Don Lewis (NTS, LMT)
“The Soul Swims in the CSF” —Dr. Randolph Stone
When I first felt the fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid at The New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics I was captivated. The expansion and contraction of the space between the temporal bones drew me into a quiet space of focused listening and I felt a depth of relaxation spread throughout my client’s body. I knew right away that I was witnessing something very significant and the mystery of how such subtle movement could effect what intuitively felt like a very deep encounter with another person has become the source of much interest and enthusiasm in my work.
Fascination with the therapeutic application of cranial work and my studies at NMSNT naturally led me to the practice of Core Synchronism, a modality that arose out of the integration of Polarity and Cranial Osteopathic therapies. After graduation, my curiosity also led me to explore other articulations of the cranial osteopathic model. I considered the pursuit of more formal medical education, either traditionally here in the States or alternatively through the Canadian College of Osteopathy in Quebec. I spent some time in apprenticeship with an osteopath who was formerly the head of the Sutherland Teaching Foundation, an organization for doctors interested in the study of cranial work. Indeed, he and several other osteopathic doctors strongly encouraged me to go to school to learn what they felt could only be adequately communicated through formal medical training. Yet, through all of these deliberations, I have been led back to Core Synchronism, for what to me seems a very simple reason: the Core Current.
Enthusiasm is the correct word for my relationship to cranial work. Inside the word enthusiasm is the Greek theos, which means “god”, with entheos meaning “god within.” What distinguishes the Core concept from that of the osteopathic concept is an animating conscious principle that is at the center of both its philosophical understanding and also in its experience of the body itself. The Core Current is the direct expression of a non-material Intelligence that lies within.
Core Synchronism was elucidated by Robert Stevens, ND, the director of NMSNT, and takes its shape from the refined understandings of Randolph Stone, the founder of Polarity Therapy, who sought to comprehend the human in relationship to subtle energetic principles, and William Sutherland, the originator or Cranial Osteopathy, who emphasized the elegant relationship between physical body structures and cerebrospinal fluid. By integrating these approaches into a functional therapeutic system, Core represents a considerable advance in holistic conceptions of bodywork
The human organism is comprised of the mental/emotional, etheric and physical bodies. The Soul or Vital Force is the animating, nonmaterial dynamic. Health is the experience of harmony between the Soul and the parts comprising the whole. All parts must operate as a synchronistic whole. Core Synchronism is a system of bodywork designed to assist Nature in establishing harmony with all parts of the organism, via the Vital Force and the Cerebrospinal fluid. All aspects of self are synchronized to the Soul Breath to access and release states of imbalance, trauma, pain, etc. completely from the system.
—Robert Stevens, ND
The tradition of Osteopathy precedes the development of Core and is certainly a foundational ingredient in its development, both in technique and philosophy. In the elegant expression of Cranial Osteopathy over the last century it has been the cerebrospinal fluid that has become the sacred element of this branch of manipulative medicine. Indeed, many of the deepest thinkers within the profession allude to its remarkable properties, even directly suggesting its relationship with a divine nature.
The CSF receives and is endowed with the ‘breath of life.’ As long as life exists this highest known element is the abiding place of that mysterious spark which cannot be explained but is nonetheless present… an intelligent physiological functioning that transcends all others in the body… this intelligence, this ‘unerring potency’ [is used] in the diagnosis and correction of cranial membranous articular lesions.
Because of this dynamic relationship between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the physiological function of every cell in the body, and particularly those of the Central Nervous System, the CSF is the initiating and controlling factor in the Primary Respiratory Mechanism. Here as elsewhere the CSF is in command.
—Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, Original Edition
The essence of this understanding has also been embraced by Dr. Stevens and Core practitioners, however, with a simpler and more direct association with a conscious life principle.
On the physical level, cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) becomes the physical carrier of the wisdom of the Soul. This fluid conveys the sound and light energies of the Soul throughout the physical body. CSF expresses this highest vibratory rate and intelligence to the whole physical body.
—Robert Stevens, ND
Due to entanglements with materialist medical physiology osteopaths have been unable to embrace a more encompassing concept of a human being that includes subtle energetic dynamics, nor a fuller consideration of the life principle itself in actual practice. In this way osteopathic manipulative medicine is left to consider the physiological shell of what actually composes a human, and despite poetic explorations of great anatomical detail they are without a holistic concept that is inclusive of the full spectrum of our humanness.
Osteopathy is a science which consists of such exact exhaustive and verifiable knowledge of the structure and functions of the human mechanism, anatomy and physiology & psychology including the chemistry and physics of its known elements as is made discernable certain organic laws and resources within the body itself by which nature under scientific treatment peculiar to osteopathic practice apart from all ordinary methods of extraneous, artificial & medicinal stimulation and in harmonious accord with its own mechanical principles, molecular activities and metabolic processes may recover from displacements, derangements, disorganizations and consequent diseases and regain its normal equilibrium of form and function in health and strength.
—A.T. Still, MD, founder of Osteopathy
Surely a paradox exists in that osteopaths encounter the physiological phenomena of CSF from the dense physicality of Western thinking while at the same time expressing a reverent wonder of the ‘breath of life’ that they may experience during cranial manipulative therapy. Although they often allude to some Intelligence that lies beyond, this Intelligence is not the starting place of their thinking. Nor does it actually play a vital role in the application of their technique. Unfortunately, as modern medical professionals they are plagued by a materialistic dilemma of trying to account for a spiritual dimension from the standpoint of observable bodily processes and thereby fail to make the leap from the linear to the non-linear. They remain bound by physiological considerations.
Consequently, as doctors speaking to a Western materialist paradigm, the emphasis upon the fluid as the focus of cranial osteopathic theory is clear.
The CSF is the highest known element in the body.
—A.T. Still, MD
I am making a special effort to stress the point that I consider the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid to be the fundamental principle in the cranial concept.
—W.G. Sutherland, DO
As a polarity adept of more than thirty years, a tradition arising out of the soil of ancient Indian esoteric philosophies, Dr. Stevens is unapologetic for his assertions.
The first step in developing a comprehensive system of hand medicine is an accurate model of a human being. The physical is only one aspect of our makeup. A comprehensive model for the effective practice of hand medicine must include the etheric and the life principle itself….
The soul is the vital thread in the human organism. Core hand medicine calls this vital thread the core current. It may be palpated on the crown of the head and, with practice everywhere in the organism. The core current is the dynamic nonmaterial moving force of the whole. The current is responsible for the movement of cerebral spinal fluid out of the brain. This movement is an energetic phenomenon. There is nothing physical about the core current. It is pure energy, pure consciousness, sound and light, wisdom, balance and is beyond all qualities and concepts.
—Robert Stevens, ND
In my own life, a deeper consideration of these distinctive approaches began in early 2005, when I met Paul Lee, DO, an inspired individual who was practicing osteopathic manipulative medicine in Durango. After introducing myself to him and expressing my earnest desire to be practicing cranial work, he offered to take me on as his apprentice. I had concurrently begun taking undergraduate classes to fulfill pre-med prerequisites, with the thought of Osteopathic school in mind, and was delighted to meet Paul and also begin studies with him. The apprenticeship included both shadowing him in his practice and an intense academic exploration of Gray’s Anatomy. Paul had recently published a book on the spiritual implications inherent in cranial osteopathy, which I read, and I was also given many of the seminal texts of the Sutherland Teaching Foundation.
Actually, there was very little hands-on teaching at this point, as the scholarly approach was indicated as a necessary foundation prior to manipulative training. For several months I was engaged both in undergraduate schoolwork in the sciences and an in-depth anatomical exploration with Paul. Although he was more than willing, even enthusiastic, to consider non-linear influences upon the craniosacral system, Paul’s teaching still communicated the essence of the classical osteopathic approach. What follows is some of what I encountered in my exploration of cranial osteopathy.
To begin, the biomechanical approach to the fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid not only disavows the existence of etheric and subtle energetic influences, but actually alters fundamental relationships between structure and function which emerge when considered within a holistic model. Please consider the agreed upon influences in a biomechanical organism under the influences of CSF fluctuation:
The brain and spinal cord undulate rhythmically like a jelly fish. As the brain coils and uncoils, the cavities within the brain (ventricles) and around the brain (cisterns) change shape. During the inhalation phase (flexion) the brain (and bony cranium) gets shorter and wider (my emphasis). During the exhalation phase (extension) the brain (and bony cranium) gets taller and narrower (again, my emphasis).
It is well established that the cerebro-spinal fluid (surrounding the brain and spinal chord and filling the ventricles) fluctuates rhythmically. This rhythmic fluctuation can be visually observed (and pressure changes measured) during a typical spinal tap, and has been documented by numerous research studies.
The Meninges are the membranes that surround the brain and spinal chord, and contain the cerebro-spinal fluid. The Dura Mater is the toughest and most outer layer of the meninges. The Dura Mater also has an internal architecture comprised of 3 sickles. One runs back to front (called the falx cerebri) and separates the two cerebral hemispheres. There are two other sickles, one on each side of the falx (called the tentorium cerebelli) that also run from the back to the front, somewhat parallel to the floor (when you are standing straight). The tentorium cerebelli gets its name from being “tent” shaped. The dura covering the outside of the brain then attaches firmly to the foramen magnum and upper cervical vertebrae, surrounds the spinal cord and descends to attach to the sacrum at the 2nd sacral segment.
The “Tent” and “Falx”
These dural membranes are under constant tension. They are taut. Because of the tension through them, we refer to the Dura Mater as a Reciprocal Tension Membrane (RTM). If you pull on one end of the membrane, that pull is transmitted throughout. The Dura maintains the structural integrity of the bony cranium (as it attaches into the bones). Movement of the brain and CSF becomes translated into the membranes as a dynamic shifting of the reciprocal tension.
The sacrum is connected to the cranium via the dural membranes that surround the spinal chord. The dura between the occiput and sacrum is referred to as “the core link.” Attached only at the base of the skull and the sacrum at the 2nd sacral segment, the motion of the occiput is transmitted freely to the sacrum. The relationship of the sacrum with the occiput becomes clinically relevant when the cause of headaches may be due to a fall on the tailbone many years previously.
—Mark E. Rosen, DO FCA
Rational, linear, mechanical considerations within the osteopathic tradition create a substantial discrepancy with a Core model that is fundamentally responsive to the expansion and contraction of a purely energetic, non-material, animating life force.
The driving force behind the movement of CSF is the spiraling Life Force Current.
—Robert Stevens, ND
The cerebrospinal fluid is the liquid medium for this life energy radiation, expansion and contraction. Where this (energy) is present, there is life and healing with normal function. Where this primary and essential life force is not acting in the body, there is obstruction, spasm, or stagnation and pain, like gears which clash instead of meshing in their operation.
—Randolph Stone, DO DC ND
As Core practitioners know, under the influence of the Core Current, generally all structures move inferior, posterior, lateral in the opening phase of its movement, with a few exceptions. The cerebral volume is increasing in response to this phase of energetic expansion of the Core Current and a consequent tidal fluid fluctuation carries physical structures accordingly. This simply describes an essential point in our understanding: in a non-linear fashion, all matter follows the movement of energy.
It is only the Energy in Matter that makes matter seems alive. When this energy escapes, only the shell is left… A cure constitutes reaching the life current within and reestablishing the free flow of energy.
—Randolph Stone, DO DC ND
To repeat, in the Core model during the ‘opening phase’ both the occiput and the sacrum move largely posterior with a slight inferior movement. This mimics the natural movement of rocking a baby.
As opposed to this, the osteopathic tradition (as well as craniosacral therapy), views the system as a situation of mechanical leverage. The crucial fulcrum for their understanding is at the sphenobasilar junction. As cerebrospinal fluid is produced “(flexion) the brain (and bony cranium) gets shorter and wider (my emphasis).”The thinking here is that as the sphenoid and occiput move through this period of ‘flexion’ the sphenobasilar junction moves superiorly; thus, the cranium becomes shorter and wider. Also, “the dura covering the outside of the brain… attaches firmly to the foramen magnum and upper cervical vertebrae, surrounds the spinal cord and descends to attach to the sacrum at the 2nd sacral segment.” The mechanical reasoning that follows is that as the sphenobasilar junction moves superiorly the sacrum is lifted anterior-superiorly due to the firm attachment of the dura at the foramen magnum and the principle that “if you pull on one end of the membrane, that pull is transmitted throughout.”
The sacrum is connected to the cranium via the dural membranes that surround the spinal chord. The dura between the occiput and sacrum is referred to as “the core link.” Attached only at the base of the skull and the sacrum at the 2nd sacral segment, the motion of the occiput is transmitted freely to the sacrum.
The consequence of this way of thinking is that during the production phase of CSF the cranium becomes shorter and wider, with the body of the occiput moving posterior-inferior, while its base (including the foramen magnum) moves slightly superior; the sacrum, due to its membranous attachment at the 2nd sacral segment, it lifted anterior-superior. Get it? The body of the occiput moves posterior-inferior while the sacrum moves anterior-superior. In the closing phase, the cranium gets taller and narrower, and the rest of the process naturally reverses.
Although the Core model allows for the slight superior motion of the sphenobasilar junction due to mechanical considerations of bony relationships, the predominant influence of the Core Current causes the system as a whole to move posterior-inferior-lateral. The issue is resolved in palpation. Observing the mechanics that have been deduced from strictly anatomical factors creates a palpatory experience that feels logically rational but intuitively lifeless… which in fact it is. Without the inclusion of the life current, that which is felt is quite different than what is felt when allowing the vital force to guide palpation. As the Core Current is included (it is palpated on the crown of the head where the parietal bones and frontal bone join), the cranium becomes infused with the potency that Sutherland spoke of so passionately in his later years; and although the slightly superior motion of the sphenobasilar junction can be discerned, as a whole the system responds to the Intelligence of this potency, following its movement inferior, posterior and lateral in the opening phase.
Within the cerebrospinal fluid there is an invisible element that I refer to as the “Breath of Life.” I want you to visualize this Breath of Life as a fluid within this fluid, something that does not mix, something that has a potency as the thing that makes it move. Is it necessary to know what makes the fluid move? Visualize a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality.
—W.G. Sutherland, DO
What makes the fluid move is the Core Current. It is responding to the need of our Soul, desiring to express itself into a physical form.
CSF is the energetically stepped down, slower moving physical fluid that carries and circulates the qualities of life (sound and light) to the whole field (physical body). The circulation of CSF (fluid) is the circulation of the qualities (sound and light) of the core current (soul). The circulation of CSF (fluid) is the irrigation of the whole field (physical body) with the qualities (sound and light) of the core current (soul). The circulation and irrigation of CSF represents the highest and first nutritional need of the physical body for health and balance. The first need of every structure (energetic and physical) is a balanced relationship with the source of life. The core current in the Core Synchronism model represents the source of life & balance.
—Robert Stevens, ND
The year prior to my osteopathic apprenticeship I had begun to devote myself to a meditation practice and availed myself to a spiritual teacher. This regular practice of meditation was informed by an approach to spiritual life that emphasized opening to the flow of a definite subtle force, Grace, along with simple encouragements to greet challenges in one’s life with a non-judgmental attitude of universal friendliness. Although the teachings were universal and simple, the profundity of my experience with the non-linear Divine was transformative. Late in 2005 I attended a retreat where, for a concentrated period of time, I received the influence of this powerful subtle force, which opened me more deeply to the experience of non-linear consciousness. Upon driving away from the retreat it was clear to me that cranial osteopathy, as it was being taught conventionally, had no clear concept of how this force influenced our lives. I went to Paul, expressed my thanks for his willingness to take me on as an apprentice, and informed him that I was not sufficiently interested in an academic approach to bodywork to continue. My life’s journey had been significantly changed by direct experience with a conscious spiritual influence; I decided to return to Albuquerque. Core Synchronism’s recognition of a universal life principle that animates our experience as humans, and which is available to be communicated with through therapeutic bodywork, afforded a space to integrate my spiritual experience into a relationship with my work.
Being in relationship is one of the many things that make us human. Being cognizant of our relationship to Source consciousness is one of the things that seems to separate us from other mammals. In choosing Core Synchronism as a therapeutic modality, it was much like the process one engages when considering any relationship. Although cranial osteopathic medicine appealed to me and also had the associated recognition of medical authority within our culture, it lacked something essential. In my courtship with this relationship I had an encounter with, what for me, at that time in my life, was meaningful. Despite all outwards appearances of competency and splendor, osteopathic manipulative medicine as it is conventionally taught does not actually have a connection with Source consciousness. Like one who may speak of the Divine but lacks a certain quality of direct experience, the knowledge remaining intellectual, for me, osteopathic theory missed the inspirational mark. Core, on the other hand, in its simple acknowledgement, openness, and receptivity to non-linear intelligence, offered infinitely more.
Health is not merely of the body. It is the expression of the body, mind and soul when they are in rhythm with the One Life. It is not merely a question of physical fitness, but rather a result of the soul finding free expression through the mind and body of the individual.
—Randolph Stone, DO DC ND
The body cannot be cured without regard for the soul.