroms.
Simoneton's researches would suggest that for optimum health we eat vegetables, grain, fruit, nuts and other foods which emit a radiance higher than the human norm. This is in complete accord with the recommendations of ancient yogic texts and the scriptures of most religions. The traditional diets that have sustained mankind for centuries, although supplemented very occasionally by meat or fish, have their basis in grains and vegetables. Witness, for instance, the whole bread and cheese of the European peasantry, the olives, bread and grapes of the Mediterranean, the potatoes of the Irish, African millet and groundnuts, Chinese rice and vegetables, the soybeans of Japan, dhal and chapatti in India.
This is the age of super space fuels and atomic power, yet people still suffer an energy crisis - they are constantly fatigued, prey to tension and anxiety, disease and depression. Despite his fascination with fad diets and 'energy foods', modern man has lost the formula for fundamental physical vitality. People seem to vary between complete disregard for what they eat and a fanatical obsession with proteins, vitamins, minerals and calories. We have forgotten the age-old wisdom which recognised that the energy from physical metabolism must be supplemented by the more subtle, dynamic energy of the pranic body.
In yoga, the physical body is known to be the most gross aspect of man's existence, and it is maintained by the most gross form of energy - the chemical energy contained in foods. For this reason it is known as annamaya kosha, the 'food sheath'. Yet, unless it is vivified by the pranic body it is a mere shell. What we consider to be the nutrients in food are not our actual nourishment. Our true sustenance is the life force of the food itself, and the foods with the most intense life-enhancing energy are those that come from plants and trees. The true alchemy of digestion is not the combustion of chemical substances but the absorption by the pranic body of the vital spark that is life itself. Of course, we obtain prana with every breath of fresh air, but when we sit down to eat we should bear in mind that we have the opportunity to feed not only the physical body but the pranic body as well. It is this Christ was emphasising when he said:
Man does not live by bread alone