Chiropractic Philosophy at the Edge
Let’s go back to the Greenbooks from the 1920s and the role they may have played in 20th century biological and systems thinking. I know, I know, you wonder, “Why should we even bother with those old books?” Well, WE SHOULD…and I’ll tell you why.
I made a small point in my last blog post about those books and how they represented an early attempt at an integrated curriculum. A curriculum, mind you, that sought to integrate a systems worldview into biology, while also including links between mind, body, and spirit. An approach like that is not even included in “the mainstream” today. The approach in those early days offered a MORE INTEGRATED educational system than the CCE/NBCE dominated curricula of the 21st century! By reconnecting to that philosophical lineage, we may just help chiropractic to continue to be at the edge of biological and philosophical thought.
The book that really set the tone for the outpouring of texts at the Palmer school in the 1920s was called Philosophy of Chiropractic. This particular Greenbook (volume V), is virtually UNKNOWN to most chiropractic philosophers because of a typo. The first edition of the book was authored by B.J. Palmer in 1909. On the binding of that book was the proper title. The second edition brought in a co-author, John H. Craven. That revised edition came out in 1916. The binder of that book, incorrectly read, “The Science of Chiropractic.” It was reprinted yearly as the book was impossible to keep in stock. (After all, those were the boom years at Palmer College. By 1921, the incoming class was something like 1,200.**)
I wonder how many generations of students of chiropractic philosophy, did not buy the book or did not REALIZE it was actually a philosophy text…but that is another story. In fact, I recently acquired what seems to have been Craven’s copy of the 1st edition. Hopefully scholars with some time on their hands can compare and contrast the differences between editions. To accurately understand the early and seminal ideas from the philosophy, we should be able to DISTINGUISH Craven’s ideas from B.J. Palmer’s.
Another important influence on the early Greenbooks, was the republication of D.D. Palmer’s two books. B.J. edited and published them in 1921 as a second Volume IV. D.D.’s books were generally not available at that point. We can only surmise that access to this version (edited by B.J.) was an inspiration to many.
But what of the other authors who were influenced by Craven and B.J.? Of course, the most well-known is Stephenson, who published volume 14, in 1927, but what of his teachers (like Craven) and their books? And that is at the HEART of the importance of this particular ERA of chiropractic’s philosophy. Recently, I designated it the 3rd Wave of Philosophy in Chiropractic. Several years ago, I just called it the “Collaborative Phase.”
The other main authors from PSC included, James Leroy Nixon, S.L. Burich, Henry Vedder, Mabel Heath Palmer, James Firth, & Arthur Holmes. There is hardly room in this short post to expand on their writing, which is okay, because I have created some EXCERPTS for your enjoyment on this site (just click on the reference links below). Each excerpt explores how these authors incorporated Innate Intelligence in their writings on topics like pathology, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and law. IMAGINE if we can revisit this idea and develop NEW core curricula that incorporated the perspective of Innate Intelligence into every course?
Even more important in my view, these texts demonstrate how the philosophy of chiropractic was at the leading edge of biological thinking ninety-years ago! Just a glimpse through the applications of systems theory, chaos theory, and complexity theory for medical practices today will demonstrate that fact. The references would take too long. Just go to google scholar and search terms like, “systems theory and medicine,” “chaos theory and heart,” or “complexity theory and illness,” or anything like those terms and you will be inundated with lots of great research.
Is it possible that the philosophy of chiropractic had an impact on the current trends in biological thinking? Just think about it, during those years of the 1920s, B.J.’s radio stations were HEARD all the way to Alaska, there were over a hundred schools over the years, thousands of chiropractors, and even more patients. How might this philosophical approach have impacted American thought? Better still, how might the profession today take ownership of its own philosophical approach and use it to further human knowledge and deepen human experience?
What if the chiropractic adjustment of the vertebral subluxation could be used as a way to demonstrate the physiological implications of some of the latest approaches in theoretical biology? What if we were able to make the appropriate linkages between the leading theories in neurophysiology and heart-rate variability to the philosophy of chiropractic and bring that into the classroom? Or even the boards? The future is bright if we stay at the leading edge, where chiropractic belongs.
Dr. Simon Senzon…
1. Palmer, B. Philosophy of Chiropractic. 1st ed. Vol. 5. 1909, Davenport: Palmer College of Chiropractic
3. Palmer, B. ed. The Chiropractic Adjuster; A compilation of the writings of D.D. Palmer. Vol. 4. 1921, Palmer School of Chiropractic: Davenport, IA. *Available as pdf from Chiropracticbooks.
4. Stephenson, R. Chiropractic textbook. 1927, Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic.
14. Fergusan, A. and G. Wiese. How many chiropractic schools? An analysis of institutions that offered the D.C. degree. Chiropr Hist, 1988. 8(1): p. 27-36. (Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.)