herbs and spices
The knowledge of the Soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general, and, above all, to our understanding of nature, for the Soul is in some sense the principle of animal life.
~ Aristotle


This transdisciplinary project transgresses the bounds of culture and history relative to food, herbs, Soul, and astrology. I explore Soul from antiquity to the modern era in China and Europe. The scaffold for organizing the therapeutic use of flavours in culinary arts and herbal practice is the Tang Ye Jing (The Soup Classic), which describes the power of nourishing, draining, and transforming for each of the five flavours. The Soul receives a therapeutic opportunity through these connections, and practitioners may find some practical applications.


During antiquity, numbers provided a cognitive structure for analyzing the Soul. Both Greeks and Chinese used a binary observation of the animating life force, eventually developing tripartite concepts of the Soul. For Homer, Psyche, and Thumos expressed life arising in a body. Similarly, the Chinese had the terms Shen and Jing, which described consciousness arising in the substrate of bodily essence. The concept of the Soul progressed into a tripartite form for the Greeks, and while not described as Soul, the three treasures served the same purpose in China.

Galen, one of the Greek anatomists, placed the corporeal Soul into anatomical locations, with rational Soul in the brain, spirit in the heart, and the appetitive Soul in the liver. Chinese thinkers also located consciousness in the five organs of the heart, lung, spleen, liver, and kidney (see Table 1 – Chinese Concepts of Soul).

The five-fold concept of the Soul fits well with the table of dignities in the European tradition, whereby one can see strengths and weaknesses in each of the columns: domicile, exaltation, triplicity, bounds, and face. It reveals the vagaries of the Soul with nuance and grace.


Medical assessment during the Renaissance and early modern period often distinguishes between mind and body. The connection between the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant to their rulers accounted for a vital link between body and Soul (Salmon, 1671; Saunders, 1677). I use these premodern views to remediate Psyche[1] in herbal practice.[2]

The ideas of the Soul from Greece, as set forth by Homer, Plato, and Aristotle, included Psyche, numous, thumos, and eros. In comparison, China used terms such as shen, hun, po, zhi, and yi.[3] We will discuss each of these concepts in this treatise, along with their astrological correlations in the five visible planets by employing the Essential Dignities Table (Table 6, Part 3).

Part 1: Soul Flavours: Soul as Word

Soul as Word

The concept of the Soul loses traction due to mutable applications. It becomes necessary, therefore, to define the term for different periods and cultures. I begin with Strong's Concordance where the original word is ψυχή, ῆς, ἡ, romanized as psuché and pronounced as psoo-khay, or the breath, the Soul. Breath forms the vitalizing force called Pneuma in Greece and Europe, Qi in China, Prana in India, and Ka in Egypt.

For Homer the presence of Psyche was the difference between the living and the dead (David, 2012), while Edward Sachau states, in his book, Albiruni's India: An Account of the Religion, Philosophy, Literature, Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, Customs, Laws and Astrology of India circa 1030 A.D.:

People say the Soul resembles the rainwater which comes down from heaven, always the same and of the same nature. However, if it is gathered in vessels placed for the purpose, vessels of different materials, of gold, silver, glass, earthenware, clay, or bitter-salt Earth, it begins to differ in appearance, taste, and smell. Thus the Soul does not influence matter in any way, except in this, that it gives matter life by being in close contact with it (p. 49 1988).

The polyvalent nature of the term Soul mutates within the same culture, over time and across continents, leading to terms as Daemon, Spirit, genius, personality, destiny, Power, and fate (Greenbaum, 2016). Ambiguities are increased when these concepts describe factors referring to self and apparitions other than self, such as Lots, spirits of the ancestors, and locations.

Empedocles's term for the Soul was 'daemon.' Yet, Plato externalizes the word Daemon as a mediator between gods and humans. He also saw the Daemon as a spiritual guide through life, where it plays a part in the struggle to help the Soul ascend to the divine.

In Plato's Myth of Er, the Soul chooses a purpose on Earth before birth. Drinking the waters of forgetfulness at the river Lethe, a person is born into life, unwitting of the fate their Soul has chosen. It is the purpose of the Daemon, then, to guide the person into the agreed-upon experiences (Lorenz, 2009).[4] An intervention based on the 11th house Almuten and its composition can activate this good Daemon.[5]

The cultural roots of these ideas lay within the antiquity of Greece and China. They include a novel use of the table of dignities to evaluate the condition of a given individual's Psyche. The norm in most applications for the table of dignities is to identify the Almuten and develop strategies once given that information. Rather than using an Almuten, I recommend using all planets that influence a particular degree sector, as shown in a Table of Dignities (Table 6, Part 3). I use it to select flavours for dishes or herbs that affect each planetary influence through the 'doctrine of correspondences' (Zhang, 2015).

The Soul in Ancient Greece

Homer discusses the Soul as Psyche and Thumos[6]. Thus, Psyche describes our presence in the process of living, whereas Thumos is the passion for life itself. Homer also refers to the Phren, which holds the liver and is used to control emotions. They partner with Thumos in the heart. The Phren is likely the diaphragm, a critical tool for suppressing emotions that arise with Thumos and passions. Thus the balanced Phren was associated with balanced emotions (Zhang, 2015).[7]

Empedocles believed that souls populated both plant and animal kingdoms, expressing animism as a feature of the Soul. The contemporary movements in the herbal disciplines towards a conscious relationship with the plant kingdom suggest a return to such sentiments. It becomes a de-anthropomorphizing moment, toppling the human hierarchical position in the world.

The Western philosophical roots of the tripartite Soul begin with the cults of Pythagoras, and Plato, while Aristotle and Galen declared the Soul a feature of pneuma or air (Aristotle, 2001, Chapter Two).[8] To Aristotle, "Each part of the body possesses the virtue of a ratio between the elements." And "Is the Soul identified with this ratio, or is it not something over and above this which is informed in the parts? Is love the cause of any and every mixture" (Aristotle, 2001, Chapter Two)

The Soul and Lot of Spirit, Fortune

Vettius Valens' all-seeing Sun was fire-like, bringing the light of the mind and the organ of perception to the Soul. He speaks of the Lots of Fortune and Daemon (Spirit) having Power over the Soul. He evaluated the Lots by locations, rulers, and aspects. In the example given by Neugebauer, Saturn opposes the Lot of Daemon and produces ailments of the intellect and Soul. At the same time, the Lots are a set of acts or events one experiences. To properly evaluate the Soul, assess the lot ruler, speech (2nd house), knowledge (3rd house), and actualizations (angular positions) from the Lot of the Daemon (Valens, 1996).

Profections serve as a method for analyzing events affecting the Soul, especially those relative to the Sun and Lot of the Daemon. Profections to the Moon and Lot of Fortune give knowledge of events related to the fortunes and the body. Examine how all of these factors are related. If these four factors should be in benefic relationship and make harmonious phases, they signify that the year is good; if malefic, it is the opposite. When both benefic and malefic, they produce a mixed year. In the end, use the Lots to assess the trail of experiences the Soul experiences during its journey (Valens, 1996).

The Soul in China

Often, the concepts blur in translation and relaxed social application. In this instance, the term Soul serves as a primary identifier for matters of Psyche and their assessment. Shen refers to the spirit but has powerful parallels with the notion of the idealized singular Soul in the West.

The earliest literature on the spirits within the Chinese medical corpus describes the union of heaven and Earth, man and woman, and essence and Soul to form the human being. There is further discussion whereby the animal and spirit souls meet the rational Soul in the form of the three treasures: spirit, qi, and essence.

As a singular principle, the nature of the Soul is called Shen in Chinese. When the Soul concept is plural, the physical Soul starts with conception when life begins and becomes the foundation of the Shen. The Yellow Emperor's physician says the Shen resides in the heart, and when the physical and spiritual souls consolidate, the human takes form. In the Spiritual Axis Chapter 54, the mother accomplishes the creation and serves as the foundation in conjunction with the father. Thus, losing Shen is death, and obtaining Shen is life (P. U. Unschuld, 2016; Wu NL, 1996).

In the Spiritual Axis, Chapter 8, Rooted in Spirit, it states, "That which the Heart reflects upon is called the intellect; that which the Mind (Yi) stores is called the Will (Zhi)." Further, "That which follows the coming and going of the Soul is called the Ethereal Soul (Hun), and that which binds to the essence is called the Corporeal Soul (Po)" (Larre & Rochat de la Vallée, 1991; Wu NL, 1996).

Thus, the heart values the spirits (Shen), the lung values the corporeal Soul (Po), the liver values the ethereal (Hun), the spleen values the ability of the mind to conceive of possibilities (Yi), the kidneys values the will (Zhi) (Yang & Morris, 2007). These five aspects of the Soul are commensurate with the five visible planets (please see Table 1, below).

Table 1 – Chinese Concepts of Soul
This table derives from the Heshang Gong Commentary on Lao Zi's Dao De Jing, including references to the planetary assignments discussed in the Simple Questions (2015).
Nature Propriety Trustworthiness Loyalty Benevolence Wisdom
Soul Spirit (Shen) Thought (Yi) Corporeal (Po) Ethereal (Hun) Will (Zhi)
Emotions Love

There is a difference between planetary rulers of organs for the Han Dynasty (220 CE) compared to those of the European tradition. Specifically, Venus rules the lungs rather than the kidneys, and Mercury governs the kidneys rather than the lungs. Note also that Jupiter rules the liver in both systems. Embrace the difference to maintain integrity to the therapeutic principles employ Chinese acupuncture meridian-based concepts or as a basis for remediation.[9]

The Soul moves in the world as a spark of consciousness embedded within the blood. Blood carries the stream of epigenetic influences of the ancestors. Thus, it is implicit that spirit is the foundation of remediation. General mental health principles and qualities of the Soul include unity, awareness, clarity, balance, Power, flexibility, stability, reactivity, initiation, and processing.[10]  Most of these concepts are located in Chapter 8 of the Spiritual Axis, Rooted in Spirit, where the Yellow Emperor (Hung Di) asks his physician Qi Bo:

Huang Di asked Qi Bo: All norms of piercing [require one] to first of all consider the spirit as the foundation. Blood, vessels… [defensive] qi, essence and spirit, they are stored in the five long-term depots. When someone leads an excessive life and [these contents] leave the long-term depots, then [this person's] essence will be lost. His hun and po souls will rise into the air; his mind and intentions will be utterly confused. His knowledge and his considerations leave his body, why is that so? Is this a fault that can be attributed to heaven? Or is this a transgression of that person? What are they to say: virtue, qi, life, essence, spirit, hun soul, po soul, heart, intention, mind, pondering, knowledge, and considerations? I would like to enquire about the causes of all of them (Unschuld, 2016).

Unity refers to the coherence between the five souls as a singularity (Morris, 2015). Thus, the liver houses the ethereal Soul known as the hun; the material Soul having an experience of the world is the po and resides in the lungs. The Soul of the spleen/pancreas,[11] yi imagines possibilities, whereas the kidney's Soul is the will to act and is called the zhi. In a healthy state, these souls are united in a cooperative form. If one of the five souls is hyper or hypo-functioning, it affects the others. Moderate dignity and coherence between a visible planet and its dispositor create better circumstances for Soul level Unity and integrity.

Awareness refers to knowledge of self and the social systems in which one operates. This facet of conscious being is critical to health. Observe the light refraction in the eyes. This level of consciousness arrives when the lights are well placed and in good accord with their dispositors.

Clarity is an unclouded mind. Objects such as the Moon and the South Node of the Moon create muddled states, as can watery signs. It is the lights of the Moon and Sun that bring clarity.

Balance refers to character without extremes. In Table 6 (Table of Dignities, Part 3), I see it as represented by a moderate level of dignity. Further, balance is seen in the sky and chart above, below, and left and right.

Dignity is essential for evaluating Power, which parallels dignity and relates to the capacity to fulfill various life requirements—extremes of dignity show where Power is increased by attention. The proverb states, ‘Where the mind goes, qi follows; where qi goes, blood follows.’

A flexible soul allows one to shift perspectives. Mutable or dual signs convey this quality.

Strong vitality is needed for a healthy spirit. It is seen by supportive conditions of the Ascendant, Sun, and Moon and their dispositors. The ability to maintain attention and concentration on the inner work is known as stability. The presence of fixed signs and houses 2,5,8,11 as the middle section of the quadrants lend stability.

Soul reactivity is the ability to respond moderately to incoming information in a harmonious and timely manner without becoming triggered. Fire signs are cardinal signs that quicken reactivity, while fixed and water signs slow the reactive process.

Soul initiation is the ability to begin. It arises in the heart as desire combines with motivation. Compromise occurs when external circumstances prevent this initiative, causing the Soul to become numb. The strength of the Sun and Mars are signifiers for initiation.

Soul processing, is the ability to apply particular concepts. Each of the five souls has its contribution to this feature of wisdom. Dignity, beneficial sign, and house placements assist Mercury's conditions for processing.

The term wǔ xíng translates as five movements and transformations. In medicine, it is often poorly translated as an 'element.' The idea that planets are moving objects in space describes the heavenly transformations of the five elements and likely preceded the medicalized literate canon of the privileged class during the empire of the Han Dynasty. Thus xīng xíng describes the concept of moving planets (Yang & Morris, 2007).

Go to Part 2: Soul Flavours: Astrology and the Soul

Go to Part 3: Soul Flavours: Operating the Method



The author would like to express the deepest gratitude to Scott Silverman for his editorial assistance, while taking full responsibility for any and all errors of grammar, linguistics, and rationale. Further appreciation goes to my teacher Lee Lehmann who encouraged me to embark on this paper, I hope that my departures from tradition are not disturbing and that there is sufficient explanation.

William Morris, DAOM PhD

William Morris is a medical astrologer who gave his first consultation in 1977. He is practicing in the Kootenay Lake District of British Columbia. His background includes a master's degree in medical education from the University of Southern California, a clinical Doctorate and Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and a PhD in transformative inquiry focused on practice-based knowing. Will has published books on TCM and astrology and has 43 years of clinical experience using astrology as a feature of practice. During the 1990s he focused his practice on the methods of Lilly and Culpeper with 40 patients a week. He also used sidereal, cosmobiology, and Jyotish methods during that period. His work is a creole blend of music, astrology, medicine, and magic.

Endnotes for Part 1

[1] Psyche is a feminine part of speech, intimating the Sanskrit notion of Jivatma, the receptive individual life experience of a whole intelligence.

[2] The practitioner has an ethical obligation to possess the appropriate medical qualifications for the art of practice in which they are engaged.

[3] Briefly, shen is spirit, hun is the ethereal soul, po is the corporeal soul, zhi is the intent to act, and yi is the consiousness of possibilities.

[4] In Ayurveda, there are four pillars of health which include: material needs (earth), relational needs (air), fulfillment of purpose (fire), and ultimately, liberation (water). Based on this schema, the fulfillment of purpose in life is a foundational feature of health and has a direct connection with the very daimon that guides the person to their destiny.

[5] Interventions might be ritual, sounds, chants, foods, herbal formulas, prayers, or physical agents applied to the body.

[6] Hellenistic, circa 200 BC to 600 AD has many luminaries from Nechepso and Petoserus, to Manillius, Claudius Ptolemy, Dorotheus of Sidon, and Vettius Valens.

[7] Planets square the nodal axis of the Moon suggest a tense abdominal diaphragm in the native according to Draconic Anatomy (Morris, 2018).

[8] This explains the divisions of the Soul as dual and tripartite, but also allows for the logics of a five-fold nature of the Soul as practiced in China.

[9] This highlights a feature of transdisciplinary efforts: the integrity of thought models is sustained while the isomorphisms (common elements) shared between the transgressed zones of inquiry are identified and articulated (Montuori, 2005). As for the organ assignments of the planets, when using Chinese therapeutic models in a Western project, the assumptions of the culture of origin are protected and sustained. Cultural appreciation does not make for cultural appropriation.

[10] Dr. Joseph Yang and I discuss these matters in an Acupuncture Today article (Yang & Morris, 2007)..

[11] Translators usually translate the term Pi as Spleen, which is responsible for transforming and transporting nutrients. Another term in translation is pancreas, which also describes the digestive process of transformation and transportation but makes more sense in terms of anatomy and physiology.

Go to References for this article.