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Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D. - The Unifying Matrix in Contemporary Oriental MedicineWestern medicine has no unifying matrix. In the West, although some token homage is paid to the unity of man with the universe by academic theologians, theoretical physicists, and a few science fiction writers, medicine, with all its accomplishments, remains an uncoordinated accumulation of anatomical, pathological, and biochemical information. No one part is connected to another part. There is no whole, living thread of cohesiveness. This leaves us in a major state of chaos, which, in the absence of an obvious solution, no one is Western medicine has the courage to face.  

The Western medical paradigm sees each organ system in the body as an entity unto itself, unrelated to any other organ system or to the general function of the whole. From this view comes a proliferation of specialists, each of whom regards his area of the body as a separate, living system. No Western medical text addresses the absence of the concordances and relationships within the West’s own physiological model. The question is not even raised. How can it be, for example, that the eye and the liver could function with such complete independence in the same body? Even if such a connection were inconsequential, one would expect someone at least to ask the question.

Furthermore, the human body is known as an entity unto itself, with little or no connection to the outside world, to the gravitational field of the earth, or to the rhythmic movements of the other celestial systems. Yet we know that these systems function with extreme consistency, are highly predictable, and, most important of all, are rhythmically related to each other’s cycles. We know of the relationships among bodies in the universe - all are moving together and affecting each other - and yet it is inconceivable to Western science that the movements of living things and inanimate things may be slightly or profoundly affected by unseen (but in some cases quite identifiable) forces such as cosmic energies.

All aspects of the Chinese medical system are intimately connected to each other in an observable, predictable fashion. Intervention in one area has a broad-spectrum effect on the others. For example, the Kidney energy transmits genetic material, or the ‘fire of life’, from one generation to another. Kidney energy assists the Lungs to receive the Qi. It is responsible for the development of the central nervous system and of the bone marrow. It controls growth and development, as well as the urogenital system, and so sexual energy. Kidney energy is related to the inner ear and the retina of the eye, and also controls the lower half of the body. On a psychological and spiritual level, this energy is linked to the Water phase, and so to will, divine spirit, divine power, divine love, and the balance between fear and courage. This Water energy is the mother of the Liver energies, controller of the Heart Fire energies, and is itself controlled by the Earth and nourished by Lung Metal energies.

There is a similar confluence of functions on a musculoskeletal level. Repressed chronic anger may express as muscular tension and spasm, referred to metaphorically as ‘holding back’. In the upper back, repression can manifest as an inhibition to ‘strike out’ with one’s arms, and in the lower back, an inability to ‘kick out’. This anger can be released by treating spasm in these areas, and by balancing the energy that is released. The momentum of this release allows energy to be processed and worked through, on the levels of past, present, and future character, and also in terms of total personality. This aspect of Chinese medicine has been a most amazing and awe-inspiring experience for me as an analyst. Its only limitation has been the limitation of my own understanding in any one situation. We have, therefore, the unity, not only in the largest sense of philosophy, religion, and universal laws, but also in the smallest details of microcosmic phenomena.

Information is power, and it is said that the nation that can most effectively harness that power through computers, will inherit the earth. But of what value is all of this information when correspondences like these, so necessary to the understanding and maintenance of health, are largely ignored or left in a state of informational chaos? What will bring us out of this anarchy of knowledge, and give coherence to our medical existence? In an age of increasing fragmentation, the medical model for which we seek must be a unifying force, by being itself the model of unity.

Oriental philosophy and its medicine teach that all of life may be understood as a function of a single force: an invisible energy called Qi by the Chinese, and Prana by the Hindus. All of us, and all existence, are a manifestation of this one unifying force, obeying the universal laws of nature in a variety of forms, essences, and movements. The form and substance of the universe is the materialization of this force. Man lives in this sea of force, one which is greater than his own. When this force moves and changes, man must also move and change.

Energy is the essential factor in life, and therefore, the prime consideration in sickness and health. Whatever other forces may be at work in any given instance, the distinction between health and illness is predominantly determined by the vicissitudes of that energy in the body it inhabits. This is a unifying concept, emphasizing the powerful single tie that binds us, rather than the less significant forces which divide us. The energy that causes disease is the one that cures it. Sickness is only a variation of, and not a state separate from, health. We are essentially one with nature.

The ancients observed and recorded in detail the rhythmic movements of this energy in the most cosmic and most minute structures. Out of this came the Laws of Nature, and only man has a choice to follow or defy these laws. Disease follows deviation from them. If they are followed, the energy forces within men are free and flowing, and there is no problem. If, however, this system is in any way impaired, blocked, weak, or unbalanced, the changes of energy in the cosmos will be resisted, and the result will be another conflict of forces. This struggle of a moving energy against a resisting force in the human body results in pain and emotional disturbance.

Western medicine exists within the same philosophical framework that produced industrialization, sharing with it the aim of controlling and defeating nature and the universe. It reflects the resentment of Western man aimed at any control over his fate other than by his own ego, which is, I believe, the deepest source of his impressive, compensatory, obsessive (and, therefore, never-ending) struggle for power and his escalating alienation and loneliness.

By contrast, Oriental medicine subscribes to the axiom that ‘man helps, and nature cures’. The Chinese believe that ‘good manners’ toward the natural world are contiguous and continuous with good manners in society, and respect for nature is at the core of all Oriental philosophy. Health is, therefore, not conceived as an endless struggle against nature, but instead a welcome return to it. Yin and Yang, for example, are not simply opposing forces. They are two contrasting aspects of one energy. Yin and Yang are also interdependent, interconsuming, and interchangeable; one may transform into the other. This congeniality with the natural order is in sharp contrast to the discordant philosophy in the West, which views nature as an enemy to be conquered.

Minimization of conflict with the world in which we live has a far-reaching effect on the tone of healing. The underlying philosophy of harmony, balance, rhythm, moderation, gentleness, unity, and non-judgment in the support of nature lends itself to ease and relaxation, to the reduction of tension: all the things that people in the Western world say they desire, but which are inherently inconsistent with their conflictual philosophy of life. The West believes in conflict for its own sake, and in overwhelming nature rather than respecting it. To find true unity, true health, and true peace, we must change these attitudes.


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Originally appeared 06 November, 2015

The Unifying Matrix
Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D.