Dr. Ineon Moon and I had dinner together last month, in Hacienda Heights, the center of a sprawling Asian community in East Los Angeles. It was the first we had seen each other in over 10 years. He has not aged a day, except that his hair was grayer. His skin and features were identical to when I first met him in Chicago in 1975.
We drove around looking for a Korean restaurant, and found a tiny hole-in-the-wall in a mixed Korean and Chinese shopping strip. We sat in a wooden cubicle, where Moon ordered traditional Korean dishes, including a large bowl of cold, milky Korean sake. We talked for several hours; as usual, Dr. Moon did all of the talking.
“Do you know about dark energy?” he asked. “Physicists think that the visible universe represents about 4% of what is there. The other 96% is pure energy. As acupuncturists, we can access that energy in our treatments. We can heal by putting ourselves into the space that accesses that energy. A woman came into my clinic, with pain in every joint. I only used 2 needles, but I put myself in that space where you can receive dark energy. After ten minutes, she said all her pain was gone.”
“What did you do?”, I asked. “How did you access that energy?”
“I didn’t do anything”, he replied. “You have to go beyond this world, and just let the energy flow in. If you do anything, nothing will happen. You just have to receive it.”
Once again, I was enthralled by a typical Dr. Moon monologue. Throughout the years, every one of our encounters seems to involve some profound topic. Sometimes they are philosophical; other times he will detail a specific acupuncture protocol, or comment on some bizarre diagnostic technique, or explain the effects of an unusual herbal combination.
It would be an understatement to say that Dr. Moon is an original, or that he is unusually intelligent. He has a photographic memory, scanning a book in a quick read but apparently retaining all of its information. In this way, he taught himself from many fields – traditional Oriental medicine, Western science, modern functional medicine, even Chinese herbal medicine. I have little doubt that he learned much of his medical knowledge from books, but his gifts come from his own introspection, experimentation and clinical experience.
It is hard to know his true history, but some facts are known. He graduated number one in his class at university in South Korea, majoring in physics. He did obligatory military service, repairing small arms. He learned acupuncture from a number of private teachers in South Korea, seemingly influenced by the Japanese in style and organization. He came to Chicago in the late 1960s. He told me he was born in the Year of the Dragon in 1940, making him 71 years old now. It is hard to think that when I began studying with him in 1975, he was only eight years my senior.
In Chicago, he learned muscle testing from applied kinesiology chiropractors, and then took that tool and used it to confirm a myriad of discoveries relating to Oriental medicine. For example, he would hold different colors in front of a patient to see which made him weak, and so determined a person’s chief deficient element. The five colors were the three primary colors – blue, yellow and red – and the other two were white and black. (He has always held that blue is the true color of Wood, not green. “Trees are green only if you look at the leaves, and only in season. Year round, Wood is actually blue – the color of bark.”) In the same way, he would muscle-test to see which direction weaken the patient. This was the response to excess: weakening while facing west meant that the Metal influence was overpowering.
He used muscle testing to prove bad influences: wristwatches (due to the battery, or its weight); electro-magnetic fields, wrong foot length, even negative patterns of thought. The list was endless. He believed that one key to health involved maintaining the body’s symmetry. If you lost that symmetry – due to weightiness of a watch, or due to a weak meridian or pain, this would affect the whole meridian sequence flow. He discovered and used symmetrical treatments long before other teachers talked about it. If there were pain in a specific location on a limb, he would go to the exact opposite spot (elbow to opposite knee, for example), and use a three-sided but thin needle, and twist it to cause local pain. There would be immediate and lasting relief on the original place of pain.
He believed that the meridian sequence would influence patterns of imbalance, and could be the key to its resolution. Using traditional pulses familiar to practitioners of Keiraku Chiryo, he would map out a circle of the biological clock, with Gallbladder above and Heart below, and mark at each placement (LI, ST, SP, HT, etc) the various excesses and deficiencies of a patient. One technique would be to look for the last place on the clockwise circle that was in excess. He would explain that if you unblock this channel, with the xi-cleft point or sometimes at its luo-connecting point, the flow would open up, and the previous excesses and deficiencies would find their balance, much like unblocking a dam in a creek.
Other techniques looked at transferring places of excess into places of deficiency. For partner imbalances, he would sedate the luo-connecting point of the excess channel and tonify the yuan-source point of the deficient partner. He would often hold the two needles to facilitate the direction he wanted to facilitate.
“Intention is 80% of treatment”, he often told me. By this, he meant that the mind of the practitioner, merging with the Great Mind of the Dao, the universe, would facilitate the healing. “If you think of lunch, or anything else,” he said, “your treatment will not work.” Being a practitioner and teacher of qi gong, he would use his mind to direct qi down his arm, through his fingers, through the needle, and in the direction of the channel, all the way to Bai Hui (Du 20). “All meridians lead to Bai Hui.” Often, he would only use one needle and fine-tune the body, in and out, on several points in sequence. Then he would leave some needles in place “so that the patient feels he is getting a real treatment.”
Moon’s most original treatment, at least back in the early 1980s, was to permanently insert small pieces of gold wire into acupuncture points. Going beyond the original eight basic types in Korean constitutional therapy, he used muscle testing to determine a patient’s primary imbalance, which would involve excess in one meridian and deficiency in another. Based on various combinations of excess and deficiency in the twelve meridians, Moon felt that there were 132 different constitutional types.
In his clinic, Dr. Moon never seemed rushed. He wore slippers and a white coat, and would move quietly and purposefully between six treatment rooms separated by curtains. Asking a few questions, taking pulses, testing strength on the patient’s arm or leg, he would do his needle technique, leave in some needles, and go to the next room. He never liked to answer questions. “How does acupuncture work?” a patient would ask. “It makes you healthy”, he would reply; or, “because it’s good for you!” When I worked for him, he asked me to take care of the patients’ questions. This role would help further my own education.
Moon taught me joint-opening exercises, basic and advanced qi gong, needle technique, point location, meridian relationships, pulse diagnosis, thoughts on the medical classics and the Yi Jing. He made the five element correspondences alive and three-dimensional.
“Let’s see”, he said once at a Korean restaurant. “This is May, early fire season.” He ordered tripe (small intestine) and heart. I thought he was showing off, but he genuinely relished the meal. I found it a bit chewy.
He took seriously the fundamental concepts of Oriental medicine and philosophy, but he wasn’t shy about questioning classical writings. “Just because someone wrote it down in a book 500 years go doesn’t mean it’s true or worth anything.” For example, concerning the placement of five seasons to correspond with the Five Element/Phases, he did not agree that Earth was a late summer season; rather, it existed as the backdrop throughout the year. He felt that there were only four seasons, with Earth always present, “just as Spleen and Stomach run through the center of the body.”
I studied with Dr. Moon over a seven-year period, helping him organize formal classes, and working in his clinic. It was here that I gleaned various tricks and skills that would stay with me throughout my own life as an acupuncturist, such as how to fix a rotated uterus, an open ileo-cecal valve, or a hiatal hernia.
Dr. Moon helped guide me on how to build a clinical practice. “Go to clinic the same hours every day, whether there are patients or not. Use the time to study Oriental medicine. This will attract patients.” Or, “When you look at people on the street or in shops, use your eyes to diagnose their problems. Mentally put out the message that you can help them. This will attract patients.”
Essential to his healing approach was his resolute faith in Meridian Therapy. He felt that analyzing and correcting meridian imbalances would heal all disease and injury. In my first year of practice, in 1978, a patient with diabetes came to my clinic. Terrified of the responsibility, I literally called Dr. Moon at his clinic while the patient waited in my treatment room. “Dr. Moon, I have a patient here with diabetes. Can you tell me some special treatment I should do for her, some special points.”
He seemed annoyed. “I taught you”, he said quietly but with the focus of a samurai.
“No, Dr. Moon. We never discussed diabetes. I need any help here. Really.”
“I taught you!” His voice had sternly risen. “Balance the meridians!” And he hung up the phone.
The perennial Dr. Moon sat before me last month. The classical tenets of Oriental medicine and philosophy were always close to his thoughts. As he discussed the potential of dark energy for healing, his mind was with the great spiritual thinkers of the ages. “In the Zen koan tradition,” he lectured, “the Master monk points to a vase and asks, what is this? Most students don’t get it, and try to describe it. One student looks at the vase, and casually flicks his hand so that the vase breaks. The Master, says, yes you got it. This disciple, you see, is able to look beyond the physical, into the dark energy field behind the physical. The vase means nothing.”
Zhou Dunyi, 周敦頤, the 11th century Neo-Confucian philosopher, described the wu ji behind the tai ji, the empty circle behind the yin-yang symbol. This is the dark energy Moon spoke of, the greater spiritual reality behind our physical reality. There are many great acupuncturists who understand yin and yang, and use this knowledge to restore health and vitality to the patient. But it is the rare doctor who can look beyond the tai ji to the wu ji, able to access the power of the great beyond, and bring it into physical reality. This may be Dr. Moon’s achievement. It is certainly his goal, a continuation in his lifelong quest for deeper understanding of the mechanisms of the universe. As he said in the restaurant, “Scientists believe that the known physical universe represents only 4% of the dark energy universe. As you know, man is a microcosm of the universe. Our reality, and our energy, only represents 4% of our potential. There is another 96% waiting to be tapped.”
Dr. Ineon Moon is alive and well in Newport Beach, California. He runs the Energy Medicine Clinic, and maintains a website at www.sitolonic.com. He is certainly one of the best doctors I have known, based on the difficult cases he has treated and cured.
JAKE PAUL FRATKIN, OMD is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine in practice since 1978. After seven years basic training in Japanese acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in this country, he went to Beijing for one year to do advanced hospital training in herbal internal medicine, pediatrics and medical qi gong. He is the author of CHINESE HERBAL PATENT MEDICINES, (2001), a respected reference work of 1200 Chinese herbal products available in this country. In 1999 he received the national award, Acupuncturist of the Year, from the American Association of Oriental Medicine, and 2006 he received the award as Acupuncture Teacher of the Year. He is a recognized expert in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome, chronic respiratory and digestive disorders. Jake lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado
Photo: Ineon Moon and Jake Fratkin, June, 1979.