Expressiveness Of The Body And The Divergence Of Greek And Chinese Medicine
By Shigehisa Kuriyama
The Void: Journeys Into Healing By Michael Greenwood, MB
Of The Body And The Divergence Of Greek And Chinese Medicine
By Shigehisa Kuriyama
Zone Books, 1999
Leslie Foote, MD
is hard not to wonder at the vast differences between Eastern and Western
medicine. Those of us who have initially taken the Western path and
then embarked upon the other are only too aware of the magnitude. Making
the jump intellectually can be both enlightening and challenging. But
for those of us practicing acupuncture in a Western setting, the vastness
presents a formidable hurdle when it comes time to integrate. It is
tempting to ask, "Was there ever a time when the chasm was not
so great and concepts shared a common ground?" Also, "How
is it that we arrived at such different philosophies?" It would
seem that a historical perspective would offer much to the practitioner
set on bridging the chasm. This book is a brave start to that endeavor.
Drawing upon ancient texts from both traditions, the author embarks
on a fascinating investigation into the way physicians see the body;
thus, an accountiing for the disparities. Clearly, our interpretation
of how the body expresses itself is the underpinning of our approach
to the body. It is as much a matter of expectations as attitudes that
influences what we "see." With this in mind, the Chinese view
of the body as a microcosm of the macrocosmic order would render an
entirely different perspective from the ancient Greeks who saw the "articulated
body" as an instrument of the soul.
Whatever similarities can be drawn, there is
a clearly different application and expectation. As an example, pulse-taking
is discussed. This was practiced by the ancient Greeks, but the information
gleaned clearly influenced by the early attempts at dissection. Pulse
became linked with vasculature and the heart. Apparently the Chinese
did not have the same sense of urgency to dissect as the ancient Greeks,
owing to an assumed order and form based on the macrocosm. Thus, the
ancient Chinese gleaned information from pulse-taking, which reflects
the nature of the meridians. The question of "anatomical seeing"
in both traditions is central to our understanding of the body.
One of the interesting discussions in the book
addresses the similarities between the practice of "topographical
bloodletting" in ancient Greece and acupuncture. Based on early
writings, it is tempting to speculate that acupuncture might have arisen
out of the practice of bloodletting. Even Hippocrates recognized the
concept of treating one part to address the problems of another as well
as relieving any excesses (plethora). However, Galen's later investigations
into anatomy would shed skepticism on the practice of bloodletting.
In contrast, the practice of bloodletting in the East gave way to acupuncture
early on around the time of the Neijing; not because of any anatomical
considerations, but because needles could more effectively address emptiness
(Xu) as well as excess (Shi). While there are similarities, there were
differing applications of the practice, again based on how the body
The book includes additional discussions that
illustrate how each tradition has grappled with understanding what the
body expresses. It quickly becomes evident that our concept of personhood
has much to do with how we interpret what our senses tell us. This in
and of itself makes this book worth reading as we sometimes lose "sight"
of this fact, especially in light of the rising interest in alternative
therapies. Now we have a chance, as the author notes, to "imagine
alternative possibilities of being, to experience the world afresh."
These are comforting words in a time when many of us can appreciate
the challenges of "modern" medicine.
Dr Leslie Foote is a Family Practitioner specializing in addictions.
Dr Foote integrates acupuncture into her primary care practice, and
currently works for a non-profit mobile medical clinic serving indigent
and underserved populations.
4555 Valley West Blvd
Arcata, CA 95521
Phone: 707-822-4602 (work), 707-822-2642 (home)
The Mobile Medical
448 Railroad Ave
P O Box 905
Blue Lake, CA 95525
Braving The Void:
Journeys Into Healing
By Michael Greenwood, MB (MD)
Paradox Publishing, 1999
Joanne Shay, MD
this book, the author provides an easily digestible account of where
the "art" of medicine comes from. Dr Greenwood shares case
histories and treatment results with the goal of demonstrating the deeper
levels of consciousness that must be unlocked before the doors of healing
can be opened. Throughout the book, the healer is presented as an active
bystander while the patient must actively find awareness of spirit and
body to embrace health and well-being.
The interpretation of the fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin"
in Chapter 4 was particularly enjoyable, with parallels drawn to deficient
Qi and the necessity for both patient and healer to disengage from "bargains
with dwarves." The constant thread throughout the book is that
pain and wellness are best accessed through emotional exploration.
Chapter 13 suggests that symptom patterns often evolve from personality
traits that are extremes of either Yin or Yang of gender characteristics.
This construct is a comfortable extension of the biopsychotypes represented
by the Principal Meridians and can be used by the healer to guide the
The self-exploration described is not suitable
for every patient, nor will it be embraced by every physician. The best
that we can hope for is that receptive patients will find able physicians.
Braving the Void is an excellent starting point for both patients and
physicians embarking upon this journey.
Dr Joanne Shay is a Diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology
with subspecialty training in Pediatric Anesthesia. Her special interests
are pediatric pain and the developmentally disabled child. Dr Shay practices
at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
11 Jenny Ln
Pikesville, MD 21208
Phone (work): 410-601-5209