End of Days (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 21)

The penultimate episode of the televised Buffy series!  ‘Always more’ is a phrase which jumped out at me while watching this episode again:  Chinese Medicine always has more to learn.  Whether it is learning to sense the flow of meridians in one’s own body through physical practices like Tai Ji, Qi Gong, or other martial arts, or how to prepare herbal medicines that you’ve grown yourself, or refining your needling and diagnostic techniques, Chinese Medicine — and the beautiful patients one encounters and treats — provides an endless series of challenges to deepen one’s skill and insight.    

In this episode, after Buffy saves Faith and the Potentials from death at the ends of the Turok-Han, Buffy reflects for a moment with two characters, Spike and Faith.  She tells Spike that the night they shared, with him just holding her, gave her the courage to go on.  With Faith, she discusses the mutual loneliness they each feel being Slayers.  In the instance with Spike, closeness was achieved through simply being present; in the other, closeness was cultivated through verbal expression.  Both are involved in the clinic, as a practitioner develops his or her bedside manner.  In many respects, that closeness with patients, is the single most important aspect of treatment, and is a skill which one must continually refine.  It must be continually refined in the sense that attentiveness is generated constantly in the present moment, in being present with the patient, and in drawing out the patient’s story, or ‘illness narrative’.

‘Does it have to mean anything?’ someone in this episode asked.  The same thing happens in the clinic.  Does an illness have to mean anything?  As practitioners of Chinese Medicine, we are adept at helping patients make sense of their illnesses, even drawing attention to the larger metaphors an illness or meridian disorder highlights.  But does it need to mean anything?  After all, illness is just the body’s physiology; it need not impinge on the character of the person.

Closeness is achieved through the meridian systems of Chinese Medicine in different ways.  In the primary meridian system, the Stomach meridian brings things internally, so they can be ‘digested’ and incorporated.  Pathologically, the ST meridian results transforming external wind-heat into internal heat.  Among the Channel Divergences, the San Jiao or Triple Warmer Channel Divergence brings things interiorly, to the heart.

In terms of its trajectory, the SJ CD moves from ‘100 meetings’ at the top of the head and enters interiorly at ST-12, from which it goes to the HT (and later CV-12, the mu point of the Stomach).  Thus it is the CD of bringing things closer, intimately.  Being a channel divergence, note that bringing things interiorly is not its function; rather, it shapes the form of things coming closer:  from meeting to ‘swallowing’ to the heart and the spirit’s curriculum in life, and then to integration in a person’s post-natal life.

The SJ CD treats skin issues of extreme dryness (Sjorgen’s syndrome, for example), as by this point, the body has lost most of its fluid in trying to keep a pathogen latent.   The dryness can include anything from ascites, celulitis, clove sores and psoriasis, to nodule and lymph node swellings.  fire toxins and wind coming out.  It can sometimes also include organ symptoms, as when endocrine and exocrine function have both ceased. 

The SJ CD trajectory is quite short.  As mentioned, it begins at Du20, the most yang point on the body in terms of being at the top of the head.  As such, it is one location at which wei qi converges.  Wei qi is yang in nature, and Yang qi rises to top.

From Du-20, the channel passes to the Window of the Sky point SJ16, ‘Celestial Orbit’.  All other WTS points evolve from this one (even if their collective name is taken from SI-17).  This means the point has an incredible capacity not only to release the neck, but also to open the portals of perception and connection between the observed external world and the internal world of the heart.  Through this opening, alchemically, the body’s qi and jingshen can move from the heart to the brain and form the celestial fetus. 

From SJ16, the path moves to ST12, the basin of clavicle which allows qi to enter interiorly, before linking up to the SJ channel itself.   In terms of points, CV17 diffuses into SanJiao in middle of chest and provides access to the Heart.  From here, CV12 is the next point, a converging of SJ, SI, and ST meridians.  These three organs are the organs of food transformation:  ST digests with aid of SP and KD, the SJ conducts KD yang to the ST to aid that transformation, and the SI separates the pure from the impure.  Because the SJ trajectory needs a point in the lower jiao, and because it has already linked to the SI through ST-12, soem commentators remark that the next point on its trajectory is CV-4, the mu point of the SI.  From here, the body could attempt to lodge the pathogen back in KD-11.  KD-11 is a doorway to the earth, known for its ability to release latent holding.  In this regard, the SJ CD can be used in reverse, to bring things deeper into the body as well as to release some deeply held pathogens.

In terms of herbal medicine, Zhi Zi containing medicinals tend to treat the San Jiao.  One way to test whether a zhi zi containing formula is appropriate for the person is to press on CV-17 or CV-15; if it is sore, the formula is appropriate.  A simple prescription would be Sang Xing Tang, with Sang Ji Sheng or Di Gu Pi added to direct the formula to the jing as well as the wei levels in the body.  Sang Xing Tang contains equal parts of sang ye, zhi zi, dan dou chi, zhi bei mu, and li pi; twice as much sha shen; and a middling dose of xing ren. 

If one wanted to compose a formula which goes to each of the points on the trajectory in turn, one could start with Gao Ben, which goes to Du-20; then Shi Chang Pu or Chuan Bei Mu to open the orifices of the neck; from there, a heavy descending herb with a Yang-Ming tropism could be selected — like Shi Gao (which also moistens).  The SJ meridian would be covered by Zhi Zi, while Qu Mai, Bai Mao Gen, Dong Gua Ren, Dong Kui Zi, or Deng Xing Cao could be used to drain the pathogen out via urine and tie the SJ relationship to the SI channel.  Sang Ji Sheng, Di Gu Pi, or Niu Xi could anchor the formula in the jing level of the hips.  Key to composing a formula for typical SJ CD pathologies is selecting herbs which also moisten. One resulting formula thus looks like this:

Gao Ben – Release exterior, alleviate pain, dispel wind-damp bi

Chuan Bei Mu – transform phlegm, stop cough, moisten Lungs, dissipate nodules in the neck

(Shi Chang Pu could be used in small amounts, as it is drying, but specifically opens the orifices)

Shi Gao – Drain fire, clear heat, alleviate thirst

Zhi Zi – Drain fire, clear heat, drain damp, cool blood, relieve toxicity

Dong Kui Zi – Promotes urination, relieves pain, moistens the intestines

Di Gu Pi – Cool blood, reduce deficient heat, moisten dryness

Finally, another formula which may be useful in cases of skin infections due to acne, folliculitis, or even diabetes, an internal formula which can be taken is Gua Lou Gui Zhi Tang:  Gui Zhi, Bai Shao, and Sheng Jiang at 9g; Gua Lou Gen and Gan Cao at 6g; 12 pieces of Da Zao.  Gua Lou Gen can be taken at higher dosages as appropriate.  This formula does not specifically target the SJ CD, but instead works on harmonising the interior-exterior relationship of humours in the body.  Gui zhi and sheng jiang release the exterior and relate to wei qi; shao yao and da zao relate to ying qi.  Together they harmonise the ying and the wei.  Gan Cao goes to all 12 meridians, and Gua Lou Gen nourishes the yin of the Stomach and Lungs.  As the root of a plant, it has a tropism for deeper levels of the body, and although it does not impact jing itself, it does benefit body fluid as a whole.  The formula generates fluid to nourish the ying, relaxes the Liver to smooth the flow of ying qi to all parts of the body, and unblocks wei qi so that it can be nourished by ying qi and defend the body appropriately. 

As always, these posts are for educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have a hundred meetings which you are having difficulty making sense of, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

“The Puppet Show” (Buffy, Season 1)

I always like shows which feature creepy and murderous dummies. Alfred Hitchcock had a great one, in which the puppeteer fell in love with his dummy. That was creepy.

The puppeteer in this episode, however, meets a somewhat untimely end, although not the end he might have been expecting. Instead of death by brain cancer, his brain was harvested by a demon which needed to eat the heart and brain of a human every seven years in order to retain its human form. I seem to recall Anne Rice writing about vampires who ate the heart and brain of their predecessors. I think this was in Queen of the Damned.

Why a demon would want to retain the form of a high school student is somewhat beyond my comprehension. I’m sure Anyanka would have some rather interesting points to make in this regard.

The deceased’s dummy, it turns out, had a mission: to slay all these seven-year itch demons, after which his soul would be able to move on (and out of the creepy puppet body). He had already disposed of six. His last mission lay at Sunnydale High. Instead of (over)killing the demon with a guillotine and kitchen knife, however, he might have tried a different approach.

I think the diagnostic signifiers are the combination of seven years, heart, and brain.

First, seven years.  This particular demon clearly operates on a regular cycle, one which corresponds to the female cycle of seven years.  Although the Nei Jing indicates that women’s lives unfold along a seven year, and men’s lives along an eight year cycle, for some people, these lives can be shorter or longer.  What is important is that a clear pattern emerge.  This cyclical unfolding results from the triple warmer mechanism manifesting what is contained in prenatal jing, outwardly moving the most simple forms of yin, yang, and blood in a person.  In other words, the triple heat mechanism is in a certain sense determining how much the resources of the Ren, Du, and Chong Mai come into the world at any given cycle of life.  The San Jiao acts as a sort of guard to the treasure room, or even financial officers, permitting only a certain amount to be withdrawn at a time.

The cycles of seven therefore point us to three areas:  the jing, the Triple Heater mechanism, and the extraordinary vessels.  Also involved in this process of unfolding one’s life according to cycles are the Wei Mai.  Specifically, I would think the Yang Wei Mai is active in this situation, since it’s role is to integrate the exterior (“human high school student”) with the interior (“seven-year itch demon”).  Conveniently, TH-5 is the opening point for the Yang Wei Mai.

The eating of the Heart and Brain present their own twist on this diagnosis.  The Heart is the residence of the little shen, usually translated generically as “spirit.”  According to one interpretation, this little shen comes about after a ling, or soul, merges with the mixing of the jing of one’s parents.  The ling separates into five spiritual entities, termed the yi (intent), zhi (will-within-the-will), shen, hun (ethereal souls), and po corporeal souls).  (The hun and po are also considered to be plural in number, bringing the total fracturing to thirteen.)  The goal of the person’s life, according to the ancient Chinese alchemists, is to reunite these fractured entities into the Yuan Shen, the Original Spirit.  The organ which houses the Original Spirit?  That would be the Brain.

These seven-year itch demons, then, are consuming the fleshly residences in which the Little Shen and the Big Shen are stored.  It seems that their jing needs to unite with some shen in order to maintain an external appearance.  The treatment principle, therefore, is to keep the yin (jing) from separating from the existing yang (shen).  If this can be achieved, the seven-year itch will be relieved, and at least a few Sunnydale students will not die needlessly (this week).

The acupuncture treatment I might give would be to combine a Yang Wei Mai treatment with a Triple Heater Channel Divergence treatment.  A bit unorthodox, since I like to keep my channel systems separate, in general.  My reasoning for combing the two is this:  The Triple Heater Channel Divergence symptoms are concerned with yin and yang losing their ability to harmonise; treating the TH CD can help push the yang aspects of physiology back to the jing level.  The TH CD begins at Du-20, which is where the hun leaves at death, where the hundred spirits meet, and in some texts, is a point on the Yang Wei Mai.  It has a downward trajectory (to the heart, so, unless the demon is eating hearts because its previous heart has begun to decay, we should be in the clear.)  We activate the wei mai to engage its role in the seven year cycle and harness the energy of the TH mechanism through the opening point, TH-5.  The points I would use are:  TH-5, SI-10 or GB-20, Du-20, TH-17, CV-12.  I would use a deep needling technique for the TH-5, SI-10, and GB-20 points.  From Du-20 onwards, I would use a deep-superficial-deep needling technique.  The Yang Wei Mai treatment protocol can be continued daily with rosemary oil.  Unfortunately, EV treatments usually take three months to show results, and CD treatments can take three weeks.  That means the demon should really have planned ahead.  That whole, “I’m going to use the body of a high school student” has its drawbacks — frequent lack of forethought being one of them.

For an herbal treatment, I would be tempted to try Ren Shen Ge Jie San (Ginseng and Gecko powder).  At first glance, this formula does not meet the treatment criteria.  It is not used to consolidate yin and yang.  It has no sticky ingredients to make the shen adhere to the jing.  It doesn’t even include the heart and brain of the gecko from which it is made, using only their skin or tails.  However, sometimes infertility is due to the jing being unable to grasp the shen.  Physiologically, this is analogous to the Kidneys being unable to grasp the Lung qi.  This formula does exactly that — augments the Kidneys to grasp Lung qi.  It also contains Sang Bai Pi, which is used in Channel Divergent treatments, usually with the addition of E Jiao.  That would be the one modification I would make to the formula.

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you have a seven-year itch which might receive benefit from acupuncture or herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!