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that aspects of these metaphors run ahead of the sup-
porting research. Nevertheless, some speculative explo-
ration seems useful at this point. Anatomy has been
thoroughly explored in the previous 450 years. New
discoveries and new therapeutic strategies will not come
from finding new structures, but from looking at the
known structures in new ways.
Taken together, the following sections expand the
notion of the role of the fascial net as a whole, and form
a supporting framework for the Anatomy Trains concept
explained in Chapter 2. Following these ideas, we draw
this chapter together with a new image of how the
fascial system actually puts all these concepts to work
together in vivo.
we would, in fact, see the exact shape of the body and
easily recognize our friends and their smiles, would we
not?
But the skin alone would show us only the outer
surface of the body, providing only a hollow shell; we
would not be able to see the inner workings. Our quest
is for systems that would show us the entire body, our
inner shapes as well as outer form.
A tempting answer, in these days of AIDS and other
autoimmune diseases, would be the immune system. If
the immune system were a physical system, this would
certainly be a good answer, but examination shows that
there is no anatomical artifact we can identify as the
immune system as such. Rather, an immune function
pervades every system, residing in no particular tissues
or area, but involving the entire cellular and intercellu-
lar matrix.
It turns out that there are three, and only three, posi-
tive answers to our question in palpable, anatomical
The three holistic networks
Let us begin with a thought experiment, fueled by this
question: Which physiologic systems of the body, if we
could magically extract them intact, would show us the
precise shape of the body, inside and out? In other
words, which are the truly holistic systems?
Imagine that we could magically make every part of
the body invisible except for one single anatomic system,
so that we could see that system standing in space and
moving as in life. Which systems would show us the
exact and complete shape of the body in question?
The Vesalius rendering of a contemplative skeleton is
a familiar attempt (and among the first) to isolate a
system and present it as if in vivo (Fig. 1.16). Imagine the
same for a room full of people, a party for instance: we
would see a group of skeletons engaged in talking,
eating, and dancing. We would certainly see the general
shape of each body, and something of their attitude
perhaps, as Vesalius beautifully shows us, but much
detail would necessarily be lost. We would have very
little idea of changing facial expression beyond an open
or closed mouth. We might be able to distinguish male
from female pelves, although the fact that there is
overlap between the two would make even gender iden-
tification difficult. We might recognize pearl divers or
opera singers by their large rib cages, or chronic depres-
sives and asthma sufferers by their characteristic rib
cage shapes. But unless we were forensic experts allowed
a close examination, we would certainly not know who
is fat or thin, muscular or sedentary. We might be able
to make some guesses as to who was who, but dental
records would be necessary for positive identification.
So, the skeletal system is not a good candidate for being
a 'holistic' system as we have defined it.
Likewise, if we could suddenly isolate the digestive
system, magically 'disappearing' everything but the
digestive tract and its associated organs, we would not
see the body as a whole (Fig. 1.17). We might, with a little
practice, be able to read a great deal about the emotional
state of the person from peristaltic rhythms and other
state changes, but this part of our body, be it ever so
ancient, reveals only part of the picture, confined as it is
to the ventral cavity.
What about the skin, our largest single organ? If
everything were eliminated from view except the skin,
Fig. 1.16 A familiar figure: an abstraction of the skeletal system
rendered as in life by Vesalius. This picture was as radical and
'mind-blowing' for its day, when the body was simply not depicted
this way, as a picture of the earth as seen from the moon has
been for ours. (Reproduced with permission from Saunders JB,
O'Malley C. Dover Publications; 1973.)
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