The Noble Tradition of Self-Experimentation - Part 1
Today is the Spring Equinox. At this special time in our yearly journey around the Sun, we tip toward the light on this physical plane. I wish you a great Spring!
Today's post is about the importance of finding out things for yourself. I'm going to begin by looking at some people who have made ground-breaking discoveries because they trusted the authority of their own experience. Since you are interested enough in energy healing to subscribe to this blog, is it safe to assume that you are interested in more than just reading about it? I write a lot about various perspectives on the subject, but the core of all these teachings is your experience. The practices I describe in my classes, books and these blog pages are all designed to help you generate experiences that are authentically your own, do them in a safe and somewhat systematic way that supports your growth and development, and learn from them. A recent post of mine had to do with guidelines for safe and responsible use of energywork practices, which are a form of self-experimentation.
What follows are some vignettes on some of famous self-experimenters whose inspirations gave us some of the great modern innovations in healing work.
In the general field of complimentary and alternative healing, perhaps especially energy healing, there is a discernable tradition of self-experimentation. Some people seem to really like the sound of this, while others definitely do not. Maybe it will console you to know that, when it comes to any self-experimentation you undertake—the meditations and exercises that I teach in my classes and books all have that character—you will be in interesting company.
When it comes to self-experimentation, William Sutherland’s "cranial bowl" experiments on himself in the 1930s come to mind. He had the (then) totally unconventional belief that the bones of the cranium are mobile. As any craniosacral therapist can now attest, cranial bones do indeed have tiny but significant movements that occur with the contraction and expansion of the head in what is called craniosacral rhythm, instead of being fused together at the sutures. To test out his theory that cranial bones not only move, but that immobile cranial bones also lead to pathology, Sutherland crafted a helmet fitted at strategic positions with thumbscrews. He would strap on his cranial helmet, tighten the thumbscrews down on an individual cranial bone in order to immobilize it, and then take note of the symptoms that arose in him. While he noted his physical symptoms, his wife, unbeknownst to him at the time, was busy noting his emotional symptoms and mood swings. Once he succeeded in taking a cranial bone out of its normal movement pattern, he then had to devise ways to restore its proper movement. Sutherland’s self-experimentation led to the founding tenants of cranial osteopathy, which further evolved into modern-day craniosacral therapy.
In my next posting on the noble tradition of self-experimentation, I'll tell Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy.
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