The Transmission of Daoist Art of Healing into Western TCM
From the Huang-Lao Daoism over the 5 transformation phases (wu xing) to Sigmund Freud and C.G.Jung
1. Chinese and Western ontological conceptual ideas
Since the 20th century, Daoist ideas about illness and health have been increasingly assimilated into the Western world of thought. The filter of exotism brought about a punctual and noncritical transformation into the healing science, whereby the ontological concepts gave answers to the profound question of existence that modern Westerners came to in the face of individualization and secularization.
The idea, that heart and brain are the supreme parts of man deeply influenced their explanation of the Chinese view of human being.
And up to today many practitioners of Chinese Medicine in Western countries are following this hierarchical order, trying to treat the soul via the heart –according their western interpretation of the “soul”
But there are some facts in the Chinese view of soul, spirit, health and illness, which are really strange for western thinking- “Qi” and “Yangsheng”.
According to the Chinese view of the human being, heaven, man and earth are the sources of Qi, and the human being has to cultivate Qi to obtain health and longevity. As long as there is Qi, flowing through a network of channels, received and transformed by the organs, there is life and health.The visible and non visible functions and structures of the human being are in harmonious interaction.
Each function and structure depends on the other, everything is embedded in a non-hierarchical network.
Xing and Shen are the results of this network – the whole human being with all his abilities, his power, his characteristics and capacities.
The body controlles itself from the inside, by the movements of Qi.
2. The long way to enlightment – forward to the self responsible human being
As China is deeply influenced by Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, Western countries are influenced by the Greek philosophers and Christianity concerning the ideas of illness and health.
The Greek philosophers developed the occidental world of thoughts.
And the development of Western philosophy and thinking systems evolved nearly at the same time in Greece as the Eastern philosophical traditions started in China- between 5th and 2nd century b.C.
The enlightment of the 17th/18th century postulated the emancipated citizen, who is only following his reason.
This was the reason for turning away from all forms of religions and metaphysics in the West, reducing the body to a machine of the modern natural sciences.
But at the same time a growing search took place for the meaning of life in Eastern traditions, done for example by Hegel and Leibnitz .
Based on these models of thinking the modern natural sciences started their stormy development.
Being exempted from the bonds of the Christian religion, but nevertheless rooted in the Western way of thinking they created with causal-analytic methods enormous progress.
But trying to transmit this method to medicine seems to be wrong.
In medicine any religious and metaphysical thinking and belief are still in use, athough this is refused by the scientific medicine.
In contrast to the classical natural sciences such as physics and chemistry, in everyday Western practice, an evidence-based approach in therapy - unlike diagnosis - is rather the exception.
3. The search for solution and salvation - of "medicine" the awaited "healing"
In TCM and acupuncture teaching as practiced in the West, psychological and psychoanalytic approaches have been found for about 70 years. The beginning of this implantation of modern western diagnosis and therapy models can be seen in the 1960s. In the process, selective elements of Daoism and folk healing were examined and found suitable for an adapted application in a complementary or alternative medicine in the West. However, faced with drug scandals (Contergan, for example) and an apparently inhuman device medicine in the established public health system, the mistrust of "school medicine" is spreading.
4. The import of the 5-transformation-system into the West
The 5-phase transformation theory has been increasingly applied to acupuncture since the 1960s, mainly by John Worsley (UK). An independent concept of the 5-element diet spread with the adoption of elements of Daoist as well as popular Chinese dietics in the 80s (for example, Claude Diolosa, Barbara Temelie). Daoist longevity ideas have already entered Qi Gong practices, beginning in the 50s of the last century. In the increasingly popular method of adulthood acupuncture, in Europe initially characterized by transmission from French sources, the Yi Jing formed the inexhaustible basis for diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. A "psychologized" TCM has been developed as a "final product" in many areas, which can be used as a diagnostic method. Not only the traditional pulse and tongue diagnostics, but also elements of the therapy of the conversation.
5. Example: Integration of S.Freud und C.G. Jung
The psychoanalysis by S.Freud and other psychological modells –beginning in the 19th century - created the development of one medicine for the soul and another for the body. It caused a pathologisation of the movements of the separated soul, too.
But this also made, that more and more people became interested in systems of healings which managed to unite body and soul like the TCM.
Since the 1980s TCM has looked for analogies to the "soul concepts" of modern Western psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Especially the system of the 5 transformation phases offered many possibilities, especially the "5 souls" Shen, Hun, Po, Zhi and Yi connected with this concept and the Zangfu. In practice, anamnestic conversation has become a therapeutic instrument in which repressed, unconscious aspects of the history of the patient can be made conscious and treated - with the usual methods of therapy of TCM, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
6. Example: The "5-Element-Nutrition“
Since approximately 1990, the 5-element diet has spread very widely in the population, less in the circles of the therapists, based on the adoption of simple analogies of the 5 transformation phases into dietetics and cooking recipes after Yin Yang. The circulation of the corresponding books went into the millions and thus also prepared the ground for a now widely accepted TCM (as a new construct) in Germany.
Globalisation, international networking and the increased possibilities of receiving informations are the reason for the search of the own in the foreign.
Even if the foreign is always the unknown and very often the threatening and possible dangerous, it is just because of his unclearness and its alien character that it is very useful to resolve the problems which are rooted in the own, not satisfying world.
People are looking for solutions – worldwide.
And usually selecting a religion is not a matter of their logic or consistence– it is a matter of acceptance and if it fits into the requirements of the people.
Daoism could offer the western world a new perspective of life:
The cultivation of Qi covers new ways for health and prevention of diseases.
And a new view of the human being as well.
The thinking in Yinyang categories enables a new orientation: there is nothing in the life or in the world, which presents only one side- each thing is included in the other, nothing is independent, everything flows and changes.