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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 1, 1998, Vol. 16, Issue 01

Philosophical Openness Towards an Integrated Profession

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall

By David Prescott, MA,JD,DC,FIAMA
To paraphrase the title of a recent bestseller, "Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from children's books. Since then, I've spent the rest of my life trying to figure out what it was I was supposed to have learned and peeling back layers of meaning. One particularly relevant phrase comes from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (from my memory): "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again."

Lewis Carroll was, among other things, talking about the way in which the Western scientific enterprise has taken everything apart for the purpose of analysis and cannot put it back together again. As I discussed in my last article (see the December 1, 1997 issue of DC), this is what the NIH has done with the whole field of alternative medicine. It is up to us to put it back together into some workable holistic model. I have done that, at least to my own satisfaction, as shown below (see Figure 1). Of course, this is a diagnostic/therapeutic model designed to compliment the "extracellular compartment" physiologic model introduced in part 4 of this series (see the September 8, 1997 issue).

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Fig. 1: This model is intended to remind readers that all scientific/healing models are embedded in some set of metaphysical assumptions.

I did not include this model here in order to provide a framework for alternative care; nor, for that matter, to endorse the Tao as some kind of ultimate symbol. Rather, my purpose is to remind us that all scientific/healing models are embedded in some set of metaphysical assumptions and to raise two points:

  1. The Western scientific "establishment" excludes philosophical assumptions which propose that "life" and its processes, are like, or manifest, "mind" or "intelligence"; and


  2. That this metaphysical prejudice exists, and is at the core of the divisions within the chiropractic community itself.

The chiropractic community needs to transcend these divisions based upon the acceptance of the idea of metaphysical openness.1 Otherwise, our divisions will themselves serve organized medicine's continuing efforts to keep us from the table.

Metaphysical Prejudice

Please note that the "particulars" in figure 1 are embedded in, emerge from, and are inexorably interconnected with the Tao. Or is it the Tao? How about the "void or infinite", "that which is", "Ein sof", "entelechal dimension", "Buddha mind", "ground of being", "universal/innate Intelligence", "God", "light", etc. In the debate currently going on in the scientific community, one must use the contemporary metaphors such as "mind/consciousness", Bose-Einstein condensate (coherent light -- holograms), quantum wave, vacuum space, dissipative structures, autopoiesis, morphogenetic fields, etc. This is true, even if one's ultimate objective (as is mine) is to show possible similarities and/or differences between the concepts involved in these expressions. All viewpoints should have a seat at the table. Do they get it?

Even if one uses the current terminology, you can expect an uphill battle to get any "consciousness" model accepted. However, from the Hasidic scholar at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to the guy next door, we all know we are condemned, as goes the old Chinese curse, "to live in interesting times." Indeed, it is obviously a time of epochal change.2 We need to keep our feet partially in the past, and our eyes and marketing strategies on the future.

The battleground was articulated at a 1994 conference at the University of Arizona entitled "Toward a Scientific Basis for Consciousness." Dr. Willis Harman, president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in a wrap-up presentation, stated:

"I will point out one little odd thing about the whole field of science: practically every aspect as far as know. Science deals with models and metaphors; you deduce some conclusions from it, you may make some predictions, you may test those out and so on. You're allowed to use various kinds of metaphors and still get tenure and research contracts and all those kinds of things. You can say that in my experience reality is very much like a lot of small particles, or like a wave phenomenon; or you may even use some more holistic models and you may talk about an ecological community, or an organism, or even Gaia. There's only one kind of metaphor that you're not allowed to use; that's taboo. That is to say that in my experience, reality is very much like the consciousness of my own mind ..."

Obviously, the opposition to such ideas as mind, consciousness, or universal intelligence is not only directed at chiropractors. But it is imperative to notice that we are no longer alone in the battle for an expanded vision of reality and therapeutic care. It would be one of the great ironies of history if 50,000 chiropractors walked off the field just as reinforcements arrived and the battle was getting really interesting. By doing so, we would also be abandoning to others a very large slice of the medical care pie. The winds of change are upon us. We will survive or be vanquished, in significant part, by how well we learn to articulate our vision(s).

The 1994 U. of A. conference was extremely enlightening and important. The qualifications of the participants were extraordinary, but I thought the most significant comment may have come from an audience member following the last session. He suggested that the conference should have been called "Towards the Scientific Correlates of Consciousness," rather than the "scientific basis." His point was, of course, that the methods of science may, in the long run, not be able to fully explain reality or consciousness. He received quite a round of applause.

Personally, I think ultimate reality is beyond the capacity of science to fully explain or quantify. As Paul Tillich, a leading Christian theologian once said, "The finite mind cannot fully comprehend the infinite." This is not, however, the time or place to further elucidate the ideas developed at this conference.

We need to participate in this "mind/intelligence" battle and build bridges with other persons so involved. It bears pointing out that the U. of A. conference was arranged by Stewart Hammeroff, an anesthesiologist with the University of Arizona Medical School.

The WFC's Resolution to Call Chiropractic "Mainstream"

As reported by Dr. Rosner in the August 11, 1997 issue of this publication, the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) at its June 5, 1997 conference in Tokyo sought a resolution from its membership that "chiropractic is a mainstream form of health care and not at all alternative in nature." Dr. Rosner pointed out that the resolution was based upon the assumption that "mainstream = scientific, and that alternative = unscientific."

This is simply not correct. Upon what did the WFC base its assumption? I suggest they must have based it upon the belief that any metaphysical assumptions outside the predominant Western scientific model are simply false or unscientific. I beg to differ.

This profession owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Rosner for his opposition to the WFC resolution (it was tabled by the WFC). I assume it will be raised again in the future. Some of the chiropractors who have taken my personal injury seminar may wonder at my opposition to this WFC resolution. Let me explain.

I have, as an attorney, represented more than 30 different insurance companies, including Farmers and State Farm, and handled more cases than I care to think about on the plaintiff's side. In my personal injury seminar, I emphasize the modern, neurophysiological concepts of subluxation and categorically assert that I and other attorneys do not want mind, innate, etc. to be brought up in a PI case. But outside this narrow arena, I personally claim the constitutional right to assert the metaphysical ideas of a non-material reality (mind/vibration/energy/information/chi/light/God, etc.) and the scientifically demonstrable fact that this phenomenon interacts with the body to, in part, regulate homeostasis and well-being.

Personally, I would defend the WFC's right to assert the position that its members wish to disavow innate, etc. and/or wish to claim to be mainstream. I wish them well if they choose to do that. Personally, I think they are dreaming, but so be it -- just don't include me. I, for one, want to be both an alternative (drugless) physician and/or neuromuskuloskeletal specialist.

The problem arises when somebody asserts the right to say "Chiropractic is _________", rather than "In my view, the traditional/historic -- or contemporary -- or legal scope of practice of chiropractic is ___________." Obviously, whenever some person or entity states "Chiropractic is ____________" they are limiting it and therefore every chiropractor's market identity. Of course, state law defines what chiropractic is; at least in the sense of scope of practice.

The banner on page 3 of Dynamic Chiropractic states, "UNITY WITHOUT UNIFORMITY." Agreed, but how can this be accomplished if some individual, or group of chiropractors, claim the right to define for the public exactly what chiropractic is? It cannot! All they should do is state their position as to what chiropractic is in a particular context -- historical; philosophical; biomechanical; neurophysiological; therapeutic; etc.

In my opinion, we should all disavow any exclusive right to define chiropractic without clearly identifying the context in which we speak. We need unity based upon an integrated network relationship rather than a hierarchical one. In my next article, I will address some lessons to be learned from California's legal history.


  1. It is imperative to note that an expanded set of metaphysical assumptions is primarily important to enlarge the scope of the permissible questions asked regarding health care, or otherwise. It does not, however, reduce the demand for rigor in addressing the questions, but the broader assumptions may call for a recognition of the limits of the scientific enterprise itself.
  2. I suggest that anybody interested in these philosophical ideas should read: Tarnas R, Passion of the Western Mind, Ballantine Books, New York, 1991.

David Prescott, DC, MA, JD, FIACA
Silverado, California

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