JSB Vol.1 No.3

Journal of Spiritual Bodywork

      Vol. 1, No. 3                                          ISSN 1079-8390                           September 15,1995



Albert Schatz, Ph.D.




Interrelationship of philosophy, history, science, and massage.

Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839).

How Peter Ling got certified.

What do definitions of massage tell us?

Newtonian-Cartesian science.

René Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650).

Descartes' out-of-body experience.

How Descartes' separation of body and mind was helpful.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

The light at the end of one tunnel.

"If we are beings of light, then it follows that we can be affected by energy."

Are the blind leading the blind?.


Plato's cave.


Where there is love for mankind, there is love for the art of healing. - Hippocrates


The word philosophy rarely appears in the literature on massage; and, when it does, it is not defined. The reader therefore does not know  precisely  what the author meant when he or she referred to the philosophy  of massage.  To avoid that uncertainty,  I am using Hyperithon's definition of philosophy.1 During the 15 years that I have been doing research on massage, I have not come upon any information in the literature which can be construed as an acceptable philosophy of contemporary massage, according to Hyperithon's definition. Newtonian-Cartesian science, which provided the philosophical basis for Peter Ling's kinestherapy, from which present-day massage evolved, is not an appropriate basis for the philosophy of contemporary massage.

Part 2 of this report (in the next issue of this Journal) will discuss Co-Creative Science, and explain why it provides an appropriate philosophy for a qualitatively new kind of massage - one with an Aquarian dynamic. Part 2 will also define this co-creative massage as a co-creative health science.   


This report is an historical perspective of an important but neglected area of massage; namely, the aborted development of the philosophy of massage. This is surprising because philosophy is not an abstract intellectual exercise, but very practical. It helps us interpret and reinterpret the past, it enables us to function more effectively in the present, and  it provides guidelines for planning the future. It is necessary to have an appropriate definition of the philosophy of massage, clearly stated, in order to know what we are talking about. Otherwise, we are describing an elephant like the proverbial three blind men. A knowledge of the philosophy of massage is useful for understanding the important differences between secular and spiritual massage and between secular massage therapy and spiritual massage healing. Spiritual massage has been discussed in previous issues of this Journal  and the Spiritual Massage Ministry Newsletter.  Secular massage is the primary focus of this report.

Interrelationship of philosophy, history,

science, and massage

A search for an appropriate philosophy of massage requires a knowledge of philosophy, history, science, and massage. It also raises two important questions. What is appropriate ? And what is philosophy? For me, appropriate  means that the philosophy has an Aquarian dynamic (to be discussed in Part 2). For philosophy, I use Hyperithon's definition. From our perspective, philosophy is the scientific study of organized human thought, ideas and perceptions, their patterns and how they link together to play an historic role as one dynamic of the human evolutionary movement. It is also a scientific 'lab' through which organized human thought, ideas and perceptions may be introduced to society. As a science, it catalogs and defines what is already reflected in society during specific historic periods and it serves in a leadership capacity to introduce 'the next step' into that society.1

From this definition, it is obvious that philosophy, history, and science (including research) are intimately interrelated. Unfortunately, massage schools, which devote little if any attention to the philosophy and history of massage, also devote little if any time to research. I mean actually involving students in research. One result is that "most massage therapists do  not base their work on scientifically documented research, but … rely primarily on a relatively limited education and practical experience. Scientifically documented research is not an area heavily emphasized in [the] massage school curriculum."2

The fact that important research on massage has been done with student collaboration3 proves that students can be advantageously involved in serious research. Ways in which students can participate in research in massage schools have also been pointed out.4  The need for training in research,5 and for an understanding of philosophy and history, is obvious when one sees what some who promote state massage laws pass off as factual information. This explains in part the continuing acrimonious controversy about these laws.

Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839)

Let us begin our search for an appropriate philosophy of massage with Peter Ling. Kinestherapy, developed by Ling, is considered to be the first truly scientific massage because it was based on the medical knowledge of its time. That medical knowledge was, in turn, derived from early 18th century Newtonian-Cartesian science. Present-day Swedish Massage evolved from Swedish Movements which was the name given to Ling's kinestherapy. Because the 300-year-old Newtonian-Cartesian science is still the philosophical basis of massage, the philosophical basis of contemporary massage is three centuries out of date.  Unfortunately, few people are aware of this and even fewer are  concerned about it.

This raises an important question: What has happened to the philosophy of massage which is intimately related to the history of this modality? Many massage therapists have told me that their training devoted relatively little time, if any, to the history of massage, The philosophy of massage  was not even mentioned. Many contemporary books on massage comment on the history of this discipline only in passing, if at all. This is in marked contrast, for example, to the importance that Graham devoted to the history of massage in 1902.6 His book of 27 chapters begins with Chapter I. Definition and History of Massage, and Chapter II. History of Massage Continued.  The 48 pages of these two chapters are 10% of the total 462 pages of Graham's book.

Fortunately, the rich and fascinating history of massage has been documented by  Richard Paul van Why in his publications Notes Toward a History of Massage  and The History of Massage and its Relevance to Today's Practitioner.  Although van Why gives names of people but no references to their publications, his books provide comprehensive coverage and should be read by students, massage therapists and massage teachers.7 Others have also published on the history of massage. But the philosophy of massage and the integration of its history and philosophy have been almost completely neglected.

Most massage therapists who have heard of Ling know only that he is credited with having developed the first systematic, scientific massage. They don't know that Peter is his anglicized name which in Swedish is Per Henrik. They are not aware of the controversy over how original his contribution was because, among other things, "all the movements which Ling has indicated are described in an ancient book of the Chinese called the Cong-Fou of the Tao-Ssé."6 

They don't know that the widely used terms effleurage, massage á friction, pétrissage,  and tapotement were introduced not by Ling, but by Dr. Metzger of Amsterdam "who simplified the many different manipulations under [the above-mentioned] four headings… The technical part of massage in former times was much more complicated."8 For this reason, some people at that time assumed that Dr. Mezger [not Ling] "was the originator of" the Swedish Movements which evolved from Ling's kinestherapy.

The two names Metzger8 and Mezger,6 although spelled differently, refer to the same individual because both Haehl8  (1898) and Graham6 (1902) identify him as a resident of Amsterdam. Kellogg9 does not mention Ling at all in the fourth edition of his book published in 1904 (The first edition was published in 1895.), but does refer to Metzger.

How Peter Ling got "certified"

The history of massage is interesting with respect to the continuing controversy over state regulation of massage and the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Few people are aware of the problems that Ling had in getting "certified" so that he could practice and teach the kinestherapy which he developed.

"Ling, a Swede, born in 1776, while studying at the University of Stockholm, during fencing exercises observed ... that active motions not only strengthen the healthy, but are also able to bring about quick recoveries in injuries, as dislocations, bruises, etc. He collected all the information he could find pertaining to this subject in the old literature, and established a system of treatment which today  is known as 'Swedish Movements'. (today refers to 1898 when Richard Haehl's book, from which this is quoted, was published.) 

"In 1812, Ling applied to the Swedish government to give him permission for practicing and teaching his newly discovered method, which, however, was refused with the remark, 'There are equestrian performers and rope dancers enough, without the addition of a new one.' During the following year, however, he convinced a number of well-to-do and influential persons of the advantage of his discovery, and when he renewed his petition the government consented. He then erected a building in Stockholm, for the purpose of treating patients and lecturing to students and physicians upon his new doctrine, an institution which to the present date [i.e., 1898] is flourishing and well known all over the world."8

Had Ling not been "certified", the history of massage might have been very different. We would probably not have the important pioneering research and application of massage by Graham,6 Haehl,8 Kellogg,9 and others in the United States at the turn of the century.

What do definitions of massage tell us?

Let us now see whether the concept of massage has significantly changed since Ling introduced his kinestherapy 200 years ago. For this purpose, we will look at two widely accepted definitions of massage. 

The American Massage Therapy Association's 1993 definition reads as follows: "Massage is manual soft tissue manipulations, and includes holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body. Manual means by use of hand or body."10 This definition is similar to but not identical with the following definition "in a 1992 resolution recommended to the National League of Cities, with concurrence by the American Massage Therapy Association: 'Massage' is manual manipulation of the human body, and includes holding, positioning, causing movement, and applying touch and pressure to the body. 'Manual' means by use of hand or body."11

Both these definitions "have been weighed and found wanting".  For one thing, they may be considered pre-Cartesian because they do not mention the mind at all. Descartes had to acknowledge the mind in order to separate it from the body. (I shall discuss Descartes' separation of body and mind later.) Every massage, consciously and unconsciously, involves the bodies and minds of two people -  the practitioner and client. Without involvement of these two bodies and two minds, there is no massage.

The definitions are also pre-Hippocratic because they ignore the soul, as well as the mind. The ancient Greeks' holistic concept of health and healing included both the body and the soul.15,23,24 Therefore, the  massage to which these definitions apply cannot possibly be construed as a holistic modality, the quintessential nature of which is the  intimate interrelationship of body, mind and, spirit. Every massage involves two souls,15 two minds and two bodies. Without any one of these six, there is no massage.

Secondly, these definitions are concerned with only some of the things that occur during a massage, and only to the person being massaged. What the definitions do not mention, in addition to mind, are the important subtle energy interactions between practitioner and client.3 These are the subjective, qualitative aspects of massage.12 Massage can also be described in terms of technic as the two above-mentioned definitions have done. But descriptions are not definitions. If a definition of the technic of massage is the definition of massage, then by definition massage consists only of manipulations.  

We have pointed out elsewhere the limitations of defining or describing massage only in terms of technic.12 One reason why state massage laws define massage as technic is because these laws cannot define and therefore cannot regulate the qualitative, subjective qualities of massage. They also do not, because they cannot, regulate the technic of massage, even though they define it.  Massage therapists do what they want to do (technic-wise) after they are credentialed by the state.12 

For these and other reasons, the two above-mentioned contemporary definitions of present-day massage apply to the kinestherapy developed by Peter Ling two centuries ago. They do not reflect scientific advances that have occurred since his time, and are therefore 300 years out of date.

The two  definitions are also perplexing from another point of view. One of the alleged benefits of local (city and county) ordinances regulating massage and of state massage laws is that they control prostitution. One would therefore assume that a definition of massage would clearly distinguish professional, ethical massage from prostitution. This raises an interesting question: "Do these two definitions of massage not apply to prostitution as well as massage?"

The conceptual framework of massage is replete with other inadequacies. Spiritual aspects of the healing arts are well-accepted by other health care professions,13,14,15,16 but are not widely acknowledged by the massage establishment. This may be due to the separation of church and state which precludes state-regulation of spiritual massage. Without state regulation, special interest groups cannot gain monopoly control17,18  of  spiritual massage. Contemporary massage also does not recognize (a) the serious limitations of the holistic concept of body-mind-spirit, and (b) the importance of nature1,19 soma and consciousness. Co-Creative Science and the expanded concept nature-body-soma-mind-consciousness will be discussed in Part 2 and subsequent reports.

These considerations behoove one to ask whether the so-called leaders in massage have not, like the "enlightened fabled teacher" Sufi Mulla Nasrudin, been looking for the key in the wrong place. "Nasrudin …while on his hands and knees, peering on the street for a lost key … was approached by a friend. 'You lost your key here, Mulla?' his friend inquired. 'No,' said Nasrudin, 'I lost it in my house.' 'Then why are you looking here?' asked his friend. 'Because.' said Nasrudin, 'the light is better here.'"13

Newtonian-Cartesian Science

To continue the search for an appropriate philosophy of massage, we shall now consider Newtonian-Cartesian science; first because this science provided the basis for the medical knowledge on which Ling based his kinestherapy; and secondly because it is still the philosophical basis for contemporary massage. Although Descartes preceded Newton, I use the term Newtonian-Cartesian science  because it was "Newton who developed a consistent mathematical formulation of the mechanistic view of nature' based on "the conceptual framework created by Descartes."22

Let us now consider first the philosophy of René Descartes (1596-1650), and then the physics, now known as classical physics, of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Ling (1776-1839) developed his kinestherapy about 75 years after Newton's death. We shall also point out the little known religious motivation and basis of Descartes and Newton's work because it is widely but erroneously assumed that Newtonian-Cartesian science was secular in Ling's time, as Newtonian (classical) physics is today.

The Newtonian-Cartesian science of the 18th century may also appropriately  be called Newtonian-Cartesian theology. Although it was science, it had a distinct theological basis, motivation, and orientation, which present-day physics does not have. Newton himself, as we shall show, knew  he was espousing  religion because he described it as natural religion.  Note Newton's emphasis on religion - religion  is the noun and natural  the adjective. At that time, natural law (principles derived from nature that were binding on human society), and natural theology (knowledge of God derived from the study of nature) were beginning to compete with natural science and natural philosophy, both of which evolved into our  present science.

René Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

According to Peirce: "Descartes is the father of modern philosophy, and the spirit of Cartesianism — that which principally distinguishes it from the scholasticism which it displaced — may be compendiously stated as follows:

    "1. It teaches that philosophy must begin with universal doubt; whereas scholasticism had never questioned fundamentals.

    "2. It teaches that the ultimate test of certainty is to be found in the individual consciousness, whereas scholasticism had rested on the testimony of sages and of the Catholic Church.

    "3. The multiform argument of the middle ages is replaced by a single thread of inference depending often on inconspicuous premises.

    "4. Scholasticism had its mysteries of faith, but undertook to explain all created things. But there are many facts which Cartesianism not only does not explain but renders absolutely inexplicable, unless to say that 'God makes them so.' is to be regarded as an explanation.

"In some, or all of these respects, most modern philosophers have been, in effect, Cartesians. Now, without wishing to return to scholasticism, it seems to me that modern science and modern logic require us to stand upon a very different platform than this."20

Descartes "was the most influential proponent of dualism in modern times. He argued that mind ... and matter ... could not interact and that their only connection was through the beneficence of God."21 He "based his view of nature on a fundamental division into two separate and independent realms: that of mind and that of  matter."22

"For Descartes, a healthy person was like a well-made clock in perfect mechanical condition, a sick person like a clock whose parts were not functioning properly.13  In Descartes' own words: I wish to consider finally, that all the functions which I attribute to this machine, such as digestion … nutrition … respiration,  waking, and sleeping; the reception of light, sounds, odors … the impression of ideas in the memory; the inferior movements of the appetites and passions; and finally the movements of all the external members … I desire, I say, that you consider that these functions occur naturally in this machine solely by the disposition of its organs, not less than the movements of a clock. -  Traité de l'Homme13

In effect, Descartes reversed the holistic philosophy of the Greeks. Achtenberg described what happened as follows. "PreCartesian medical thinking was invariably holistic, and the tenet of the inseparability of mind, body, and spirit in concerns of health care was consonant with the existing world view. When the world view changed to incorporate the Cartesian model of dualism - the separation of the functions of the mind from the stuff of the body - the holistic approach became logically inconsistent. Descartes himself asserted that there was nothing included in the concept of the body that belonged to the mind, and likewise nothing in the mind that belonged to the body."23

Descartes' out-of-body  experience

The origin of Descartes' dualistic philosophy is interesting in and of itself. "On … the night of November 10, 1619, … the young Descartes, still in his early twenties, underwent a mystical experience For him this was a revelation of the deepest significance, and he was profoundly affected by the event for the rest of his life. It was revealed to him that the key to the universe lay in its logical order… It was a universe perfectly assembled, moving in utter precision like a clock, just ticking away… Descartes … [also] devised a   model of human beings as well… He invested humans with the same characteristics he saw in nature at large; qualities of precision and orderly function that could be comprehended rationally. This view gave rise to a physicalistic view of man, which virtually guaranteed a dualistic definition of how man is put together."13

In his own words, Descartes described his experience as follows. I saw that I could conceive that I had no body and … that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature was only to think and which to exist has no need of space or any material thing. 25 This is the well-known out-of-body experience which Moody26 and others researched and which many people have experienced. It is a  phenomenon as natural as dreaming although it does not occur as frequently.

Descartes therefore did experience a real separation of his body and mind. He correctly concluded that his body and mind were separated during his out-of-body experience.  But he mistakenly assumed that that separation existed all the time under all conditions. 

It is surprising that his experience has not heretofore been recognized as an out-of-body experience.  It is  astonishing that the erroneous interpretation of an out-of-body experience  in 1619 has so adversely affected the course of medicine for the past 376 years.

How Descartes' separation of body and mind has been helpful

Despite its serious limitations, Descartes' separation of body and mind had some important beneficial consequences which he did not anticipate. For one thing, the church no longer looked askance at opening the human body to learn how it was put together so that reliable knowledge of anatomy could then be obtained.  Achtenberg explains this as follows, "Now implicit permission was given to dissect, bisect, examine, and otherwise invade the human body without fear of damage to the soul."23

Descartes' dualism was also responsible for the decline of witchcraft, and all the rape, torture, and killing that that entailed. "The modern, liberal, sceptical historians of witchcraft … fail to realize that witchcraft was not a superstition before the new world view emerged in the mid-seventeenth century, and that all world views, including scientism, breed their own superstition. Witchcraft declined because a new world view made it a superstition. It declined because it was as intellectually disreputable to defend witchcraft under the new system as it had been to attack it under the old.

"The new world view was a philosophical and religious revolution that changed the whole concept of the cosmos and how it worked. The philosophical revolution was led by Descartes who dismissed the tradition of medieval philosophy and argued for the existence of universal, observable, mechanical, and describable laws of nature that rendered the operation of demons (and angels) unnecessary and illogical…

"The religious revolution followed the philosophical revolution. Cartesianism led to the assumption of an orderly universe whose regular operations, ordained by the Deity from the beginning, were unlikely to be disturbed by the intervention of spiritual powers. God would have no wish to upset the laws he himself had established; much less would he give the Devil power to do so. Mysterious events, whether supposed miracles caused by God or supposed maleficia  brought about by the presence of the Devil, were either fake reports or could be assigned a material explanation…

"Liberal religion naturally perceived belief in witchcraft as a stupid superstition, since there was no logical role for it in the mechanical world. After about 1700, few people with any claim to intellectual respectability dared claim a belief in witchcraft. The clergy either modified their views to reflect the new ideas or found themselves unheard."27

              Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)       

According to Capra, "The conceptual framework created by Descartes was completed triumphantly  by Newton who developed a consistent mathematical formulation of the mechanistic view of nature."22 But that is not the whole story. "Newton had a real secret, and ... he did his best to keep the world in ignorance… The secret is that he intended to uphold ... theology... He kept it a secret because he wanted to influence scientific thought without putting the admirers of the new scientific method on the alert."28

Newton's "doctrine of the eternal stability of the solar system is clearly presented as an assumption based not on scientific data but on faith in a providential order. But the flood of popularization that made Newtonianism the basic doctrine of the eighteenth century claimed that Newton had provided scientific mathematical proof of the marvelous order that he accepted on faith... Newton was perfectly aware that he had expounded the religious view that was called  natural religion." 28

In the case of Newton, we meet with the unique occurrence that for three centuries his admirers have fought battle after battle to prevent the publication of about nine-tenths of his scholarly work." They did this because of "what was granted by Newton himself in some of his letters;" namely, "that science was not his main interest and that he conceived of it as an auxiliary  to theology... He was a biblical fundamentalist who tried to prove, among other things, that the Bible contains prophecies of future history. His interest in science was a by-product of his effort to prove, among other things, that even science does not conflict with biblical religion."28   For these reasons, Newtonian-Cartesian science may also appropriately be called Newtonian-Cartesian theology.  As I have already pointed out, Newtonian (classical) physics was, as described by Newton himself, natural religion. This is very different than the twentieth century materialistic, secular physics that preceded quantum mechanics and is still being used.1

Present-day secular massage therapy has a religious origin because it evolved from the biblical anointing with oil and the laying on of hands.15,16 Its origin  is also based on religious concepts to the extent that these concepts are inherent in Newtonian-Cartesian theology. Descartes attributed the interaction of mind and matter to "the beneficence of God."21 Newton's science had a biblical origin and motivation. This is why the philosophical basis of Ling's kinestherapy and contemporary massage, which evolved from Ling's kinestherapy, can be described as Newtonian-Cartesian theology.

These religious aspects had to be overlooked for massage to be controlled by state massage laws. The separation of church and state does not permit state professional and occupational laws to regulate religious procedures, such as spiritual healing, circumcision, and teaching within a religious context.15,16 Many secular massage therapists and other bodyworkers do not know that the origin of their modalities was religious, at least in part,  because its evolution was influenced by Descartes' "beneficence of God"20 and Newton's "biblical fundamentalism which he masqueraded in science.28  

 The light at the end of one tunnel

We have considered Newtonian-Cartesian science because that is the philosophical basis of both Ling's kinestherapy and present-day massage. We will now consider what changes are occurring in the philosophical basis of medicine because contemporary massage therapy purports to be a medical modality since it is symptom-directed, medically-oriented treatment,29 like physical therapy.

There is no doubt where medicine is heading. According to Dossey: "Perhaps the most abrupt turn in the history of the advance of science has been the revolutionary transitions that occurred in physics in this century... While the physicists have been painfully eliminating the flaws from their own models, we have in medicine ignored those revisions totally. We find ourselves, thus, with a set of guiding beliefs that are as antiquated as are body humors, leeching, and bleeding... No medicine can be modern which does not square with the best of contemporary physical science... We have built a model of health and illness, birth and death, around an outmoded conceptual model of how the universe behaves, one which was fundamentally flawed from the beginning... Medicine isn't right, and we know it.13

For these very same reasons, symptom-driected, medically oriented massage therapy "isn't right", but few people know it.

According to Capra, "The crisis in medicine ... is essentially a crisis of perception ... which derives from the fact that we are trying to apply the concepts of an outdated world view — the mechanistic  world view of Cartesian-Newtonian science — to a reality that can no longer be understood in terms of these concepts... What we need ... is a new vision of reality... The conceptual revolution in modern physics foreshadows an imminent revolution in all the sciences and a profound transformation of our world view and values."22

However, a comparison of massage therapy and medicine reveals an important difference. Some people in the medical field have begun to develop a medicine based on the new science derived from quantum physics. But there is less evidence that the massage profession is involved in a comparable change. On the contrary, the emphasis seems to be on maintaining the status quo. This is accomplished is by pre-Cartesian, pre-Hippocratic definitions of massage and by state massage laws which embalm massage in 18th century Newtonian-Cartesian science.3 Obviously, what symptom-directed, medically-oriented secular massage therapy needs is the kind of radical change in thinking which has begun in medicine.13,22,30 

"If we are beings of energy, then it follows

that we can be affected by energy."30

It is not enough for massage therapists to merely

talk about the interaction of mind and matter and the new science. Their definition of their modality and of how it is practiced must incorporate and reflect serious change. In other words, their theory and practice must derive from a knowledge and understanding of an appropriate  philosophy and up-to-date science.

We respectfully direct massage therapists to Charles Sanders Peirce's comment (page xi) in The Philosophy of the Body. Rejections of Cartesian Dualism,20 Larry Dossey and Fritjof Capra's comments about the change medicine is undergoing,13,22 and Richard Gerber's book Vibrational Medicine.30 These and other scholarly contributions provide an understanding of why bodywork has been brought into the 20th century by those who have recognized its subtle energy field, integrated Therapeutic Touch and Swedish Massage, and embued bodywork with some of the concepts of the new science.3

Peirce, Dossey and Capra's comments are directly relevant to the identity problem of contemporary massage and massage therapy. This identity problem can be resolved only by developing a modern philosophy of massage. Fortunately, some pioneering steps already taken in this direction3,4  are the beginning of a revolution in massage, comparable to the revolution now going on in medicine.

But subtle energy is only one of two keys to the future of massage. The other is Co-Creative Science which will be discussed in Part 2.

Are "the blind leading the blind"?

Philosophy, as defined by Hyperithon1 is involved in many applied facets of massage. This includes state regulation of massage and the reputability which the profession has with the public. We are therefore justified, philosophically, in asking whether there is any convincing evidence which validates the allegation, by some promoters of state massage laws, that these laws give massage therapists more status, respect, and credibility in the eyes of the public.

The first state massage law was enacted in Ohio in 1916. During the 79 years since then, there has been no sociological or other research which provides convincing evidence that state massage laws create or enhance respect for the massage profession. (Nor has there been any research which presents convincing evidence that state massage laws produce more competent massage therapists or that they protect the public.)

Those who claim that state regulation of massage results in more credibility have not shown that there is more credibility in states which have regulation than in states which do not. Or, that there is more credibility in the Canadian Province of Ontario, which regulates massage, than in the Province of Ontario which does not.31,32

For further information about the relationship between state regulation and credibility, let us look at two other professions — medicine and law.  The medical profession has been state-regulated much more rigidly and for a much longer period of time than massage. But despite all that regulation, the medical profession has lost the confidence and respect of the public to an alarming degree. This has happened not because untrained individuals illegally call themselves doctors and practice medicine, but by what licensed doctors and the profession itself have done and what they have failed to do.

The same is true for the legal profession, which has also been state-regulated much more rigidly than massage. Despite that rigid regulation, the legal profession has also lost credibility with the public. "Law school ... makes students give up their notion of justice as an abstract concept of something good, and replaces it with the notion of justice as a mechanism to be manipulated, sort of like a huge pinball machine. The process ... is somewhat similar to medical school, where future doctors learn to think about the human body with roughly the same emotional detachment they might have felt previously for, say, a side of beef." (Philadelphia Inquirer, February 6, 1994)

The legal profession will not gain credibility  by requiring lawyers to take continuing education on legal ethics. A recent issue of the Philadelphia Lawyer contained an article on What Lawyers Really Think  about the continuing education requirement. One respondent said, "Requiring a knave to listen to five hours of lectures on ethics per year will give you a bored knave, not an honest lawyer." Another lawyer commented, "After attending the five-hour session and observing some of the attendees, I am convinced that some of them are never going to have any ethics regardless of how many hours of ... training they take." (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 1, 1994)

There is an important lesson here for the massage profession: State massge laws cannot provide credibility for massage therpists any more than they can provide credibility for the medical and legal professions.


The lack of an adequate philosophy of massage is particularly striking because of the voluminous philosophical and other literature on the body,20 mind, consciousness, the soul, illness, disease, wellness, wholeness, health, curing  and healing. All these subject areas are philosophically and practically involved in massage, but there has been no significant attempt to integrate them in order to derive a philosophy of massage based on contemporary science.

Perhaps this is why some massage therapists speak of massage as a trade and industry, rather than a profession;  and why definitions of massage leave much to be desired. Without an updated philosophy and the incorporation of research in the massage school curriculum, massage will remain a trade and an industry embalmed in 18th century Newtonian-Cartesian science.

"Our knowledge of what the human body is and how and how it functions has been changing at an accelerating rate. We now know, for example, that our skin is replaced every 30 days. This means that if we massage a client after a five week interval, we have never before touched the skin she now has. We also know that all our body components are replaced every five years. This turnover, as it is called, means that if a client has had a pain in the neck for six or seven years, she still has the same old pain but it's now in a new neck that is part of an entirely different body than she had six years ago.

"New knowledge about the human body, health and disease should influence our understanding of symptom-directed, medically-oriented massage, both philosophically and practically. Unfortunately this is not happening in massage therapy to the extent that it is in medicine. One reason is that state massage laws have embalmed the definition of massage. Their definitions vary in some respects but are all essentially similar. Because definitions, knowledge and progress are intimately interrelated, they influence one another. Consequently, state massage laws which have embalmed definitions of massage have also restricted progress in our knowledge and understanding of this modality.

"A discipline, such as massage, is healthy when it is in a homeostatic state of balance with science because each changes as the other provides new information. A discipline is sick when it is in a state of stasis with outdated scientific concepts."3 Unfortunately, much of our knowledge of massage is in a homeostatic state of balance with the past. The need for exploring alternative approaches to our understanding of massage, as has already occurred in science, is what motivated us to establish the Journal of Spiritual Bodywork.15

Plato's cave

 Plato's famous parable of the cave describes a group of people who are chained inside a cave in such a way that they can see only the shadows on the wall of the cave. These shadows are the only world that these people know. One day one of them escapes into the world outside the cave. At first he is blinded by the sunlight, but when he recovers, he realizes that this is the real world, and what he previously considered to be the real world was, in fact, only the projection of the real world onto the wall of the cave. Unfortunately, when he returned to the people who were still chained inside the cave, they thought he was mad.33


    1. Schatz, A. Foreword. In Wright, M.S. Perelandra Garden Workbook II. Perelandra, Ltd., Jeffersonton, Missouri. 1990.

    2. Editor's comment. Massage. page 10. Issue. No. 45. Sept/Oct. 1993.

    3. Schatz, A., and Carlson, K. The integration of Swedish Massage and  Therapeutic Touch. Swedish Massage increases the human energy  field. Massage & Bodywork Quarterly. 10(2):51-55. Spring, 1995.

    4. Schatz, A. What is a research scientist doing with massage? Massage Therapy Journal. 33:32-38, 1994.

    5. Schatz, A., and Carlson, K. Research on  state regulation of massage is needed. Journal of Health Frontiers. 1(2):1-7, 1993.

    6. Graham, D. A Treatise on Massage. Its History, Mode of Application and Effects. J. B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. 1902.

    7. Schatz, A. What is a research scientist doing in massage? Massage Therapy Journal. 33:32-38, 1994.

    8. Haehl, R. Massage. Its History, Technique and Therapeutic Uses. Dunlap Printing Co. Philadelphia, PA. 1898. (Reprinted from the Hahnemann Institute)

    9. Kellogg, J.H. The Art of Massage. Its Physiological Effects and Therapeutic Applications. Modern Medicine Publishing Co. Battle Creek, Michigan. 1895.

    10. Basayne-Smith, A. Definition survey: what you had to say. Hands On, the AMTA newsletter. 9:6-7, Fall, 1993.

    11. This information is in a packet of literature distributed to "Dear Government Relations Committee Chair" sent to Albert Schatz on July 15, 1993, by John Fred Spack, Government Relations Chair, American Massage Therapy Association.

    12. Carlson, K., Barbera, R.A., and Schatz, A. Is state regulation of massage illegal?  Massage & Bodywork Quarterly. 8(4):42-52, Fall 1993.

    13. Dossey, L. Space, Time & Medicine. New Science Library. Shambhala. Boston. 1982.

    14. Spiritual Aspects of the Healing Arts. Compiled by Dora Kunz. The Theosophical Publishing House. Wheaton, IL. 1985.

    15. Schatz, A. The Church for Spiritual Healing and Health. Spiritual Massage Healing. Journal of Spiritual Bodywork. 191:1-53. 1994.

    16. Schatz, A. Massage therapy and spiritual massage healing are two different modalities. Spiritual Massage Ministry Newsletter. 1(1):1-2, 1995.

    17. Schatz, A., and Carlson, K. A Declaration of Independence from monopoly control of the massage profession. Journal of Health Frontiers. 2(1):2-8. 1944.

    18. Schatz, A., and Carlson, K. A Constitution for democracy in the massage profession. Journal of Health Frontiers. 2(2):1-4. 1994.

    19. Schatz, A. Preface. In Wright, M.S. MAP: The Co-Creative White Brotherhood Medical Assistance Program. 2nd edition. Perelandra, Ltd., Jeffersonton, Missouri. 1994.

    20. Spicker. S.F. The Philosophy of the Body. Quadrangle. The New York Times Book Co., New York. 1970.

    21. Hayward, J.W. Perceiving Ordinary Magic. Science and Intuitive Wisdom. New Science Library, Shambhala. Boston. 1984. 

    22. Capra, F. Foreword  to Dossey's Space, Time & Medicine.13

    23. Achtenberg. Imagery in Healing. Shamanism and Modern Medicine. New Science Library. Shambhala. Boston. 1985.

    24. Skolimowski, H. Wholeness, Hippocrates, and ancient Philosophy. pp. 14-20. In Spiritual Aspects of the Healing Arts.14

    25. Thomas, Z. Healing Touch. The Church's ForgottenLanguage. Westminster/John Knox Press. Louisville, Kentucky. 1994.

    26. Moody, R. Life after Life. The Investigation of a Phenomenon - survival of Bodily Death. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, PA. 1976.

    27. Russell, J.B. A History of Witchcraft. Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans. Thomas & Hudson. London. 1980.

    28. de Grazia, A. The Velikovsky Affair. The Warfare of Science and Scientism. University Books. New Hyde Park, New York. 1966.

    29. Saunders, J. C. The past and future of massage. Massage. Issue 44. p. 4. July/August 1993.

    30. Gerber, R. Vibrational Medicine. Bear & Co., Santa Fe. New Mexico. 1988.

    31. Schatz, A., and Carlson, K. The public does not need state regulation of massage. So, who wants it and why? Journal of Health Frontiers. 1(2):1-10, 1993.

    32. Carlson, K. Letter to the Editor (Mailbox). Massage & Bodywork Quarterly. 9(4):46, Fall. 1994.

    33. Zukav, G. The Dancing Wu-Li Masters. An Overview of the New Physics. Bantam Books. New York. 1979.


    Healing Touch. The Church's Forgotten Language, by Zach Thomas. 145 pages. Westminster/John Knox. Louisville, Kentucky. 1994.

The author "is a certified bodywork therapistand minister in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been a hospital chaplain and a parish minister . He is the founder and president of the National Association of Bodyworkers in Religious Service."

"In this helpful book, Zach Thomas shows how clergy, friends and congregations  can reclaim the ancient practice of healing touch. He presents biblical principles that encourage wholesome behavior and protect against unhealthy touch. He provides a model for reflection on touch in pastoral care, offers, case studies that demonstrate how and when clients should be referred to bodywork therapies, and provides congregations with guidance in designing appropriate healing services that include laying on of hands. 

"In this extraordinary book, Zach Thomas shows how the Gospel calls for respectful , appropriate 'heart/hand coordination' for the healing of the whole person. Theologically perceptive, psychologically informed, and professionally practical, Healing Touch  is a welcome and much-needed guide to a body-affirming, incarnational ministry by and in the church." - James B. Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities,  New Brighton, Minnesota.

"Rooting his discussion solidly in the New Testament, with a special focus on the healing ministry of Jesus and the disciples … Thomas shows the difference between egocentric manipulation of others through physical conduct, and sacramental touch on the other hand. More than that, Thomas explores the healing potential of the body in a multitude of examples. Always … he returns to his central theme; healing comes through close spiritual connection between friend and friend, healer and patient, priest and communicant, and that sometimes the sacramental touch can be the means of conveying these connections in a way that is sanctified in the eyes of God." - John A. Sanford, Jungian analyst and pastoral counselor in private practice in San Diego  (Quoted from the back cover of the book)  

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