The Structure Within
Just like modern day scientists observe the world, what it is made of, how it behaves and why, so did the Ancient Daoists. The salient features of their observations of the world around them (and within) is that of the elements of nature, also known as the five elements - 'Wu Xing'. The elements are: Water, wood, fire, earth, metal. It doesn't literally refer to the actual phenomena after which the elements are named because these elements are not the actual fire, earth, etc. themselves but rather a manifestation of energy patterns based upon how things in nature are constructed and the nature of their behaviours. This is why initially this ancient system of the categorisation of the constituents of physical phenomena can seem archaic and superstitious. What the ancient daoists were very interested in investigating was the nature of things and their subtle energetic patterns and structures.
Everything is a combination of of these constituent elements but what defines any particular phenomenon as pertaining to a specific element is the predominance of that element. For example, we can see how the elements can help us to understand the make-up and behaviour of things when considering the element of each organ in the human body:
- Kidneys: Water
- Liver: Wood
- Heart: Fire
- Spleen: Earth
- Lungs: Metal
Each organ is also associated with certain emotions and the predominance of that emotion is an indication of the elemental activity within the individual and how the elements are interacting. Additionally, this is also a example of how the body and mind are integrated and connected into a whole. Below is a table of comparison of the 5 elements (Wu Xing) to give a clear picture of its multi-dimensional nature.
The fundamental building blocks of each of the elements is yin-yang and the various yin-yang combinations and layers that give rise to the elements. Because the elements and all phenomena are comprised of yin and yang combinations, understanding the elements is another way of monitoring and adjusting or balancing yin-yang forces in our lives and live more harmoniously. The result of such careful balancing could result in the manifestation something quite beautiful!