Theory of Five Elements
This lovely image by artist Louis Parsons depicts his version of the five elements, including ether as a fifth substance. But Five Elements in Chinese Medicine has far-reaching applications; everything from acupuncture points to psychological assessment.
I chose Five Elements as my business name in 1998, because I was intrigued by the theory, which I first encountered in a book about Feng Shui. The five elements are a key concept in Eastern philosophy and Chinese Medicine. Once a theory of elements also held sway in the west: those are the four elements many of you may be aware of—Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. The Chinese Five Elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Greek philosophers, and later alchemists and medieval doctors, thought that disease meant the body humors, or elements, were imbalanced. In the Far East, Chinese doctors had similar concepts. Imbalances of the five elements, manifested through associated organs, or emotions, could cause disease, or indicate constitutional weaknesses.
The five elements also have a bearing on the psychology of the individual. Though we have constitutional tendencies, or leanings, towards manifesting a particular type or mix of types, this will also be affected by the stage of life we are in. This is a natural reflection of nature’s cycles. Traditional Chinese Medicine is concerned with the relationships of things with each other, not in isolation. We should ideally demonstrate a certain flexibility as we journey through seasons and decades, our energies ebbing and rising, our interests realigning.