Updated: May 16, 2020
The 5-elements theory is an ancient Chinese philosophy used to describe interactions between things in the universe. It first appeared during the around 770–476 BC. It was used in Chinese medicine, philosophy, fengshui, and martial arts.
After looking at and understanding the yin & yang theory, we look at the 5-element theory for therapeutic use. Indeed, Yin-&-Yang can be too simple to fix people's health or understand our bodies. It's not personal enough, whereas the 5-element theory is more "in depth" and precise. In simple terms, knowing that a person is generally "yin" won't be precise and helpful enough for us to help them or diagnose them.
These 5 elements allow us to therapeutically introduce ideas, then these elements break down into 12 different components (organs), which allow us to be extremely precise in our diagnosis and treatment.
This theory is not looking at anatomy or physiology. The theory is actually really basic, and it represents what we see energetically before anything manifests physically.
Fire (Summer): the rising force
Metal (Autumn): the contracting force
Water (Winter): the descending force
Wood (Spring): the expansion force (spring energy)
Earth: represents the change present in between each element.
One element is always growing/moving into the next. They change constantly.
The flower example:
An open flower in summer (Fire) will contract, decay, and eventually turn into a dry leaf in autumn (Metal). It then turns into minerals and feeds the soil (Water/winter), to then come out as a sprouting seed in spring and burst out of the ground (Wood). It will finally expand and flourish into a flower again in summer (Fire). This is a complete cycle of the five elements.
Mother-Son cycle (SHENG) or Creation cycle
The generating interactions of the five elements are like the conception, gestation, birth, and nurture relationship between a mother and a baby. Such element pairs are deeply attached, and together imply success and luck.
The following five generating interactions can be considered as fuelling, forming, containing, carrying, and feeding:
The Wood feeds the Fire. Nurture the fire with some good quality wood.
The Fire burns and turns into ashes, in other words feeding the soil/Earth.
The Earth, if rich, has plenty of minerals. Mine the Earth for Metal.
The Metal turns into liquid OR/AND carries the Water (pipes, buckets, etc.).
The Water feeds the trees and plants (minerals and liquid) and thus the Wood.
There is a nurturing quality between the elements: the more seeds (spring energy), the more flowers growing, and then the more decay and minerals are formed and then the more life is created. If you nurture one, it creates more energy for the next. This is exactly the same between our organs in our bodies. Nurture one to support the other.
The father-son cycle (Ko) or Destruction cycle
The father-son interactions between the elements are like the acts of hostility between two sides in a war, or between a dad and his son at times.
These interactions can be seen as melting, penetrating, separating, absorbing, and quenching:
The Fire melts Metal
The Metal cuts through the Wood (chopping, sawing, drilling, nailing, screwing).
The Wood penetrates and separates the Earth (tree roots breaking up soil/rock).
The Earth stops and surrounds Water (lakes, ponds, rivers, coasts).
The Water quenches the Fire.
We will discuss the 5-elements theory in more details in later articles. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us should you have questions or doubts.