Five Spirits: Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing
Lorie Eve Dechar
Although modern acupuncture practice is strongly influenced by the linear logic of Confucianism and modern scientific thought, acupuncture’s seminal theories and practices—especially those pertaining to psychological healing and psychospiritual transformation—arise from mythical consciousness. In order for us, as modern Westerners, to come to an authentic understanding of these ancient theories and to use them most efficiently, we must move beyond the limitations of linear logic and directed thought and rediscover the mythical world within us.
From the point of view of modern linear logic, it is impossible for human beings of the present time to ever really know how the ancient Chinese experienced the world around them. Our modern intellect cannot begin to grasp the atmosphere and wisdom of this distant era. Yet, when we open ourselves to aspects of awareness that are often ignored by rational Western consciousness, we enter a dimension of embodied emotional awareness that transcends linguistic, cultural and historical contexts. This level of awareness lives in us alongside the logic of our modern mind. It lives in our dreams, bodies, instincts, symbols, archetypes, mythologies and fantasies as well as in many of our most irritating, peculiar, chronic somatic and psychological symptoms. And it is this level of knowing that leads us not only to the mysteries of acupuncture and Chinese medicine but back to our own bodies and our own souls.
In this book, I am not proposing a regressive return to earlier ways of being and organizing the world. I do not believe that this kind of sentimental turning backward will help us heal the complex psychological and psychosomatic problems that afflict us today. Rather, I am suggesting a conscious illumination of the past, a turning backward that is simultaneously a moving forward to the future. Earlier forms of consciousness remain active even if we are not consciously aware of them. By shining the light of our awareness onto these “deeper” levels, we can intentionally make use of the insights and capabilities that are waiting there in a dormant state.
An Awareness of Tao
In my practice, I try to remain open to all possibilities. Body, mind, soul or spirit? On what level does a patient’s problem need to be addressed? Is a pain in the shoulder due to a repetitive sports injury or a chronic muscle tightness that shields a wounded heart? Is elbow pain simply elbow pain or is it a symbolic message from the body that is calling out to be interpreted? Although it sometimes takes time to know which way to go, I trust the qi to lead me in the right direction.
In the background of every treatment, I hold an awareness of Tao, that sacred presence that cannot be spoken or rationally understood. I try to remember that on the other side of the needle is the breathing of the infinite. Acupuncture is, at its Taoist core, a transformational form of healing. From its origins in the shamanic rituals of aboriginal Chinese tribes along the Yellow River, acupuncture’s primary function was the realigning of the cosmos. Chinese medicine’s original concern was facilitating the unfolding of the Tao in our lives here on earth. Unfortunately, it has lost much of its power in the necessary but limited service of pain relief for a slew of modern ailments. Yet these very symptoms are actually the expression of the deep distress of the modern Western soul and are indicative of how far we have strayed from our alignment with the Tao, our connection to the wisdom of nature and our own bodies.
It is not easy to allow ourselves to be touched and changed by the world of Chinese medicine. It takes time and patience as well as a willingness to be temporarily disoriented and confused. Chinese medicine, when practiced from an alchemical orientation, dares us to explore maligned and forgotten parts of ourselves in order to rediscover our own wholeness. It dares us to let go of old, outmoded ways of being and to open to new, more authentic possibilities. This kind of healing takes courage, insight, trust, sweat and tears. But only in this way can we fully benefit from the wisdom of the ancient Chinese. And only in this way can we discover the doorway to a lost part of our own selves, a part that I believe is vital to our personal and collective healing as well as to the future of our planet.
During the thousands of years of Chinese medicine’s evolution, language, symbols, visions, dreams and intuitions have combined with unrelenting empirical observations of nature to form a healing system that has the unity and perfection of poetic genius. This ancient, intricately woven tapestry of healing may at first seem impossible for the modern Western mind to penetrate. Yet in the following pages we will discover a path to the heart of traditional Chinese medicine, a path that leads us back to a distant past and at the same time guides us forward to the future. By pulling gently yet persistently on the thread of our own experience, by following the thread of our own insights and understanding, we discover an opening, no bigger than the point of a needle, through which we can enter the vast majesty of the world of Tao—the world of Chinese medicine that lies not only in the ancient past but here and now, in the world outside as well as within us.
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