As a practitioner of an ancient form of medicine I feel it is important to try understand the philosophical and political background from which it came. To truly understand the depths of Chinese medicine it essential to get in to the minds of the people who devised it.
Modern acupuncture is vastly different to how it was practiced thousands of years ago. Indeed ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’, or T.C.M., was really only invented during the Chinese cultural revolution of the 1950s and 60s, where Chairman Mao attempted to systematise the country’s medical practices. Being an anti-religious communist type, he attempted to brush away all of the Taoist, animist and shamanic practices that acupuncture was entrenched in and came up with the highly effective system that is largely in practice today.
However some of the ancient ideas managed to sneak through and one clear example of this are the ‘ghost points’. Ghosts were a large part of the ancient Chinese people’s philosophy, as they still are in large parts of the East, and indeed the World today. These beliefs stemmed back to a time when the physical plane was only one level of existence and it ran parallel to that of the dead, the spirits and the ghosts.
As ever the Taoists looked at these things in great detail and had many categories for the different ghosts or ‘Gui’ as they were known. Some were seen as just small pockets of consciousness that due to some kind of trauma during death, got stuck here on the physical plane. These are the classic ghostly apparition types that are sometimes seen wandering through old buildings. These ghosts repeat a pattern over and over again and were seen as non-sentient.
Other types of ghosts however were seen as more aware and were said to feed off of negativity and were more malevolent. They were supposedly able to jump in to an unwilling victim, resulting in some kind of spirit possession.
These were the types of ghosts that were a concern of Chinese medical practitioners, particularly acupuncturists, and the great scholar Sun Si-Mao from the 7th century, formed a grouping of 13 acupuncture points known as the ghost points. All these points have the character for ‘Gui’ in their name and needling protocols were formed by Si-Mao that was said to be able to expel ghosts from the body.
Another category of ghost that were a concern to acupuncturists were known as internal ghosts. These are formed when we have an extremely strong emotion or obsessive thought pattern in our minds. If we continue to feed this aspect of our consciousness then it can become a separate entity within us resulting in something similar to what I guess we now call schizophrenia.
Nowadays all of this ghost talk is generally left out of Chinese medicine. The ghost points themselves are still often used to treat mental-emotional disorders and they are seen to have a strong effect on the Spirit. It doesn’t really matter whether we believe in ghosts or not, though I am sure there are many people reading this who do. The fact is, this was the mind-set of the people who devised this ancient form of medicine and to understand where something comes from can give you a better understanding of a subject as a whole…….and besides all that, I’ve always wanted to be a ghostbuster!