In the early 1970s Father Claude Larre, Jean Scatz, and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée began a long-term project to translate and interpret the Huangdi Neijing, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Among the important accomplishments of this, “The Jade Circle,” was the ability to teach English-speakers the concepts that lay at the root of Chinese medicine. Among the most important of these is shen, “spirits.” Rooted in Spirit is a translation of Chapter Eight of the Lingshu portion of the Huangdi Neijing, the Chinese text on which all the Chinese healing arts are founded.
Rooted in Spirit explains the influence of the emotions on health according to the ancient Chinese principles of the Huangdi Neijing. The text examines the interrelationship of emotion and spirit and demonstrates how health and well-being depend upon the harmonious dwelling of the shen in the Heart. The Heart is our emotional, intellectual, mental and spiritual life; it is everything that happens within us and through which we perceive existence. It is our ability to think, to develop knowledge, awareness, consciousness, and to cultivate our inner reality to build our vital spirit (jing shen). The Heart is responsible for the correct or incorrect order in the movements of qi within oneself.
From where come the emotions then? They are the reactions we have when we are in contact with something exterior (a being, an object, an event, etc.), or when we recall the memory of it. The emotions are activated by an exterior object or event and an immediate reaction arises. The immediate reaction will modulate into multiple possibilities: attraction or repulsion, love or fear, elation or anger, sadness or joy, arrogance, envy, etc. The reaction to something depends on the natural disposition, on everyone’s own nature, as well as on the way one is true to one’s nature in the moment of the reaction. The nature of the reaction tells whether the desire in the Heart is turned towards the development of life or towards what conflicts with it. If the desires are in accordance with the natural order, if the reactions are appropriate, then one governs oneself appropriately and there is no disorder (luan). This is following the right order, following nature and one’s own nature, according to circumstances.
At the deepest level, the practice of Chinese medicine involves the proper communication between practitioner and shen. Despite the great importance of this ancient text in providing the spiritual and metaphysical context of Chinese medicine, these less-material aspects have often been left unrevealed. Rooted in Spirit fills that void.