Sunday, October 14, 2018

Thoughts on the 12 guardian officials in preparation for our coming seminar in Beijing

Guy Caplan, Mei Long (from the Netherlands) and I are off in a few days for our next seminar in Beijing (from 17 – 26 October).  I have lost count, but I think this will be the 14th seminar we have given there.  As usual, each time I go, I like to think of something new I would like to concentrate our teaching upon.  This time, it has been prompted by an email sent to me by Caroline, a dedicated five element acupuncturist and the lovely translator of my books.  She wondered whether I could talk more about the functions of the 12 officials, because the people she teaches at the five element introductory seminars held before we come seem only to think of them in terms of physical organs, and not as having the deeper meanings associated with their individual elements. 

That made me realise that I, too, concentrate much more upon the elements as a whole, rather than trying to distinguish which of the yin or yang officials holds a dominant position.  I have always thought that it was difficult enough homing in on the correct element, and that I would only confuse myself by trying too hard to see which of its two officials is the most important.  JR Worsley would diagnose somebody as being a “Metal CF”, and then write next to this “IX” or “X” in brackets, meaning that either the Lung or the Colon was the dominant aspect of the Metal element for this particular patient.  I have now rather cheekily coined the phrase “guardian official” to describe this official.  In all the time that I observed patients with him, I never heard him explain what it was in the patient which made him select one or other official, except in the case of the Small Intestine (II).  Here he would always specify, not that this patient’s CF was a I/II as we say in five element acupuncture, but simply a II CF.  I remember very clearly him saying one day as he watched a video of himself asking a patient a question, “Only a II CF would answer like that”.  This taught me a lot about the Small Intestine and the way it looks as it tries to find the correct answer to a question.

Thinking about this carefully in preparation for my Beijing seminar has also brought to my mind the question which has remained a slight puzzle for me throughout my acupuncture life.  In all the hundreds of patients JR diagnosed in front of me, I never once heard him say that a person was a “I CF” (in other words had the Heart as his/her guardian official).  Somebody told me that he had indeed diagnosed an acquaintance of mine as a “I CF”, but that was only hearsay, and never corroborated by JR himself.  And my doubts about the Heart official being the primary cause of an imbalance (that’s what “CF” means) always seemed to me something that a tutor of mine at Leamington put well into words for me.  He said that he himself felt that the Heart, the Supreme Controller of body, mind and spirit, would never allow itself to be so much weakened as to be the ultimate “causative factor of disease”.  Unfortunately I never thought to ask JR himself why I had never seen him diagnose a person as being a Heart CF, so this has always remained an unanswered question for me.  Somehow, though, I have always felt that what my tutor told us rings true. 

There has always been a slight niggle in my mind about this diagnosis, because I felt very strongly when I was with this person, that she was very like me, and that our two Small Intestines were engaged in a slight tussle for supremacy, as each tried to sort the other person out.  Surely the Heart, such a yin official, would just be residing quietly rather than battling with me, as my own yang Small Intestine quite likes to do when it is under some sort of stress.  The niggle was also strengthened by the fact that this person liked to feel that she was a rather rare person by reason of her guardian official being the most important official of the twelve.  I did wonder whether she had herself spread this rumour, rather than that JR had actually diagnosed her as such, but I will never know, whatever my slight suspicions.
So I am now thinking carefully about the different qualities of the officials so as to help the 300 or so practitioners gathering next week to hear us in Beijing.  They, of course, are brought up on rote learning of the Neijing Suwen, and I have told them to prepare for what we will be talking about by re-reading Suwen Chapter 8, which is all about the officials, and gives each of them their distinctive name.  Now I have to ask myself, “Do I really understand how the Liver differs from the Gall Bladder in a person with Wood as their guardian element, or the Stomach from the Spleen for Earth?”  These are all very important questions to which I am ashamed not to have paid sufficient attention over the years.  So, as usual, my visits to China and all the other seminars I have held over the years offer fresh stimulation to my thoughts.