- Aug 7, 2002
I was not aware of this until listening to a recent Haunted Objects Podcast- ghosts invented chiropractic work!
But there are people writing about chiropractics and spiritualism:
And there is even a book on it:
The Palmer school continues to this day, but the spiritualist aspect is non-extant on a quick glimpse of their website:
The first chiropractor was a Canadian who claimed he received a message from a ghostSharon Kirkey, Brice Hall
Approximately 4.5 million Canadians visit a chiropractor each year to have their spines cracked, popped or adjusted. In addition to back pain, some chiropractors claim to fix an astonishing array of problems, including allergies, appendicitis, diabetes, ADHD, colic, crossed eyes, heart disease and, in babies, the “trauma” of passing through the birth canal. Some chiropractors even offer adjustments on pets.
The practice of chiropractics is playing a bigger role in health care, but few people know it started with a message from a ghost. Daniel David (DD) Palmer, who was born in Port Perry, Ont., in 1845, invented the field of chiropractic care. Palmer moved to Davenport, Iowa, when he was 20, where he took up magnetic healing. He also worked as a schoolteacher, raised bees and opened a grocery store. Palmer was a spiritualist. He said the idea for chiropractic came to him from the “other world” during a séance where he communicated with the spirit of a doctor, Jim Atkinson, who died 50 years earlier.
According to Palmer, 95 per cent of all disease is due to “subluxations.” In chiropractic, subluxations occur when one or more of the bones of the spine move out of position and create pressure on spinal nerves, causing all sorts of diseases by interfering with the flow of nerve impulses between the brain and the body.
Palmer considered chiropractic a kind of religion, stating in 1911 that the practice “must have a religious head, one who is the founder, as did Christ, Mohamed … and others who have founded religions. I am the fountain head.” The local paper referred to him as a quack who claimed, “He can cure the sick and crippled with his magnetic hands.”
He opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport in 1897. Since then, chiropractic medicine has become a widely used form of alternative treatment in Canada. But skeptics say there’s no evidence to support the subluxation theory or the use of spinal manipulation for anything other than uncomplicated neck or back pain. They worry that, in rare cases, people could be harmed, and that people who go to chiropractors who push the subluxation concept and claim they can help with nearly any medical problem, could also be exposed to anti-science beliefs, like the debunked notion that vaccines cause autism.
In 1906, Palmer, who also called himself a “doctor,” was convicted of practising medicine without a license, and went to jail. Legend has it he married at least five times. He died in 1913, at the age of 68. The official cause of death was typhoid fever.
Apparently, there was no miraculous adjustment for typhoid.
But there are people writing about chiropractics and spiritualism:
And there is even a book on it:
The Religion of Chiropractic
Populist Healing from the American HeartlandBy: Holly Folk
There are today some 60,000 chiropractors in North America, and the profession is accepted and regulated by law in most Western countries. The flourishing of chiropractic practices in the United States was greatly favored by the 1990 Supreme Court decision Wilk v. AMA, where the American Medical Association was told that it should stop its campaigns against chiropractic or face the consequences of the anti-trust Sherman Act. Since that decision, most chiropractors would maintain that their discipline is an accepted field of science, and emphatically deny that chiropractic is a religion.
Holly Folk’s remarkable book The Religion of Chiropractic proves that this issue is much more complicated. The phrase “Chiropractic Religion,” or the “religion of chiropractic,” coined by its founder, Daniel David Palmer (1845-1923), known to his followers as “D. D.” Palmer insisted that “the basis of Chiropractic” was “a new theology,” whose key element was “the identification of God with Life-Force” (169). He also recommended to chiropractors to “build a boat similar to Christian Science and hoist a religious flag,” and claimed to “have received chiropractic from the other world” by revelation (186). Folk underlines the dual context of these comments: first, during Palmer’s lifetime, chiropractors were often accused of illegally practicing medicine, and many went to jail. Opponents suggested that, by presenting chiropractic in religious terms and asking for “the right to practice our religion” (186), he was simply trying to escape laws allowing only medical doctors to practice medicine. Second, Palmer’s authority within chiropractic practitioners was challenged by a number of rivals, including his own son, Bartlett Joshua Palmer (1881-1961), in turn referred to as “B.J.,” who had a very complicated relation with his father, and in 1923, would even be accused by some of his father’s loyalists of having killed him. If chiropractic is a religion, Palmer argued, “we must have a religious head, one who is the founder, as did Christ … and others who have founded religions. I am the fountain head [of chiropractic]” (186).
But was this switch to religion purely opportunistic? Folk cautiously emphasizes that “it is very important not to overplay the religious dimensions of D. D.’s changing project” (172). At the core of Palmer’s “discovery” of chiropractic was a theory that illness is caused by “subluxations,”—misalignments of vertebrae that disrupt the nervous system. By “adjusting” the vertebrae, the chiropractor is able to cure most ailments. This theory does not seem particularly religious, but Folk shows that it also did not arise in a vacuum. Palmer cannot be understood without examining the decades of “metaphysical” healing before him, from animal magnetism to healers associated with Spiritualism, New Thought, and Christian Science. Palmer’s claims were grandiose from the very beginning, and included the promise that, while curing the illnesses of this life, chiropractic would one day also “lift the veil of superstition which has obstructed our vision of the great beyond” (168).
After Palmer’s death, his son tried, in turn, to assert his sole authority on the chiropractic movement, which experienced divisions into a number of rival associations that persist to this day. They oppose, in particular, a “straight” camp that asks practitioners to offer to their patients chiropractic alone, and a “mixer” that combines chiropractic with other forms of alternative healing.
Today, most chiropractors regard Palmer and his son as an embarrassment. Their private lives were far from exemplary, and Folk concludes that they “were both selfish, dishonest, and unnecessarily provocative in their dealings with people” (235). Bartlett Palmer attracted controversy when he made considerable money by restricting certification by his faction to chiropractors who would rent an apparatus from him called “neurocalometer,” invented by one of his students and allegedly identifying subluxations by measuring difference in temperature among various sites of the body. The machine was denounced as “device quackery” (205), and led several prominent chiropractors to leave Bartlett Palmer’s Universal Chiropractic Association [UCA], until he backed off and resigned his post as secretary of UCA in 1925.
Bartlett Palmer had, in the meantime, rented enough neurocalometers to support a lavish lifestyle, which included collecting rare Indian artifacts illustrating the Kama Sutra and branded by his opponents as pornography. In fact, as Folk noted, such a collection is explained through both Palmer’s lifelong interest in esoteric proponents of sex magic such as Paschal Beverly Randolph and Hargrave Jennings. Both during and after the Palmer’s era, chiropractic maintains some connections with Western esotericism, including with its sexual magic wing. Both Israel Regardie, one-time secretary of Aleister Crowley, and prominent Rosicrucian leaders, including Reuben Swinburne Clymer and George Winslow Plummer, were graduates of chiropractic colleges.
Bartlett Palmer wrote, in 1949, that “chiropractic is not a religion in the ordinary, accepted, and usual understanding of that term,” and “cannot be made into a religion” (232). This statement reflected his critical attitude towards organized religion and should not, Folk insists, be constructed as a radical departure from his father’s ideas. Bartlett Palmer, in fact, also maintained that “certainly Chiropractic is all that any religion is” (186).
Today, Folk notes, the chiropractic tradition benefits from a wider alternative healing fashion, and even the industries’ historical opposition to mandatory vaccination of children resonates with the positions of radical social movements in several countries.
This leads to what may well prove to be the most controversial part of Folk’s study. The book’s title itself refers to “populism,” and the author notes that chiropractic is part of an American tradition, claiming for “the people” the right to decide, inter alia, what therapies they want to use. What leaves Folk “intrigued and surprised” is that previous scholars of chiropractic failed to notice its historical association with right-wing varieties of populism (264). In the 1920s chiropractic developed a long-lasting relationship “with [the] Ku Klux Klan” (219). Today, “chiropractors form a sizable contingent of the Tea Party, and also of the Sovereignty and Tax Protest movements” (263). How statistically relevant this connection is should be measured by a sociological investigation that would go beyond Folk’s historical study, and the category of populism remains controversial in both social and political science.
Folk’s book, however, is by no means hostile to chiropractic. It exhibits an impressive command of obscure archival sources, and tells a very complicated story in a passionate and often entertaining way. This brilliant and easily readable book may well become the standard for the treatment of the origins of chiropractic and its relationship with religion and spirituality for years to come.
Massimo Introvigne is an Italian sociologist and managing director of CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, in Torino, Italy.