The universe is made up of four basic elements: soil, water, fire and wind.
In recent days, the Hawaii Kilauea volcano erupts and people are evacuated. The lava destroys everything as it flows; many trees are burnt down. We see smoke rising above the forest.
The scene gives us an idea of how the earth evolves with the changes of the four basic elements.
A tree is also made up of the four elements. Soil and water is easy to understand. When we say a tree bears the nature of fire in itself, it’s a bit difficult to understand. Under strong sunshine, a dead dry tree may start a fire, that sounds easier to understand.
Photosynthesis is the “wind” element functioning within a tree. It is the process by which green plants and certain other organisms transform light energy into chemical energy. So wind is the form of energy flow or transformation.
When a tree is burnt, we see how the elements of soil, water, fire and wind begin to change.
The human body is the same. Our bones and flesh are the soil; our blood, sweat, tear, and body liquid are all water. Over 70% of our body is made up of water. Our body temperature of about 36 degrees is the fire. Our body heat is the fire. When the human body is cold or frozen, it is a dead body. Our breath is the wind. The energy or qi flow within our body is also the wind.
So our body is also made up of the four basic elements. It is part of the universe, and also a miniature universe in itself.
Similar to this Four-Element Theory, we come across the Five-Phase Theory: wood, fire, soil, metal, water.
This also tells how the world around us is composed and changes (transformation and interaction of different phases).
In materialistic sense, soil, fire, water are the same. Wood and metal can be included into soil. Where is the wind? The transformation and interaction of each of them, how they assist, support each other or generate/overcome each other, the process defines the wind.
So we do not take these five phases of wood, fire, soil, metal and water as materialistic elements. They each represent a system, an array of phenomena that is part of a bigger system, like the universe.
We can also say that the Five-phase theory establishes a system of correspondences that groups phenomena in the universe into five categories. These categories represent tendencies of movement and transformation in the universe.
In terms of generation, water nourishes wood, wood engenders fire, fire engenders soil, soil engenders metal, metal engenders water. This is a supporting or assisting cycle.
In opposite terms of overcoming, metal controls wood, wood controls soil, soil controls water, water controls fire, fire controls metal. This is a destructive or conquering cycle.
The five phases can be defined in many other categories, like colors. Wood is green, fire is red, soil is yellow, metal is white, water is black.
When the reasons apply to our body, wood represents our liver, fire heart, soil spleen, metal lung, water kidney.
For example, wood engenders fire. The liver stores blood and supplements the blood to be regulated by the heart. Wood controls earth. The liver’s dredging effect prevents spleen qi (energy flow from spleen) from becoming stagnant.
In our body, fire goes up and water flows down. When we feel heat in our heart, the fire goes up towards the head, we shall have sleep problem. Instead of finding trouble with the heart, we might look into the kidney for a solution. When the kidney (water) is balanced, the heart problem can be solved. This way we treat the problem of fire with water.
The Five-phase theory is another basic theory on which TCM is based.
I will talk to you further next time.
Bye for now.