The Hygienic System embraces all the laws of life. It does not consist, as many suppose, of merely eating certain types of food, or of fasting, but in the observance of all the important principles upon which health depends--in eating pure food, breathing pure air, avoiding improper drink and so forth. Surrounded and governed by influences of this kind, the animal kingdom, or that portion of it which is not corrupted by man, is living in uninterrupted health and to suppose that mankind suffer without cause or that they could not be equally free from disease, or to attribute their sufferings to Divine Providence, as is often done, is folly.
Hygiene must embrace in its scope all the details included in the foregoing brief outline of its resources. To suggest a too inclusive reliance upon food alone or exercise alone or fasting alone or upon some other single Hygienic factor, irrespective of the physiologic needs of the system, is to fail of complete success. As important as may be the gains made from an outdoor life, we should not permit these to blind us to the importance of all other Hygienic needs of the well and the sick organism. We cannot expect full results in any case when we partially or completely subjugate all of the Hygienic factors to one. If we resort to diet to the neglect of all else in the life of the individual, whether well or sick, we may do considerable good, but we certainly will fall far short of doing all the good that can and should be done.
The Hygienic System is simply the intelligent and lawful application of all the life requirements brought to bear upon the living organism in due proportion and according to need. These means maintain the body in health, when properly used; they are adequate to the needs, and nothing else is, of the body in sickness. So simple are the conditions that wild nature lays down for human care that every man may look after himself once the people have been educated out of ages-old fallacies and have returned to the simple truths of nature that man knew in his prime. Every man and woman should understand the demands of nature and should be able to apply his or her knowledge to his or her own body and mind.
A tree that has its roots in soil adapted to its wants and has all other conditions indispensable to its growth and development will grow into a beautiful tree. So also with man. The first condition of his true and healthy development is found in the normal supply of all the conditions of a healthy life. "Who so would build individual or social life without health," said Dr. Nichols, "is like the man who would raise trees without roots, build houses without foundations, or attempt any other stupid and useless enterprise."
The subject of health with the means of its attainment and the promotion thereof worthily constitutes a science by itself and as such we shall regard it, in all our considerations of the subject, as being founded upon thoroughly scientific principles. Hygienists have taught from the beginning that an abounding health is man's normal condition--that sickness is abnormal. It is obvious to all who will take a candid view of the matter that man is constituted for beauty and health and that he becomes diseased and ugly as a result or consequence of violating the laws and requisite conditions of his organization. The possibilities of disease, of impairment, of change, are great and manifold; but with all the liabilities, the securities against them are ample and man has but to keep within these proper limits and life to him will be a succession of pleasurable events without a taint of bitterness. Health is his normal condition, sickness an abnormal state.
Hygiene sweeps a large area in its compass. Its claims are based on foundations as broad as the physiological and biological necessities of man. It sweeps within its orbit his pathological as well as his normal state. It establishes for itself a marked distinctiveness and professes, over, above and independent of the systems of medicine, to be complete in itself, requiring only the assistance of surgery, to have in itself a sufficiency of means to meet the emergencies of disease. But slightly more than a century and a quarter have elapsed since the Hygienic revival was first launched. But a century and 45 years have elapsed since it was demonstrated by an extensive experience, as Trall said in the July 1872, issue of The Science of Health, that all so-called diseases are better managed without drugs.
The Hygienic System is one by which both the well and the sick are cared for solely by the employment of Hygienic materials and influences. A Hygienic substance or influence may be defined as one that is conducive to the promotion of health. But, lest this definition be regarded as ambiguous, let us re-state it thusly: a Hygienic material or influence is one that is normally employed by living organisms in their development, growth and function. It is that upon which life depends. Hygiene thus becomes the employment of materials, agents and influences that have a normal relationship to life, in the preservation and restoration of health according to well-defined laws and demonstrated principles of nature.
There must always be a normal relation between the living organism, whether well or ill, and the material things and conditions that contribute more or less perfectly to sustain physiological phenomena. If we pause for a minute and consider the fact that these substances and influences supply the very materials out of which life and health are built up, that each of them has a direct, positive and indispensable role to serve in those vital processes by which living activities are maintained at every moment, then we have something tangible, impressive, directly addressed to the reason, carrying full conviction to the mind, that an adequate supply of each of these basic needs of life is essential to supply the positive, urgent and constant demands of the vital organs for materials to sustain them in a state of health and vigor.
It is not correct, however, in speaking of the application of Hygiene to the sick, to speak of Hygienic medicines, for there are no Hygienic medicines. The term medicine is from a Latin word meaning healing. A medicine is a healing agent. But healing is a vital process and is not done by any agent. In truth, there are no medicines of any kind. There is no such thing as the practice of medicine, because nobody can practice healing. Hygiene preserves health and restores it with the use of those elements on which existence itself depends. If health is man's normal state, the means for its maintenance and restoration must be outside of any arrangements that shall include a profession whose claim to confidence is that it deals audaciously with poisons as remedies.
What is sadly lacking among the members of the various schools of curing is a knowledge of the laws and conditions that are favorable to the healthy development and healthy actions of the living organism. The possession of such knowledge would enable them to make a practical application of all influences and materials that are favorable to healthy actions and higher developments. In an article published in the Journal, June 1855, D. W. Hall, M.D., said of these influences and materials, that they "are all embraced in what this school (the Hygeo-Therapeutic School) recognizes as Hygienic agencies." On this occasion, Dr. Hall said: "Understanding, as we do, the two systems (the medical and the natural) to be mutual antagonists, there is an important duty devolving upon us. If we and our successors and cooperators live true to our own principles as we now understand them, our reward will be in a revolution of the whole medical science." This is a significant challenge to Hygienists, not to work for reform, but for the overthrow of a false system and supplanting it with a true one.
Do not any of you decide positively that there is no truth in our philosophy of life and in our practices because sometimes some of our number get sick. Do not condemn Hygiene until it has been lived in all its perfection and then failed. To believe in Hygiene is not enough; it is necessary to be totally committed. We must make due allowances for the unfavorable circumstances under which many of our number exist. We do not live in a world that is organized on Hygienic principles. We have many who profess that we would all be better off if we drank only water and ate less flesh food, yet keep right on drinking tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks and eat liberally of flesh. They permit their appetites, feelings and passions to run away with their judgment. We have stressed the importance of a full Hygienic program and the evils that flow from a lack of one thing needful.
Impatient men and meddlesome women are never content to be quiet and permit the processes of nature to operate without interference. They are forever tampering and tinkering with the functions of life--they meddle with their stomachs, bowels, livers, kidneys, skin, etc. Instead of letting their vital organs and their functions alone, they meddle with them so much that they impair and cripple them. They must always be "doing something." They meddle with the processes of life in sickness in the same manner and to a much greater extent.
We can no more live Hygienically by one act of Hygiene than we can support our bodies by eating once in a lifetime. Constant reception of truth, daily living Hygienically, are indispensable to wholeness of life. Those Hygienists who are only intermittent in their Hygienic living should not expect desirable results.
Nothing can better illustrate the self-reliant vitality, the inherent truthfulness of Hygiene, than its everyday triumphs over the many and formidable obstacles that are placed in its way. So intrinsically superior is the Hygienic way of caring for the human organism to any other system ever offered to man or practiced by him, that noihing is needed to commend it to the general judgment and acceptance of man but a full understanding of it. Hygiene, as a system of care both of the well and the sick, is manifestly based on principles that command the respect and allegiance of the candid, because of its foundation on physiological law.
"No man," said Jesus, "putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." The principle here expressed is that when you have abandoned the old and inferior ways for new and superior ways and look back and lust after the inferior ways, you are not worthy of a place in the better sphere. It should be impressed upon all who want to live a truly Hygienic life that, looking back, longing for the inferior ways, returning at intervals to them and not looking steadfastly ahead, leads to failure.
Writing in The Science of Health, May 1875, W. Perkins, M.D., said: "So long as we would live pure and free of pain, we must continue the Hygienic prescription." The sick man, having recovered health by a Hygienic program, can expect to remain well only so long as he continues to live Hygienically. He should know that if he returns to his old disease-building mode of living, he will again develop disease.
It is true and the truth may as well be expressed, that it is much more difficult to live Hygienically at home, in a great many instances, than to do so away from home. It is more difficult to live a life true to principle at home among the accustomed indulgences than among strangers. It is much more difficult to deny ourselves and our friends, too, than to deny ourselves only. As for the strangers we meet in our travels, they care not what we eat or drink or how we behave. It is easy enough everywhere to eat right if we have principle and are willing to do so; but, if we are but half-hearted in our efforts and not convinced of our principles, it is amazing how many things get in our way.
It is quite difficult for many people to understand that Hygienic materials and influences may become causes of disease, that they may do so by abuse. Everything is ours to use, not to abuse. Bad effects result from the abuse of any normal, wholesome thing of life. We may drink too much water; we may bathe too much or too often; we may take water at wrong times; we may not get sufficient water. Water is not to be condemned because somebody drowned in the lake last week; but neither is it to be abused, because its abuse may result in injury and death. The over consumption of the best of foods will produce trouble. Too much sunshine, too much exercise, too much of anything becomes harmful. The old adage: "The more of a good thing the better," is simply not true.