The History of That Which Is Truly Chiropractic Philosophy
Fred Barge, DC, PhC

THE HISTORY OF chiropractic reveals a persistent dichotomy that must be initially addressed before the history of what is truly chiropractic philosophy can be discussed. Early chiropractic writings clearly reveal that which was truly new and unique chiropractically was laid down by the founder of chiropractic, D.D. Palmer, and his son, B.J.

They and they alone brought forth something singularly new upon the health-care scene at the turn of the century. From his accomplishment of the first chiropractic adjustment in 1895 to the subsequent publishing of his 1910 text, D.D. Palmer originated a philosophy of chiropractic that rapidly evolved into a distinctly non-thera-peutic healing art, i.e., chiropractic es-not treat disease.

In this same period of time, the eclectic branch of chiropractic, which began with the graduates of D.D. Palmer going forth and starting other schools, also gained momentum. Generally speaking, they held forth an eclectic form of practice wherein the spinal adjustment became a form of was taught along with numerous other therapeutic procedures popular in that time. This type of practice was termed “mixed practice” in those days, and the practitioners who elected to use multiple therapies were dubbed “mixers.”

It is totally understandable that practitioners of other healing arts, as many of D.D. Palmer’s first students were, would not simply drop all the methods they had employed and practice only the art of spinal adjustment. They had been trained in the treatment of disease, and they simply included the adjustment as a manipulatory procedure in their armamentarium of disease treatment modalities. They followed in the medical model of the healers of their times who employed the “outside in” disease treatment concept that had persisted for centuries before them.

One such practitioner, Dr. Solon Langworthy, founded the American School of Chiropractic and Nature Cure in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1903. He included traction and other therapeutic methods in the teaching of what he viewed chiropractic to be. For a brief period of time, Langworthy’s influence was quite pervasive, but after 1910 he was virtually unheard of. He could be considered, however, to be the founder of “mixed practice.”

At first, the distinction between those who practiced “mixed’ therapeutics and those who followed the Palmer chiropractic philosophy was not very clear. Most chiropractors focused strongly upon the spinal adjustment, and early state laws confined chiropractic to this realm of care. The public soon became aware that chiropractors adjusted the vertebrae of the spine for spinal misalignments, called subluxations. But, as time went on, the influence of those who practiced mixed practice obfuscated the identity of chiropractic until, increasingly today, public confusion exists as to what chiropractic practice really is.

Presently our colleges are very close to being evenly split on the teaching of each form of practice. Approximately 50 percent teach a subluxation-based, non-therapeutic, “Palmer” chiropractic practice and philosophy. The other 50 percent follow an allopathic model, teaching an eclectic regimen of disease treatment therapeutics. They include “spinal manipulative therapy” as one of the modalities they use, along with numerous other disease treatments legally allowed by the various state laws. Such a stance decrees that chiropractic is that which state laws allow it to be. To this, Dr. Donald Kern, the immediate past president of Palmer College of Chiropractic, said, “Chiropractic is, regardless of what 50 state laws say it is!” And I heartily agree. Certainly chiropractic is not an eclectic hodgepodge of therapeutic disease treatment modalities.

The study of the Palmers’ writings has been an ongoing interest in my life ever since my father read to me as a boy from D.D.’s 1910 text, The Chiropractor’s Adjuster. It is apparent, from this book and in writings prior to 1910, that D.D. Palmer’s chiropractic philosophy evolved quite rapidly in the less than two decades he lived after founding the chiropractic profession (1905-1913).

D.D.’s last book, The Chiropractor, in 1914, was a collection of his essays published posthumously. I do not place much credence in the contents of this text, as he may never have published it in the form that we find it today. Writing is rewriting, and D.D. Palmer did not approve the final draft.

Having explained the difference between the two forms of practice within chiropractic, I will focus on what is truly the philosophy of chiropractic by looking at writings from D.D. Palmer, his son B.J., the early authors of the Palmer School of Chiropractic‘s “Green Books,” through the “Thots” of Drs. Galen Price, Marshall Himes, E.L. (Bud) Crowder, Virgil Strang, Sid E. Williams and others.

D.D. Palmer’s Evolution of “Thot”

Prior to the first chiropractic adjustment, D.D. Palmer practiced a metaphysically based form of healing, and he referred to himself as a magnetic healer. Magnetic healers were quite prevalent at the tum of the century; essentially, they believed they could project their life force into a patient and heal them.

However, D.D. had a unique approach; he was “specific.” He would locate the area of problem in the patient’s body and with his hands project the healing force specifically into that area. He claimed he could cool the inflammatory process that caused disease. Thus, we can see that this singular “specific” approach began before the adjustment of Harvey Lillard and carried on into the lexicon of chiropractic.

D.D. wrote: “Is the science of chiropractic specific? If it is not specific, it is not a science.”(l)

But the adjustment of Lillard brought with it a new concept in D.D.’s thinking. Something was out of place in Lillard’s anatomy. Something was out of place in the “human machine.” D.D. found the problem and righted what was wrong, and the man’s hearing was restored.

In his graphic account of the event, D.D. wrote: “Harvey Lillard, a janitor in the Ryan Block, where I had my office, had been so deaf for 17 years that he could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street or the ticking of a watch. I made inquiry as to the cause of his deafness and was informed that when he was exerting himself in a cramped, stooped position, he felt something give way in his back and immediately became deaf. An examination showed a vertebra racked from its normal position. I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored. With this object in view, a half-hour’s talk persuaded Mr. Lillard to allow me to replace it. I racked it into position by using the spinous process as a lever and soon the man could hear as before. “(2)

The adjustment led D.D. Palmer to briefly abandon his metaphysical roots, and his “man the machine” era came into being. In his newspaper format periodical, The Chiropractic, published in 1899, he stated: “When all parts of the human machine are made to work without friction and all obstructions are removed, then nature will bring strength and health.

“The cause of disease is a mechanical obstruction to natural functions. The human mechanic can remove and adjust that cause by his knowledge of anatomy and a highly cultured sense of touch.”

D.D., in the same issue of The Chiropractic, also spoke of chiropractic’s preventive qualities: “Life may be prolonged and misery prevented by getting the human machine fixed whenever any injury is done, and not wait for the injury to produce inflammation and a fevered condition… .Instead of waiting as the medics do for symptoms to develop, the magnetic manipulator or chiropractic will put the wrong to right, and the symptoms will not develop, for the cause is removed. An ounce of prevention is, in this case, worth much more than a pound of cure. Dr. Palmer discovers the cause of disease as readily before the disease is developed as after and as readily relieves it.”

But by 1903, D.D. already had abandoned the word treatment, which he used frequently in his “man the machine” era. Manipulation was replaced by adjustment, and chiropractic care was fast becoming completely non-therapeutic. Even before the first Palmer book was published in 1906, his metaphysical concepts of Universal Intelligence, Innate and Life Force found themselves at the root base of his chiropractic philosophy.

The transition into the metaphysical, vitalistic “life force” principles saw him abandon early “man the machine” concepts, so much so that in his 1910 tome he continually berated that which he had at first proclaimed:

“A human body is not a mill or machine. Health or disease are not manufactured products, they are conditions. “(3)

Thus, we can see that D.D. Palmer had only a brief period of time wherein the mechanistic approach dominated, and even then, vitalism was apparent throughout his teachings. But the “man the machine” era had its purpose. It had brought forth a reason for people being sick. It was a problem on the inside, not the outside. With this concept, so foreign at the tum of the century, he brought forth chiropractic’s nontherapeutic stance. He united the concepts of life force with a physical presence that denied this force its expression — the vertebral subluxation. What exhilaration he must have felt to finally explain to himself that which he always sought!

In his 1910 text, he wrote: “One question was always uppermost in my mind in my search for the cause of disease. I desired to know why one person was ailing and his associate, eating at the same table, working in the same shop, at the same bench, was not. Why? What difference was there in the two persons that cause one to have pneumonia, catarrh, typhoid or rheumatism, while his partner similarly situated, escaped? Why? This question had worried people for thousands for centuries and was answered in September 1895.”(4)

With the discovery of the subluxation, he had found the answer. This was the discovery that was truly chiropractic. It was not another therapy for disease treatment, but the location and adjustic correction of the cause of malfunction and its resultant dis-ease — the vertebral subluxation.

In The Lerner Papers, Cyrus Lerner, a New York lawyer for the Foundation for Health Research in 1950, wrote: “When Old Dad Chlro wrote that he was not the first person to adjust subluxated vertebrae, he merely meant that others in the past had worked on the vertebrae, but not for the same purpose as he was doing, and certainly not to show that the subluxated joints of the spinal column revealed a hidden ailment or disease at a point distant from the place of subluxation. No one in the past had ever made this statement. Old Dad Chiro’s discovery was probably as full of meaning as the discovery of the pulse.”

To those who follow in the chiropractic concepts of the Palmers, it certainly had as much “meaning” as the discovery of the pulse. The “adjustment” of the subluxation was truly somethlng new, as we must remember that during D.D.’s era there were many manipulators who aimed to right what was wrong but not specifically. A.T Still founded osteopathy 21 years before D.D. adjusted Lillard, and manipulation was commonly practiced by 1895.

In The Chiropractic, in 1899, Dr. J.C. Bouman describes the difference between osteopathic treatment and chiropractic care: ·”About 2 p.m., the doctor began giving treatments. His waiting room was filled with patients enough to keep ten osteopaths busy all day. He had no helpers, but used three treating rooms. In one and a half hours, he had treated all of them and had some time to spare to entertain me and others.”

The osteopaths, with their full body manipulatory procedures, usually had one or two helpers to aid in the long lever manipulatory approaches they used. The manipulations were lengthy and, I imagine, exhausting to the manipulators and the manipulated alike. But this did not apply to the adjustments of D.D. Palmer. He was specific. He firmly stated that he did not manipulate and repeated it often in his 1910 text: “Chiropractors do not manipulate; they do not use the process of manipulation; they adjust.”(5)

D.D. had an objective in mind: to correct a subluxation that interfered with the transmission of mental impulses from brain cell to tissue cell. Once released, health would be the result. He not only answered his own question of the “why” of disease, he also stated: “What is life, disease, death and immortality? These questions have been propounded by the savants of all ages and have remained unanswered until the advent of chiropractic. This science and life are coexistent; it now answers the first three questions and in time will lift the veil which obstructs the view of the life beyond.” ( 6)

So, you see, for himself and for chiropractic, he believed that he had unlocked the secret of life, heal! . death and disease, and he hoped we would “lift the veil” to what lies beyond.

D.D. Palmer’s short life, as the “magnetic healer,” the “magnetic manipulator” and the first chiropractor, saw him bring forth the rudimentary base for something revolutionary upon the healthcare scene, and he named it chiropractic! He had united the life force and the physical, and he corrected any interference between the two with the adjustment of the vertebral subluxation. Through chiropractic philosophy, he explained how this life force restored health, life and well-being. The subluxation interfered not only with health but with Universal Intelligence’s expression in man through man’s Innate Intelligence. Thus, the concepts of body, mind and spirit were brought into chiropractic philosophy.

Chiropractors did not treat disease; rather, they removed the obstruction to healing, allowing the body’s spirit, the Innate Intelligence, to provide the treatment. This was the new philosophical concept, the non-therapeutic stance.

Having studied the practices of the mixing faction of the profession thoroughly, D.D. said: “Advocates of other methods are just as much in earnest and equally as anxious that I should use their favorite mode of treatment. I have looked the chiropractic adjustment rooms over and cannot find room for any other method; nothing more is needed. Any remedy would be badly in the way, stumbling blocks to our students’ advancement. No, thank you, I do not mix, I give chiropractic straight. If it were mixed with all the methods offered, it would soon lose its identity.”(7)

D.D. Palmer was very clear in what he had brought forth, and it was not disease treatment therapeutics.

In the words of a Palmer graduate and the founder of Life College, Dr. Sid E. Williams: “We as a profession have been authorized to function upon the basis of our chiropractic approach to health and sickness. Our legislative niche has been delegated to us not as a replacement for, or a variety of, medicine, but rather as a practice based on a new thought, a new law, and a new method, in the care and management of human ills.”

To that, B.J. Palmer would say, “Enuf sed.”

B.J. Palmer: The Developer

After D.D. Palmer was jailed for practicing medicine without a license, he served part of his sentence, paid his fine and left Davenport, Iowa. However, he had provided for his son B.J. the concrete foundation of chiropractic, and B.J. Palmer built upon it very well indeed. He ameliorated the spinal adjustment concepts of his father and developed the full philosophical concepts of Universal, Innate and Educated Intelligence. He created the “Above Down, Inside Out” philosophy, the “God in Man” principle, and the “Big Idea” of chiropractic.

He stated: “The master maker of the human body did not create you and then run off and leave you masterless. He stayed on the job as Innate, as the Fellow Within, as nerve transmission controlling every function of life, as Spirit from Above-Down, Inside-Out, expressing, creating, exploring, directing you in every field and phase of experience so that your home is truly the world and the world is your home.”

B.J. Palmer entered the chiropractic scene with all of the vigor only youth can muster. Saddled with a debt-ridden institution, the Palmer School of Chiropractic, he stood alone at the helm of the fledgling profession, and he was responsible for both the growth and prosperity of the school and chiropractic.

After losing his right to practice in Iowa, D.D. had left and endeavored vainly to start schools of chiropractic elsewhere. Perhaps his rage was mainly due to jealousy toward his son, rather than for stealing chiropractic as he claimed. D.D.’s vitriolic attacks against B.J. are certainly evident in his 1910 text, but then, too, he raged against numerous chiropractors. D.D. named his text The Chiropractor’s Adjuster because he meant to give “an adjustment” to all chiropractors who did not follow his dictates.

B.J. Palmer, however, gave complete credit to his father in all his writings. In my opinion, the profession owes its gratitude to B.J. for ensuring its survival as a separate, distinct healing art. It was B.J. who fought the early battles to put the profession on track and defended its right to be licensed as a separate, distinct healing art.

He developed and defined the principles of the chiropractic triune, Universal, Innate and Educated Intelligence, capitalizing the terms to indicate the higher order of their existence. They were, to him, the “God in Man” principle.

He stated: “INNATE is God in human beings. INNATE is good in human beings. INNATE cannot be cheated, violated or tricked. INNATE is always waiting, ready to communicate with you, and when INNATE is in contact, you are in tune with the Infinite.”

He realized that this principle would not be well accepted and he stated: “The world is indoctrinated in medicine. People are conceived and born in a medicine cabinet. They grow up in a drugstore. Their priests and their tin gods are the AMA. They have been brainwashed, hypnotized, mesmerized and drugged to believe their life-force comes from Outside-In. Chiropractic must unbrainwash the public and demonstrate that health comes from Inside-Out. But first we must unbrainwash the chiropractor, too many of whom have themselves not caught the idea that the vertebral adjustment releases Innate, works in harmony with Innate, and becomes a partner with Innate in effecting the cure.”

So, he went forth to teach, as a professor, a lecturer and through his efforts in radio, he taught the principles of chiropractic throughout the world. He brought forth, sanctioned and endorsed the book, written by R.W. Stephenson, which laid down chiropractic’s major premise and meaning of life:
– “Universal Intelligence is in all matter and continually gives to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence.”
– “The expression of intelligence through matter is the chiropractic meaning of life.”

He promulgated the definition of subluxation, which still stands as accurate and acceptable today:
“Subluxation– the condition of a vertebra which has lost its proper juxtaposition with the one above, the one below, or both, to an extent less than a luxation, which impinges nerves and interferes with the transmission of mental impulses.”

B.J. developed the Meric System, advanced the concepts of nerve tracing, and developed instrumentation, X-ray and spinographic procedures to the nth degree during his times. He brought forth the concepts of upper cervical specific chiropractic and created the B.J. Palmer Research Clinic, where outcome assessment was thoroughly documented for a myriad of diseases. He had two medical doctors on the staff whose job it was to provide the diagnosis of ills, monitor body function and document the progress, or lack of same, under chiropractic care. He operated the Clear View Sanitarium for chiropractic care of the mentally ill, and he developed rehabilitative procedures for the non-ambulatory patients in his research clinic.

As the son of a chiropractor (Dr. H.A. Barge, PSC Class of 1923), I attended Palmer College homecomings (Lyceums) as a lad. I was the ninth in my family to become a Palmer graduate, and when I was a student in 1951, B.J. Palmer became my teacher and my mentor.

Contemporary Philosophers

It was through his mentorship that the great philosophers of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s came forth, notably Drs. Cleveland Sr., Thompson, Crowder, Parker, Stephenson, Firth, Gonstead, Price, Himes and Napolitano. Then, in the 1950s, Drs. Williams, Gold, Trout, Strang, Peet and Peet, Pierce, Stillwagon and many others. Most noted chiropractic philosophers today can trace their roots to B.J. Palmer and his college professors of the 1940s and 1950s.

In this light, one of the most prominent of today’s chiropractors stands out. Taught and mentored by B.J. Palmer, Dr. Sid E. Williams is the leading contemporary proponent of B.J.’s “Above Down, Inside Out” Innate philosophy.

As the founder and president of Life College and its School of Chiropractic, the largest chiropractic institution in the world, Dr. Sid (as he is affectionately known) carries on the teachings of his mentor. Life College, located in Marietta, Ga., today has an enrollment of more than 3,000 chiropractic students and collectively more than 4,000 students on campus. The enrollment of more than 3,000 D.C. students in 1994 exceeds the high of B.J. Palmer’s School of Chiropractic, which was 2,776 in 1921.

Dr. Sid graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1956. In 1964, he and his wife, Dr. Nell, who graduated with him, began a chiropractic seminar called “Dynamic Essentials (D.E.).” Dr. Sid saw the need to perpetuate and renew the teaching of the principles, practice and philosophy of chiropractic. D.E. has been the motivational source that has brought many chiropractors into the full realization of Palmer chiropractic principles.

Through his mentorship, the next generation of chiropractic philosophers are springing forth. Graduating from the broad spectrum of chiropractic colleges, the names of those he has taught now grace the rolls of all state, national and college philosophy programs. So, through them, that which truly constitutes chiropractic philosophy will continue on.

Chiropractic’s unique viewpoints on health care and disease prevention through the correction of vertebral subluxations, maintenance of normal spinal contours, restoration of neuromusculoskeletal and organic malfunction, and even advice on nutrition, exercise and healthy hygienic living, are well known today.

But above all, in the practice of what is truly chiropractic, is the detection, location, analysis, control, reduction and adjustic correction of vertebral subluxations. The science of chiropractic has gained credence with each passing decade until today, as it stands on the brink of the total acceptance of its new health-care paradigm, which recognizes that dis-ease begins first as bodily malfunction .

Malfunction then exhibits the symptoms, the physiological and pathological changes that we term disease.

Center stage, as the cause of malfunction in the human and animal body, is the vertebral subluxation complex and the concomitant neuroforaminal encroachment factors that interfere with the expression of the life force that provides the body with the necessary homeostatic equilibrium to ward off disease. This philosophy, with its vitalistic and metaphysical concepts of health, creates not only a healthy body through spinal adjustment but a healthy concept of living, which provides its bearer with a “life without fear.”

Chiropractic philosophy holds forth a concept of cause. It espouses the concepts of cause and cure in the following manner: There is but one cause in disease, the body’s inability to comprehend itself and/or its environment. There is but one cure in disease, the body’s ability to heal itself. And there is only one thing any doctor can do for a patient, and that is to remove an obstruction to healing, thus facilitating it.

The concept of knowing the power that made the body can heal the body is a powerful source of succor in times of physiological stress. It eliminates the fear that destroys hope and thus it fosters recovery, knowing as we do that fear is the fuel that disease thrives upon.

Chiropractic science teaches us that only when bodily malfunction takes place will the body foster disease, and we have a way to improve malfunction through the adjustment of the cause, the vertebral subluxation. Chiropractic care energizes the Elan Vital, the healing powers of nature, the “God in man” concept, some say.

Today, verification of this sound, basic hypothesis is continually mounting. The correction of this interference restores “tone” to the human system, restores proper homeostatic equilibrium. In the words of Dr. Sid Williams, it provides “vivification” for the human body.

In conclusion, consider the following comments on chiropractic philosophy from Lip Without Fear. Joseph C. Keating, Jr., Ph.D., now with the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, said: “The elder Palmer considered the innate healing force to be characteristic of all tissues of the body, and in this sense anticipated Cannon’s notion of homeostasis …. Perhaps chiropractic physicians will begin to study the innate healing force in a systematic and experimental fashion so as to advance chiropractic science. In the absence of research, however, many chiropractic theories of Innate Intelligence will remain magical, pseudo-scientific forces which are released by spinal adjustment, and D.D. Palmer’s brilliant insight will not receive the consideration it deserves.”

Dr. Keating has issued us a substantive challenge– to study the “Innate healing force.” The study of Innate should also encompass the entire chiropractic innate concept. As Ronald Danis stated, “D.D. Palmer seems to have meant far more (when referring to Innate) than homeostasis, and it could be wrong to limit the development of chiropractic philosophy to homeostatic systems.”

Dr. Strang, president of Palmer College of Chiropractic, presents this thought on homeostasis: “We know that homeostasis involves negative feedback. We even know some of the mechanisms entailed. But this knowledge does not really touch the deeper mystery of how the body ‘thinks’ physiologically: Sensory information must be endlessly integrated and efferent activity determined. The stringing together of mechanisms cannot be expected to capture the overall reality of organic, dynamic activity. Classic mechanistic thinking is rooted in the notion that the parts explain the whole. This is true of mechanistic processes such as gearing or even electronic computing. But as Aristotle observed, nature is a world of purpose. In such a world, mechanisms are merely the instruments through which superimposing purposes work their wills.

“It is this marvelous, innate (inborn), purposeful nature which is the predominant, practical reality behind the mechanisms of homeostasis.”

Above and beyond the subluxation in traditional and true chiropractic philosophy is Innate. Can we as a profession champion the teaching of these concepts?

As Fred Hart, founder of the National Health Federation, said: “Someone must teach new things, someone must take the abuse, someone must be ostracized, someone must be called a fraud and a quack. Then out of all of it comes the new truth to become a part of us… Thus we receive new facts to make up our proud possession of knowledge.”

Today, we have the knowledge; the facts are on our side; and as B.J. said: “When facts are known, knowledge exists. When we possess knowledge, faiths and beliefs disappear, for one is skeletal frame for substance of other.”

Belief once sustained us before the knowledge of our truths became apparent. If you glance at the shelves of any bookseller today, you will find a plethora of books espousing the concept of “The Healer Within,”– the “Above Down, Inside Out” true Palmer philosophy.

And how will our traditional foe, medicine, respond to this tidal wave of facts? Adapt? Bend? Perish? Will it develop a new “outside, in” treatment, such as tampering with genetics?

Time will tell, but in the words of Dr. Williams: “Medicine? Let them suffer the agonies of a failed premise.”

And what about those within the chiropractic profession who practice the therapeutic approach to disease? B.J. was cognizant of our problem– our dichotomy, so to speak — and he said this: “Let us not limit these greater things to come. Let us have the distant vision of the eagle, heed our ways with forward outlook and perhaps let the uninformed majority fall by the wayside; but let us move forward and upward, unafraid; place our trust in the High Power above and beyond and within us, in our decisions in getting sick people well and staying well, chiropractically.”

Need I say more than these words from the “Developer of Chiropractic”? I think not, and to this statement he would say, “Enuf sed.”

(1.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 784.
(2.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 18.
(3.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 668.
(4.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 18 .
(5.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 147.
(6.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 491.
(7.) Palmer, D.D., The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, 1910, p. 80.

*Republished by permission by Today’s Chiropractic and the Barge Family.
**Original article appeared in Today’s Chiropractic; 02/28/995; V. 24; N.1; p.74-75,77-78,80,122-126


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