A Reflection on Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine can introduce us to the phenomenological depth of the ancient Chinese perspective, especially as it describes a situated, embodied consciousness.   Phenomenological philosopher Merleau-Ponty employs the term lifeworld (umwelt) to describe embedded perception.  Focusing on the relationship between consciousness and awareness also recalls the insistence of Dr. Leon Hammer that, as clinicians we bear two major charges: to seek to know how the patient, as an individual, experiences the world, and secondly that our success is measured in the degree to which we offer something other than the typical response.  In light of the animistic and phenomenological perspective outlined here however, we might consider that each individual constitutes a world in her own right.  And that, as the formulas of the Shang Han Lun are based on the very structural principles through which the worlds manifest, that each iteration of these formulae constitute equally a world-making in progress.  And thus, the assimilation of these stimuli into the very flesh (the inter-subjective as Merleau-Ponty describes it, but also literally through metabolism) is necessarily to participate in something other than the typical response.  There is only one pathology in all of Chinese medicine, and that is flowing against (逆 Ni) the flow of the numinous.  Allopathic, meaning opposition, does not flow with but rather against, and all-too-often represents the typical response to pathology.  Since these formulae embody the establishment of flow, then, instead they promote the resonance of the effected conformation with its natural physiological state, and participate in the creation of an entirely new world for each and every patient: and this is a world that is itself alive, animated and embodied.