The Soul, In Chinese Medicine

In this country, we frequently reference the soul. But when you really think about it, what is a soul? We speak of one being or having a "good soul;" we discuss it at funerals, we worry about our own when we feel we've done wrong. The concept of a soul has been around forever, yet we are still unclear about what it actually is. Some of us view it as the piece of us which lives on, after the body's life has ended. Others think of it as a product of the accumulation of acts and thoughts that we create throughout our lives. Still others perceive it as the ultimate essence of who we are, and what makes each of us an individual. Regardless of what you believe, iin our culture most perceptions of the soul are rooted in a philosophy of permanence. We want to believe that a piece of us will live on, beyond death and time. In Chinese medicine, the soul is seen quite differently. It is more material, more substantial than our version. Its existence is not questioned; it is something that is simply a part of us. Each organ system contains and controls an aspect of the soul, and if that organ is out of balance, the aspect that it controls will suffer.

The Heart is the leader of all the parts of the soul; in a way, it is the face of the soul. The Heart is in charge of the Shen, which is the overall spirit of an individual. A while back we discussed the energetic functions of the Heart, and how it is linked to a clarity of the mind and spirit. If the Heart is out of balance, a person's Shen will show signs of dysfunction: dull or clouded eyes, a lack of eye-contact, incoherance or manic rambling. In short, the person will seem mentally disturbed.

The Kidney controls the part of the soul that exists as willpower. Having a plan for life, and then having the will to make this plan work, is the Kidney's function. Without the will, there is no action. This part of the soul is our motivating force to create something out of our lives.

The Spleen is in charge of the intellectual piece of our soul. It has to do with the accumulation of knowledge, and our ability to retain it. Without the Spleen, we lack the information to make any sort of decisions. On the other end of the spectrum, an imbalance of the Spleen can lead to a state of overthinking and obsession with details.

The Lung is the corporeal part of the soul, which means that it is bound to the flesh. It is the animating force that dies with our bodies. The Lung controls consciousness, and since does not have the character of permanence, it tends to be linked with more immediate desires and plans, rather than long-term goals.

The Liver controls the Hun, which is known as the ethereal soul. This is the piece of the soul that lives on after death. It is also the piece that is closest to our perception of what a soul can be; it grants us individuality, has permanence, and has much to do with our interaction with others. It also has a lot to do with sleep; if the Hun is strong, the person will be able to fall and stay asleep easily. If it is weak, the spirit becomes unrooted, leading to difficulty sleeping and a lot of dreams.