A Book Review

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I cannot remember ever reviewing a book for the straight chiropractic community before. That may be because I am pretty much the only person who writes books for the straight chiropractic community and it is considered poor taste to review you own book! My first inclination is to not review this particular one, The Spiritual Writings of B.J. Palmer, by Simon Senson, but I am compelled to make some comments since the book seems to be directed at the straight community (i.e., Dr. Senson is a graduate of Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic and some prominent people in the straight community have given it positive reviews).

Dr. Senson has gone through many of B.J.’s Green Books and gleaned those statements and paragraphs in which the Developer referred to God, soul, spirit, religion, historical religious leaders in general, and Jesus Christ in particular. He includes B.J.’s travels and interest in world religions, although he makes no mention of Palmer’s lurid interest in phallic worship which would hardly support the book’s theme, that of B.J.’s spiritual enlightenment. With all of B.J.’s writings on CD-ROM and with easy accessibility to all of these quotes via searches writing this book is not the formidable task it once might have been. That is not to, in any way, take away from this tremendous effort put forth by Dr. Senson. He has gone to great lengths to present B.J.’s thoughts on spiritual matters. Even if his objective was to just present a compilation of B.J.’s spiritual writings, it would serve a valuable purpose. His work makes it clear that B.J. was anti-religion, anti-Christian (denied the authority of the Bible, the Deity of Christ) and a blasphemer. Any knowledge and experience in Christianity that Palmer had as a result of his mid-western upbringing or his marriage to Mabel is lost in his writing and Senson clearly conveys that fact in his book. The book is a valuable historical contribution to our understanding of B.J. Palmer. Another book might be written titled The Anti-Medical Writings of B.J. Palmer or The Scientific Writings of B.J. Palmer which could present us with a similar historical contribution concerning the son of the Discoverer of Chiropractic.

But that is not the intent of Senson’s book, something we do not learn from the title. Its purpose is to present Senson’s personal New Age philosophy and somehow give it credibility by linking B.J. tangentially to it. People, like Senson, think B.J. spoke of new age enlightenment. But then, some also see Christianity in his writings or Buddhism or evolution. In one sentence (p. 116), B.J. offers both Genesis Creation and Darwinian Evolution. Now that is a pretty awesome accomplishment. But it speaks to the dichotomy of B.J. Palmer. His sometimes-schizoid writing allowed anyone to take what they wanted from his work in support of their ideas. Dr. Senson’s philosophy is that of new age enlightenment. It really is not new but a modern revival of ancient gnosticism in which certain people are said to reach a level of special spiritual enlightenment by their own efforts and are given special knowledge, as a result of their heightened status. Senson feels that B.J.’s reference to “finding himself” as a teenager before entering chiropractic was the beginning of his spiritual journey, his special spiritual enlightenment. Senson’s movement entitled Integral Philosophy is aimed at integrating this New Age religion with chiropractic. Integrating chiropractic and anything else is merely a euphemistic way of describing “mixing” and that is the greatest danger of books like this one. We in the straight chiropractic movement have been going to great lengths to clearly define our objective and what we are all about to be separate from medicine and religion. Part of the difficulty in being successful in doing that is the fact that B.J. was fuzzy on these issues. His emphasis on getting sick people well has led to our association with medical things. His use of religious and theological terms has led to the confusion of chiropractic and religion. But even with that B.J. never, never, never suggested that man could become attuned with his innate or with universal intelligence or God by any other means than the chiropractic adjustment. (Not that he was correct in that idea!) Chiropractic was not an alternative to or part of meditation, psychoanalysis, mantras or any of the other new age practices of integral philosophy. Integrating was mixing. We should be actively moving away from the gray areas and fuzzy thinking surrounding chiropractic. Senson’s book does just the opposite. We may use and explain religious terms like God, soul and spirit but it is to delineate theology from chiropractic not integrate it with chiropractic. I may use Christian concepts to explain chiropractic but no one gets the impression that I am mixing chiropractic and Christianity.

The philosophy of chiropractic is intended to do one thing: enable us to have a rationale for the location, analysis and correction of vertebral subluxation. That and that alone is chiropractic and our philosophy should work toward supporting and explaining that objective, not to proving anything else or demonstrating the validity of anything else. The Christian chiropractor, for example, sees that the idea of universal intelligence and innate intelligence (chiropractic) demonstrates a greater Intelligence (the God of Christianity) but his/her theology does not depend upon it or need it. Christian theology comes from the Bible. Dr. Senson has a philosophical agenda that is not chiropractic and using chiropractic or its Developer’s words to substantiate it may be integrative philosophy but it is not straight chiropractic and is antithetical to it. V19n4

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