This section is from the "Impaired Health: Its Cause And Cure" (Volume 1) book, by John H. Tilden. Also available from Amazon: Impaired health its cause and cure: A repudiation of the conventional treatment of disease
The athlete can transmit as much of organic change as he has brought about in his nervous system. Not his muscles; no, he transmits nervous change--a potentiality--an ability to become an adept in athletics.
Organized skill transmits potentiality. Organized skill means that nerve- and brain-cells have taken on a memory that is transmissible in potentiality. A Webster transmits potentiality of brain. But such transmission does not necessarily mean that his progeny will be above mediocrity; for brain potentiality may be the only transmission. The nerve centers that furnish will power to work, concentration, capacity for continuous effort, may have been abused in the senior Webster to the point of degeneracy, and therefore the young Websters lack power to labor enough to bring out their mind potentiality.
The rule is that the masters in art and science do not leave children who represent them. One reason, perhaps, is that great skill comes to progenitors after families are begotten; and another reason is that great skill is the precursor of dissolution.
Great composers are near death physically when they reach their zenith. Is it strange that death should sing? Death should be the lowering of the curtain on the stage of life, at the close of the most skilled performance.
It would be strange for a Mozart or a Mendelssohn to transmit. But not so with great singers, or interpreters of their art; for the former are creators, and pay with degeneracy for their creative skill--in other words, they are consumed by their production; while the latter simply digest and function music, and may develop a transmissible ability to enjoy and reproduce.
Singers, as a rule, are not producers. A producer must climb the ladder of experience with educated faculties; and if he will give ear to the music of the spheres, he may be honored with a message to convey to his people before he dies. Those who enjoy what he brings may transmit the ability to enjoy to others. But the producer, the creator, pays with his life for his power to produce--and degeneration is not transmissible.
Brain is developed by thought. When a change in the structure of the brain is established from functioning, such change is transmissible.
Structural change from injury is not transmissible; for the change is not represented in the nerve centers.
The whole nervous system must be occupied more or less, directly or indirectly, in order to cause a structural change that is transmissible.
At conception, man has passed nature's quarantine and enters life with a clean bill of health. He may not be born in health; for, from conception to birth, he has time for vicious habits of parents or society to cause him to be born in ill-health.
Nature inhibits, and puts the stamp of sterility upon, the unfit--the degenerate. Conception means fit for birth. But each individual born brings into life with him family predispositions.
Disease is non-existent per se. Impaired health--a lowered health standard--is what we call disease. We cannot inherit disease; we do inherit predispositions, and these we call diatheses.
Diathesis means an inherited tendency to take on certain forms of disease. This tendency is divided into general and special. The general diatheses are scrofulous, gouty, and neurotic; the special diatheses are of the various organs of the body.
Because of the manner of living, habits, etc., certain organs are made to bear more of the burdens of organic life than others. If the extra work is uplifting--meets the approval of nature's health censors--the transmission will be in keeping; if the overwork is organically vicious, the transmission will be in the nature of a diathesis; which means that the practice of ancestral habits will cause an early breaking down, and disease peculiar to parents will develop in children when the habits of parents are adopted.
The tobacco habit of parents will show in children as a type of nervousness with lowered resistance. The children of inebriates are born with the nervous diathesis. Children born of parents who suffered from stomach, liver, kidney, bowel, or brain diseases inherit a diathesis to correspond. If the children fall in with the habits of life peculiar to their parents, they will develop similar organic derangements; if they take up other habits of life--habits and customs which throw the weight of their enervating influence on other organs--then the predisposition--the organic diathesis--will not manifest, and perhaps will never have heavier burdens laid upon it than it can bear. However, if the organism becomes generally broken down, and enervation and autoxemia become pronounced, then the organ with a diathesis may lend its influence in complicating the case.
Organic diathesis is the only way to explain why people develop different organic diseases--why one develops a skin, another a bowel, a heart, a stomach, a liver, a lung disease, or a disease of some other organ of the body.
This is the only rational explanation of the fact that one man may drink barrels of whisky and continue to live, while another may take on liver disease, or develop an alcoholic neuritis, and die in early life from only a few years of tippling.
The man who has a liver diathesis develops liver hyperemia soon after developing the alcohol habit, while the one with the nervous diathesis develops neuritis in a short time after taking on the drink habit.
Achilles had a vulnerable heel, and most people have a vulnerable organ. This we call. predisposition or diathesis, Knowledge of predispositions is valuable to parents; for, if they act upon such knowledge, they can educate their children into a safety health knowledge.
A general survey of the field of medicine justifies one in declaring that there are scrofulous, nervous, and gouty diatheses, which are constitutional, and the organic diatheses, which are special.