Archive for September 10th, 2010


Olympus: Hades

September 10, 2010


Hades, sand sculpture, Great Yarmouth

Image Credit: Craig Randall

Identity: Lord of the Underworld

Description: Dark, mature god of severe mien

Symbol: Helmet of invisibility. Cypress tree

The Greek Myth

Hades did not, as has already been mentioned, dwell on Olympus with his brother Zeus, but chose to reside in his own subterranean kingdoms in which he was absolute master. He was perfectly happy in this chthonic environment and only surfaced on two occasions: to abduct Persephone, and to seek healing for a wound inflicted upon him by Hercules.

He wore a helmet that rendered him invisible, so that when he did choose to take the odd earthly jaunt, no-one would observe his presence and he could proceed about his business without fear of discovery.

He was also known as Pluto, from the Greek word plouton meaning wealth or riches, which aspect of his nature obviously alluded to the treasures to be found deep within the earth itself.

Upright Meanings

Riches, wealth and the power it can bring. Material possessions and one’s attitude towards them.

Reversed Meanings

The lower nature, id or shadow. Usury. Greed. Worship of material possessions. All activities of a destructive or detrimental kind.

From the Muse

Transneptunian Hades, a meditation by Ruby Mala

Games, changes and fears
When will they go from here
When will they stop
I believe that fate has brought us here
And we should be together, babe
But we’re not
I play it off, but I’m dreaming of you
I’ll keep my cool, but I’m feigning

I try to say goodbye and I choke
Try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not near
Goodbye and I choke
I try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not near

I may appear to be free
But I’m just a prisoner of your love
And I may seem all right and smile when you leave
But my smiles are just a front
Just a front, hey
I play it off, but I’m dreaming of you
I’ll keep my cool, but I’m feigning

Here is my confession
May I be your possession
Boy, I need your touch
Your love kisses and such
With all my might I try
But this I can’t deny

 ~ Lyrics “I Try”, Macy Gray

The Self as a Machine, The Self is a Garden ~ from “Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine

The Cartesian model, from which modern medicine emerges, pictured the world as a machine. Reality is located in the tangible structure of matter: that which can be measured, quantified, and analyzed. Descartes unequivocally separated mind from body, because consciousness could not be understood solely by physical evaluation. The body, perceived mechanically, was reduced into smaller and smaller constituent parts.

Chinese medicine rests upon another set of assumptions. Within the Eastern worldview, the human being is a microcosm, a universe in miniature, the offspring of Heaven and Earth, a fusion of cosmic and terrestrial forces. People are recognized as beings with a self-aware mind cast in physical form. The unseen and the seen, psyche and soma, are mutually valid and cogenerative.

Whereas Western medicine relies on Cartesian – Newtonian science, Chinese medicine is embedded within a philosophy of nature. A postulate of Chinese medicine is that by observing patterns in the natural world, the dynamics of human nature are known. As above, so below. The world is a single, unbroken wholeness – Tao – that exists within. Chinese medical logic relies upon correspondence thinking: things that correspond to the same thing correspond to each other. Life arises from the magnetic interplay of the polar forces Yang and Yin, Heaven and Earth, heat and cold, sun and shadow, dryness and wetness, summer and winter. Just as these divisions are relational, so all living processes are seen as a mosaic of connected relationships and conditions.

In short, the human body is viewed as an ecosystem, and the language of Chinese medicine is based on metaphors from nature. Each person has a unique terrain to be mapped, a resilient yet sensitive ecology to be maintained. As a gardener adjusts irrigation and applies compost, so the traditional Chinese doctor uses acupuncture, herbs, food, massage (Tui Na), and exercise (Tai Chi and Qi Gong) to recover and preserve health.

Health results from the proper balance of contending forces. In simple terms, diagnosis identifies imbalance, while treatment seeks to restore harmony. Whereas in Western medicine, diagnosis is an attempt to name disease, in Chinese medicine the goal is to recognize patterns of disharmony. Health is considered to be the ability of the organism to respond appropriately to a wide variety of challenges while maintaining equilibrium, integrity, and coherence.

Ontology and pathology are closely linked: how people get sick is inextricably tied to who they are. Chinese medical thinking is holographic: each aspect of bodily life reflects the whole of which it is a part, all parts are in constant interaction with each other, and universal patterns are replicated at every level of  human existence. The categories of classification in Chinese medicine are interdependent, exist along a continuum, and are neither fixed nor absolute. The body is viewed more as a functional entity than a structural one.

Nature can be further differentiated, beyond the duality of Yin-Yang, into five primal powers (wu-xing)—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Correspondingly, the body is divided respectively into five functional systems known as Organ Networks: Liver, Heart , Spleen, Lung, Kidney. These Networks regulate the basic constituents — Shen, Qi, Moisture, Blood, and Essence — organizing them into the complex life of the body.

Each Organ Network refers to a complete set of functions, physiological and  psychological, rather than to a specific and discrete physical structure fixed in an anatomical location. These systems are identified by the name of the Yin Organ, but include a paired Yang Organ as well as corresponding mental faculties, emotional states, tissues, sense organs, and channels within their sphere of influence. Whereas in Western physiology, thoughts  and feelings are localized in the brain, in the Chinese view they exist in the realm of the Organ Networks, and their expression is attributable to the character of the Organs  and  their reciprocal interactions. Thus, emotions affect the state of each Organ Network, and by treating the Organs, emotional and mental processes can be modulated and enhanced.

Assumptions of biomechanical model (West)

  • Humans are an autonomous system within nature
  • Reality can be reduced into smaller and smaller discrete constituents and substantiated concretely
  • The composition of matter, fixed and unchanging, can be measured, quantified, and replicated
  • Mechanical structures – Substance – Evidence
  • Uniformity of body parts allows for standardized procedures
  • Thinking: reductive, either/or, synthetic Knowledge is objective and absolute
  • Linear progression of events: cause and effect
  • “All science is certain, evident knowledge. We reject all knowledge which is merely probable and judge that only those things should be believed which are perfectly known and about which there can be no doubts.” – Descartes
  • “I do not recognize any difference between the machines made by craftsmen and the various bodies that nature alone composes.” – Descartes
  • “There is nothing in the concept of body that belongs to mind; and nothing in that of mind that belongs to the body.” – Descartes

Assumptions of holographic model (East)

  • Humans are a microcosm of nature
  • Reality is one unified matrix within which all things are connected and cogenerating
  • Seen/unseen, Earth/Heaven, Yin-Yang, soma/psyche are contending dualities in a continuous process of transformation that can be described and understood
  • Functional interactions – Process – Pattern
  • Each person has a unique terrain to be mapped–a resilient, sensitive ecology to be maintained
  • Thinking: holistic, both/ and, syncretic
  • Knowledge is subjective and relative
  • Cyclical progression of events: mutual arising and recurring
  • “The mechanical view of the world simply did not develop in Chinese thought, and the organiscist view in which every phenomenon was connected with every other…was universal among Chinese thinkers…The harmonious co-operation of all beings arose, not from the orders of a superior authority external to themselves, but from the fact that they were all parts in a hierarchy of wholes forming a cosmic and organic pattern and what they obeyed were the internal dictates of their own natures.” – Joseph Needham
  • “Illnesses may be identical but the persons suffering from them are different. The emotions and excesses affecting people are not the same. If one treats all patients who appear to suffer from one identical illness with one and the same therapy, one may hit the nature of the illness, but one’s approach may still be exactly contraindicated by the influences of Qi that determine the condition of the individual patient’s body.” – Hsu Ta-ch’un in 1757

Becoming a Gardener of our own Lives

The course of our everyday lives requires that we balance the interior process of nurturing the Self (Yin) with being engaged in the exterior work of the word (Yang). Our activity in the world fosters our productivity, then we retreat from the business of the day each evening to relax, rest, and sleep in order to accumulate and replenish our store of Qi for the day to follow.

Our contemporary culture entcourages constant, often frenetic, activity. People are so consumed with their productivity that they often neglect allowing enough time for the Self to be replenished. To overwork, overexercise, overparty, and overengage in the act of love is to overindulge in Yang, which leads burnout of Yin. The body cannot for long tolerate consuming more than is replaced. The consequences of this may be muscle, joint, bone, heart, or kidney problems perhaps as serious and sudden as heart attack.

On the other hand, to be preoccupied with matters of health and overly focused on nourishing and protecting the delicate interior of the body could mean an overemphasis on the Yin phase of accumulation. A collector who keeps acquiring more and more goods that have potential value is so busy amassing and storing that he has no time or energy left to put his hidden treasures to use in the productive life of the world… The key is to achieve balance, which means being flexible, diverse, moderate, and in harmony with our own rhythms and needs.

Source: Chinese Medicine Works

Image Credit

The three levels of healing are to diminish pain,

 help someone understand their nature,

 and assist them in fulfilling their destiny

~ Harriet Beinfield