The Noble Tradition of Self-Experimentation - Part 3
I am hosting a 2-hr. live webinar,
on Thursday, April 5th
at 9:00 AM Pacific time.
I really got into this subject of self-experimentation and the development of energy-related healing methods. The whole point, ultimately, is the need to value our own experience. We might not be doing the kinds of daring things these old innovators did. You're probably not going to devise ways to restrict your individual cranial bones to see what happens like William Sutherland did, but if you are involved with energy healing at an experiential level—that is, if you are doing more than reading and theorizing about it—you will find yourself needing to rely on your own experience.
Here is another little anecdote about an endearing old-fashioned practitioner of manual and energetic medicine who gained some aspects of his knowledge through doing his own experiments.
I once met an old osteopath in Kansas City who had an unmistakable touch of the self-experimenter about him. Everybody loved Dr. Whim, a quiet saint on Linwood Boulevard in Mid-town Kansas City. He kept his fees very low, $20 per visit, regardless of the services he performed, so everyone could afford his services in that transitional neighborhood. His waiting room was World War II vintage. So were the National Geographics on the magazine racks, as well as the dust balls that lined the baseboards. Inside his practice room, an ancient treatment table set at knee-level, yellowed, curling acupuncture charts in Chinese, medicine cabinets and several unnamable contraptions on wheels. Every available surface was covered with snapshots, Scotch-taped to the walls and medicine cabinets, photos of children he had treated.
Old school, Dr. Whim wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his necktie stuck into the front of his shirt between the buttons like an old Scotsman out on the golf links. Dr. Whim had “veterinarian hands”; they had an instant calming effect on whatever creature he touched, in this case, me. He would adjust my spine, finding exactly the right spot and the precise vector so that he could accomplish what he intended with minimal force. He would sometimes prepare my body for the adjustment using what he called “physio-therapy,” electro-stimulus guided into tight muscles from one of his ancient contraptions on wheels.
One day, I was lying face down on Dr. Whim’s therapy table while he applied the electrodes of what was surely the original physio-therapy machine to my upper back. I wondered if frayed wires were going to be the death of both of us. After a while of feeling my rhomboids convulse and release, convulse and release with the alternating doses of current, my mind wandered away from imminent death by therapeutic electrocution. I began to examine the dust bunnies under the medicine cabinet in front of me when my eyes lit upon a couple of tiny white globular objects.
“Dr. Whim, are those homeopathic pellets under your medicine cabinet?”
Dr. Whim left the electrodes stuck in position on my back and got down on his hands and knees to look. After a moment of close scrutiny, he lightly licked a fingertip and brought up one of the white pellets stuck to it.
“Well, I believe they are,” he said, apparently as surprised as I was.
He asked if I was interested in homeopathy and other forms of energetic healing. I told him I was. For the next thirty minutes, Dr. Whim reminisced about “strange phenomena” he had studied. He confided that it was great to find someone else who was interested in energywork. As he talked, I had a fantasy of him in the 1930s, an odd, lonely young man, thrilled with his new discoveries, but feeling unable to talk about them outside of a small circle and getting to feel what it’s like to be seen as a crackpot. And now, here he was, an old man with great, compassionate hands, surrounded by baby pictures and the ancient tools of his craft, hidden away in a musty office in Mid-Town Kansas City. From what he told me, he had been busy with some of the same things that had kept me busy, since my early twenties.
At one point, Dr. Whim got a mischievous look in his eyes.
“You know something,” he said, “if you take little copper disks and put them on your body at certain positions . . .”—and here, he commenced to point out, on his shoulders, hips, knees and the sides of his head, some of the exact same energy-active positions that I use in energy treatments and inner work —“and string them together with copper wires, and then go to sleep with them on, . . .” Dr. Whim’s eyes grew more mischievous. “ . . . you’ll really have strange dreams.”
When I told him I had been doing more or less the same thing, minus the copper wires, we had a good laugh. Nothing new under the sun.
When I finally got up off the table (he finally got around to adjusting my spine after I reminded him), I felt better. I went out to the reception desk to pay for my visit. I had been in there for fifty minutes and the waiting room was full of mothers and children. The receptionist was a woman in her seventies.
“Twenty dollars,” she said.
“But I was in there so long,” I protested. “Shouldn’t it be more?”
She just smiled and shook her head. “No. He does the same thing with everybody. Just seems you needed more time today.”
As I made my way through the crowded waiting room, I looked back to see Dr. Whim welcoming his next patient, a young mother with a baby in her arms. He must have felt me watching him because he turned and called to me across the room.
“Don’t forget to try the copper wires!”
It is not required that you strap helmets with thumbscrews onto your head and wire yourself up with copper discs, or perform experiments on your children in order to learn energywork. Still, the pathway to learning energywork, by its nature, will always have a strong non-traditional—that is to say personal and experiential—quality to it because so much of what happens in energy and consciousness is impossible to get next to unless you encounter it in yourself. William Sutherland, Samuel Hahnemann and Dr. Whim are inspiring examples of how knowledge and the wisdom to put it to use have to be dug out of the ground of personal experience. Indeed, the energy healer often truly has nothing but his or her own experience to turn to for insight. We humans have a rich legacy of teachings and practices designed for the pilgrim within, practices that generate the kind of experiences from which our inner pilgrim can learn and grow.
—excerpted from A Pilgrim in Your Body: Energy Healing and Spiritual Process