A Re-examination of the Normal Complete Cycle

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Cycles are an important part of our chiropractic philosophy. They combine the material and immaterial aspects of chiropractic and without its immaterial component chiropractic is merely physical medicine.1 Historically they go back to the very early days of our profession and to the earliest development of our chiropractic philosophy. Their first appearance as a philosophical construct appears in the Green Book, Volume V, entitled “The Philosophy of Chiropractic.” This text was first published in 1909. B.J. begins with a discussion of “power” on page 19, and then goes into discussion of electricity which leads into the subject of cycles, a subject that occupies a good portion of the remainder of the book.

This paper is a reexamination of the cycle known as the Normal Complete Cycle (NCC). Like much of our philosophy the NCC was accepted as dogma with little or no challenge. It is still being taught today as part of our philosophy with little concern for its inaccuracy.2 Strangely, this occurs despite the fact that the foundation of the NCC, at least the afferent part of it, is based upon an assumption that the profession as a whole (at least the philosophically inclined part of the profession) does not accept. To understand the error of B.J.’s presentation of this philosophical construct, it is important to understand Palmer’s perception of concepts like universal and innate intelligence His explanation of the NCC is entirely consistent with his understanding of these concepts. I would suggest that the error lies in the Developer’s deductions being based on a faulty understanding of the metaphysical foundations of chiropractic. From his earliest writings B.J. equated universal intelligence with God and innate intelligence as a reflection or part of God synonymous, with the human soul.3 He based his thinking partially on the Judeo-Christian concept of God. I say partially because that concept is founded upon an imminent and transcendent Being.4 God is a personal Being yet His essence transcends a finite description. B.J. perceived universal intelligence as transcendent, a force, or power that did not have the ability to act in a personal manner. In B.J.’s paradigm universal intelligence could not show favoritism to a race of people (the Jews) nor become a Person (Jesus). Universal Intelligence could not alter its forces at will and create miracles like parting the Red Sea or changing water into wine. Clearly, to B.J. universal intelligence or God was a force. Although at times, when it suited him, particularly if he was speaking to mid-western Bible-Belters, he would describe universal intelligence/God in ways that would make a gospel preacher envious.

 

With regard to innate intelligence, B.J. took a different tact. As impersonal as universal intelligence (God) was, innate intelligence was just that personal. He equated the innate intelligence of the body with the human soul and it became the real essence of the person. Chiropractic philosophy sees the innate intelligence as a part of but apart from universal intelligence.5 Judeo-Christian theology sees the soul as a creation of God, not a part of God and the soul merely reflects some of His characteristics.6 It most assuredly does not see the creation as being part of the Creator. That thinking is reflected in the doctrine of pantheism, which is more closely identified with Palmer’s chiropractic philosophy than is Judeo-Christian theology. This has created a problem with those chiropractors (and even lay people to some extent) who would like to reconcile their chiropractic philosophy with their Christian beliefs. B.J.’s perception that innate intelligence is not only localized but personal relates to the second problem in his deductive reasoning. This is a perfect example of how an incorrect premise can lead to incorrect deductions and faulty conclusions and in this case, creating a faulty model in the NCC. B.J.’s deductions are sound but they are based upon a premise that is not correct. If, as the developer assumes, the innate intelligence of the body is a personal being/entity, then it must have a location. B.J. makes that location the innate brain. The reasoning of Palmer is sound but the premise faulty in another way. B.J. equated the innate intelligence with the soul and many theologians locate the soul in the brain.7 So there is a basis for B.J.’s position if the soul and innate intelligence are synonymous, but they are not. Here is where the confusion concerning the NCC occurs. If the innate intelligence is located in the brain then, it is not “aware” of what is happening in the periphery of the body and must be made aware, hence, the need for an afferent aspect of the NCC in order to make the innate intelligence in the brain aware of what is happening in the periphery.

 

The key to the problem in the afferent side is in Step 3, what Palmer calls Vibration. In an essay by John H. Craven, D.C., PhC entitled “Vibration” in the Philosophy of Chiropractic, the author notes that every cell has a certain vibration because “there is motion in every particle of matter.”8 Craven says that the vibrations of a tissue cell are carried over the afferent neural pathway to the innate brain, interpreted by the innate intelligence located there, and the needs of the cell are met by the innate intelligence, by virtue of messages transmitted over the efferent pathway. Unfortunately, Craven never tells us where these vibrations come from, their source. He leaves us with the impression that they are inherent in the matter which would be a very mechanistic model and seems to be in contradiction to the vitalistic paradigm of chiropractic. So we must conclude that the vibrations are either force created by intelligence or are the product of the forces of intelligence expressed through the matter. If these vibrations are a product of intelligence it has to be universal intelligence because in the Palmer/Craven model innate intelligence is not aware of the character or nature of their vibrations until five steps later (Reception-Step 8).9

 

Since the forces of universal intelligence have no solicitude, that is they act the same on all matter (Principle No. 11)10 we must conclude that the vibration is the action of the matter’s molecules as they respond to the universal forces which are constant and consistent. For the vibration to be different, it must be the result of continuous changes in the quality and the quantity of the matter. Craven uses the instruments of an orchestra to explain his idea and it works well. Changes in the matter of a flute, for example, caused by the stops being opened or closed (the configuration of the matter) will change the tone (vibration). Larger flutes (changes in the quantity of the matter) will also affect the sound. (The amount of “force,” air blown into the instrument, will also affect the “vibration” but since the forces of universal intelligence do not vary this is not helpful in the analogy.)

 

In summary, here is what Palmer’s model is saying. The forces of universal intelligence are constant but the matter changes in a cell as its needs change. If oxygen is needed or water or other nutrients are needed, the cell’s matter changes, creating a different vibration. The vibration being the result of constant force acting on variable matter. That vibration is picked up by the afferent nerve pathway transmitted to the innate brain where the innate intelligence of the body interprets those variations in vibrations as a specific need within the cell. It responds to that need through messages carried over the efferent pathway. It is interesting that B.J. accepts the idea of innate-to-innate communication, what some would call mental telepathy, but not a communication from periphery to brain. In other words, innate intelligence can communicate through miles of open space between two people but cannot know what is going on in a part of the body a few feet from the brain without the use of an afferent pathway.

 

If I have presented his model correctly, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed which create problems. First, the vibratory activity is strictly a mechanistic activity. If the vibrations are the action of universal forces acting on the matter, then the cell is not alive, at least its afferent activity is not an aspect of life. His position, then must be that there is life in the cell but the vibration is universal in nature, a confusing and contradictory idea. The cell is alive by virtue of receiving efferent mental impulse from the brain but it is also receiving universal forces which become vibrations. Consequently, there is an action of the matter due to efferent forces (which we call the signs of life) and an action due to vibrations of the matter as explained above and, of course, the motion of the atoms. All these different motions are possible but it seems unnecessary as will be discussed. The cell is alive according to the Palmer philosophy by virtue of innate forces traveling over the efferent pathway. So while the innate intelligence is keeping the cell alive, it is not aware of the needs of the cell until the vibrations reach it in the brain. If a cell has thousands of different needs or combinations of needs then there would have to be thousands of different vibrations occurring in the cell, each one indicative of a specific need, each one carrying a specific “message” to the innate intelligence in the brain. While that is not beyond the realm of possibility it is very difficult to imagine. This is a very mechanistic model and not really in line with the model that modern-day chiropractic embraces. We could explain this mechanistic concept as a result of the early development of our philosophy (1909 for this text). However in later texts, after further thought and development, Stephenson’s Textbook (1927) still holds to the same model.11 It appears that B.J. does not see any more life in a human cell than he does in an electrical appliance. In his viewpoint the two could be seen as perfectly analogous. The appliance is only made “alive” by the electricity supplied to it and the cell is only alive by the innate forces from the brain. It has no innate or inherent intelligence of its own. In Palmer’s model a cell in a medium or a heart being transported for a transplant is not alive.

 

A Post-Palmerian View of the Normal Complete Cycle

 

There is no need for a new viewpoint of the NCC apart from what Palmer gave us if the innate intelligence of the body is a spiritual entity, is located in the brain, and there is no other “level” of intelligence apart from the innate intelligence of the body. But changes in our philosophy over the years have created a situation in which the Palmer view of the NCC no longer passes the test of reason. We now recognize cellular, tissue, organ and system intelligence.

 

We have moved away from the “spiritual entity” view of chiropractic that B.J., and to a lesser extent D.D., gave us. Conflicts with theology, incongruities with science and a general desire to make the concept of innate clearer to the average person has necessitated a change in how we view innate intelligence. The innate intelligence of the body is viewed as a principle or a law, a law of organization in matter, “active” organization in living matter as opposed to the general law of organization what we call universal intelligence. As a law, we do not try to designate its location except to say it is limited (confined) by the limitations of the matter in which it is expressed. If it is only limited by the confines of the matter in which it resides then it is not confined to one place (the innate brain) and it would have an awareness of the actions and the activities taking place peripheral to the brain. Hence, no need for an afferent pathway from tissue cell to brain cell. This problem was observed a number of years ago and caused some chiropractic philosophers to conclude that the afferent pathway of the NCC existed only theoretically.12 It would be wonderful if it were. It would totally destroy the mechanistic model. For there would be no material means by which the needs of a cell could be met. There would be no physical pathway for the cells needs to reach the brain. The only conclusion would be a metaphysical mechanism. But unfortunately science does demonstrate these pathways, proprioreceptive cells in the feet, for example, are constantly monitored by innate intelligence to keep us balanced when standing.

 

If then, there is a real material afferent aspect of the normal complete cycle and if the innate intelligence of the body is not confined to the brain but is in fact resident within the cell, why the need for this pathway? It would not be necessary for the innate intelligence in the cell to inform itself in the brain of its need in the body. It is already aware of what is going on in the cell. If I send a letter to someone, I do not have to also send a copy to myself. I know what I said. Why then the need for an afferent pathway? While the innate intelligence of the body is a metaphysical construct and is omnipresent in the tissues in which it resides, it still necessitates matter to be expressed so it is necessary to have a neural pathway. The problem seems to arise when we put arbitrary determinations on those pathways. I would suggest that the afferent and efferent aspects of the NCC are just as arbitrary as the delineations of the “central” and “peripheral” nerve system. The innate intelligence being present in all living matter does not need the nerve system to be aware of every innate need within the tissues. But in order to meet those needs and to carry out function within the material tissue cells, there must be the coordinated activity of all cells. For that coordinated activity to occur, there must be a material communication system of specialized tissue to allow for this unique process to take place. That is the function of the nerve system. So it would seem that there is really no need for an afferent side of the cycle if the afferent side is for the purpose of innate awareness. This will render Steps 25-27 either unnecessary or placed in a different part of the cycle. I would suggest that the afferent side is just as much involved in affecting the “wishes” of the innate intelligence as is the efferent side of the cycle. Both sides represent effectivity. The afferent merely designates that the message is going to the central nerve system and the efferent, coming from it. In a cycle it really is impossible to say where the cycle begins. In fact, the term cycle has the connotation of no beginning or end. Therefore, dividing the NCC into afferent and efferent pathways with a specific beginning and/or end is completely arbitrary.

 

A New Normal Complete Cycle

 

In the Palmer model the Tissue Cell is the first step of the afferent aspect of the NCC. (In Stephenson’s it is listed as Step 18) Step two (19) is Vibration, as previously mentioned. The Developer presents it as a mechanistic phenomena which creates an impression upon the afferent nerve, as Steps 3 & 4 (Stephenson’s Steps 20, 21). Stephenson says these vibrations “give off physical forces which are impressed upon the afferent nerve as a form of Impression.”13 In the new model these vibrations would be Impressions (Step 21) of the innate intelligence of the body (Step 20) as to the cell’s need. In the Mental realm (22) there would be Interpretation (23) and Sensation (24). Then Ideation (25) and Intellectual Adaptation (26). All of this occurs in the metaphysical realm before a Mental impulse (27) is even created. The mental impulse or innate forces is a step that is not in the Palmer model. The innate forces (28) would then travel (29) over the afferent nerve (28) to the brain cell (30) where reception takes place (31 Step 28 in Stephenson’s).

 

The efferent aspect of the NCC would be largely unchanged. Let us compare the afferent aspects of the Palmer Model and the New Model beginning arbitrarily with the tissue cell.

 

Palmer Model

 

 

     

  1. Tissue Cell
  2.  

     

  3. Vibration – a mechanistic phenomena, physical universal, forces
  4.  

     

  5. Impressions – created by the vibration
  6.  

     

  7. Afferent nerve – media that conveys the impression
  8.  

     

  9. Transmission – the movement of the vibration over the nerve tissue
  10.  

     

  11. Brain Cell
  12.  

     

  13. Reception – the vibration reaches the brain cell
  14.  

     

  15. Mental
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  17. Interpretation
  18.  

     

  19. Sensation
  20.  

     

  21. Ideation
  22.  

     

  23. Innate Intelligence
  24.  

 

 

 

 

 

New Model

 

 

     

  1. Tissue Cell
  2.  

     

  3. Vibration – a physical phenomena unique to an individual cell’s needs.
  4.  

     

  1. Innate Intelligence.
  2.  

     

  3. Impressions – that need perceived by the innate intelligence of the body within the tissue cell.
  4.  

     

  1. Mental – the impression moves into the metaphysical realm
  2.  

     

  3. Interpretation – the impression becomes a thought
  4.  

     

  5. Sensation – one aspect of the cell’s need
  6.  

     

  7. Ideation – all aspects of the cell’s needs combined together to form the entire need of the cell
  8.  

     

  9. Intellectual Adaptation – this is the decision of the innate intelligence of the body to perform the tasks necessary to meet the needs of the cell.
  10.  

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  11. Mental Impulse – the message to be sent to the brain with instructions for what must take place to accomplish material adaptation.
  12.  

     

  13. Afferent Nerve – the physical medium for transmission.
  14.  

     

  15. Transmission – the “wishes” of the innate intelligence are transmitted to the brain to carry out adaptation.
  16.  

     

  17. Brain Cell – the tissue required to process the information from the innate intelligence
  18.  

     

  19. Reception – the reception of the mental impulse in the brain cell.
  20.  

 

 

 

It should be understood that Steps 21 through 25, since they occur in the metaphysical realm, are not bound by time. We designate them as steps (which connotes time) for our convenience and for understanding but in reality they are occurring instantaneously. Also, It should be noted that none of the steps of Palmer’s model have been removed. They have merely been rearranged to coincide with the idea that the innate intelligence of the body is not located in the brain and is in fact just as present in the tissue cell.

 

Practical Problems With the Palmer Model

 

In the Palmer model, the afferent vibration (it cannot be called a mental impulse because mental connotes intelligence) is merely a universal force which the innate intelligence is going to interpret when it reaches the brain. As a universal force, it is destructive toward structural matter (Principle No. 11)14. That matter would include the afferent nerve and the brain cell receiving the vibration which would be subject to damage.

 

B.J. ridicules the medical concept of reflex action15. The medical/scientific community regards reflex action as an automatic action occurring without intelligent action. If the afferent pathway is not transmitting a mental impulse then their mechanistic model is correct. Reflex action does not reach the brain. Yet we know that the contraction of muscles, in the patella reflex for example, cannot occur without innate intelligent thought. The New Model of the NCC would allow for reflex action to be a totally innate function.

 

B.J. uses the phrase, “cycles of energy,” to describe what is being transmitted over the nerve system. While it is true that there is a force being transmitted over the nerves, I would suggest that it be more appropriately called, “Cycles of information” and we should begin to view the NCC as the conveyance of information in the form of mental impulses rather than as electrical energy causing an appliance to work. The computer is a tool that should be used extensively in the future, to explain chiropractic concepts. I believe that it helps explain the NCC. If we view the computer programmer as the innate intelligence, the keyboard as the afferent aspect of the cycle, the CPU as the brain, and the monitor and printer as the efferent aspect of the cycle, the New Model of the NCC is clearer. But that is the subject of future discussion.

 

Steps 25-28 in B.J.’s model occur in the mental realm before innate intelligence enters into the cycle. What transfers the physical vibration into the mental realm. To be philosophically correct within his model, B.J. should have placed innate intelligence as Step 25 rather than Step 28. To enter into the mental realm intelligence must be involved.

 

Conclusion

 

The Normal Complete Cycle is a basic tool to explain the physical and metaphysical underpinnings of chiropractic. Consequently, we should make every effort to see that it is as accurate as possible in complex points and reflects the development and evolution of our chiropractic philosophy. B.J. Palmer gave us an excellent model. I am not convinced that we could develop a “New model” had we not had the original one anymore than the supersonic jet could have evolved without the efforts of Wilber and Orville Wright. It is not dishonoring to their memory or their accomplishments to utilize jet propulsion nor is it dishonoring to B.J. Palmer to develop new models in explaining our chiropractic philosophy.

 

References

 

 

  1.  

       

    1. Strauss, J.B., The Green Book Commentaries, Vol. IV (1921) – XIV (1928)
    2.  

       

    3. Sherman College Lyceum, May 2002.
    4.  

       

    5. Palmer, The Philosophy of Chiropractic, Palmer School of Chiropractic, Davenport, IA. 1909, p.113.
    6.  

       

    7. Chafer, L.S., Systematic theology, Dallas Seminary. Press 1947.
    8.  

       

    9. Stephenson, R.W., Chiropractic Textbook, Palmer School of Chiropractic, Davenport, 1927. p.16.
    10.  

       

    11. Chafer, L.S._________.
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    13. Thieme, R.B., Mental Attitude Dynamics, Houston, TX, 2000.
    14.  

       

    15. Palmer ______ p. 149.
    16.  

       

    17. Stephenson, R.W._____.
    18.  

       

    19. Stephenson, R.W. _____.
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    21. Stephenson, R.W.______ p.11.
    22.  

       

    23. Strauss, Chiropractic Philosophy, FACE, Levittown, PA, 1992, p.44.
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    25. Conversation with David Koch, D.C., and others in the 1980’s.
    26.  

       

    27. Stephenson, R.W. _____.
    28.  

       

    29. Stephenson, R.W. ______.
    30.  

       

    31. Palmer, The Philosophy of Chiropractic, Palmer School of Chiropractic, Davenport, IA, p. 105.
    32.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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