The Corporeal Soul 魄 Pò

Eduard Genís Sol, July 2020

The corporeal soul resides in the lung (肺藏魄, Fèi cáng pò) and represents the most material aspect of the awareness because it is a strength that gives the person willingness to be and to live, differentiating itself from the other human beings. That’s why the corporeal soul (魄, ) has an individualizing and separating function as much as the ethereal soul (魂, Hún) favors the human relationships.

The character ,, corporeal soul, is composed by two radicals: on the left , Bái, white. On the right , Guǐ, spectrum. The white color relates to the lung and, globally, this character suggests the idea of a spectrum living in it.  Both the ethereal soul and the corporeal soul belong to the spectrum world (鬼, Guǐ), and this is why they are characterized by a movement that takes the first towards the spirit of the heart  (心神, Xīn shén) and the second towards the essence (精, Jīng).

The movement of the ethereal soul is ascendant, expansive, centrifugal, integrating and focused on life and external word, while the movement of the corporeal soul is descendant, contracting, centripetal, differentiating, and focused on the internal world and, in a certain way, into death. In the same way as it is explained when talking about the ethereal soul, this corporeal soul also needs to be balanced and regularized in the interaction with the ethereal one, so that excessive movements both ascendant or descendant are mutually counteracted.

The corporeal soul attaches itself to the body on the third day after conception and, after dead, it leaves the body through the anus -door of the corporeal soul (魄门, Pò Mén)- to return to the earth, its origin. In Chinese culture, the skeleton or bones of the death bodies have always been much protected, as it is believed that the corporeal soul still resides in the skeleton until it is completely disintegrated.

As much as the ethereal soul (魂, Hún), in its functions to manage the psyche and spiritual processes, relates to the spirit of the heart (心神, Xīn Shén), the corporeal soul (魄, ) relates to the essence (精, Jīng) in its function to manage certain physiological processes. This is the reason why in the 8th Chapter of the Spiritual Pivot, the Spirit (灵枢, 本神第八, Líng shū, běn shén dì bā) the corporeal soul is defined as the ways in and out of the essence. The corporeal soul movements are centrifugal, differentiating, and channeling the essence functions in every physiological process of the body. Without the impulse of the corporeal soul, the essence would not be more than inert substance.

During the first stage of infancy, the corporeal soul is in charge of all the physiological processes of the body that take place after birth. It channels the essence towards the sensitive organs, allowing the capacities of vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. After this first stage, the corporeal soul will participate in all the transformations that allow the body to develop and grow. This means that the same type of interaction that exists between the ethereal soul (魂, Hún) and the spirit of the heart (心神, Xīn shén), exists between the corporeal soul (魄, ) and the essence (精, Jīng).

Due to the fact that the corporeal soul resides in the lung and that this organ governs the skin and body hair (肺诸皮毛, Fèi zhū pí máo) and, therefore, the sense of touch, every tactile sensation is closely linked to the corporeal soul’s existence. The lung also has a role in the physiological functions exerted through the government (肺主气, Fèi zhǔ ) and in the breathing it is clear to which extent the lung governs the in the whole body (肺主一身之气, Fèi zhǔ yī shēn zhī ). These lung functions are promoted by the movement of the corporeal soul, closely related to the breathing process which is almost never done in an conscious way but in an automatic process that is taken in charge by the corporeal soul by means of its interrelation with the lung and the ancestral (宗气, Zōng qì).  We have to specify that the center of the chest is the sea of the ancestral Qì (膳中著宗气之海, Dàn zhōng zhe zōng qì zhī hǎi) and that a corporeal soul in good condition favors the breathing function and vice versa. In the same way, if the yīn and the of the lungs are abundant, the corporeal soul will be in good condition.

On the emotions side, the corporeal soul represents all the processes that take place at subconscious level. At this level, those processes do not reach a person’s consciousness and, therefore, do not reach the spirit of the heart (心神, Xīn shén).  The cry and the sob, as expressions of pain and sadness, are closely related to the corporeal soul being restricted, situation in which the stagnation of the ancestral Qì (宗气滞, Zōng qì zhì) also occurs;  this is manifested by a feeling of chest oppression, mental depression or even breast lumps in the worst scenario. On the contrary, an excessive expansion of the corporeal soul can generate worries and anxiety.

The corporeal soul has an apparently dark aspect because it is integrated with earthly spectrums (土鬼, Tǔ guǐ) and closely related to death. Those spectrums are in accordance to the triple purpose of the corporeal soul. In a first stage, they collaborate in the generation and development of the body; in a second stage, they have a role in the process of separation and differentiation in which the individuality of a person is acquired; and finally, they participate in the destruction of the body at death due to the fact that the corporeal soul carries the seeds of death in the same central core of life.

The earthly spectrums that integrate the corporeal soul are in charge of the physical disappearance of the body so that it can be free from the control of the spirit of the heart (心神, Xīn shén) and then return to the earth where they belong and originate. Only the control of the spirit (神, Shén) and the tendency to Heaven of the ethereal soul (魂, Hún) can counteract this urgency of auto-destruction. To explain this process, we cannot forget that the expression of the spirit through a corporal form is not a purpose in itself and that, after incorporating in a certain form, the spirit needs to break free from the corporeal form and manifest itself in a different way. We should not forget that the individual existence of a person does not need or have to be eternal, as life and death are only two ways of expressing the same reality.

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