A Philosophical View of the Excessive Focus on the Mechanical versus Neurological Aspects of FASCIA
The following is a lot of speculation, however …
I believe a lot of the focus on the mechanical (the tissue itself) instead of neurological (the sensory nerve supply) in fascia work is because Ida Rolf studied with Alfred Korzybski (A.K.). Now, I think A.K. was a genius. Many of the people who studied with A.K. believed — I think correctly — they were among the bleeding edge thinkers of their time (pre-1050, when he died). And A.K. said some things I think affected Ida deeply. (Ida was very philosophical, I believe, but didn’t really communicate that side of herself very much, at least not that most of us know about, and not in regards to this aspect of her work.)
Electro-Colloids & Neuro-Evaluative Processing
At the time of A.K.’s work becoming popular (back in the 1930s into the 40s), a lot of new research was happening around “colloids,” of which “fascia” is a manifestation of. (Fascia is literally composed of a high percentage of colloidal molecules.) A.K. referred to them as “electro-colloidal” substances (which might be where the notion of piezo-electric phenomena in the fascia arises).
A.K. said, approximately, that people’s “neuro-evaluative processing” (which is what he and his students were really interested in) was deeply involved with “electro-colloidal” phenomena. If you start reading his books and papers, it is amazingly deep and wide-ranging stuff. (I certainly wish I had more time to read all of his work, and I do use it as a primary, foundational element of my course on the **Philosophy, Psychology & Science of Being Human,** which I put on hold when I started writing a lot.)
Anyway, A.K. said he believed something to the effect that it would someday be discovered that much in the way of mental & emotional dysfunction would be found to have worked its way into the colloidal substances of the body. And I actually think there’s a lot of truth to that, as long as you see the fascia as PART of the network, not THE network. (But you can see the bias in that direction when the pro-fascia people talk about stuff like the fascia is the most “complete” image of the human body, and that it “transmits” or “communicates” throughout its structure, as in the Sweater Thread Myth.)
Fascia & Colloids:
Near “Meaningless” Terms
in the *General Semantics Bulletin,* 1986, Number 52. Institute of General Semantics, a professor Barbara Wright was writing about “The Hereditary-Environment Continuum: Holistic Approaches at ‘One Point in Time’ and in ‘All Time’,” … a pretty deep subject if you ask me. She wrote:
“In the 1930s, when Korzybski wrote about colloids, they represented the frontier of our emerging knowledge about the complex interdependence of cellular structures and biochemical systems…. Today, the word colloid is used very rarely; I could not find it in the indices of several current textbooks of biochemistry. Perhaps this change in usage came about because we now know so much more about individual kinds of colloids; the word became so all-inclusive as to lose its usefulness.”
Along those lines, in my article: What Ever Happened to the Myo in Myofascial Release, I wrote this:
“It is instructive to note that the 37th Edition of Gray’s Anatomy, Elsevier: Churchill Livingston, stated that the word fascia had become so over-used as to become nearly meaningless …”
That’s a pretty similar statement to Professor Wright’s words, and it comes from a leading medical textbook. … (That is NOT, BTW, the same paperback Gray’s Anatomy book you can buy at many bookstores. Last time I bought one, the Elsevier version is an over-size hardback item, $200 approximately, new.)
One thing this means is that a lot of pro-fascia people claim this stuff has not been researched very much. Well, turns out, it might have been VERY well researched, but not in the way they want it to. But it’s been researched as other things it could be referred to other than “fascia.”
Colloidal Substances & Behavior
Now, my major point is (finally!), A.K. talked about (I have the quote somewhere) Colloidal Behavior, and he believed that the future in higher levels of understanding and therapy of human “neuro-processing” (which covers just about everything that makes us human beings apart from the animal kingdom) would focus heavily on the “colloidal substances” or, in terms A.K. probably did NOT use … the fascia.
Fascia is, of course, the mechanical “end point” of much of the nervous system, or rather, the beginning “point” if you’re talking afferent sensory inputs. But it’s the End Point (or starting point, or both), but NOT the WHOLE point.
Was Ida An “Agent” for Korzybski?
Although Ida did not apparently talk about this too much in her Structural Integration™ teachings, I suspect she believed that by focusing on the fascia itself, the “end point” or “starting point” depending on your focus, she was covertly advancing the bleeding/leading edge ideas of A.K. and the work of his various students — many of whom were Ph.D. level scientists, professors, and such.
I think she believed she was actually helping people just by the act of “touching” their “inner-selves” by applying manual pressures to the electro-colloidal substances, the fascia, the “outer-sheath” of the self, the outer expression of the nervous system.
One teacher of Korzybski’s work, Fernando Flores, by all appearances held this view as well. Based on how he paid little apparent mental attention while the therapy was being done, he also spoke as if the soft tissue therapy could “structurally modify” the body and therefore mind of a human being.
(I was a soft tissue therapist for Fernando for the better part of a year. I would travel to whatever city he was teaching in and perform therapy, as well as provide macrobiotic cooking for his diet, prescribed by the Macrobiotic Leader, Michio Kushi. … In one semiar for bodyworkers, Fernando said he thought soft tissue therapists were in a better position to positively affect the mental and physical function of human beings better than any other health care discipline. That’s ONE of the reasons I stayed in the field.)
Interestingly, in developmental embryonic science, the fascia and skin form first, and the nervous system develops inward from the fascia, continually growing inward toward the center of the newly forming body, eventually forming the CNS and the brain.
In this event, the heavy sensory innervation of skin & fascia indeed makes it a “window into the soul.” Or, for the brain and CNS, the sensory componenet of the fascia is a “window into the outer world.”
And, in attempting to discern Ida’ intentions, I think there’s a lot of Truth to all that. …
Problem is, the pro-fascia crowd got “stuck” (a mental adhesion?) on the strictly mechanical aspects of this thing called fascia, and I bet not one in a hundred of them knows what this **Focus On Fascia Stuff** was REALLY all about in its origination.
The Unfortunate Fading of Alfred Korzybski
BTW, in Ida’s Rolfing™ heyday, Alfred Korzybski, who passed way in 1950, had fallen out of favor by many, and she might have kept quiet for “neuro-political” reasons. For example, he was saying human beings are NOT just animals, but something more. That was, in its day, pretty Scientifically Incorrect, as well as Politically Incorrect. That might be why Ida’s Rolfing students only got half the story, the physical fascial tissue side, and not the entire “neuro-fascial” story. …
I honestly and really don’t know the whole truth for sure. But I bet I’m not far off the track here.
And BTW, if more people knew THIS side of the story, I bet they’d be FAR less tempted by all the Quantum This & Quantum That stuff. … Just sayin…
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David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
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