Him (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 6)


In this comical episode, Dawn, Buffy, Willow, and Anya all fall victim to a love spell associated with a letter jacket worn by a not-quite star quality football player called RJ. The letter jacket had previously affected Xander, when the football player’s older brother had worn the jacket. How the jacket’s effect moved from guys to gals was not explained…  but the switch seems to have even affected Willow.

A recurring word throughout the episode is ‘soul’.  In the opening sequence, Dawn asks Buffy what it means that Spike has his soul now.  Xander had a soul but he still stood Anya up, so having a soul doesn’t make a person ‘good’ or ‘not-hurtful’, she implies.  (Buffy just sips a soft drink, and Dawn rhetorically asks if that is some sort of ‘Zen’ answer to the question.)  Later, the spell-afflicted women of the Buffyverse talk about being able to see into RJ’s ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’.  Willow discusses his heart, which as noted in the previous episode, stores the ‘shen’ or spirit, and can be seen in a person’s eyes.  (The shen is seen in the expression of the eyes, not just the catchlights and clarity of the eyeballs themselves.)

Since the last post treated the relationship of the Heart to the Channel Divergences, and since the Heart stores the shen, or spirit, which is different from the Ling or soul, this post will set out to clarify the various spirits and souls treated in Classical Chinese medicine.

In the cosmological system within which Chinese medicine developed, a human person embodied a Ling, a soul. This very insubstantial yang soul (technically, the Ling is the yin aspect of the ‘Big Shen’) enters the person at conception, being attracted to the substantial jing involved in conceiving a child.  Herbs which help the Kidneys grasp Lung qi are used to aid in conception following this idea.  The soul then has three months to decide whether the particular lineage whose jing it has ‘bonded’ to will suffice it for working out a particular ‘curriculum’ of lessons and development in life. If so, it is born.  If not, it miscarries itself.

Actually, the Ling is sometimes described as a transcendent soul, and the more accessible ‘big shen’ is the focus of internal cultivation.  This idea reflects a yang and yin differentiation within the celestial world. The ‘big shen’ is still more yang than jing, however, and thus the two attract one another, just as the big shen and ling attract one another.

Once the jing begins to develop into an embryonic child, the big shen divides into the five spirits housed in the zang organs. The zang are said to ‘treasure’ the spirits, or act as a treasury in which the spirits are stored; this is why the zang organs are solid, and why spirit points are only associated with the outer bladder line points corresponding to zang, not fu organs. The five spiritual qualities are the ‘little’ shen stored in the Heart, which emerges from the union of qi and blood; the three hun stored in the Liver, who follow the shen but are called back to the body by the quality of its blood; the po, treasured by the Lungs but related to the bones and spine; the intent housed in the treasury of the Spleen; and the will (or will-within-the-will) embodied within the Kidneys.  The will-within-the-will is particularly manifested through the burning and transforming action of the Triple Warmer as it distributes the jing-essence whose prior lineage will furnish the curriculum of the big shen in this life. Finally, the jing-shen, the union of materiality and affect, is carried along by the marrow to the brain, and there in the ‘mudball palace’, a ‘celestial embryo’ is formed: the reconstituted big shen.  The brain in particular is said have a relationship with the intent and will in a similar manner to the hun having a relationship to blood:  As long as the will and intent are present, so also will be the soul.  When the will and intention to move through life depart, the soul will soon depart as well.  In this final aspect, alchemy has more to say than ‘medicine’ proper.

The various spirits interact with one another, though all are ‘subjects’ of the Heart shen. The hun in particular as said in Ling Shu Chapter 8 (‘Rooted in Spirit’) to follow the comings and goings of the shen. The hun, as reflective and pious, are the personality aspects of the person, and as such must help further the curriculum by attracting and repelling various other types of personalities in the world around oneself.   Ted Kaptchuk notes that when healthy, the Hun doesn’t want anything different from what is.  The character is composed of ‘ghost’ and ‘clouds’, the clouds which follow and follow from heaven in its turnings.  Dang Gui is particularly associated with the hun.

The po, on the other hand, tend to work on disrupting the curriculum; or rather, they help provide the obstacles which will develop the shen’s capacity to rule in sublime tranquility, as befits the imperial office it holds in the person. The po, being associated with the jing, are also the ‘debts’ of a lineage which the person or the person’s shen has the capacity and destiny to rectify in this particular incarnation.  They do, however, provide the basic impulse of life and growth.  Ted Kaptchuk notes the concept of po describes what animates us, reflexively rather than voluntarily; the po are driven and instinctual, very complete, all encompassing, and related to basic aspects of survival.  Etymologically, the character is composed of ‘ghost’ and ‘white’.  The white in this case reflects the moon, and the earliest characters indicate the po are related to lunar phases — the phases of the moon indicating the proper times of planting, harvesting, and growth.  Hu Po is especially associated with the po; its name actually means ‘tiger’s soul’, but it is used not to promote aggression, but to centre the person.

RJ’s jacket works on the level of the hun:  although it seems to evoke libido, a po-associated reactivity and ‘impulse to survive’, in reality it strengthens one of the three worms in the blood which gnaw at the hun’s capacity for piety towards one’s friends.  This sort of libido is best treated through LV-5, ‘wormwood canal’, as I have had occasion to mention in previous episodes.  An alternate treatment might look at the relation of the Liver and Lungs, and harmonise those two organs, perhaps through the diaphragm or a formula which focuses on healing the ribcage (as the site or boney cavity in which the two organs interact).

A martial arts formula for cracked ribs includes dan shen as the imperial herb of the formula, qing pi, chen pi, mo yao, zhi shi, xiang fu, chuan lian zi, chai hu, and lu lu tong as deputies, and mu xiang and yan hu suo as assistants.  (Decoct, take 1 cup twice a day for three to four days.  Do not take if the rib has actually punctured the lung organ, or if there is internal bleeding, or if the person is pregnant or nursing.)  The formula clearly has more LV related herbs to move the qi and blood, but it includes chen pi, which goes to the Lungs, and chuan lian zi, which is used for removing parasites from the blood.

The little shen, stored in the heart, is  very space and time dependant.  Kaptchuk relates it to the Heart:  like the HT meridian, the shen concerns being present to do the right thing at right time in the right cultural context.  It’s image is of an altar and one of the ‘heavenly stems’.  Many herbs treat the shen, but the method of treatment depends on the aim:  to revive the shen, to anchor it, to calm it, to settle it, to promote it.  E Jiao can help ‘restick’ the shen; Fu Ling can help calm it; long gu can help anchor it.  Any herb which will treat both qi and blood, or rather help harmonise them, will impact the shen, as the shen emerges from their union.

The Big Shen or Ling is, again following Kaptchuk, the capacity for self-directed cultivation of virtue.  This capacity for self-cultivation is the combined capacities of each of the five ‘little shen’ working together.  Herbs listed in the Shen Nong Ben Cao as ‘increasing virtue’ are oriented towards nourishing the Ling.  Ling Zhi (Reishi mushroom) is perhaps the most well known.  (ReiKi is actually the Japanese translation of ‘Ling Qi’.)

Since I have treated the various spirits and wills of the body in previous posts, I will not spend time detailing treatments particular to each here.  If you or a loved one wish to pursue further study in concepts of Ancient Chinese Religion, I would refer you to the primary source material in the Huai Nan Zi, and to Christopher Schiffer or Livia Kohn’s research on the topic.  The article ‘Han Thanatology’, as well as works treating the Ma Wang Dui banners are other sources of information.

Happy Slayage!

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