The fish belongs to the water, here alone can it live and thrive. The bird is destined for the air—that is its realm (as the hawk is king in the realm of the air. If the bird wants to rest it alights on a tree, it rarely touches the earth. Of course, I do not here speak of the land fowl.)

But man walks on the earth.

As long as man wore no shoes or clothes, he was always in direct touch with the earth, both when he moved, and when he rested.

This direct connection of man with the earth was originally in no wise disturbed.

Such a close connection of man with the earth is therefore the intention of Nature. It corresponds, moreover, to a holy inviolable law of Nature, the transgression of which will always be sternly avenged.

In my earnest and untiring efforts to return more and more to a knowledge of her laws, in order to place it in the service of our fellow man, I have made this discovery, which will certainly prove of the utmost significance.

I observed plainly that going barefooted in the room and on boards was in no wise so effective, so refreshing, and so invigorating as going barefooted on the bare earth, even if the sand or the turf was completely dry. Foresters and forest labourers have assured me that it agrees much better with them, and that they derived much more strength from their rest if they lay directly on the earth in the woods instead of on a bench or other contrivance.

We still possess a splendid treasure of myths from the time of the old Greeks. Among them is the story of Antaeus.

When the giant Hercules was in the service of Eurystheus, he was ordered to fetch the golden apples of Hesperides. But the golden apples of the Hesperides were guarded by the giant Antaeus, the son of Geea, the earth Goddess. Hercules closed with Antaeus, and during the struggle Hercules observed that Antaeus was always refreshed and strong when he stood upon the earth, but became weak and powerless as soon as he was separated from the earth and lifted up into the air. Therefore Hercules lifted Antaeus high up into the air, where he could easily strangle him.

These old myths, as I have already observed, especially the folklore traditions, contain the profoundest truths.

Long after men had turned their backs on Nature, and were living in unhappiness and misery, there still lingered in the soul of the people an intuition, an impression of the correct life, of past and future conditions—especially how men originally lived in Nature without sickness and want, what an unhappy state followed the violation of the laws of Nature, and in what way salvation will come. This intuition, this impression has found expression in poetic form, embellished by the imagination, in the myths which are often the creation of entire generations. These myths convey the truths of the past in quite a different way from history which is written by individual man and which everyone in his diseased condition has altered and fixed up according to his views and wishes.

"What you the Spirit of the Ages call

Is nothing but the spirit of you all

Wherein the Ages are reflected."

Faust (Goethe)

The Bible is interwoven and embellished by a wreath of the most beautiful and most sacred myths. It contains the most sacred, and the most profound truths concerning the past and therefore of man; it is the Book of books. The Bible tells of the original perfectly happy state of man in paradise in the bloom of pure Nature, of man’s fall, the transgression of the laws of Nature in respect to food, of the consequent misery, and of salvation.

Jesus, as I have already stated, founded his theory of salvation on the closest approach to Nature, on a perfectly natural mode of living, without which there is no happiness for man. In the course of time many passages in the Bible have unfortunately been falsified, both consciously and unconsciously, and it is often wrongly understood and wrongly interpreted.

From the classical myth of Antaeus I inferred that the earth has a most refreshing, invigorating, and salutary influence upon man, her son, as soon as he comes into direct touch with her.

Animals and man are as much products of the earth as the plants; in consequence of their higher development the former have only become separated from the earth, have become walking nerve plants. But animals and man are still as much subject to the laws of Nature as plants, they still draw their strength and vitality from the earth.

After this I attached a still greater importance to going barefooted on the earth (without sandals), and became more than ever convinced of the great curative effect of going barefooted. But I also asked myself if this influence of the earth could not be utilised on behalf of man in a still greater degree. For the first thing, I no longer had the patients sleep in high bed steads but on straw-sticks or quilts on the ground in the open air or in light-and-air cottages. They were thereby brought closer to the earth during sleep. This was at once felt as a gain, sleeping became pleasanter and was more invigorating.

But soon the patients lay down on soft grass entirely naked, even without a shirt, and covered themselves with quilts. They soon broke out in enthusiastic exclamations over the wonderful effect of the earth upon the body during the nights rest. The opinion was often expressed that all diseases, but especially the score of serious nervous troubles of our age, would entirely lose their terrors if only sleeping and lying on the earth at night once became customary in the curing of diseases. It is indeed a fact that the effect which the forces of the earth have upon man during the night is quite incredible. Whoever has not himself tried it and convinced himself of it, can have no conception of how refreshing, vitalising and strengthening that effect of the earth is on the human organism at night during rest.

The only end of all healing arts must be to aid and strengthen the digestion of the patient. Nothing accomplishes this end better than lying on the ground during the night—however much the natural bath and the light-and-air bath may facilitate the movement of the bowels.

By sleeping on the ground, consequently, more than anything else, the entire body is aroused from its lethargy to a new manifestation of vital energy, so that it can now effectively remove old morbid matter and masses of old faeces from the intestines, and receive a sensation of new health, new life, and new unthought of vigour and strength.

Whether it is because the body at night, especially during sleep, is lying perfectly quiet, or because the influence of the earth on the body is more powerful at night than in the daytime, the fact certainly is that one does not experience the extraordinary curative effect of the earth nearly as much in going barefooted or in lying naked on the ground during a light-and-air bath and sun-bath as at night.

I have already mentioned the fact that animals, especially hares and deer, when they prepare their lair, carefully remove all leaves, bits of wood, etc. They evidently do this to be more directly in touch with the earth, so that the forces of the earth may exert the strongest possible effect. The animals do not scrape together grass, leaves, wood, and the like for their beds—birds only do this in order to prepare a warm nest for hatching. It is a very striking fact that the animals of the woods always remove all the wood and leaves, and even the snow, so as to make an entirely bare spot on the earth where they may lie down to rest. Sometimes they also roll on the bare ground. In the case of deer, German hunters call this habit the "plaetzen".

The fox and the badger drag many things into their dens, but their resting place is kept perfectly free. It is always on the bare ground. Wild bears will indeed creep into heaped up leaves and underbrush, but they tolerate nothing under them and lie on the bare ground; generally they even dig themselves into it to some extent.

I once observed a domestic hog that was sick and was let out of its sty. On my advice it was left entirely alone, so that it might do what it wanted. It went into the vegetable garden, grubbed itself somewhat into the ground in a cabbage bed, and remained quietly lying there. After a few days it returned and was perfectly well. Of course the animal left off feeding while it was sick. Thus the animals, although they are constantly in close relation with the earth in their normal activity, walking and running, strive to get into especially close and direct touch with the bare earth when they rest and when they are sick.

by Adolf Just

Extracted from: Just, Adolf. 1903. Return To Nature. New York: Lust.