Imagery and Alchemy in Chinese Medicine Part 1

My interests in metaphysics in my own practice of traditional Chinese medicine [TCM] has lead to investigating and studying other ways of accessing and activating Qi. Initially, I did this through modern “new age” techniques as well as traditional Western metaphysics. However, I discovered that there in my own backyard of Chinese medicine were the tools for applying the principles of metaphysics and a wealth of knowledge regarding the use of guided imagery and alchemy in healing and spiritual development. This then led to looking more deeply into these traditions.

The following are some of these findings together with guidelines for incorporating such methods into your own practise of TCM, to enhance the healing process and to empower the individuals you work with to take an active part in their own healing.


Imagery: mental picturing; the use of images to enhance healing states; engaging a persons mind in the process of applying healing modalities.

Alchemy: transforming dense matter into something lighter – traditionally believed to change lead into gold.

Chinese medicine is full of images. All Chinese characters are pictograms, providing an image rather than simply a word. The names of acupoints provide us with splendid images that can be made use of in the healing process [when we know them rather than using the easy channel numbering system]. By simply telling your client the nature of the point’s function in regard to their condition allows their mind to take part in the healing process. The correspondences of The Five Elements is also another area we can make use of, and it is the main one I use because it is very versatile and simple.

Alchemists in ancient China made use of their mind to guide and transform their Qi to attain healing as well as spiritual transformation, as detailed extensively in the manual of spiritual alchemy: The Secret of the Golden Flower (translated by R. Wilhelm, with commentary by C.Jung).

As modern alchemists, practitioners of Chinese medicine use acupuncture, acupressure and herbs to aid the transformation of dense matter [physical body symptoms] into something lighter [harmonious Qi flow] in the bodies of their clients.

So, what is imagery?

As the definition above tells us, imagery is the use of mental images to enhance healing states. According the Drs Sheikh and Pachuta of the American Imagery Institute, “Mental picutres extend a powerful force and can be used constructively in the healing process.”

The imaging modality is largely dependent on the right hemisphere of the brain, which permits continued information processing following perception, and lends a sensory character to ideas and feelings. The lexical or linguistic mode is predominantly coordinated by the left hemisphere of the brain, and is particularly effective in integrating extremely diverse phenomena into one language label that permits very rapid subsequent retrieval.

The point is that verbal logic is linear, whereas the image is a simultaneous representation. “The quality of simultaneity gives imagery greater isomorphism with the qualities of perception and therefore, greater capacity for descriptive accuracy.” (Sheik 1975) Think about it for a moment. If I ask you to think of a garbage can, what immediately comes to your mind? The letters that spell garbage can or a picture/image of a garbage can that is familiar to you? I suggest it will be the latter because the image of a garbage can [or anything for that matter] has more likeness with our perceptions and familiarity of such items.

Due to the fact that images do lend a sensory nature to ideas, the use of images in healing then shifts the mind from it’s usual rational, logical way of thinking and dealing with it’s dis-ease, to an irrational and illogical way [which in Jungian terms means connecting with the unconscious]. When we can move to the irrational and illogical, we are less restricted by our beliefs of how something has to be. This then allows for ‘miracles’ to happen and for even spontaneous healings to occur.

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