Significance of interdisciplinary collaboration for studying the science of qigong as the core curriculum in an integrated, cross-cultural study of Chinese human/environment relations, culture, and art

Author: Hertel Carl H
Affiliation: Pitzer College and Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, USA [1]
Conference/Journal: 2nd World Conf Acad Exch Med Qigong
Date published: 1993
Other: Pages: 118 , Word Count: 1095

1. Some Educational Ramifications of The Movement in American Medical Practice Toward the Inclusion of 'Alternative' Therapies Including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Herbology, Acupuncture and Qigong.

Seven Random Items to Make A Point:

a. On January 28,1993, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 61 million Americans used an alternative medical therapy in 1990. Over 10 billion dollars a year are expended on such alternative practices and these are often not covered by conventional insurance.

b. Dr. Oscar Janiger (with Philip Goldberg) in his brilliant new book A Different Kind of Healing, shows a surprisingly large number of doctors of allopathic medicine utilizing non-allopathic techniques with their patients while on the surface remaining conventional medical practitioners. Many of these so-called unconventional practices used by the doctors interviewed are derived from TCM and qigong along with a number of other western alternative and folk techniques.

c. In the spring of 1993, The Public Broadcasting System aired Bill Moyers' five part “Healing and the Mind' television series which began with the segment called 'The Mystery of Chi'. Lists throughout the country and regional discussion groups have been formed to continue the dialogue stimulated by the television series.

d. The Institute of Noetic Sciences will hold a major conference and produce a national six hour television documentary next fall called 'The Heart of Healing'. The series will consider research findings on the mind/body issue from cross-cultural perspectives including TCM and qigong.

e. In the fall of 1992, 1 presented a report on various TCM methodologies including qigong which were listed as important healing techniques being practiced in the region along with other indigenous methods of healing from the American Southwest.

Also in the fall of 1992, the New York Times published a major piece on 'The Mainstreaming of Alternative Medicine 'by Douglas Barasch (NyT Magazine October 4.1992). Barasch emphasizes the role played by U.S./Chinese interactions regarding medical practices. He cites, among many others, the experiences with TCM and qigong in China of Dr. David Eisenberg from Harvard Medical School. The article reinforces the premise that such 'unconventional medical practices' play an important role in health care and healing in America.

g. Lastly, The U. S. Government National Institute of Health has opened an Office of Alternative Medicine directed by Dr. Joe Jacobs. The creation of this office changed the strictly rational-empirical medical orientation of the NIH and signaled a possible shift in official governmental policy toward non-allopathic medicine.

Just a few the many examples of movement in American medical circles towards consideration of non-allopathic medical practices signify a major flow of interest and concern in American society and they all reflect the importance of TCM, herbology, acupuncture and qigong in stimulation changes in attitude and practice by Americans with regard to health care and healing.

We are witnessing a quantum shift in consciousness pertaining to (l) the nature of illness, (2) the nature of healing as regards the mind/body issue, (3) the roles and relationship of patient and healer, and (4) the viability of incorporating a wide variety of medical therapies form diverse cultures in common practice.

2. The Role of American Higher Education in Cross-Cultural Considerations of Science. Medicine. Mind/Body Issues. Consciousness Studies, Arts and Human/Environment Relationships

a. Introduction and General Overview

In 1974 the U. S. Government sponsored a 'Report on Chinese Medicine' which provides a window on the more or less contemporary situation regarding academic studies in the field in the U. S. at that time. More recently, there have been a plethora of publications and re-publications of new and older works pertaining to a wide variety of aspects of TCM and qigong. In the medical field numerous studies have been undertaken led in the U. S. .perhaps, by Dr. David Eisenberg's work Encounters with Qi (1976). In Europe, there have been a large number of recent publications such as Dr. Manfred Porkert's Chinese medicine (1982) to name one of many. A number of TCM, martial arts and qigong magazines, journals and newsletters also exist. These cover a widely diverse group difficult to categorize. By way of random example, qigong Magazine focuses on a particular San Francisco orientation to qigong while Qi Magazine is a general, so-called slick magazine with commercial orientations to TCM and energy-medicine as rather broadly defined. There are, of course, numerous excellent Asian publications in Chinese, Japanese and Korean (some of which have been translated into English) which are very influential primary sources in the field. Needless to say, several of the great university libraries contain impressive Asian holdings for research. Smaller institutions of liberal education such as the Claremont Colleges have computerized access throught interbrary loan systems to such holdings. Claremont has fairly good Asian collection of its computerized access through inter-library loan systems to such holdings. Claremont has a fairly good Asian collection of its own as well. Lastly,and perhaps most importantly,a growing number of Chinese qigong researchers and masters and practitioners are to be found in American colleges and universities. These individuals are also found in major Chinese communities in the United States where they also provide access to knowledge in a significant way.

What the above demonstrates in that from the academic perspective there are, not surprisingIy, many areas of research and study to be explored. The hard sciences have a particularly important role to play in researching qi in terms of theory and practice. Medical education must very soon incorporate cross-cultural perspectives including TCM and qigong as a part of their curricula. As noted above.the social sciences, such as anthropology, sociology, psychology and Asian studies in American universities and colleges have already begun impressive programs of research in various areas of the field which provide an excellent basis for future development.

However, in order to meet the specific challenges of the immense changes occurring around American health care and healing and to meet the demands of the extraordingary cross-cultural exchanges involved in the changes described in section No. I above, American higher education requires a concerted effort at mounting interdisciplinary programs to integrate and ameliorate the following factors (l) the diverse kinds of knowledge and information coming together in studying the theory and practice of TCM and qigong; (2) the different ways of processing information in the diverse fields and cultures involved; (3) the diverse ways of perceiving knowledge that these exchanges of practice and theory create crossing between cultures, i.e., a”new' kind of knowing occurs in the transfer process.

In short, cultural exchanges involve the need for careful examination of the distortions and pitfalls that such transfers inherently involve so that exhange and communication can occur on the most productive and creative levels.