Phase Element Fire

Fire is one of the five phases of the five-element doctrine (Wu Xing), which describes the laws of natural phenomena. This theory is applied in practice, for example in acupuncture.

Phase Element Fire | Functional Circuits | Pulse Quality

The Chinese character Li [Fire] actually means to leave, to separate, to be distant[. …] Etymologically the character’s radical shows a short-tailed bird next to it a bird-catcher: a hand holding a net (Wang, p. 68). The bird is caught in the meshes of a net. Popularly Li refers to a golden oriole. Lorenzen 1998, 4

Kong Zi said: There are three things that people can enjoy and that are beneficial to them, just as there are three things people may find joyful but that possibly harm them. Finding joy in the serious study of the rites, finding joy in recognizing the good in people and be pleased about it, calling good friends his own – these joys are advantageous. But finding pleasure in excessive delights, finding joy in inertia and idleness, and find joy in exuberant celebrations – these joys are harmful. Kong Zi, Lu Yu, Book 16, Chap. 5, cited after Lorenzen 1998

If there is joy, Qi is full of full harmony and the will is in good agreement, Ying and Wei Qi are well connected, Qi is relaxed and slow. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 39

Functional Circuits and Pulse Quality

Four functional circuits are assigned to the phase element fire: Heart (HT), Small Intestine (SI), Pericardium (PE) and the Triple Warmer (Sanjiao, SJ). The first two, functional circuits Heart and Small Intestine, are relevant to our endeavor. Below are some quotations.

Functional Circuit Heart (Heart Meridian)

The twelve officers form a coherent whole and tolerate no mistake. If the emperor is enlightened, his subjects will be able to live in peace; whoever orients his life according to these principles will reach old age and will never be compromised. Whoever rules his kingdom according to these principles will have a golden age.
But if the ruler is not enlightened the twelve officials will get confused and transportation routes will be blocked and ultimately interrupted. The body will suffer great damage! Who lives that way will fall into ruin. Whoever rules his kingdom that way will jeopardize his whole clan. Be careful. I repeat: be very careful! Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 8

[T]he heart’s particular significance as the emperor of the microcosmic apparatus of state […] the heart is the residence of Shen, the creative power that procures man with heavenly Dao and makes him a unique individual[. …] The heart must be empty*, ie devoid of worries, desires and selfish thoughts, so that the divine can penetrate us and be effective! Only if we have stored sufficient Shen the heart-emperor can meet his responsibilities and substantiate personality[. …] Wherever Shen dwells, connection to the whole exists and you can feel serene tranquility regarding the wonders of life and your own inadequacies. Whenever the divine is within us human selfishness, timidity and self-doubt disappear. Lorenzen 1998, 25-33

Who feeds his Shen will not die; this is called the mysterious female; the gate of the mysterious female is called the root of Heaven and Earth; endless like a silken thread it is there, you can easily use it! Daodejing, Chap. 6

The heart controls blood circulation in the vessels and nourishes all parts of the human body[. …] Shen Ming = the emanations of Shen, is not only a concept of Chinese medicine, but also an essential part of Chinese culture, especially of Daoism. It is the emptiness of the heart that enables Shen’s free, outwardly oriented communication and the inner reflection of the world without prejudices and judgments[. …]
Shen Ming manifests itself as an integrating and cohesive force within an individual’s personality. Other descriptions for this condition are integrity, presence, in the esoteric sense also enlightenment. All organs are perfectly tuned and can be safely guided by the clear spirit of their emperor. Lorenzen 1998, 25-33

In Daoist nature philosophy Shen corresponds to the spontaneous action of the Dao, a force that cannot be perceived per se and that shapes all energetic constellations[. …] It seems problematic to translate Shen only with one single concept such as as “constellating force” (Porkert) or “mind” (Maciocia); for the meaning of Shen context is always of crucial importance[. …] The natural way of Shen (point Du Mai 11)  …] promotes behavior that acts without intent, that lets things happen without making them subject to the ego’s will; “Exercise the Wu Wei, then everything will be fine” (according to Laozi, chapter 3)[. …] And precisely this is the task of our heart-emperor, if he is healthy: to govern his kingdom as a whole and to present the individual as a coherent, integrated whole. A high standard which often is difficult to implement in everyday life. Lorenzen 1998, 25-33

The heart is said to be our inner Emperor or sovereign who governs all the meridians with love and compassion. Xin means heart and is drawn as an empty space with fire around it. We need this emptiness of the heart in order  that heaven may penetrate our very nature with loving wisdom. When we can find and empty calmness within, we can receive this warmth and love. […] When we empty our hearts, a sweet childlike innocence enters our nature and we can love with a goodness that knows no division or prejudices. In this way the defenses around the heart are opened and we become fresh and full of the joy of seeing the love and spirit that surrounds us. The heart is like a child sitting in the centre of a crimson lotus flower. Kaatz 2005, 241

Functional Circuit Small Intestine (Meridian)

The small intestine is responsible for receiving fullness; conversion of all substances derives from it. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 8

Shen Ming, the heart’s clear discernment, is expressed outwardly as mental presence and coherence of thought. How does the heart gain such clarity and pioneering influence? Only through an entity that is able to discern between important and unimportant, to sort out what is essential and to put only the purest [substance] at the heart’s disposal. This function of the organism is attributed to the small intestine. Lorenzen 1998, 42

The small intestine, alchemist of the interior, is not only responsible for the biochemical processes of digestion and energy generation. Discernment is needed on all levels! Sorting out intellectually, differentiating facts, clarifying relationships and […] feelings – all this falls under the responsibilities of the small intestine[. …] This is why mental health is associated with the small intestine as well. Lorenzen 1998, 44

The heart acts as a door latch to the repository, the small intestine is the ambassador. That is why it is said that the small intestine is the place where the disease appears. Lorenzen 1998, 233

The small intestine guarantees precision and clarity and thus a personality’s moral integrity[. …] The small intestine is also a decision-making unit[. …] “What is good for me to preserve the purity of the system?” The small intestine asks the question of quality, which can both involve material quality […] as well as the quality of mental and emotional nutrition. Lorenzen 1998, 234

The small intestine receives, and transforms the substances of nourishment into pure vital Qi energy and lets go of that which can not be used to the larger intestine. It is this pure brightness that enables us to discriminate what is good and worth while from what is unimportant or even harmful. The small intestine protects the heart from the unimportant and rubbish and sends only pure Qi to nourish and feed it. In this way the heart can govern with clear thoughts and untroubled feelings. Kaatz 2005, 253

Pulse Quality Fire

The pulse quality that is associated with phase element fire is Hong Mai, the pulse that is overflowing; Hong also means flood, abundance, immense, large, a superlative, big waves, diluvian.

In classical acupuncture  the phase element water controls of the  phase element  fire, conventional medicine recognizes a relationship between renal insufficiency (water), and heart problems (fire).

A pulse that approaches like a mighty wave but that recedes with a low ebb is called Hong May = overflowing pulse. It is like an ocean wave that hits the beach with power, but quietly and calmly pulls back. Li Shizhen, Bin Hu Mai Xue

An interesting thing about this image is that the pathological fire-pulse is explained by the uncontrolled power of water. Lorenzen 1998, 138

Kaatz, Debra. 2005. Characters of Wisdom: Taoist Tales of the Acupuncture Points. The Petite Bergerie Press.
Lorenzen, Udo. 1998. Die Wandlungsphasen Der Traditionellen Chinesischen Medizin: Feuer. 4 Feuer. München: Müller & Steinicke.