Chiropractic Evolution

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.

For Example:

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.


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