Lonny S Jarrett Spirit Path Press, Stockbridge, MA 01262-1093, 2003 www.spiritpathpress.com Hardback, 828 pages, £16.00
(Reviewed by Di Eckersley, EJOM Vol. 4 No. 5)
This is the second book in recent publication by Lonny Jarrett which returns us to the classical traditions of Daoism, alchemy and Chinese medicine, and yet takes us forward in our beliefs about practice and our actual practice for the 21st century. The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine follows on from Nourishing Destiny, which was first published in 1998 and very well reviewed by Alan Hext in a previous edition of EJOM, in Summer 2000, Vol. 3, No. 3. Throughout, the author refers readers to his former text, so if you have not read it yet, now is the time to buy it and either read it beforehand or alongside his latest offering.
Lonny Jarrett has been deeply immersed in the practice and teaching of Chinese medicine, having started reading about it at 13 and studying it from 17 years of age. He has shared this learning and transformed it into practice with a wide range of patients and students for the past 20 years, (over 50 thousand treatment sessions/60 patients a week), so he is unquestionably expert in his field as well as showing a great love for it. Indeed, his work and life so far is expressed in this book and he is in an excellent position to judge the need for it at this point in time.
It is well presented and has a welcoming foreword and introduction which serve to involve the reader, leading on to a preface which gives very helpful guidance and an overview of each of the five parts and chapters that correspond to different aspects of clinical practice. These are - Setting the Foundation; Point Categories; Orienting Towards Treatment; The Acupuncture Points; and Perspective; there are also some very useful appendices and indices.
It is clear from the outset how Lonny Jarrett has made his theory out of practice, by incorporating the teachings of, for example, JR Worsley, John Shen and Leon Hammer, yet evolving beyond his beginnings so there are 'no strings attached'. For example, his 'speculation on the relationship between the Five Element Model and Spiral Dynamics' he acknowledges is 'entirely his own'. He also suggests 'supplementing skills' on the basis that he discovered limitations in his own learnings; for example, pulse diagnosis when he trained with JR Worsley proved to be too 'unsophisticated', so he went on to train for many years in the Shen-Hammer System. Indeed there are some very practical sections included; for example, Part III - Orienting Towards Treatment and Appendix A - Starting A Practice. He also interestingly suggests 'new' syndromes, such as liver yang xu in cases of CFS/ME and Lymes Disease, or by describing the ego as a form of possession.
There are questions at the end of each chapter encouraging the practitioner to critically evaluate his/her reading, rather than to accept or dismiss the issues out of hand. What was particularly striking, as I leafed through the text at the outset of reading for this review, was the sense of 'at last', that someone was prepared to put into print some of the hitherto 'secret' and 'personal' teachings of treatments such as Aggressive Energy, Husband/Wife and Possession, which are to the best of my understanding not available in such detail unless one is trained in 'Five Element' acupuncture. The rationale described is Lonny Jarrett's interpretation. This is the first time I have seen it expounded as theory and practice and it elicits interest and motivates one to try different ways of treating and widens one's options. Elizabeth Hsu (1999) talks of the secret and personal modes in the transmission of Chinese medical knowledge and practice, and separates it from the standardised (guifanhua) mode prevalent in the People's Republic of China. The openness which is prevalent throughout and which brings this into the public domain is to be applauded.
His book reflects the artistry of his life and practice even though, (or maybe because of it), he has a background in neurobiology. His premise is given in the opening chapters, on pages four and five, and that becomes the theme of the book. 'In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, my basic assumption in treating all new patients is that they arrive at my practice in various states of shock... treatment involves clearing shock and restoring the memory of original self that lies beneath life's traumas... it is a matter of fate that each of us will lose original nature and forget ourselves early in life.' This manifests physiologically as a 'separation of the five elements and a loss of integrity in the heart/kidney axis', (the axis of human destiny), out of which we construct the ego and then proceed to defend that at all costs for fear of annihilation of this False Self. Lonny holds that the efficacy of acupuncture taps into the ground of the unborn being, that we have unlimited potential at each moment, because the future has not happened yet. He reports (as a neurobiologist?) that the greatest amount of metabolic energy goes into resisting change, that most of our patients come to us to feel better, so that they do not have to fundamentally change. It is for us to create the context, predicated on the highest ideals and principles, in which they may change at a deeper level to move towards restoration of the authentic (True) self. As Zen Master Hakuin said:
'We say that someone has the wondrous ability to play the zither or the lute, but if we ask where that art resides, not even the wisest man can answer...This art, produced by something we cannot fully know, is like the innate nature of the heart that operates in all our daily activities.'
It is certainly true that Chapter 37, Perspective - Cognitive Styles in the Practice of CM, is essential reading for us all, particularly the first sections where the author articulates cogently that Five Elements and Eight Principles are inseparable, that they are just different dimensions, the former of time and the latter of space. This then moves into the Spiral dynamics theory and the evolutionary spiral towards cosmic consciousness, which, again, makes for interesting reading. His ideas have resonance with some earlier personal reading about spiral theory, for example Jill Purce, The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul, 1977; or perhaps Deepak Chopra, Quantum Healing 1989; or maybe Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point, 'the psychical convergence of the universe upon itself'; or Ken Wilber's the Holographic Paradigm, 1984, etc.
I commend this publication to all acupuncture practitioners, teachers and educationalists as a very important resource for consideration and reference, not least because our future may depend on it. It is especially relevant for the current Unity in Diversity and Statutory Self Regulation issues and debate. It will appeal to some more than others, but what would it mean for each of us if we made a decision to let go of any limitations and practise differently? Our medicine can change people, it is transformative in its potential. Are we prepared to put our attention on that part of us that is prepared to look and evaluate openly? This should take its rightful place on the bookshelves alongside some other excellent and scholarly texts which have recently appeared in publication, to elucidate the ancient texts and take us forward through and beyond this century. The author hopes that in opening our awareness even in a small way we will experience a 'reality shift'. Lonny Jarrett is working on a third book; he assures us it will 'not be in the field of acupuncture'; but one would conjecture that it may be in the wider field of 'conscious consciousness'.
As the Tao Te Ching says, Going on means going far, Going far means returning... All things however they flourish Turn and go home to the root from which they sprang.
Di Eckersley Di Eckersley is an acupuncturist practising in Newbury/Thatcham and Reading. Her background is in education and teaching and, until recently, taught at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, where she originally studied acupuncture. She serves on the British Acupuncture Council's Education and Admissions Committees and the Accreditation Committee of the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board.