Does Vitalistic Chiropractic Violate the First Commandment?

I am a chiropractor by day. In short, this means I make a living by removing spinal misalignments that are creating neurological interference (defined as vertebral subluxations) which affects how the body and the brain communicate with each other.

This interference creates symptoms of all kinds varying from the simple back ache, to migraines, to all out serious digestive disorders and even death.

Not many lay people know this, but there is an ongoing war within the profession of chiropractic. This war has been going on for a long long time between so-called “straight” chiropractors and “mixers.”

Battle Lines Defined

A mixer (as defined by straight chiropractors) is a chiropractor who does anything else besides, or on top of subluxation detection and removal.

A straight chiropractor is one who focuses on the detection and removal of subluxations from his patients so that said patient can fully express life. This is done without regard to that particular patient’s symptoms. Symptoms are like a fire alarm in a burning building. When the fire department shows up, it doesn’t focus the water hose on the ringing alarm in an effort to silence it and then head home to let the building burn to the ground they focus on extinguishing the cause of the alarm.

When a chiropractor makes an adjustment, he is affecting the subtle bio-electric energies that originate in the hypothalamus of the brain, and pass to and fro throughout the nervous system controlling and coordinating every single function in the body.

Straight chiropractic, because its goal is the full expression of life in the individual, is often called “Vitalistic” chiropractic.

This is what I am attempting to do whenever I treat a patient.

Except that the explanation I gave you about affecting the subtle bio-electric energies that originate in the hypothalamus is not truly accepted by Vitalistic chiropractors as an accurate assessment of what a chiropractor does.

Vitalistic chiropractic which has its roots in the founder of chiropractic, D.D. Palmer is a pure belief-system of living organism and their relationship to the entire universe. It is a complete worldview. Vitalistic chiropractors believe that the power that made the body heals the body and that healing comes from “above down inside out.”

A False God

You can see this in the foundation of Vitalistic Chiropractic philosophy, Stephenson’s 33 Principles of Chiropractic. I encourage you to read them for yoruself, but let me summarize what the 33 principles essentially say:

Universal Intelligence is the power that made the body. Universal Intelligence uses Innate Intelligence to keep the body healthy by controlling the body’s Life Force.

Universal Intelligence is God. Lest you think I’m concluding this based purely on my own presuppositions: “You may call this Universal Intelligence—God, if you choose.” Vol. 1 “The Science of Chiropractic Its Principles and Philosophies” By B. J. PALMER, D. C., Ph. C.

In essence, what Vitalistic chiropractic philosophy teaches us about its god, is that God is in everything, and particularly in living things, God is expressed through the nervous system.

Our nervous system is the pathway to God.

Chiropractors are the great ambassadors of God and directly enhance our ability to relate and express God.

You will frequently hear Vitalistic chiropractors state subluxations are the biggest problem mankind faces. Death and disease would be non-existent if there were no subluxations.

I have, numerous times, heard chiropractors imply that horrific events in history like the Holocaust might have never occured had more subluxations been adjusted. I’ve heard them ponder if maybe many of Christ’s healing miracles might not have been the removal of subluxations from the lame, or blind individual.

In this worldview, sin is replaced with the subluxation, redemption through the cross is replaced with the adjustment and the preacher is replaced with the chiropractor.

If you think I’m off-base, have a good look at the picture at the top of this post again. That is depicting B.J. Palmer, the founder’s son with power over death and disease.

This is, for the most part, a philosophical argument. In the real world, in actual practice, there are very few truly straight chiropractors, or maybe put a better way, there are very few non-mixer chiropractors.

We are doctors, and we do have the freedom and responsibility to practice according to our individual patients, serving them with what they actually need rather than what we are philosophically comfortable serving them with.

I would say, most mature chiropractors believe this and practice accordingly.

But there are many chiropractors in the field who practice and believe a truly Vitalistic philosophy of chiropractic. Oddly, many are also professing Christians who are, I’m assuming, naively dabbling in idol worship and serving two masters.

Question: Can a doctor be a Christian and a Vitalistic chiropractor and not violate the first Commandment: Though shalt have no other gods before me?

Husband, dad, internationally beloved raconteur, chiropractor, writer, podcaster, KCBS Certified BBQ Judge.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Paul –
    I am not a great philosophical debater. All I can tell you is what I know.

    I know that the picture you posted in your article of BJ has always crept me out.

    It is true that BJ thought, and wanted others to think, of himself as a “savior” of sorts. BJ was a weird dude in a lot of ways, and despite what some may say, I have a hard time reconciling that he was a “Born Again” Christian. He openly practiced Freemasonry — a practice whose rituals are clearly incompatible with Christianity. And if he truly was a Christian, would we not have seen some writings of his denouncing this “savior picture” of himself?

    As Christians we need to be careful in how we approach the Vitalistic Chiropractic Philosophy as you outlined, as it can very easily be seen as pantheistic.

    We need to be looking for ways in which chiropractic can fit into our worldview and not how our worldview can fit into chiropractic.

    I don’t utilize chiropractic as a religion… although there are many lost souls out there that do.

    I was able to locate an article that someone posted on Facebook awhile back:

    It’s an article by Joe Strauss that argues that Universal Intelligence cannot be God but rather something that was created by Him. The comments are especially insightful. I’d be curious to get your take on it.

    Paul, I don’t have to tell you that we live in a sinful and fallen world — a world that man wants to rectify… on his own, and without God. But as it states in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

    I too have heard chiropractors talk about how some of the horrific events in history might not have come to pass if more subluxations were removed. (As a matter of fact, didn’t BJ say something along these lines once?) Could it have changed the course of these events? Will getting everyone on the planet under chiropractic care bring about world peace and understanding? …. Unlikely, apart from repentance and saving grace in Jesus Christ. No, it will only create a world of healthier, and more vibrant but still sinful people.

    And was Jesus adjusting people??? I have no idea, and I had never even considered the thought.

    Subluxation and sin DO NOT equate. For one is a physical issue and one is a heart issue. Adjusting someone is not going to bring them closer to God… and yet there are some chiropractors that will claim that. But they do not worship the God I worship. I have heard some chiropractors state that “God needs no help to heal the body… just no interference.” Not my God. He can do anything supernaturally if He chooses. ANYTHING!…. even if there is a subluxation standing in His path.

    So what do do?? Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? No. We pray for discernment and the Lord’s will as we make sense of what our chiropractic forefathers left us — realizing that they, like us, are sinful. We should run our practices in a way that honors and respects (and teaches others to do the same) His amazing creation of the human body. And we must humbly help those he sends our way to recognize how this amazing creation, that He has bestowed upon us, has an incredible capacity to heal and regulate when cared for correctly.

    So to your original question:

    “Can a doctor be a Christian and a Vitalistic chiropractor and not violate the first Commandment: Though shalt have no other gods before me?”

    That depends on his heart. But I’d also add that we could substitute anything in place of “Vitalistic chiropractor” in your question (football enthusiast, money lover, workaholic, guy who loves to eat, podcaster, etc.). As Christians we need to be mindful that ANYTHING is capable of becoming a god in our lives if we are not careful to keep and put into action the proper perspective He so richly deserves.

    In Christ,


    PS. In regards to “When a chiropractor makes an adjustment, he is affecting the subtle bio-electric energies that originate in the hypothalamus of the brain, and pass to and fro throughout the nervous system controlling and coordinating every single function in the body…. Except that the explanation I gave you about affecting the subtle bio-electric energies that originate in the hypothalamus is not truly accepted by Vitalistic chiropractors as an accurate assessment of what a chiropractor does.”

    …isn’t this similar to what BJ said:

    “We chiropractors, work together with the subtle matter of soul. We let free imprisoned impulses, those tiny particles of energy issued by mental which circulate all through nervous cells, giving them life. We deal with this magic force capable of changing simple food into living, loving and thinking clay; this wonder coating earth with beauty, spreading the scent of flowers for the glory of air…”

  • Jan Jones

    Yes to your answer. Vitalism is not a religion but a philosophyas is allopathy.

    I am a Christian and a vitalistic chiropractor.

    I believe God created our body to do most of the healing itself and I am purely an instrument to guide it.

    The big issue is that people have lost the meaning of our body being a temple of God. We have a physical body, spiritual body and a soul. How exactly these 3 interact is still not 100% clear to me. From my understanding our soul is in our body till we die and then reunited with our spirit and then we either enter heaven or hell.

    As a Christian we receive the Holy Spirit to live in us. However there are references of prophets, priests and kings in the old testament also receiving the Holy Spirit. This was exclusive, now available to anyone who chooses. Okay getting a bit off topic here 🙂

    From Wikipaedia:
    Vitalism is the doctrine, often advocated in the past but now rejected by mainstream science,[1] that “living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things”.[2] Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the “vital spark”, “energy” or “élan vital”, which some equate with the soul.”

    So, if you believe we have a soul that will one day go to heaven it is a much more vitalistic belief than mechanistic.

    Does this mean Christianity is vitalistic? If so then why kick a fuss against it? Sadly there is a lot of rubbish under the blanket of vitalism.

    My recommendation – find someone you trust, someone with strong christian beliefs and principals.

    • Hi Jan, thanks for the reply.

      I wouldn’t say a Christian worldview is exclusively vitalistic, or mechanistic.

      The main issue I’m addressing are those “straight” chiropractors who’ve equated all evil, trial and tribulation to the subluxation and the chiropractor as the savior of the world from the subluxation.

      I believe subluxations cause and contribute to all manner of dis-ease in the body, but I do not think a lack of chiropractic is the world’s biggest problem.

      • Jan

        Thanks for the reply.

        I have been looking at all this again. My journey in chiropractic has been interesting.

        I totally agree that there are some real out there thoughts on what chiropractic can do.

        For me it is becoming more obvious that there is a cult like thing going on in chiropractic. For me the 33 principals do not make sense and sorry, UI cannot be God when looking at the 33 principals, because it then negates the necessity of Jesus and there is no room for the Holy Spirit.

        Thing is there are groups that sound very convincing as christian and I have tried to make it fit. It doesn’t. So the 33 principals to me is a philosophy, not a law, not a belief system.

        Using the philosophical term vitalism to me is no problem.

        I am not a vitalistic chiropractor the way you define it.

        Wow, looks like a big turn from the previous post.

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