An Introduction to Chinese Medicine

An Owner’s Manual for Anybody Who Has a Body

by Sean Christiaan Valentine-Marshall, D.Ac. and Bonnie L Walker, DC

If you are already familiar with Chinese medicine as it is currently practiced then you may not be very comfortable with much of what you are about to read. If you are new to the field or have an open inquisitive mind you are in for a treat.

This introduction to Chinese medicine purposely breaks away from the styles of previous attempts to explain Chinese medicine which present the Chinese concepts and then remanufacture them into something else that fits into a familiar Western paradigm. This has never worked, nor will it ever.

Chinese medical concepts are nothing like Western medical concepts and the criteria and modes of cognizance of the latter will never offer any insight into the understanding, apprehension, or comprehension of Chinese medicine.

The Daoist method of knowing which is responsible for the formation of classical Chinese medical science is so alien to Western culture that even many ex- perts in the field have little access to the perceptions needed to grasp the guiding ideas.

This is not the fault of intellect, diligence or sincerity. It is outrightly cultural. Much of Western science and thus, the “way” we “understand” is the direct product of the reductionism of Grecian origin. The scientific approach assumes that one must break a thing down into its smallest component parts or behaviors in order to understand it.

To explain further, Western science at- tempts to assess its cause and effect relationships in a linear or sequential fashion in order to measure, quantify, describe and hopefully predict phenomena. This method produces extremely accurate data describing about one half of observable natural phenomena. This method is also completely antithetical to an appreciation of the inductive, coercive, complementary and simultaneous relationships upon which Chinese medicine is based.

Since the third century B.C., Chinese medicine has used the method of inductive synthesis, recognizing the interrelatedness of phenomena (simultaneous events), to interpret and treat disease. This method is different from, yet no less stringent and exacting than, the method of causal analysis (sequential events) employed by Western medicine, where cause and effect are the critical elements of diagnosis and treatment.

A science is by definition rooted in its system of philosophical beliefs: for Western science, it is the Greek-based philosophy of reductionism (separating into parts in order to understand the whole), as opposed to the unified theory of Daoist philosophy: the difference between observing segments as opposed to observing systems, molecules as opposed to universes. It was the early Greek philosophers who coined the term “atom”; and, ever since, Western science has pursued the nature of the universe by splitting it into smaller and smaller bits. The question in Chinese medicine is not, “what bug is causing this disease?” so much as “what weakness is causing this person to be susceptible to it?” This concept is not new even to Western medicine. The famed Louis Pasteur, who popularized the theory that germs caused disease, admitted on his deathbed that his rival, Claude Bernard, was correct in explain- ing that the internal strength of the host was the major factor in resisting disease.

Modern astro-physicians and sub-atomic particle-physicians are now having to develop modes of understanding that are identical to ancient Daoist physicians’ modes of understanding, be- cause this is the way the cosmos at large actually works. We shall use these parallels to coerce Chinese medicine into our minds.

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