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Some Cognitive Archeology of Rolfing® Structural Integration

The 40th anniversary of the legal founding of the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration is upon us.  Examinations of Rolfing SI itself and attempts to add to it from all fronts, as usual, are abounding.  Additions or throwbacks are always described as better, more useful, or more in the “real” world of structural integration.

Taking a look at the olden words of Rolfing SI is informative, especially when in Ida Rolf’s own written words.  There, we do not have the “spin” that some of her true believers have made to their interpretations of what has always been an oral tradition of passing down the work.

As Rolfing SI has spread to other countries, including our current fastest grower, Japan, it is always taught in English.  The students are at the mercy of the translator, always, and sometimes interesting transitions occur.

This is not to say that we don’t have arguments about the English meanings in English!

Looking at Ida P. Rolf’s book, Rolfing, Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being, one is immediately taken by some of the old fashioned language.  For one thing, Rolf is speaking about myofascia as being a plastic medium, and currently we are talking about neuromyofascia as being a plastic medium.

For another, Rolf opens her book with a preface entitled, “Literal Thorns in Literal Flesh”, the “Literal” being an addition to the Apostle Paul’s trial as described in Corinthians in the Bible.  In this preface, she also quotes Norbert Wiener: We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.

She is pulling out 2 predominant cultural ideas of non-movability of the human pattern. Continuing, she evokes a possibility of fixing a large scale mechanical deformation of body blocks misaligned in the field of gravity, thusly creating “an effective human being as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

And then!  she creates lasting trouble for some people in her next chapter:  “Twentieth Century Monism”.  In it she refers to “energy”, a big sticking point for folks who want to know wtf we are talking about. A Rolfer™ I know was recently harangued by her father-in-law to “stay away from those Rolfer pagans”. (I think it fun that he wasn’t talking about the pain of Rolfing SI, haha.)  Both the “monism” word and the “energy” could have caused her father-in-law’s pagan talk.

To this story, I should have said, “What about Paul Tillich?” instead of chuckling my head off.  Tillich, a Monistic Christian at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, was a huge influence in that day, and if the intellectual New Yorker Ida Rolf wasn’t influenced by him when she used the word, “Monism”, she should have been.

So, I’m off to work in Memphis, tomorrow.  You can be sure I won’t be talking about “Monism” or “energy”, in the Barbecue Belt.

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