One of the best lessons any of us can learn is that in all essential particulars we are but counterparts of every other member of the human family. We have the same organs and functions, the same basic needs and are subject to the same laws and injured by the same indulgences. If a certain harmful practice is injurious to others, by what rule of reason do we claim to be an exception? None of us ever claim to be exempt from the law of gravity--why shall we claim exemption from the operation of any other law of nature?
The medical world, having created a host of specific diseases, searches for a specific cause for each of these and fails to recognize the many impairing influences in the life of the individual that collectively constitute cause. Results are never the issue of one cause. They are the issue of combined causes. This is to say, cause is made up of a number of correlated antecedents or factor-elements. One of these is pivotal; none of the others are negligible. Hence, full recovery of health depends upon correcting and removing all of the elements of cause.
Instead of recognizing the impairment of structure and function as the basic pathologic state which should be corrected as a whole to the end that health may be restored, the various more or less distinct symptom-complexes that rest upon this pathologic substratum are regarded as themselves the primal deviation from the healthy standard and each one is to be cured separately by "specific" treatment. As a result of this loose thinking, the line between cause and effect is blurred or distorted for most people. Developments and events that are only symptomatic effects of the real, basic cause of the present widespread or systemic impairment and degeneration are viewed as major causes in themselves.
The complexity of results depends to a great extent upon the relative unfitness of the mode of life of the individual. Montaigne speaks of the simplicity of the diseases which affected the peasantry of his neighborhood, of the few complaints from which they suffered compared with the greater variety of diseases, with learned names, with which the aristocracy were accustomed to suffer. This could only mean that the simple vices of the peasantry resulted in simple diseases while the grosser and more complicated vices of the aristocracy produced more complex diseases.
There was considerable confusion among early Hygienists about how disease is caused. In his masterly work on Human Physiology, the Basis of Sanitary and Social Science, Dr. T. L. Nichols well defines the confusion and differences of views as to the cause of disease that existed among the Hygienists. He points out that there were those who regarded disease as the result of a diminution of the nervous power or vital force (Jennings and Gove), while another group held that the blood is life and the impurity in the blood is the cause of all disease action (Trall). Nichols himself, anticipating Tilden by several years, adds: "But good blood cannot be formed without sufficient vital or nervous power; and good blood is necessary to the healthy action of the brain and nervous system. Here is reciprocal action, each depending upon the other . . . Waste matter, retained in the human system is a materies morbis, and there are many kinds of blood poisoning."
The results or effects of repeated violations of the laws of life are accumulative--the body's functioning energy is wasted, the organs of excretion overtaxed, the blood becomes saturated with accumulated waste (our predecessors called them "ingenerated poisons"), nutrition or metabolism is impaired--and a condition of the body is reached which necessitates the development of remedial action (a crisis) to throw off the accumulated toxic material. Violations of the laws of being are the last or ultimate analysis of all the causes and are, therefore, fundamental.
Strangely enough, while men fear all kinds of fictional causes of disease, they appear to have no fear of the real causes. While the real causes of organic and functional impairment are operating to prepare the organism for or to necessitate disease action, they fancy themselves secure; but a little cool air frightens them out of their wits. They dread the crisis, which may be precipitated by an unusual meal, a slight exposure, etc., but fear not the causes that make the crisis inevitable.
The sources from which great evils arise, like the sources of great rivers, are hardly noticeable. The sproutings of wrong living in human society, when compared with the accumulated wretchedness which results from it, seem as insignificant as the acorn in comparison to the great oak. The causes which operate to produce human suffering and human degeneracy are not often, in their inception and first stages, self-evidently injurious, but, on the contrary, are often insinuating and treacherous. The first effect may seem to be satisfactory and even agreeable. Especially is this true in the case of excesses in the normal things of life and in the case of narcotics and stimulants. When once these latter are indulged, there follows a soothing influence--a sensuous delight--which casts glamour over the judgment and makes the victim happy and contented. As one dope addict expressed it: "Dope makes everything wonderful at first. You are not afraid of anything; you think you can jump over a mountain or be like a Toscanini. But you can't."
In elevating non-human standards and worshipping non-human images, we have violated the laws of our being and disregarded the oracle of our inner selves. We have compelled the being that is man to bow to standards that belong not to his high status, to submit to regulations and cultivate gross habits that not even the beasts of the field respect. We have spilled rivers of blood in support of the "divine right of kings," for "God and our country;" we have spilled oceans of animal blood that we might eat of their flesh; we have enslaved men and women and exploited them unmercifully; we have marred and scarred the face of the earth in the name of progress; we have departed from the simple, peaceful ways of nature and built a hell on earth.
Let us not talk of iron chains, nor yet of physical starvation and thirst! What are these but faint types of starvation, the bitterness and the slavery that man creates for himself by his disobedience to the laws of nature? Words are all too weak to describe the suffering man inflicts upon himself. How often is a smile on the face employed to camouflage the canker that is gnawing at the heart!
Why should a high degree of civilization uniformly produce an exaltation and exacerbation of every form of disease known to the primitive condition of man, while at the same time new ills whose name is legion come into being before us? Why is civilized life fruitful in ill health and the army of the diseased always in proportion to the army of physicians?
What we are pleased to call the "progress of modern science" has been, in many ways, a health-destroying influence. Scientists have hitched their chariot to the will-o-the-wisp of industrialism instead of the pole-star of human well-being. Thus the control man has gained over nature has been perverted into means of destruction. Our engineers have turned out myriads of labor-saving devices and these have been made to supercede the use and development of the powers of the body and mind. Man is fast degenerating into a puny, undeveloped tender of machines. No longer does the performance of the common duties of life contribute to his development. The consequence is that his powers must languish; they also are exercised in unprofitable and illegitimate ways.
While scientists maintain a steady stream of propaganda designed to convince the people that scientists are useful individuals and are performing useful functions, they continue to turn out in the form of nuclear bombs, virulent drugs and other agents of destruction, things that will ultimately spell the doom of mankind. Most of their productions are of a destructive character and one is not far wrong in saying that if mankind does not destroy its scientists, the scientists will destroy mankind.
"It is impossible," wrote Dr. Taylor, "for people to know, with their present habits and prejudices, how much of their diseases are attributable directly to the use of drugs, sometimes as medicines, and often under the guise of aliment; and it cannot be too often or strongly impressed, that everything that is not strictly alimentary, and necessary to form and replace tissues, must tax, obstruct, excite, and wear unduly the delicate organs that are forced to transmit or otherwise dispose of it. How much of the physical lassitude and inefficiency, so much complained of, is owing to the immense and undue labor the body functions are compelled to do to sustain themselves under the burdens forced upon them! These causes are so insiduous that they elude often our ken--while the sufferer has no idea but that he is doing the bidding of the Highest. In diet, no test is brought to bear but that of perverted instincts--in medicine, that of present transient sensations-both equally illusory. Occasionally an aggravated case comes under our notice of disease manifestly caused by medicine, which serves as a marked illustration of our principles."
However favorable the transient impulse apparently given the system by the introduction of irritating and noxious substances into the blood and other tissues, the body soon loses its "susceptibility" and ceases to respond to their presence. The tissues are literally worn out by the process and are too weak to act at all or can act but feebly. The result may be every nameable disease. Where the people are accustomed to taking much "medicine," there does chronic disease abound. Here, as elsewhere, there exists a relation of equality between cause and effects.
It is to be feared that the buoyant, springing life of health which cheers one up with an ever sustaining zest in the midst of arduous effort is unknown to the tobacco user. He may have delicious dreams at times amid the intoxication of the weed, but he pays dearly for them in the evils we are numerating. The steady, even flow of joyful health cannot depend upon a hat full of cigars.
Nature often withholds unheeded warnings, as when she ceases her violent protests against tobacco or alcohol and we are forced to seek for causes through several indirect sources. The ways in which people accustom themselves to the use of tobacco is one of the strongest proofs of its poisonous character. It is only by stealing upon, by a little by little process, and gradually debauching the powers of life that anyone can take it.