B.J. Palmer’s Vol 2

In 1907, B.J. Palmer published his first book. It was based on his lectures. He called it Volume 2 in the new series on the Science of Chiropractic. B.J. considered this the second philosophical book. Volume 1 was primarily a compilation of his father’s writings. Volumes 3 and 4 came out in 1908 and Volume 5 in 1909. The chiropractic literature is mostly silent on Vol. 2, even though it was one of the most significant contributions to chiropractic theory of the last century. Many of the ideas B.J. put forth in this text were unique.

This short video clip is part of a lecture on the first edition of the book. Each clip explores one idea or one aspect of B.J.’s theories. His Innate theory built upon his father’s theory of Innate Intelligence, which were developed in 1903 and 1905. B.J. takes it further. We could even compare his ideas to more recent theories associated with enactive cognitive science and autopoiesis.


  • B.J. Palmer wrote about 34 books often referred to as The Greenbooks.
  • His early inspiration was from his father whose first chiropractic writings were compiled as Volume 1.
  • Robert Fuller considered D.D. Palmer’s contribution a unique integration of Spiritualist ideas with science.
  • The ideas from Vol. 2 were congruent with modern theories of enaction and autopoiesis.
  • The development of the chiropractic paradigm by the Palmers can be viewed as a form of Systems Science.

To learn more please join The Institute Chiropractic and get access to over two hundred video and audio clips.

Chiropractic Insider

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.

There is no simple dichotomy anymore, although for many the line ultimately gets drawn at the inclusion of drugs and surgery into chiropractic.(1,2, 3)

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.[9] 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.[12] 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.



Future of Chiropractic Curriculum

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)

  1. Online Chiropractic Philosophy and History CE Course
  2. Third Wave of Chiropractic Philosophy
  3. Senzon S. 2003. What is Life? JVSR.
  4. Gibbons, R. 1980. The Rise of the Chiropractic Educational Establishment. In: Who’s who in Chiropractic. P. 346
  5. 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
  6. Murphy, D, Schneider M, Seaman D, Perle S, Nelson C. How can Chiropractic become a respected mainstream profession? Chiropractic and Osteopathy 2008, 16.10.
  7. Johnson C., Green B. 2010. 100 Years after the Flexner Report: Reflections on its influence on chiropractic education. J Chiro Ed. 24(2).
  8. Kent, C. 2010. A new direction for CCE? Dynamic Chiropractic 28(24).
  9. http://mcqi.org/vitalistic-curriculum/introduction
  10. Senzon, S. 2007. What I Wish I Learned in Chiropractic College. Today’s Chiropractic Lifestyles.
  11. Senzon, S. 2008. Chiropractic and Energy Medicine: A Shared History. J Chiro Hum 15.
  12. http://nextstepintegral.org/resources/integral-education-resources
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