If we now look at the functions of the two Outer Fire officials, they both act as protectors of the Heart in their midst, but each with a different emphasis. Though obviously closely associated with the Heart, they are the only officials to have functions which extend over the body as a whole, rather than being closely related to a particular organ within that body, as, for example, the Small Intestine is to the Heart. The Three Heater acts as the body's thermostat, keeping it at an even temperature. Its presence within the Fire element indicates its importance to the Heart, for its function is to maintain the warmth of the blood at a correct level to enable the Heart to pump it to each cell in the body. It also works hard at maintaining an even emotional temperature so that we blow neither too hot nor too cold in our relationships to others.
Its sister yin companion, the Heart Protector, is doing what its name suggests, acting as physical protection on the ramparts encircling the Heart at Fire's centre. I see the Heart Protector as patrolling these ramparts, sword in hand, preventing entry to those it feels might endanger the Heart. I like to think of the Heart Protector asking the Heart, "Is this person safe for you to love?", whilst the Small Intestine asks, "Is this person the right sort of person for you to love?".
Because the two sides of Fire have such different functions, they find their expression in different characteristics which we can observe in the people around us. Because all four officials form part of the Fire element, they have the same sensory signatures of colour, sound and smell, but I have come to see that the emotional imprint they give to those under their control differs quite markedly. When I am with somebody who is Outer Fire I therefore feel different from when I am with those who are Inner Fire. Perhaps I am particularly aware of this because Inner Fire, and particularly the yin Inner Fire official, the Small Intestine, is where the elements have imprinted me with their signature. And having observed myself closely for over 40 years, ever since I first encountered the concept of the elements, I know that my approach to life differs greatly from that of my fellow Outer Fire companions.
Since each of us is intimately acquainted with one particular element, our Guardian Element and its two officials, each of us is given the gift of understanding how that element manifests itself at a deep level if we work hard at observing ourselves in our interactions with others. In my case, I feel that I am fortunate in understanding the workings of the Fire element, and in particular of its Inner Fire aspect, the Small Intestine official, from a deeply personal point of view. I see it as being one of the reasons why my work as a five element acupuncturist developed in the way it did, particularly in relation to my writings and my teaching. It is the curiosity which underlies the Small Intestine's approach to life which stimulates all my thoughts, and leaves me dissatisfied until I have worked out to my satisfaction all the often puzzling dilemmas my practice confronts me with.
The Small Intestine's task is to sort through its thoughts and emotions to find solutions which it sees fit to pass through to the Heart. One of the ways I have therefore learnt to distinguish Inner from Outer Fire is often the puzzled look which I notice on my face, and on other Inner Fire faces, as we try to work out what we should be doing or feeling or saying. In a way, the whole of life can appear a puzzle to me, something I have all the time to unpick and piece together to make some of a sense, some kind of a whole. It is why, when I am writing things, as I am now doing, I am constantly correcting and amending what I have just written, draft after draft, until I am quite happy that my words describe the truth of what I am trying to say. I go through several handwritten and then typed drafts during this process, each draft the expression of the point at which my thoughts have reached, but each beckoning me to do more, often by cutting out extraneous words, sentences or even whole paragraphs, until I am happy with the final pared-down version.
It is often tiring for those with an Inner Fire person to follow the pattern of their thoughts, as these develop by fits and starts. For example, I often find myself correcting myself in mid-sentence and appearing to veer off sideways to express another thought.
By contrast, Outer Fire people show none of these hesitations, or stops and re-starts. Their thinking is not hampered by the need to get things absolutely right for the Heart, for they leave this task to their Inner Fire companions. Instead, they are much more articulate in expressing their thoughts, and therefore in many ways much easier to listen to, and certainly easier to be with. They have none of the kind of jitteriness I associate with my own relationships to others. Having the Three Heater as one of its officials, which has the function of maintaining warmth and harmony for the whole body, Outer Fire when in balance can be a very comfortable companion. it is eager to put the people it meets at their ease, because maintaining warm relationships is also one of its principal functions.
When in the presence of Outer Fire, we therefore often feel that we are at a party, happily enjoying ourselves with others. Inner Fire will express Fire's joy in shorter bursts, interspersed with often anxious moments when it is searching around for clues as to how it should react or what it should be doing. It is therefore not the easiest aspect of Fire to be in the presence of, often making others uneasy as they try to work out exactly how to react in Inner Fire's presence.
Over the years I have put together these useful pointers to the difference I feel between Inner and Outer Fire that five element acupuncturists may find useful in helping them develop their diagnostic skills.