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The early classical Chinese medicine tests, written over 2000 years ago, do not separate the spiritual from the physical. To the ancients, not only were spirit and matter one, but there was no idea of them as being separate. It was the time of magical and mythical consciousness, and the 'duality' in thinking (e.g., right/wrong, black/white) that we take for granted, and that dominates our current mental consciousness did not yet exist.


The ancients had already named yin and yang, but these two forces were not considered antitheses, but complementary. Yin and yang existed as the extreme polarities of a whole with many combinational shades of the two energies in between the polarities.


Yin and yang are constantly in relationship; you cannot have one without the other. The tai qi symbol, the symbol of the yin and yang relationship with the small dot of its complement inside each side, reminds us that yin and yang are both always present and only constantly changing in the relative intensity. The primary function of acupuncture is to balance yin and yang and to unblock anything that is in the way of their flow.

The nature of acupuncture is inclusive of two complements: heaven and earth. It is a physical practice (earth) and also a spiritual one (heaven). Thus, it is difficult to needle the body without also impacting the spirit. The two are polarities of the same whole. 

Some people want to explore more of this spiritual or soul level aspect of their lives via alchemical acupuncture. They want to know more about who they are and why they are here. They want to better understand the meaning of their lives. They want to find the path that they organically know is right for them. Sometimes, this is a difficult and challenging process.


Acupuncture where the intention of the needling is not to miss the rooting in the spirits is very helpful with this process. It helps to open and strengthen what I can only describe as a kind of peripheral vision. Finding one's authentic path asks for the development of this type of vision. The path is often invisible when focused on directly with hard staring eyes, and a rigid mental logic, and it's easy to end up in an inauthentic place. This reminds me of the famous Joseph Campbell quote: "There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you're on the wrong wall."

"In all needling, the method is above all not to miss the rooting in the Spirits."

Huangdi Neijing: Lingshu (Numinous Pivot), Chapter 8, Han Dynasty, 206 BCE-222 AD

The Su Wen classical text (Chapter 23) explains how each of the Five Spirits (listed below) can act as a catalyst for transformation:

  • The Heart stores the Shen. Our longing for fulfillment...the fulfillment that is our karma and that needs expression in our lives.

  • The Liver stores the Hun. The collection of our past, present and future experiences; our visions, creativity and imagination.

  • The Lungs store the Po. The current moment and our ability to be present with it; our immediate consciousness.

  • The Spleen stores the Yi. Purpose, mindfulness and the ability to concentrate and focus.

  • The Kidneys store the Zhi. Our will, inner knowing, and intuition.

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