Olaf Korpiun is an Upledger-trained therapist and educator who resides in Germany and primarily teaches in Europe. I sat down to write a formal review of his intriguing book, Craniosacral SELF Waves (Super Extreme Low Frequency), but it got so long that I just decided to highlight my thoughts by sharing an email I sent to John Chitty from the Colorado School of Energy Studies. It condenses my main thoughts in a more concise and digestible manner. John asked me what I thought about the book, and this was my response:
I just finished Olaf Korpiun’s book, and I must say it was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read on craniosacral therapy. I found the scientific approach very refreshing, and it was nice to have vocabulary from physics introduced to the dialogue.
I see his book divided into two main sections:
- His explanation of Global Scaling and its relevance to craniosacral motion.
- His approach to treatment.
Global Scaling and craniosacral motion:
My primary scientific interests have been biology and chemistry. So until I can do some background research, I will just have to take his word that Global Scaling and the other concepts he brings forward are accepted models in the field of physics and not just conjecture or half-baked ideas. As far as his treatise goes, here is my rudimentary summary:
The physical universe coalesces at vibrational nodes formed by standing waves in the cosmic background field. These nodes are predictable and follow patterns at various levels. Additionally, all matter oscillates in resonance with the background field. The human body, being matter, is condensation at a node in the biological strata and is subject to oscillations in the field. These oscillations communicate information to the body/mind systems across a continuum of frequencies. Different frequencies relate to different aspects of the human experience. The oscillations we feel as primary respiratory motion are simply resonance with the field at some of the lower frequencies affecting it.
In the introduction he states that “Unfortunately, all such attempts at mystical explanations for the craniosacral phenomenon have no bearing at all on reality.” He then footnotes Sills’ original version of Craniosacral Biodynamics. This gave me pause, for I and many other practitioners have indeed found that much of the information in Sills’ book reflects reality, including the map explaining the unfoldment of primary respiratory phenomenon. So it appears that Korpiun believes he has a greater understanding of the reality of deeply embodied motion than any of the published and well-reviewed authors who have built this field. That is a very big claim.
Personally, I have never had a problem with mystical approaches to understanding the origins of the physical and energetic waveforms of life – largely due to my Catholic upbringing, undergrad work in Christian mysticism, and subsequent interest in Buddhist cosmology. With that in mind, I must say that just because Korpiun gives a scientific explanation of the origins of craniosacral movement does not mean that his understanding is any greater or more useful than a practitioner with mystical roots. Movement is movement. Attributing it to a scientific belief system doesn’t change the movement itself. I don’t understand how calling the reciprocal motion of incarnation “resonance with the global background field” as opposed to “a response to the breath of life” makes one approach superior to the other. His model doesn’t appear to be that detailed yet, has not yielded any physical laws that can be measurably applied to primary respiration, and gives us relatively little new information with clinical relevance (a point I will discuss later.) His model doesn’t offer anything breathtakingly new to my eyes – it is … tidier … than what we have previously seen, however. This is good. The work fills in the discussion with helpful language and a gives a strong voice to a perspective that has been missing from some schools and largely underrepresented in others. The myth vs. science debate is so well-covered in other places that I don’t think I will do it much justice here.
Korpiun attempts to position his model as closer to reality, or more accurate than a biodynamic model, and I just don’t see this as the case from the information in the book. It explains the same thing in a different way. He synthesized Global Scaling and craniosacral therapy. Good move. This may eventually lead to greater clarity regarding the phenomenon, but I don’t see it quite yet.
Approach to treatment:
More important than the model is treatment, and we should consider his claim that destructive interference is a superior approach to treatment than constructive interference. Constructive interference is definitely an aspect of biodynamics as espoused by Dr. Jealous, Michael Shea, and others. Augmentation of the perceptual experience of the Long Tide is a foundational activity for these teachers. Korpiun is accurate in stating that constructive interference is a big part of most biodynamic work. So, why does he believe that destructive interference is superior to constructive interference?
He states that according to Popp (a biology researcher), when destructive interference is introduced into intercellular space, constructive intracellular interference arises. This constructive interference makes available a productive energy for the cell that is used for physical rearrangement and healing (stillpoint activity). He states that the new energetically charged state is reinforced by “aha” effects of sudden psychological insights that “are induced strongly and almost autonomously by destructive interference.”
Conversely, if constructive interference is introduced to the environment of the body, then destructive interference results in the tissue, creating an “unstable” and “agitated” state in the client. Korpiun states that this unstable state can allow the system as a whole to be raised to a higher energy level without the client developing an awareness of their internal psychological structure. Uncoupling from the treatment dyad as well as this lack of “aha moment” awareness allows the elevated state to decay over a few days.
So, it seems to me that one argument he is making is that mechanical induction of stillpoints produces psychological insight. That doesn’t sit very well with me at this point because experience has not validated it for me – he really needs to elaborate on this. I wonder how much of Upledger’s “therapeutic dialoguing” he does to augment psychological insight.
More importantly, his central argument is basically that the existing research data of physics dictates that destructive interference is a superior approach over constructive interference in restoring freedom to lesions in the body. I seriously doubt this. Wisdom and logic almost always negate approaches that swing too far to one side. I stand by my current understanding that possessing clinical skill with the application of both destructive and constructive interference is optimal. (I really like having the terms “constructive and destructive interference” at my disposal now – it is so handy!) But to state my experience in other words … effective clinical practice usually involves both biomechanical and biodynamic approaches to varying levels of the system.
For several years now I have become increasingly convinced of the dangers of swinging too far into biodynamics, especially for new practitioners. There are so many new graduates coming out of biodynamic schools who are severely ill-equipped to handle the clinical situations they will face without possessing a basic facility with biomechanical work. I like that Korpiun’s book will enforce this, but for him to say that biodynamics should be placed “squarely in the realm of the health spa” does not adequately reflect its therapeutic power. He claims that he gets superior results. As of yet I can’t verify this, so I must rely on my experience with well-seasoned cranial osteopaths who utilize similar destructive interference techniques on the slower wave forms. They don’t claim that such an approach is superior across-the-board, just that it is often useful. I have found this to be the case as well in my own practice, as I have been experimenting with it for several years.
Reading this book, you would think that good solid stillpoints never occur in biodynamic work, that the whole experience involves riding one of two wave forms – the mid tide or long tide. He mentions dynamic stillness in two section headings but does nothing to treat the conceptual idea or describe the perceptual experience. He generally discards biodynamic practice by giving very superficial definitions and misleading statements about how it is actually practiced.
He recognizes that stillpoints are good, but he doesn’t seem to think that stillpoints occurring spontaneously in biodynamic treatment are as effective as stillpoints that are heavily induced. I’m just not convinced of this. I have experienced stillpoints in biodynamics that feel like the Titanic just landed on my chest, along with several million gallons of water behind it. Tremendous potency is generated in such a field (and frequently insight as well). As you know, we encounter very strong forces in biodynamic work when deeper levels of stillness are encountered. Biodynamic work is not just about augmenting existing waveforms! Many higher level biodynamic practitioners induce a stillpoint by their presence alone, without a sharply directed act of the will! But these stillpoints contain weak or faulty potency? Or head in a useless direction?
I will give him a big concession here, though. One of the short-comings of biodynamic work is that it can often be so spacious and allowing that deeper change comes on very slowly … sometimes so slowly that it is not practical for clinical work. When you have five days in the classroom to cultivate the environment, then patience works great. But …. when someone is paying you to alleviate their pain, can only afford three or four treatments, and has to squeeze treatments in between two jobs and three kids, it becomes practical and compassionate to induce stillpoints in order to get them some help from their exhausted yin resources. My clinical results greatly improved when I swung back from a state of deep-allowing and began stillpointing the fluid body early in the course of treatment.
Others have delineated different types of stillpoints (induced, facilitated, natural), but these names denote how the stillpoint came to be, not its quality. I believe that ultimately a stillpoint is a stillpoint. You can get to stillness in several ways. The path you take to get to stillness can be a factor in how easily the client accepts the treatment. Sometimes it is most appropriate to approach the client with strong constrictive pressure to reach stillness. Other clients may respond better to openness. Isn’t life about balance? Isn’t our job, as “healers” (I know, bad word) to embody and facilitate an experience of balance? How can being so one-sided fulfill that goal?
I can’t help but think of my children here. One of them responds well to firm discipline, while the other rebels against it. Clients’ systems can have similar variations in personality. Yang is not better than Yin. Yin is not better than Yang. I’m having trouble with the fact that Korpiun’s treatise seems to insist that it is uniformly better to approach a problem from one direction. Many of the greatest minds in physics at the Perimeter Institute now accept that the Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe, but just its current ignition point, the beginning of the expansion phase which must have followed a contraction. The universe seems to refuse to only move in one direction. Should we not heed that wisdom?
As an aside, I have seen the same predicament in spiritual circles. Here’s a simplified example: Zen koans are very manipulative. They make the meditator very self-centered and tightly wound, eventually inducing stillpoint and breakthrough. Vipassana meditation is very biodynamic, allowing the meditator to ease into breakthrough. But both emphasize that the power of life is held in the present moment. Which is the better path? Most practitioners eventually concede that it depends on the meditator!
So, his approach does not recognize the Inherent Treatment Plan as a valid (or at least useful) concept. He believes that the trained human mind applying his “frequency cascade” protocol to the system will give it more of what it needs than it can find for itself being aided and augmented by an attentive therapist who is conscious of the priorities of the system as it unfolds them for itself. I suspect that this belief, in the hands of inexperienced therapists, will frequently result in iatrogenesis. I do, however, think that strategically forsaking the ITP is a manageable approach for those with a lot of clinic time under their belt, especially if they have some experience with biodynamics. Korpiun’s approach should be considered advanced work.
I really liked this book. It was interesting, provoking, helpful, and informative. His contribution is great! But I don’t think he has reinvented the wheel. He has only given an argument for a therapeutic approach that many experienced practitioners have already considered. (To be fair, I should personally feel the effects of his protocol before I solidify that argument.) The greatest contribution of this book, in my opinion, is that he has given a good cross-discipline scientific explanation of the origin of the wave forms we encounter in the field and soma, and its relevancy to embryology. This will somewhat help to bolster validity of the craniosacral system for the scientifically minded, and may open new avenues of research that tell us more specifically the roles the various frequencies play in health and disease. As far as his approach to treatment, I think it is something that every serious practitioner should understand. But stillpointing deeper waveforms is not really new. Just ask an old Osteopath.
I will be travelling to Boulder, CO to better understand Korpiun’s views at his first American workshop later in June. I will report my impressions in a later post.
Follow-up post as promised Olaf Korpiun Class Review – “No Growth Without Resistance”.