Five Elements Theory
Law of Five Elements According to Chinese Medicine
With thousands of years of practical application, Chinese medicine is a poetic and effective healing modality that follows the rhythms of nature and seasonal progressions. The Water Element is deep and mysterious, representing birth and death and the winter season; water nourishes the Wood Element signifying spring and growth; wood fuels the Fire Element allowing for fruition; the fire, like molten lava, produces the Earth Element that nourishes all things; the earth contains veins of minerals representing the Metal Element and the accumulation of riches gained throughout our lives; mineral veins run along the streams that lead to the great mysterious ocean, and back to the mystery of the Water Element and birth and death.
The Law of Five Elements states that every human being has a 'causative factor'; your causative factor is determined in utero or in the first few months of life and was possibly determined by the first strong emotional experience that you had. Throughout your life, this causative factor defines your personality and determines your health in very distinctive ways. In Chinese medicine, the body-mind-spirit are conjoined, and cannot be considered separately.
Absolutely determining your causative factor requires a trip to an acupuncturist trained in Worsley Five Element Traditional Acupuncture, but you may find that one specific Element cries out to you. Conditions developed in childhood, or your most chronic ailments will also be very telling as you go through the Elements. While the term "Five Element" has been coined in the West, it can be more accurately described as "Five Phases" because of the fluid and ongoing transformational interaction between the Five Elements; the word "element" suggests a static entity, whereas this is actually an ever changing and evolving interplay.
All of us have all five elements contained within us: when one Organ is affected all other Organ Systems will be affected eventually, so the more chronic your condition, the more symptoms you will have. Determining the causative factor helps to treat the original insult to the body and to treat the core issue that has lead to disease and disharmony. It is believed that if you address the causative factor, all other organ systems will also come in to balance.
Relationships Between the Elements
The Shen Cycle, Supporting Cycle, or Nourishing Cycle
The five elements are a practical way to reflect on the natural cycles represented in the great ecosystems of nature, or the micro-system of your body. All of the reasoning, concepts, and theories of The Five Elements reflect a greater universal truth and the Tao:
- The Shen Cycle and the Elements: Water nourishes Wood, Wood fuels Fire, Fire makes Earth (ashes), Earth yields Metal, Metal produces Water (condensation).
- The Shen Cycle and Life’s progression: Birth (Water), Growth (Wood), Maturation (Fire), Reflection (Metal), Death (Water). In this system we begin our journey from Water like the deep mystery of the ocean, and return to the deep waters full of wisdom at death.
- The Shen Cycle relating to the seasons: winter, spring, summer, late summer, fall, and then back to winter.
The Ko Cycle, Controlling Cycle, or Regulating Cycle
The clockwise sequence with a pentagon representing the controlling links between the Elements the is how the Element control one another. Water can extinguish Fire, Fire can melt Metal, Metal can cut Wood, Wood can contain Earth, and Earth can absorb Water. This is one more way that disease patterns can be diagnosed in Chinese medicine; it also shows how when one organ system becomes imbalanced, all other systems will eventually be impacted.
The Mind in Five Element Theory
In Chinese medicine, there is not distinction between mind and body, as they are a unified entity. The mind manifests itself uniquely through each of the Five Element Systems:
- Shen - Mind – Resides in the Heart. Makes humans more than an object in motion.Waking consciousness.
- Hun - Ethereal soul - Wood Element resides in the Liver. Somewhat like western notion of spirit.
- Po - Corporeal soul - Metal Element resides in the Lungs. Soul of the body provides physiology.
- Yi - Intellect - Earth Element resides in the Spleen. Scholarly memory, thoughts.
- Zhi - Will - Water Element – resides in the Kidneys. Will to exist, urge to do, willpower.
In Five Element Theory, each Organ system has an effect on the other Organ systems when it becomes imbalanced. These functions are not based on surgical discoveries, but on clinical observation of patients over many thousands of years.
Chung, S., Cha, S., Lee, S. Y., Park, J. H., & Lee, S. (2017). The five elements of the cell. Integrative medicine research, 6(4), 452–456. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2017.10.002