On this episode of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson’s rightful defense of acupuncture gets lost in his disdainful confusion of foreign beliefs. He mixes Chinese and Indian tradition, philosophy and religion. Acupuncture, Yin and Yang and Buddhism do not all go together in any belief system. Click here if you want to watch his muddled response, then read on to learn more.
Pat, I get a chiropractic adjustment monthly, a massage weekly, and was thinking about acupuncture. I have been told that I am opening my body to evil spirits. All I know is, I can walk without pain after an adjustment. Also, a massage helps me from getting migraines because of the tension in my life. Am I wrong? -Katie
Robertson jumps directly to defending acupuncture, which — great — but your defense of going to a chiropractor and getting massages makes me think people are telling you these practices too, are evil. And I’ll just say, no. Don’t fall pray to superstition spouted by people who simply fear everything they don’t understand.
Though why anyone would associate superstition with massages or chiropractic adjustments is bizarre. The former is just loosening up tight muscles that don’t function as well as they should and encouraging blood flow. The latter works with the nerves of the spine to help heal and manage pain — in theory. Not all of the medical community believes chiropracty has any real effect and it’s considered alternative medicine.
But there’s nothing evil about either of those, nor as Robertson suggests, about acupuncture.
Yin and Yang’s Meaning
With that said, it’s important to know, understand and respect other people’s religions, whether or not you believe they’re correct. So let’s get into a quick primer, since Robertson doesn’t seem to understand beliefs beyond the Judeo-Christian religion.
First off, the philosophy of Yin and Yang has nothing to do with Buddhism, as Robertson claims. In fact, even though Taoists and Confucianists believe in it, it isn’t necessarily religious at all. This ancient Chinese philosophy popularized in the 3rd century BCE believes in the duality of existence. For everything that exists, it suggests, there exists something equal and opposite. Light and dark, male and female, the sun and the moon, odd and even.
Each side compliments the other and exists only because of the other. Believers feel that Yin and everything connected to is a negative force and Yang and all its associations a positive force. But that doesn’t make one good and the other bad. Instead, it’s more like the positive and negative poles of a magnet. It’s all part of one, inseparable system.
Whether coming from an Eastern or Western tradition, ancient philosophy would often blend science, religion and what we think of as philosophy. People just wanted to understand their world. Ancient Christians certainly felt no different, with their multiple creation stories and tales to try to understand why so many different peoples and languages exist.
In this way, you also get Yin and Yang. And, in the physics realm, which provides fundamental laws for all of reality, it’s not too far off. Of course we know that the things like the sun and moon aren’t opposites, but we also have ideas like Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The Science Of Acupuncture: Placebo Or Medicine?
As for how the concept might tie into acupuncture, over the centuries, conflicting beliefs and ideas emerged over how and why the practice worked. The idea that acupuncture balances Yin and Yang energies within you is only one theory, and used in this way, it’s not religious in nature.
Again, it was a way to try to explain the science of why this worked. Whether acupuncture interrupts the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, releases hormones, acts as a placebo, or works on some other medical level, we still don’t have enough science yet to understand it.
Though Robertson speaks confidently of understanding how acupuncture works on “nerve impulses,” he has no medical degree and the medical community differs greatly. In truth, the they’re even divided over the procedure’s effectiveness, let alone its mechanism of function. But still, acupuncture can’t hurt you when done by professionals. And people out there do claim it helps them manage pain and depression, regardless of the reason why. If it helps you, then God bless you.
Finally, though I’m not sure how often acupuncture is used as the sole method of anesthesiology in surgery as Robertson claims, it is used in operations. Researchers have even studied the effects of using it in open heart surgery in conjunction with low levels of anesthesia. They’ve found that it does appear to result in better recovery.
But again, acupuncture and the separate concept of Yin and Yang have nothing to do with Buddhism.
Buddhists don’t concern themselves quite as much with how the universe works, so much as achieving deep, personal spiritual development. They believe that nothing is permanent and everything and everyone can change. Perfecting meditation, wisdom and morality are key tenants to the philosophical system. And all must practice kindness and compassion as they attempt to reach past the human cycle of suffering.
Whether you follow these teachings or not, none of them are as insidious as Robertson makes them sound. Though, no, they do not believe in the Christian God, so take that as you may. Also, Buddhism originated in ancient India, while Yin and Yang, as we discussed, comes from ancient China.
So while Robertson does encourage you not to disparage a practice you may not understand, perhaps he should keep that in mind himself when discussing beliefs of which he has little interest in learning about.