Polarity Therapy - Remembering Uncle Randolph
BY ROBERT K. HALL M.D.
Photo: Dr. Randolph Stone in 1974
Courtesy of Robert K. Hall
Published in: Massage – Issue 43 – May/June 1993
In January 1970, I made a journey to India in order to see a spiritual master whose teaching had strongly attracted me. I had finished a two-year apprenticeship with Fritz Perls and we had parted ways a month or so before the trip.
His anger over my interest in meditation and spiritual practice had shaken me deeply. I tried to explain to him that I thought meditation was an ancient form of therapy. He let me know, in a fit of rage, that I was crazy. The argument stopped there and he stomped out of my house.
The last thing he said to me was that I should return from India when I recovered my sanity. I never saw him again. He died two months later, while I was still at the ashram.
The disagreement was a huge turning point in my life, because my relationship with Fritz, my devotion to him and his work, were very central to my personal and professional journey. The rupture in our association left me saddened and disillusioned. I sputtered to myself about how he taught people to ‘do their own thing,’ but he objected when I did what he taught.
Besides, maybe he was jealous of the spiritual master I was going to see. Fritz always wanted to be the main attraction and he certainly thought Gestalt was the only therapy. I'd get along without him.
I would study meditation no matter what he thought. And so it was in this go-it-alone frame of mind that I arrived in India. I wasn't looking for another mentor. That's when I met Randolph Stone.
I probably wouldn't have met Dr. Stone if my traveling partner hadn't fallen ill. Alyssa became sick with some mysterious scourge that Western travelers in the Orient are likely to encounter. She was very weak. Her hair started to fall out and her back was covered with a skin eruption I had never seen before.
The local doctor wasn't helping very much and we were worried. Another resident of the guest house where we lived told us about an old man who was personal physician to the Master.
He was also a Westerner, had very unorthodox methods of healing, and was much envied because of his close friendship with the Master. At the ashram, being in close contact with the Master gave automatic celebrity status, and we were impressed. Everyone we asked told us, though, that Dr. Stone, or Uncle, as he was affectionately called by the Indians, never saw Westerners.
He had limited his healing practice to Indians only. The word was that he thought Westerners were a little silly and not very serious in their spiritual life. We thought he was probably right, but Alyssa needed attention soon. She was getting weaker every day and we were much too scared to feel silly.
The first time I saw Dr. Stone he was doing what he often did in the after~ noon. He was pumping along on his short legs, trying to keep his stocky and sturdy body abreast of the tall, lithe form of the Master as he strode along the brick streets of the little community.
The Master glided when he walked. Dr. Stone waddled. His body was strong for an 84-year-old man. He was amazingly vital. His bulky torso was carried along by the rapid churning of two stubby legs. He was constantly on the verge of catching up, but the Master moved gracefully and his legs were long.
Dr. Stone was dressed in Western clothes except for a crisp, white Indian cap he usually donned for his afternoon excursions. I remember commenting that he followed the Master like a faithful servant, always in attendance.
And that's what he was. The Master was his Teacher and he was a devoted disciple. They were an odd-looking couple hurrying along the sun-baked streets. The Master appeared to be everything a spiritual master should be: tall, noble, handsome, graceful, bearded and turbaned.
Dr. Stone looked like a baker or a storekeeper. The way his large head and thick, short neck rested on those wide shoulders, he looked a bit more like a bull than a magician. All of my Hollywood stereotypes were cancelled.
Dr. Stone's maiden niece, Louise, was his caretaker and guardian of the gate. She was fierce. No-nonsense and brisk of manner, she protected him like a barbed-wire fence from curiosity seekers and afflicted Westerners looking for cures. To this day I don't know how Alyssa got past her.
But one day she announced to me that she had an appointment with Dr. Stone the next day at 11 a.m. I was allowed to accompany her because I am a doctor. That didn't impress Louise much, but Dr. Stone had said, ‘It's OK, bring him along; it'll be interesting for him.’
Interesting was hardly the word. When we arrived at the second floor, rooftop apartment where Dr. Stone's rooms and clinic were located, the first person I saw was an old woman sitting in the sun on the brick veranda. She had metal clips pinched on her nose and ear lobes. She was holding curious, metal, comb-like prongs in each hand.
She smiled beneath the gadget hanging from her nose. I noticed she had what looked like paper clips on the tip of each finger also. I decided I needed an open mind. After all, I had encountered unorthodox methods before. I was a progressive physician. Louise informed me in her no-nonsense voice that the lady was getting her energy balanced. I nodded casually.
Dr. Stone poked his head out of his workroom, saw Alyssa and me and exclaimed, ‘My, my the psychiatrist and his wife! I'll be right with you, little lady. Louise will tell you what to do.’
Louise started hooking Alyssa up to the peculiar paper clips. There were loud groans coming from the workroom. I inspected a crop of alfalfa sprouts growing in long, flat boxes in a comer of the veranda. Alfalfa sprouts were an oddity in those days. I had never seen them before.
The groans grew louder. Louise told me that she and Dr. Stone ate the sprouts for snacks. She said fenugreek sprouts were good too, with a little oil and vinegar. She offered me a dish full. 1 politely dipped my fingers in and munched carefully. Louise told me they contained all the protein I'd ever need.
Dr. Stone prescribed them to all his patients. They actually tasted OK. ‘Of course they do,’ she said. ‘We have to teach people how to eat properly, too. Uncle's very strict about diet.’ There was a yelp of pain from the workroom. Then a long, satisfied groan. I was sweating from the hot noon sun.
When Alyssa had been unhooked from the paper clips 1 whispered, ‘What did you feel?’ She looked at me with one of those I-don't-know-what's-going-on looks and whispered back, ‘Nothing, 1 think. My nose hurts.’
The man who walked reverently out of the workroom looked like he was feeling pretty good, so we began to feel optimistic as Dr. Stone motioned for Alyssa to climb on the bodywork table. She told him about feeling so ill and her hair falling out. He seemed to know what was wrong without listening.
‘It's digestion,’ he exclaimed. ‘It's all digestion. We just have to get the currents flowing. It's simply a matter of stasis. That and diet. We work with the five tatwas you know, the five elements. When they're in balance everything functions the way the good Lord planned it. Of course you're sick, little lady; you just need attention.’
With that he started pressing on specific places on her neck, shoulders, arms, hands, feet and legs. All the while he worked with his thick powerful hands, he talked. Rather, he orated. He exclaimed. He preached.
He fixed me with his clear, blue eyes. His skin looked like that of a baby and it glowed with health. His eyes lit up with joyous enthusiasm, and he began one of the many lectures on life, the body, and God that I was to hear in the next three months. I was his student. I didn't have the remotest idea what he was exclaiming about, but his ardor made me feel about five years old again. 1 just locked my eyes on his and told myself to let go.
Alyssa was groaning in a mixture of pain and relief, as his stubby fingers pressed her. Sometimes he would hit a spot and she would yell. Then she cried. Her crying sounded like relief too, but I wasn't sure and wondered how I could stop him and get her out of there.
Dr. Stone just kept on pressing and pulling and moving her feet around. She started to shake and shiver all over. Then she broke out in a sweat and started to burp and gulp in between gasps.
I stared into his eyes. They were kind and smiling. ‘She's going to be just fine ... might have a bit of a purge after this, but she's going to be fine. Yes, it's a good thing you came. I don't treat Westerners anymore. The Indians need me. They send me kings and prime ministers.
‘I treat them all. They all come to me when they can't get help anywhere else. I get all the impossible cases. They send the hardest cases to me, the ones the doctors don't know what to do with anymore. They never listen to me, doctors, but I can see your cup is empty.
‘Most of them are all full of themselves ... can't hear a thing but their own ideas. It's the tatwas that do it all. Energy locks, like here.’ With that he squeezed some mysterious spot on the ball of Alyssa's big toe and she screamed. He broke into a grin and emitted a high pitched, lilting laugh.
‘Yeah, send you to the moon, that one will. It's so sore:' More squeaky laughing. ‘No wonder you don't feel good. You're all clogged up. We need to get the currents flowing. Energy locks. It's a gas problem. You'll be all right. Yes, why you're a wonderful woman. You need some attention though.’
Compassion radiated from him. I was entranced ... immobile. My mind simply stopped. My medical school mentality sputtered, protested and clicked into neutral. 1 decided to think ' about it all later. Alyssa was quivering and sobbing, but she didn't seem afraid. In fact, she seemed transported in some kind of blissful trance. He continued working ... small movements, gentle caresses and sudden jerking pulls. Joints popped. Sweat broke out. Limbs shook. Alyssa had her eyes closed and was smiling.
All the while he worked he orated about the Holy Sound, the Divine One, the Ida, Pingula and Shushuma, the three rivers of life-giving energy, the divine step-down from the Word of God to flesh.
One minute he was exclaiming on the wonder of God's love; the next second he was instructing me about clogged bowels and rubber tube enemas. The connection between God and the five elements seemed perfectly clear. The cause of clogged bowels and the cure for man's diseases were all obvious.
The emergence of the body from divine, formless energy, plasma gases and ultimately vibratory sound, all seemed perfectly simple. Medical school had never been like this. For that matter, neither had Gestalt therapy and certainly not Rolfing.
Alyssa was holding his hands and saying thank you. 1 could tell she loved him. 1 thought I did too, but 1 reminded myself I needed to think later. I felt like Mr. Jones. (Something is happening but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?’)
He told Alyssa to come back in two days. As we were leaving he pumped my hand and said, ‘You can come back with her. You're a psychiatrist, huh? Well, that's good. Your cup isn't overflowing. All those doctors ... they don't. know what they're doing. 1 get all the hard cases - the ones they don't know what to do with.’
He was still talking as we left. 1 could hear him as we descended the steps. We walked a while in silence. Alyssa was still shivering. finally, 1 said, ‘What in the hell was that?’ She replied, ‘1 don't know but something's working. I feel like a balloon.’
Well, I not only returned the next time but pretty regularly for the next three months. Most mornings would find me standing across the work table from Dr. Stone as he treated one after the other from a long line of ailing Indians.
They came with all kinds of complaints ranging from poor digestion to broken bones. He treated them all with his method that he called polarity therapy. Whatever the complaints, his concern was always the same, releasing and balancing blocked energy. And for each patient, his method was amazingly repetitious.
He pressed on pressure points, taught exercises, advised diet changes, and ran his powerful hands over the body, stopping always in specific places to release what he called connective tissue locks. The response from his patients was pretty uniform also. They yelled and protested his probing hands at first.
He would commiserate and 'sympathize. ‘Yes! Of course that hurts! Oh, you suffer so much! Nobody knows what suffering you have and they never pay attention, do they? You just need some help here. Your body is so toxic! We've got to get this moving so you can feel good.’
With that he would surprise his mesmerized patient with some crucial manipulation that would bring a yelp of pain, followed by the signs of release tears, shaking, burping, sweating, and finally relaxation. They all seemed to get better. Alyssa did too. I became totally fascinated by this unorthodox and thoroughly original healer and vowed to learn whatever he could teach me.
Sometimes he would work with my body and I would feel first-hand the power of his method, his personality, and his hands. I remember leaving his clinic a number of times, my body vibrating from his ministrations, thinking, ‘What am I doing here? This man is a maniac. I'm a doctor. I shouldn't be associated with such madness.’
But, I'd be there the next morning, trying to understand what he was doing with his hands that created such profound reactions. Hour after hour we worked together. He would place my hands under his on the patient and guide me to the crucial area, exclaiming, ‘Do you feel that? Now that's how it works - the life force, God's gift to man.’
And then while I labored to open my hand and senses, he would launch forth loudly, and sometimes ecstatically, on a lecture about the creation of matter, the human body, the microcosm and the macrocosm. He was possessed and inspired.
When I asked him where his information came from, he would always answer, ‘From study. I've studied for 50 years burning the midnight oil. Meditation, you know. It's all there. You just have to ask. Christ said, 'knock, and you shall enter.'''
He was so eccentric. During the evening discourses given by the Spiritual Teacher, he would fall asleep in his usual front row seat, and his hearing aid would suddenly give forth a jolting screech. Somebody would have to wake him so he could turn off the noise and the discourse would proceed. Sometimes he would snore and we'd all smile affectionately.
He was obsessed with his work and spiritual practice, and that's what he talked about constantly. I remember a long train ride to New Delhi with him and Louise. He lectured me for the entire time, all the while manipulating Louise's shoulders. Then he would go to sleep, only to instantly begin working on whomever was near when he awoke.
He never stopped teaching. ‘Yes, it's a wonderful life,’ he would say laughing, ‘If you only get interested in it. Why it's marvelous. But it's better in the irmer worlds, you know. That's why we're here - to make that journey. But you need the Master's grace. You can't do it alone.’
Later, after Richard had studied with him and Catherine had become one of the growing band of his admirers, we invited him, on his next trip to the United States, to give a workshop in our home. We had begun an association that was to be the Lomi School, and his work was having a large influence on us. He had not had many serious students in America and so he refused that first invitation.
The second time, a year later, he accepted our offer and came to Mill Valley to teach. There were about 25 people who enrolled for the two-day workshop, a good mixture of therapists, physicians, artists and curious clients from our own work. He was excited - such good students.
For me, it was initially a horrible experience, because he didn't tone down his performance one bit. That first morning I looked around the room with embarrassment as I saw the looks of consternation, confusion and disbelief on the faces of my colleagues. I was sure they thought we had invited them to pay good money to watch a lunatic.
As the day wore on, he continued to warm up and so did everyone else. I relaxed and enjoyed his ability to uplift people with his childlike, spiritual fervor. A number of workshops followed that one and the number of students grew. Polarity therapy had started its growth in America.
His association with those of us who founded the Lomi School became more intimate, and there were many visits to our home. Always he taught. Richard loved to spend time with him and often volunteered to drive him around sightseeing, to classes, and to the airport.
Once, while they were driving through San Francisco, Dr. Stone stopped one of his spontaneous discourses on polarity therapy, and looking around in astonishment, said, ‘Why this looks exactly like San Francisco!’
Richard said, ‘It is, Uncle. We're in San Francisco.’ He had been so involved in his oration that he hadn't noticed the journey from Marin County over the Golden Gate Bridge. ‘Oh,’ he said and set forth again on his explanation of how the five elements precipitate as physical matter.
Often, we had our meals together around a long Spanish table - delicious vegetarian food made with special care for Dr. Stone. But while we would all be stuffing the food in, he would sit at the head of the table laughing, beaming and giving a lecture on how bean sprouts are composed of earth and water and full of protein and, most of all, directly descendent from the 'divine, vibratory sound current.
I remember looking up from my eating to see him talking excitedly and beaming at me with so much love in his eyes. I could barely hold this glance. Once he began eating, however, he never spoke a word of the remainder of the meal.
There was a swimming pool in back of our house and it was so private that we were all, including the children, in the habit of swimming, and relaxing in the sun new. Actually, Lomy School had its beginnings from the conversations while relaxing around the pool.... Proper Californian beginning. We were quite apprehensive about Dr Stone visiting the aspect of our scene, because he was always attired in jacket and tie and seemed rigid at times about social interaction. We doubted that the group of us, naked, sprawling, around a swimming pool, was his idea of decorum. So we used to sneak out to the pool while he was taking a nap. Well, fears were our own projections, of course. One hot day, while we assumed that he was resting, he appeared at the back door in his jacket and tie. As he walked down the steps and into our embarrassed midst, he exclaimed, ‘Yeah, how natural! What a good psychology’, just like the early Christians. You are just like the early Christians in your psychology. It's healthy too.’ We were all stunned. While we were in reaching for towels to cover ourselves, he smiled and, without another word, ball back into the house.
During 1972 and 1973, Dr Stone was invited to conduct a number of his training workshops throughout the Bay area and southern California. Many people wanted to become polarity therapists. Most of my clients were eagerly studying his difficult and puzzling manuals. He had never been able to interest publishers in them, so he had designed the workbook format, and published them at his own expense. When they started to sell, he was delighted. After many years of not being accepted by the health of establishment, he was suddenly being taken seriously by a large group of people disaffected with the Orthodox allopathic methods. He became a sort of folk hero. And he basked for a short time, in the experience of being a well-known founder of a philosophy of therapeutics. He would say to me, ‘ just think 80 students in my workshops. Why, it was a large room too, and the hall was full of people. They want to know! They need some practical answers. And by the Grace of Maharaji, I can give them answers. This work gets to the causes of disease, not just the symptoms but the causes! I'm so grateful that I've been given this opportunity. 80 of them! Why there wasn't room for any more in the room.’
He had no selection procedures for those he thought. We asked him about this. Didn't he worry that such powerful techniques might be misused by the immature and irresponsible? There were suddenly, hundreds of ‘alternative’ people who fancy themselves healers, armed with naive intentions in four days polarity training. He advises not to worry about it, ‘they’ll weed themselves out, those who have the gift will use it, those who don't will fall by the wayside.’ Then he would quote Christ's parable of the scattered grain, how some landed on fertile soil and took root, while other seeds fell on rock.
Suddenly, in 1973 at age 86, he announced that he was finished teaching. He designated his older student Pierre Pennetier, as heir to his teaching and custodian of polarity therapy. Then he gave away all his personal possessions. To Richard, Catherine, Alistair and me, he bequeathed a collection of oriental rugs, some of which museum pieces. As one last gesture, he offered to do his final training workshop at the new lomi school on Kauai. It was to be his farewell, because from there he was returning to India in order to end his days in meditation. He told me that he could plan a brief stop in Fiji, however, because the fresh fruit that grows there is so wonderful.
And so he came to Kauai 10 days and taught the final classes. He was inspired. As wonderful as his teaching, however, was the way he breaststroked in the Pacific surf, swimming like a young man – all the while exclaiming on the beauty of the island. He told us, though, that the ‘inner worlds’ were even more beautiful.
As I walked across the concrete runway with him to his waiting plane, he was still teaching ‘the work.’ Then just before boarding he turned to me and said, ‘I’ll always be with you.’
Recently I had word that he died a year ago. He must have been about 95.