Reflections on Liver 4 and Three Kinds of Power

Ankles are amazing. They are in charge of both stability and mobility. They need movement, but not too much—we also need not to sprain them. Somewhere in that balance of stiffness and looseness is Liver 4, an acupuncture point right there on the flexure of the ankle. It’s the Metal point on the Liver meridian. It’s the meeting point of, from above, all of history and tradition and structure and form, proclaiming “This is how it’s always been”; and a newly rising movement from below, without which we could not walk. That new movement creates a hinge in the ankle, which is just a tiny little movement, but it moves the whole person—or organization, or family.

In this context, I’d like to comment on three types of power. These are going to be three types of power with ancient Greek names.


The first type of power that I want to mention is arche. Arche is the power of origination. “En arche ein ho logos” means “In the beginning was the word.”

By ‘beginning’ we mean not just the starting line. When we say “in the beginning was the word,” we mean: This ‘word’ is what got things started. Arche is the power of getting something started, the power of origination, the place that the impulses of power are coming from. Examples are monarchy, anarchy, oligarchy. All of the ‘archy’ words are specifying where all the power starts.

Hierarchy is an example. Hieros actually means ‘the sacred,’ so in its original meaning, hierarchy is the power of the sacred that sends impulses into creation. That’s arche, the power of origination.

This is why Liver 4 on the ankle is such a crucial point. It is a point that is helpful for bringing new movement into an almost overwhelming level of existing historical organization and structure.


Nomos is another kind of power. Economics, for instance, is a word derived from this concept. Nomos is the power of the existing custom. “This is how it’s done. We do it this way.” Nomos is custom that has appeared to become—or actually has become—law. “We’ve always done it this way,” and so we think it’s natural law.

In fact, that’s what eco-nomics really means: This is natural law. This is how things go. But frequently it has become an artificial juggernaut. It certainly tends to have ‘staying power.’ It’s the Newtonian inertial object that is still, and so it tends to remain still. It’s important to notice it so that we can see it for what it is, and not feel so futile, like a David against a Goliath, or Moses facing Pharoah.

This face-off happens all the time. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated individuals can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

You can bring down Goliath with a sprained ankle. Can we sprain the ankle of an organization, a whole culture?

I don’t want to sound hostile about it. The spirit of Liver 4 is more like a small hinge in a particular joint, sending something moving in a new direction. Feet can turn an entire person, and they’re so small! This little arche can shift the direction of a giant nomos.


The third kind of power, which I mentioned so that you have the distinction to know when you are, and are not, using it, is kratia. Kratia is basically martial force. It’s the power to march in and make it happen. Demo-cracy, pluto-cracy, that’s the power of kratia. We have the soldiers; we can enforce.

There are times when people do need to march in, take away the drunk’s car keys, and leave with them. That’s kratia. I’m not saying that’s wrong. Sometimes it’s well placed.

Know about kratia, so that you know when you are in your power, but not necessarily that particular kind of power. Know that your arche is not the same as kratia. Arche is the power that God used to get this whole thing started, and is still using to get more things started. You just happen to be standing here, distinct yet not separate from all creation, so you make a good site of dispatch for new and creative movement.

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