The Technique of Pulse Diagnosis

By Are S. Thoresen DVM
Veterinarian acupuncturist homeopath osteopath agronomist

Pulse-diagnosis is a very old method of diagnosing used in China for thousands of years. This method may seem incredible, nonsensical or fraudulent for the western scientific mind. It is none of these; in skilled hands, it is a powerful diagnostic method.

General Comments:

Proper pulse taking requires a proper state of mind. This mindset is similar to a form of meditation or a state of daydreaming. Typically, a practitioner in this state is producing mainly alpha brain-waves. There are at least three conditions that help a practitioner to achieve this meditative state, a state in which detachment or disassociation is crucial:

Rudolf Steiner describes the foundation for developing the necessary state of mind like this:

Between birth and death, man, at his present evolutionary stage, lives in ordinary life through three soul states: waking, sleeping, and the state between them, dreaming. Dreaming will be briefly considered later on in this book. Here let us first consider life in its two chief alternating states — waking and sleeping. Man acquires knowledge of higher worlds if he develops a third soul state besides sleep and waking. During its waking state, the soul surrenders itself to sense-impressions and thoughts that are aroused by these impressions. During sleep, the sense-impressions cease but the soul also loses its consciousness. The experiences of the day sink into the sea of unconsciousness.

Let us now imagine that the soul might be able during sleep to become conscious despite the exclusion of all sense-impressions, as is the case in deep sleep and even though the memories of the day's experiences were lacking. Would the soul, in that case, find itself in a state of nothingness? Would it be unable to have any experiences? An answer to these questions is only possible if a similar state of consciousness can actually be induced, if the soul is able to experience something even though no sense-activities and no memory of them are present in it. The soul, in regard to the ordinary outer world, would then find itself in a state similar to sleep, and yet it would not be asleep, but, as in the waking state, it would confront a real world. Such a state of consciousness can be induced if the human being can bring about the soul experiences made possible by spiritual science, and everything that this science describes concerning the worlds that lie beyond the senses is the result of research in just such a state of consciousness. In the preceding descriptions, some information has been given about higher worlds. In this chapter, as far as it is possible in this book, we shall deal with the means through which the state of consciousness necessary for this method of research is developed.

This state of consciousness resembles sleep only in a certain respect, namely, through the fact that all outer sense-activities cease with its appearance; also all thoughts are stilled that have been aroused through these sense-activities. Whereas in sleep, the soul has no power to experience anything consciously, it is to receive this power from the indicated state of consciousness. Through it, a perceptive faculty is awakened in the soul that in ordinary life is only aroused by the activities of the senses. The soul's awakening to such a higher state of consciousness may be called initiation.

The means of initiation lead from the ordinary state of waking consciousness into a soul activity through which spiritual organs of observation are employed. These organs are present in the soul in a germinal state; they must be developed. It may happen that a human being at a certain moment in the course of his life, without special preparation, makes the discovery in his soul that such higher organs have developed in him. This has come about as a sort of involuntary self-awakening. Such a human being will find that through it, his entire nature is transformed. A boundless enrichment of his soul experience occurs. He will find that there is no knowledge of the sense world that gives him such bliss, such soul satisfaction, and such inner warmth as he now experiences through the revelation of knowledge inaccessible to the physical eye. Strength and certainty of life will pour into his will from a spiritual world. There are such cases of self-initiation. They should, however, not tempt us to believe that this is the one and only way and that we should wait for such self-initiation, doing nothing to bring about initiation through proper training. Nothing need be said here about self-initiation, for it can appear without observing any kind of rules.

How the human being may develop through training the organs of perception that lie embryonically in the soul will be described here. People who do not feel the least trace of an especial impulse to do something for the development of themselves may easily say, “Human life is directed by spiritual powers with whose guidance no one should attempt to interfere; we should wait patiently for the moment when such powers consider it proper to open another world to the soul.” It may indeed be felt by such human beings as a sort of insolence or as an unjustified desire to interfere with the wisdom of spiritual guidance. Individuals who think thus will only arrive at a different point of view when a certain thought makes a sufficiently strong impression upon them. When they say to themselves, “Wise spiritual guidance has given me certain faculties; it did not bestow them upon me to be left unused, but to be employed. The wisdom of this guidance consists in the fact that it has placed in me the germinal elements of a higher state of consciousness. I shall understand this guidance only when I feel it obligatory that everything be revealed to the human being that can be revealed through his spiritual powers.” If such a thought has made a sufficiently strong impression on the soul, the above doubts about training for a higher state of consciousness will disappear.

By combining the three qualities (not caring, not mind-wandering and not acting) one concentrates on the patient but does not interfere with its energies. Done in this way, diagnostic pulse taking is as detached and objective as possible.

Our mind may very well influence the result in our diagnostic work, just in the same way that the observer may influence the outcome in quantum physics (see page 00).

When we try to take the pulse, we should also be as relaxed as possible, without tense muscles.

We should also avoid the presence of critical observers, colleagues who are aggressive towards what we do or competitors who are jealous of our good results.

What I have observed in connection to my pulse-taking is just the same as what is described in the book, “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, as it is necessary for the plants to react according to our feelings and states of mind. This book describes how it is possible for us to get in emotional contact with plants and how the presence of jealous or aggressive persons completely diminishes the contact described. This contact is almost the same as we must obtain in pulse-taking. The same observations were made by the French scientist Beneviste in his investigations on homeopathy (see page 00).

Practical Pulse-taking in Humans:

The pulse of the patient is examined by using your 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger feeling the systolic and diastolic blood pressure on three special positions over the radial artery at the wrist. These are called positions 1, 2 and 3, where 1 is nearest the wrist (over LU09), 2 is just medial to the styloid process of the radius and 3 is proximal to 2; the equal distance as 1 is distal. Begin by finding the pulses on the left radial artery.

First locate Position 2 exactly. It is found by locating the styloid process of the radius of the left hand (about one tsun proximal to the root of the thumb) with the tip of the third (middle) finger of your right hand. With your right palm in contact with the dorsal (posterior) side of the left arm of the patient, just above the left wrist, place the third finger over the tubercle of the styloid process. From this position, gently slide the third finger about 0.5 cm medially until it lies over the artery. This is Position 2. Then find Position 1 by placing the second (index) finger just distal to but right beside Position 2, at the root of the thumb. Finally, find Position 3 by placing the fourth (ring) finger proximal to Position 2, at the same distance, as the first position is situated distal to the second position.

To find the positions on the right arm, perform the same procedure with the opposite hand. Note that:

Each Pulse-Position (1, 2 or 3) and depth (superficial or deep) correlates with a specific process. The strength and quality of the pulse at each of these positions is a direct reflection of its health and energetic status, as follows:

Picture of a table, showing each Pulse-Position (1, 2 or 3) and depth (superficial or deep) correlates with a specific process.

Table 34

When one feels the pulse, one is actually feeling the energy of the process itself, directly. The disharmony in the Qi balance in the organism can take on many patterns and many forms. Often the resultant expressions of Qi imbalance are complicated and misleading to novices. They may cause the practitioner to follow incorrect paths toward the origin of the disorder. The pulse, therefore, allows us to form a unique mental picture of the personal Qi of the patient in relation to his relationship with the universe and the twelve expressions of Qi manifested in the Processes. Once the diagnosis is established according to the Pulse, one can evaluate how the presenting Lesion-Symptom Complex fits according to any of the above mentioned paradigms.

Practical Pulse-Taking in Animals:

I learned how to take the pulse in humans from my benefactor, Dr. Georg Bentze and I practised this method for years in my human clinic with very good results.

As a veterinarian I always thought about the possibility of doing this also in veterinary medicine. But how to take the pulse in animals was, for a long time, a mystery for me.

I contacted the French veterinary acupuncture society to ask if they knew how, and their secretary Dr. Moliniére told me that this question or quest also had been on his mind for several years. The French veterinary acupuncturists had even sent a delegation to China to find out if anybody was able to teach them how to perform pulse-diagnosis in animals, but it had been in vain.

Then, by sheer luck, I met Dr. Malchard in Liege, Belgium. He is a pediatrician working with pulse-diagnosis in children. One day he had observed that when the child was in contact with its mother, the pulse changed drastically. The heart-pulse of the child disappeared, and knowing that the mother was suffering from a serious heart-condition, he understood the connection. The pulse of the mother influenced the pulses of the child.

When he told me about this, I instantly understood the importance of this discovery in my search for a technique to monitor the pulse in animals. It was only to monitor the changes in the human pulse as the human was in contact with the animal.

This method I have refined over the years, and it will be explained in great detail below.

First of all, we must prepare our mind as described above under how pulse-diagnosis is made in humans. When preparing to be, or being in this state of mind, place your hand or a finger on the animal. From this moment and during the whole procedure of taking the Pulse, nobody else should touch the animal. Preferably, no one else should be present in a radius of about 2 meters. In practice, however, this is seldom possible as people want to be nearby to see what is going on! So, let us say that, at the moment of pulse taking, the minimum requirement is that no one else touches the animal. (It is sometimes quite amusing to test the owner while testing the animal, by recording the change of one special pulse while the owner moves to and from the animal. One can sometimes impress the owner by describing his or her Lesion-Symptom Complex).

While touching the animal, the practitioner takes his/her own pulse, as a TCM practitioner would do on a human patient. When the therapist touches the animal, the therapist´s pulses change dramatically (!). This change is due to his contact with the energies of the animal. When being in contact with the animal, the therapist and the animal get a common energetic pattern. From the difference in pulse-findings before and after the contact, we may deduce the energetic balance in the animal itself.

Does this sound strange to you? This phenomenon is described by many observers up through history; by the Indians, the oriental people and by several observers from the occident. Rudolf Steiner describes how married couples get a common ethereal body after some time, and to get back to ones own ethereal body after divorce or death it takes 3 years. That is why a widow or a widower should stay single for at least 3 years.

Modern science has also shown this phenomenon recently. Scientists have shown that neuronal activity in one brain is transmitted to another brain as long as this other brain is concentrated on the other individual. This is called “Mirror neurons” or “Jumping neurons” (see page 00).

Picture of a table, showing each Pulse-Position (1, 2 or 3) and depth (superficial or deep) correlates with a specific process.

Fig. 39; Picture of how to hold the hands while taking the Chinese pulses.

I will now describe what we may expect to find in pulse-taking, and what progression we may expect:

1. Training Period

This period normally takes about one year. In this period, you must try to decide which of your own pulses changes while touching the animal. Practically, this is done by taking the pulse at your wrist, then touch the animal, and then move away from it again. This procedure is done again and again until you are sure whether your pulse changes or not while touching or not touching the animal.

Some people feel a:

The “right” thing to feel is a change in strength. If the pulse grows weaker (or stronger) when touching an animal, this indicates deficient (or excess) in the correlating process.

The Neijing says that “Some Meridians are too strong, some are too weak.” In my experience I usually find:

When more than one pulse is “reactive” (becomes weaker or stronger), 5 element theory can be used with great success. This theory is an essential part of classical AP.

By the help of the Nogier-filters we may also be able to decide where the cause of the deficiency may be found, and also be surer that we have found the correct pulse deficiency (see page 00).

2. Beginners (novices)

After the training period, you may know your pulse so well that it is not necessary to move back and forth touching and not touching the animal. You may then go directly to the animal, take your pulse while in contact with it and decide which pulse is abnormal. With training you may also detect these changes in your pulse-picture at a distance from the animal, depending upon several factors that cannot be mentioned in detail here.

At this stage of your training, it is difficult to decide which Command-Point of the Meridian in question to use. It may then be opportune to just treat the Ting-point of the affected (usually weak) meridian. In my opinion, this stimulates the process in an adequate way.

3. Advanced Practitioners

After having trained for some years, you may be able to tell not only which pulse grows weaker or stronger, but also in what quality, and in which Phase (element) the pulse changes. Masters of TCM can differentiate between 28 different qualities of the pulse and make their diagnosis on that basis.

I find it more convenient to differentiate the changes according to:

Also you will by now have observed that the pulse changes according to where in the patient you focus your attention. You start the pulse-diagnosis, either you take it directly on the patient or indirectly through your own pulse, by focusing, or having your energetic center at the level of the heart, both yours and the patients. Then you move your attention inward, towards the heart of the patient, and then you feel the pulse is changing. In my opinion you then go deeper in the disease, and when you reach the patients heart you are at the deepest cause of the disease.

You may also move your center of consciousness downward (distally) in the patient, towards the Os pubis. Then you will also feel that the pulse is changing, but this time backwards in time. At the area of Solar plexus you will have the pulse as it was midway in the patients life, and when you reach Os pubis the pulse will be as it was at birth.

If you can determine all of this, you will have the complete diagnosis and treatment presented to you.

Then just use the proper therapy, which may be:

For example,
If the pulse tells you that the SP-process is weak and that there is something wrong with the Water element, you may use the Water Point of the SP Meridian (direct treatment) or the source-point or the earth-point of the LV-meridian (Ko-cycle treatment) or the fire-meridian (Shen-cycle treatment).

Other Comments on Pulse Diagnosis:

  1. The art of Pulse Diagnosis seems to be a subjective method (for me). Even if the changes we feel seem to very distinct, clear and without discussion, they may disappear or even change if we lose our concentration, our fixation or our usually correct mental state of mind. This shows that a machine is unable to detect the changes described, as a machine would be unable to detect our intention.
  2. By training ourselves, the possibilities within Pulse Diagnosis seem to be without limitations (for me). This may depend more on the training than with the actual possibilities of this method, but it may equally have to do with the mental possibilities of our own mind.
  3. In Pulse Diagnosis we are (I am) not able to decide on which side of the animal the problem is just in which process the unbalance originated.
  4. In being concentrated in the heart area (bringing our focus to the middle chest), we (I) may more easily read the proper pulse. If we (I) move our (my) concentration further down (from the heart towards the Os pubis), the pulse changes as if we moved back in time. When I reach Os pubis, the pulse is like it was at the time of the birth of the patient. In this way, we (I) may get an impression in how the disease has changed over time.
  5. The way of taking the pulse may also give us a clue of the prognosis. If we take the pulse several times just after each other on the same patient (repetitively), then we will often feel that the pulse gets stronger. This is a good prognostic sign, since by taking the pulse we “stir up” the energy. If the pulse does not become stronger, then this means that the patient is very low in energy, and that there are little reserves. This is a bad prognostic sign.
  6. The advanced pulse-practitioner will also be aware of any existing pattern in the pulse-picture. If a pattern is to be found, then this indicates the need to use one of the extra-meridians.

The extra-meridians are certain channels that transfer energy from one part of the body to another (see page 00).

The pulse diagnosis as a way to clairvoyant observation described in connection with the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner.

Rudolf Steiners anthroposophy describes a way to obtain spiritual knowledge. This way consists of:

In many of his lectures and books Steiner describes how this way may be followed or walked.

After using the pulse diagnosis for 29 years, I realised (2009) that the spiritual development that I had experienced through developing my skills within pulse diagnosis had clear and distinct parallels to Steiner’s description of the path a spiritual disciple has to walk.

First, a short résumé of my development in pulse diagnosis.

In the beginning, the pulse observations were very fragile; I had to be newly washed, in quiet surroundings, not hungry or full, in short; in a balanced mind. After some years this became less and less important as the observations became more and more stable. After additional years, I began to literally see the etheric energy that I first detected through the pulse as if this detection gave rise to the development of spiritual sense organs. First I saw the etheric energy in and between trees, then in animals and then in humans. First the observations had its sensory center in the back of the brain, but then it started to wander. First towards the heart, then the spine, but then slowly spread out through the entire body.

The observations also became enlarged, from just an intellectual observation to an immediate knowledge of the past, present and future of this special observation. Also the direction of the observation, now knowledge, also changed. In the beginning, the direction of the information streamed from the surroundings or the patient to me, but then it started to go both ways, as if the patient also received treatment at the same time as I was diagnosing. The observations also enlarged in space, as it came to also contain the astral part. This part was seen as a light flowing area together with the darker etheric energy. Then the observations started to move in time and past, present and future became one.

When I found Steiner’s description of the development of Inspiration, for example in “Geisteswissenschaft im Umriss” around the pages 225 and 226, this is a close description of what I have experienced during the last 29 years. Although Steiner’s description starts, it seems to me, with the development in the astral body which then spreads to the ethereal body, the description of the development of the inspiration, which takes place in the ethereal body, is identical to the development regarding the pulse diagnosis.