Acupuncture and Wizards
In Volume 13/Number 3 of Medical Acupuncture, my editorial addressed the role of Spirits and Healers and how they related to my own beliefs and practice of acupuncture. I stated then that healers could not be real and spirits were not part of the Western medical educational experience. In time, I realized that in the practice of acupuncture, the concept of "spirit" played a vital role in patients' clinical outcome, and that Qi is the driving force behind the "spirit." Now I ask, what about wizards?
"The Wizard of Oz" was my only contact with a "wizard" in childhood. A wizard realizes your "heart's desire." I had not thought much about wizards until I learned about "Windows" on my computer. Every time the going got rough, a "wizard" popped up, came to my rescue, and harmlessly led me through the entanglement of software and hardware barbwire. Not exactly the Wizard of Oz, but equally appreciated. The wizard appeared each time I needed it, making my experience with computers dependent on its appearance and a source of distress in its absence.
I never associated acupuncture with wizards even though it was developed from our ancestors who told us of the world around them by the story-like description of acupuncture points. Their storytelling of energy and spirits seems to us like magic as we transform these points in our consciousness into the reality of our practice of medicine. The magic of these points and their combination become part of our symbolic behavior or ritual toward patients, and our desire or will to treat illnesses. We must realize that the descriptions of acupuncture points tell a story of trouble: the sick patient. Thus, our ancestors may be taken as "wizards" leading us through the quagmire of disease into the rainbow of healing.
Acupuncture is not "magic," but a definite science that may even eclipse Newtonian physics. Some of us recognize this. Yet on the other hand, as we begin to talk about energies and spirits that are so important in our art, this notion may conjure up the slightest sense of magic. We become "wizards" when we place our needles into the symbolic points of our belief, and direct the flow of energy through the channels known to our ancestors.
After all, it is our patient's desire to become cured. Are we wizards or healers or a little of both? Modern medical science may not have room for this kind of thinking. After all, as I alluded in my previous editorial, we are like a chemical factory. Many of us can see even deeper than the molecular structures of the atoms that make up the chemicals in our bodies and thus, as acupuncture became ingrained in our souls, we acquired some of the wizard and healer qualities.
I do believe that wizards, healers, spirits, and energy are just a few of the notions that we will continue to wrestle with in the future. No matter how technologically advanced we become, these "beliefs" will continue to surface because our consciousness tends to tell us that they are real. We cannot escape these feelings as we surely yearn for their existence.
- Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
Dr Richard Niemtzow is a Radiation Oncologist and a Colonel on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. He is Chief Medical Consultant for Alternative and Complementary Medicine for the U. S. Air Force Surgeon General. Dr Niemtzow practices Medical Acupuncture full-time at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Pentagon, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is the Chairperson of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) Research Committee, Senior Editor of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and President of the Maryland Medical Acupuncture Society. Dr Niemtzow is the Ex Officio for the Department of Defense for the NIH CAM Advisory Council.
Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
9800 Cherry Hill Rd
College Park, MD 20740
Phone: 301-937-7424 • Cell: 619-647-7274 • Fax: 301-595-8382
Colonel (Dr) Richard C. Niemtzow
Medical Group (AMC)
Malcolm Grow Medical Center
Andrews AFB, MD 20762