The Hun and Symbolism

» Posted by on Aug 2, 2014 in Article

Hun-seal.svg_The Hun is our ethereal soul. It expresses reality by employing the creative, the symbolic, the metaphorical and the poetic. Its opposite is the Po, our corporeal soul. We can interpret reality through our Po or through our Hun.

Within the West, there exists an over tendency to interpret reality through the limiting perception of the Po. The Po employs our 5 senses and analytical mind. It has a propensity to separate, dissect, segregate and categorize the world. The Po speaks in language. The Po is corporeal and ceases at the time of death. Its faculties are the 5 senses, the emotions, personality, mind and the ego which also cease when the physical body perishes. These faculties all limit and reduce data received from the world into manageable packets.

In Contrast, the Hun connects to the unlimited. It can directly intuit a meaning of a concept, and does so through less restrictive language such as a symbol, a metaphor, an allegory, poetry or art. The Hun has no limits and accesses information directly, without spatial or temporal context; allowing a ‘knowing’.

East verses West

In order to follow the Daoist path we need to balance our Po and Hun souls; our emotions and our nature. This entails familiarising ourselves with our own nature, our Hun souls. The table lists qualities of the Hun and The Po souls.

Hun Po
Mythical Analytic
non-linear Linear
Integrative Analytic
Pictograph writing Phonetic language
Relationships between objects, event and experiences Deductions
Coincidence of connections Isolated incidents
Patterns Cause and effect
totality Separation
Holistic Predictive
Creation manifests in patterns & cycles Creator God
Poetry Logical
Symbols Directed thought
Creativity A single objective
Dreams Focused, pinpointed
Energetic system Anatomy & physiology
Meridians Organs
Qi Surgery

The Western scientific mindset tends to deduce, separate and categorize. Its analytic process focuses on cause and effect; whereas, Eastern metaphysical systems operate with totalities. Eastern philosophies assert that no single part can be understood, except in its relationship within the whole. Overall patterns, rather than linear cause and effect relationships, are the prime factor in understanding. This fundamental difference in understanding is reflected in the metaphysical systems found in the West and the East. The Western tradition proliferated religious beliefs in a divine being who created the manifest universe at a specific time. The Buddhist and Daoist traditions view creation as continuously manifesting in patterns and cycles within the world everywhere.

The two divergent logics are also reflected within medical systems. The West isolates specific diseased areas in the body, whereas the East deals with a person’s totality. This is why, in the West it is so important, not to allow the Western medical tradition to reduce Chinese medicine to a cause and effect diagnostic treatment.


According to Chinese mythology, language was a gift from the gods in prehistoric times. The Chinese characters were regarded as nets in which the light of spirit could be gathered. I like this notion, because writing in pictographs is richer and more multidimensional than our own sentence-based alphabetic writing. Pictographs are immediately perceived wholes, which unify a host of related impressions and ideas. Each character is a symbol. Take the character for the sun, ri.

   ri, Chinese character for sun.

This symbol for sun not only says sun, it combines multiple impressions of the sun, including roundness, centrality, and also means day. A character or symbol condenses many layers of meaning and related expressions. They reflect universal archetypes. Two or more characters can be combined to portray new meaning. For example, sun and moon together, can be translated as brightness. Yet, inherent in the combined character, is so much more than our English word “bright”. Images of a dazzling shiny sun in a perfect sky, or a perfect full shining white moon, are conjured in the imagination.


Pictographs or symbols are powerful motifs for conjuring within us the archetypal meaning. The symbol creates a resonance that vibrates through time and space to affect our experience on subtle levels. Asiatic people who translate their written word in this manor are in contact with their Hun soul more than their Western counterpart.

The Po soul employs the five senses and controls the five emotions of the Wu Xing. Hence, the Po controls the classical meridians. The Hun soul controls our essential nature, and hence, our congenital meridians. The Po’s experience is limited by the transient sense faculties. To experience reality through the Hun soul is therefore to experience through the congenital meridians and energetic system. The congenital meridians process a direct link to the energies of Earth and Heaven. Our central chong mai meridian acts as an antenna conducting the information drawn down from Heaven. Man is positioned as a conduit between the forces of Heaven and Earth.

The chong mai extends outside our physical bodies, and this energetic field feeds back information to us, which is sensed intuitively, via our energetic system. The Daoist practice of Shen Gong utilises this facility, allowing us to sense the energies within nature and other people. The practice of Shen Gong allows us to connect with a tree and feel its Wood energy rising and pushing out. Linking our energy systems to the energy of Nature gives us direct energetic experience. For example, a blossoming flower may create an expansive radiance within the middle dan tien, as it is an expression of Fire energy.

Whilst connecting to energies in this manner we can also receive relevant information that speaks in the language of symbols and metaphors. Our rationalistic Po soul will see a tree with our eyes, possibly smell it with our nose and hear the wind blow through its leaves. The Po will possibly categorises it, by giving it a name, or judging its size against another, or identify its leaf shape. On the other hand, our Hun soul, will read the tree in symbols that speak to us on a more personal level.

“He who sees the infinite in all things sees God.

 He who sees the ratio sees himself only”

                                    from There is no Natural Religion

                                                by William Blake


Mandelas, sacred symbolism, emblems, talismans, poetry and art are often utilized in religious and esoteric philosophies. This is sometimes to hide information but invariably it is because far more information can be conveyed than through the rationalistic narrowly defined nature of the written word. Daoism makes use of several symbolic images to portray its cosmological metaphysics. The yin/yang divides the universe into two forces. The five phases of the Wu Xing has its elemental forces and cycles. The Chinese calendar represents seasonal and planetary rhythms and patterns with totemic animals. The Yi Jing encompasses a detailed outline of alchemical timing and provides a diagrammatic blueprint of Cosmology and Alchemy.


The Wu Xing embodies far more than at first appears. The colour, flavour, direction, season, tone, smell, emotion and force are grouped together, because they each represent the same vibration in reality, but perceived by the senses, in a different form. The symbolic representation allows for a more profound understanding of reality on a more ephemeral level, than a linguistic description could achieve, through the engagement of Po cognition. For this reason knowledge is transmitted to spiritual students via the use of the abstract. Within Alchemy, the symbol is not only an approximate description of inward processes it is also a revelation, giving us profound insight.

“Things in our world today are conceptualised as nothing more than ‘objects‘ by our language and rational perspective. Although this makes it simpler to deal with the world around us, it has stifled the changeable or ‘living aspect‘ in everything”

                                                Masunaga, 1987

Sources of reference

Burckhardt, Titus. 2006. Alchemy – Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. Louisville : Fons Vitae, 2006.

Dechar, Lorie Eve. 2006. Five Spirits. New York : Lantern Books, 2006.

Reichstein, Gail. 1998. Wood Becomes Water. NY : Kodansha International, 1998.