SYSTEMATIC study of traditional Chinese methods of healing is go- ingon today, using modern science and instrumentation to determine theusefulness of various time-hallowed techniques. For the past twenty-oddyears, Chinese scientists have been seeking out and collecting from all overthe country "home-remedies" and "secret recipes" that purport to cure oralleviate diseases, and subjecting them to examination andexperimentation.
Echoes of these ventures have crossed the Pacific and penetrated intoEurope. A recent book. by a Hungarian-born Buddhist monk exiled fromTibet deals with Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine, and alsoincludes chapters on moxibustion (treatment with localized' heat),respiratory therapy, remedial massage and exercises, with a few pagesdevoted to charms and spells. The author states frankly:
The traditional Chinese discoveries require examination and assessment bypresent-day methods. In the process there must be no attempt to justifydeficiencies in the traditional views and procedures at all costs' nor must there beany attempt to see in diem a deeper significance than the actual one which isimmediately apparent. But any practical knowledge which is adjudged to becorrect and usable should be made available to all, for there is no doubt that thetraditional art of healing still conceals much of immense value.
It is important to realize that China is the home of a very oldcivilization with a long and checkered history. Its roughly four millionsquare miles have harbored a great diversity of peoples who have hadheydays and doldrums, have often been left to their own devices, out oftouch with one another, and resorted to an immense variety of medicalpractices. Doubtless at times when science and philosophy flourished'medicine embraced a knowledge of diseases and their cures which has sincebeen forgotten' while numerous practitioners continued to apply methods oftreatment that had proved themselves successful without knowing why theyworked. In a vast territory such as China there have always been littlepockets in isolation, where the populations kept alive
The Chinese Art of Healing by Stephan Palos, Herder & Herder, New York,1971, 285 pages, index, chronological table and bibliography. Illustrated, $6.95.
customs, talents and traditions which were quite unknown to theirneighbors. In some methods there is a goodly admixture of superstition, inothers curative value which is purely empirical and the causes of whichhave never been investigated.
During my lengthy stay in China, I used to wonder at the lack of interestamong our foreign physicians in the Chinese medications that wereobviously effective in treating diseases which the West had been helpless tocure, among them malaria and kidney stones. On the other hand, we sawthe disfiguring scars left by certain native treatments which might havebeen better superseded by modern medicine; and knew the terrible tollignorance took of infants who had perhaps one chance in four of reaching theage of twelve. There was always enormous discrepancy between the few whoknew how to treat themselves' or had access to effective care' and those whosimply suffered and died for lack of it.
Chinese medicine appears to have originated as an offshoot of aprofound philosophy; probably it was administered' as in Egypt, by a selectfew practitioners of rare understanding. It has since traversed suchimmense distance in time and space that little but the outer shell remains.The physician's own intuitive sensitivity and innate skill is a very largefactor in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. As an illustration, onemight mention Professor Palos' description of the ancient method of feelingthe pulse. The Chinese diagnostician places three fingers on each wrist ofthe patient, and from each of these six points he is able to distinguish tworeadings depending on whether he exerts light or heavy pressure. He thusreceives twelve separate messages which tell him the condition of each oftwelve internal organs and functions : heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. Evenallowing for the fact that a future physician is trained from early childhood'this still leaves a great deal of room for individual idiosyncrasies
and"hunches,'' which suggests that this medical art was once practiced byphysicians of superior caliber. The Book of the Pulse is tentatively placed atthe third century B.C.' but may well be much older. This is indicated also bythe philosophy underlying the art of healing. Palos writes:
Old Chinese philosophy regarded the human organism as a miniatureversion of the universe, . . . Man cannot therefore be divorced from Nature, heforms an organic part of it and is closely linked to the universe. Thus Nature, asa macrocosm, and man, as a microcosm, obey the same laws.
Not only is there analogic connection between each organ and some partof nature; there are also correspondences with the five elements' fire, earth,water, wood, and metal, with the seasons of the year and with the signs ofthe zodiac. In addition, the body in all its parts is subject to the perpetualinterplay of Yang and Yin; health prevails when these opposing poles offorce are in equipoise. Each organ is predominantly either yang or yin andacts constructively on one other organ (of the opposite polarity) anddestructively on one other, so that there is constant circulation of positiveand negative influences in opposite directions. It is therefore possible toaffect the various organic functions by stimulating, or sedating' the flow atcertain points which are the points used in acupuncture. There are almost700 of these points aligned along the limbs and torso' and it has been foundthat the skin at these spots has a higher degree of electrical conductivitythan elsewhere.
Ironically' American physicians who have hitherto shunned any form ofmedical treatment whose rationale they did not understand thoroughly, andwho have all but crucified their erring colleagues who favored unorthodoxmethods' however successful, are now more than eager to adopt acupuncture— a system admittedly purely empirical. Current studies in America arechiefly concerned with substituting acupuncture for drugs to eliminate theelement of risk still involved in anesthesia. Parallel with this research,experimentation is taking place in "electro-analgesia'" a form of electricalinterference with the message of pain being carried by nerves to the brain,so that the patient is unaware of discomfort. This too is in the early stagesof investigation. In an article in The Wall Street Journal ( March 27, 1972)treating of the use of electrical current as a local anesthetic, as also for therelief of insomnia, asthma and other ills, it is stated:
Once electricity penetrates the skull the low-resistance fluid that surroundsthe brain spreads the current to many brain zones, stimulating some andinhibiting others, so scientists say it's difficult to tell what's happening where.
It is becoming more evident with the latest research that a humanbeing is actually a force field. wherein a choosing, willing consciousnessdetermines the harmonious or discordant functioning of the whole,
and that mental and emotional attitudes predispose the organism to
_As demonstrated by Kirlian photography; see Sunrise, March 1972.
health or disease. Both "short-circuits" and acupuncture may well have atemporary part to play in alleviating excruciating pain or restoring harmonious balance of forces. Yet' looking ahead, is it too much to hope that futurepioneers of medical science may penetrate more deeply in the causes of ill-health and thus prevent the inroads of inimical influences, perhapsimmunizing without inoculation by helping the patient find wholesomeways of living and sound attitudes of mind and motivation? This may seemfar-fetched and improbable, but — so has much that we now take forgranted.
Man is indeed a force field, a bundle of energies intermingling withother force fields, sharing a common pool of thoughts and emotions,contributing to its quality with every fleeting notion he endorses or rejects.This fact, long relegated to the realm of poetic fancy, is now core roboratedby the cold evidence of scientific experimentation, though it still remains forintuitive man to perceive its import. Frederick Buchner in The HungeringDark gives voice to this human perception:
As we move around this world, and as we act with kindness perhaps, or withindifference or with hostility toward the people we meet, we are setting the greatspider web atremble. The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another lifeand that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or inwhat far place my touch will be felt.
Being comprised of hosts of living atoms, each one a center of force, alluniting about the psychomagnet of an entity, an individual, as the solarsystems cluster round the galactic center, the vibrant being that is mantingles in response to every vibration set in motion by his fellows. He hasdeveloped senses to receive these impressions and "sees," "hears" and"feels" the lives around him, while himself acting on his surroundingsunceasingly and willy-nilly. The field of medicine has harbored manydiverse methods of utilizing this fact.
From the ancient Chinese to Descartes, alchemists of every age havesought a universal panacea to harmonize and equilibrate the forces torestore health to an organism. Music has been universally recognized as apowerful agent for re-establishing harmony, and it is being regularly usedtoday in mental hospitals. Asclepiades and Democritus, Kirchner andMesmer are now joined by modern psychotherapists in asserting the virtueof melodious sound as a therapeutic agent. There are allusions also to thispractice in the Bible, where Saul is cured by the music of David's harp;while the reverse application of the de
structive power of sound is recounted in the fall of Jericho. TheScottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell wrote a treatise a hundredyears ago which may yet form a basis of medical practice in thefuture:
There is a blending together of spirits, or of emanations, even when they arefar separated from each other. And what is this blending together? It is aneternal and incessant outpouring of the rays of one body into another.
In the meantime, it is not without danger to treat of this. Many abominableabuses of this may take place. — Medicina Magnetica
There is danger in any innovation, and particularly when we aredealing with the more nebulous (and more powerful) areas of nature'for knowledge depends entirely on ethics for its right application.Therefore, at a time like this, when science is entering so many newfields of discovery, we human beings, though largely at the mercy ofthe actions of scientific men, are called upon more than ever toprevail as a body of moral beings, or perish.