Excerpts from Power of the Five Elements

Excerpt # 3 Chapter Two
In Taoist thought, the Five Elements are more than basic constituents of Nature, but aspects of the whole that describe the energetic laws that govern Nature and man. Most importantly they are specific adaptive and transformative attributes of the cycle of qi energy that defines the physical, emotional and spiritual state of the individual. Worsley said, “Every living thing and person is a unique embodiment and combination of the Five Elements”.  The Elements include aspects of the movement of qi energy-from birth through death, from day through night and through all the seasons of the year. In the person they are interdependent, creating and controlling the flow of energy, through every aspect of body, mind and spirit, and organize faculties and attributes that allow one to meet the changing circumstances of life. (Figure 3)

Each Element, both in Nature and for every person, describes a phase of energetic movement and the qualities that belong to that part of the whole.  Each season has its own energetic quality and Element correspondence. For example, autumn with falling leaves, and colder and quieter days, resonates with the attributes of the Metal Element- letting go, enriching (the decaying leaves add needed nutrients to the soil), pulling inward and finding value.

Arising in the primordial energy of yin (contracting, dark, cold) and yang (expanding, warming, activating), the Five Elements also resonate with cycles of birth, growth, decay, death and rebirth. Five Element laws are immutable: spring always precedes summer, the shady side of the hill is colder than the sunny side.  They represent ‘universal consistency of systematic links’.  Correspondences for each Element lead to practical application, both in understanding natural cycles and in maintaining health.  The Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, (Figure 4) have correspondences with the seasons, climatic conditions, color and time of day.  For example the Metal Element has the correspondences of fall, the climactic condition of dryness, the color white and the time of 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The cycle of the seasons demonstrates the different aspect of energy for each Element. Spring corresponds with the Wood Element, birth of yang, actively growing and expanding. Summer corresponds to the Fire Element, the peak of yang, upward movement, maximum energy state.  Late Summer corresponds to the Earth Element, neutral between yin and yang, balanced. Autumn corresponds to the Metal Element, increasing yin, contracting inward and declining. Winter corresponds to the Water Element, greatest yin, maximum stillness. Energy transforms from newly born and expansive (Wood) in Spring to mature and flowering in Summer (Fire) to balanced and supportive in Late Summer (Earth), to diminishing and contracting in Fall, (Metal), to still and waiting in Winter (Water).

These energies operate within each person as well. Any aspect of this energetic transformation that is imbalanced can lead to maladaptation, poor health and premature aging. If the expansive yang energy of spring (Wood) is inadequate, there will be no planting of the seeds for change and renewal.  If the contracting yin energy of fall (Metal) is not sufficient, then the release of decayed material (such as leaves falling off trees) will not become the basis for enrichment needed for growth in the following year. If a person is unable to let go of what is not needed or upsetting (a function of the Metal Element), and find what is of value in themselves, there will difficulty in changing and renewing themselves (Wood Element function) in the future.