We are taking it upon ourselves to write this book in an effort to introduce as many people as possible to the principles and practices of Natural Hygiene and to the results of its practices. Many of the thoughts expressed herein may be old and customary thoughts, but the freshness with which they appeal to us, when we are able to see them in new relations, justifies their repetition. It is almost literally true that whatever one may write is but a repetition of what somebody else has written and, perhaps, written better; but it remains equally true that nothing that is worth writing can be written too often.
It is now nearly a century and a half since the Hygienic System was reintroduced to the world as a plan of care for both the well and the sick. When new truths are presented, line upon line, precept upon precept and volume upon volume are needed if the new truths are to be made to take their root in consciousness. Today there are multiplied means of instruction; but unfortunately, most of these are monopolized by the forces of exploitation. Our people, angry, frustrated and desperate or dazzled and hopelessly bewildered, are captives of a gigantic system of human exploitation that knows no limits to its exploitation and no depth to which it will not descend in its efforts to make people believe that they are being benefitted by the merciless exploitation to which they are being subjected.
A history of the human race is a history of progress. From aprons of fig leaves to silk and cotton raiment and garlands of gold and silver tissues; from the tent, the wigwam and the canoe, to the palace, the ocean steamer and the jet plane; from travelling by "blazed trees" on horseback and in clumsy vehicles to the railroad and a long series of interior improvements, there has been one long stream of progress. But with it all, man has neglected himself. Writing in the May 1853 issue of Nichols' Journal, Mary Gove said: "Man has cultivated what is about him and neglected his own nature. He has been careful for the earth and for animals. He loves a beautiful garden and is proud of a noble horse. He builds hospitals for the sick and prisons for the criminal. But he digs not up the evil root of ignorance that bears a fruitful crop of disease and crime." At present, we can only deplore facts like these and labor to put forth light everywhere upon the earth's darkness.
Since the ending of World War II, one of the most evident trends in American life is that towards conformity. There remains, as a hangover from the past, a widespread unconscious suspicion of the thinker; while, at the same time, our educational authorities do not hesitate to herald. the fact that their aim is that of teaching "adjustment to life," the importance, even the necessity, of "social approval" and the ready acceptance by the individual of mass values. A so-called "new conservatism" has come into being and is struggling for mastery over the minds of the people. We tend to accept that which is taught without stopping to think whether or not it is true. We are so eager to shift responsibility to someone else and so brain lazy that we blindly follow some great name, right or wrong. Or we follow the popular breeze because this is the easy way out. The present-day revolt of youth, however blind and goalless the rebellion, is a hopeful development.
The reactionary demand for conformity that characterizes our era is an authoritarian system that closely parallels the dogmatic religions. It is asserted that the demand for conformity is greater in academic circles than among the "common people." Echoing the statement of the totalitarian leader who shouted: "Death to all who are not of our crowd," they withhold favors and recognition to any man who deviates from their authoritarian standard. They enforce their own conformity and, like the totalitarian, feel that they dare not fail. For this reason, they are merciless towards their opponents and demand extinction, root and branch, of all who dare to oppose them. This attitude grows directly out of their fears.
In an age when nothing qualifies as knowledge unless and until it has obtained a charter of its validity from duly constituted authority, vital knowledge may languish in studied neglect for long periods only because duly constituted authority refuses to abandon its old and profitable errors in favor of revolutionary and probably unprofitable new truths or because this authority refuses to believe that any knowledge can arise except through the duly constituted channels. The authorities in science, like those in theology, are quick to remind the outsider, when he presents a new find: "We have not educated you; you teach not our doctrines." Our educational system stifles curiosity and independence and discourages, if it does not forbid, those deviations that open up new fields. With its fanatical concentration upon its authorities and its established sciences, it conveys no sense of the diversity of life and of the history of development, no feeling of the resources of the past and no recognition of the great unknown that might furnish the basis for fresh knowledge. For new departures, one must look to those who have had the courage and good sense to break with the schools and the authorities.
The tragedy of American life lies just here: the atmosphere of conformity that has evolved in this country has made psychological and moral slaves of us. We think we are a free people, but we have lost our freedom to question, to live up to our convictions, even to have any convictions that differ from those that are commonly accepted; we have even lost our freedom to criticize ourselves. The psychological juggernauts that cloud, suppress, pervert and distort the minds of the old and young of our age are everywhere.
In the face of the leaden uniformity of the popular mind of our time, we say with Walt Witman, who said when discussing an altogether different matter: "I say discuss all and expose all--I am for every topic openly; I say there can be no salvation for These States without innovation--without free tongues, and ears willing to hear the tongues; and I announce as a glory of These States, that they respectfully listen to propositions, reforms, fresh views and doctrines from successions of men and women. Each age with its own growth." We consider this a graphic expression of a fundamental principle that should guide every generation.
Public opinion is a two-edged sword, cutting both ways. When correct, it encourages the development of the noble and good in man; when corrupt, it tends to debase and to hinder true advancement. In every age, influences have existed which corrupted public opinion, ridiculing every new discovery, sacrificing many noble men and women to its evil and making many martyrs to truth. It requires great moral courage to attempt to stem the current of public opinion and to pursue a course that is right, but we would prefer to go hungry than to remain silent about evils that abound on every hand.