Viewing Life through the Prism of the Five Elements Nora Franglen Published by SOFEA, 2009 Softback, 128 pages. Price: £12
(Reviewed by Vasanthy Watt, EJOM Vol. 6 No. 4)
Nora Franglen was the Founder/Principal of the School of Five Element Acupuncture (SOFEA) in London from 1995-2007. She is also the author of A Simple Guide to Acupuncture: the Five Elements, The Handbook of Five Element Practice, and Keepers of the Soul: The Five Guardian Elements of Acupuncture.
The obvious readership for this book will be the members of the Five Element school of acupuncture, and those TCM practitioners who may be interested in treating psychological problems, or perhaps are simply curious to know more about the Five Element approach as practised by a thoughtful and experienced practitioner. As stated on the back cover, “We rarely have the opportunity to share the reflections of another practitioner on their practice.” There are very few books available on Five Element acupuncture compared to the huge catalogue that has now built up over the last 20 years based on the TCM approach. Her insight is based on over twenty years’ experience as a Five Element practitioner and on her years as a teacher of this style at SOFEA.
This is a thoughtful, reflective, well-considered book. Although consisting of twelve chapters, this is more of an extended essay on the author’s reflections of her practice and approach and less of a textbook that one would refer to for information on how to practise Five Element acupuncture. Those of us who trained in Five Element acupuncture know anyway that it is impossible to learn this style as a formulaic system and it can only really be learned in a practical way, whilst learning the theory is only the very basic step in this approach. Charmingly, the chapter headings not only contain a title but also a subtitle of the name of a point to give the reader an idea of what the author is trying to convey in each one, such as Chapter 1, Challenges of a Five Element practice, Listening Palace, Chapter 4, Doorways to the elements, Spirit Path, and so on.
The author reveals in these chapters how far one really can take the idea of a reflective practice, and how far-reaching and rewarding the Five Element approach can be in the hands of someone who is not afraid to meet headlong the challenges of working in this way. This book would be very inspirational to the established and newly qualified Five Element practitioner, but what of the TCM practitioner, who is comfortable to view all problems patients come with in terms of excess or deficiency, internal or external etc? Of what value is this book to them? I would say to them that perhaps it is even more important that they read this book, because all too often it is easy to become mechanical and formulaic in our approach with patients, too often easy to overlook the deeper needs which our patients come with, which we may think irrelevant in our remit as a practitioner. What of the patient who has more long-term chronic problems physically, or psychologically and has had a challenging life in terms of their relationships, childhood and current situation? The author argues eloquently that the Five Element approach has the most to offer here.
I would have liked to have seen more case histories in this book, particularly after reading Chapter 2, The Imprint of Imbalance, Penetrating Inside, and Chapter 4, Doorways to the Elements, Spirit Path, where the author describes in detail a case where she resolved a tooth abscess by treating the colon and stomach exit and entry points.
I suspect many Five Element practitioners will find a resonance with all of this book. It was good to find my own experience reflected in the author’s description of encountering the guardian elements of her patients, and how they evoke particular responses in her, (see Chapters 4, Doorways to the Elements, Spirit Path, 5, Facing the Unknown, People Welcome, and 6, The Universally Human, Great Oneness). In fact these three chapters alone are worth paying the price for this book.
The last chapter (The Tide of Fate, Dark Gate) and the afterword, (Healing in Death, Soul Door) also leave one wanting more of Ms Fanglen’s insights, and in particular wanting to hear more about her case histories. Perhaps this is what the author intended in the first place, that her book should act as a launch platform from which to explore the depths to which a Five Element approach can take us, and as a challenge to all practitioners to examine how much we meet our patients’ needs as they change and how much we retreat behind a formulaic approach. Certainly, this book inspires one to explore the author’s other works. Vasanthy Watt Vasanthy Watt graduated with a licentiate in acupuncture from the School of Traditional Acupunctue, Leamington Spa, in 1989. She studied TCM on the Integration Course with John and Angela Hicks, and obtained her diploma in Chinese herbal medicine from the School of Herbal Medicine, with Michael McIntyre and Mazin Al-Khafaji in 1996. She practises in Loughborough, Leicestershire.