|Figure 1: The
Humours, with their Elemental Planetary Correspondences.|
Astrology and Health
vitalism and humours
This article seeks to explain the principles of humoral physiology, for when properly understood, humoral ideas are just as valid today as they have been for thousands of years. The concepts of the humours were originally developed by the Greek physician Hippocrates (c460-377 BC). He was born and lived on the island of Kos. He was trained in the Asclepiad tradition
of medicine, as revealed by the opening address of the Hippocratic oath:
I swear by almighty Apollo, by Asclepios, by Hygeia and Panacea...
Asclepios was the Greek god of medicine and a mythological healer strongly connected to the Solar cult of Apollo. Hygeia is the feminine consort of Asclepios, while Panacea is the universal medicine (or vital force) generated by the Sun.
Waters of the Psyche
The word humour derives from the Latin humor meaning "fluid, or liquid". The term encompasses not only the body fluids, such as blood, bile and lymph, but also the "Waters" of the psyche.
Humour as expressed in comedy is also included in
the term. Jokes by invoking incongruent images in the mind cause
a sudden release of emotional energy that truly reflects the spirit of
the person. Such is the power of the emotional release that it can
generate Watery physiological responses such as crying or urination in
the body, as exemplified in the phrase "pissing themselves with laughter"!
The objective of humoral physiology is to understand how the patient's
vital force or spirit is manifesting by the way the body fluids are circulating
in the body.
Humour and Temperament
The four humours are perceived within the blood using each of the four Elements in turn.
As shown in Figure 1:
- The melancholic humour (Gk. melanchole = black bile) corresponds to Earth
- the phlegmatic humour (Gk. phlegma = phlegm) corresponds to Water
- the choleric humour (Gk. chole = bile) corresponds to Fire
- the sanguine humour (L. sanguineous = bloody) corresponds to Air.
Each humour has its own temperament in terms of hot, cold, wet and dry, and is traditionally ruled by different Planets, according to their sympathetic
natures. For example, Jupiter is associated with the hot and moist,
muggy atmosphere before a thunderstorm, so therefore rules the hot and
moist sanguine humour. As already discussed, scientific medicine, in following a chemical definition of an element as a unit of material composition, has lost all sight of what is described by these powerful symbols.
Since humoral physiology is based upon the active perception by the physician of the Elemental symbols within the body's physiology, this materialistic definition of an element effectively blocked the perception of the humours.
The subsequent, exclusive pursuit of a purely physical basis to the body's
physiology (explaining changes solely in terms of biochemistry), effectively
caused an abrupt decline in humoral knowledge in Western medicine.
Once again medical propaganda
has proclaimed this change as a triumph of science over the mumbo-jumbo
of the past. However, since the basis of humoral physiology is essentially
one of perception, there is absolutely no reason why humoral ideas cannot
be considered alongside biochemical physiology. In fact, when the
two disciplines are juxtaposed, further fascinating insights into both are
generated which essentially puts the spirit back into medicine. This
knowledge can train physicians and therapists to be more sympathetic to patients' needs and shows how mental and emotional experience affects their diseases. It offers solutions to treating illness other than the
purely physical. It helps patients to regain responsibility for their
own health and illness. Finally and most importantly, it enhances
the healing process.
Humoral physiology may at the outset seem very naive and simplistic; however, deriving from a two thousand year tradition, it has a depth and subtlety linking mind to body that modern biochemical medicine is desperately in need of.