The Primary Meridians


In the overview, we discussed the way in which Qi describes day-to-day functionality. More specifically, this day-to-day functionality becomes extrapolated even further within the Primary Meridian system. Many of you, if you have had Acupuncture before, most likely have received a Primary Meridian treatment. These meridians represent the progression and transformation of Qi in the body throughout a 24/hour cycle. The Primary Meridians, and this is the language used historically to describe them, are akin to waterways. Those waterways represent varying degrees of movement within the body, starting with the most external, the fastest moving, the most volatile, to the more slower moving, and more ordered bodies of water.

For instance, at the beginning of the Primary sequence, you have the Lung Primary meridian, ending at the thumb. From the chest/arm here, to the the extremities. This is LU-11, and is called a jing-well. A well is where water is pouring forth, like a geyser. Further down the stream, per se, is the ying spring. Even further down, you have the jing-river, the hesea at the elbows and knees, and finally, the center of body, which represent the sea of yin and the sea of yang. As you know, seas are much more vast and deep, but do not have as much movement. Thus, those points that are further from the axial body, the center of the body, have more capacity to move Qi, i.e. to create movement. Those closer to the body, tend to be more nourishing, more associated with maintenance of structure, and create change over time. Therefore, if you have an acute sore throat, for instance, you would most likely be accessing points that are further away from the body, because the condition is new, and if it is new, it has not penetrated the layers of the body too deeply, and therefore, the condition can be resolved that much more quickly.

Thus the Primary Meridians represent levels/stages through which an external influence, such as wind, such as cold, such as heat, have penetrated the body. Thus, likened to waterways, as levees, the body has innately built it, systems to divert pathogenic influences, whether that is cold, bacteria, viruses, heat—away from the internal organs. The internal organs are what maintain our structure, and our capacity to continue to breathe, to eat, to defecate, to procreate. The Primary meridians act as reservoirs that collect and redirect the pathogenic influence back out of the body.

The Primary Meridians also represent a stage or sequence according to the aforementioned progression. Thus if you have suffered a wind-cold and that cold was unresolved, what happens? Cold, by nature, constricts the muscles, the pores, the blood vessels, and our structure tightens, to prevent anything further from penetrating. But what does the body do when it is cold? It produces heat, it constricts and causes you to shiver to produce heat. If that cold is not resolved through that first mechanism of trying to vent it with heat, the pathogen can transform into heat in the body, and by in the body, I mean, manifests as signs and symptoms of the Primary meridians. Thus, what was once just a cold, with stuffiness or running nose, stiff neck—is now a sore throat, that it is dry and potentially itchy. The further than pathogen is able to penetrate into the body, the more resources the body is going to need to muster to attempt to push it out. Over time, you find that the body begins to tax vital resources to prevent the pathogen from affecting one’s internal organs.

By the time the pathogen develops into heat, there is the potential for that heat to damage one’s fluids. Thus you get a high fever, big thirst, big pulse, big sweat.

If the pathogen is still unresolved, it begins to affect, what in Chinese medicine is referred to as blood. This is slightly different a concept than in Western medicine. Ultimately Blood is associated with maintaining our every-day biological processes, what nourishes the tissues, the internal organs, the muscles and sinews. Once this is disrupted, it begins to disrupt our ability to efficiently breathe, efficiently eat and digest, our ability to properly detoxify the body. And this disruption, can lead to chronic conditions, chronic deficiencies which ultimately have the capacity to break down the structure.

Also, blood, which is referred to as the Ying level in Chinese medicine, is really about consciousness—how we experience and understand and become aware of ourselves and the world and change around us in the present moment. When this is hindered, it begins to affect our ability to be conscious of what is changing. Qi may represent the gauge of what changes, the particular state that a thing is in, but blood is what gives us the capacity to change, to transform how we meet what changes. Blood is really Qi with directionality, a magnetism, a place to go. An axiom of Chinese Medicine describes that “Qi is the commander of Blood, Blood is the mother of Qi”. Blood is necessary to engender Qi, but Blood cannot move without the functionality of Qi. Blood nourishes structure. Qi nourishes, or engenders function.

Thus Chinese medicine, as a modality, through the Primary Meridians, through Acupuncture, is about bringing the body back into a state of consciousness.

Thus we are not simply looking at why an individual may be sick, according to something they ate, something that might be genetic—rather we focus on the capacity for an individual to create awareness in their life.

Qi, then, is about consciousness, awareness of change, and the varying degrees to which Qi manifests, represents within our bodies the capacity to become aware of change, as it occurs.

Thus, working with Qi, working with the Primary meridians and Acupuncture, we are working with assisting an individual in having the capacity to take responsibility for their lives, and they do this, as we have just said, through awareness. When we give Blood to something, it is no longer just a thought, but active engagement with the process.

Thus Chinese medicine is a viable medical modality if for the singular reason that it helps people help themselves. I, as a practitioner, cannot give to you something that you do not already have.

Therefore, Chinese medicine is about personal empowerment, through the awareness of one’s own resources and when someone comes to receive Acupuncture or Herbal medicine therapy, we are really working on understanding whether or not an individual is able to access their own power. Thus, as a teacher once said, what is sad is not what you do not have, and that you want. What is sad is what you do have and cannot access.

The Twelve Primary Meridians constitute a journey from the external to the deepest internal. The further through the sequence represents a more refined state of consciousness. Through the interaction with the external, the “other” we witness and derive the consciousness of Self. What we internalize in terms of nourishment, experience, people, air –combines to form what is referred to as “post-natal Qi”, which simply means it supplements both the structure and function, though especially the day-to-day.

A word on “consciousness”:

  • Julian Jaynes in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, challenges the notion that consciousness is simply awareness. He frames it in the context of understanding as a mechanism of metaphor:
    • We are trying to understand consciousness, but what are we really trying to do when we understand anything? Like children trying to describe nonsense objects, so in trying to understand a thing we are trying to find a metaphor for that thing. Not just any metaphor, but one with something more familiar and easy to our attention. Understanding a thing is to arrive at a metaphor for that thing by substituting something more familiar to us. And the feeling of familiarity is the feeling of understanding.
    • Generations ago we would understand thunderstorms perhaps as the roaring and rumbling about in battle of superhumangods. We would have reduced the racket that follows the streak of lighting to familiar battle sound, for example. Similarly today, we reduce the storm to various supposed experiences with friction, sparks, vacuums, and the imagination of bulgeous banks of burly air smashing together to make the noise. None of these really exist as we picture them. Our images of these events of physics are as far the actuality as fighting gods. Yet they act as the metaphor and they feel familiar and so we say we understand the thunderstorm. 
    • So in other areas of science, we say we understand an aspect of nature when we can say it is similar to some familiar theoretical model. The terms theory and model, incidentally, are sometimes used interchangeably. But they really should not be. A theory is a relationship of the model to the things the model is supposed to represent. The Bohr model of the atom is that of a proton surrounded by orbiting electrons. It is something like that of the pattern of the solar system, and that is indeed one of its metaphoric sources. Bohr’s theory was that all atoms were similar to his model. The theory, with the more recent discovery of particles and complicated interatomic relationships, has turned out not to be true. But the model remains. A model is neither true nor false; only the theory of its similarity to what it represents. A theory is thus a metaphor between a model and data. And understanding in science is the feeling of similarity between complicated data and a familiar model. 
    • If understanding a thing is arriving at a familiarizing metaphor for it, then we can see that there always will be a difficulty in understanding consciousness. For it should be immediately apparent that there is not and cannot be anything in our immediate experience that is like immediate experience itself. There is therefore a sense in which we shall never be able to understand consciousness in the same way that we can understand things that we are conscious of. 
    • Subjective conscious mind is an analog of what is called the real world. It is built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all metaphors or analogs of behavior in the physical world. Its reality is of the same order as mathematics. It allows us to shortcut behavioral processes and arrive at more adequate decisions. Like mathematics, it is an operator rather than a thing or repository. And it is intimately bound up with volition and decision. 

The Primary Meridians can thus be seen as the primary “metaphor-maker”, given its circulation of Blood which stores and transports consciousness, but also arrives, the further down the sequence, to subjective consciousness. But the theories offered through Chinese Medicine take this journey of “self” and “other” to yet even more refined understanding. The goal of the Primary Meridians, yet is to maintain the day-to-day functionality, but it is also to gain Sovereignty over the body. As we will see, the Primary Meridian sequence, as metaphor, and metaphor-maker, describes the way in which an individual uses his/her/their experiences to not simply substantiate and give quality to self,  but it also describes the way in which we transform this quality and substance into life that is beyond survival; namely a life of volition, with meaning. Similarly, financed by Blood, this process of metaphor develops for the individual a sense of purpose, not simply movement, but trajectory; a vision of life realized.

This brings us to the end of our discussion today, concerning Chinese medicine as a viable medical modality. I hope this discussion offers insight into some of themes and philosophies Chinese medicine practitioners use when approaching health—so that if you do get Acupuncture or take Chinese herbs, you will have, at least a primer as to how we approach your health, so that, at the end of the day, in whatever way you suffer, you are given tools through which you can take responsibility for your own health. You cannot be responsible for that which you don’t know. But you also cannot change something that you are unaware about. Thus, by working on this together, you hopefully will be able to take your life into your own hands, and that is most readily done through awareness.

In the next section, we will discuss, much like Jaynes discussed, the way in which science develops understanding through providing a feeling of similarity between complicated data and a familiar model. For the individual, that familiar model is the external world, and the theories we are left, at least in this discussion, surround the body. Approaching a metaphor for the body allows us to approach understanding not simply being composed of a corporal body, but being a body within a large organism, i.e. the world. As Jaynes described, we are not searching for just any metaphor, but one with something more familiar and easier to our attention.

In the West, that familiar model, though very much rejected by our own science (though ironically an original science, equivalent in practice and theory as mathematics, geometry, etc.) is astrology. There are, perhaps, innumerable reasons why astrology is rejected as a viable language to describe. I happen to believe that it eventually fell out of favor when people began more to favor having complete destiny in their own hands. Most unfortunate, is the way in which the West rejects their own history, favoring novel methods, only to proclaim the former as the product of rather dull minds. The Chinese tend to revere those who came before them. If anything, the attempted revamping and relanguaging of astrology, specifically through the likened model of Chinese Medicine, is an attempt to connect Westerners to some of the roots of their heritage. One thing is extremely sure, and that is that mental health is going to be one of the premier complaints of Westerners, and it is something that Western Science falls extremely and unexceptably short in. Ironically, the practice and interest in “Mind” is one of the highest preoccupations of Westerners. In the language of Jaynes, it is as if we can only finance the analog of conscious mind, by ever-bolstering the analog “I”. This means that Westerners prioritize “selfhood” over any other thing. That we can only continue to be “self” through ever-efficient decisions. Astrology takes this journey of self and places it back into the stars, into an awareness of the personality of the heavens. Plato believed that we were mere shadows of some perfected version that existed somehow, somewhere outside of this existence, and outside of time. In essence, our “personalities”, our “dispositions” really can only take such unique form in juxtaposition of other personalities, other selves. “Mind” emerges prominent, only when challenged by the minds of others. There is much evidence, discussed within this blog at further length, at another time, that suggests our “Mind” is really composed of many other minds, and what we consider to be the person who wakes up each day, with desires, with aspirations and goals, can be likened to the confusion that occurred over time when theory and model were used interchangeably. In other words, “self” conscious mind is really a theory, when used it interchangeably as “model”. This, simply, is because life is about interaction, it is about relationship. Blood, is about relationship. It is not simply about supplementing self, perpetuating self. It is about our capacity to encounter change and not be obliterated by it, but also to learn. It is about understanding the nature of change, the way something moves. The qualities we derive from the quantities. Thus, we use consciousness, specifically the conscious mind in a quantitative way, in a way that is more akin to describing a theory than a model. Our desire to describe the quality of living, is precisely the definition of health. There may not truthfully be a way to describe what it is that we experiencing, but there are more efficient ways of describing what it is like.

In astrology, rather than describing the metaphor of body, it describes the metaphor for mind. Specifically the personality of mind. The description of the intervention of emotionally unstable and rather unreliable gods and goddesses fall to deaf hears in the West, but they potentially have a vast richness and nuance within their psychology. Where Chinese Medicine may describe the spectrum through which Qi can manifest and change with external change, astrology has the potential to describe the spectrum through which “Mind” can change. Ironically, Mind is as elusive as Qi is in the East. However, if mind describes some quality or perhaps pathologically on a spectrum, then the more recognizable an individual’s schizophrenia, the more “substantial” it could be described. When we describe the traits of Narcissism, we are ostensibly describing every individual you have ever met, and it also describes you. The individual “appears” more substantially along the spectrum, in such a way that it causes alarm. Narcissism is a very interesting example as a “personality disorder” in the West, simply because those who are diagnosed with it, rarely seek counsel. They become blind even to the pleas of those who insist on the detriment the individual imposes. The West should really invest, rather than “mindfulness”, in “mind-emptiness.” Julian Jaynes book mentioned here is precisely challenging our notion of these heavenly figures as being an arbitrary remnant of our former psyches. He is rather describing the direct link stress has on the development of self-consciousness. Specifically, in the presence of other people, the filling of the mind has a tendency to cause an individual to make decisions based on self-preservation. In a way, the figures of heavenly creatures describes the way in which the mind can bend and distort according to the way in which we cultivate the sensation of stress. Other people, and here is my theory, become like the macrocosm of the microcosm of who we are. This means that what you encounter in terms of interaction within your group, is really a reflection of your “Mind” your unique way of perceiving the world. An angry person lives in an angry world, as Jeffrey Yuen says. Thus, astrology is, like the Chinese Medical model, a method of reducing the discrepancies in personality, from one moment to the next. However, this is contingent upon the extent to which an individual finds fault in another’s behavior. Thus, the more refined you become, the more refined others equally become. The image of Athene, goddess of wisdom, randomly asserting herself into a scene between Agamemnon and Achilles, becomes an almost cautionary tale of the way rage can distort the mind. And for the Westerner, when the mind is distorted, the self is no longer the self, and you no longer have sovereignty over your life.

Astrology looks at these particular themes, speaking to almost seasonal storms of mind, to which each individual is readily susceptible. In its most basic forms, the movement of the planets and various heavenly bodies describes larger cycles of directionality, actionability in the individual. If the mind, and consciousness represent a metaphor through which understanding derives more efficient and refined decisions, then the psyches attached to particular figures that our Greek ancestors named, describe most basically the pitfalls of mentalism, the tendency for self to be used as a model, when it is really a theory. Each figure occupies the space between complicated data and familiarity. In essence, it describes a map through which we are able to navigate ourselves through what is nebulous and unfamiliar. In essence, it is a practice of anti-xenophobia.

Thus, both Chinese Medicine and Western Astrology occupy a similar model through which understanding of reality is attempted in the practice of metaphor. The role, potency, and cultivation of metaphor in the West has tragically fallen out of favor. One of the mission’s of my practice, and the ideas and themes purported in this blog is to retrieve effective methods through which an individual can release the pressure of “themselves” through cultivation of metaphor. I believe the difficulty with authority, authorization encountered in the West is due to loss of family. Not simply family unit, but the interconnectedness and relationships thereon demonstrated and maintained through a certain familialness or familiarity. I think there becomes a point, when generations of individual’s have become separated from familial bond that the mind separates from the body, and the mind develops necessity for itself. Narcissism, is, at best, an extreme example of the trauma of familial separation. That, one’s only heritage is literally becoming blind to the needs of yourself, to such an extent that all that exists are your needs. It is a loss of authorization.

Jaynes describes this phenomenon of authorization in his discussion of the bicameral mind:

  • Nor can we say that modern science itself is exempt from a similar patterning. For the modern intellectual landscape is informed with the same needs, and often it is larger contours goes through the same quasi-religious gestures, though in a slightly disguised form. These scientisms, as I shall call them, are clusters of scientific ideas which come together and almost surprise themselves into creeds of belief, scientific mythologies which fill the very void left by the divorce of science and religion in our time. They differ from classical science and its common debates in the way they evoke the same response as did the religions which they seek to supplant. And they share with religions many of their most common characteristics: a rational splendor that explains everything, a charismatic leader or succession of leaders who are highly visible and beyond criticism, a series of canonical texts which are somehow outside the usual arena of scientific criticism, certain gestures of idea and rituals of interpretation, and a requirement of total commitment. In return the adherent receives what the religions had once given him more universally: a worldview, a hierarchy of importances, and an auguring place where he may find out what to do and think, and in short, a total explanation of man. And this totality is obtained not by actually explaining everything, but by an encasement of its activity, a severe and absolute restriction of attention, such that everything that is not explained, is not in view. 

The tendency for the Westerner to reject authority, especially absolute authority, purported through religion, becomes especially ripe in the development of mind. The concept of being at the whim, the critique of another regarding the quality, activity and trajectory of life becomes nearly unbearable. People are not so concerned with something that is all-seeing or all-encompassing as much as they are completely terrified of someone else being in control of their decision-making. Yet, every day individuals, especially in the United States, encounter situations in which they become further removed from sovereignty in their well-being. This is extremely apparent in the case of individual life vs. the insurance system. The cost of simple procedures compounded on hospital stays, cost of speciality, cost of equipment etc, draws such an extensive burden on the individual that they literally cannot afford to be sick. They literally cannot make the same decisions about their life as they perhaps were able to before. Life becomes contingent on what authority they’d rather answer to. It may be more viable to smoke marijuana, and risk a misdemeanor, than seek care at a hospital that is guaranteed to bankrupt me.

In other words, Astrology provides a sense of mental authorization, an allowance to the seasonal change or challenge to the analog “I”. It describes ways in which one can mentally prepare for particular stages of life, not simply the maintenance of life. The inner planets are said to describe the more day-to-day phenomena, challenge and theme. The outer planets are said to describe greater cycles, generational cycles, affecting all, but manifesting differently for each individual. The day one is born describes a certain energetic that one is born under. I was born on a Wednesday, said to be ruled by Mercury. My expression of personality emerges more through words, communication. The hour an individual was born gives even more refined clues into the way in which, say that person born on a Wednesday flavors their communication. In essence, astrologically speaking, there are windows where communication may come more fluidly for you, and other times it will seemingly betray you. Astrology is not so much about prediction, as it is prevention–the capacity to not be so totally surprised by an encounter that the mind lashes out at the injustice. But rather exercises mind-emptiness, in the heavenly weather. The Saturn Return, for instance, is one of the key features of an individual’s journey. I believe this is due to the way in which it relates to a certain attunement to not simply one’s mortality, but the way in which their desires, their choices and preferences lead to the death of possibility in their lives. Once one begins to use their experiences to define who and what they need to be, for themselves and others, they begin to consolidate, begin to direct more resources to the maintenance of that self. If an individual is approaching the age of around 28-30, and they have not given a thought to who they are, this also poses a potential problem. Ultimately, this return represents a “getting serious” about one’s sovereignty. Not simply about recognizing and establishing authorization within your own terms, but by doing so with compassion in the juxtaposition of others’ needs and curricula.

Thus Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine together provide an apt metaphor in keying individuals into taking responsibility for the substance of their lives. If anything, it is about mind-emptiness, the practice of releasing what one is not responsible for. It is also recognizing that you are potentially always responsible for change, you are mandated with the nature as a changing person. However, if there is anything Chinese Medicine emphasizes again and again, it is that there is some change that you simply can never control, never understand. And in fact, chaos is what most readily leads to order. There is an axiom of Chinese Medicine that says these three things: Everything changes; everything causes change; everything is a result of change. Wind is a Chinese Medical concept that is considered to be the cause of a hundred diseases, meaning that it is the source of all illness. However, wind is also synonymous to change. Qi, in another light, is simply wind. But it is cultivated wind. It is the capacity to take what innately changes what it touches, and to make it better, give it quality, give it density for the sake of the capacity to do so. The more refined as well as broad the capacity, the greater the vastness of one’s possibility. Without this cultivation, we become a victim of circumstance. The West abandoned astrology because it abandoned Mind as model, for the sake of Mind as theory. What that means is that it ceased to describe the capability of the what minds can do, owing more favor to what it thinks it is.

Together, these systems have the capacity to form a new model, though neither true nor not true, attempt to provide a metaphor that simultaneously develops understanding through familiarity, but also connects the otherwise disparate  and overwhelming data that bombards us daily. Ultimately “self” becomes clearer through developing compassion for “other”. The more we cultivate understanding of innate diversity, especially within the realm of personality, the less likely we are to find “interest” in what others are interested in. In other words, we can only become content in what we have by separating your own desires from others. This requires tapping into personal truth. From my perspective, as a Scorpio, it involves tapping into emotional truth, emotional sovereignty. For others, this looks different. Mostly, it requires looking at the landscape of our bodies and psyches, and seeing where the terrain is difficult, and where otherwise we find free-and-easy flow.

In the next section, we will explore the Primary Meridian sequence as it syncs to the Western astrological sequence. The model is broken up into three main “energetic” stages. The survival, interaction and differentiation levels are a concept I have adopted and extrapolated from Master Jeffrey Yuen, who imparts wisdom through very simple and approachable metaphors.  They are described as energetic given their relationship to not only movement in the body and mind, but the way in which decision-making develops more efficiently as one moves from a level of survival, level of interaction, and level of differentiation.

  • First, understanding develops from an almost autonomic mimicry; we breath, eat and defecate according to the schedule/season of our external.
  • Secondly, we develop understanding of the diversity of what we encounter, learning to appreciate the value of both connection and separation–that there is perhaps qualitatively a difference between milk and coffee, and eating at night, and sleeping during the day. Through juxtaposition, we begin to develop appreciation for color, texture, feeling–and these phenomena directly inform our emotional state. This is most readily discovered through interaction with other people.
  • Third, we differentiate. We discover that not only does diversity exist, but we use what we’ve learned through interaction to inform our desires, our preferences, and eventually our judgements. Eventually, these qualitative aspects formulate what we eventually know as personality, disposition, self. Not simply self, but sovereign self. We refine this understanding when we discover that others are equally sovereign, and that our preferences can develop into conflict, as others pursue what is true and authentic to them. Differentiation, then, becomes a method of inviting challenge, especially through other perspectives, in order to refine the valuable and unique role the individual offers to their environment.


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