Metaphorical Tactile Exploration

Of course, extensive practice of the practice is discussed: palpating the energy pathways and acupuncture points … that’s how it is written on the website for doctors who want to be trained in ‘integrative acupuncture’. Palpate energy pathways. That sounds very fascinating and in the same course the acupuncture points are immediately palpated.

The difference between acupuncture and integrated acupuncture eludes me. It’s a tautology. When explaining what it is, people immediately get straight to the point. “Traditional Chinese medicine is integrative medicine par excellence.” But if we do not define what we mean by integration, then this will remain an empty slogan. ‘One looks at the whole person’ is how the explanation follows. I’ve always thought that was the emperor’s new clothes. Everyone pretends that this slogan is clear, but in fact it says nothing. The whole human. That’s quite a lot. But fear not, in about fifteen days doctors can be trained to inject patients and even give Chinese herbal mixtures. You can treat the whole person that quickly.

As an illustration of the course, reference is made to a website where an English doctor explains what acupuncture actually is. His explanation is a hybrid between metaphysics and our Western view. A hybrid that makes you shudder. The man is portrayed as an acupuncture authority. His explanation of these energy channels is that our body is controlled by Qi, an intelligent energy that indicates how the cells should behave. That Qi flows in those channels. Qi is the energy that keeps all our cells together. That energy is invisible unless you specifically look for it. The energy becomes visible via the ECG. You can therefore easily measure heart qi, according to the author, just like brain qi and muscle qi. So Qi is electricity. Now we can immediately short-circuit the entire train of thought, because the electrical discharges that we measure with the ECG, the EEG and the EMG do not flow through channels, but move from cell to cell, via the cell membrane. We no longer need those channels. That immediately saves a lot, because then you don’t have to palpate them. But let me not be childish. The basis of palpating energy pathways, as we read further, was laid by a Chinese, a certain Dr. Wang Ju-Yi. I am now reading the statement from his Wang’s book Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine about how important those channels are. He explains that the channels create a tissue that unites organs, environment, disease and treatment within an integrated network. What’s here now? Wittgenstein would shudder. There’s nothing there, just bits of pseudolearned vagueness. In figure 1 of his book this important principle is also illustrated: we see a man standing next to a river with a sheep next to him, while the rain pours from the clouds while the sun shines. That immediately makes it much clearer for the dedicated readers. In another image we see two three-lobed lungs and a five-lobed liver. I believe we already knew better in the time of Vesalius. Wang further tries to make it plausible that the channels are central to the entire Chinese system. He explains that these channels are not hollow passageways carrying mysterious substances, but are active participants in the actual process of physiology. For example, the heart and its channel, it is explained, are part of a functional whole. That’s another word cloud. I struggled through the early chapters of the scholarly book, and the author uses a lot of metaphors to explain the point. That’s the essence of acupuncture. It’s about metaphors. Metaphors help. Every hypnotherapist knows that. Acupuncture is the active use of metaphors. But one thing is clear: metaphors cannot be palpated.

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