The Five Spirits that make us human – Taoist belief

The Five Spirits

In Chinese tradition there are Five Spirits that, together, make us human. The Shen (consciousness), the Yi (reasoning mind, the brain), the Po (the body), the Zhi (willpower), and the Hun (ethereal soul). Each has its own role in making us human.

The Shen 神

  • Is the human spirit, the consciousness.
    • It is our higher self, beyond the brain, beyond ego, non-judgmental, the source of true wisdom.
    • The quality of our Shen governs our awareness.
    • It can be seen in the energy flowing through our eyes.
    • One indication of balanced Shen is clear, sparkling and receptive eyes.
    • When the Shen is healthy, the awareness and perception is high.
    • Resides in the Heart.

The Yi 意

the five spirits of Taoism
  • Is the cognitive, reasoning, mind. It is the brain.
    • It is the intellect.
    • It is involved in planning, thought and reasoning.
    • It is the capacity for conceptual thought.
    • Unbalanced, it can manifest as internal chatter.
    • Balanced, it manifests as intelligence and understanding.
    • Resides in the spleen

The Po 魄

  • Is described as “body spirit”, or “animal spirit”. The corporeal soul.
    • It is the physical vitality.
    • It tends to be associated with our immediate or more fleeting desires.
    • The Po keeps the physical body alive.
    • The Po is still present when someone is brain dead, or in a coma.
    • When it departs, the body is dead.
    • Resides in the Lung.

The Zhi (Jing) 志

  • This is the willpower.
    • It is the function of the Zhi that allows us to carry out the actions that originate in the Yi. “When intent Yi 意 ) becomes permanent, we speak of will (Zhi 志 ). “
    • It provides the perseverance needed for successful spiritual practice.
    • In Taoism, the Zhi is needed in order for the practitioner to harmonize with the Tao.
    • Resides in the Kidney

The Hun 魂

  • Is often described as the human soul (not quite in the same way as seen by Judaic religions, etc.).
    • It is the spirit that detaches during dreams. This movement of the Hun is often experienced as the feeling of floating up, down, or to the side and is sometimes accompanied by the physical body jolting, or twitching.
    • It is the essence of humans that persists after physical death.
    • Resides in the Liver.

The Five Spirits and more

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