Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Po - The Corporeal Soul

Chinese character for 'metal'

The Po is the spirit of the metal element – most often referred to as the Corporeal Soul – representing our primal urges or animal instinct. The function of the Po is to receive what is of essential worth, and to let go of ideals and experiences that no longer serve us.

Metal imparts minerals to the earth, plants, and all beings. It is strong yet malleable; capable of being remoulded. If it is too rigid, however, it can be shattered. This imagery of metal can be applied to the individual – is their perception of reality fixed and unchanging? Are they open to new experiences, able to let go of the past and move forward according to their life experiences?

The organs of the metal element – the lungs and large intestine – form a connection between the internal and external world. With the lungs we breathe in life's experiences, retaining what nourishes us, and with the large intestine we understand the letting go, discharging what no longer serves us, letting go of past experiences and ideals that are no longer of use to us on our journey. The Po is the spirit in Taoist philosophy that upon death leaves the body and returns to the earth, becoming the fertiliser that encourages new growth.

Greif is the emotion associated with the metal element, the Po and the lungs. Those with a metal constitution which is out of balance may have an inability to let go of what is no longer of value, or may be unable to hold onto what is valuable. This imbalance may manifest itself as a strong presence of grief, or a sense of longing (understood as a grief focused towards the future) leading the individual to continually react inappropriately to loss or gain in their life.

This continual reaction to grief may see the individual become obsessed with a chosen path to the point where discipline, rigidity and emotional coldness towards others are seen as necessary to help them achieve. They may also be susceptible to isolation, a lack of self-worth and loneliness – leading them to seek to fill this void with material possessions or external successes, and not recognising the short-lived nature of such pursuits. Those with a propensity to this imbalance must learn to form a spiritual connection with themselves, and accept that the value placed on the material will inevitably fade and reliance upon these external experiences (whether this be possessions, careers, relationships) as the only source of happiness will only ever be transitory; learning that true contentment will come from within, and not from attachment to the material world.

When in balance the individual will have a healthy sense of self-worth and possess the ability to appreciate what is of value in their life. They are open to change and have an inner sense of knowing of when to let go of ideals that no longer serve them.

The symbol of the flower, often used in Buddhism to represent the transitory nature of all things, is helpful to contemplate when trying to understand the metal element. Representing a need to find balance between appreciating the inherent beauty in all things, yet understanding that this beauty will fade, the flower embodies mourning and letting go when necessary.

Japanese wild flower in Kamikochi, courtesy of my mum

* Jarrett, L, 2009, Nourishing Destiny
* Rossi, E, 2007, Shen: Psychoemotional aspects of Chinese Medicine


  1. what a beautifully composed piece of work Kate, you always amaze me. really nuts out the essence of these teachings. Ta and love

  2. Thanks Kate, Eyes opening for a better understanding of the PO

  3. how can we prove that the soul is corporeal?

  4. I like the text up to the point of the flower.
    In Buddhism, I thought the flower is, specifically, the lotus flower. This plant grows in mud, at the bottom of lakes. the mud and the underwater symbolise the life of ignorance; the flower, above the surface, symbolises self-realisation, liberation from the prison of the mind (underwater and mud).
    Perhaps Buddhism conveys other messages with other flowers?