Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.


  • Reflections on the Seventies
  • Choosing a Path in Life
  • What Life Is
  • Anxiety to Leave It
  • Child's Pluck
  • The Brain the Only Hope
  • The Widow's Trials
  • Brain Triumphant
  • The Greatest Legacy Energy
    I OFTEN think of those trying yet interesting days of the seventies and eighties.  Questions like this sometimes arose: If a man can choose the road he has to travel during life, why does he get into so many that he regrets having taken?  Many of these roads have the appearance of paths of pleasure, peace, and plenty before one starts.  All inducements seem to stand in sight, wooing the unthinking to come on, and the novice feels that this road is the one which will lead to rest, wisdom and pastures great enough to supply all that mortal life can crave.

    Days and years may come and go, seeming to show us trees loaded with ripe fruit and heaven's perfume, blending with this life and inviting us to lay down our bundles of care and feast forever.  But tomorrow comes with facts written by the red ink of defeat, opens all along the whole line, attacks and cuts down the green trees of hope, to decay in sight of the one whose hopes are blasted.  Cyclones of fire pass all over the shade trees of hope, tear them up by their roots and pile them in heaps of ruin to ever remind us that the road we have traveled only leads to defeat, and that life is but a succession of failures.  We are left to dwell for years under the dark cloud without even a visible star to cheer us on our tiresome journey of misery.  Not even the feeble flash of a firefly tells us that such a thing as light exists.  We look for friends in vain.  We pray, trust, and cry, but no bread nor pillows of rest come.  We throw high in the air the rockets of distress, but no mortal friend sees the signs of misery.  We feel that death is the only friend left, and would gladly give it an open-armed welcome, but the cries of our children call a halt to such a thought, and the deadly drug and knife of the suicide are cast into the fire.  I have long thought I might at some time be called to stop my useless life of misery and hours of lamentations.

    With trembling gait my wife came to my side and said: "Look at our little boy of ten summers.  He has brought us word that he has found a pay job for a month.  He went alone and found the work. "I listened to his little story, and when he said he hunted and hunted all alone till he found work, like a flash of lightning I saw hope and joy perched on a stone, with all that man could hope or wish for.

    I saw the brain of a man of success on a dish and a great golden plate or banner floating to the breeze.  At the top of the plate I saw a picture of a man's brain -- not his brother's brain, nor his doctor's brain, nor his preacher's brain, nor the brain of a general, nor was it the brains of a rich uncle, but the brain of a man who had been used to success in all things, and the words of the inscription said: "This is of no use to others, it is no better than others only in one way, he had the courage to use it and let all others alone."

    I arose from my couch of despondency on which I had lain and starved for almost an age.  I washed my face -- not your face, nor the face of my well-to-do neighbor, but the face God gave to me.  I washed my eyes and used them for myself, saw for myself and self only.  I kept my eyes fixed on the stone that had the emblem of success cut in raised letters on the face of the great monument business victories, of all times and ages.

    I learned the lesson and it was the most valuable lesson of my life, that one's brain is his only reliance.  It is a judge that will give a carefully studied opinion to me.  It is the judge that God sends to sit on the great throne of reason, and He has given a judge to suit the case.  I felt to ask but one question: "Is God capable of selecting a judge that is fully competent to conduct the suits of all women and men, and advise how to succeed in making a good comfortable support for those who have a just claim to depend on Him?  If the answer should be no, and true, then we have proven that God is not perfect in His plans, nor capable to select competent officers to preside over the various courts of life.  Then we have discovered why man fails so often in business undertakings.

    Another question arises: Has man treated the judge with kindly respect, and acted on his advice, or has he run after other gods and ignored his best and only friend -- his own brain, which is the compass and quadrant for his vessel, that shall land him in the bosom of mother Nature who is ever full of love, success, and happiness?

    Just see the legacy a poor man leaves when he dies.  No money nor friends to care for his dear little helpless ragged babies, his wife and aged mother.  Not even a house to shelter them from the winter storm.  No money to pay for coffin nor the winding-sheet of death.  But his wife, the faithful friend, says:

    "I will do all I can.  We will live somehow, pa, even after you are gone.  I will keep the children -- some way.  Don't let that worry you," is her consoling words, till his heart has settled down to eternal silence.

    She begins to plan and arrange to make good her promise, given during the last breaths of her dying husband.  Her first effort is cleaning and renovating the little smoked hut, hovel, or house in which he died.

    As she feels the pangs and bears the cries of hunger coming from the months of her four little helpless children, and groans and sobs of the dead man's mother, she rouses herself to super-human energy, and on her own back bears to the rag merchant the greater part of the ragged apparel which the children could wear a few weeks longer.  But hunger shows no quarters, it must be subdued in some manner or death will follow in its trail.  While she carries this bundle to the merchant, knowing she would obtain but a few cents, choking sobs stifle her sighs.  She utters no groans at the thought of the burden she has to bear.  She does not look to friends for help; she has tried it, and knows it is useless.  She has long since learned the one important lesson, that her brain is her only store, and from it must the milk and her supplies be drawn.

    Like a hero of many successful battles, she buckles around her the belt of energy, enlists in this fight.  With the string of thought ties all her children together and their grandmother, then takes the other end of that string, ties it to her heart, assuring infant and the aged that she will feed, clothe, and shelter them or die in the ditch of energy, not the ditch of despair.  She says:

    "Ma, take care of the babies while I go out for work!" Then sallies out on the errand of mercy, not a cent in her pocket, nor a friend on the earth to whom she can look for any assistance.  Not even the minister, whose Sunday hat never failed to receive contributions for the poor and missionary purposes from her own and husband's scanty earnings, deigns to come to her starving hovel.

    She goes into the world willing to do anything, wash, milk cows, clean houses, work in gardens, clean slaughter-houses, or anything honorable that offers a morsel of bread for her children.  All the day and half of the night she dashes into all kinds of work, and by her untiring energy and honest labor catches the eye and confidence of some good-hearted person, who hastens to her rescue with such questions as:

    "How many are depending on your labor for support?" to which she answers:

    "My husband's mother and four little children."

    "How old is the eldest?"

    "My eldest, is a girl of nine summers, the next a boy of seven, then a girl and boy of five and three years of age."

    "Can grandma do anything?"

    "Yes, she can piece plain quilts, patch clothing, and such work."

    "Could your little girl rock a cradle and tend baby?"

    "Oh, yes.

    "What can you do outside of drudgery and hard labor?"

    "I can do anything that the brain of woman may conceive, from the Greek verb to the sausage-grinder.  I have traveled the whole journey of the classics, painting, drawing, music, poetry, and all the painter's brush will accomplish and throw upon me by the love and wealth of a once well-to-do father, who is reduced by misfortune to want."

    At this the inquirer addresses her in Greek; she answered him in Greek.  He consoled her in Latin; she returned her gratitude in the same language.  Though poorly clad, she performed upon his piano and played to his satisfaction every air and melody he requested.  The test was to know if she was a woman of truth, and was what she said she was, and capable of filling all stations from the Greek verb to the sausage-mill.

    Like a loving father he handed her a draft, which his ready hand and willing heart executed for one thousand dollars, saying:

    "My dear lady, truth is my God, and merit shall be rewarded.  This is my mite for the winter which you are now entering, and I hope it will do something toward keeping you and yours warm and healthy until spring shall appear, at which time I hope something far better will unfold to enable you to make a living for yourself and your dependent ones."

    You can see what her brain alone had done for her.  It was her friend in time of need.  Who would ask a greater legacy than the energy and confidence which God has given us?  We need just such minds, and if we use them honestly they will yield an hundredfold.

    In this picture I try to illustrate the truths of real life, drawing freely on scenes which I have seen in my struggle to unfold a truth that is bound to live with all coming ages.

    I have seen all the roads, cyclones, and the red ink of trouble and dark days of grief, until death contained no terrors for me.  But my little child Osteopathy came to me and said:

    "Dear father, you must not cry nor feel that all hope is gone, and you will be buried by the hands of charity.  You fed me when I was but a babe, and I will feed you as I am the child of your brain.  I feel that you have a right to a pension of plenty; you have served in this war, in all ranks from private to general, and I wish your name placed on the retired list."