The Sacred Trust

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Excerpt from The Strauss Commentaries on the Green Books-Book Six.

In a section entitled The Fountain Head-The PSC, Dr. Ivens enumerates the impressive accomplishments of B.J. Palmer including the development of the School, the Printery, the Osteological Laboratory, the Student Clinic, the Radio Station and others, not to mention the development of X-ray, the NCM, the B.J.P. Research Clinic and other endeavors.  It is quite a laudatory and well-deserved list of accomplishments.   Despite the myriad of activities, however, one has to be painfully struck by the fact that chiropractic is no better off today than it was 50 years ago when this book was written.  The “tens of thousands” of graduates of the P.S.C. that span the earth have, for the most part, lost and/or obscured the vision of B.J. Palmer.  The Printery that used paper by the freight-train load, has left very little if anything that can apprise the public of true chiropractic.  B.J. said, “A drop of ink can make millions think” but the thousands of gallons he used have not created a lasting effect.  The student clinic that saw “1,255 cases monthly on the average” was a boon to the city of Davenport. One would think that the city would be a model of society for all the world to see.  Thousands of its citizens getting chiropractic care over four generations should have  produced something akin to “B.J.’s Utopia.”  Yet today Davenport, Iowa’s only outstanding characteristic is that it is a typical American city with its seedy areas and beautiful areas, it rundown parts and its beautiful buildings.  It is unique in that it has Riverboat gambling, hardly B.J.’s idea of closing the hospitals, emptying the insane asylums, jails and filling the churches.

Radio station WOC, B.J.’s     venture into the greatest boon to communication for mankind in the 20th century, has had virtually no long-term, positive effect on the public’s understanding of chiropractic.  B.J.’s accomplishments are legion.  However, with all that he did, all that he gave us, the question that burns in my mind is, where did he go wrong?  What did he do or fail to do that, given all of the wonderful accomplishments outlined in this essay, would leave the profession as a whole in the sorry state that it is in today?  Was there something more he could have done or should have done?   Is there something in the nature of man that B.J. overlooked or was not able to relate to that would, for the most part, negate or at least minimize, those wonderful accomplishments?  Or is what we have just a fact of life, something that is inevitable with every great idea, that it will be distorted?  We can all be inspired by B.J.’s accomplishments, though none of us will probably ever match them.  More importantly, we should be sobered by his failure, his failure to leave to us what he called “this sacred trust” in such a state that it would be intact a mere 50 years later.  Perhaps that is the greatest lesson, the challenge and the application of this essay.  We should be striving to make this chiropractic philosophy such a strong and powerful force that 50 years from now it will not be confused, not be seen as a treatment for back problems, not continue to less and less resemble the model that B.J. saw.  He is in part responsible for what chiropractic is today.  Surely those that followed him also take part of that responsibility.  However, it is we who are responsible for what chiropractic will be 50 years from now.  Will we be where we are today, further from where B.J. was in 1952 or will we have more clearly defined and communicated to the masses this principle that has been handed down to us?

Beginning on page 209, Ivens gives us some insights to the problem and why we are where we are today.  D.D. passed the torch to B.J. who actually developed and advanced the profession, the PSC and the principle.  However, B.J. did not, or could not, find anyone to insure that it would be perpetuated after his passing.  It is hard to believe that not one of the hundreds of chiropractors alive in those days could accept the mantle of B.J. Palmer.  Perhaps that was the problem.  It was a mantle of authority that was being passed on, not a philosophy and a principle.  B.J. had “led the profession not by reason and logic but by his authority.”  Consequently, no one felt qualified to pick up the mantle of authority.  Anyone could have worn the mantle of logic and reason but very few were qualified to wear the mantle that had been worn by B.J. of Davenport and him only for as long as anyone could remember.  He did not prepare all of us for his passing.  He did not even prepare one of us for his passing.  Therein lay the problem.  Ivens says that B.J. would have given everything he built and personally owned to the profession, free of charge, if he could have been assured that it would remain intact.  Apparently the offer was never accepted.  I would suggest that he should have not made the offer but taken steps to insure that the desire behind the offer was fulfilled.  If he had, chiropractic may well have looked very different than it does today.  Those who came after B.J. were more interested in preserving and building the institution than the philosophy it was founded upon.  They were more interested in preserving    B.J.’s technique than the chiropractic principles he gave us.  They were more interested in preserving the things and the places than the ideas and objective.  For that our profession is much worse off.  v17n4

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