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Acupuncture Today – September, 2004, Vol. 05, Issue 09

Taoist Models of Hun and Po, Part Two

By David Twicken, DOM, LAc

Editor's note: Part one of this article appeared in the August 2004 issue.

3-Hun and 7-Po Models

Model One

There are 3-Hun souls and 7-Po souls.

The Hun souls are subtle and more spiritual in comparison to the denser, physical Po souls. In this model, Hun and Po are actual souls or energies that have desires and exert them on the individual. The goal is to cultivate and follow the Hun-spiritual qualities to become lighter, refined and more spiritual. We should fulfill the necessary Po desires of material and physical needs, but transcend its insatiable needs and use the Po-physical energy to support the Hun-spiritual qualities.

  • Some Taoists present the 3-Hun and 7-Po as real souls existing within a person, which can include ancestral influences. This model is rooted in the ancient shaman view of spirits and souls.
  • Some Taoists view souls as influences or qualities of nature; for example, Po soul includes the desires for food, sex and excessive material possessions. Taoist cultivation arts are tools to harmonize these energies and desires in a way to maintain health and vitality; the process directs Po-physical energies to support Hun-spiritual energies.

Model Two

In this model, we view the classic Luo Shu diagram.

  • The East contains the number 3 and houses the Hun soul.
  • The West contains the number 7 and houses the Po soul.
  • Taoist cosmological numerology presents 3-Hun and 7-Po. These numerological relationships are used as confirmation that there are 3-Hun and 7-Po souls.

4 South
5 West
8 North

Model Three

In this model, we also refer to the classic Luo Shu diagram.

In this understanding, the East-Hun and West-Po directions contain tonal frequencies of a pentatonic scale, originally defined by the He Tu and Luo Shu diagrams, which are referred to as the dragon and turtle charts. The combinations of these tonal frequencies, Hun and Po, are what constitute the "soul" or essence of a person. Taoist alchemical/ practices or nei dan are based on this model. For more information on this view, refer to teachings of Tao teacher Michael Winn.

4 South
5 West
8 North
Diagram - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Model Four: Jade Purity Taoist View

This is a summary based on the teachings of Jeffery Yuan and Dr. David Chan, with supplemental information provided by myself.

This teaching originates with a classic Taoist understanding of the Three Realms of Spiritual Purity or the Three Pure Ones:

  • Yu Qing (Supreme Spiritual Purity)
  • Shang Qing (High Spiritual Purity)
  • Tai Qing (Great Spiritual Purity)

Hun is the subtle, spiritual and eternal aspect of our soul. It contains three aspects:

  • Yu Qing is the most subtle and outer aspect of Hun.
  • Sheng Qing is middle in subtlety of the three.
  • Tai Qing is the most interior of the Hun energy and closest to the physical energies of the Po soul.

Diagram - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Po relates to the dense or more physical aspects of life. In this model, we refer to the number 7 as the energetic number of the West direction and Po spirit. Seven also refers to 7 aspects or stages of human evolution. The following is a brief summary of these stages.

  • Acceptance
  • Creativity
  • Judgment
  • Faith
  • Responsibility
  • Compassion
  • Releasing

The Hun soul must move through these stages for its evolution. A person should cultivate to evolve and transcend each stage until they complete the cycle and realize their true nature. In Chinese metaphysics, the number 7 is the great transformer; for example, 7 days completes a week and four cycles of 7 days completes a month. In I Ching science, there are six lines to a hexagram; the seventh influence creates a new hexagram and a new situation.

Model Five

Based on the teaching of Master Hu:

Hun controls yang spirits in the body,
Po controls yin spirits in the body,
all are made of qi.
Hun is responsible for all formless consciousness,
including the three treasures: jing, qi and shen.
Po is responsible for all tangible consciousness,
including the seven apertures: two eyes, two ears, two nose holes, mouth.
Therefore, we call them 3-Hun and 7-Po.

As Po manifests, jing appears.
Because of jing, Hun manifests.
Hun causes the birth of shen,
because of shen,
consciousness comes forth,
because of consciousness the Po is brought forth again.
Hun and Po, yang and yin and Five Phases are endless cycles,
only the achieved can escape it.

Model Six: Five Shen Model of Hun and Po

This model has its roots in the ancient, mystical and profound shang qing branch of Tao.

This model of Hun-Po is derived from the model of five shen. In classical Chinese medicine, the five yin organs - kidneys, liver, heart, spleen and lungs - have a corresponding spirit. These spirits are the Zhi, Hun, Shen, Yi and Po respectively. These organs relate to and are influenced by the Five Elements and their correspondences, especially direction and planets. Tao creates the five directions: East-Wood-Jupiter-Liver-Hun, South-Fire-Mars-Heart-Shen, West-Metal-Venus-Lungs-Po and Center-Earth-Saturn-Spleen-Yi. The Taoist view is these directions are beacons of energy and contribute towards the creation of human life and spirit, if we attune ourselves to these relationships we harmonize our five shen.

Ancient Taoists viewed all of life as energy and referred to powerful life forces as spirits. The planets Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn, and their related directions, East, South, West, North and Center, were considered potent life forces or spirits, because internal organs correspond to planets. Their related directions were also referred to as spirits. Planetary spirit is internal organ spirit, and internal organ spirit is human spirit. Taoist cultivation arts, including nei dan (internal alchemy), develop conscious awareness of the undivided connection between these five spirits or aspects of life, allowing a profound experience of one's true nature.

In Oriental medicine and Taoist practice, there are at least two aspects to shen-spirit. The first view consists of the five shen housed in the organs. The second is the central shen, which resides in the heart; the central shen is the composite of the five shen influences in the organs. Unifying the five shen is the essence of Taoist meditation or nei dan. The Taoist spiritual goal of the model of five shen is to cultivate each shen and unify them into one shen, simultaneously unifying with the Tao. In this model, the Hun and Po are two of the five shen.

The Hun-Po model is an integral aspect of the Taoist view of physical and spiritual life, but is often presented in a vague and ambiguous manner. This article attempts to summarize models of Hun-Po, the common thread and application of all the models is that each person should harmonize the numerous energies or forces of our life, applying the dense or physical to support the subtle or spiritual, refining our energy revealing our true nature. The Taoist arts provide many methods to accomplish this goal, including qigong, tai chi chuan, nutrition and nei dan. The different models of Hun-Po are a beautiful expression of the flexibility of the Taoist view of life, by studying and understanding them we can directly experience one famous and profound Taoist saying:

The one produced two,
two produced four,
four produced eight,
eight produced the myriad things,
and all things return to the source.

Click here for more information about David Twicken, DOM, LAc.

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