views updated May 29 2018


Vitality is a name given that force or principle possessed by living things. In the case of human beings, controversy has long raged between those who interpret vitality mechanistically as the energy derived from food and oxygen intake and those who support theories of vitalism, a doctrine that the origin and phenomena of life derive from a vital principle as distinct from a purely chemical or physical force.

Vitalists argue that the mechanistic view appears inadequate as a matter of everyday experience, since there are limits to the vitality obtainable from oxidation of food and air. At a certain point of eating and breathing one becomes tired, and it is impossible to regain vitality without rest and sleep. Exactly what happens in the sleep state to enhance vitality is still not entirely clear. It does appear, however, that the human body is not simply an internal combustion machine, but rather an energy transforming machine. Contrary to the energy combustion view is the fact that fasting may often enhance vitality rather than deplete it.

The mind also has a profound effect on the vital condition of the body, as, vitalists further suggest, is clear from one's attitude to life, as well as the special phenomena of hypnosis and the profound effects which are possible through meditation techniques. It would seem that subtle processes are involved in energy transformation of food and air and the relationship of such transformation to the psychic life of human beings and their mental activities, states of consciousness, and sociological and spiritual aspirations.

Various great religions posit the existence of an individual soul as an essential principle of a human being, influenced by the physical and mental life as well as by environment and food intake, but independent from the physical body and surviving it after death. Spiritualists and psychical researchers have offered evidence for such survival, while materialists have argued that the phenomena presented as evidence of such apparent survival may be nothing more than mental artifacts. However, even this latter view also predicates mental life as capable of existing in a form almost as subtle as that of the claimed soul.

From a subjective point of view, the experience of out-ofthe-body travel or astral projection has usually carried an overwhelming awareness of individuality as distinct from the body, which it apparently leaves, and for many individuals the experience has been one of deep religious conviction. J. Sylvan Muldoon, a pioneer writer on the subject, has argued in the light of his out-of-the-body experiences that the sleep state is a condition of vitality transfer between a "soul body" and the physical body, drawing upon some subtle life force outside the body.

Such a view is similar to the Polynesian concept of mana and the Hindu concept of prana, a subtle principle in the air and in food that is transformed into kundalini, energy in the body. A proportion of kundalini remains static in the body, but may become dynamic in sexual activity. It may also be diverted to subtle centers in the body through the spinal column by the practice of meditation in conjunction with the psycho-physical effects of purification of the mind and emotions, traditionally through self-purification and ethical living. Ancient Hindu treatises on prana have described at length the atomic structure of matter and its connection with the subtle currents of prana operating in the universe generally, as well as modified in the individual human being.


Carrington, Hereward. Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition. New York: Rebman, 1908.

Crookall, Robert. During Sleep: The Possibility of "Co-Operation" Between the Living and the Dead. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1974.

Gopi, Krishna. The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

Hollander, Bernard. In Search of the Soul and the Mechanism of Thought, Emotion, and Conduct. 2 vols. London: Kegan Paul; New York: E. P. Dutton, 1920.

LeShan, Lawrence L. The Medium, The Mystic and The Physicist. New York: Viking; London: Turnstone Books, 1974.

Muldoon, Sylvan J., and Hereward Carrington. The Projection of the Astral Body. London: Rider, 1920.

Rama Prasad. The Science of Breath and the Philosophy of Tattvas Nature's Finer Forces. 3rd rev. ed., Adhyr, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1897.

Wheeler, L. Richmond. Vitalism: Its History and Validity. London: Witherby, 1939.

Vitality (Magazine)

views updated May 18 2018

Vitality (Magazine)

Vitality, the primary New Age networking periodical serving Toronto and surrounding communities in Ontario, Canada, emerged in the 1980s and during the 1990s grew into a substantive bimonthly magazine with more than 100 pages per issue. Vitality began as a self-described "wellness journal" primarily as an organ of the holistic health community and through the mid-1990s concentrated its attention on natural foods, herbs, nutrition, alternative psychologies, various body work therapies, and related other forms of drugless and noninvasive healing treatments. However, as the decade progressed, while the holistic health emphasis remains, the attention of the magazine grew to encompass all of the psychic and spiritual concerns of the post-New Age.

Vitality sees itself as an information organ. Each issue highlights the organizations and events that constitute holistic health and the New Age. As with most networking magazines, it is built around the advertisements placed by organizations that sponsor events and individuals who offer services to the public. Four times a year, Vitality publishes a pullout supplement, the "Vitality Resource Directory," in which coming events and major holistic organizations are listed.

Each issue carries a set of feature articles, the majority on health issues. There are also a set of columns that treat astrology, New Age lifestyles, and meetings and gatherings in the Toronto area. Vitality sees its purpose as providing an antidote to the world situation by offering a positive vision of the New Age of wholeness and health for body and soul.

Vitality is distributed as a free magazine in metaphysical and health food stores in Ontario, but subscriptions for home delivery may be obtained at 356 Dupont St., Toronto, ON Canada M5R 1V9.


Vitality. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, n.d.


views updated May 17 2018

vi·tal·i·ty / vīˈtalitē/ • n. the state of being strong and active; energy: changes that will give renewed vitality to our democracy. ∎  the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things: the vitality of seeds.