We just celebrated D.D. Palmer’s 168th birthday. One hundred and sixty-eight years have passed since that fateful day on March 7, 1845. There is so much chiropractic history in such a short time one hardly knows where to begin. Without knowing our history, it is impossible to practice our philosophy. It is also impossible to move forward as a profession. Here’s a bit of history to whet your appetite…
Some Early History
D.D. Palmer became a magnetic healer in 1886, when he moved from Burlington, Iowa, to Davenport, Iowa. It was in Davenport that he gave the first chiropractic adjustment to Harvey Lillard at 4:00 pm on a Wednesday afternoon. The date was September 18, 1895. After christening his new practice “Chiropractic” in June, 1896 (a term suggested by his friend Rev. Samuel H. Weed), Palmer soon decided to teach it. This of course came after a near fatal train accident in 1897 in Fulton, Missouri.
D.D. started teaching palpation in 1898, with the enrollment of his first student on January 15th, Leroy Baker. Baker did not complete the course (which took from two weeks to three months). The first two graduates were William A. Seeley, a homeopath, and A.P. Davis, M.D., D.O. In those early classes, D.D. only taught adjusting of the 4th to 12th dorsal vertebra.
By 1899, the Palmer Infirmary and Chiropractic Institute (PICI) had three more students and the new profession was on its way to changing the world. In 1901, there were five more students. In 1902, there were four (including B.J. Palmer – son of the founder). [1, 2]
In 1902, D.D. moved to Pasadena, California for a short time, where, he was arrested for practicing medicine without a license.[3, 4] In 1904, he went back to southern California and also to Portland, Oregon. He started schools in both locations.
By 1907, there were at least thirty-nine schools started in Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota, Oregon, California, Michigan, Washington, Indiana, and Illinois.
1907 was also the year coccyx was adjusted for the first time. Years later in 1932, B.J. Palmer explained why they stopped adjusting coccyx. While enlarging on the 33 principles, B.J. wrote,
“Cord tension was an explanation of what could happen at other end of cauda equina or tail end of spinal cord when placed under pulling action, because of a possible subluxation of sacrum or coccyx. While a great deal of work was done in adjusting possible subluxations of sacrum and coccyx, it was eventually proved what we were doing was to so strain spinal column that we were ACCIDENTALLY adjusting MAJOR subluxation at a superior place in cervical region. A simple illustration will suffice: Draw a string taut, fastening both ends…”
In 1908, the first side-posture adjusting was used by Carver. There were now between 400-600 practicing chiropractors. By 1910, there were 2,000 chiropractors and atlas was adjusted for the first time.
In 1912, the first “stretching device” is used by chiropractors as well as the first adjusting table with springs. The Zenith Hylo table received its first patent on June 8th of that year. Also in 1912, the National College was the first chiropractic college to introduce dissection.
John Craven – Pioneer of Chiropractic Philosophy
1912 was also the year that John Craven graduated from the PSC. Craven was one of the pioneers of chiropractic philosophy. His contributions to the core tenets of the philosophy of chiropractic should never be forgotten.[9-20] He coauthored “The Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5,” with B.J. Palmer. In the preface to the 3rd edition (1919), Craven wrote, “the expressions “Chiropractic Philosophy” and “Vol. 5” have practically become synonymous.”
Here is a brief discussion turned into a short movie about Craven between Drs. Kent, Gentempo and myself.
In the preface to the 2nd edition, Craven wrote,
“There is no question but this book stands alone, it is in a class by itself so far as Chiropractic Philosophy is concerned. It contains the very latest and most recent conclusions, and will be found invaluable to every Chiropractor, as well as interesting and instructive reading for the laity. The science of Chiropractic is in its formative period, and the past few years have seen great progress along every line of Chiropractic. As nothing is permanent except change, we must expect men’s minds to keep abreast the times. Dr. Palmer has more than kept pace with his contemporaries, he has lived and is living many years in advance of his time. In the years to come this work will be more appreciated than it is now.”
History of Chiropractic
D.D. Palmer died in 1913. His ashes were placed at the Palmer School of Chiropractic on August 21st, 1921.
There are many wonderful books, chronologies, and articles exploring the history in detail. There are however too few scholarly papers on the philosophy of chiropractic. In many ways, the discipline of philosophy has been a casualty of the history of chiropractic. That is the topic of another blog post.
The Association for the History of Chiropractic is very active. Please become a member of the AHC and then be sure to join the facebook page where ongoing discussions happen daily. Also, if you are feeling adventurous you should head to Colorado this July for the 33rd annual conference: HistCon 33.
Philosophy of Chiropractic Library
In honor of D.D.’s 168th birthday, we just launched the Philosophy of Chiropractic Library. The library emphasizes books and articles on the philosophy and history of chiropractic, which are accessible online and mostly free. There are also a few interesting reads on science, art, and Integral Theory. We hope you enjoy! The library will grow so check back often.
It is only by mastering your knowledge of the history, philosophy, and science of chiropractic that you become a true master of your art.
1. Evans, H. (1979). Chiropractic Historical Data. Stockton, CA: World-Wide Books.
2. Zarbuck, M. (1988). Chiropractic Parallax: Part 3. Illinois Prairie State Chiropractors Association Journal of Chiropractic. July.
3. Keating, J. (1998). D.D. Palmer’s Lifeline.
4. Zarbuck, M. (1988). Chiropractic Parallax: Part 1. Illinois Prairie State Chiropractors Association Journal of Chiropractic. January.
5. Zarbuck, M. and M. Hayes, (1990). Following D.D. Palmer to the West Coast: The Pasadena Connection, 1902. Chiropractic History. 10(2): p. 17-19. (Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.)
6. Chiropractic Colleges started between 1896-1907. Adapted from Glenda Wiese. Alana Callender (2007). How many chiropractic schools? An update. Chiropr Hist 27(2): 89-119. (Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.)
7. Ralph W. Stephenson. (1927). Thirty Three Principles. In Chiropractic textbook: Volume 14. Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
8. Palmer, B.J. (1932). The Story of Crowding the Hour. In Clinical controlled chiropractic research; vol. 25. (1951). Davenport, IA: Palmer College. (page 510, principle 63).
9. Craven, J. (1919). Universal Intelligence. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic. Davenport, Palmer College of Chiropractic.*
10. Craven, J. (1919). Innate Intelligence. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
11. Craven, J. (1919). Mental. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
12. Craven, J. (1919). Innate Mind – Educated Mind. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
13. Craven, J. (1919). Creation. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
14. Craven, J. (1919). Brain Cell. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
15. Craven, J. (1919). Transformation. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
16. Craven, J. (1919). Mental Impulse. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
17. Craven, J. (1919). Propulsion. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
18. Craven, J. (1919). Vibration. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
19. Craven, J. (1919). Sensation-Ideation. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
20. Craven, J. (1919). Restoration Cycle. In B.J. Palmer and John Craven’s Philosophy of Chiropractic: Volume 5. Davenport, Palmer School of Chiropractic.*
21. Senzon, S., C. Kent, and P. Gentempo. (2011). Chiropractic History with Simon Senzon: “Simon Says Segment”. On Purpose.
22. Association for the History of Chiropractic. [AHC on Facebook]
*Quoted from Sinnott, R. (1997). The Greenbooks: A collection of timeless Chiropractic works – by those who lived it! Mokena, IL, Chiropractic books.
When most people think about chiropractic lineages, chiropractic families come to mind. Chiropractic history is characterized by families like the Palmers, the five generations of Clevelands and Austins,[2, 3] the Montaño-Luna family, as well as other famous families like the Parkers, the Gelardis, the Clums, and the Logans. The list goes on and on.
The Palmer Philosophy Lineage
The lineage I am most excited about lately is what I am referring to as The D.D. Palmer Philosophy Lineage. It is a way to explore the philosophy of chiropractic more completely.
As one of my philosophy professors once asked, how can you develop a philosophy if you don’t know what came before you? By exploring the developments in the philosophy from each of these individuals (and more), we may evolve the philosophy further than it has gone before.
D.D. Palmer’s Sojourn in Oklahoma
After inventing chiropractic and opening his school in the late 1890s, D.D. Palmer traveled extensively between 1902 and his death in 1913. He opened schools all over the United States from Davenport to Los Angeles, Oklahoma City to Portland, Oregon. He encouraged his students to “practice and teach,” the new science, art, and philosophy of chiropractic. And they did.
By exploring the writings of his actual students, we may begin to explore the impact he had on the philosophy of chiropractic in some interesting ways. We may even better understand Palmer himself, as seen through the eyes of his disciples.
Three of his students I am currently fascinated by are Tullius de Florence Ratledge, C. Sterling Cooley, and A.T. Godzway. Each of these students met Palmer during his time in Oklahoma and studied with him in 1907.
This was just after Palmer spent 23 days in jail for practicing medicine without a license. He moved to Medford, Oklahoma, with his new wife (his fifth) and went into the grocery business for a short time. He also maintained a small clinic and school out of his home.
D.D.’s brother T.J. Palmer (publisher of the Medford Patriot), loaned D.D. $300 so that he could move to Oklahoma City and open a school. He opened the Palmer-Gregory School of Chiropractic in 1907, with Alva Gregory (a Carver-Denny grad). D.D. remained as part of that school for nine weeks due to Gregory’s teaching of medical concepts. (I wonder what D.D. would have thought when Gregory’s wife changed the name of the school in 1939 to the Palmer Gregory Chiropractic College and School of Physiotherapy?)
In the spring of 1908, D.D. formed his own Palmer Fountain Head School also in Oklahoma City. By November of 1908, D.D. and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon and opened the D.D. Palmer College of Chiropractic. It was in Portland that D.D. penned his magnum opus, The Chiropractor’s Adjustor, where he sought to “adjust” the misconceptions of other chiropractors as to what chiropractic science, art, and philosophy really were.[5, 6]
Ratledge was an amazing individual. He received his chiropractic degree from Willard Carver. Carver opened the Carver-Denny School of Chiropractic in 1906 in Oklahoma City.
Ratledge also attended D.D.’s lectures in 1907. He had Palmer and his wife, Mary, over for dinner often. They discussed all things chiropractic far into the night. D.D.’s final teaching appointment was at Ratledge’s school in Los Angeles from 1912-1913.
I recently discussed aspects of Ratledge’s legacy with Drs. Kent and Gentempo. Here is the conversation turned into a short video:
Cooley was another fascinating individual. He and his father both studied chiropractic under D.D.’s tutelage in 1907. Cooley’s father was a non-practicing medical doctor. Both were so amazed by Cooley’s recovery and healing at the hands of D.D. that they became chiropractors. In 1943, Cooley wrote,
“The interest of my Father and myself was due, in part to the promptness with which the strange exponent of Innate Healing Intelligence freed me from an affliction which had defied the best of orthodox methods. Daniel David Palmer rescued me from invalidism and helped me to health. The chances are that, except for the ministrations of his gifted hands, guided by a mind which seemed never to err or falter in expressing Chiropractic principle, my voyage on “Life’s tempestuous sea” would have ended years ago.”
Cooley was instrumental in leading the early NCA (the 1930s merger between the UCA and the ACA), which became the current ACA in 1963. So it is important for us to understand his philosophy of chiropractic, especially since he was a lifelong disciple of D.D., whom he referred to as “The Old Master.” I have posted several of Cooley’s articles on D.D. Palmer as well as a few other pieces he wrote.[10-14] My hope is that such a first-hand account may help us to better understand D.D. and his impact on the full spectrum of philosophy in chiropractic. (Cooley also wrote six essays on D.D.’s life in James Drain’s 1949 book Man Tomorrow.)
Only by learning all that we can about D.D. Palmer and the writings of his students can we begin to make sense of the challenges facing the profession today. They planted the seeds we now sow.
This Oklahoma lineage of D.D.’s students would not be complete without a glimpse at A.T. Godzway, formerly EL Cooley, classmate and father of CS Cooley. According to Godzway, he bore the brunt of D.D.’s famous temperament. D.D. referred to A.T. as the “old medical fool.” This helps us to better understand D.D. as a man, with faults and challenges, like any of us. It also helps us to see how Palmer dealt with the medical paradigm. Most importantly, it gives us yet another glimpse into the first hand teaching from D.D. to one of his students.
By exploring the writings of each of D.D.’s students and subsequently, their students, we may begin to piece together the puzzle that is the philosophy of chiropractic. While the most familiar and widely taught components of the philosophy came directly from the Palmer school, the seeds that D.D. Palmer planted were many. Which of those early students grew those seeds into important philosophical approaches to Innate, healing, subluxation, and life itself? Which ones took D.D.’s philosophy in a completely different direction, a direction he may not have approved of?
The only way to truly find out the answers to these questions is to go back and reconstruct the lineage. Only then may we move forward. Knowing what came before and knowing the pioneers of each chiropractic idea helps us to move forward into the future.
1. Palmer, D. Three generations: A history of chiropractic. 1967, Davenport, IA: Palmer College of Chiropractic. [Palmer family]
3. Five Generations of Chiropractic. 1995. Dynamic Chiropractic.
4. Benet-Canut, E. Chiropractic in Mexico. Chiropr Hist, 2004. 24(1): p. 17-28. [Keating’s Mexico-Chiropractic-Chronology]
5. Keating, J. Chronology of Alva Gregory, M.D., D.C. 1998.
6. Palmer, D.D. The science, art, and philosophy of chiropractic. 1910, Portland, OR: Portland Printing House.
7. Carver, W. History of Chiropractic, ed. J. Keating 1936/2002: National Institute of Chiropractic Research.
8. Keating, J., R. Brown, and P. Smallie. T.F. Ratledge, the Missionary of Straight Chiropractic in California. Chiropr Hist, 1991. 11(2): p. 27-38.*
9. Kent, C. and P. Gentempo. On Purpose: Chiropractic History with Dr. Simon Senzon (quarterly segment). 2012.
10. Cooley, C. The guiding principle for success is ”To Thine Own Self Be True.” National Chiropractic Journal, 1940. 9(11): p. 11-2.**
11. Cooley, C. One important “extra” every chiropractor should employ in his practice. National Chiropractic Journal, 1941. 10(2): p. 11-2,44-5.**
12. Cooley, C. Daniel David Palmer: a tribute to the founder of chiropractic. The Chiropractic Journal (NCA), 1936. 5(4): p. 5-10,36.**
13. Cooley, C. Daniel David Palmer was the first true “basic scientist.” The Chiropractic Journal (NCA), 1938. 7(3): p. 9-13.**
14. Cooley, C. Daniel David Palmer: an immortal among the great names in history. The Chiropractic Journal (NCA), 1937. 6(3): p. 7-8,50-1.**
15. Godzway, A. “That old medical fool!” said the Old Master with great disdain! The Chiropractic Journal (NCA), 1934. 3(4): p. 5,30.**
* Republished with permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.
** Republished with permission of the ACA.
***Ratledge school list was quoted from: Wiese, G., and Callender, A. How Many Chiropractic Schools? An Update. 2007. Chiro Hist.*
I recently had a long private conversation with Rupert Sheldrake about his latest research and his new book, Science Set Free.(1) We plan to talk again in a couple of months and record the conversation. This will be part of a new series of dialogues I am engaging in with leaders from various fields. The dialogues will be available online. The video below describes some of the background of the new book, which is a MUST READ for all chiropractors and chiropractic students.
Besides the main points of the book, which are described in the video, I suggest there was one important distinction Sheldrake made in our conversation that applies directly to chiropractors. It was this: he does not consider himself a Vitalist but an Organicist. This is important because the philosophy of chiropractic is more congruent with Organicism than with Vitalism (in my humble opinion).
Since the book described the historical and philosophical roots of vitalism as part of the discussions about the limitations of the materialist, mechanist, and physicalist worldview that dominates science, I asked him whether he considers himself a Vitalist. The answer was NO.
I have written in the past on the problems of using the term vitalism to describe the philosophy of chiropractic,(2) but Sheldrake’s explanation was simple and to the point. Vitalism was always about biology and how it was distinct from physics and chemistry. Organicism is rooted in the idea that the entire universe and its parts may be viewed as organic wholes nested within wholes.(3) This may be extended further whereas consciousness may be viewed as part of nature rather than apart from it.
This approach is more congruent with the philosophy of organism, systems theory, and holism, all of which have their roots in 1920s biological thought, just like the chiropractic greenbooks.
It is only recently that chiropractors have used the term vitalism. It is a term fraught with ancient baggage. Most organismic philosophers such as Sheldrake do not use it.
Science Set Free is essential for understanding the philosophy of chiropractic in a much broader context. Not only does the book explore the concepts of biological organization in terms of morphic fields and morphic resonance, that nature has purpose and consciousness, but it also opens the possibility that psychic phenomenon may be rigorously studied as natural. Sheldrake refers to this in terms of the extended mind. This is right in line with B.J. Palmer’s exploration of “That Something,” “thot flashes,” and “The Law.”
For B.J., there was an extension from the Innate Intelligence to the Universal Intelligence, a type of linkage, whereby Innate had access to many levels of information. This could then be flashed to the Educated Intelligence. I’ve written about this in detail,(4) and even compiled a book of B.J. Palmer’s quotes about it.(5)
In his famous story called “How the Law Works,” he followed the cues of his Innate on one particular occasion and took a train instead of a drive to his destination. It turned out there was a massive storm. When he arrived he walked out to the street in the cold wind. A car pulled up. The driver recognized him from his portrait hanging in his own chiropractor’s office. The man offered B.J. a ride. B.J. tells the reader that coincidences like this are natural.(6) He writes,
“When “incidents” like this “happen” consistently and persistently, time without end, year after year, under many varied conditions, it becomes a law at work…That’s how the law works between one person and another who are in tune with the law within.”(p. 57)
Sheldrake’s research and hypotheses offer a framework that connects B.J.’s insights directly to the way Innate Intelligence governs the body’s shape and form. It is an important body of work for chiropractors to understand.
To learn more about his new book please watch the video lectures and stay tuned for our upcoming dialogue.(7,8)
1. Sheldrake, R. (2012). Science Set Free: Ten Paths to New Discovery.
2. Senzon, S. (2003). What is Life. Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research.
3. Organicism. Wikipedia entry.
4. Senzon, S. (2011). B.J. Palmer: An Integral Biography. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice.
5. Senzon, S. (2004). The Spiritual Writings of B.J. Palmer.
6. Palmer, B.J. (1949). How the Law Works. Excerpt from Chapter 19: What is Finding Yourself, in The Bigness of The Fellow Within. Published in: Sinnott, R. (1998). The green books a collection of timeless chiropractic works-by those who lived it! [Mokena, IL], Chiropractic Books.
Have you ever wondered what really divides the chiropractic profession? For decades the story was that it was the straights vs. the mixers. The straights adhered to the adjustment of the vertebral subluxation only and the mixers added other modalities to chiropractic. The wars between these two factions marked a unique epic in 20th century American history as a conflict between several worldviews.
That story evolved and split over the years. For a time it revolved around educational standards and scope of practice issues. Eventually this schism grew into a spectrum between therapeutic vs. non-therapeutic approaches. Across the middle of the spectrum is where most chiropractors practice.
And yet, as I have pointed out in other blog posts,[4, 5] the split really comes down to perspectives. There are many ways to discuss this fact such as orienting frameworks, levels of complexity of thinking, values, morals, the list goes on.
For this month’s post, I want to emphasize the importance of distinguishing between the inside and the outside perspectives, especially in relation to the organism. I view this as the heart of the conflicting perspectives within the profession and also a place of common-ground.
This distinction, that the organism may be viewed from the inside and the outside is relatively new in philosophy.[6, 7, 8] American philosopher Ken Wilber has recently codified these two perspectives into his 8 Zone methodology. The zones are created by taking an inside and outside perspective on the four primary domains of reality; subjective (“I”), intersubjective (“we”), objective (“it”), and interobjective (“its”). (I explore how this applies to chiropractic practice, research, and principles in the eight-hour online continuing education course and also in a recent article.)[10, 11]
By acknowledging the inside and outside views of “it,” or the objective observation of the organism, Wilber incorporates the latest insights of neurophysiology and anatomy, as well as systems theory and the new biology. For example, anatomy and physiology are the outside view of the body. These can be measured through visual observation and various tests. The inside view of the organism looks to homeostasis, dynamic equilibrium, autopoiesis, and of course, innate intelligence as it relates directly to these processes of life. The processes may be measured in terms of how well the body expresses its organization and how well it adapts.
There is a long history of this line of thinking in chiropractic. B.J. Palmer originally wrote about how health comes from above downward and from inside outward as the essence of the philosophy of chiropractic. At the heart of this approach is an emphasis on the body’s ability to self-heal and self-organize. This view of the body is shared by most chiropractors.
B.J. contrasted this to the outside inward and below upward approach characteristic of Western medicine. Relying on this view includes an emphasis on materialist and mechanistic paradigms.
By acknowledging the importance of inside and outside views of biology, we can more consciously bridge the divides within the profession by embracing a more holistic framework. This is easy because we already share such a framework.
The outside view is simple enough. It relates to any focus on the structures of the organism; brain, spine, muscles, signs and symptoms, pathological processes, and even vertebral subluxation as a clinical and definable entity. The inside view includes the body’s natural ability to self-organize, self-heal, effectively adapt, and create its own parts. Traditional philosophy of chiropractic refers to this as innate intelligence.
This common ground within the chiropractic profession is a starting place for unity of definition. It is apart from scope of practice questions and definitions of primary care, which are at the heart of the current controversies in chiropractic accreditation standards.[3, 13]
Chiropractic is based not only on an outside view of the body but also on an inside view. This insider view is one defining characteristic of the profession. It sets chiropractic apart from other paradigms of health care.
We should always remember however, in order for chiropractic to rightly be defined as its own paradigm, it must have a defining set of practices, not just its own unique viewpoint. One argument in the profession suggests that the defining praxis is the chiropractic adjustment of the vertebral subluxation.[14, 15] To me, this makes the most sense as it is congruent with the characteristic insider view of the body and consistent with the most common practice of chiropractic, the adjustment.
What if we could all agree that the two most defining characteristics of the chiropractic profession were the two most common aspects to chiropractic worldwide; the insider view of biology and the chiropractic adjustment?
Of course state laws and educational standards will often include more than just the adjustment in terms of scope of practice. Chiropractors love to include other professions within their daily practices from nutrition to acupuncture to physical therapy. But the key to unity is to find where we have common ground. The insider view is the best place to start.
1. Painter, F. Is “Expanded Practice” our Pandora’s Box? September, 13, 2011.
2. Edwards, J. Drugs and Chiropractic: Exposing the red herring and the Trojan horse. Dynamic Chiropractic, 2011. 29(20).
3. Kent, C. The profession formerly known as chiropractic. Dynamic Chiropractic, 2011. 29(10).
4. Senzon, S. Chiropractic Honesty, in Chiropraction. August 27, 2012.
5. Senzon, S. Chiropractic Evolution, in Chiropraction. June 21, 2012.
6. Maturana, H. and F. Varela. Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. 1980, Dordrecth: D. Reidel Pub. CO.
7. Piaget, J. Biology and knowledge: an essay on the relations between organic regulations and cognitive processes. 1971, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
8. Thompson, E. Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. 2007: Harvard University Press.
9. Wilber, K. The ways we are in this together: Intersubjectivity and interobjectivity. Ken Wilber Online, 2003.
10. Senzon, S. Constructing a philosophy of chiropractic: Integral Map. Online Continuing Education. 2011-present.
11. Senzon, S. Constructing a philosophy of chiropractic I: an Integral map of the territory. J Chiropr Human, 2010. 17(17): p. 6-21.
12. Palmer, B. The known man or an explanation of the “phenomenon of life”; Volume 19. 1936: Davenport, IA: Palmer College.
13. Edwards, J. Primary Care: Be careful what you wish for. Dynamic Chiropractic, 2012. 30(8).
14. Rutherford, L. The role of chiropractic. 1989, Eugene, OR: Health Education Pub. Corp.
15. Gelardi, T. The science of identifying professions as applied to chiropractic. J Chiropr Hum, 1996: p. 11-17.
I wrote a little book a few years ago called, The Secret History of Chiropractic. The intent of the book was to bring forth some of chiropractic’s historical facts from an Integral perspective. The story created a context for a categorized collection of some of D.D. Palmer’s most philosophical and spiritual quotes. Much of the history was unknown to the majority of chiropractors I have spoken to. Hence, I used the term “secret” in the title.
Some in the profession were well versed in the history. In fact, one of the more famous chiropractic historians criticized my use of the word “secret,” mostly because he and his colleagues were aware of the stories. And yet, as we continue to research and also peel away the veil of bias from our historical writings, we find new gems even today.
Instead of criticizing bad history or pointing out misleading facts, I would like to use this month’s blog post to share a few delightful gems and some really good historical accounting.
In the last three months, I have had the great honor to lecture on the history of the philosophy of chiropractic in California, Virginia, Mexico City, and South Carolina. In my preparation for these talks, I have encountered many new insights and facts (secrets if you will). I am excited to share these with the profession.
The first gems come from my research into the life of Shegataro Morikubo (1871-1933). He was of noble Japanese birth. His father was a governor of a prefecture and his brother served in Parliament. Morikubo came to the United States in 1889 from Japan. While in the states, he converted to Christianity from Buddhism, engaged in graduate studies in philosophy, earned his chiropractic degree in 1906 at PSC, got married, had a child, and eventually settled in Minneapolis, where he practiced, offered summer night classes in his seemingly brief “Academy of Chiropractic,” and eventually formed the Yamato Corporation. I have not been able to uncover much else about his life.
I have found several of his writings from before he became a chiropractor. Most of his non-chiropractic writings are on Japanese culture and politics.[3-5] The articles are fascinating especially because it shows us how erudite and educated Morikubo was.
Shegataro Morikubo played an important role in the development of the philosophy of chiropractic because he helped to shape the landmark defense in the Wisconsin vs. Morikubo trial of 1907. After reading three of Morikubo’s articles on the philosophy of chiropractic, as well as his writings about the trial, I am more convinced than ever that he played a significant role in the shaping of the defense and the philosophy. I have posted two of his articles below.[7, 8] I will post more in the coming months as I develop an article on Morikubo.
Another gem or series of gems I stumbled upon include three articles by the late Bud Crowder (1920-2002), graduate of PSC class of 1947.[9-11] Crowder taught and inspired generations of chiropractic students and interns. These articles were written in 1986 and 1987, a time in chiropractic’s history similar to today in many ways. It is my hope that Crowder’s words will inspire a new generation to go forth and serve humanity through the gift of chiropractic.
Finally, I am very happy to share the Chiropractic Parallax series by the chiropractic historian Merwyn Zarbuck (1931-2009), graduate of PSC class of 1951. Zarbuck practiced for 50 years. I received permission to post this very important series on D.D. Palmer and his students.[12-17] (This series is an excellent example of the kind of secrets I mean. Unless you were a member of the Illinois Prairie State Chiropractors Association in the 1980s, you probably have never heard of Chiropractic Parallax!) I know you will enjoy these articles as I have.
As more secrets from chiropractic’s past get revealed, we can move forward without bias and embrace the amazing history that is chiropractic’s story.
*Crowder articles are republished with permission from Sherman College of Chiropractic.
**Merwyn Zarbuck (1931-2009) was one of the great chiropractic historians. Zarbuck graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1951. He practiced chiropractic for 50 years in Urbana, Illinois. Below are a selection of his writings as well as one of his classic historical finds. Merwyn Zarbuck’s Chiropractic Parallax series are reproduced with permission from his family.
Zarbuck, M. A profession for ‘Bohemian Chiropractic’: Oakley Smith and the Evolution of Naprapathy.
Chiropractic History, 1986. 6: p. 77-82.*
Zarbuck, M. and M. Hayes. Following D.D. Palmer to the West Coast: The Pasadena Connection, 1902. Chiropractic History, 1990. 10(2): p. 17-19.*
*Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.
It has been 99 years since D.D. Palmer’s death. We are still establishing his legacy in the face of decades of lies, half-truths, and outright distortions. Revising the historical record is a painstaking and vital role for the professional literature. This is especially true when new facts shed light on “spurious claims” accepted as fact. For example, there is an important line of historical scholarship that discredits D.D. Palmer’s role in establishing chiropractic’s philosophy. And, this reasoning has been distorted to the point of dismissing philosophy and subluxation altogether. I would like to help set the record straight.
The problem I am referring to in this blog post began with an investigative Lawyer in the early 1950s, Cyrus Lerner. Lerner argued that chiropractic’s legal standing as a separate and distinct profession and its very philosophy should be attributed to the work of one of D.D.’s students, Solon Langworthy. This has become an accepted fact of chiropractic history. Recent research suggests that Lerner was wrong.[2, 3]
It is time to revise our history and give D.D. Palmer and his son B.J. Palmer their proper accolades.
The landmark Morikubo case of 1907 established chiropractic as a separate and distinct profession, with its’ own philosophy, science, and art. Lerner reasoned Tom Morris’ legal defense relied on the textbook Modernized Chiropractic, written by three of D.D. Palmer’s students, Langworthy, Oakley Smith, and Minora Paxson. The book does introduce important concepts such as subluxation, IVF encroachment, and the dynamic thrust. It does NOT discuss philosophy in any detail. The main problem is that Lerner offers NO PROOF for his assertion that the defense relied on the text.
Perhaps other historians were duped like I was. After all, I wrote an entire chapter on Langworthy and much of it was based on Lerner’s account.* Lerner did seem to have transcripts of the case but on a closer reading of his manuscript, he just relied on his own bias and logic. He offers no references. Others have relied on his account as well. Most notably William Rehm’s classic paper on the subject, followed by Joe Keating’s many articles and chapters.[3, 7, 8] Historians and scholars often cite Lerner, Rehm, or Keating as their sources for this chiropractic myth, even in our most respected textbooks.[9-14]
You might be wondering why this is such a big deal. If you have been following my blog posts this year, you might even wonder why I am bringing up a similar topic as two previous posts.[15, 16] Well, I’ll tell you; IT IS A BIG DEAL. We need to turn the cynical tide away from mistaken criticisms of the philosophy of chiropractic and shine light on important and neglected facts. If we don’t, the story gets passed on to the next generation of chiropractors and philosophical and historical accuracy continues to get distorted. Thus, this myth should no longer make it through peer-review (although that does not seem to be the case thus far).**
I have addressed this specific issue before but I have never so plainly written that Lerner’s account is without any merit (as far as I can tell). In the original report, Lerner, who was paid by a NY group of chiropractors to research the early history (in order to get chiropractic legislation passed in NY), displays a strong bias against BJ Palmer. Also, he claims that certain philosophical concepts such as an unseen power in the brain come from Langworthy. They don’t. D.D. Palmer had been studying such ideas for decades. Lerner did not have access to the books that D.D. was studying as they were not available for researchers in the 1950s.
Another problem stemming from Lerner’s portrayal of events has led to the argument that the philosophy of chiropractic was merely a legal ploy. There is no doubt that philosophy after the Morikubo trial was very important to ensuring chiropractic was separate and distinct. However, that is only one small portion of the forces that shaped the ongoing development of the philosophy of chiropractic and the chiropractic paradigm. Any accounts that make the legal issue the sole reason for chiropractic’s philosophy are not being honest or are just ignorant.
Let’s put this in real perspective. The main article referenced to support this myth of Langworthy is an article from 1986 by Rehm, a noted chiropractic historian. Rehm uses SEVEN references. The only reference that Rehm relies on in regards to the landmark case and the Langworthy myth is Lerner’s unsubstantiated and very biased report. With such little historical evidence, it is surprising that Rehm could make such strong conclusions. Rehm writes,
“The salvation of this case would not be the “expert testimony” of Dr. B.J. Palmer, who had never before testified in a court trial. B.J. must have quietly seethed when Tom Morris found all of his help in the scholarly writings of none other than his personal enemy, Dr. Solon Massey Langworthy.” (p.53)
Neither Rehm nor Lerner had the information that was to be published in the last few years; information that makes it clear – the philosophical geniuses behind the defense were B.J. Palmer, Shegato Morikubo, and Tom Morris. Not Solon Langworthy. Lerner and Rehm were unaware of the systematic and planned operation that lasted at least six months and probably longer to prepare for the trial (not the two-week rush to pull the case together that Rehm alleges).
In 2005, a landmark paper by Troyanovich and Keating explored the case against Johnson and Whipple, two chiropractors in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, the year before Morikubo was tried there. The chiropractors lost and they even had D.D. Palmer as an expert witness! This article makes a compelling case that Morikubo and B.J. forced the legal issue and sent Morikubo to open up shop in the SAME building as the osteopath that brought charges against Whipple, the year before!
Morikubo played an important role in the history of the philosophy of chiropractic. He was not only taught by B.J., but also by D.D. Palmer before the founder left Davenport in 1906. Morikubo lectured on philosophy at the college when B.J. was traveling. Additionally, Morikubo held a correspondence degree in osteopathy and a Ph.D. in philosophy. He was raised in a Buddhist monastery in Japan. And, he was due to return to Japan the year after he graduated. He had nothing to lose by going to Wisconsin to be arrested for the chiropractic cause.
In 2007, as part of their wonderful yearly series on chiropractic’s history, Peters and Chance dug into the Palmer archives and made a straight-forward case that Lerner’s account is “a spurious claim.” (p.154) They even quote Morikubo and another witness named Linniker. Both men explicitly state, they did not use Langworthy’s text! As preface to the quotes, Peters and Chance write,
“Lerner also claimed – and it was repeated by another writer (Rehm) – that the writings of Langworthy and the book Modernized Chiropractic were the foundation for Tom Morris’ defense, but we have not been able to find any evidence of this. What we did find is that Langworthy tried to lay claim for the defense of the case, but Morikubo strongly refuted this by pointing out that Langworthy neither attended the trial nor sent a representative, and since press reports did not disclose the tactics used by the defense, Langworthy could not be in a position to make such an assertion.” (p.155)
I wonder why Lerner didn’t mention the quotes by Morikubo and Linniker? (I will post those quotes in a special gallery on the site in the near future.) In fact, Lerner quotes The Chiropractor from December 1907. Morikubo’s article denouncing the Langworthy claim was in the November 1907 issue! Perhaps Lerner missed it? Doubtful.
Is it too late to restore D.D. Palmer’s rightful place as progenitor not only of the chiropractic adjustment but its unique philosophy and science as well? Is it too late to grant B.J. Palmer and Shegatora Morikubo their rightful status as well?
I know, some of you may still be wondering, why this is so important. After all, we all know today that D.D. was the founder and that his textbook established the foundation of the philosophy, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, when D.D.’s 1910 book was published it was bought up by his competitors and few people read it. It wasn’t until 1950s that the original edition had been reprinted. The seeds are deep!
And more importantly, this line of historical reasoning started by Lerner is currently being used not only to discredit the Palmers but philosophy in chiropractic itself. This spurious approach to the philosophy and history has led to the current trends that throw all foundations to the wind and embrace the backwards notions that drugs and surgery will somehow fit within the philosophy of chiropractic.
The future of the profession hinges on an accurate and honest portrayal of our history and a visionary, dynamic, and evolving approach to our philosophy.
2. Peters, R. and M. Chance, Disasters, Discoveries, Developments, and Distinction: The Year That Was 1907. Chiropr J Aust, 2007. 37: p. 145-156. [ABSTRACT]
4. Paxson, M., O. Smith, and S. Langworthy, A textbook of modernized chiropractic. 1906, Cedar Rapids (IA): American School of Chiropractic.
7. Keating, J., A brief history of the chiropractic profession, in In Principles and practice of chiropractic, S. Haldeman, Editor 2005, McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.: New York.
8. Keating, J., B.J. of Davenport: The early years of chiropractic, Davenport, Iowa: Association for the History of Chiropractic.
9. Folk, H., Vertbral vitalism: American metaphysics and the birth of chiropractic, 2006, Indiana University.
10. Moore, S., Chiropractic in America: The history of a medical alternative1993: Johns Hopkins University Press.
11. Wardwell, W., Chiropractic: History and evolution of a new profession1992, St. Louis(MO): Mosby.
12. Donahue, J., Metaphysics, rationality and science. J Manipulative Phys Ther, 1994. 17(1): p. 54-55.
13. Leach, R., The Chiropractic Theories: A Textbook of Scientific Research: 4th ed2004, Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott.
14. Haldeman, S., Principles and Practice of Chiropractic2004, New York: McGraw-Hill.
20. Donahue, J. The man, the book, the lessons: The Chiropractor’s Adjustor, 1910. Chiropractic History, 1990. 10(2):p.35-42.
*I should note that some of Lerner’s other observations are intriguing and merit further research.
**In a contentious article by Simpson, he cites the Peters and Chance article but stays with the dogma that Morris used the text. This is part of his argument to make the case that subluxation should be banned.
I was recently made aware of a blog post written by Stephen Perle, a well-known voice in the chiropractic profession and a professor at a chiropractic college. Interestingly, the subtitle of Perle’s blog is, “A forum for intellectual honesty.” In my view, intellectual honesty requires that we include as many perspectives as possible, not only one, because it is bound to be limited, narrow in focus, and prone to errors.
It is obvious that Dr. Perle thinks his approach is historically accurate. Unfortunately, such assumptions are at the core of chiropractic’s internal conflicts. When we don’t consider our own perspectives and how they shade our point of view, we are prone to think that we must be correct. Add to that a hand full of references that come from the same perspective and a self-perpetuating false authority gets established. In my first blog post I compared this to the telephone game.
More than anything, I seek to build bridges in the chiropractic profession. Doing so makes it vitally important to point out faulty arguments and bad scholarship so that we may all move forward together. There is hardly anything more important in a profession than good scientific research, accurate historical accounting, and solid philosophical reasoning. When these three methodological approaches are utilized from the widest possible perspectives, we are likely to find large areas of agreement.
Since the post in question was written in 2009, I would have ignored it at this point if not for the fact that it was recently sent to all of the members of a state association. And, it does represent some of the most basic mistakes being made in historical interpretations of the philosophy of chiropractic, so here we go…
Perle begins the article by pointing out the important research of the late Joe Keating. One of Keating’s main contributions to the history and philosophy of chiropractic was establishing how D.D. Palmer’s ideas evolved during his final decade of life.
Palmer’s use of the term vertebral subluxation was only written down after the 1907 Morikubo trial, and after it was widely used in Smith, Langworthy, and Paxson’s textbook. There is no written evidence of Palmer’s use of the term subluxation before. The term is generally attributed to Langworthy and made important to the profession based on the Morikubo case.
So, I don’t really take issue with the fact, that Perle would equate all of D.D.’s previous theories with his final theory. That is common pluralistic thinking in academia. But to suggest that D.D.’s final writings on chiropractic DID NOT set the tone for decades of the profession’s core focus on vertebral subluxation is bizarre.
In fact, Perle goes so far as to suggest that embracing the vertebral subluxation as chiropractic’s core identity is an “attempt to revise the history of chiropractic.” Does this seem Orwellian to you? Just look at the facts.
The vertebral subluxation as a clinical entity is considered by several researchers and scholars in the profession as its reason for being.[5-7] Furthermore, our understanding of the biological mechanisms of vertebral subluxation is constantly evolving, and not rooted in one model.
Historically, it wasn’t just B.J. Palmer and his school that took up the mantle of vertebral subluxation although the Palmer School certainly carried the torch. Many schools and associations have focused on vertebral subluxation going all the way back to the earliest days. Even the leaders of National College of Chiropractic embraced the scientific research of vertebral subluxation since its earliest days; Howard incorporated it into his encyclopedic system, Forster wrote about it extensively, and Janse developed his own theories about vertebral subluxation.[8-12] Not to mention the fact that vertebral subluxation terminology is codified in state law, federal law, Medicare, as well as chiropractic’s main trade organizations. And, 88% of chiropractors want to retain the term.
I will be the first to agree that the traditional use of the term was embedded in other philosophical concepts that made it difficult to consider it solely in terms of objective physiology, but that is another discussion.
The historical and scientific veracity of vertebral subluxation is hardly the main issue at hand. The issue is really philosophical honesty while understanding the importance of perspectives. I will discuss this issue based on three other historical inaccuracies and omissions from the Perle blog post. All three can be viewed in terms of the philosophical perspectives that the Palmer’s attempted to imbue into the profession and a lack of understanding of the role perspectives play in human thinking.
The next problem comes from Perle’s referencing of Gaucher-Peslherbe’s research.[14, 15] He points out the important fact that D.D. Palmer was indeed better read in anatomy, physiology, and surgery than most medical doctors of his day (Perle doesn’t go that far, but Gaucher-Peslherbe does). Perle then uses this fact along with D.D.’s revisions of his ideas to suggest that chiropractors today should be able to rethink chiropractic.
If that were it, I would say, sure whatever, that seems to be what has been happening anyway if you read the literature on vertebral subluxation research, and keep up with technique development in the profession. The problem is that Perle completely omits Gaucher’s main conclusions about D.D. Palmer’s theories and the important role they played in the history of physiology.
Gaucher-Peslherbe was a medical historian who completed his Ph.D. at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (French for School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences). His dissertation was published by National (at the urging of Louis Sportelli) as a book entitled, Chiropractic: Early Concepts in Their Historical Settings. D.D. Palmer’s theories are explored in the context of a history of such theories in the medical literature. Gaucher concluded that Palmer was way ahead of his time and contributed to the physiological literature in a significant way. Gaucher Peslherbe writes,
“D.D. Palmer was undoubtedly a visionary…It was because of this vision that he was able to formulate a scientific definition of the concept of subluxation that was in many ways far superior to anything that medicine and chiropractic were able to produce subsequently.” (p.166)
He even went so far as to compare Palmer’s wider philosophical approach in terms of subluxation and “what causes disharmony in man,” to philosophers from the last century such as Bergson, Freud, Merleau Ponty, and Heidegger.
A few other glaring mistakes in the Perle “history” should be pointed out:
Perle offers up a picture of the Rehabilitation Laboratory that was part of the B.J. Palmer Research Clinic in the 1940s. Perle points out that B.J. Palmer’s signature (what we might call a logo today) was on the rugs, thus Perle writes, “What this shows is that even BJ Palmer wasn’t so pure and straight as he “mixed” using rehab.” The logic itself is appalling but to so misrepresent B.J. Palmer’s approach and philosophy is a mistake. Perhaps the mistake is because the Lab was called Rehabilitation Lab? I’m not sure but it certainly shows a lack of knowledge.*
The intent of the Rehab Lab was congruent with Palmer’s Innate philosophy. The premise of the lab was that the internal self-organizing functions of the organism should be allowed to assimilate the energetic changes set in motion by the adjustment through self-guided movements. Thus the whole concept of rehabilitation was turned on its head. I would add, this was because it originated from a perspective that focused on the inherent autopoietic aspects of the organism. It was an inside-out approach to assist the organism to more fully integrate and express the innate intelligence.
The photo itself is from a magazine from 1945 about the Palmer research clinic. In the magazine it clearly states, “At no time, in no way, do we use any therapeutic apparatus on any case.” The Rehab Lab was really for research purposes and also for a place for patients to “digest” the energy now freely moving to paralyzed parts after the adjustment. Patients were not directed to use the equipment and there were no electrical devices besides a riding horse, “which was seldom used.”
Yet another mistake in the blog post is the erroneous claim that the term “innate intelligence” was coined in the book Modernized Chiropractic and used by Palmer after the Morikubo case like subluxation. Not true. Palmer’s first documented use of Innate comes from an article in 1906.[16, 17] In addition, Modernized Chiropractic does not even mention Innate Intelligence!
Finally, Perle refers to the philosophy of chiropractic as a pseudo-religion. I have dealt with this elsewhere and this blog post is way too long.**
As I see it, the core issue (besides mistakes) is a misunderstanding of the role of perspectives in chiropractic. This is a common problem in chiropractic and in most professions.
As adults develop, the research shows that they can increase in the complexity of their thinking and be able to take on more and more perspectives. The level of thinking that most adults are assured to reach is the objective, rational, third-person point of view. Research shows, somewhere around 40% of our culture are at this level.[19, 20] It used to be thought that this was the height of human development, the rational scientific thinker. This is the person who can comfortably deal in 3rd person perspectives. That is, he or she can take the role of another and even view themselves as an “it” or an “object.” Children have not developed this ability yet, and teens are new to this perspective.
Here is the problem, not only may people develop to even more complex ways of viewing the world, such as 4th person perspectives, 5th person perspectives, etc…, but those of us who spend our days relying on 3rd person perspectives might miss that! We don’t even know those other perspectives exist. And, we may generally confuse all other perspectives as less objective than ours, because anything that is not 3rd person perspective tends to look the same to us; probably 2nd person, or at least dogmatic or fundamentalist.
This becomes a real problem in a profession like chiropractic because evidence shows that D.D. Palmer was one of the first post-conventional thinkers of our era and may have attempted to establish the first 4th person perspectival profession. And get this, his son may have even developed to 5th person perspectives or higher in his later years.
Let’s just all take a step back and acknowledge that we might not have the entire truth even though it sure feels like we do. In fact, we might each have partial truths that could in some way blend together and make for a much stronger profession.
Instead of dismissing “everyone” you disagree with as dogmatists, which has become a very tired and philosophically shallow approach in the profession,[23, 24] let’s see if we can determine what else might be going on that other scientific researchers, perhaps in the social sciences, might shed light upon that we are just missing. Honesty comes from facing things you did not even know were there and accepting them.
4. Smith, Oakley G., Solon. M. Langworthy, and Minora C. Paxson. 1906. Modernized chiropractic. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: S.M. Langworthy.
6. Gatterman, M. 2005. Foundations of Chiropractic Subluxation: 2nd Ed. St. Louis: Mosby. [Description @ googlebooks]
7. Boone, W. and G. Dobson. 1997. A proposed vertebral subluxation model reflecting traditional concepts and recent advances in health and science: Part I. 1(1). [Abstract]
9. Phillips, R. 2006. Joseph Janse: The apostle of chiropractic education. Los Angeles: R. Phillips.
10. Janse, J. 1975. History of the development of chiropractic concepts: Chiropractic terminology, in The research status of spinal manipulative therapy: A workshop held at the National Institutes of Health, February 2-4, 1975. M. Goldstein, Editor. U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare: Bethesda. p. 25-42.
12. Forster, A. 1923. Principles and practice of chiropractic. Chicago: The National Publishing Association.
13. McDonald, W., K. Durkin, and M. Pfefer, How chiropractors think and practice: The survey of North American Chiropractors. Seminars in Integrative Medicine, 2004. 2(3): p. 92-98. [ABSTRACT]
15. Gaucher, P. 1993. Chiropractic: Early concepts in their historical setting. Chicago: National College of Chiropractic.
19. Cook-Greuter S. 2007. Ego development: Nine levels of increasing embrace. Wayland, MA: Cook-Greuter & Associates.
20. Kegan, R. and L. Lahey, The immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock the potential in yourself and your organization2009, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. [Preview @ Google Books]
*Please click here to explore photos and quotes about the BJPCC Rehabilitation Lab.
**These themes are explored in greater detail in my online courses.
Let’s go back to the Greenbooks from the 1920s and the role they may have played in 20th century biological and systems thinking. I know, I know, you wonder, “Why should we even bother with those old books?” Well, WE SHOULD…and I’ll tell you why.
I made a small point in my last blog post about those books and how they represented an early attempt at an integrated curriculum. A curriculum, mind you, that sought to integrate a systems worldview into biology, while also including links between mind, body, and spirit. An approach like that is not even included in “the mainstream” today. The approach in those early days offered a MORE INTEGRATED educational system than the CCE/NBCE dominated curricula of the 21st century! By reconnecting to that philosophical lineage, we may just help chiropractic to continue to be at the edge of biological and philosophical thought.
The book that really set the tone for the outpouring of texts at the Palmer school in the 1920s was called Philosophy of Chiropractic. This particular Greenbook (volume V), is virtually UNKNOWN to most chiropractic philosophers because of a typo. The first edition of the book was authored by B.J. Palmer in 1909. On the binding of that book was the proper title. The second edition brought in a co-author, John H. Craven. That revised edition came out in 1916. The binder of that book, incorrectly read, “The Science of Chiropractic.” It was reprinted yearly as the book was impossible to keep in stock. (After all, those were the boom years at Palmer College. By 1921, the incoming class was something like 1,200.**)
I wonder how many generations of students of chiropractic philosophy, did not buy the book or did not REALIZE it was actually a philosophy text…but that is another story. In fact, I recently acquired what seems to have been Craven’s copy of the 1st edition. Hopefully scholars with some time on their hands can compare and contrast the differences between editions. To accurately understand the early and seminal ideas from the philosophy, we should be able to DISTINGUISH Craven’s ideas from B.J. Palmer’s.
Another important influence on the early Greenbooks, was the republication of D.D. Palmer’s two books. B.J. edited and published them in 1921 as a second Volume IV. D.D.’s books were generally not available at that point. We can only surmise that access to this version (edited by B.J.) was an inspiration to many.
But what of the other authors who were influenced by Craven and B.J.? Of course, the most well-known is Stephenson, who published volume 14, in 1927, but what of his teachers (like Craven) and their books? And that is at the HEART of the importance of this particular ERA of chiropractic’s philosophy. Recently, I designated it the 3rd Wave of Philosophy in Chiropractic. Several years ago, I just called it the “Collaborative Phase.”
The other main authors from PSC included, James Leroy Nixon, S.L. Burich, Henry Vedder, Mabel Heath Palmer, James Firth, & Arthur Holmes. There is hardly room in this short post to expand on their writing, which is okay, because I have created some EXCERPTS for your enjoyment on this site (just click on the reference links below). Each excerpt explores how these authors incorporated Innate Intelligence in their writings on topics like pathology, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and law. IMAGINE if we can revisit this idea and develop NEW core curricula that incorporated the perspective of Innate Intelligence into every course?
Even more important in my view, these texts demonstrate how the philosophy of chiropractic was at the leading edge of biological thinking ninety-years ago! Just a glimpse through the applications of systems theory, chaos theory, and complexity theory for medical practices today will demonstrate that fact. The references would take too long. Just go to google scholar and search terms like, “systems theory and medicine,” “chaos theory and heart,” or “complexity theory and illness,” or anything like those terms and you will be inundated with lots of great research.
Is it possible that the philosophy of chiropractic had an impact on the current trends in biological thinking? Just think about it, during those years of the 1920s, B.J.’s radio stations were HEARD all the way to Alaska, there were over a hundred schools over the years, thousands of chiropractors, and even more patients. How might this philosophical approach have impacted American thought? Better still, how might the profession today take ownership of its own philosophical approach and use it to further human knowledge and deepen human experience?
What if the chiropractic adjustment of the vertebral subluxation could be used as a way to demonstrate the physiological implications of some of the latest approaches in theoretical biology? What if we were able to make the appropriate linkages between the leading theories in neurophysiology and heart-rate variability to the philosophy of chiropractic and bring that into the classroom? Or even the boards? The future is bright if we stay at the leading edge, where chiropractic belongs.
Dr. Simon Senzon…
1. Palmer, B. Philosophy of Chiropractic. 1st ed. Vol. 5. 1909, Davenport: Palmer College of Chiropractic
2. Craven, J. Universal Intelligence, in Philosophy of Chiropractic1920, Palmer College of Chiropractic: Davenport.
3. Palmer, B. ed. The Chiropractic Adjuster; A compilation of the writings of D.D. Palmer. Vol. 4. 1921, Palmer School of Chiropractic: Davenport, IA. *Available as pdf from Chiropracticbooks.
4. Stephenson, R. Chiropractic textbook. 1927, Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
8. Burich, S. Chiropractic Chemistry. Vol. 11. 1920: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
9. Vedder, H. Chiropractic Physiology. Vol. 8. 1922, Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
10. Heath Palmer, M. Chiropractic Anatomy. Vol 9. 1923, Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
11. Firth, J. Chiropractic Symptomatology. Vol. 7. 1925, Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
14. Fergusan, A. and G. Wiese. How many chiropractic schools? An analysis of institutions that offered the D.C. degree. Chiropr Hist, 1988. 8(1): p. 27-36. (Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.)
In the last century, chiropractic pulled itself up by its bootstraps and BECAME a profession. This unique occurrence had NEVER happened before. An apprentice-style school of healing evolved to become the largest drugless health profession in the world. In the process of this rapid evolution, a culture war of epic proportions was fought.
First, there was D.D. Palmer offering an apprenticeship for $500. Several medical doctors, osteopaths, homeopaths, midwives, and patients studied with D.D. in those early years. The training lasted between two to six months. Palmer issued diplomas, which read, “practice and teach.” His students would soon branch off and open schools, publish texts, and compete with Old Dad Chiro for students and dominance. Challenged by legal statutes, his own son, and the competition, D.D. Palmer developed a philosophy along with the art and science. He hoped to SOLIDIFY his LEGACY.
One of the facts of life, WELL UNDERSTOOD today, but NOT yet established in 1899 (when the first class graduated under D.D.’s tutelage), is that individuals view the world through PERSPECTIVES. This is important because the culture war at the heart of chiropractic’s professionalization is a reflection of these perspectives clashing in various ways.
Before D.D. died of broken dreams, he helped to pioneer NOT ONLY chiropractic, but an ENTIRELY NEW perspective through which to view the world!
To be perfectly clear, I am not writing some RAH RAH, bumper-sticker styled pseudo-philosophy post. I am referring SPECIFICALLY to the fact that D.D. Palmer evolved, in his own consciousness, to view the world through 4th person perspectives. This is sometimes referred to as an “early systems-worldview” or a “pluralistic worldview.” It is also an evolution from a 3rd person perspective.
The western scientific worldview is based on the 3rd person perspective, which includes the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Objective empirical facts are its main purview. A 4th person perspective goes the next step. It takes a wider stance.
From the 3rd person, the individual might include the perspectives of his children and parents. From the 4th however, the person may also include consideration of his children’s future and his parent’s past. This perspective includes context, time, as well as whole systems in a holistic way.
Today we take this type of perspective for granted. Since the 1960s, it has become a common worldview (political correctness, civil rights, holistic thinking, etc…). Just a few years ago, research indicated that about 20 million Americans view the world through this perspective. D.D. Palmer was one of the first. He was decades ahead of his time.
I would even argue that chiropractic played an IMPORTANT role in ushering this perspective into the world. (But that is the topic of another post!)
D.D. Palmer understood the body as one hierarchical system, controlled by the nervous system and DEEPLY INFORMED by an organizing intelligence. The expression of this intelligence through matter defined life. Interference to this expression was tantamount to a cosmic disconnect of the life system, resulting in disorganization and dis-ease on many levels: body, mind, and spirit in society and culture.
The medical paradigm has dominated one side of the culture war. The systems and holistic paradigms characterize the other side. Somewhere in between there have always been dogmatic believers on both sides (more fuel for the warfare). On top of that, both sides consider their professional lineage in a direct line to D.D. Palmer, no matter how remote philosophically they may be from his teachings.
Chiropractic EVOLVED into a profession but has not yet embodied the perspectives of its founder. In fact, there are still factions in the profession (some of the most powerful ones) seeking to keep chiropractic limited to the medical-rational perspective rather than evolve. Do we go backwards or do we find a way to include as many perspectives as possible and evolve as D.D. did, as the profession did, and as the future of the profession demands. The gift of being a member of a profession is this; the choice is ours.
Have you ever wondered where the chiropractic curriculum developed from? It is quite an amazing story of intrigue, bootstrapping, and warfare. I won’t fill you with too many of the details today (as I am working on a two-hour online course on the history of the CCE…),1 but I would like to share a bit of my vision of what is possible with you.
The first real attempt at an integrated curriculum was pioneered at Palmer College of Chiropractic in the 1920s. The chiropractic greenbooks integrated the philosophy of innate intelligence and the central importance of the vertebral subluxation in human health and dis-ease throughout every course from chemistry to symptomatology, physiology to anatomy. I recently summarized the quotes about innate intelligence from many of these texts written by B.J .Palmer’s staff. The quotes show extraordinary evidence that the philosophy of chiropractic was on its way to becoming the first systems science of human health, rooted in a deep philosophy that explained human physiology as part of an intricate pattern of intelligence expressing through matter itself. 2
Alas, this approach was short lived due to historical circumstance, economics, philosophical and political disputes, and eventually political agendas, which would soon take over the accreditation process in all American chiropractic colleges. B.J. Palmer was voted out of his leadership role of the Universal Chiropractors’ Association (UCA) in 1926. He then started the Chiropractic Health Bureau, which became the International Chiropractors Association (ICA). According to one of chiropractic’s most revered historians, the break within the “straight” chiropractic movement in the 1920s, “had an impact that was significant enough to change the whole course of the chiropractic education and politics for the rest of the century.”3 The remainder of Palmer’s UCA joined with the newly formed ACA (1922), to become the NCA in 1935, which became the modern-day ACA in 1963. The direction of chiropractic education took a decidedly “medical” turn because of these events.
Chiropractic suffered the fate of most of the pioneering approaches to biology in the first half of the twentieth century. Chiropractic’s systems orientation was often overshadowed by a more molecular/medical approach. The brilliant ideas of emergence, holism, organismic biology, and systems theory, which all emerged around the same time as the Palmer greenbooks, were to take a backseat to the developments in molecular biology inspired by Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA in 1952. The mechanistic approach to biological systems would gain dominance for the rest of the century.4
Chiropractic curriculum reform was undertaken by John Nugent starting in the 1930s, a Palmer graduate from the 1920s. As the NCA Director of Education, Nugent took on the task of reforming the chiropractic schools by modeling Flexner’s approach to reorganizing America’s medical schools. Not only did Nugent encourage many schools to close and merge, go from profit to nonprofit, from no pre-reqs to pre-reqs, from 18 month programs to 36 month programs, but he also led the charge on a standardized curriculum (based on the molecular/medical school curricula) and wrote the first manuals of accreditation. In 1943, the first handbook of the NCA’s accrediting agency, Nugent wrote, “The chiropractor is a physician -a particular kind of physician, and as such is engaged in the treatment and prevention of disease…” Chiropractors from the philosophical side of the profession were outraged at being referred to as physicians. The new standardized curriculum was modeled after the medical schools. The only significant change was that drug and surgery courses were replaced by chiropractic courses. Nugent was hated by both sides of the profession. In fact, B.J. Palmer referred to Nugent as the anti-Christ. Nugent was also viewed as one of the great reformers of chiropractic education. The CCE of today can be attributed to Nugent’s efforts. 5
Calls for curriculum reform are louder than ever in chiropractic (especially with the recent controversy over the CCE’s lack of accountability to the profession, which resulted in CCE’s being required to comply with 43 violations within a year). Calls for curriculum reform span the profession, from the extreme medical fringe of the profession suggesting we fire all philosophy faculty,6 to a more balanced look at innovative approaches to pedagogy and contemporary content,7 to more visionary approaches.8,9,10 It is time we totally revamp our medical chiropractic education.
What if we start fresh and envision a chiropractic curriculum for the twenty-first century, one that keeps the important elements of the old system of education and develops something totally new? What could that look like?
Well, for starters, all students should have a clear and honest exploration of the history and philosophy of this amazing profession. These courses should be standardized and free from politics and disrespect. All future chiropractors should understand the story that is theirs, the good, the bad, the ugly, as well as the leading edge and at least some of what was left behind.
We should also study chiropractic within the context of the paradigms that it helped to bring forth such as systems theory, holism, complexity theory, autopoiesis, non-linear thermodynamics…all of the important biological models of the 20th century. Students should not just study the linear molecular level of biology but also the 40,000 foot view. How do the systems fit together? What are the latest ideas in theoretical biology? Are those ideas consistent with the philosophy of the body as an intelligent and self-organizing system? If so, why aren’t they being taught? (As an offshoot to these additions, we should include the latest research and theory on subtle energy systems and energy medicine!)11
Of course, central to such a curriculum would be the latest science of vertebral subluxation, the leading models of spinal and neural integrity, chiropractic adjusting, instrumentation, alongside the best techniques of the past, ones that have been honed and refined for decades and mastered by the great artists of this profession.
Most importantly we need an integral model that can tie things together; chiropractic philosophy and science, practice and theory, while also developing systems where people feel nurtured and can grow within a community. The chiropractic campus could become a place where humans develop themselves while studying this great profession and feeling included in a worldwide community. Any future curriculum should model the latest ideas of Integral Education.12
Imagine if students could have all of their courses integrated each quarter, with practical hours that were relevant? Imagine if chiropractic school prepared future chiropractors with the practical and business skills needed for their future? Imagine if social networking were integrated into the curriculum not only for each class or each school, but between all chiropractic students worldwide? (I am sure there are many practicing chiropractors that would love to act as mentors through such a system.) Imagine if chiropractic education was a model for doctoral level training that centered on assisting human beings to be their best, serve at the highest, and live a flourishing life?
There is so much more to be added and subtracted to an ideal curriculum. The future of chiropractic education is bright. We are the profession. We get to set the standard if we can share a vision and move forward together.
*(previously published in LifeWest student newspaper – March 2012)
- Online Chiropractic Philosophy and History CE Course
- Third Wave of Chiropractic Philosophy
- Senzon S. 2003. What is Life? JVSR.
- Gibbons, R. 1980. The Rise of the Chiropractic Educational Establishment. In: Who’s who in Chiropractic. P. 346
- Gibbons R. 1985. Chiropractic’s Abraham Flexner: the lonely journey of John J. Nugent, 1935-1963. Chiropractic History 5:44-51. *Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic
- Murphy, D, Schneider M, Seaman D, Perle S, Nelson C. How can Chiropractic become a respected mainstream profession? Chiropractic and Osteopathy 2008, 16.10.
- Johnson C., Green B. 2010. 100 Years after the Flexner Report: Reflections on its influence on chiropractic education. J Chiro Ed. 24(2).
- Kent, C. 2010. A new direction for CCE? Dynamic Chiropractic 28(24).
- Senzon, S. 2007. What I Wish I Learned in Chiropractic College. Today’s Chiropractic Lifestyles.
- Senzon, S. 2008. Chiropractic and Energy Medicine: A Shared History. J Chiro Hum 15.