Acupuncture Philosophy and Western Medicine

One of the concepts I have tried to teach over the decades is “transformation of common belief”  (TOCB).

This is when something that we believe in suddenly overlaps with another belief system, enough for us to accept that alternative way of look at things for a short time, making it a part of our regular philosophy.  Belief systems are what lead us to make such decisions.  In medicine like in every day life, belief systems also enable these claims and their attached behaviors to become a part of the official, standard medical system.

Belief and practice often go hand in hand often in the way we select to deal with certain medical problems that we experience.  Over the centuries, this human behavior has been rationalized in numerous ways, sometimes as simply a belief defined procedure, other times we refer to it as the psychosomatic or mind-body experience.  Whatever the cause for this behavior, it is more common to health related behaviors than we think, and especially more influential upon us whenever we undergo a healing process, no matter who performs it, by what method, or whatever belief system it is based upon.  Some of the most famous philosophers knew about this a long time ago, thousands of years and several billion writings before many of today’s medical writers and philosophers deduced the same thing.

Acupuncture is an excellent example of how an outside paradigm becomes integrated into Western European culture and practice.

There are three distinct periods in the past when this happened, and another one or two in the very recent past.

Acupuncture , or the philosophical belief underlying much of what it is based upon, first became a part of western European thinking around the 1660s.  During this time, Dutch explorers were documenting their observations about the Orient, and noted the practice of moxibustion along with the already known element theory of oriental medicine.  The Dutch accepted this belief because it fit into their paradigm of the four humours, four colours, four forms of matter or elements–earth, air, fire and water.  They argued that the idea of moxibustion worked due to its impact on the fire element.

By 1810, a Belgian physician took on a practice similar to acupuncture, passing the idea on to neighboring Dutch, French and English physicians.  In England, Dr. Churchill learned about this philosophy and made use of it as a part of his practice in London, the source of this particular article.  He followed up his experiences as a acupuncturist with a book on it published around 1820.  This following continued into the 1830s, when French physicians had perfected acupuncture and merged its practice with their philosophy as followers of mesmerism.  They theorized that some sort of life energy in electric form had to be why it worked, and even developed a way to practice acupuncture in a way they referred to as electro-puncture.  This too held on in the upcoming decades in western European medicine, although practiced by very few.

During the 1900s, we accepted acupuncture philosophy at times due to the way in which we argued in its favor using philosophies derived from our findings and beliefs with endocrine system, psychosomaticism, the natural opiates or encephalin theory, and more recently, basing our beliefs upon a very complex, esoteric philosophy and theory focused on psychoneuroendocrinism.

In the allied health/complementary health fields, we find similar parallels in philosophy drawn by quantum energy philosophers-practitioners, believers in the aura or some somatic form of body energy construction, and of course various types of spiritual healers, whose explanations for it rely on everything from traditional Chinese thinking to arguments based upon universal energy theories and the like.

Whatever the case, some traditions in alternative philosophy/alternative healing tend to return to the western medical mindset every now and then.  Currently, it is covered by insurance by one company so long as the needles are administered in relation to the spinal tract, not the traditional acupuncture meridians.  This allows for the arguments for its coverage to be based upon some dermatome theory combined with gate theory of pain, a theory that in itself is as much a philosophy with conditional physiological proofs as the theory that sensitive points separate from the meridians can be used to explain why fibromyalgia takes place.

The following items are links to various notes and article(s) that pertain to this belief system.


Churchill on Acupuncturation in Rheumatism 1823


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