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.