Barrett L. Dorko, P.T.
Did you know that it’s possible to treat self-mutilating cockatoos by entering their energy field and having a bunch of therapists link hands in a circle around you? That’s not all. If you’re sufficiently sensitive, messages given off by animals in distress can actually be “heard” as normal human speech. Really. (For more details, read pages 242-244 in Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom)
These and many other adventures await you if you become a
John Barnes Myofascial Release practitioner. All you have to do is open up your
mind a bit and forget everything you ever learned in high school physics or
I say all of this with complete confidence because I’ve read John Barnes’ new book, and if you think that what I’ve written here is funny, please understand that I mean to be. I’m not so sure John intends to be.
“Your mind, your memories, your emotions lie within the fascial system, despite what we were taught.”
John Barnes on anatomy
I read this book a while ago, but have delayed reviewing it
for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I couldn’t figure out
how to begin. Then the other day I got to thinking about the “Billy Jack”
movies. These were made in the early 70s and featured a character that possessed
amazing physical powers and was (according to the screen writers) inhumanly
insightful, transcendently moral and always right. Everybody who opposed or
disagreed with him was ignorant, stupid and/or dishonest.
These were arguably the worst movies made in the last half
of the twentieth century. Simplistic, contradictory, gratuitously violent and
poorly acted, they were also quite popular, and remain steady sellers in DVD
versions. Why do I mention all of this? Let’s get back to that at the end of
“Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom”
is John Barnes’ latest book about his practice of “myofascial release,” a
technique of manual care that has enjoyed a certain amount of notoriety and
controversy in the physical and massage therapy communities for the past decade
This book attempts to be much more than a simple
explanation of theory and technique. It is a long series of essays detailing
what Barnes has concluded about the nature of medicine, psychology, anatomy,
spirituality, various diagnoses, out of body experiences, and a host of other
subjects. It is 345 pages long, and I read the whole thing. I deserve a medal.
Consider this quote from one of the early chapters: “We
can no longer tolerate paying monstrous healthcare bills for worthless
procedures!” This pretty much sums up Barnes’ attitude toward just about
every method of management that doesn’t somehow include his notions about
“the energetic body,” treatment of the patient’s “whole being,” or the
supposedly crucial role of fascial mobility to our general health. Barnes
dismisses modern medicine as reductionist and then uses the behavior of
subatomic particles to explain how we truly exist. If this sounds like a
contradiction to you, please join the club. Truthfully, the descriptions of
medical science in this book would lead one to believe it is just one step
beyond bloodletting. This is because, according to Barnes, medical schools never
heard of Einstein. I read this part several times, and placed a number of
question marks in the margins. Sometimes I added an exclamation mark.
Maybe I can’t understand much of this book because, as
Barnes says, “Psychologists have been telling us for years that we only
utilize about 10% of our brain.” No reference is offered for this or many,
many other statements used to support the ideas proposed in this book. I guess
we are just supposed to have faith in the author’s expertise. After all, he
claims to be in touch with 100% of his own brain. Amazing. I think he also
transmutates into a cougar occasionally (this is unclear) so perhaps we should
be wary of disagreeing with him.
After a brief and biologically implausible explanation of
the physical effects of gentle manual pressure, Barnes fills page after page
with stories of his many miraculous treatments and extraordinary experiences
resulting from his technique, often using alternate explanations that range from
past life phenomena to channeling some sort of dead Native American. After a
while I wondered if I was supposed to use these examples as a metaphor or if I
was actually supposed to believe all of this. Then I read: “Explain to them
(patients in a state of confusion) that there is no such thing as a truth.
Shocking, huh? There are interpretations! We all interpret the world in our own
unique way; and since that message was not a truth, but an interpretation, we
have the power to change that interpretation in any way we choose.”
Oh. Now I get it.
The “Renegade” in the title is a Native American
persecuted and nearly drowned by “the white man” in one of Barnes’ many
past life regressions, and he is bent upon revenge. In the present life, this
book seems to be his most effective tactic. I know I was certainly ready to
surrender early on. But as the Billy Jack movies prove, there’s an audience
for just about anything out there, and when a leader appears, followers will
suspend reason for the comfort of belief, especially if they are promised power
and secret knowledge. Leaders alienated from society have used this formula for
many generations. Maybe the author of this book learned it centuries ago.
At least, that’s one interpretation.