Article #2: The Laws of Life by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
We are in the habit of saying the Universe is governed by law and while we shall use this convenient expression throughout this work, we desire it understood that we do not use the work law in any legislative or coercive senses, the laws of nature are not legislative enactments. Natural events do not take place in obedience to natural laws. Natural laws, as we call them, govern nothing. They are "uniformities" of nature which are classified in universal formulas describing all possible happenings of nature. Thus the law of gravitation does not govern the motion of falling bodies and the coursing of planets, meteors and suns. The law, so-called, is a descriptive formula which states in the tersest way possible the mode of action which things of a definite quality will take under certain conditions. Natural laws are formulas which describe uniformities or regularities of nature. A law is a "constant mode of action of a force;" that is, it describes how the force works.
The life forces in their operations work, as do all other forces, according to well defined laws or uniformities. Laws have no validity except as expressions of the forces back of them. The uniformities of nature are not mere haphazard coincidences but intrinsically necessary conditions. They are based on the nature of things and constitute an intrinsic and necessary part of the world order, or, rather, of the universal order. The uniformities of nature are eternal. They are uncreated and uncreatable.
Natural laws are inherent in creation. Man is constituted upon and in perfect harmony with these laws. There is an inseparable and orderly relationship between the laws of nature and the highest welfare of man.
No one who is accustomed to observing the exact order and harmony that prevail in the world about him will question that his own body is constituted upon precise and fixed principles and that the vital machinery is controlled by express law. Physicians of all schools profess to believe in the existence of a law which governs the vital organism, and most of these profess to believe that in a perfect state of the body, this law is fully adequate to the government of all the vital forces and their actions. But in a disordered or impaired state of the body, physicians of all schools hold that the economy of life is incompetent alone, to exercise the entire supervision and direction of all the internal affairs of the organism. It needs and must have counsel and aid from the human mind; backed by agents and forces other than those inherent in the organism.
The law of animal life is an inherent principle or tendency in the animal organs, by means of which they perform certain specific functions or acts, and this law, principle or tendency is immutable, always in force, and always acting in one direction with as much positiveness and unerring certainty as that water will run down hill, or heavy bodies tend towards the center of the earth.
The general law of the vital economy is a unit. In all its operations, whether in perfect or impaired health, its tendency is one and indivisible: the highest and best interest of the whole organism. Nor can this unity be broken so long as life continues.
For the purpose of showing, more clearly, the nature and tendency of the law of life, and its adaptation to the purposes of life and health, it will be necessary to examine it under a number of separate divisions. These divisions reflect a grand system of order that is ultimately based on the same principles and which give rise to a grand harmony which can but excite the wonder and admiration of every man or woman who studies it.
Biotic force strives always to preserve and maintain the organism in as near perfect condition as possible. The reaction of the living thing to any adverse condition or circumstance is always calculated to defend and preserve its integrity. In fact, so strong and universal is this effort at self-preservation, it has been called the first law of nature. The instinct of self-preservation is inherent (1) in the smallest microscopic unit of organic existence, (2) in cells associated as a community, (3) in cells organized into distinct organs, and (4) as organized into organisms. Every particle of living matter is under the control of the vital forces and is endowed with the instinct of self-preservation.
Self-preservation is the primary or controlling expression of life and, normally, is subordinate to no other law except, at times, to the instinct of race preservation, in which case the individual often sacrifices himself for the protection of the young or the flock. Primarily, life seeks to preserve itself and to maintain vital integrity. All the functions of life have reference to this effort at self-preservation either of the individual or the race. Nature aims at wholeness. This is as much true of the single cell as of the complex organism.
The primary controlling law of all life was formulated by Dr. Robert Walter and denominated: Life's Great Law: "Every particle of living matter in the organized body is endowed with an instinct of self-preservation, sustained by a force inherent in the organism, usually called vital force or life, the success of whose work is directly proportioned to the amount of the force and inversely to the degree of its activity.
If vital power could be manufactured by food, air, water and exercise if it is the product of activity, then increased activity would be the best means of increasing the power and the inactivity of sleep would be a waste of time. "Certainly," says Dr. Walter, "inversely as the degree of activity" is frought with immense consequences to human health and life. It makes all the difference whether we are increasing or reducing vital power by increasing vital activity. That we are doing the one or the other no one can doubt. There can be no neutral ground in medical practice. Vital activity expends power or increases it; if the latter, rest and sleep are a waste of time and opportunity; if the former, the medical practice of our day is engaged in exhausting vital power, especially through the nervous systems, and should produce nervous diseases in great degree."
As will be shown later, activity expends and exhausts, while passivity recuperates and preserves. As the vital energies are the important things in the preservation of life and recovery of health, it follows that the success of the organism in doing either must be calculated "directly as the amount of the power and inversely as the degree of its activity.". The inactivity of sleep, not the excitement of "stimulation," nor the strength of work, is the great representative process of recuperation and health.
Increased vital activity goes with reduced rather than with increased power. Quickened respiration, increased heart action, and abnormally frequent pulse, sensitive nerves, an extremely active and excited brain, restlessness of the general system, all indicate weakness rather than strength.
It follows, therefore, that all care of the chronically ill, no less than with the acutely sick, must operate as sleep does—it must reduce activity and increase power, instead of increasing activity and reducing power. "It is the inactivity of sleep that recuperates power," says Dr. Walter, " and the activity of labor that exhausts it."
In the organic as in the inorganic realm, there exist, also secondary laws or "the observed order" of facts, which grow out of the primary law which produces them. Dalton's laws of chemistry and Kepler's laws of the heavenly bodies form secondary laws to the primary laws of chemical affinity and gravitation respectively. So in life we have certain laws secondary to "life's Great Law" called the Laws of Vital Relation. First among these we have: The Law of Action: "Whenever action occurs in the living organism, as the result of extraneous influences, the action must be ascribed to the living thing, which has the power of action and not to the dead, whose leading characteristic is inertia."
There is a vast difference between living and dead protoplasm. Chemically, they may be the same, physically they may present identical appearances, but they answer to different tests. The living protoplasm or the living organism possesses, the power of action; dead protoplasm, in common with all other lifeless matter, does not. Lifeless matter may be moved, but it cannot move itself. Living matter can move itself and other matter as well. The action of living matter under various conditions and when subjected to various stimuli does not represent the action of these conditions or stimuli upon the living organism, but, rather, the response of the living thing to the conditions or stimuli. The response is from within, the power to respond is inherent. When the power of response is lacking, as in dead protoplasm, there is no response to changed conditions or to the application of various stimuli. In the relations between lifeless and living matter, the living matter is active, the lifeless matter passive. If the power is low, the response is correspondingly low. The work of "vital force" is "directly proportioned to the amount of the force."
We may illustrate the above law by the common practice of taking purgative or laxative drugs to force bowel action. The expression is common that certain drugs "act on the bowels," or on the liver, or on the kidneys, or act on some other organ. Apparently this is the case, but actually the reverse of this is true. The taking of a dose of epsom salts is soon followed by a movement of the bowels. Dr. Trall's question, "which acted and which was acted upon?" is a very pertinent one. The only action of which any drug is capable is chemical action and no one will maintain that the bowel action in this case is chemical. No one will dispute that it is bowel action. From first to last the living organism is the actor, the salts are acted upon.
Why do the bowels act; why the hurry following the ingestion of the salts? The answer is: self-preservation. The chemical union of salts or any other drug with any of the fluids and tissues of the body is destructive to them, impairing their structure and function and even resulting in death. They act as irritants and are irritating in direct proportion to their destructiveness. The bowels act to cast them off, to eliminate them. They but perform their God-ordained function of elimination in order to self-preserve, in hurrying the dose of salts from the body.
This bowel action is vital action, as much vital action as the beating of the heart or the act of hearing, and the power of the action is inherent in the bowels, not in the salts or other drug. Vital actions are accomplished by vital powers.
Medical men speak of drugs which act on the bowels (produce diarrhea), drugs which act on the kidneys (occasion urination), etc. Reasoning, as they always do from the wrong end of the matter they attribute the power of action and of selective action to the lifeless drug, instead of to the living body. Trail combatted this fallacy as follows, and incidentally demonstrated the essential nature of "disease":
"A knowledge of the law of vitality would teach medical men that only living structures have inherent powers to act; that all dead things, in relation to living, are entirely passive; and that the only property they possess is inertia, which is the tendency to remain quiescent until disturbed by something else—the power to do nothing.
"The living system acts on food to appropriate it to the formation and replenishment of its organs and tissues. This is digestion and assimilation—the nutritive process. And the living system acts on drugs, medicines, poisons, impurities, effete matters, miasms, contagions, infections —on everything not useful or usable in the organic domain—to resist them; to expel them; to get rid of them; purify itself pf their presence through the channel or outlet best adapted to the purpose under the circumstances."
Law of Power: "The power employed, and consequently expended, in any vital or medicinal action is vital power, that is, power from within and not from without."
It is the living thing that acts, it is vital power that produces the action. A dose of salts or calomel will produce no movement in the bowels of a dead man. The body of a man who is nearly dead will not respond to medicines. Why? Because the power of response is absent. It is living power, not drug power that is back of the action. Vital force is the cause of the action, the threatened danger to the organism, due to the presence of the drug, is but the occasion for the action.
Dr. Trall well illustrated this law as follows: "It is urged that, as escharotics or caustics applied to the skin occasion rapid decomposition of the structures, the drugs must, in these cases, act on the system; for, it is asked, would the living system destroy itself? Is that remedial action which results in death? I answer: Remedial action is not necessarily successful in always accomplishing its purposes. It is defensive action. It aims to rid itself of the enemy; to remove the abnormal and offending material. It may wear itself out in the struggle. It may die in the attempt. It must oppose and war upon whatever is injurious, whatever is incompatible with its functions, so long as they are present, otherwise it could not be vital. And this is precisely the distinction between living and dead matter; the dead is passive and quiescent everywhere; the living will not tolerate the presence of the dead.
"That caustic does not act on the skin more than ipecac acts on the stomach, or castor oil on the bowels, is demonstrated in this way. Apply a blistering plaster to the skin of a healthy, vigorous young person. It "draws" readily and the skin is soon vesicated. Apply it then to a feeble, pale, anemic, or dropsical invalid. It 'draws' with difficulty or not at all. Before it will vesicate, the skin must be rubbed with some pungent, or irritant, as hot vinegar or red pepper. Then apply the blister to the skin of a dead person. It will produce no effect whatever. What is the explanation of these facts?
"If the blister acted on the skin, the effect would be greater instead of less in the cases of feeble persons, for the reason that there is less vital resistance. But the contrary happens to be the fact. The effect of the blister is precisely according to the vigor, integrity, and resisting power of the living and action machinery; and this I regard as proof positive that it is the living system, and not the dead drug, which acts. And the principle herein indicated explains how it is, and why it is that healthy vigorous persons, when equally exposed to the causes of disease, have more acute and violent maladies. Disease being remedial action, and their vital machinery being in vigorous condition, the defensive action, the disturbance, the disease, will manifest proportionally more violent symptoms."(The Hygienic System.)
Dr. Walter used Herschel's rules for determining the real cause of an effect, to show that this explanation is correct.
These rules are:
First—Invariable connection between cause and effect.
Now let us apply these rules to our law and see how it works. Our law says that vital force is the cause of the action, while the living organism is the actor. Already, we have used a dose of salts to illustrate the Law of Action, and we shall use it to illustrate the present. No amount of salts can "move" the bowels of a dead man. The giving of salts to the dead produces no effect. Yet, if salts were the cause of the movement, we should get a movement. Bowels do not move, whatever the occasion or condition, where life is lacking. Dead bowels cannot be made to act. The more vigorous a person is, the more vitality he possesses, the more vigorous will be the response to the salts, on the part of the bowels, while if the person is very low, the response may be hardly perceptible. In the relations between living and lifeless matter, the living matter is active, the dead matter is passive. The action of living matter is in proportion to the need for action and to the amount of power of action that is present.
If salts act on the bowels, to move them, they should always do so regardless of the condition of the bowels. But if the bowels act on the salts, to expel them, it is obvious that there will be no bowel action following the ingestion of a dose, if the power of movement is lacking. Where the power of movement is present, the movement must be in proportion to the power possessed and to the need for action. The salts cannot give power to the bowels for they possess no power to give. But they do occasion the expenditure of the power already possessed by the bowels. The same thing is true of other substances and agencies which apparently strengthen us. They occasion the expenditure of the power already possessed but do not add power.
Power is felt only in its expenditure, never when it is passive. One therefore, feels stronger while he is growing weaker, and feels weaker when he is actually growing stronger, through recuperation of power. The man who has had a drink of alcohol is led to believe that he is strengthened by it, while, in reality, the alcohol has only occasioned the expenditure of the power he possesses. In this way strychnine may "strengthen" the heart until it exhausts this wonderful organ. A cold plunge or a short hot bath produces a general feeling of strength and well-being by occasioning the expenditure of power which they do not and cannot give.
The thing which seems to give strength is the thing which is taking it away, the thing which appears to be curing the patient is the thing that is hastening his death, the very agents which seem to be "supporting" and "sustaining" life are the very things that are undermining the foundations of life.
Following the period of apparent increase in vigor (stimulation) there comes a period during which there is a feeling of lessened vigor (depression). There are two effects following the use of every force or agent.
The Law of Selective Elimination: "All injurious substances which, by any means, gain admittance within the domain of vitality, are counteracted, neutralized and eliminated in such a manner and through such channels as will produce the least amount of wear and tear to the organism."
This law accounts for the fact that some drugs apparently "act" on the bowels, some on the liver, some on the kidneys, etc. These are the organs which are "selected" to act on the drug. Discussing this very principle, Dr. Trall says, True Healing Art:
"And herein is the explanation of the classes of medicine, the rationale of the action of medicines, which has so puzzled the brains of medical philosophers of all ages.
"Emetics do not act on the stomach, but are ejected by the stomach. Purgatives do not act on the bowels, but are expelled through the bowels. Diaphoretics, instead of acting on the skin, are sent off in that direction. Diuretics do not act on the kidneys, but the poisonous drugs are got rid of through that emunctory, etc."
The Law of Dual Effect: "the secondary effect upon the living organism of any act, habit, indulgence, or agent is the exact opposite and equal of the primary effect."
This law admits of no exceptions, but applies to all departments and actions of life. Work or exercise arouses vital activity, thus giving an appearance of increased vigor as the first effect. The secondary effect is tiredness, decreased vigor, fatigue, and exhaustion. Rest and sleep on the contrary, produce as their first effect, weakness and languor, but no one doubts their recuperative value. Rest and sleep are the only means whereby recuperation and reinvigoration may be secured. But these are their secondary and lasting effects.
Invalids are frequently advised to keep up; because, if they go to bed they will lose strength. The apparent loss of strength is the first and temporary effect. The second and lasting result is a gain in vigor. Travel and excitement make the invalid feel stronger and better as a primary effect; but their secondary effect is languor, weakness, exhaustion. The invalid must be weak that he may grow strong.
Sexual excitement and sexual indulgence arouse vital activity and increase strength. There is increased blood pressure, rapid heart action, accelerated breathing, greater nervous activity, a general increase in muscular activity and a great increase in the feeling of well-being. But as a secondary effect, languor, sleepiness, and weakness follow.
A cold plunge or a short hot bath act as stimulants. There is an increased feeling of well-being, an increase of physiological function. It is always and necessarily followed by an equal amount of mental and physiological depression. Prolonged cold baths act much the same as chloroform or ether. The temporary exhilaration of function is soon followed by a decrease in function. Heart action is reduced, circulation and respiration slowed down and nervous activity decreased. Muscular activity is decreased even to the point of stopping such activity. Prolonged application of cold to the chief trunk of a nerve will greatly diminish or entirely abolish its activity. The feeling of warmth that comes with the reaction from the first shock of the cold gives way to a feeling of chilliness and cold. The apparent increase of strength gives way to a feeling of weakness and lassitude, and if the cold is continued, numbness and abolition of function follow. Anesthesia may be produced by prolonged cold. It is a vital depressant and the feeling of increased strength with the increase of activity which comes primarily upon its application is one of vital resistance. The organism resists the cold as truly as it does alcohol or ether. Cold does not supply functional power but it does occasion its expenditure.
The Law of Special Economy: "The vital organism under favorable conditions, stores up all excess of vital funds, above the current expenditure, as a reserve fund to be employed in a time of special need."
Power in reserve is the surest guarantee against "disease." The body seeks always to maintain a certain reserve of power and we can get this power out only by supplying emergencies such as this reserve is stored up to meet. Thus irritants, miscalled stimulants, produce an emergency that call out the body's reserve power in an effort to overcome these. If no stimulants are employed, the body will always have on hand a reserve of power to meet other emergencies of life.
Life is rhythmic in its varied operations. Rhythm, or periodicity, is regularity or differentiation in time and regularity of structure or segmentation. Alternate activity and repose is the most obvious example of this nature. All motion, all action, is intermittent. All movements in nature are intermittent and not continuous. All advance is an advance and a recession and another advance and another recession, the advances preponderating over the recessions.
During rest and sleep, the body stores up power. During favorable weather, it stores up power. During unfavorable weather, power is expended in defending the body against the excessive cold or heat, etc. During activity, power is expended in doing work; during repose, power is recuperated for future use.
The rising of the tide is an intermittent series of rises and falls, the rises preponderating over the falls. Similarly there is an ebb and flow, an alternate rise and fall, in the ebbing of the tide, but with more fall than rise. Just so, growth is not continuous, but intermittent. Indeed, there is also recession in growth. The child actually loses a little weight after gaining it.
The growth and development of the body takes place by "spurts." Periods of rapid growth alternate with periods of slow growth. The body seems to take a rest and accumulate power for the period of rapid growth. In periods of rapid growth there are new developments to be made, or incomplete ones to be finished and these things cannot be accomplished without an outlay of energy above the ordinary expenditure. In preparation for such work there always precedes a period of comparative rest, as just prior to the onset of and in preparation for puberty at which time the forces of development go forward with a rush.
Some who have been ailing through more or less of the period of childhood are "carried by the force of development, which in a cyclonic fashion sweeps everything before it into health—and that, too, often in spite of wrong life, and a medical treatment that might prove fatal if administered at any other time in life.
We may make use of this same principle when the actions of the body falter due to lack of power. If the action of a mill falters from a decrease of water power, the gates are closed for the purpose of accumulating power. Activities are ceased and no power is expended. In cases of impaired health, the closing of all the waste gates, through which vital power is needlessly expended, permits the accumulation of power.
The Law of Vital Distribution: In proportion to the importance and need of the various organs and tissues of the body is the power of the body, whether much or little, apportioned out among them."
The laws of life are as fixed and uniform as the law of gravitation, or any other uniformity of nature. They are immutable, always tending toward perfection, in every particular of the organism, whether the power which they sway is sufficient for the accomplishment of this end, or is greatly inadequate therefor. The distribution of this power is under control of immutable law which wisely and minutely appropriates it where most needed and supplies organs with as much as it can use so long as there is sufficient power to distribute.
The aggregate power of the organism may be regarded as a reservoir of force, capable of being called in any direction or to any point. So, also, the aggregate nutritive resources (tissues and fluids) of the body may be regarded as a reservoir of food capable of being called in any direction or to any point as need arises. In the distribution of power and nutriment no part is permitted to suffer want so long as they are adequate; but where there is scarcity of either power or nutriment, these are distributed in a manner to assure the preservation of the more vital structures first, and then, the remaining supplies are distributed among the less vital structures.
In emergencies, as in so-called disease, the withdrawal of power from some organs or groups of organs and its concentration in other organs or groups of organs is carried out with strict regard for the highest welfare of the organism.
Art cannot, by any possibility, expedite the recuperation or generation of power or increase its quantity at any given time in good health or impaired health. Art can by no possibility secure a more efficient and advantageous distribution and use of the vital powers than would be made by the vital laws if these are left to the undisturbed administration of organic affairs.
Every organ of the body has its particular and specific functions to perform, and with an adequate supply of power, will do its work promptly and well. But with an inadequate supply of power, it falters in its functions and fails to accomplish its work in a thorough, workmanlike manner, yet it always does the best it can and in proportion to its needs. The Law of Vital Distribution will be as vigilant and discriminating in its appropriation of power when all or a number of organs are calling loudly for it, as when all parts are adequately supplied.
The Law of Limitation: "Whenever and wherever the expenditure of vital power has advanced so far that a fatal exhaustion is eminent, a check is put upon the unnecessary expenditure of power and the organism rebels against the further use of even an accustomed 'stimulant'."
This is a very poor formulation of this law which I have made. However, it will serve, together with the following explanation to convey the meaning to you.
It often happens that a physician employs a certain "stimulant" in the treatment of a very depleted patient. This seems to "work like a charm." The patient responds readily. But it becomes necessary to give the "stimulant" in increasingly larger doses, and, finally, the body ceases to respond to it and rebels against its use. In the days when brandy was the medical man's standby, after this had been given for some time in low states of "disease," it would pall upon the senses and be loathed by the patient.
If the patient is not too low after one drug has ceased to produce the "desired" effects, it is usually possible to produce these by changing drugs. But when the patient is very low, near death, no drug will produce such effects. When overstimulation has wasted the energies of life almost to the fatal point, the Law of Limitation interposes a hand and prevents their further use. The desire for tobacco, alcohol, opium, or other irritant ceases. There is a loathing for the accustomed drug. It is this law also that withdraws power from the voluntary muscles and from the digestive organs in acute and frequently in chronic disease.
So long as the power is present to respond to the lash of stimulation, drugs are delighted in by the impaired nerves. But when necessary force is no longer present and none is available to be dragooned to the relief of the unfortunate victim of his habits, until the nerves have had an opportunity of replenishing their storehouses, then the true character of the act of stimulation is revealed in all its naked deformity and is abominated by the thoroughly depressed sensibilities.
Inveterate tobacco users sometimes get so low that the tobacco is rejected until the flagging energies are partially recuperated. Inordinate users of alcohol or tea or coffee are liable to the same changes. People whose very lives seem to be bound up in coffee, and who think they cannot live without it, will sometimes have periods during which they loathe it. At such times they are regarded as "very sick" and they are, but they are sick because of the great depletion of their energies.
The Law of Vital Accommodation: "Nature's Balance Wheel—The response of the vital organism to external stimuli is an instinctive one, based upon a self-preservative instinct which adapts itself to whatever influence it cannot destroy or control."
The living organism is capable of ordering and arranging its structures, functions, and processes in such a manner as to withstand the action of pathoferic agents and influences with the least amount of wear and tear to itself and to stay its inevitable dissolution for the longest possible time, if these agents and influences are too powerful, too prolonged, or too frequently repeated for it to overcome.
When the French revolutionists destroyed the Bastille, they found a man who had been confined for eighteen years in one of the cells, his only bed a hatchel, a plank pierced with nails, the points of which protruded on the side on which he was forced to lie without protection from the points. The man's sufferings had been almost beyond endurance for the first two weeks of his incarceration, yet when he was removed by his friends and supplied with a soft bed, he begged to be restored to his bed of nails for he could rest nowhere else. But the same kind of Law of Vital Accommodation, which had made his hatchel endurable would soon have accommodated him to a soft bed. This law cushions the bottoms of the feet of barefoot people, and guards the hands of the manual laborer by a similar cushion.
In the same way there is a hardening and thickening of the delicate membranes lining the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestine of those who habitually employ tobacco, condiments, spices, antiseptic dentrifices, mouth washes and gargles, alcohol, tea, coffee, cathartics, mineral waters, etc., and of the delicate lining of the vagina of those who habitually douche themselves. But this is an expensive business; the business of keeping the system accustomed to the action of irritants so that the sensibilities shall not be kept under torture by these. Such protection does not render them harmless.
The man who habitually indulges in "stimulation" would exhaust and destroy himself with but few indulgences if the organism had no means of curbing its reactions against the "stimulant" and thereby lessening the expenditure of vital power. The first effect of "stimulation" is exaltation of function; if it is long continued, or often repeated, exhaustion with an almost total abolition of function, results. The repeated use of "stimulant" would soon result in death. But its use soon brings a condition in which the organism ceases to respond so readily and violently to the "stimulant." If the former amount of "Stimulation" is to be received from the "stimulant," a larger amount of the "stimulant" must be used.
The first smoke or the first chew of tobacco usually occasions a very powerful reaction against it on the part of the organism. The person is made very sick; there is headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, etc. So long as the physiological powers and instincts are undepraved and unimpaired, they instantly perceive the poisonous character of the tobacco and give the alarm to the whole system. A vigorous effort is made to destroy and eliminate it and the user is forced to throw away his tobacco. But if he continues to repeat the performance, the reaction against it grows less and less with each repetition, until, finally, he is able to use many times the original amount without producing such results. His system learns to tolerate it and adapts itself to its use as far as possible. The system soon becomes depraved and its powers impaired by the use of tobacco, its poisonous character is no longer detected and no alarm is given, rather a craving for the substance is developed. However, the habitual use of any substance that is injurious in itself cannot in any way render it harmless or beneficial and the habitual presence of any such substance is injurious to life, even though no energetic effort is made to resist its action.
Habits, gradually built and long established, cannot usually be suddenly broken. There is no immediate danger to life as a result of sudden breaking off a habit long practiced, but it is often followed by one or more crises more or less severe as the organism seeks to accommodate itself to the changed condition. Because a habit does not seem to be immediately destructive is no evidence that it is not destructive or that it is beneficial. Its secondary effects alone can furnish us with the clue to its influence. A cup of coffee produces an immediate feeling of well-being while no such feeling accompanies the taking of a glass of orange juice. But when the secondary effects of these two substances are viewed, no room for doubt is left as to which of these is really beneficial and which is injurious.
Men live in almost every conceivable climate and under almost every conceivable condition, are subject to all kinds of influences and indulge in many and often very opposite habits. If given time, the body is able to adapt itself to these varying conditions. Only sudden and violent changes become immediately destructive to life. We cannot quickly transfer the Esquimaux to the tropics nor the Hottentot to Greenland. We can suddenly force upon the nonuser the amount of alcohol, arsenic, or opium used by the habitue, only at the expense of life itself.
With a knowledge of the above laws no one need be misled by the claims for the therapeutic virtues contained in some drug, serum, or apparatus. These laws form reliable rules by which to order our life. "The wise will understand."
Reprinted from The Hygienic System Vol. 1
Home > Lesson 79 - The Laws Of Life
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