The Law of the Five Elements
by Diane M. Connelly (1994)
from the introductory chapter:
the Chinese, and to any people who live from the earth, the closeness
and importance of Nature are understood. They live in the Elements,
depend on the cycle of the seasons, survive according to the laws
of the universe, and revere the flow and changes of the world around
them. They watch, heed, learn and steep themselves in the Elements
so basic to life. And, just as Nature all around them is going through
its natural process of change, they instinctively know that the
Nature inside them follows these same patterns, that intuitively
human beings go through the cycle of the seasons within themselves,
that the Elements are recreated within them. Each element is ever
present and ever basic to life. It is not just in the world around
them that the tender shoots are born bursting into life; it is also
within themselves. It is not only in summer that things bloom and
flourish, but also within them, and so on with all the seasons.
We are the seasons. We are the Elements. Nature is without and within
us, each of us every moment. We are a replica of the universe passing
from season to season in a natural unending cycle of life.
thinking, feeling, and acting are done in accordance with Nature.
Chinese medicinal thinking grew up with the relationship of the
human being to Nature in mindbodyspirit. And so, the system of examination,
diagnosis and treatment is based on natural processes. The concept
of health follows laws inherent in Life Energy, inherent in Nature.
when I speak of Energy, I am speaking of the force we call life.
The Chinese term it Chi Energy and liken it to the streams,
brooks, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans of Earth. The Life Force
flows in us via interconnected pathways. In a way it is like electricity.
It flows in a current, and though we cannot actually see it, we
can see the manifestations of it, and feel the effects of it. In
a way it is like the blood flow which, though we usually do not
see it, pulses life through us. All life has it, and it converses
with every aspect of life. Without this Chi Energy, this Life
force, we do not have life, we are dead.
The Chinese saw the existence of humanity and, in fact, all of Nature
as dependent on this Chi. It is only be Chi that the
planets move, the sun shines, the wind blows, the Elements exist.
It is only by Chi that human beings live and breathe. When
Chi is flowing, all of lifes processes are in operation
in a rhythmic and harmonious way. This Life Force is the cohesion
of our bodymindspirit, and the integration of the myriad aspects
of each individual human being. Chi is spoken of with reverence
because it is the basis of life and because, if it goes awry, it
becomes the basis of disease. Health and illness are defines by
this Life Energy. It is this that the traditional Acupuncturist
speaks of balancing if some aspect of this life energy is no longer
in harmony with the totality.
it is so precious and basic to life, this Vital Force, the Chi
Energy, asks of every living creature a way of life that preserves
it. There is a path to caring for this Life Force on a human level
that speaks of balance and harmony. The sages of the ancient classics
knew the secrets of life because they followed this path. It is
called the Way, the Tao. This Tao has been spoken of as the tranquility
at the center of all disturbances. Life was not an asceticism, for
it aimed at the harmonious function of all the senses, avoiding
both depravation and excess. There was a completeness of living,
a preservation of the intactness of life. This intactness touched
on all aspects of daily living food, exercise, thought processes,
caring for ones own unity and simplicity living according
to the movement of Nature."
goes on to talk about Chi energy being made up of what at
first looks like a duality, the Yin and the Yang, but is really
a harmonious balance between these two parts of the same thing.
She describes how in Chinese Acupuncture the body is ordered according
to the function of the organs, which are governed by one or the
other side of these energies. And then to the Elements:
"Though YinYang gives us a facility for working and thinking
about vital Chi energy, it is the Five Elements which give
us the framework more closely connected with daily life. The Five
Elements are Wood, Fire, Earthy, Metal, Water. Around us at any
moment we can feel the Elements and have a direct experience with
"Like YinYang, the Five Elements are further descriptions of
the Chi Energy as it goes through its cyclical transformations.
Everything in life is concordant with these Elements, and so not
just philosophical and agricultural thought was based on them, but
also medical thought. The cause of illness is diagnosed through
an examination based on the Law of the Five Elements. Health is
the harmonious balanced cyclical interaction of these Elements.
Health is maintained only when the Energy flowing through each of
the Elements is clear and life-giving."
chapter ends with this:
"Chinese expression often sounds poetical and allegorical,
giving the impression of a beautiful system that smacks of unreality
or at least is quite removed from life as we know it. Yet, the system
is eminently rational and real. The poetry serves to elucidate the
art of the science of Chinese medicine based on the Five Elements.
Each Element and its correspondences in human life are as real as
the words on this page, as real as the presence of the earth beneath
our feet. I say this to make it quite clear that the beauty and
common sense of this system of healing in no way detract from its
seriousness and depth.