The Breath of Life
In Hawaii Caucasians are referred to as haoles, which is close to a racially derogatory term as used by some local people (local meaning non-Caucasian people born and raised in the islands.) Haole is a word in the native Hawaiian language with an origin that mysteriously ties it to ancient cultures in other parts of the world.
When native Hawaiians met the first white explorers, they called them haoles because they were so different they seemed to lack "ha," the breath of life. ("Ole" meant lacking.)
Old Hawaiians breathed into each other's faces as a greeting. It was an act of sharing ha, the breath of life.
Aloha meant the appearance, face or facade of the breath of life. Aloha was used to denote the spirit of Hawaii and to say hello or goodbye along with exchanging breaths.
The ancient Chinese concept of chi means "breath" and refers to the breath of life or life spirit the same as the Hawaiian ha.
Ancient Hindu philosophers called the breath of life "prana" and developed yoga breathing exercises to strengthen it.
Much later in history French philosopher and Nobel laureate Henri Bergson called it elan vital, the non-physical force of life he thought was responsible for evolution.
The life spirit is often associated with an aura that is invisible to the naked eye but surrounds living things. Modern scientists argue they can't detect the aura or the life spirit in experiments. (Of course some of the same scientists refuse to believe in the human mind, only admitting the existence of the brain and its neuro-chemical processes.)
I find it strange that science rejects a concept that has been an integral part of various philosophies for thousands of years. Scientific method depends on repeatable experiments to deduce logical facts, but perhaps this is not the best means of investigating the life spirit. Induction, intuition and non-logical approaches may provide more insight, as happened with certain aspects of quantum physics.
What's the essential difference between a rock and a living thing? Is it a matter of complex organic chemistry or an animating spirit? Is human breathing strictly a means of obtaining oxygen or is it a manifestation of the life force?
I once read about a young haole man who came to Hawaii in very poor health during the early 1800s. Today we would say his nerves were shot and he suffered from severely debilitating physical ailments. At the time medical doctors were convinced he wouldn't live much longer.
A Hawaiian kahuna (shaman) believed the young man's ha was so weak it was close to vanishing from the immanent here and now. The kahuna slowed the man's lifestyle to a saner pace and taught him to exchange ha with Hawaiians. The treatment worked and the man lived to the age of 81.
This case isn't scientific evidence because it can't be repeated with the same man or with anyone else since other factors are never equal between individuals. But does it point to a truth that science can't prove? Knowledge doesn't always come from logic or scientific reductionism (arbitrarily dividing a phenomenon into "parts" to discover how it works.)
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa