h Phoenix Qi: Basic Five Element (Phases) Theory

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Basic Five Element (Phases) Theory

Many people say they find this topic difficult to grasp. There are no books specifically about Five Element Theory; it is usually explained symbolically through the interactions between everything from seasons (astrology and feng shui) to flavors (Chinese Medicine) to bodily organs (acupuncture). The basic concept, however, is easy to understand and can be applied to anything and everything if you look at it from the perspective of the behavior of energy.

The word "Element" in this context is actually incorrect. Today, people use the terms "Phases" or "Changes" to describe the energy and interactions. When we discuss the element wood or water, we are not talking about real wood or water. Those names are symbolic, a metaphor for the way the energy behaves.

Every thing that happens in the universe is the result of the behavior and interaction of energy. Plants grow because the heat of the sun warms the soil, and nutrients in the soil feed the plant. You may feel more energetic if you have breakfast in the morning than you do when you are in a rush and skip it. We all know that a candy bar at 3:00 P. M. will give us that extra oomph to keep us going until dinner time!

Five Phase Theory is simply a way to track, explain, and understand the cycles and interactions of energy. The Five Phases of energy are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Wood represents energy that is growing or expanding. Fire represents energy that has reached its peak. Energy that responds to other influences, or transforms other energies, is labeled earth. Metal is shrinking or contracting energy, and water is energy in its valley (lowest point), or at rest.

The three main cycles of energy movement and interaction are the Creative Cycle, the Destructive Cycle, and the Reductive Cycle.

The Creative Cycle The order of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water is called the creative or creation cycle. Each phase creates the one that follows. Energy that is expanding eventually reaches its peak. It pauses there for a moment then begins the waning process: the energy shrinks or contracts until it has reached its valley. The cycle begins anew when the energy at rest begins to expand again. To explain it through the names of the phases: the cycle begins anew when water (energy at rest) creates (or cycles into) wood (the energy of growth or expansion). The energy of wood creates (reaches) fire (a peak) which creates earth (transformation), which in turn creates metal (contracting energy), which eventually creates water (resting energy) again. Each phase of energy contributes to the next. They each follow in a logical sequence of waxing and waning, yang and yin.

The Destructive Cycle This cycle usually represents a clash of opposing energies. In a period of low energy (water), high energy (fire) is destroyed, or not allowed to manifest. (For example, if you were getting ready for sleep (a period of resting energy) would you be likely to want to go jogging (behaving like energy at its peak)? In this case, high energy is kept from manifesting, or is "destroyed," during a period of low energy.) The ability of energy to shrink or contract (behave like metal) is destroyed when it encounters a cycle of energy at its peak (behaving like fire) just as a piece of coal (made from contracted soil, and a metaphor for metal energy) cannot be further compressed into a diamond if it is burned through high (fire) energy as fuel. Transforming energy (earth) destroys energy at rest (water). Energy cannot "rest" if it is being "changed!" Expanding energy (wood) is halted or destroyed when it must contend with a cycle of contracting energy (metal) just as the growth of a woody plant would halt if its metal container restricted the expansion of the roots.

The Reductive Cycle As each energy phase or “element” feeds the cycle that follows it, it itself is reduced. (If you put all your energy into something, you get worn out, don't you? Universal energy works that way, too.) Growth or expansion (wood) is reduced when it reaches an energetic peak (fire) just as real wood is used up as it burns. (When something reaches it peak, it is no longer expanding, is it? It has grown to its limit and has hit its high point.) When at its peak, energy (and most everything else for that matter) begins to wane: the peak of energy (fire) is reduced as it changes or transforms (earth). Transforming energy (earth) is used up, or reduced, as it becomes contracting (metal) energy just as soil itself is used up when it becomes, through compression and chemistry, coal, iron, or other ores. When energy’s ability to contract or shrink (behave like metal) is reduced, it is then energy at rest (it behaves like water). The energy of water is reduced as it feeds wood energy just as the water in a pot is reduced as it is soaked up by the roots of a plant or a sponge.

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