Keepers of the Soul – The Five Guardian Elements of Acupuncture Nora Franglen Publishers: Singing Dragon, 2013 Paperback: 296pp ISBN: 9781848191853 Price: £15.99
Patterns of Practice – Mastering the Art of Five Element Acupuncture Nora Franglen Publishers: Singing Dragon, 2013 Paperback: 128pp ISBN: 9781848191877 Price: £13.99
The Simple Guide to Five Element Acupuncture Nora Franglen Publishers: Singing Dragon, 2013 Paperback: 144pp ISBN: 9781848191860
The Handbook of Five Element Practice Nora Franglen Publishers: Singing Dragon, 2013 Paperback: 208pp, with a teach yourself manual. ISBN: 9781848191884 Price: £27.99
Singing Dragon Press continue their excellent practice of publishing books on Chinese medicine with an emphasis on books unlikely to find favour with more medical/scientific publishers. They have now given a home to Nora Franglen’s four previously published books, three of which were originally published by the School of Five Element Acupuncture, of which she was the founder and principal.
Her great love is the Five Elements and it is the diagnosis and treatment of the Elements that has formed the core of her practice of acupuncture. To Maciocia the Elements are ‘qualities of Nature’, to Franglen they are ‘Keepers of the Soul’. What predominantly interests her is what she calls the ‘soul’, which in a fairly typical example of her writing style ‘evokes an echo of that deeper world inside us, that ‘something of the gods’ which has drawn each one of us up out of the primaeval slime into the gleaming worlds which beckon far beyond and deep within us.’ In this respect, and in many others, she shares her teacher J.R. Worsley’s focus on the ‘spirit’ (or ‘soul’ as Franglen prefers) and the belief that this is the crucial aspect to diagnose and treat in a patient. Worsley’s legacy in this respect is very much in keeping with the priorities of the Han dynasty classics. Su Wen chapters 14 and 28, Ling Shu chapter 8, the Taisu and Zhang Jie-bin from the Ming dynasty all stress that this should be the most important focus of treatment.
For better or for worse, there are no concessions to any of the forms of Oriental medicine that explain why a patient’s body behaves as it does. Why does this patient have scanty periods whereas this one has heavy periods? Why does this patient become breathless on exertion whereas another becomes breathless during the night? These are not the kinds of issues that Franglen addresses in any of these books. This says a lot about her approach to acupuncture, about which she says she has a ‘dislike of using the word medicine in conjunction with acupuncture, implying as it does that all we do is deal with sick people. This is so far from the truth as to be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.’ In The Handbook of Five Element Practice, where she sets out a guide for practitioners who want to practise this style, it is remarkable that her style of practice is almost completely unchanged from what she learned at Leamington in the 1980s. This even includes the Law of Cure, which Worsley borrowed from homeopathy and has no place in Chinese medicine. The names of the points are regarded as extremely important in this lineage of acupuncture and she makes much of the point St 24, based on the name Worsley uses, Lubrication Food Gate, a name rejected by all other translators of point names. Keepers of the Soul is predominantly the book in which she sets out her vision of the Five Elements, but it is present in all four books. She describes Worsley’s central diagnostic focus, the ‘CF’ (the primary imbalance amongst the Five Elements), as ‘one in particular has been selected as our special guardian to watch over and protect us, singling us out to bestow upon us the responsibility of our own individuality.’ She sees it as ‘a blessing handed to us at our conception to provide a direction for our life.’ Quite who or what does the ‘selecting’, ‘singling out’ or ‘handing to us’ is not explained. Practitioners who place an emphasis on the difficult art of diagnosing the patient’s CF might be surprised to read that ‘the Elements will wait for you to find them, and show their faces more and more clearly with time.’
To illustrate her thoughtful perceptions on the nature of the Elements and how they manifest in people, she uses celebrities as examples. Nelson Mandela, Dolly Parton, Queen Victoria, Victoria Beckham, the Dalai Lama and many others are cited as exemplifying aspects of the Five Elements. Elvis Presley hiding himself ‘behind an aura of untouchability’ is cited as evidence of the nature of the Metal Element. Billy Connolly and Tony Blair are the two main examples of the Fire Element, David Beckham of the Water Element.
Keepers of the Soul is at times illuminating and anyone who wants to further their understanding of how the Five Elements can manifest in a person will benefit from the author’s experience and insights. She has thought long and hard about their nature. However one has to dig in order to find the nuggets. At times it is unnecessarily long winded. For example, ‘As I sit here, pen in hand, paper before me, my soul engaged, my mind attempting to find expression for that which my soul feels, my body shifting on the chair, all these different facets of my being and my doing are defined by the different qualities of the elements working their creative magic upon me.’ To describe the many different decisions involved in making a cup of tea takes up three quarters of a page, over 300 words. A valid point but it could have been made more succinctly. The author has also thought deeply about how the ‘practice of acupuncture enlarges the experience and understanding of the practitioner.’ This is an aspect of practice that is fascinating to explore and sadly one that few authors have attempted. Patterns of Practice is largely her personal contemplations on her many years of practising Five Element acupuncture and there is much for practitioners of the style, and any style, to consider and reflect upon.
The Simple Guide to Acupuncture is written for the general public. It is very brief and focuses very heavily on the Five Elements.
Nora Franglen has a true passion for teaching how to use the Five Elements in acupuncture practice. This has led her in recent times to teach the style to some practitioners in China. Given the Chinese preoccupation with making acupuncture a form of ‘scientific medicine’, this is an extraordinary achievement. The new revised edition of the Handbook of Five Element Practice now has an appendix which is a Teach Yourself Manual. Based on the material in the book, this has sixteen lessons that anyone who wants to study her style of diagnosis and treatment can follow. This is an admirable effort to teach a style that relies so heavily on sensory acuity and an intuitive grasp of the nature of the patient’s inner world. The author acknowledges the limitations of this approach but her passion for the subject is such that she is driven to do all she can to pass on her experience and her vision of how acupuncture should be practised.
Peter Mole Peter Mole is the Dean of the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine. He has been an acupuncture practitioner in Oxford since 1978. He has been teaching for over 25 years, first in Leamington Spa and since 1993 at CICM in Reading. He is the author of a book for the general public, Acupuncture for Body, Mind and Spirit, and he is co-author with John and Angela Hicks, of the text book Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture. He was a founding council member of the British Acupuncture Council.