The Five Element Theory (part 2)

By Milos

Just like they affect everything in the Universe, Five Elements also determine how our bodies and minds work. According to the Five Element Theory, the Human body is a microcosm of Nature. It contains different networks for distributing Blood, Moisture and Qi and two groups of Organs are responsible for this: Yin (Solid) organs and Yang (Hollow) organs. Here is how they are divided:

Element Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Yin Organ Liver Heart Spleen Lung Kidney
Yang Organ Gall Bladder Small Intestine Stomach Large Intestine Bladder

As you can see, our brain is not even considered a major organ. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) mind does not participate in generating and moving the Qi nor is it involved in distribution of Blood and Moisture – two processes essential to life.

The relationship between our body and mind, according to Ancient Chinese is the same as with everything else (trees, mountains, clouds, animals, humans, etc) – all is is a part of One whole called Nature. Nothing is separate and disconnected. This includes our thoughts and emotions, our ambitions, desires and every other manifestation of our mind and spirit. Chinese view and explain everything as a display of Life’s Energy (Qi), always rising and falling in quality (Yin and Yang) and always going through cycles of Birth, Growth, Consolidation, Fading and Death – the Five Elements. So our emotions and our thoughts are also a part of it, inseparable and always linked to our bodies and their organ networks. The Mind is housed by the Heart organ which is a part of a Fire Element.

The ten Organs work in accord to provide the Human body with adequate supply of Qi, Blood and Moisture: Lungs collect the Essence from Air, Spleen receives Essence (from Stomach) in the form of nutrients and passes it on to Liver. Liver is in charge of the “smooth flow of blood” – it controls how much blood is produced and distributed. Heart moves the blood through the body and Kidneys are in charge of “storing the reserves of Essence Qi”. The other five Organs (also called the Hollow Organs) are in charge of reception, processing and elimination: Stomach “rots and ripens”, Small Intestine “sorts the pure from the impure” but each Organ also plays its own essential role in other spheres. For example, Gall Bladder “holds the Vision of what needs to be done”,  Large Intestine “is in charge of letting go” – not just in terms of processing food but on an Emotional level as well… Heart is the “Supreme Controller” and all other organs serve the Heart.

In addition to these ten, Chinese recognize two more organs that, along with Heart and Small Intestine belong to Fire element. Those organs are Pericardium (also known as “The Heart Protector” or “Circulation Sex”) and the Triple Heater that is in charge of regulating body temperature. Those two Organs may be the greatest contribution Acupuncture and TCM have provided Medical Science because their work and function explain processes and phenomena that remain mystery to Western Medicine.

In most literature, Organs are assigned Roman numerals, ordered according to the way energy flows between them. Here is a list of organs with their number, name and role they perform (color signifies the Element):

I Heart Yin Organ A Sovereign Ruler displaying insight and understanding. Heart houses the mind.
II Small Intestine Yang Organ In charge of sorting (pure from the impure, important from less important, etc.).
III Bladder Yang Organ Flexible storage and elimination of fluid waste.
IV Kidney Yin Organ Storage of the Vital Essence (Life Force), main Yin Organ.
V Pericardium Yin Organ Heart protector, also in charge of social and sexual relationships.
VI Triple Heater Yang Organ Regulates heat and moisture in the body; connects respiration, digestion and elimination.
VII Gall Bladder Yang Organ Decision making and executing plans created by Liver
VIII Liver Yin Organ Controls the smooth flow of blood. Organ in charge of creating plans in life.
IX Lung Yin Organ Intake of Qi from the air and setting body rhythms. Inspiration comes through Lungs.
X Large Intestine Yang Organ Elimination and in charge of “letting go”.
XI Stomach Yang Organ Rots and ripens the food, passes nutrients to Spleen.
XII Spleen Yin Organ Transporting and transforming nutrients into Qi and Blood.
Wood Fire Earth Metal Water

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