Let’s start with the Heart, and thus with Inner Fire, as we should always do, as it is our most important official, in five element acupuncture called the Supreme Controller. There it sits safely behind all kinds of barricades in rather lonely splendour, with only its companion official, the Small Intestine, granted close access. It is cut off from the rest of the castle to protect it, and there is no direct connection between it and Outer Fire. This is the inner sanctum of the Fire element, with the Supreme Controller, like a Lord of a Manor or an Emperor in the Forbidden City in
Such is the Heart’s importance that it has two further protectors, forming an outer defensive ring, the Three Heater and the Heart Protector. These I call the two Outer Fire officials. They patrol the castle’s ramparts and form the outer perimeter of the Heart’s defence system. The Heart Protector can be thought of as a guard always with weapons in its hands, defending the castle from attack. Its yang companion, the Three Heater, ensures that every part of this defensive structure functions harmoniously and as a single unit. These two officials are alert to any danger, and do all they can to prevent an attack upon the Heart deep within. We can interpret this emotionally as an awareness of the risks inappropriate relationships can pose. It is interesting to note how often an Outer Fire person may cross their arms across their chest when they talk to other people, a physical sign that they are trying to protect the Heart inside.
This image reveals some of the characteristics which the two Outer Fire officials show as they maintain their defensive attitude at all times. This can manifest itself as vulnerability when they are weak, as though retreating behind protective barricades. It is as if they are physically lowering the portcullis when danger threatens.
This kind of defence is quite unlike the response of the Small Intestine to pressure upon it. Since it is the closest official to the Heart, it cannot afford to retreat in this way, but has to stay in control at all times. Instead, its yang quality shows itself increasingly the more defensive it may feel inside. It counters stress upon it more by verbal sparring and mental agility. We know that the Small Intestine’s function is to sort the pure from the impure, rejecting impurities to protect the Heart. It is therefore constantly responding to whatever situation it is presented with by trying to sift from it only that which it is good to allow through.
When we are trying to distinguish the characteristics of an Inner Fire person from that of Outer Fire, this somewhat restless activity can be seen as one of its distinguishing features. The slightly puzzled look in an Inner Fire’s eyes as it tries to sort out its responses to a given situation is a good clue. Outer Fire is not puzzled by life, just alert to its dangers.
I give below some of my tips for distinguishing the two sides of Fire from one another:
Despite these tips, it is not easy to distinguish the differences between these two sides of Fire. This is why we always start by treating Outer Fire for a few treatments to strengthen the Heart’s defences before moving to Inner Fire if we feel we have not reached the core of a patient.
I like to think that Outer Fire asks "Is this person safe to love?", whilst Inner Fire asks "Is this person wise to love?"
Thank you, Mary, for prompting me to collect my thoughts
together on the Fire element in this way.