Wee blog of a human being working as an osteopath

Chapter 4 – The patient isn’t a matchstick-making machine

Yeah, I know. You guys must really think I’ve completely lost my mind because I am now saying the exact opposite of what I wrote in the previous article. The worst part is when you start to wonder if all that isn’t actually done on purpose, just to annoy you (spoiler alert: it is totally done in order to annoy you).

The patient isn’t a machine, nope. Not a matchstick-making one, not a croissant-making one, not a cheese-making one (aren’t they though?). If you read the previous article and understood the opposite, then maybe it is because you read it in a way that produces very specific thoughts, forcing you to see the world in a very specific way, leading ideas to fall into categories without you being aware of it. And I wonder if this isn’t happening to osteopathy, and probably to many other things in the world.

We are so busy nowadays with the “what” we think/feel, that we don’t realize the “how” we think. We can’t see that our thoughts, our way of seeing the world, are the result of a very long and extremely complex evolution. Tons of very smart people have wondered about what life is and wrote about their ideas. Those ideas have shaped our societies and our minds, just like how theirs were shaped before.

I know it is perfectly normal, and my point is not to criticize the way we think nowadays. I mean come on, I read yesterday that in a city in France, they have self-driving buses. No more drivers? Well actually it’s not true, there’s a driver but they are not driving, they are just there in case there’s a problem. I still wonder why they are not driving since they are sitting behind the wheel and looking at the road. Anyway, my point is that through history, depending on their influences, depending on which book they read, and depending on their experiences, different people at different times had very different ways of experiencing the world.

Do you know for example that “truth” is a concept? I mean, how mindblowing is that? truth is a concept that is debatable and that many people through time thought of as being something totally different from what we consider as “truth” nowadays. What’s my point? My point is that even for something that seems as obvious as “truth”, we do not even realize that we are actually thinking in a very specific manner. We are already late when we produce our thoughts because we do not start with facts. We start from a point of view. A great one maybe, but still, a point of view.

Now, let’s just try to reason a bit, my dear unknown reader, and let me ask you a question: what would happen if someone living in the 19th century wrote a book, meaning that he produced thoughts based on his very own influences/way of seeing the world, and we were trying to read those thoughts using our own system of thoughts?

Imagine being a star-nosed mole reading about a human experience of sight. Imagine reading about red if you can’t see colors. How meaningless would that be!

Maybe, just maybe, all that has led us to think of osteopathy as being either mechanical or vitalistic, not because it is, but because that’s our preconceived way of seeing the world. Do you want a proof of that? Look for all the people trying to reunite the body and the mind, like someone trying to fix the matchsticks. Maybe, here again, we need to be a bit more like an engineer. But please, this time try not to think I am calling you a machine. I am talking about a way to think that is not that much oriented towards the “what” and much more towards the “how”.

Back to osteopathy, I have said for a while that Sutherland (hence Becker, Jealous, and co) is going in a direction opposite to Still. Again, don’t get me wrong, they probably got great results and helped thousands of people, my point is not to say that they were bad physicians and I have studied their work for years. The direction they took led to an amazing way of practicing manual therapy. But it has always felt to me as if Still had managed to bring together the vitalistic and the mechanical aspects of osteopathy. I don’t think this thought is correct though. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that he never brought the mechanical and the vitalistic together, he just didn’t take them apart, to begin with. This way of reading his work only was/is the result of my own formatted mind. It never was his idea.

Can I learn to think how he thought? Maybe focusing more on the matchstick-making machine is the way, who knows?

If only the discoverer of osteopathy could have told me to think like an engineer before, I might have saved some time! Oh, wait…







8 responses to “Chapter 4 – The patient isn’t a matchstick-making machine”

  1. Christian avatar

    “As an electrician controls electric currents, so an Osteopath controls life currents and revives suspended forces.” Autobiography, chapter 18.
    “So wise a God had certainly placed the remedy within the material house in which the spirit of life dwells.” (AB, chapter 6)
    As osteopaths we also work with “forces”, “the spirit of life”. We can feel them as motion.
    Bye, Christian

    1. Jules avatar

      You are doing exaclty what I am talking about. It’s just not the way I am taking.

      1. Christian avatar

        Interesting topic: truth.

        What did Still say about “truth”?

        “First the material body, second the spiritual being, third a being of mind which is far superior to all vital motions and material forms, whose duty is to wisely manage this great engine of life. This great principle known as mind, must depend for all evidences on the five senses, and on this testimony, all mental conclusions are bad, and all orders from this mental court are issued to move to any point or stop at any place. Thus to obtain good results, we must blend ourselves with, and travel in harmony with nature’s truths.”
        Philosophy of Osteopathy (chapter 1)

        “If we wish to be governed by reason, we must take a position that is founded on truth and capable of presenting facts, to prove the validity of all truths we present. A truth is only a hopeful supposition if it is not supported by results. Thus all nature is kind enough to willingly exhibit specimens of its work as vindicating witnesses of its ability to prove its assertions by its work. Without that tangible proof, nature would belong to the gods of chance.”
        Philosophy of Osteopathy (chapter 1),

        “I felt that I must anchor my boat to living truths and follow them wheresoever they might drift.” (chapter 1).

        “TRUTHS OF NATURE. We often speak of truth. We say great truths, and use many other qualifying expressions. But no one truth is greater than any other truth. Each has a sphere of usefulness peculiar to itself. Thus we should treat with respect and reverence all truths, great and small. A truth is the complete work of nature, which can only be demonstrated by the vital principle belonging to that class of truths. Each truth or division as we see it, can only be made known to us by the self evident fact, which this truth is able to demonstrate by its action.” (chapter 1)

        “To satisfy the mind of a philosopher who is mentally capable of asking for and knowing truth, when presented by nature, you must come at him outside of the limits of conjecture, and address him with self-evident truths only. When he takes up the philosophy of the great subject of life, to him who does know truth, no substitute can to any degree satisfy his mental demands.” (chapter 1)

        “An Osteopath should be a clear-headed, conscientious, truth loving man, and never speak until he knows he has found and can demonstrate the truth he claims to know.” (chapter 9).

        “I decided then that God was not a guessing God, but a God of truth. And all His works, spiritual and material, are harmonious.  His law of animal life was absolute.  So wise a God had certainly placed the remedy within the material house in which the spirit of life dwells. With this thought I trimmed my sail and launched my craft as an explorer.” (Autobiography chapter 6).

        “”My dear lady, truth is my God,” (chapter 10),

        “With these truths in mind I will begin my discussions and lectures.”
        “Man is surprised to find God to be God. He is surprised to find that man is made by the eternal, unerring Architect.  He is surprised from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same to find eternal truths of Deity permeating his whole makeup.”

        “Over a quarter of a century my wife, Mary, E. Still, has given her counsel, advice, consent, and encouraged me to go on and unfold the truths, laws, and principles of life; to open and proclaim them to the world by demonstration, which is the only method by which truth can be established.”

        “and enlisted in this army of truth-seekers, and became demonstrators of that philosophy whose truths are self-evident facts, and only need to be seen to be known as the work of some unerring mind or principle, which some would call nature, others God. Be they from whatever source, they have proven that they are truths absolute, as old as time and as consoling as the love of God, containing containing each and every principle known by the highest authority on sickness and health.”

        Fascinating how much Still speaks about truth.
        For him there was no doubt. There are “absolute truths in nature to be known as the work of some unerring mind or principle”.

        “An observation upon our surroundings this morning, of budding trees, growing grass, opening flowers, too plainly tells that Intelligence guided and directed and controlled this wonderful creation of all animate and inanimate things.  Deity, the greatest of all creators, made this mighty universe with such exactness, beauty, and harmony that no mechanical ingenuity possessed by man can equal the mechanism of that first great creation.  Botany, astronomy, zoology, philosophy, anatomy, all natural sciences, reveal to man these higher, nobler, grander laws and their absolute perfection.  Viewed through the most powerful microscope or otherwise, no defects can be found in the works of Deity. The mechanism is perfect, …” (AB, chapter 24).

        ” this machine is self-propelling, self-sustaining,”


        Maybe others after Still found the cause, the truth, the real mechanism in the background which makes our self-healing possible.

        Maybe Sutherland, Becker, Jealous have found this cause. I do not know, I respect their findings. I want to make progress in feeling and cooperating with nature and its laws and truths.

        I agree with Still: There are absolute truths in nature!
        Let us be truth seekers in our time of relativism !

        Best, Christian

        1. Jules avatar

          I have been there Christian. I’m just not talking about the same thing anymore, doesn’t make you wrong.

          1. Christian avatar

            Thanks :=)
            What way are you taking now? And why?

            And my last statement about Becker, Jealous (I promise I won’t write something about them in future in your blog …):
            I think you have met biodynamic osteopaths who only talk about Tides. But this never was the way of Becker and Jealous! They were also mechanics. Till now I have read and listened to all I have found about Becker and Jealous philosophies. I even translated Duvall’s book in German for me personally. I find no contradiction between that which Jealous really says (his audio texts are very interesting) and the philosophy of Still. For me personally Still included all elements (mechanics, spiritual) in his writings. A key element in his writings is the movement and harmony of the whole. I personally find these elements best combined and expressed in that what Jealous really said (personal opinion). Goethe’s way of participating at living things also includes that after a while a researcher can come to conclusions (theories) but must be ready to let them fall if pure participating shows more additional elements. This is also what Jeaolus always said: “I am not an authority.”. This is also true of me :=).
            Bye, looking forward to your blod, Christian

          2. Jules avatar

            The way taken is the way discussed in the article, there’s no reading between the lines. When you email me, you can tell I am able to speak your language because I have studied enough to be able to adapt to your way of thinking. I was doing the same thing, talking like you do. I was actually offered to be a teacher in this field. I can get it can be a bit surprising to see me talking about something different here. Now it mostly depend on what you decide to do with this surpise.

            Do you just decide that you are right and I am wrong? That would be totally possible, I have no problem about that.
            Or do you wonder what it is I am seeing that maybe you don’t? Should you embrace this position, you’ll still have time later to decide that I am wrong. But you might also see that it’s not about being right or wrong as I am just sharing some thoughts. Maybe the real question is to decide either those thoughts are useful or useless. What I mean by that is does it awake something in your mind? Does it make you think and wonder and maybe see things from a different angle? Do you something tell yourself “Oh, I didn’t think about it this way”? And more importantly, does it matter for our patients? Otherwise, I am just lost in my beautiful ideas. I’m sure you’ve met many of them in the biodynamic world, just like I have. They know the theory, but they haven’t experienced anything.

  2. Christian avatar

    Hi Jules, Yesterday a lady. For 5 years an aching shoulder, medicaments. One single Treatment… For the first time no pain! “I am a total different woman now”. She was so happy. What did I do? I only followed the “laws of nature” and “the Intelligence” how we can read in all of Still’s writings. I supported the areas where I felt the body’s intelligence works. It was as if my hands were moving bones, muscles, fascia etc. Full mechanic! But these movements were in harmony with “the whole” as Still always emphasizes. There was “motion, matter, mind” (Still). And please that we don’t make the mistake to exclude the fact of the spiritual, non-matter! How much we read at Still about Life, the substance of the whole universe, about the mind of the Infinite!! Osteopathy isn’t really osteopathy in the sense of Still if we omit the spiritual aspect! He believed strongly in a higher mind which is superior to man. He speaks a thousand times about the Master architect of all, namely God.
    So, in this treatment I had all elements you mention , because as an osteopathy you can’t separate them…You feel them and know from this they are the reality however you might call them. Still also used many words for the same thing.
    I believe you can only understand Still’s writings if you feel all these elements as he did and are convinced that they are real.
    Bye, Christian

    1. Jules avatar

      You really don’t like what I say about Sutherland and Becker :p
      Well done on helping this lady though

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *