Animism and Classical Chinese Medicine

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.

A map not a tracing

I am pleased to announce that alongside the launch of my first-ever website, I will also be contributing regularly to a blog within its pages.  The principle purpose of the writing that you will find here is an exploration of all of the ideas that are compelling to me as I constantly seek to intensify my understanding of Classical Chinese medicine.  I can say unequivocally that my effort to excavate principles from the classical texts, investigate and extend the implications of what I perceive there, and then take those insights seriously, has developed into the core of my work.  I then seek to interrogate and test those ideas through wide-ranging reading and study, and find new, sometimes idiosyncratic, but always animated connections and nodes across a broad range of disciplines and fields of study.  I intend to post regularly, and to bring these pages to life.  And you can also join into the process by signing up for the newsletter, and the book review and synopsis pages.  

Thanks for stoppin'