Many hydropathists were as little concerned with Hygiene as were the medical men of the time. They cured their patients with water applications and had no real need for aids. One Hygienist complained that the hydropathists were too much inclined to try to effect the necessary changes in the sick organism by "regulating the functions of the body," with hot and cold applications, thus violating the grand requirement of nature that causes be removed. The water-cure practitioners denied that removing the cause of disease and supplying the conditions of health were enough, contending that the causes of disease had produced their legitimate effects, so that there exist pain and suffering, a morbid condition which required active curative measures to overcome.

On the whole, however, the water-cure institutions seemed to have been well conducted. Visiting several water-cure institutions in 1853, Dr. Alcott reported of them: "While I am not displeased with the forms and modes, I am particularly pleased with the spirit which prevails in many of the institutions for water-cure which, during the last two years, I have visited. I have found their conductors to be men of more general information and of more liberal spirit than I had supposed . . . The institution at Troy, New York, formerly, for a time, under the care of Dr. Bedortha, Dr. Jennings, and others, but now under the direction of P. P. Stewart, Esq., in some of its features, please me exceedingly . . ."

Once raised in the mind, one has no more power to lay down or lay aside an awakening doubt than a frightened girl has to dismiss a ghost. The doubt simply will not down; it is ever present with us. When a man begins to doubt the drug system, it is difficult to stop. Strange, is it not, how a new idea, interpenetrating one's brain and getting within the range of one's consciousness, quickens his whole sensibility and forces his intellect to act in spite of his prejudices and desires to the contrary. An example of the transforming power of a new idea is supplied us by Dr. Jackson's conversion to hydropathy.

He explains in an article in the October 1861 issue of the Journal that he had just as much faith in the dogmas and postulates of the allopathic school of medicine in which he had been educated as he had in the creed of the church of which he was a member, and that he had no more desire to disbelieve his allopathic education than he had to become an infidel in religion; but he had come face to face with a group of facts that varied in their character and which had been presented to his consideration from different angles and under different forms and that challenged his attention and demanded of him an account of them, upon any acknowledged and well-settled philosophy within the sphere of that school of medicine whose pupil he was, and the averments in which he had always cherished the most implicit reliance and faith. He tells us that he tried to set them aside, an act for which he was ashamed. "For one ought always to be ashamed to be compelled to say that he was ever disposed to set aside his reason and be governed by his prejudices." But, he had the old faith and the old love and the fervor of affection for old things was upon him; he had not learned that no man has the right to set aside truth or to call it common. He struggled to dismiss the issue and to force himself to ignore the plenitude and power of the facts and remain uninterested and uninquiring.

And what were these facts?He had seen a number of patients recover health from apparently hopeless conditions without drugs; within a few months these so-called incurables were walking about quite vigorously and ultimately returned home in good health. He reasoned to himself: "What power is it that has done this work?" He answers: "One naturally would, under such a glimmer of light as I had, be disposed to ascribe the result to some specific agent. I jumped, as many people have since done when thinking this subject over, to the conclusion that water was entitled to the credit of it. In other words, I reasoned about it just as persons generally do, and as you do about the efficacy of medicinal agents."

Jackson thus repeated an old and common mistake--that of mistaking coincidence for cause. Every so-called curative means has been established in just this same way. If it is used and the patient recovers, recovery is attributed to its use and the healing power of the body is always ignored. There is no more reason to think that water used hydropathically restores the sick to health than there is to think that drugs do so.

Frequently we read the assertion in medical literature that the living organism is self-healing and that most of its ailments are self-limited. Hippocrates is credited with asserting the existence of the vis medicatrix naturae--healing power of nature--although he certainly did not phrase it in its traditional Latin form. It is not certain what he meant by nature. Sir William Osler declared that: "What nature cannot cure must remain uncured." We could fill a book with statements of this kind from leading thinkers in the various schools of so-called healing, but there is a curious and puzzling paradox associated with these declarations. Although the fact that the organism heals itself is fully established, the great majority of practitioners of all schools of so-called healing and the people in general continue to behave as though they have no understanding of it. They administer their drugs and prescribe their remedies and when normal function has been restored, they are in a hurry to give full credit to their alleged remedies for the recovery and wholly ignore the vital part taken by the body in healing itself. It should be obvious to everyone that if the body is self-healing, no matter what kind of so-called remedy is employed, credit for recovery should go to the biological processes and not to the drug or treatment. As Dr. Tilden so well expressed it: "All cures ride to glory on the backs of self-limiting and self-healing crises."

Unless we understand the biological processes by which living organisms heal themselves and assure their survival, we are sure to deceive ourselves when we attempt to evaluate the various cures and treatments offered by the curing professions. We tend to believe that the healing process is not exclusively inherent in the living system, but may also exist in extraneous agents, so that we speak of such agents as being possessed of the power to heal. Once having accepted this view of healing, there seems to be no end to the number of arguments which we can bring forward in support of the healing power of our pet remedies.

Trall once complained in an editorial that "sick persons and invalid individuals are continually writing us from all parts of the country concerning their maladies, and asking us to send them a remedy; to tell them how to use water in a given case; to advise them what particular bath is applicable to a certain complaint; to prescribe the manner in which water should be used in a liver complaint; or a rheumatism, or an ague, or a palsy; ignorant or heedless of the fact that either one or a dozen remedial agents may be as important as water in the case mentioned."