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The Po & Hun 

We have two aspects to our consciousness.

The Ethereal Soul (Hun) is the aspect of consciousness that comes from the Heavens and leaves the body in death to return there. It is subtle and intangible in its form. It arrives last after birth and it is the first to leave at death. The Corporeal Soul, or “Po” exists in implicit dualism to its eternal counterpart, the Ethereal Soul. The Corporeal Soul is deeply connected with our Essence (Jing) and related to our physiological growth and development, as well as our breakdown and eventual decomposition. It rises from the Earth to form our bodies, it is the first life force to arrive, and it remains in the elements of the body at the time of death, escaping last after death to return to the Earth. In the Spiritual Axis, the Po is referred to as the “entrance and exit of Essence”. The Po is associated with the earthly and material aspects of human existence, including the physical body and its sensations.

“At the subconscious level, the Corporeal Soul represents all the processes that do not reach a person’s consciousness and, therefore, do not reach the spirit of the heart”

Alexa, Centina. “Pò — the Corporeal Soul — [魄] — the Five Shen [Part II].” Medium, 11 Feb. 2023, medium.com/@centinaalexa/p%C3%B2-the-corporeal-soul-%E9%AD%84-the-five-shen-part-ii-c27a3baf9b18. Accessed 2023.

The Chinese character for Po comprises two radicals. The first character on the left means “bai” or “white”. The left side of the character consists of the same radical used to represent “soul” or “ghost” in the Ethereal Soul character, which translates as “Cloud Soul.” As you can see, the character for “Po” translates into “White Soul”. I personally think this is interesting because that describes the Po aspect in such a physical, substantial way when we compare it to “Cloud Soul”, used for the absolutely intangible Hun, and that makes sense since these two aspects of our conscience are just that: the “Formless” and the “Tangible” Consciousness.

Po, Corporeal Soul

The Po Doesn’t Feel; It’s Emotional

The Po, often associated with weeping and grief, emotionally connects to Lung’s energy. But Po can deal with a range of emotions, not just grief and sadness. We simply need to clarify whether we refer to unconscious emotions that we inwardly suppress or conscious emotions that we process outwardly. In my earlier post about the Shen and the Hun, we discussed how the Shen manages conscious emotions that find expression, recognizing and experiencing them, and transforming them into feelings. The Po handles our subconscious emotions; those lying beneath the surface, unrecognized yet still profound. This is the realm the Po operates in, emotionally.

The Lung organ system links the Po to the skin and thusly connects the Corporeal soul to the senses of touch, (as well as hearing and sight, when paired with functions of Shen). It also links Po to our breathing processes, which is why the right breathing exercises can help to harmonize the interplay between the Hun and Po. The Lung organ system is also in charge of dispersing Qi, throughout the whole body. Emotions that constrict the Corporeal Soul will cause Qi to accumulate in the chest region, which can lead to breast or lung nodules.

From a psychological standpoint, we can perceive harmonizing the Po aspect within ourselves as some of the deepest emotional work we can engage in. Together, the Po and Essence act as our physiological blueprint in life and death, and it is through our Extraordinary vessels that this unfurls. 

The Secret of the Golden Flower states that the Corporeal Soul is associated with darkness and seeks death, while the Ethereal Soul cherishes life.”

Alexa, Centina. “Pò — the Corporeal Soul — [魄] — the Five Shen [Part II].” Medium, 11 Feb. 2023, medium.com/@centinaalexa/p%C3%B2-the-corporeal-soul-%E9%AD%84-the-five-shen-part-ii-c27a3baf9b18. Accessed 2023.

The Hun and Po, the two aspects of consciousness and their interplay, form our existence and our life’s journey as we know it. We thrive when we harmonize these aspects and, equally, we expire with their separation.

Need More?

If you’re curious to explore more on the Taoist perspective on the Hun & Po energies, this article by Elizabeth Reninger on LearnReligion.com presents a unique perspective that offers valuable insights and makes for an enjoyable read. David Twicken also skillfully presents an extensive exploration of the Five Shen model and even some additional perspectives in his enlightening two-part article published by Acupuncture Today.

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. No product mentioned herein is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only.

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