Body maps and subtle body energies

by Patrick Marsolek (12/2011)

Our exploration of the Universe arises from our singular experience of being in a physical body. Our spirituality, mathematics, physics, medicine and science are all colored and informed by the capacities of our body. Modern science and medicine have achieved great understanding of our bodies, but in some ways, both are only scratching the surface of the physical body's complexity and its relationships. There are the more intangible qualities of emotion, consciousness and subtle energies that accompany the human physical experience that mechanistic science has difficulty understanding.

As the subtle complexity of the human body is becoming more apparent and important, a more holistic, systems approach is required to grasp and fully understand the body's functions and improve our overall health. As the maps of our internal body experience grows, we can see how our bodies affect the maps we draw of the outer world. We see ourselves both in the Universe around us, and the Universe within us. The basic belief systems with which we view the world arise from the group mind of the thriving societies of living people. We study the world around us, seeing correspondences between the outer world and our inner awareness. Then we gain insight about our bodies and the Universe.

Eastern systems of healing have for thousands of years taken a holistic approach to the physical body. Some think the earliest Chinese understandings of the energy systems of the body arose out of the Shamanistic or Animistic experiences of the interconnectivity between humans and the natural world. The indigenous sense of connection came from people living in relationship with the natural world. Western science and healing has moved in the past several hundred years towards the materialistic and mechanistic and, therefore, a separation from the natural world. Some of these Eastern, healing modalities are becoming more accepted in Western science and medicine. Scientific understanding of the world is shifting toward seeing the world as more interconnected. There is an increasing acceptance of quantum mechanics and the understanding that there is a relationship between our personal consciousness the external physical world.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese healing modality that has been in use for over two thousand years. Acupuncture posits nonphysical energy meridians that run throughout the body. Needles are inserted into the body at specific points on those meridians, to correct imbalances, blockages and disruptions in the flow of energy. The energetic system of the body is directly correlated to the healthy functioning of the whole person, including physical, emotional and mental aspects. Even a person's relationship to his environment is affected. Though there is much skepticism about Acupuncture in Western medicine, there are thousands of adherents worldwide and those numbers are increasing.

Many holistic healing modalities also see correspondences between the whole body system, and localized parts of the body, so-called energetic microsystems. In micro-Acupuncture, all the systems of the body are mapped onto one specific body area. Auriculotherapy was developed by the French neurologist Paul Nogier, in 1957, and was quickly picked up by traditional Chinese acupuncturists. In Ariculotherapy, a whole human body in several stages of development is mapped onto the outer tissues of the ear. Then the ear can be treated with needles which affect all the systems in the body. Similar correspondences have been proposed for virtually every part of the body, including the ear, nose, face, tongue, hands, feet, and back. Different cultures and practitioners have focused on particular areas of the body, have mapped out these correspondences and have integrated them into healing systems.

Reflexology, also called Zone Therapy, is a modality where a practitioner applies hand pressure to specific locations on the feet, ears or hands to stimulate specific meridians in the body. These meridians are thought to correspond to specific organs, systems and functions of the physical body and to influence both the mental and the physical parts of the body. Like Acupuncture, Reflexology is a widely accepted method of alternative healing around the world.

Iridology is a third example of a microsystem where the patterns, colors and characteristics of the iris are used to determine a patient's health. This idea, that the eye might reflect the body's health, was proposed as early as 1665, although 'eye-diagnosis' didn't begin to be practiced until the early 1900's. In the 1950's, the chiropractor Bernard Jenson, a proponent of iridology, developed his own methodology in the United States. In iridology, there is a belief that changes in the body will physically manifest in the tissues of the iris, and thus, though the eye isn't treated directly, medical issues can be diagnosed and treated through other accepted means.

One challenge to give verifiable proof of the viability of these modes of healing is obvious. The perceptive skill of the practitioner is an important piece of the equation. As I suggested in “The Mysteries of Body Wisdom” in issue #82 of AR, successful practitioners of some of these alternative modalities may possess intuitive sensitivities to the information they perceive in the eyes, the feet, the ears, or whatever part of the body that is being used as the access point to a person's health. They may truly perceive a correspondence that others cannot. This information and the beliefs of the patient in their practitioner may explain how so many people experience success and continue to use these modes of healing.

When a Western, mechanistic study of these modes of healing is undertaken and specific parts are studied in place of the dynamic, energetic whole, they often fail to confirm viability. Acupuncture, Reflexology and Iridology are three examples of correspondence healing modalities each progressively less accepted by Western medicine and therefore increasingly referred to as pseudo science. There are other correspondences that are even more suspect. On the positive side, research organizations such as the Institute of Noetic Sciences have conducted verifiable and repeatable studies that show distant healing to be effective. These creative ways of applying science show that researchers can hold with respect the world view of an energetic healer, while following the tenants of the scientific method.

Adherents of these energetic, interconnective models of healing suggest a kind of holographic quality in the body. It is proposed that, as in a holographic film, where each piece contains the information of the entire image, in the body, every part contains aspects of all the other parts. In what some modern thinkers are calling a quantum holographic model, it is suggested that every single cell may be connected to and contain information about the entire human body. Also, since this holographic quality is a quality of nature, it goes outwards as well as inwards. Thus the whole body is always in connection with the outer world. This holographic model proposes that reality is a complex, interconnected and interdependent structure, including the gross world and the physical body and including interior dimensions of thought, feeling and spirit. The developmental biologist Bruce Lipton proposes that our perceptions, specifically whether we feel we're safe or in danger, can affect how our DNA perceives and reacts with the world at a cellular level, which then affects our gross body, and the manifest actions of our outer lives.

In these correspondence systems of healing, there is a premise of wholeness, rather than fragmentation, which harkens back to earlier, indigenous views where all life forms were considered to be interconnected and interdependent. If one species suffers, all others are affected. One person's health and wellbeing is dependent upon the overall health of her environment, the web of life and the entire world. This quantum-connected view is still central to traditional Chinese medicine as it is practiced today. It has been incorporated into many Western alternative therapies, and is even becoming more accepted by some practitioners of the allopathic model of medicine.

To a healing practitioner who experiences the world in this way, his body may respond with correspondences when working with a single patient, a family system, or even a larger environmental situation. He may experience physical sensations or short-term symptoms in his own body that are resonances of what is occurring in his patient. If he is attentive to these symptoms, he can use his inner body experience to affect many levels of healing. In addition to working on his patients, he may massage, or work with the energy in his body to heal from a distance.

Within this interconnected model is an understanding that the energies in the human body are in relationship to the outer world, overtly or subtly. The Chakra system within the Hindu tradition, posits 7 or 8 major vortices of energy in the body, centered around the spine, and many thousands of smaller points distributed throughout the body. These primary Chakras, which may be depicted as individually colored flowers, are thought to be points to receive or transmit subtle universal energies.  Each Chakra is thought to be an energy conduit, connecting the individual human being with one of the primary energetic qualities of the cosmos. Through those centers, each human is connected to the myriad manifestations of the life force of the cosmos, or Shakti as it's called in the Hindu tradition. As a person attends to one particular Chakra, she is informed by that energy. Her attention may also reciprocally affect change in the outer world through that Chakra. Thus, a healer working with a complex system like a family, a community or a larger environment, might also experience personal, physical insights from the energy centers in her own body, providing valuable insight or information. Working with those energies in her own body, she may affect change in her community.

What occurs in our body, therefore, may be a reflection of the outer world. The concept of, “as above, so below” is an ancient belief from many different spiritual and perennial traditions. It suggests that what is in the microcosm, the body, is directly reflecting what is in the macrocosm, the world. Medieval body maps show early Christian beliefs about the human body as a microcosm of the macrocosm. Each organ had correspondences to a heavenly body, each fluid to an element, with the Soul of man being at the center with God.  The various animals in creation correspond to the various qualities in humans. Living saints were thought to be embodying parts of divinity and transmuting the physical world by their very being. Ultimately, in this system, all things correspond to and symbolize qualities in God. The Torah also says, man is a miniature Universe, having in him everything that exists in the world.

Schwaller de Lubicz, a twentieth century alchemist/archaeologist, produced an extensive study of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt, which he calls the Temple of Man. (Image) His research suggests that the Ancient Egyptians built the Temple of Luxor as an expression of divine consciousness through the human form. The proportions of the human body are encoded in the geometry of the temple's architecture. He proposed that a progression through the temple, and through each initiate's individual body in a proscribed sacred way, would not just bring the individual into a realized state, but would also bring a full consciousness of the Universe into being. Thus, the body and the Universe are interconnected.

The Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg suggested that each organ in the body actually became manifest to express something that is in the outer world. Chinese medicine describes five essential elements that comprise the world. These elements are fundamental energies which occur in many external forms, such as the forms of physical matter, different planets, natural phenomena, seasons, and climate. Correspondingly, these energies reside in the body in the particular organs, fluids, senses and body parts and are expressed in the different stages of life. As with Acupuncture, traditional Chinese healing methods are intended to keep these energies in harmonious balance. Awareness of how these energies interact in the body can help to gain understanding of occurrences in the outer world. Contemplation on and attention to these relationships may bring the outer world into harmony. These beliefs are often viewed as psychological or spiritual metaphors from Western perspectives, yet for someone immersed in a sense of this interconnectivity, it is the Universe's reality. The physical body may manifest illness as an expression of an imbalance in the outer world. Conversely, our inner experiences may manifest in synchronistic ways around us.

Thus our bodies, which contain mental, physical, and spiritual aspects, seem to manifest fractally. A fractal is a kind of shape that can be split into parts, each of which approximates the whole. It is a shape which appears again and again at different levels of magnification. The entire human body, which includes the subtle and energetic bodies, expresses itself fundamentally in its DNA, then at the cellular level, and outwardly in the ear, the face, and the feet, in the culture, in the society and finally, in the Universe around it.

Astrology is a typology, a system of correspondences, that suggests the Universe is in direct relationship to each individual human. Ancient philosophers believed the study of the stars was also a study of the inner workings of the human mind. Many thousands of people worldwide believe that their connection to the stars informs their lives. Conversely, in many meditative traditions, there is a belief that an individual can affect the Cosmos. An individual who meditates on the essence of his own being may come to know the Universe personally and deeply.  By coming into harmony with the unruly and discordant energies within his physical, emotional, and mental body, he can bring a bit of accord into the Universe. Even in modern times, there is a widespread perception that the inner and outer are connected, that the microcosm is the macrocosm and vice versa.

Humans have been mapping the body for thousands of years, mapping the inner terrain of personal physical, emotional and mental energies. The body that we map is a symbol, a complex form, through which the Universe expresses itself. Our understanding of the world is rooted in our bodies. The fragmented view of our bodies and our world, as expressed in mechanistic science and conventional medicine, separates us from that interconnected experience and a larger knowing of the natural world. If we remember the larger body we live in and all the inner and outer manifestations of its correspondences, we see a different world, live in a different world and experience a more interconnected reality. As we become more harmonious with the world around us and conscious that we are evolving with the world, we might see how our collective human/world body is growing larger and more peaceful.

Patrick Marsolek is a writer, dancer, facilitator, therapist and the director of Inner Workings Resources. He leads groups and teaches classes in extended human capacities, consciousness exploration, personal development, and  compassionate communication. He offers his services to businesses, individuals and families and in self-empowerment seminars. He is the author of Transform Yourself: A Self-hypnosis manual and A Joyful Intuition. See for more information.