Trall's premise was simply that the alleged remedial agents of the medical system do not act upon the living system, but that those effects which were called remedial result wholly from the action of the living system upon or against the remedial agents. His premise was simply this: in the relations between the living organism and lifeless matter, lifeless matter remains wholly quiescent and passive. Action is the greatest characteristic of life; inertia is the leading characteristic of lifeless matter. According to this principle, all the actions we witness when a drug is administered are actions of the living system.

Our mental vision often suffers from great errors of refraction and our preconceived notions frequently prove to be distorting media that sometimes cause the most sublime truths to appear absurd. Our general proposition involves the relations of those substances that we call drugs, chemicals, "remedies," medicines, foods, etc., to the structures of the living body. It does not involve a denial of what is called chemical action, which is but the union and disunion of elements. When elements unite, such chemical action means the formation of a third substance out of the union of two. If this were to take place in the living organism, this is to say, if the drug should combine with the cell or with some of the constituents of the cell, this would be the death of the cell. Cells resist such unions so that they can occur only after the cell is dead.

Our position is that drugs do not act on living structures. We have nothing to do with the relations of such substances to dead tissues. A dead body is not a living one, and the relations of chemicals to dead tissues are not identical with their relations to living structures. In the one case, there is chemical affinity; in the other, there is vital antagonism. The living organism protects itself from the injurious agency of all material things-no chemical can act on organized bodies so long as they continue alive. We do not deny chemical actions on lifeless tissues. But let us think for a minute of the essential distinction between dead or lifeless and organic or living structure. Living structure acts on or appropriates or resists and expels lifeless materials-it acts upon lifeless substances. So long as the cell retains the power of resistance, it prevents the union of chemicals with its constituents.

It is the nature or property of lifeless substance to remain quiescent and do nothing. Inertia is its leading quality. Inertia, the tendency to remain forever in the same state and place, is its nature and its last and only property. Its property is a negative one. It may be moved or impelled as acted upon from without; it cannot move or impel itself.

Inertia is a principle indelibly stamped upon every constituent part of the universe as an indispensable necessity. The countless multitudes of suns and planets that roll through the heavens; the ocean's waves cleaving, clashing, sporting with the clouds their mists have formed; these clouds sailing on the wings of the wind, to be sprinkled by electric flash over the earth's green carpet, livening up all nature, then murmuring off along the valley, trickling down the mountain's craig or rushing headlong over the waterfall, seeping into the sandy bosom of the earth and gushing forth in bubbling fountains to return murmuring, spouting, splashing, dashing, sporting back into the "parent ocean," there to be again lifted up into the clouds to fall again--in all this vast universe of ceaseless motion, we see but the principle of inertia in operation.

Action, as distinct from mere motion, we meet with only when we come to view organized and living bodies. In the growth of plants, the sporting myriads of winged creatures, the happy choir of feathered warblers, the buzzing, creeping, roaming, running, jumping, dancing multitudes of earth, we see action. Here we see beings that are organized and energized for action. Even in the countless contrivances of man--the iron horse, driven by steam; the motor responsive to domesticated lightening; the internal combustion engine that is harnessed to use the explosions of gasoline; the linotype machine that matches the human body in its complexity; the printing press that is the "archimedean lever" that lifts mankind upward--in all these we observe motions that are somewhat analogous with the actions of the living body. For action in its purest and truest form, we must turn to living structures for our examples.

Living structures have the property or power of action and nothing else does, this being one of the distinctions between lifeless and living things. The nature of living structure is to act; the property of living organs is action. Living structures act on everything else, to use or to resist. This should be clear enough.

We insist upon the full recognition of the fact that the living organism is a dynamic and initiating being and is not merely the plaything of inanimate existence around it. The so-called scientific world has gone overboard for the concept of environmentally-conditioned action and fails to recognize the genuine source of activity.

The muscular and nervous tissues are the instruments of action. To the physiologist, the organs of the body are animated and active, every fiber pulsating with sensibility and endowed with the power to act. The conclusion is forced upon us that the characteristics of each organ are involved in the action which produces the results in all cases. The wonderful delicacy and definiteness of actions which are constantly occurring in the body imply a corresponding delicacy and definiteness of structure. We do not have to assume a wholly mechanistic view of the living organism to recognize the fact that the peculiar actions of the body are grounded in its peculiar structures. If we concede that the peculiar, definite and delicate actions of the many varied structures of the organism rest on the structural modifications there existing, we are forced to recognize that those many and varied actions that have been mistaken for the actions of drugs are not drug actions at all, but actions of the highly differentiated and acting organism. Drugs lack the structural arrangements and the energies essential to such actions.

The medical world has labored long enough under the delusion that lifeless matter has the property or power of action. Physicians say their drugs act; Hygienists say that they remain passive. In every case, when the "action of a drug" is explained, the act described is that of the living organ in resisting and expelling the drug. The error has always been that of placing the action in the lifeless substance; whereas, it is in the living, acting, perceiving organs themselves. In all this sensing or perceiving and the resulting actions, the outer world is entirely passive; the living structure alone does the acting. Let me repeat the Hygienic principle that: in the relations between living structure and lifeless matter, the living is active and the lifeless passive; hence, in its relation to the living organism, the property of lifeless matter is inertia. This has nothing to do with the relations of lifeless matter to lifeless matter. One is a vital problem; the other is a physical or chemical problem.