I feel it necessary to address criticisms I've heard about George Soulié de Morant and his work with acupuncture. From my personal experience with True Acupuncture and studying Morant's work, I feel that his depth of understanding is that of a true master of acupuncture and much of his wisdom is passed over in favor of theory. I wish to discuss here some of the general criticisms and give, what I believe to be, some general clarifications and to point out some misunderstandings.
I've heard the argument that Morant's translations of the “classical texts” of Chinese Medicine was poor. This argument started while he was alive, from my understanding, and has continued to the present day. Some of the reasons for this argument come from Westerners who studied other earlier translations and considered those correct; however, this cannot be used as an argument. The assumption that a prior translation is more accurate simply because it is an earlier translation and introduced to the West earlier has no validity whatsoever. Therefore, the criticism that started against Morant because of other “poor” translations must be ignored as it has no ground to stand upon.
The second attack on his translations often has to do with how he translated certain Chinese Medical terminology. It is clear that Morant did not translate many of these terms literally or to their “exact” Western counterpart. This is very understandable once you understand his framework. In his writing he does not seem so concerned with keeping with terminology as much as he is concerned with the West understanding acupuncture in its own right. I believe that Morant seen acupuncture as a universal idea and in order to understand it, it must be understood in one's own “cultural” terminology.
It is my opinion that literal translations and the continued use of Chinese terminology in acupuncture in the West has greatly slowed the true understanding of acupuncture and continues to keep it a vague mystery to many. I agree with Morant's translational terminology and his attempt to bring the understanding of acupuncture into terminology the West can comprehend. Manfred Porkert has also attempted this with little effect. It is unfortunate that the West as a whole has not embraced the idea of a “standardized” terminology for acupuncture. Instead we have a mix mash of, what many of my Chinese instructors called, "Ching-lish."
Due to the continued use of Chinese terms and literal translations that have no real understanding to them we are faced with a deep lack of understanding when it comes to acupuncture in the West. Many arguments arise out of this area and there is no resolution simply because each “school of thought” insists their translational understanding is correct. What we are faced with are “theological debates” that rest upon theoretical understanding with no proofs. Morant's translations rested on valid and sound proofs of acupuncture. From there he made his translations based on the understanding of True Acupuncture after having proved it to himself. This is where the great error lies. Most argue their theoretical translations without valid proofs of anything. Morant understood True Acupuncture before making the translations. He proved it clinically and from that understanding the translations and/or terminology followed.
Furthermore, it is my opinion that translations are not necessary at all to understand acupuncture. If acupuncture is a valid medical modality then it must be understandable based upon its functions; therefore, we must understand acupuncture and ignore theoretical translations. Only by understanding how acupuncture works and proving it can we then put forth terminology that will correctly describe it, regardless of the culture. Any theory put forth is just that, a theory, and it has no place for debate until it has been proven regardless if the source is a “classical Chinese Medical text” or a modern physiological interpretation.
Having come to an understanding of True Acupuncture and validating it for myself with 100% consistency and verifiability, I understand why Morant used much of the terminology he chose to use; however, I do not believe that Morant ever meant for his interpretations on acupuncture to be the last word. In fact he often states that more clarification is needed and this is the attitude we must all take. At this current point in time the understanding of acupuncture is not fully clear, in fact it is greatly confused, and to argue over theoretical translations because of the book they came from or the person espousing them is ignorant. We must argue from a point of validation and proofs.
Morant gives very clear energetic relationships between systems and uses phrasing that many “classical acupuncturists” have problems with. The problem lies in their ability to first grasp Morant's definition and also to let go of their singular understanding of a phrase. One such example of this is the Mother-Son relationship.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as “classical acupuncture” the only time the Mother-Son theory is used is in relation to the 5-Elements (Wu Xing/5-Phases). The practitioner should understand what I am speaking of and I will not go into explaining the 5-Phases at this time. I simply wish to point out that Morant uses the Mother-Son terminology in two places, the 5-Elements (phases) and the ying-qi (nutritive energy) flow; however, Morant uses this phrase consistently in the energetic relationships predominantly to refer to the nutritive energy flow for treatment because it is verifiable and by definition it is a “Mother-Son” relationship. Morant gives his definition of this phrase by saying, that which is up stream is the mother to that which is down stream. Regardless if you think this phrase should be related only to the 5-Elements or not is not arguable. Morant gives his definition for the phrase and by so doing he defines the usage of it. He does not eliminate the usage of it in relationship to the 5-Elements but he does clarify it's usage in relationship to the nutritive energy flow. To argue over such a point is ignorance. There simply is nothing to argue over.
The question to raise is, is Morant's mother-son nutritive energy relationship valid and provable. It is and I have consistently proved it with 100% verifiability and also proven that the 5-Element mother-son relationship is NOT consistently provable. Please do realize that these proofs rest upon Morant's radial pulse diagnosis however, the proofs have shown to be 100% consistent.
Such arguments over theory only show one's unwillingness to understand and learn and their desire to hold onto theory over proof. This is true in all areas of life; however, as health care practitioners we must resist this narrowing of the mind at every turn.
This is one of the most often used arguments against Morant that I hear. Whenever I hear this statement I think, either acupuncture is something that works via valid provable “laws” or it is nothing. Call it “family style,” “classical,” “true,” or “enlightened” does not matter in the least. Acupuncture must be provable or it is NOTHING and works only by placebo! I have put Morant's theories to the test and thus far I have not been able to discredit them.
Morant was accused of not using "THE" classical text of Chinese Medicine, the Nei Jing. One only needs to read Morant's text to see that he does in fact use it with many other classical Chinese Medical texts; however, the argument is that he did not use it enough. This is a faulty argument at best. Furthermore, Morant stated that the Nei Jing is not as clinically useful as other texts, and finally Morant clearly states that “True Acupuncture” was never put into writing in China thus how could he site the source anyway? It is culturally known that the Chinese traditionally pass on their secrets from teacher to student. Acupuncture has been no different, and to claim a text as the “source of acupuncture” is a great error. The Nei Jing is simply the oldest text the Chinese have about acupuncture; however, it consistently refers to “classical texts” and the “ancients” therefore, it cannot be considered the source of acupuncture or even a true “classical text.” It simply is NOT the source of acupuncture understanding.
We must put every theory to the test regardless of where it came from. To accept a theory solely based on where it came from is complete and utter ignorance, and to argue over such a point is foolishness and benefits no one.
There are certainly more criticisms against Morant as there always are attacks against such pioneers. What we must realize is, there is no use in attacking the messenger or the message. We need to hear the message, thoroughly understand it, and then apply it to prove or disprove it and only by doing so can we hope to learn and understand. Squabbling over terms and theories is nothing more than arguing over ill conceived prejudices and beliefs — they are void of wisdom and understanding.