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Sometime in the period of proto-history somebody invented the idea of the supernatural. He or they peopled the universe with a flock of capricious ghosts--gods, goddesses, spirits (both good and bad) of high and low degree, that controlled all the activities of nature. There was no conception of law and order; everything was the work of supernatural beings.
Western man later adopted Christianity, which reduced the number of gods to three and the number of goddesses to one and substituted a flock of disembodied saints for the spirits that formerly ruled the processes of nature. Christianity retained the great company of evil spirits and enthroned over them a master mind, whom it called the Devil. These supernatural beings were placed in charge of all the activities of nature and were constantly intervening in these activities. Christianity, like its predecessors, had no conception of law and order.
Both the Christian and pre-Christian conception of the cause of disease was based on the belief that disease is due to invasion of the body by evil spirits. Like its predecessor, Christianity also held that the supreme deity frequently inflicted disease upon men, women and children, even bringing about their death. There was no thought that man might bring disease upon himself by violations of the laws of nature, although it was thought that God might punish him for violations of the will of the priest-craft. The will of the priest was the will of God and anyone who defied the priest defied God.
Beginning about 2,500 years ago in Greece, there arose the idea that disease is due to natural causes and the medical profession, which came into existence at that time, largely abandoned the supernatural approach to the problems of health and disease. This supernatural approach was revived during the Middle Ages and was largely retained by the Protestant groups that developed out of the Reformation. Although the post-Renaissance medical profession largely repudiated the supernatural explanation of disease, the people themselves continued to hold to the ancient beliefs.
One of the first fallacies that the Hygienist had to overcome was the belief that life was subject to chance and haphazard or to the whims of a capricious Providence and was not governed or controlled like all else in nature, by immutable law. The churches had taught the people that their health and their sickness was subject to the capricious whims of God; the laws of life and health were not taught in the medical schools of the time as, indeed, they are not taught in the medical schools of the present. It was no easy task to bring the conception of law and order to the people and it was not uncommon to denounce Hygienists as "infidels" and "athiests" because of their insistence upon the reign of law in the realm of life.
The philosophy prevailed that the good who died young were fortunate; that is, they were blessed to escape from earth, with its trials and sorrows and enter upon another state of existence which, it was trusted, would be happier and better than life on earth. It was thought that God, who is wise and just and never does anything needlessly or without reason, somehow must have made some kind of mistake in sending souls to earth to live here for a "full lifetime," and found it necessary to recall the soul to heaven almost immediately after its birth on earth.
Hygienists rejected the view of some religious people that when little infants or people in the vigor and beauty of youth or in the strength and dignity of maturity die, they make a very desirable change in leaving a world of suffering, sorrow and toil for one of happiness and holiness. When they heard parents talk of having given back their little ones to God and, with every fiber of their being quivering with anguish, trying to gather comfort from the reflection that "what is our loss is their gain," "though we suffer, they are infinitely better off," they thought: how foolish is this philosophy that the best use that one can make of life is to dispose of it as soon as possible.
Hygienists declared that the principles of nature, the laws of science and the truths of the universe, are just as fixed and certain in their relation to the human organization, in relation to life, to health, to happiness, to disease and suffering, as they are in relation to all things else. To ascertain and understand the natural laws, or the regularity or uniformity with which everything occurs, and thus to found on a sure basis a system of mind-body care, was the aim of Hygienists. For, they declared that the very fact that a law exists in nature provides the necessity for obeying it. Indeed, they said, the existence of the law and obedience to it should be regarded as synonymous. It was their thought that those laws of being that are so intimately connected with our happiness and welfare should not be merely conjectural or of ambiguous significance. They are written out upon a scroll as broad as the face of nature and are exemplified in all that breathes.
Law (Latin: lex) has the same root as the verb signifying "to read." This arose out of the fact that of old, enactments to control the conduct of the community were read aloud in public. In this sense, law has reference to legislative enactments or imperial decrees; but when we use the term natural law, we signify the regularity with which forces and phenomena are produced and with which they behave. The inherence of laws is obvious. They are expressions of the qualities of things. Generally, the regularity of phenomena is so evident that it requires no proof to show it; but there are departments in which this regularity is not so easily discerned. In a general sense, a natural law may be defined as a mode of action and describes the regularity of nature.
We think that natural phenomena can be explained by natural laws, but we cannot separate the laws from the phenomena. What we call the law is the unvarying order of the phenomena. Order and regularity appear to be everywhere in the world of nature and this is all we mean by law. To recognize order and regularity does not explain them. The mere labeling and orderly arrangement of facts is not an explanation of them. The universal reign of a fixed order of things, which we call nature, enables us to reason from observed regularities into unseen causes. Law is a process, not a force, and operates everywhere so that we need to seek for the invariants that lie behind the changing surface of things.
When we formulate a law of nature, we simply state as succinctly as possible the orderly sequence of developments. To pass the test of validity, such a formulation of law must cut through superficialities and reveal underlying but hidden causal connectivities. It must explain fundamental relationships that recur so consistently that they cannot be fortuitous.
To repeat: natural laws are inherent in the nature of things and are essentially the same in all places and at all times. Every law of nature harmonizes with every other law of nature. All phenomena appear in conformity with fixed laws. All beings have a determinate nature. If this were not true, there could be no regularity of function. It became necessary for the Hygienists to make people realize that man is regulated by lawful processes unconsciously pursued and that his life is not the prey of outside beings.
Hygienists taught that the laws of human organization must be as exact or precise in their power and authority as laws which govern inanimate things. We expect to see the sun rise and set, a seed to sprout and grow, water to run downhill, chemical reactions to take place, all in accord with exact law. We do not expect to gather grapes from rose bushes nor figs from thistles. Is there less reason to expect that man should obey the laws of his being? Shall we not expect him to have health in precise ratio to his obedience? They declared that the idea that man can live in contempt of the laws of life with the greatest impunity is too absurd for the rational mind. The correlative idea that we can live in disregard of the laws of life until disease has developed and then remedy the disease by other, perhaps even more flagrant violations of the laws of organic existence (that is, by filling the body with poisonous drugs) is equally as preposterous. We like to talk of forgiveness, but this amounts to abrogation of the law itself. Violations of the laws of being, biological or physiological laws, are not forgivable, neither in this generation nor in the next. In the plan of the universe, all things operate according to unchanging laws and principles. The consequences of law violations are as rigidly governed as are the consequences of obedience to them. The causes of disease may, therefore, be known and avoided. There is no room in the natural order of things for the intervention of ghosts and demons.
Man is not in charge of his own destiny, despite his proud boasting to the contrary. He is still in the grip of natural processes; he is still subject to natural law. Man is endowed with the power of understanding and is capable of observing phenomena and the conditions under which they occur; he can even prepare conditions in many spheres that are necessary to elicit determinate effects; but he is in no sense a creator. He must prepare these conditions in conformity with the laws of nature.
The results of the operations of the laws of nature depend upon the nature of the conditions that surround the operations. Under different conditions the same law of gravity that carries a balloon upward brings it to earth again; under changed conditions the same law of gravity that causes a ship to float causes it to sink. There is no change in the law; there is only a change in conditions. Laws are omnipotent. They are integral to the constitution of the universe and cannot be infracted. Trall repeatedly declared that it is simply absurd to say that man can break a law of nature. Although it was generally thought that the words "break a law of nature" express a truth, he pointed out that they express a common misconception of what takes place. He said he assumed that no one employs the words "break," "transgress," "violate" and their equivalents to mean "abrogate," "annul," "repeal," "nullify," in reference to natural law. What is commonly meant is that man disobeys or acts contrary to law. He quoted the old professor who said that when a man falls from a ten story building, he does not violate the law of gravity, he illustrates it.
To say that one breaks a law is merely a convenient word-form, like that of saying that the sun rises and sets. That the laws of nature cannot be violated or broken is an important practical truth, the recognition of which lies at the very foundation of the relations of the living and the lifeless, which affords the only true basis for a true Hygiene and a successful art of caring for the sick. As a scientific and a philosophical problem, the solution to this proposition is important.
As soon as we grasp fully the significant fact that the laws of nature are eternal and immutable, that they can neither be broken nor mended, neither damaged nor repaired, that they are to be obeyed and and will be obeyed, and that evil and only evil results from misuse or abuse, or misapplication or misdirection of things, then, instead of sending to the drug store or to the physician for poisons because they are sick, people will employ a teacher of Hygiene to guide them into paths of obedience. It is essential that we recognize the grand primary truth that every disobedience of law is inevitably and necessarily attended with consequences that are appropriately described as evil. The law will be fulfilled; it cannot be broken, annulled, repealed, abrogated nor suspended. Consequences, and not remedies, are provided for violations. We cannot, if we would, reverse or subvert the laws of nature. No man ever has a perfectly sound constitution after a period of drugging and he cannot again be made whole. He is doomed to bear his shattered organism for the rest of his life.
Either physicians do not understand or else they undervalue the laws of life. They have no science of life, but spend their time with the science of chemistry. They have much art, but no art of healing. If they understood the laws of life, they would know that every transgression leaves an irreparable injury--the transgression is not forgivable; it is not pardonable. The effects are irremediable. "The worse of all the false theories of disease," said Trall, "is found in the vague notion that as 'sin is the transgression of the law,' the sinner may be saved by applying a remedy to the penalty."
As evil consists in the transgression of natural law and good in its fulfillment and as infringement of these laws is the principal cause of man's unhappiness, the laws of nature should be made the principal study of every individual. These laws should be a part of the mental equipment of all and their precepts never lost sight of in our living and acting. The true rules of conduct must be made known to all and those who have a tendency to depart from these must be frequently admonished as to what is to be done and what is to be left undone.
Hygienists have no secret compound to offer, no panacea to sell at a dollar a bottle and no wonder drugs to produce health in spite of the existence of every reason in the earth why health should not exist. They can only point to the laws of nature, by obedience to which we are able to attain and maintain the most glorious health. Science is knowledge of nature and the scientific method is that which studies the laws of nature and applies them to the production of results. The laws of nature form a unique, harmonious system and no man is exempt from them. Constitutions may, indeed, differ slightly; but no constitution is exempt from the universal laws that govern life. The laws that govern the digestion of food for one man govern the digestion of food for another. The law that governs one man's relations to the air about him is the same that governs the relations of another man to the same air. This leaves no room for the old adage that what is one man's meat is another man's poison.
The foolish notion, entertained by many, that they are somehow exceptions to the laws of nature must be expelled. No man thinks he is an exception to the law of gravity, but he may think that he is an exception to the rule that poisons tend to kill. Prussic acid will kill as quickly the man who knows not its poisonous quality as the man who is fully acquainted with its toxicity. Natural laws make no allowance for man's ignorance. A poison will kill the man of genius as quickly as it will kill the fool; it will destroy the pious as readily as the impious, the virtuous as readily as the vicious. All suffer alike, as well as all without exception prosper, who obey natural law. The economy of existence requires that ignorance shall suffer as well as wrong doing. The religious should grasp the fact that Divine Providence has something else to do than to work miracles for fools. Fools would not be any better for the constant interpositions of Providence even if they were afforded.
Generally, the priesthood have taught dogmatically and interdicted the use of reason. They have arbitrarily interpreted "revelations" and attempted to enforce belief as though they are infallible beings to whom the rest of mankind must do homage. The interpreters of natural laws cannot avoid free scrutiny by all, cannot forbid the employment of reason in considering their interpretations and cannot avoid the tests that may be made of their interpretations. Others may be guided by observations and may be able to appreciate the phenomena of nature and its regularities and uniformities. But all must know that any principle subversive of universal harmony is to be at once rejected as erroneous.
The idea fostered by many religions that there was a primitive seducer, an evil spirit, commonly represented under the figure of a serpent, that led man astray, overlooks the fact that the power for evil and the ability to choose is in man himself. His is the power to make a choice between several actions, his the plurality of motives, his the understanding and the desire. To teach that man is made in the image of God and at the same time to decry "his wicked human nature," is the height of absurdity. If God is the maker of man and if he made him good and very good, human nature is not wicked.
Pleasure accompanies the normal activity of every fundamental power that man possesses, but pleasure is the end and object of but few of his powers. His musical ability is evidently for pleasure only, but his nutritional activities and his reproductive functions serve other purposes than that of pleasure. That there is pleasure in eating is right and normal, but pleasure is not the end for which we should eat; that there is pleasure in sexual indulgence is equally right and normal, but the pleasure of sexual indulgence as an end in itself is not in accord with the laws of life. "It is among the healthy only that we are to study truly the physiological laws," said Dr. Taylor, "and not among the bedwarfted and the emasculated and the diseased." If we apply this rule to the sphere of sex, and it should be applied here as elsewhere, what results would we get?