Nourishing Destiny - The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine
Lonny S Jarrett Spirit Path Press, PO Box 1093, Stockbridge, Massachusetts 01262, USA, 1998 Hardback, 17 illustrations and calligraphy, 494 pages. £48.00
(Reviewed by Alan Hext, EJOM Vol. 3 No. 3)
This is a landmark book designed to root our practice of acupuncture in the West back into the fertile soil of the classical traditions of Chinese medicine, Daoist philosophy and alchemical practices. It is a key work for those practitioners who recognise that their therapeutic art involves them on a path of understanding and inner development rather than merely the practice of a medical technique. Nourishing Destiny is a welcome breath of qi and spirit for those who realise the broader potential of treatment. Acupuncture can not only help with symptoms and harmonise health but have a part in aiding a person through life's passages, nourishing the return to our original nature.
Lonny Jarrett has studied with the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Maryland, Ted Kaptchuk, Jeffrey Yuen and Leon Hammer as well as being familiar with western science, martial arts and the Chinese internal practices. For those EJOM readers whose acupuncture training has been limited by the insularity of Britain or even the European continent, this book is an excellent opportunity to see how the practice of acupuncture is establishing itself in the USA beyond simply recycling Communist Chinese medicine. The author has previously contributed stimulating articles to the American Journal of Acupuncture and the UK Traditional Acupuncture Society Journal. The book's chapters are grouped into three major sections relating to Heaven, Humanity and Earth. Heaven looks at more universal theoretical foundations, creation mythology, the destiny which Heaven has bestowed upon us and the language of the inner traditions. Humanity covers the five elemental constitutional natures, seeing them in relation to the twelve officials and their management of blood and qi. Earth looks at the practicalities of diagnosis and treatment, with extensive material on points and patient case studies.
Of the 116 points mentioned in the text, Lonny Jarrett selects twenty to explore in greater detail in a chapter entitled 'The Inner nature of acupuncture points'. This is one of the few books in the West where points have been explored in their wider meaning and dimensions. It will delight those who want to go further than the point descriptions in Ellis, Wiseman and Boss's Grasping the Wind or Arnie Lade's Acupuncture Points - Images and Functions or complement the (mainly unpublished) work of Elizabeth Rochat de la Vallee. The depth and clinical value of points is always grasped with a greater richness when there is an understanding of their broader cultural significance and energetics rather than merely listing the symptoms or usages they have been found to be valuable for. With this level of insight, acupuncture can better be used to treat body, mind and spirit as a complete therapeutic art.
The author describes his clinical approach followed by two thoroughly presented case studies. He details his initial impressions, highlights of the interview within analysis, reasons for seeking treatment, patterns of functioning and other diagnostic data, theraputic strategy and the first eight to ten sessions concluding with a discussion. For those who enjoyed the case histories which Hugh Macpherson and Ted Kaptchuk published in their book Acupuncture in Practice these studies are a refreshing insight into how acupuncture is being practised by a westerner rooted in classical traditions. Lonny Jarrett is an open minded explorer true to the teachings he writes of, whilst willing to transcend their confines when his perception of clinical realities shows they need to change. He describes the seldom mentioned condition of lung blood deficiency and the therapeutic value of herb E jiao.
Lonny Jarrett's Masters Degree in neurobiology makes him perfectly placed to present a valuable appendix chapter entitled 'The complementary nature of Chinese and Western Science and Medicine'. It is full of pertinent insights and understandings of the larger field in ways which might well have formed the basis of another book.
Nourishing Destiny is brought alive by the explanation of essential Chinese characters which make the text more accessible, tables which gather together the ideas being presented and vibrant calligraphy used as a frontispiece to different sections. In what is a style more familiar in America there are questions at the end of chapters designed to stimulate reflective self enquiry. There is a valuable glossary of both English and Chinese terms. Practitioners whose vocabulary contains Husband and Wife, Entry and Exit points, Window of Heaven points, Akabane imbalance, Possession and Aggressive Energy are served along with those familiar with jing, shen, hun, po, zhi and zong qi, etc. The book will satisfy scholars and practitioners as well as the lay reader. If this work was in paperback from a major publisher it might have the popular success which Kaptchuk's The Web That Has No Weaver had - when its value was recognised outside the acupuncture readership after it was featured by a major American book club.
There are only a few comments and criticisms to make. In the descriptions of the constitutional types the author adds to the list of Virtues ascribed to the elements in the Bu Hai Dong, drawing on his clinical experience. The table (Figure 9.3) which outlines how these Virtues erode manifesting excess or deficient habitual behaviours reveals a more psychologically based American appreciation of the elements, an interpretation which we also see in the work of Leon Hammer.
The author's note on the Purple Forbidden City, an alternative name for the Imperial City within Beijing, celebrated in our body as Ren Mai 19, explains its name as coming from purple mortar used in its construction. My understanding is that it derives from the purple aura surrounding the Pole Star, this being the celestial analogy of the Emperor, a still guide around which everything respectfully circulates.
An excellent article entitled 'Chinese Medicine in crisis: science, politics and the making of TCM' by Heiner Fruehauf appeared unexpectedly in October 1999, No. 61 Journal of Chinese Medicine. I hope it acts as a clarion call for us to wake up to what is happening in acupuncture education and practice. Nourishing Destiny is a perfect work to read as a true medicine in healing this larger context. It is a work to inspire and hearten practitioners who wish to see acupuncture practised and recognised as a truly holistic therapy, drawing on the full revelation of its traditions and who know that the internal awakening of the practitioner is an essential part of their development.
Alan Hext Alan Hext is director of the Cambridge Traditional Acupuncture Centre. He began his training in the UK and USA in the late seventies. He practises and teaches traditional acupuncture and Zero Balancing bodywork internationally.