Like most issues in our profession, the way in which we view the past leaders of our profession, in particular D.D. and B.J., is divided into two camps. This is especially true regarding B.J.. We have one group that views him somewhere between a deity and the Oracle at Delphi, and another group that sees him as a dictator, a tyrant, an inflexible individual who thought himself the final word in all aspects of chiropractic. The first group naturally believes chiropractic would have passed from the scene without him, the latter believes all the problems in the profession today can be traced to him. As in almost everything within chiropractic the two groups have become more and more polarized until, alas, we have the “B.J. bashers” and the “B.J. worshipers.”
Some years ago I wrote an article entitled Camping at the Graveside of our Ancestors. I believe one person beside me actually read it and she liked it, so I guess you could say it was well-received. The point of the article was that we must not quit expanding, learning and developing chiropractic simply because a great leader has passed on. Chiropractic is a philosophy, an art and a science. All three can and should be developed. It is the objective of chiropractic, correcting vertebral subluxations in order that the innate intelligence of the body can better express itself, that should not change. Our chiropractic pioneers left us a tremendous legacy. To carry it on, develop and improve upon it is not a sacrilege to their memory. To not do so, is. Everything they did was for the purpose of improving the quality of human life. For us to stop doing those things which would continue that improvement is in contradiction to their lives.
Einstein was a genius. Thousands of people who are not even near genius level have been able to understand his work and improve upon it. Contrary to what you may believe, to do so is the greatest honor we could bestow upon him.
Edison was a genius. The improvements we have made in sound recording and the creation of artificial light do not in any way detract from his genius or what he accomplished. The individual who makes the first breakthrough, as with Einstein and Edison, deserves the honor and the credit for his/her accomplishments however, that does not mean it should stop there.
B.J. Palmer was a genius in his day. He developed the philosophy of chiropractic much further than his father. But we honor D.D. as the Discoverer, the one who made the initial breakthrough. Likewise we honor B.J. as the Developer. That does not mean, however, that the development of the philosophy ended when he passed from the scene. Once in a while a student will ask me if I think I know chiropractic philosophy better than B.J. (especially when I criticize one of his concepts in class). I should hope that I know chiropractic philosophy better than him. I have had the advantage of his writings, other philosopher’s writings, and the accomplishments in science that have taken place over the past thirty years. That gives me a tremendous advantage. It does not mean I am near the genius of a B.J. Palmer, it simply means I have had the advantage of his breakthroughs, groundwork, and genius. I am sure if he were still alive today he would be miles ahead of everybody with regard to this chiropractic philosophy. That’s an interesting thought isn’t it?
We need to respect what B.J. accomplished without making him into an idol. Idol worship is destructive and is usually the result of preoccupation with ourselves. In primitive societies men carved idols out of wood and stone, as they imagined the gods they worshipped appeared. They created idols out of arrogance, according to their specifications, in order to please themselves. God never asked man to make images to worship. In fact, He strictly forbade it. All idols are made by our choice. A problem arises when we create the idol and then establish the standards by which he should act. If he does not meet those standards (feet of clay) we become iconoclastic. Sports are a perfect example. In Philadelphia we have one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game of baseball. Mike Schmidt averages a homerun every fourteen times at bat. He has been made an idol by thousands of children and adults. However, when he comes up to bat in a pressure situation and strikes out, the fans boo, because he did not live up to their expectations. He never promised to hit in the clutch every time. He did not even ask to be made an idol. How some beer-drinking bozo who would be scared to death to even stand in the batter’s box against Dwight Gooden’s fastball can have the gall to boo Mike Schmidt is beyond me. But that’s how far the arrogance of creating idols goes. The athletes of today are saying, “I don’t want to be an idol.” But the fan and the media keep on making their graven images and every time one proves to have feet of clay he is attacked by the very same fans and media like a pack of wolves.
Historically in chiropractic, B.J.’s greatest opponents were those that had once worshipped him. They worshipped him as long as he acted in accordance with their standards. In other words, when he did not conform to their preconceived ideas of how he should act they turned on him. The introduction of X-ray into the curriculum in 1910 was one of the earliest examples. Six faculty left. One young faculty member to whom B.J. had dedicated an early textbook and made the head of the Philosophy Department left in a huff, taking 50 students with him to open a school down the street. Now, there is nothing wrong with leaving if you don’t agree but they became the first of the “B.J. bashers.” This particular D.C. even sued B.J. for $50,000 for supposedly killing D.D. A few years later it was the “Big Four” who left over the introduction of the NCM. It seems that B.J.’s greatest antagonists were those who formerly worshipped him. Almost every concept, whether scientific, philosophical, or experimental that he proposed met with a similar reaction from some. Others continued to worship him. Both groups were wrong. They should have recognized B.J. for the great genius he was, accepted his shortcomings, (after all none of us is perfect) and moved on.
There is an application to us today. Many of the greatest antagonists to the straight chiropractic movement are guilty of this iconoclastic arrogance. They have created idols out of mere men in Georgia, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When their particular idol does not perform according to their expectations (whether the feet of clay are real or imagined is irrelevant) they turn upon him and work toward his destruction or the destruction or his goals, ideals, or perhaps even the school which he represents. Sometimes the feet of clay have nothing to do with principle or philosophy. It may be the personality of the individual. Primitive people needed idols.
Arrogant people, preoccupied with themselves, create images and then destroy those images when they become disenchanted. Intelligent people understand concepts, understand history, understand human nature and put their confidence in something greater than finite individuals no matter how charismatic or brilliant they appear. Let’s stop worshipping individuals in chiropractic and maybe we will then stop destroying them when we find that they have feet of clay. Maybe then we can move this profession along on principle. v4n2


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