Health, disease and cure are the building blocks of the omnipresent and universal process called Life. They are the quintessence of all living beings including humans. They form a trinity on which the ‘quality’ of human existence is based. Every component has diverse meanings and values, being influenced by the history, culture and philosophical facets, economical ramifications, growing industrialization, environment and technology. Everything in medical science, nay, in life, revolves around disease, health and cure. Every one of us has different definitions, concepts, ideas, imaginations and perceptions and the actions, which we release are highly individualistic.
Who rules? An individual. What makes an individual alive, sustains and expresses all these forms? The vitality. Fueled and animated by the bio-energy, the biological entity represents its own pattern of energy. Health is the fundamental urge; to heal is basic, for the sake of peace, within and without, for homeostasis. Disease is nothing but a disruption of the biological rhythm and it represents a deviant biological energy with respect to form, function and structure. Cure is restoring, rectifying and modifying the deviated diseased energy through perceiving.
An individual is a complex, shimmering and multidimensional entity. It embodies the true spirit, through the ongoing continuum process of life, in its unique way. The individual is connected inextricably to the universe. Universe is represented through matter and energy. Energy is dynamic and invisible. Matter is what we see in various forms, shape, symbols and metaphors.
Macrocosm versus Microcosm
We are surrounded by the universe, which harbors complex forms and processes which either directly or indirectly affects us. This universe around us is the Macrocosm. Cell is the basic unit of life. Every human being is composed of trillions of cells functioning together in perfect harmony and equilibrium. This is the universe within us – the reflection of the Macrocosm – called as Microcosm. The invisible cosmic energy of the macrocosm pervades everywhere, though in different forms. Processes of anabolism and catabolism reflect the same phenomenon. Sea-life, amniotic fluid, uterus, embryo, earth, water, sky, planets, stars, mountains, metals, elements, living organisms – all the forms represent oneness. The cosmic energy binds and intertwines everything around us, barring nothing! Yet, nothingness is the reality.
The Five elements of Life – earth, water, air, fire, ether – are regarded as the foundation of the world from a grain of sand to the complex physiology of every human being and they explain the relationship between external and internal, between macrocosm and microcosm.
It should be understood that these five elements are derived from and are expressions of an unmanifested and undifferentiated creative principle, which is One. These five elements should be understood in the material as well as subtle sense.
The Five Elements and the flow of Energy
It is postulated that only 10% of our energy resources actually come from the food we consume. The remaining 90% of our energy needs are derived from the Air we breathe, the Water we drink, the Fire we absorb, the Earth we live on, and the Ether we inhabit. These five elements of health improve our quality of life.
The ancient Vedic Philosophy, based on the theory of five elements, emphasizes the concept of Polarity, which relates to the flow of energy. The flow of energy is a gradual process from its source to a physical form. It transforms itself from the subtle to denser forms of the manifested Universe and it is found in all life forms. This is how the energy expresses itself through the five elements of our physical reality. Every substance in the world is made up of these five elements. All forms can be classified according to the predominance of any particular element in it. For example, a mountain is predominantly made up of the earth element. It also contains water, fire, air and ether. But these elements are very minute as compared to the earth. So it is classified in the category of earth. Nearly every classical system of medicine and healing uses a system of five elements. The common denominator of different interpretation of the elements is that the elements are the substances upon which the world is built.
Five Elements and Organizational model
It is incorrect to emphasize any one element, ignoring others. The five elements are always in dynamic interaction with each other. This harmony negates the superiority or independent existence of any single element. Thus, the goal of health cannot be achieved only by focusing on healthy food, but also on the Air we breath, the Water we drink, the Light we are exposed to, the Earth we live on, and, ultimately, the Unity (spirit) of humanity and all of creation. It is the correct and balanced combination of these five elements of health, which leads to the quality of true healthy life.
Five-Element theory is a general organizational model to demonstrate the way phases of energy change. They symbolically represent the qualities of nature, which generate and control each other. The “Five Element” theory, as applied to the energetics of the human body, is a correlational system to organize the relationships between the changing forces and elements, inside and outside the organism. It correlates the organ function in the body to the variables such as the seasons, food qualities, sounds, colors, body parts, spiritual dynamics, specific emotional/psychological qualities, and a myriad of other entities.
It should be understood that for each element there is a complex system of inter-correlated variables, which not only comprise the syndrome or complex of energies within that element, but also interrelate to the network of variables in each of the other elements. Each element is like a galaxy with a multitude of planets in its own gravitational field, which relate to four other complex galaxies (the other four elements) with their planets.
Ayurveda and Homoeopathy: Constitutional Therapeutics
Ayurveda classifies the constitution of an individual according the predominance of any particular element in him. It defines an individual as an assembly of the five elements and the “immaterial self.” Homoeopathy propounds the same concept of immaterial self i.e., the concept of vital force. There is no question of any contradiction in Homeopathy in accepting the role of five elements in the process of health, disease and cure.
Robert E. Svoboda elaborates that, “Every human being is a unique individual, full of idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. The most precious possession, your life, is your and yours alone, unlike that of any other human being past, present or future. Each human is a unique manifestation of Mother Nature, the creative energy of the universe. Each possesses an indwelling fragment of the universal soul. The message of the Vedas is that each of us must find our own path to a life lived to the fullest, for making the most of ourselves.” “The self is the power of individual identity which separates every being from every other being. The ego is that which gives me my identity, which makes me know that I am I, not you, he, she, we or they.” “Each of us is a body, mind, and a spirit, we each have a body–I, a mind-I, and a spirit-I” (from the book, ‘Your Ayurvedic Constitution’).
Dr. K. N. Kasad adds, “Homoeopathy places the strongest emphasis on individuality and on individualizing in disease. It is obvious that no two individuals are alike in health or in disease. Despite identity of disease stimuli (exogenous or endogenous), sick individuals react in their own behavioral patterns. Two patients suffering from identical disease vary in their reaction patterns, in their individual characteristics based on their particular susceptible constitutions. This is the concept of individualization in Homoeopathy where each patient is considered as a unit separate from every other, having a distinct individuality of her own, and therefore, requiring the different remedy for the same disease. The natural corollary to individualization is that several remedies may be indicated in one disease and one remedy may be useful in many diseases” (Indian Journal of Homoeopathic Medicine).
Hahnemann asserted, “No cure can follow unless one rigidly individualizes the case.” For a Homoeopath, individualization is an integral part of his thinking both as regards causation as well as treatment.
Thus, homoeopathy minimizes the specialism, which divides the body into a number of delimited sections, each for separate treatment of its ills. It pleads, for the specialism, which treats the derangement of that particular organ or part as evidence of a diseased state of the WHOLE organism. It pleads for the specialism, which individualizes the problems of the organism AS A UNIT and treats altered function of the part in relation of the whole. Therefore, the words ‘specifics,’ ‘patients,’ ‘panacea’ have very little place in Homoeopathic therapeutics.
Lee Jema and Constitutional approach
Lee Jema (1836-1900) a century ago in the latter part of the Korean Chosun Dynasty, asserted in his book Dongyi Soose Bowon (Longevity and Life Preservation in Oriental Medicine) the concept of constitution which can be summed up:
Firstly, people are born with different organ structures.
Secondly, these differences affect the form and looks of the body, so a person has a unique figure according to his constitution. Thirdly, the differences affect the temperament and personality, so a person has a different character.
Fourthly, the differences affect the physiology and pathology of the human body, so the human body manifests different phenomena. Fifthly, all these differences form a constitution, and therefore a person must use a different cure and method of health care according to his constitution. See the similarity that exists between various therapies.
Characters of five elements
Earth: It represents the solid state of matter. It manifests stability, perseverance and rigidity. The parts such as bones, teeth, cells and tissues are manifestations of the earth. Earth is considered as a stable substance.
Personality: Stable. Decisive. Practical. Performance oriented. If flooded with ideas, these persons are able to sort out the issues well and take a proper step. They are not carried away by their emotions. The Element of Earth also confers a sense of duty, responsibility and reliability. These individuals are cautious and conservative, in both desire and approach.
- Mind; positiveness
- Mind; responsibility; strong, or too
- Mind; practical
- Mind; cautious
- Mind; pertinacity
Water: It characterizes change and represents the liquid state. Water is necessary for the survival of all living things. A large part of the human body is made up of water. Blood, lymph, and other fluids move between the cells and the vessels. These fluids provide energy, clear wastes and regulate temperature. It aids in balanced immune responses and transports hormones to the cells. Though water is an unstable element, it gives stability to the whole being.
Personality: Unstable. Oscillating. Indecisive. Impractical. When enough earth is not available, these people get flooded with ideas and feelings. Without appropriate earthy boundaries the water is everywhere. These persons get drowned in the emotional turmoil of circumstances that life presents to us from time to time.
- Mind; irresolution, indecision
- Mind; mood; changeable, variable
- Mind; excitement, excitable
- Mind; ideas; abundant
- Mind; theorizing
- Mind; plans; many
- Mind; day-dreaming
Fire: It is the power to transform solids into liquids and gas, and back again. In other words, it possesses power to transform the state of any substance. Within our bodies, the fire or energy binds the atoms together. It also converts food to fat (stored energy) and muscle. Fire transforms food into energy. It creates the impulses of nervous reactions, our feelings, and even our thought processes. Fire is considered as a form without substance.
Personality: Aggressive. Dynamic. Strong. Persistent. Restless. Selfish. Inflated ego. These people may start off with multiple tasks but due to lack of perseverance they are unable to push any work to its completion. This is when you realize that you had a close encounter with the fire element. Fire likes to expand, yet it burns out quickly without consideration for what is left behind.
- Mind; egotism, self-esteem
- Mind; undertakes; many things, perseveres in nothing
- Mind; inconstancy
- Mind; delusions, imaginations; great person, is
- Mind; selfishness, egoism
- Mind; anger
- Mind; will; strong; obstinate, headstrong
Air: It is the gaseous form of matter which is mobile and dynamic. Within the body, air (oxygen) is the basis for all energy transfer reactions. It is a key element required for fire to burn. Air is existence without form.
Personality: Alert. Inquisitive. Imaginative. Perceptive. Dreamer. Profound thoughts that it is hard to concentrate. This is when the air element has taken the upper hand. Air is quick, like the mind, always in motion. Objective, sympathetic and cooperative. A bright and shiny idealism.
- Mind; fancies
- Mind; day-dreaming
- Mind; fancies; absorbed in
- Mind; inquisitive
- Mind; abstraction of mind
Ether: It is the space in which everything happens. It is the field that is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. Ether is only the distance which separates matter. The chief characteristic of ether is sound. Here sound represents the entire spectrum of vibration.
Personality: Irrational. Illogical. The space element of ether integrates the other four elements. If too much is present in a person’s system, a person becomes ungrounded, “spaced out”. Sleep disturbances or difficulties with communication are two of the other symptoms that closely relate to an imbalance involving the element of ether.
- Mind; irrational
- Mind; talk, talking, talks; irrational
- Mind; talk, talking, talks; confused
- Mind; wildness
- Mind; chaotic
- Mind; disconcerted
- Mind; disoriented with everything
The foundation of homoeopathy is in understanding a constitution. The crux of the problem for a homoeopath is to identify the sickness. What is to be cured in a patient? The law of similars, the concept of totality, the concept of vital force, the theory of miasms- all are interrelated and they revolve around the sick individual with its unique constitution.
Correlating the concept of five elements to Homoeopathy is an additional tool in understanding the physiological, biochemical, pathological and anatomical relations with the psychological plane. We have to blend it with the homoeopathic concepts of miasms, sensitivity, susceptibility, vitality, etc. through the detailed case taking which includes the four pillars of location, sensation / pathology, modalities and concomitants, the physical generals, the thermals, the mental generals, including the dispositional characters and the personality etc.
We have seen that the concept of five elements is an organizational model. In homoeopathy, the totality which we portray is an organized whole. There is an organizing principle in the constituents of data of the patient and all constituents are interrelated with each other. The dynamic energy makes the totality a living one!