In the best case, intimations of future selves organized as semiotic processes are glimpsed. What Pierce terms the "being in futuro" is made physically available through the divine pivot of the needles. All of the channels, all of the points, are defined by, or as, territories and terrains subject to stressors and autopoietically responsive in a constantly variable dynamic interaction with the environment as a whole: all aspects of the environment are highly symbolic referents that are expressed equally by the physiosemiotic body. Another term to define this interaction is emptiness: each element devoid of intrinsic or autonomous separation and a factor in the interdependent co-arising of reality as it is experienced. In the context of the needling, the current self deterritorializes by becoming an image of an idealized future potential. The future self reterritorializes on that image: the 3-dimensional system becomes the entire network of 4-dimensional pathways of animation through the act of the needling. The so-called "de qi" is not a propagated sensation but the contact linking a potential flow of intensities mediating the further deterritorialization of interacting patterns expressed symbolically as sensation. What emerges is the felt-sense of the becoming-future of the past self and the becoming-present of the future self. In all such operations, an acausal intention is simply the act of being present to the full range of potentials. But it must also be recognized that even seemingly ideal patterns still represent terrains subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. And ultimately, the last and unavoidable step- the Paces of Yu in the ascent to the stars- must be taken by the patient alone in a pathless land, where discernment reigns.
Following recent reconsiderations of exactly what animism means, I perceive, within the worldview of Chinese medicine, a recognition of movement and a practice of investigation that sees all spiritual health and well-being firmly ensconced in relationships with the natural world, and sees human beings as participating in this great mystery internally and externally since time immemorial. That is, at the very roots of the history, cosmology and philosophy underlying Chinese medicine there is a substrate of animistic consciousness. "To elaborate: life in the animic ontology is not an emanation but a generation of being, in a world that is not pre-ordained but incipient, forever on the verge of the actual" (Ingold, 2006). And further,
...there is no inside or outside, and no boundary separating the two domains. Rather there is a trail of movement or growth. Every such trail traces a relation. But the relation is not between one thing and another — between the organism ‘here’ and the environment ‘there’. It is rather a trail along which life is lived: one strand in a tissue of trails that together make up the texture of the lifeworld. That texture is what I mean when I speak of organisms being constituted within a relational field. It is a field not of inter-connected points but of interwoven lines, not a network but a meshwork.
Nevertheless the depiction of the single line is of course a simplification. For the lives of organisms generally extend along not one but multiple trails, branching out from a source. We should imagine the organism, then, not as a self-contained object like a ball that can propel itself from place to place, but as an ever ramifying web of lines of growth. The philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1983) famously likened this web to a rhizome, though I prefer the image of the fungal mycelium (Ingold 2003:302–6).
While I also love Deleuze and Guattari's characterization of the rhizome, and can appreciate the image of the mycelium (the unseen structure that produces fungi as its manifestation in the visible), what strikes me of course is that an equally apt characterization of the relational ontology is embodied in the myriad pathways of animation (the entire channel system) described by Chinese medicine, and their manifestation in the Opening, Pivoting and Closing of Yin and Yang. Likewise, within the contiguous junctions of all these pathways one also sees the relational, rhizomic unfolding of consciousness itself. The Channel System in its entirety, and the patterns of organization upon which these are modeled, is an example of the three-dimensional incarnation of consciousness and animation itself as is the world in which this animation unfolds. They are, in short, Deleuzian lines-of-flight.