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The Five Elements
This chapter discusses Five Element theory that is not exclusive to Fu Xi Wen.
Yin and Yang
Back to basics.
The universe, as we have discussed, is made up of energy called Qi. Qi has two polarities: Yin and Yang. These two polarities fold over each other to create the three dimensions of space. Within the three dimensions of space there are 360° of energy around any single point. Each degree is separate and unique. Within each individual degree, energy can move as Yin or Yang or as a combination of the two.
Yin can be true Yin. Yang can be true Yang. There can also be Yin that is slightly Yang and Yang that is slightly Yin. There can also be an equal mixture of Yin and Yang. These combinations of Yin and Yang create five basic phases of energy that we call the Five Elements.
The Five Elements have metaphorical names. True Yin is cold, settles to the bottom and freezes. We call this Water. Cold Yin that has just a little Yang heat added to it creates boundaries and borders. We call this Metal. An even mixture of Yin and Yang fills up most things. We call this Earth because this form of Qi tends to accumulate together into clumps. Hot Yang that has a slightly cool Yin nature likes to stretch but can't pull itself apart. We call this Wood. And true Yang is hot and fiery. We call this Fire. These Elemental terms are metaphorical and not literal. The wood of a tree stretches and so we call stretching Qi Wood. The hard Qi that defends the borders of our body like a knight's clothing is called Metal. Metal creates borders and boundaries such as our skin. It can take a beating and still maintain its integrity.
Thinking back to all those Grecians you learned about in high school, you may recall Aristotle had four elements. If you're a real firecracker, you may also know that traditional South Indian theory has three elements, Buddhist theory has five elements, and McGyver, the television character, had an element too. His was known as “cool” (McGyver's element could blow stuff up with a gum wrapper and a toilet paper roll. That's some serious Qi). Many similarities cross-over among these theories while they also have their differences. It is important to remember that even in the ancient world, travelers spread knowledge like Marco Polo spread fettuccine. So these ideas did not evolve in a vacuum. Generally speaking, however, the people of antiquity observed that nature divided itself into specific repeating arrangements.
Take, for instance, ocean waves on a beach. First you cannot see anything even though it's moving. Then the water starts to accumulate. Next, it rises to a peak at which point it falls over with a crash. Finally, it stretches out as far as it can before it recedes.
This same movement can be felt inside your own body in the form of your pulse. First, you cannot feel anything. Suddenly you feel an accumulation of blood that reaches a crescendo then tips over, stretches, and is once again gone.
These basic movements repeat endlessly inside and outside of our bodies. Energy moves alone (Fire) until it hits more energy and starts to accumulate (Earth). This accumulation repeats until the energy reaches its highest stable point (Metal) at which point it falls over (Water) and stretches (Wood). As it stretches, some of it escapes again and moves alone (Fire) until it is stopped again.
In Fu Xi Wen, you can have too much Metal. This does not mean you have Mercury poisoning or iron excess. It means you have too much of that peak movement of Qi. The same is true for all of the other Elements. If you have too much Fire, it doesn't mean you should stop playing with matches (though you should, they're not a toy). It means your energy is flowing too strongly.
Generating and Controlling Cycles
Energy is energy. The Five Elements are simply phases where the energy stops and stays for a while, like a ferris wheel that stops at each junction. The ferris wheel is the same ferris wheel, but each stop provides a different perspective. Each movement of Qi eventually flows from one phase into another in what is called the Generating Cycle. Fire makes Earth makes Metal makes Water makes Wood makes Fire.... Each Element acts differently, but in the big scheme of things, it all just the same Qi turning around in a big circle with lot's of lights, and a great view of the city.
Each Element is called the “Mother” of the next Element in the chain. The next Element in the chain is called the “Child”. For instance, Fire is called the “Mother” of Earth and Earth is the “Child” of Fire. This relationship is helpful when we start to combine theories later on. This is called the Mother Child Law.
Just as each Element is generated by another Element, each Element is also “controlled” by another Element. A controlling Element essentially negates an Element like, for my Trekkie friends, matter hitting anti-matter. When the two collide, they both essentially devolve back into pure Yin, pure Qi, or pure Yang. Earth controls Water. When they combine, they make pure Yin. Water controls Fire. Combined, they make pure Qi. And Fire controls Metal. Combined, they also make Yang. Metal controls Wood. Together they make Qi. Wood controls Earth, together, they make slight Yang.
Again, these controlling relationships pretty much fit within a metaphorical framework. Earth controls Water like the bed of a river controls the shape and movement of the flowing water. Earth absorbs Water like the sand of the beach. Metal controls Wood like an ax cuts down a tree. Water control Fire like a fireman, his trusty hose, and his barking dalmatian. Wood controls Earth just like a tree can dig its roots into the ground. And Fire controls Metal like smelting iron.
Of course, these are just metaphors. In reality, Earth controls Water because Earth accumulates and will catch the sinking Qi of Water in its energetic bear hug. Metal controls Wood in that Metal makes boundaries through which Wood cannot stretch. Water controls Fire in that Fire likes to move quickly and flow endlessly and falling Water will simply smother it. Wood controls Earth in that the way to get rid of an accumulation is to stretch it apart. Fire controls Metal in that the flow of Fire keeps pushing Metal over before it can accumulate into a peak.
The Five Elements repeat ad infinitum in nature in every perceptual way. Light has its many wavelengths, all of which can be divided into five basic colors. Sounds have octaves and tones but only five basic types of frequencies. Tastes run the spectrum but can be divided into five basic flavors. The same is true of smells. Presumably this is also true of textures, though I have not seen these differentiated. There are also five basic emotions, and five basic personality types.
Five Element Chart
The following chart was codified thousands of years ago and reflects many of the basic Five Element relationships found in nature:
These five basic phases are very real. In Fu Xi Wen, this chart can be used faithfully to diagnose and treat conditions.
When you can identify the Element that is excessive or deficient using Fu Xi Wen diagnostic tools, you can use multiple sound frequencies together to have a much stronger effect than using the basic Novice tones alone. A major bulk of future Fu Xi Wen theory builds upon your knowledge and understanding of these basic five movements. Just as I have said before, complex things are generated by the combination of simple things. These Five Elements also combine to create very complicated diagnostic pictures. The better your diagnostic skills, the better your treatment results.
That said, for now, simply know there are five Elements and that they have generating and controlling relationships. We will return to this theory many times until it becomes second nature.
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