The Unbearable Lightness of “Innate”
In “The Chiropractic Story” (1968), Marcus Bach, Ph.D., an acquaintance of Palmer’s son B.J., defined “Innate” as “the focus of divine mind expressed through mortal mind, challenging the latter to recognize its essence as divine.” He posited two forms of Innate: “personalized” and “corporate” (collective). Bach wrote:
Science is the servant, Innate the executive. This is as true collectively as it is individually and as the corporate Innate grows in and through chiropractic, so grows the power of its healing force. …
Something in the human body wishes and wills … to be well and stay well. Chiropractic believes that nerves send the life force to every muscle and tissue, sustaining every organ, flowing through every impulse, attending every action, governing every thought. The nexus through which this power flows is the spine. The coil of life is in the spine. …
Every religion no less than every spiritually oriented approach to health and healing believes in the existence of this life force. Call it Consciousness. Call it Innate. Call it God. There is a power particularized in man and its most dynamic expression is health.
In his first book, D.D. Palmer claimed: “Too much or not enough nerve energy is disease.” It would be reasonable for uninitiated laypeople to surmise that such ideas lie at the bottom of chiropractic’s philosophical dustbin. However, in the Summer 1992 issue of “Philosophical Constructs for the Chiropractic Profession,” Joseph H. Donahue, D.C., states that the concept of Innate may be gaining acceptance among chiropractors and that possibly as many as 80 percent subscribe to some version of it. He ascribes seven traditional principles regarding the notion to a chiropractic textbook published in 1927. These hold that Innate: is the source of all material qualities and actions; unites with matter to create life; is inborn; has the “mission” of maintaining life; adapts “universal forces” and matter to the needs of the body; counteracts “universal forces;” and operates through the nervous system in animal organisms. Donahue writes that D.D. Palmer regarded innate intelligence as a segment of “universal intelligence.” In a cogent article, he opines that it is a harmful belief and concludes:
Since the concept of II [innate intelligence] is both untestable and falsified by everyday experience, it has no place in a scientific healing profession’s philosophizing. … The uncritical worldview fostered by II is held together with the glue of rationalism and evasions. The doctor, claiming to only be a “channel” for II, can evade professional accountability. The trick to evading accountability, and yet keeping the patients coming, is to imply a lot of benefits without saying anything specific. … Patients can … be strung along with assurances that the chiropractor is doing everything possible to release the patient’s II.
A flyer titled “The Force Is Within You,” published in 1990 by practice-building consultant Dennis P. Nitikow, D.C., distinguishes “innate intelligence” from “life force”:
There is an innate intelligence within each of us that is far superior to our educated brain, which creates and recreates us on a continual basis. In order for this process to occur, life force (mental impulse) must be flowing throughout the body to all cells and tissues. … The innate intelligence directs this life force to every cell and tissue of the body. When the life force is free of interference the body is at its maximum health potential. If the life force is interfered with the body does not have the ability to recreate itself normally and disease results. …
The Chiropractor’s job is to remove the subluxation allowing the mental impulse to get to the tissue cells and replace the abnormal cells with normal cells. This is healing.
The flyer “Why Should I Go to a Chiropractor?” states:
To some people, chiropractic is something strange or mysterious. … The goal of the doctor of chiropractic is to turn on your inner doctor, your own natural healing ability, by correcting spinal nerve stress (vertebral subluxations), one of the deadliest, most destructive blockages of life and energy that we can suffer from. This promotes natural healing, vitality, strength and health.
In 1981, reporter Mark Brown consulted, as a patient, about two dozen chiropractors in or near Davenport, Iowa, the birthplace of the trade. The Dec. 13, 1981 issue of Quad-City Times carried his exhaustive investigative report, which stated: “To many chiropractors, Innate is an almost mystical presence — ‘the power of God being expressed in the body.’ … Others seem to suggest that Innate is God.” One chiropractor told Brown that his ears protruded because they were “antennae” for “nerve energy” and claimed that this “energy” flows through the body and out of the mouth. One morning, Brown visited a chiropractor and “learned” that his right leg was shorter than his left. Later that day, another chiropractor came to the reverse conclusion.
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