How a professor linked ancient healing to modern science

How a professor linked ancient healing to modern science

When people ask me to define what Five Elements Acupuncture is all about, so often my immediate response is to think about a quotation from the late J.R. Worsley, the amazing British professor who found the way to link ancient healing to modern science.

He said:

If the body is sick, the mind worries and the spirit grieves;

If the mind is sick, the body and spirit will suffer from its confusion;

If the spirit is sick, there will be no will to care for the body or mind.

More than anything else, that sums up my holistic approach to healing and the essence of Five Elements Acupuncture.

It also reminds me of the life of this remarkable man whose accomplishments include bringing Five Elements Acupuncture to the West.

Jack Reginald Worsley, always known simply as “JR,” began his life Sept. 14, 1923 in Coventry, England. His father, an engineer, was fascinated by ancient Chinese philosophy and introduced JR to the acupuncture as a healing method when he was just a boy.

But JR’s start in life was not that of a textbook achiever. He went to the local school near his home, but he quit school at the age of 14 to go to work in a factory. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, he left that factory to join the Armed Forces.

When the war ended, he returned to civilian life with a commitment to heal. He began to practice physiotherapy and to study osteopathy, naturopathy and acupuncture.

Early in the 1950s, he took the unprecedented step of travelling to Taiwan, Singapore and Korea to further his studies and was awarded a Doctorate in Acupuncture.

It was on this trip to the Far East that he first became aware of the Five Element system of acupuncture and he was intrigued. What he liked was that it looked at all aspects of a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being in order to diagnose the root cause of their imbalance.

“We must strive to see people not only as they present themselves in illness, but more importantly as they would be in perfect health and balance, in full discovery of their true nature, unique in body, mind, and spirit,” he wrote.

Worsley studied under Five Element teachers Ono and Hsui and by 1955, had been awarded the title of “Master” of Five Element Acupuncture.

After completing his studies in the East, he returned to Britain and founded the College of Traditional Acupuncture in Kenilworth. In the years that followed he also established several institutes in the United States. In 1988 he founded the Worsley Institute of Classical Acupuncture in Miami, FL.

His work shown in the international spotlight in 1971 when then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was making an official visit to China and one of the journalists following him, James Reston, became ill with appendicitis. Reston had an emergency operation and the Chinese surgeons used acupuncture to anaesthetize him. The world looked on in amazement.

Worsley’s methods continued to focus heavily on Chinese philosophy and his study of anatomy. He began to teach his methods in hospitals all over the world and to share what he knew with Western doctors. One of Worsley’s students, Gye Bennetts, went on to inspire many others to learn about Five Elements Acupuncture and open their own practices, and I was lucky enough to be one of his students.

As the decade of the 70s continued, Worsley became something of a celebrity, travelling the globe and giving seminars and consultations. During that time, he was able to inspire many others to adopt the Five-Element system.

He maintained a heavy schedule for many years with a lot of overseas travel, even though he suffered two heart attacks. He was reportedly still seeing patients just two weeks before he died June 2, 2003 in Miami.

Worsley wrote many books and articles, including Is Acupuncture for You?, Talking about Acupuncture in New York, Meridians of Ch’i Energy-Point Reference Guide, The Five Elements and the Officials and Traditional Acupuncture (Traditional Diagnosis).

Natasha Pilgrim, practitioner of Five Element Acupuncture, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Counselling and Human Change from Jansen Newman Institute, a Bachelor’s degree in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine from Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and a diploma of Energetic Healing from Nature Care College and has been committed to mindfulness meditation practice for many years. She runs her own clinic in Australia.