In Chinese Medicine, the term shen is used to refer to what is most often translated as spirit. In Chinese culture, this term, shen, can refer to deities or spiritual beings but also to the light of the stars. In it’s universalized form, it may be more akin to what we might think of as the Holy Spirit in the West. Setting aside the extent to which that may or may not be true in the context of Chinese culture and metaphysics, I’d like for you to keep that comparison in mind.
Dr. Edward Neal and other acupuncturist scholars sometimes refer to the shen as a “template of light”, which informs and organizes all things into harmonious and coherent patterns of expression. Again and again, in this field of study, we are faced with various synonyms which seem to point at the same, ultimate reality, which supervenes upon what we think of as this material world of form and is, in fact, the source from which it springs.
When an acupuncturist examines a patients tongue or their face, we say that “the shen is good” if the practitioner perceives that there is a good prognosis and that the person presents with a certain spirit of vitality. In fact, the first place we look to discern the quality of the shen, is the eyes. It is the “light” in one’s eyes that we are examining. Take note that when communicating in English these Chinese concepts, we have this notion of “light in the eyes” which overlaps between cultures. The eyes are the “windows of the soul”, after all. If we look into the eyes, and the practitioner simply doesn’t have a good feeling or the eyes actually appear dull and distant, we call this shen disturbance. I’d like to note here that the means by which the quality of shen is ascertained by the practitioner is mostly, an intuition or feeling.
By the same token, eyes that appear uncomfortably intense or even sparkly, especially in a person who is presenting with symptoms of mania, can also indicate shen disturbance. In very serious cases of mania, this can manifest as what we call Heart fire blazing. This person is essentially losing their light through their eyes. It’s no surprise, the goal for health is balance. Remember our motto from Ep.03 – Coherence is health.
Now, for a quick lesson in optics: Let us consider for a moment the definition of what a laser is, relative to any other kind of artificial light source. You may or may not know that the term LASER, is actually an acronym for “light amplification by stimulation emission of radiation”. Sounds cool – but that doesn’t really tell us anything and, for that matter, any lightbulb is an act of light amplification by stimulation emission of radiation.
So what actually is laser? What separates a laser from other artificial light sources, by definition, is that the wavelengths of light being emitted are all, or mostly, the same. When you buy an incandescent lightbulb you may be able to buy an “amber” colored bulb, but when shopping for lasers you can choose between 630nm wavelengths of light, 635nm wavelengths, and so on. The coherence of the wavelengths of light being emitted is what defines laser light. If you’ve ever seen the kind of lasers used in photobiomodulation by acupuncturists like myself shined on a flat non-reflective surface, you will notice a cross-hatch pattern and a distinct sparkle. Aha.
Now, for a quick lesson on biophoton emission. You… emit light! It was discovered in the 1920s by Russian scientist Alexander Gurwitsch that all living organisms are actually bioluminescent in the same way as fireflies or those cool light-up fish near the ocean floor. This light is emitted in the violet and ultraviolet range. Keep this fact in mind. What’s one thing you know about ultraviolet light? It’s invisible, right? Wellllll… more on this in a bit. Gurwitsch realized that the light coming from onions that had been cut open and made to induce cell division could actually induce cell division in a nearby onion by being exposed to the light it was emitting, without being cut. You block the light coming from the onion, and there’s no effect.
We’re going to talk more about biophotons in the next episode, but I’d like bring home one more illustration of biophoton communication between cells.
Alrecht-buehler cultivated baby hamster kidney cells on one surface of glass slides. [A couple] days later he inoculated new cells on the other face of the glass slides and cultured [them] continuously in darkness. He found that the growth of the newly inoculated cells was not random, [and that] their distribution [corresponded] to the cells on the other surface, but if a piece of metal film was placed between the two faces there is no such phenomenon [-] demonstrating [the] existence of communication by light between the cells.Zhang Jinzhu, 2008
So what was the whole schpiel on lasers about? It turns out this light is coherent. Fritz-Albert Popp’s research has demonstrated for decades that this light can behave as an incredibly finely tuned laser. It can also behave quite incoherently. This dance between coherence and decoherence is part of this mysterious method of cellular communication by light.
Let’s return to Chinese Medicine and the concept of the Heart. The character for xin actually depicts a physical heart. In spite of this, it’s meaning is actually quite complex and will likely be the subject of future podcasts. Notably, this term xin not only refers to a physical heart, but is also used to refer to what we think of as one’s “mind”. To complicate things further, another meaning of this term is the “center” of something – in the same way that you can say the “heart” of something is it’s center in English. That said, from a five phase metaphysical perspective, the Heart is associated with the Fire phase.
In mapping a five-phase metaphysics onto a twelve channel system in Chinese Medicine, the five doubled leaves two without an association. This is why the Fire phase is doubled in it’s expression, with four of the phases having two channels and the Fire phase being split into two types, and corresponding to a total of four channels. Two of the Fire channels are in charge of Fire as it is manifest in the flesh – the Pericardium and Sanjiao. This is known as Ministerial Fire. The other two are in charge of Imperial Fire, which is the management of the gateway between Spirit and the body rather than the Spirit being, in some sense, captured and utilized by the body. These two channels are the Heart and Small Intestine.
Deborah Woolf says it well in her interview on the Qiological podcast:
[Ministerial Fire is] the fire of our maintenance rather than the fire if our creation. The fire of the Heart is a Heavenly Fire. It’s our Shen – it’s not something that is ours. It’s Heavenly. It descends.Deborah Woolf @ 19:03
Now, given what you’ve learned in this post about these ultraviolet biophotons and what we call shen – what if I told you, the human retina actually perceives UV light? Some of us may know the story of Claude Monet and his cataracts. The famous painter, late in life had the lens of his left eye completely removed after many failed attempts at cataract surgery. While he was painting his famous series known as Water Lillies, the change in his perception caused by the removal of the lens becomes apparent. The normally white water lillies that you and I see, to Monet, were a bright, iridescent blue-ish white. If we removed the lens to your eyes, you would see the same – but that’s not necessary, thankfully. It’s been demonstrated that 1% of UVA and 3% of UVB light that makes it to the human lens actually passes through it and onto the retina.
Does this make you wonder about how the light you are emitting is seen by others? Does it make you want to keep your aura extra clean? …and even – purple?