Friday, April 3, 2015

The three levels of the human being: body, mind and spirit

I remember one very important day during my training under JR Worsley at Leamington 30 years ago.  We were learning about Aggressive Energy, and JR was explaining to us why it was so essential to insert the needles very shallowly into the Associated Effect Points on the back (back shu points) so that each needle barely penetrated the skin.  What I remember most clearly was the diagram he drew to illustrate this, simply a small block of three parallel lines one above the other, with a needle just nicking the top line but not penetrating below to the other two lines.  He said that this illustrated the three levels of body, mind and spirit.  The superficial level was represented by the line at the top into which the needle was inserted.  The bottom line was the level of the spirit, and the line between these two represented the mind, the intermediary between the body on the surface and the spirit in the depths.  For the purposes of the AE drain, the needle inserted at the physical level would draw any Aggressive Energy from the spirit up through the intermediary, the mental level, and then out from the body, the physical level, at the top.  This would appear as red markings around the needle as the Aggressive Energy drained away slowly to the outside air.  If the needle was inserted too deeply, any Aggressive Energy was pushed further inside, causing greater harm as it invaded the spirit.

This picture of the three levels of the human being has stayed with me since then, providing an excellent illustration of the emphasis in five element acupuncture on the importance of treating the deep (the spirit) and through this also treating the physical.  Many therapies, including different branches of acupuncture, concentrate treatment at the superficial level, the physical, and ignore its connections with what lies deep within us.  But the two levels, with the mental acting as intermediary between them, cannot be detached from one another in this way.  If we ignore the deep, it will call out more and more insistently for our attention, often doing this through the increased severity of physical symptoms.  We ignore at our peril what is deep within us, our souls, and do our patients a grave disservice if we concentrate too much of our treatment on the superficial.

This is what I want to talk about to the 80 or more acupuncturists who will be gathered together at our seminar in Nanning in 10 days’ time.  And as I have found during my six other visits there, this is one of the most important lessons that five element acupuncture can teach them.

To understand what lies deep within a patient’s spirit also demands compassion from us as practitioners.  Only with compassion can patients allow themselves to open up this deepest, and thus most vulnerable, part of themselves, their soul.


  1. Dear Nora,
    Last night I attended the lecture given my Ms. Long Mei on 5-element acupuncture in Beijing, simply out of curiosity, and interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupunture. It was a great enlightment. I had been a lawyer. But after I overcame my lymphoma simply through long distance and Taoist meditation in th past two years, without any standard medical treatmet, I gave up my job as a lawyer and started an intenive research on meditation, health, TCM and my culture, especially its root in Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism and find that I opened a new world. Now I run a meditation center in Beijing. Last night's lecture greatly aroused my interest in 5-element acpuncture, as it's based on a more comprehensive understanding of the human being .

    Will you come to Beijing this time after the course in Nanning? If yes, I wonder whether it’s possible for you to give a lecture on 5-element acupuncture in my meditation center in Beijing. I hope I could soon have chance to visit you, whether in Nanjing, Beijing or in London.


    Zhenbao Jin

    Mobile (Beijing): 13693248706

    1. Zhenbao Jin: For some reason I seem to have missed your comment, so I have not replied before now. I am glad that you are interested in five element acupuncture. I am concentrating my teaching in Nanning, but if you want to learn more, you may be interested to come to one of our seminars there at the Tong You San He centre, at which Long Mei also teaches.

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  3. Dear Angela
    I'm glad you are interested in learning more about five element acupuncture. As you say, a good way to do this is to read my books which will give you a good grounding in five element diagnosis and practice.

    You ask whether you can treat yourself. We can never accurately diagnose for ourselves what our guardian element is and what treatment we should be giving this element. So, if possible, you should find a five element practitioner to treat you. This is not all that easy, because, unfortunately, there are so few of us, particularly in China, but you should be able to find one in the States to give you some treatment.

    In reply to your question whether five element acupuncture is a "psychological cure process", it is more accurate to say that it helps heal both body and soul at the same time, rather than first the soul and then the body. The two are linked together and not separate.

    I hope my reply to your comment is helpful to you.

    1. Dear Nora, thanks for your reply! It really helps. I can't wait to read your books, though they're already on their way. And I will continue to enjoy reading your blog. Your words always make me feel like you so close to me, just like you're sitting right in front of me and talking all about that. Thanks again and wish you all the best!