Our ancestors said that sickness was of God, but there were also among them those who asserted that it was of the Devil. This is a delusional etiology; it has no relation to reality. The men of science say that it is due to the invasion of the body by foreign entities (germs and viruses), a concept identical with the demon etiology of the past. Hygiene teaches dependence on laws that govern the organic world, that health will be sustained so long as these are obeyed and that disease results from violations of the same laws. It is folly to argue that God is too good to disease anyone by miracle; disease is not the outworking of miracles. It is the consequence of violated law. Neither the Devil nor his imps can produce disease by miracles.
Disease is a biological process and, like all biological processes, develops and is carried out according to unchanging laws and principles, to violations of which are attached appropriate consequences. Disease, suffering and premature death are but the consequences of the infractions of the laws that regularly govern the processes of life. Thus the causes of disease are knowable and avoidable; hence, we must bear responsibility for our illnesses. The idea of the immateriality and unavoidability of disease, first promulgated by the ancient priest-craft, is still incarnate in the medical doctrine of the inevitability of sickness.
We hold that, when traced to ultimate causes, all disease is the inevitable consequence of living contrary to the laws of organic being and that diligence in conforming to the laws of life will assure good health. We contend that the great variety of pathological conditions which are evolved by man and the vast variety of causative factors leading to such evolutions are wholly due to deviations from the strict regimen which Hygiene arbitrarily enforces, violations of which are certain to result in pain, sickness and premature death.
Health and disease are not something extraneously given. They are inherent results. They result from opposite modes of living. We cannot do as we please, for some ways are superior to other ways. Only the superior ways produce superior health. Inferior ways destroy those who practice them.
The laws of nature are not only stamped into our very being, they are also stamped into our relationships with the whole of life and of nature. It is by our violation of the laws of relationship that we destroy ourselves. We are related to food, water, air, sunshine, other people, other forms of life, etc. We have one type of relationship to food and another type of relationship to poisons. We should know and understand these relationships and be guided accordingly.
As an entity, a living self-acting organism, man has a certain choice in the way he lives. He exercises autonomy. He can choose to use alcohol or to abstain, to be a vegetarian or to eat flesh, to take exercise or to remain idle, to live in the shade or out in the sun, to dissipate his sex energies or to conserve them, etc. He is free to choose his own way of life, but he is not free to choose the results. The consequences of his choice are "even the fruit of his own thoughts" and actions. Man either builds himself or destroys himself by the manner in which he lives.
Life is not a matter of "do this," and "don't do that." It is a matter of relationships. If a man gets into the right relationship, everything follows from that. Everything flows from the central loyalty. Health flows from loyalty to the legitimate, disease from loyalty to the illegitimate things of life.
All living is a curious mixture of right and wrong conduct--of good food and bad, of fresh air and foul, of conservation and dissipation, of cleanliness and uncleanness, of emotional irritation and emotional calm, etc. What we may denominate physiological wrong doing affects the whole organism. Whatever is inimical to our physiological welfare, even if only slightly so, should be recognized as contributing to the cause of disease.
In obedience to what is apparently an irresistible law, we are compelled to infer a causal nexus or connection between antecedent and consequents that are essentially related. The causes of disease must be sought in the conditions and habits that men make for themselves. Health requires that all the vital functions be maintained in vigor and harmony of development; any failure in these functions marks the initial stage in the evolution of disease. The immediate cause of disease is that actual condition of the individual organism which necessitates the remedial effort. We call it immediate because it is within the organism and actually makes the remedial action necessary. This is a toxic state, growing out of enervation and depressed function.
Nature has made ample provision for the maintenance of pure blood, provided her laws are obeyed. Four of the principal organs of the body--lungs, liver, bowel and kidneys--are constantly engaged in the work of purification, so that if we would be careful to use only appropriate material and only as much of this as the vital organs can convert and utilize and if, at the same time we refuse to overwork, while cleanliness, proper rest and healthful exercise secure to us an abundant vigor, impurity of blood in a noteworthy degree would be impossible.
Waste and repair belong to health as well as to disease and processes are carried on easily and comfortably or slowly and laboriously, as the case may be, representing health on the one hand and disease on the other. The process of life is one of continual waste and repair. The organism is made up of the food eaten, water drunk and air breathed, which things become by use changed into substances which are poisonous if retained. The excretions from the bowels, lungs, liver and kidneys are the same substances in another form that we have eaten, drunk and breathed. As we took them in they were capable of sustaining life; but now that they have been used, they have been changed into unusable and poisonous impurities which must be promptly removed.
We can perform no action and perform no thought without using muscle or brain. In acting and thinking we use substance. Indeed, the ordinary vital action necessary to sustain life uses substance. This use gives rise to waste which must be carried out of the body, else it accumulates and, being toxic, may give rise to disease, or, if accumulated in sufficient amount, will result in death. The efficiency with which bodily waste is excreted is determined by the functioning power possessed by each individual and by any individual at a given time.
Living and non-living machines have one thing in common: namely, their work uses energy. Everything that tends to exhaust the vital resources of the body lowers its functioning powers and disposes it to the development of disease. When nerve energy is lowered, the weaker parts of the body are likely to falter most in their functions; but all parts are impaired more or less. When the vital forces are maintained at a low ebb, they are frittered away without accomplishing the best results. It would seem that we have a choice between a rapid expression of function (an acceleration of expenditure) with a consequent early exhaustion and the continuance of function (the ultimate aggregation of functioning power that is possible), which conserves the body's functioning span. What is often mistaken for a superabundance of nervous energy or a surcharged condition of the nerves is probably nothing other than nerve irritation, either of a toxic or of an emotional nature.