A Unifying Concept by John Schmidt
“We need to hurry and leave for town,” I recently told my six year-old son. He asked me why and I explained we were late. His reply was, “Dad, you told me people invented time, so if we are late, why don’t we just un-invent it.” The same six year-old explained to me just two weeks earlier that, since a red object is actually absorbing all the light except for red and “sending it” back, red objects should be called “non-red.”
Bearing my son’s native wisdom in mind, I began reflecting on the nature of alternative health care. After 32 years as a chiropractor offering natural health care to my patients, I have come to the conclusion that there are certain health-related terms and concepts currently in usage that we would do well to “un-invent.” Similarly, the alternative community might profitably regard some things as a “non-entity” since they are, after all, social constructions and do not exist outside the realm of consensual human thought.
A century ago a man by the name of D.D. Palmer did just this as he began to write and speak out on a philosophy of natural healing. Palmer, a “vitalist”, developed his idea of natural healing as a profession quite distinct from the profession of allopathic medicine. He knew that avoiding allopathic terminology (lexicon) was critical to keeping the practice of health care, as he envisioned it, distinct and independent from the high priests of allopathic medicine. He coined terms like “universal intelligence” and wrote about each individual’s birthright-connection to this universal intelligence through our own “innate intelligence.”
Modern (allopathic) medical lexicon is limiting. As a case in point, let’s examine the concept of medical diagnosis. To get such a thing, you have to assume that certain conditions in the human organism can be collectively identified as being the same, so one solution fits all. But if I explained medical diagnosis to my six year old he might say, “How can I have the same thing as my brother, he is different than me and I’m different from him.” I think D.D. Palmer would agree with my son.
Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to health care illuminated by the above example. The first one, the one that assumes we’re all the same, is that of allopathic medicine, and we’re all quite familiar with it. The second one, the one that assumes we’re all different, is less familiar to most of us, yet has an equal validity, and has been practiced in various forms since time before memory.
Allopathic medicine maintains that, after making the medical diagnosis, a doctor should modulate the body’s symptoms through a medical treatment, usually with pharmaceutical chemicals.
Palmer on the other hand, theorized that the body’s innate intelligence, through its connection to universal intelligence, is infinitely wiser in matters of its own healing than the educated minds of pharmaceutical researchers or the allopathic medical doctor.
Making a medical diagnosis and treatment presumes that the educated mind has better intelligence than the innate mind; man-made pharmaceutical drugs (“magic bullets”) are promoted as precision weapons to eliminate specific symptoms. My six year-old would probably equate this to saying, “Man thinks he is smarter than God.”
As a result of this difference in philosophy, a true alternative to allopathic medicine developed. Palmer called it “Chiropractic.” Its basic underlying method of care he termed an “adjustment of a subluxation.” These terms were chosen with great care (no surprise since it is evident that Palmer clearly understood the importance of terminology and collective use of language as a foundation for a qualitatively different standard of care).
An adjustment, as opposed to a medical treatment, infers that the person administering the care has an underlying understanding of the innate ability of the patient’s body to heal itself. Subluxation gets its name from the Latin root words sub (meaning “below”, or “less than”) and lux (meaning “light”, or “state of perfection”). Thus subluxation roughly translates to being ‘less than a state of perfection.’ When the practitioner adjusts a subluxation in the patient’s body, the purpose is to remove interference, allowing the patient’s innate intelligence to achieve a more perfect balance of physical and emotional well-being through its connection to universal intelligence.
Palmer’s terminology applies to chiropractic care, but the approach—that the body knows best—is basic. Anyone can use this model of analysis, rather than medical diagnosis.
Of High Priests & Commoners History offers us a useful analogy.
During the late middle ages, there arose a demand to translate the Bible out of Latin and into people’s native languages. This movement was strongly resisted by the Church at the time because it took away the priests’ power as the mediator of the relationship between people and God. That “middle man” role had long conferred great power and wealth to the church. Then the commoners began getting educated. In time, they could read and interpret their Bible, and begin to have a direct, unmediated relationship with God.
A modern analog of this history is that of doctors and patients. Like the priests of old, doctors are the middle man, mediating the relationship between people and their health, deriving great power and wealth from the role. But people are more and more demanding to be empowered participants in their own healing processes, and are getting more educated in health matters as well. The outcome will be a transformation in our society’s consumption of health care as more people begin to have a direct, unmediated relationship with their own health.
Signs of such a transformation are everywhere evident. Folks are increasingly interested in natural and “alternative” forms of healing. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently reported that over half of all doctor visits are to “alternative practitioners.”
We can help this process along. The development of a radically transformed and collectively used health lexicon would be a good start toward creating a collective consciousness in support of natural healing. Success in this will lead, as shown by D.D. Palmer a century ago, to improved standards of care. Such improvement is, of course, the true goal.
Language is powerful. Think what would happen if those of us who now define ourselves as practitioners and consumers of “alternative medical” care stop calling it that: stop using the words “alternative” and “medical,” and start using the direct terminology and philosophy of natural life force. Only then can we become truly alternative, and begin to not only think out of the box but “talk out of the box,” as D.D. Palmer did in his day.
I think I’ll ask my son for some original ideas about that.
John Schmidt, DC, is currently the president of Oregon Doctors of Chiropractic. A 2nd generation chiropractor in private practice since 1971, he lives and works in Silverton, Oregon with his family. He can be reached at (503) 873-3641.