You can listen to an audio version of this article, look further down.
This article will explore eating disorders, spiritual food, alchemy and the most common polarity in our life; the conflict between needs and the inner child on one side and the inner critic and restrictions we put on ourselves on the other side. We will look at food to nourish the heart, soul, mind and spirit too.
This is the third article in the series, you can read each independently and in which order you like.
This article is about the spleen and stomach and their emotions and the challenges in life they represent. We will explore how we can understand these functions as functions of the soul that we all can relate to, without being a doctor or acupuncturist.
The first article about the liver and anger can be read here (it will open in a new window)
The second about the heart and joy you can read here (also to open in a new window).
Spleen or Stomach?
First I have to explain that spleen and stomach are two closely connected organs according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM. They are regarded as the main organs for the digestive and metabolic processes.
In western medicine on the contrary the spleen is not related to these digestive functions and even if the stomach plays an important role in digestion it does so together with many other organs. How can this be? Let me explain.
TCM has a qualitative and phenomenological approach that is different from the approach in modern medicine that is preoccupied with the material counterparts of any function. In western medicine we look for a spesific site, an organ or molecule, something physical. In old China the knowledge of the physical body was limited and organs such as the thyroid and pancreas had not been discovered, both important in the metabolism of food. To simplify you can say they named the functions that we allocate to thyroid and pancreas as spleen.
Let us for a moment forget about medicine western or oriental. Just think about digestion as something outside you that you take in. A part of this food is useful and you start to transform that to become YOU, some other parts you eliminate right away and let it pass through. To that you eliminate you add what you no longer need, as YOU. Se illustration:
Before the next step we will look at the concept Holon. A holon is a part and a whole at the same time. You are a holon a part of a family, a society or human kind, but you consist of smaller holons your organs, that consist of smaller holons that are different tissues, consisting of smaller holons that are cells, that in turn consist of organelles (Small organs inside the cell).
We will now look at two processes; the internalisation of digestion and how holons eat holons. After exploring that, we will have the pieces of understanding we need to have, to see the connection of digestion and our evolution and mastering in life.
Holons eat smaller holons!
“Digestion” is different at different levels. At the cellular level metabolism is a question of cycles and sequences of very small holons, the molecules. At a tissue level, the plants assimilate and interconnect air, light and soil into plant tissues. The fungi represent the first level that starts to tear down things, to digest. Their digestion is not inside, but outside themselves, they eat their surroundings. The organ level of animals is the first level where we digest by breaking down something we ingest, eat or take in, inside ourselves. This first step or process happens on many levels. We take in our surroundings by eating some of them, but also by sensing them and perceiving more subtle things like intuition as well. We even take in elements into our soul from the spiritual realm. All this is a question of reception, taking in, receiving into ourselves. This process is what the Chinese perceived and allocated to the stomach. The function of reception not the location of it.
But all we receive needs to be transformed, processed and used as building blocks for our structure and function. We have all heard the expression; “You are what you eat, eat well”. We can include many kinds of foods here. It is not only a question of selecting natural, healthy, ecological foods, but also what you expose to your senses, what kind of art and music, what feelings, what kind of thoughts and worldviews, what kind of films and environments. If you have walked in the mountains for a fortnight and return to town, the whole city feels dirty, full of garbage and putrid smells. If you sit inside a closed room day after day on your computer, you forget the feeling of the nice fresh air, before someone takes you out. When you return, you do not understand how you could live in that closed place. If you get the taste of something better, it lifts you up. Next time you remember there is something better and you want that again. In this way digestion takes part in your evolution.
The polarity of solve et coagula
Solve et coagula is an expression of the alchemists, used to express a polarity between what dissolves and what crystalizes into structure. This is a central polarity in digestion one aspect is building, going upwards, evolving towards a bigger holon, the other is chewing, taking a part, tearing down, disintegrating to smaller holons.
The building and constructing part is the central function in the Chinese concept of the spleen. So let us forget about the inconsistency with western medicine, and rather approach through the phenomenon of digestion itself, a phenomenological approach.
Instead of thinking of metabolism and digestion as many processes we think of them as collected in two piles with two headings; spleen and stomach. These two headings in western medicine represent many other parts and organs of the body other than stomach and spleen. We will just accept that these two headings include the parts of the brain controlling hunger, the thyroid, the pancreas and other organs.
This polarity that we see in digestion is an important polarity, one of the most frequently met in our lives. The old alchemist made it famous by describing it in the process of “solve et coagula”; dissolving and coagulating. We see this in nature on many levels from the melting or evaporation of water or the condensation into rain or freezing into ice. When we make food we use water for solve or we put on more heat to make the sauce thicker and get more coagula. Sometimes we need something thicker with the soup to complete the meal and take bread (coagula) with it, sometimes the bread is too dry and we drink water (solve) with it.
If we look at the word “digestion” in different languages, we will see that dissolving is a common way of describing it.
The whole realm of food as well as nutrition for the soul is in the middle of these two forces of “Solve et coagula” or stomach and spleen.
Even the Last Supper of Jesus had bread and wine, coagula and solve. The bread represents wisdom and the wine love according to the Master Michael Omraam Aivanhov and his master Peter Deunov. Wine warms, dissolves and connects you with others like love, bread like wisdom has to be chewed, digested, processed, harvested and baked. Together they form truth, like two sides of a coin.
The spleen represents the constrictive, coagulating and constricting force of wisdom. The stomach represents the receiving, dissolving, disintegrating to interconnect, the digestive fluid running through us like love.
The spleen is the strict approach to food, with discipline, diets, measuring and a long list of bad or even forbidden foods. On the other side the stomach indulges with its needs and desires, ranging from greed to the refined gourmand approach. Wisdom and love need each other to create a balance.
These to extremes are reflected in eating disorders as anorectic and bulimic behaviour. The anorectic is too strict, too constrictive, ending up as a skinny skeleton. This is a wise old man with no love or enjoyment, an ascetic.
On the other side, the bulimic has no control, over eating everything they love. This happens particularly in the evening or other times when alone and the basic needs for connection with something out there are coming to the surface. This is when they get in touch with their inner side. This is the side of needs, that feels forsaken, alone, not nurtured, it is like someone with a big need for being nurtured, or a need to have the allowance to be a child. To be a child that is taken care of on all basic levels, sleep, food, closeness and care.
The anorectic on the other side, lets nothing into herself, she has no open doors, no love, it is just ruled by the head, by control or distorted “wisdom”. The bulimic has the door wide open, taking it all without any wisdom or restriction; “I just love it”.
The anorectic or spleen is too strict like a person in control, like a grown up, like a person that has become too old too early and lost their childhood. You can read more about the archetype for this kind of person here.
The bulimic is too much of a child, a needy, indulging person that succumbs to desires and cravings, but also they are way too good taking care of themselves without challenging the difficulties in life. They need to exercise discipline.
For the anorectic to get in touch with their healthy needs is difficult. You have to trick them in small steps. You can read more about some of the exercises here. (If you want a consultation for eating disorders and exercises you can use the mail in the bottom of the article).
These two organs or functions spleen and stomach also represent work and home. The spleen is what represents work, both physical and mental. It also represents working out, or physical exercise. Every activity that involves discipline, strain or concentration is connected with this aspect. The spleen represents all areas and activities where you build up muscle, construct things and ideas. This is the work area or work time.
On the other side the stomach represents leisure and pleasure. This is the home area, this is when you come home and cuddle or are cosy with a cup of tea and a good book, or when you listen to music in the arms of your beloved. This is the time when you sleep, rest and have a vacation.
Discipline work and spleen are opposed to leisure, home and stomach.
Feelings and organs
The spleen is connected with worry and pensiveness too much thinking or dwelling on the same problems. The mental state representing issues with the spleen is a stuck, rigid, fixed state. This can be obsessive in the extreme or dwelling over the same thing again and again. It is a serious approach to life, an approach of the modal verbs; should, must, could, would. There is much responsibility, seriousness and strictness in the spleen. Its whole energy is constrictive, coagulating, constructing, making order out of chaos.
The stomach is needy and emotional. In the extremes it has no boundaries and becomes psychotic with all kind of strange imaginations. It is full of fantasy, and very unstable, constantly changing. On the positive side it is full of care and sympathy, concern and love. It is a mothering, warm, supporting state. The stomach is sensitive and easily moved to tears of sympathy.
Holons, yin and yang, the spleen and stomach
We have been speaking about the moving up and down a holon in the other article. (See liver here & see heart here) The yang organ is the stomach the yin organ is the spleen. The spleen as all the yin organs do, takes you to the bigger holon, it is a grown up more mature approach to digestion. The stomach is needy and selfish and more naïve, it is mainly concerned about me, me, me. The stomach thinks about the need of the individual and their basic needs, the spleen thinks about the needs of the whole family, the group or society.
Mastery of life – let’s get practical
You need to be nourished on many levels; your body, your will, your heart, your mind, soul and spirit. They all need different kinds of food from different levels of holons.
In all these levels, you need to find the balance between the strict discipline of the spleen and the mothering receptivity of your needs, of the stomach.
For your body to be healthy it needs healthy food, fresh air and clean water. You need to work to get money to buy it or to grow it yourself. You need to be active physically. This is closely related to your will. By getting up in the morning, being disciplined and showing strength you nourish the will. You need to feel your breath and make gestures but you also need to be present with your heart and sensitivity to make them harmonious in a nice way.
To nourish your heart you need feelings, you need to “eat” songs, music and harmony in art. You need to feel love and connection. Here the spleen might be good not to disappear into the emotions in away that could be close to drowning.
To nourish the mind you need thought, to study in depth, to think yourself, to meditate and ponder, it creates wisdom, but needs to be balanced by the stomach not to be too intellectual. Taste your ideas!
Your soul needs contemplation, adoration, prayer and the feeling of belonging in a spiritual or soul family or group. Through impersonality and selflessness, the feeling of fusion with the soul of others, a feeling of dilatation and common presence or common ecstasy is giving you a state of infinity, immensity and a bigger space or holon than you can do alone. The spleen might be needed not to go into a hallelujah delusion of collective suggestion.
Your spirit searches for eternity, immortality and feeling of endlessness and this is nourished by freedom. You need to identify with the subtle aspects of things, to get in union with the creative process, and you need to be truthful to yourself.
The result is Life
The degree of life is a question of exchange. When there is no exchange, the thing is dead. A man not exchanging with nature will die, so will a friendship or relationship. To keep things alive you need exchange.
Also you need to decide which kind of exchange you need or want. What do you choose to nourish your different aspects with, every day is full of choices.
Ask your self when between two things; is this just for me and my needs (stomach) or is it for the good of everybody (spleen). Is this slowing me down, adding to gravity (stomach) or is this lifting me up, evolving me (spleen)?
Enjoy! The magic happens now!
Here are the other articles:
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