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


  • Various Disease
  • Normal and Abnormal
  • Nerves and Veins
  • How Often to Treat
  • Do Not Bruise the Muscles
  • The Battery and Engine
  • Beware of the Buzzards
    As the Science known by the name of Osteopathy is accredited to me, I suppose I am the oldest Osteopath now on earth.  I also think I have given more attention to the study of the principles of this science than all persons now living combined.  Being the head of this institution, it is my duty to impart to you the facts which I have obtained by practice and observation, during twenty-five years in combating all kinds of diseases of this climate.  Also my observations in obstetrics and diseases of women, diseases of children, contagions such as measles, whooping-cough, and on through the whole list, as well as the diseases of the four seasons of the year, believing that my observations will cover more than one hundred thousand in number.  With this vast field of observation I think I can tell how to treat and when to treat successfully, how to treat and when to treat unsuccessfully, just bow much and how little force to apply, and what good or bad effects to expect by judicious or injudicious methods of treatment.  I think I am prepared by experimental knowledge to instruct and caution the student of Osteopathy every day he may work with me in the clinics, from one to three years.  There are some diseases, and very few, that will admit of two treatments a week; others once a week, and some once in two weeks.  In fact, a great number of times should not be for a moment before the mind of the operator.  He should be instructed to ever remember that the infinite exactness of work when obtained is what will yield the success sought, without regard to the number of times.  When you know the difference between normal and abnormal you have learned the all-absorbing first question, that you must take your abnormal case to the normal, lay it down, and be satisfied to leave it.  Never leave your case yourself until you have obtained such results.  Thus it is far better to familiarize your eye and hand with the normal before you can approach the abnormal intelligently.  We want first on your shoulders a normal head, with normal principles, then we can bring before your eyes an abnormal neck, an abnormal arm, spine, limbs, breast, and you can reason by comparison, because you have the normal as a foundation on which to build your comparison of the abnormal.

    My observations have taught me that in cases of asthma, for instance, to treat oftener than once a week or two weeks is a dangerous procedure, and betrays the ignorance of the would-be philosopher.  Well posted by experience, I know whereof I speak on this subject, and if you wish to be a success in this science, I admonish you to give heed to some things which I know and I expect to exact at your hands.  You should know the cause of a disease and be able to remove it.  You know the course of an artery, nerve, and vein, and before you take your hands off should know that you have removed all obstructions to the nerve, vein, and artery, giving force and nourishment to the depleted locality.  Use force enough to remove all obstructions; be careful that you bruise none of the delicate parts, such as glands and membranes, because an ignorant head and a heavy hand may bruise a kidney, spleen, gall-duct, omentum, or some of the lymphatics.

    Remember that you are not called to bruise by force any delicate organ, which you are liable to and will do if you have no judgment and simply go by force, and great number of treatments.  One judicious and wisely applied treatment once a week is enough for any case of liver disease, I do not say by this that an ignorant paddling of the side on which the liver is located and kneading the bowels like a bull would knead a hay-stack with his horns is to be considered a treatment.  An intelligent head will soon learn that a soft hand and a gentle move is the hand and head that get the desired result.  When you are dealing with a diseased liver or any other part of the body, remember the highest officer in command is the artery of nourishment, which must be assisted by the nerve of motion and the vein of renovation.  When these three principles are left in full control, and you know that you have done what is necessary for this purpose, then tell your patient, " One week from today I will examine and treat you again," at which time you will see that your work has not gotten out of shape and order by false strains or otherwise.  Then you are warranted to go further with your treatment, because the surrounding tissues and delicate fibers have had a chance to be relieved from dead and inactive fluids, and have taken on some nourishment.  As the case progresses you go on with more extended treatment, ever having your eye fixed on the whole nutrient system, which can do but little good previous to renovation.

    Any washwoman understands the truth of this statement.  She first washes the dirt out of the clothes, then applies the nutritious starch like a woman with good horse sense.  When you have washed the body of all its dirt, through the excretories, you are now ready for the starch of the arteries.

    There are but few hours now remaining of the twenty-four years that I have devoted to the study of the machinery of human life, to know when it is in normal condition.  I began with the bone framework; then its ligamentous attachments, its preparations for and attachments of muscles; all organs, vessels and divisions that take part in constructing bones, muscle, ligament, membrane, nerve, positive, negative, motor, sensory, voluntary, involuntary, nutrient, and sympathetic, whose duties are to construct and move in selection of kinds and qualities to suit.  The power to place wisely and with exactness, which the architect demands under the rigors of a foreman that receives nothing but perfection in constructing a temple to receive in workmanlike order a dwelling-place for the spirit-man in such perfect running order that the indweller may be able to operate the machinery easily at all times, is evident.

    My study during all the years just spoken of has been to know what the machine is, where all its parts are placed, their uses, supports, actions, relations -- separately and united -- the whole with harmonious action when driven by the power of life at the command of God, who gives power to all elements of force that exist beneath the great throne of mind and from which reason is imparted to all beings who can and do have that wonderful quality.

    At this time I wish to drop further hunting for parts and details of the machinery, and place my telescope on a more elevated position for observations, in order to obtain more knowledge of the hows and whys of the workings of this product of the mind of the Infinite.  I feel that twenty-five years of constant study on the parts of man, separated and combined, has prepared me fairly well to enter the higher classes as a beginner to study the active laws of life -- to inquire into the hows and whys of the workings and failures of the whole being (man).

    In my study I began with the bones.  I associated them in attachments by adhesive ligaments, which bind every bone to every other bone of the body, wisely formulated for all purposes and uses for which bone and substances were constructed.  They receive and operate belts, straps, pulleys, aprons, and all of the necessary forms of the softer parts of this great machine which is to be operated by the force known as animal life.

    We find two large and complete systems of vessels called the channels of blood, through which to and from a great reservoir containing the fluids are known as the rivers of life, whose duty it is to convey material to all parts of the body without any omission whatever.

    We trace from this great tank to another fountain of supplies which we call the machinery of nutrition.  We behold the process from which crude material this sustaining and containing blood is generated, prepared, and delivered to the heart, to be sent to all divisions and receive chemical qualifications to suit the indweller.

    Thus we bear the appellation the "blood of life" with exactness and perfection in all parts and principles, as the fiat and command of the great architect and builder of this machine.  We must first acquaint ourselves with all its workings in the normal before we are prepared to comprehend or think intelligently of the meaning of the word abnormal, signifying confusion and imperfection in all that is known, and meant by the words confuse, confound, derange, destroy, fail, stagnation, and death.

    Having completed the study of bones, the relations of one to all others in form, how beautifully they work, how nicely they are attached, how well formed to receive attachments and insertion of all muscles and ligaments, nicely divided and spaced in such condition as to allow the blood vessels and nerves of all kinds to permeate and deliver all fluids of life and action in every minutia to the common whole, we are lost in wonder and admiration.

    We are led to ask the question, "On whom or what does this engine depend for its motive force?" -- by which all this skilled work seen in full motion, quietly, heroically, and with infinite exactness, hauling and delivering its nicely prepared elements to each and every station where construction must receive and blend without a murmur with the next motive force; whose duty is to keep all vessels, channels, and routes for all substances cleaned and purified by the invigorating powers of obstructed fluids, as they flow over, oil, smooth, lubricate, and water from the great systems of aqueducts, commonly known as lymphatics, of bone, nerves, blood-vessels, stomach, bowels, heart, liver, kidneys, and every known principle or vessel that contains any of the great and wisely prepared fluids of life, from the atom of conception to the completed child at birth, youth, man, woman, animals of the earth, fowls of the air, fish of the sea, earth itself, and all stars and worlds, and the angels that hover around the "throne." All must have, and cannot act without the highest known order of force (electricity), which submits to the voluntary and involuntary commands of life and mind, by which worlds are driven and beings move.

    We are now in presence of the great question, "What is the battery which drives blood to construct beings and maintain material forms to play their parts as worlds with life?"  Who understands the mathematical positions of space, and maintain by so adjusting the motions and steps to keep in line and time to the music that is intended to be observed by carefully thinking of the harmony required in moving that great army of worlds, that they may never break ranks without orders, which order, disobeyed, might be a collapse and destruction of the whole universe.

    Thus an exacting God has given the command:
    Attention, worlds," " Into line, ye suns and planets," "Music by the band," "Forward, march," "Left!  Left!  Left! and never halt," for all is in motion and never halted to even give birth to a baby world.  "Go on, and on," is my command as seems to be from the very mouth and mind of God, as we would now express the thought, for motion is found in all worlds and beings.

    We are conducted by thought to the power of mind with all its works and beauties, with the exacting commands of perfection.  At this time we are left in the midst of an ocean of thought, with some evidences that by combining the brain with the heart we see its force and source by which the machinery of life is driven, of which we will tell you more of what we see pass before our telescopes in the far-off hidden mysteries as we grow older and wiser, if ever.  From my lack of knowledge and want of wisdom as an operative engineer, I must halt and take the place of a speculative brother, gone from labor to refreshments for all the days of my life.  I cannot be happy and be idle.  I will use my pen and feed the coming minds the best I can.  So I must say farewell as a physical engineer.

    From the day of Moses until the present time, by habit and education, we have been taught to believe and depend upon drugs as the only known method of obtaining relief from pain, sickness, and death.  By habit and use of drugs in sickness through so many generations, we as a people think there is no remedy outside of them, and as the mind has been so unalterably fixed on that thought for so many years during all ages of the past, people have felt it a duty, if not a necessity, to be governed by established customs.  We feel when our friends are sick we must do something to relieve them.  If the household remedies fail, we call in the family doctor and turn the case over to him, and he will call counsel when he feels he cannot manage the disease.  Then if the patient dies, the family and friends are satisfied that all had been done for the sufferer that was possible; every known remedy and skill has been exhausted, and we must be content with the results.  Death has prevailed, and we feel that we have done our duty.

    I wish to say to the graduates who are about to go out in the world, that when I entered this contest I took as my foundation to build upon that the whole universe with its worlds, men, and women, fishes, fowls, and beasts, with all their forms and principles of life, were formulated by the mind of an unerring God.

    He has placed all the principles of motion, life, and all its remedies to be used in sickness inside of the human body.  He has placed them somewhere in the structure if He knew how, or He has left His machinery of life at the very point wherein His skill should execute its most important work.

    I have given you the reasons why I believed I was warranted in testing God's skill as a doctor, and must proceed cautiously to my duty.  How to do, was the all-absorbing question of my mind.  I finally concluded that I would do like unto a carpenter when he knows he has the elements to contend with and desires to cover an old house with new shingles.  If he takes the shingles ail off at once, he exposes all that is in the house to rain, hail, or what may be in the elements.  A wise carpenter would take off a few at a time, and cover what he bad exposed before proceeding further.

    I knew it would not do to take the shingles of hope (medicine) off the afflicted all at once.  I felt that such a move with my knowledge of cause and effect would be calamitous.  Soon I met a case of flux, and being a physician and familiar with the remedies for such disease, such questions as these arose: What was God's remedy?  Has God a drug-store?  Does he use sedatives for flux?  Does be use sweating-powders, such as Dover's and so forth?  Does be use astringents?  Does be use alcohol in any form in prostration, and if he does, what does he use it for?  And why is it one dies with flux and another gets well after having used the same remedies?  Would our dead patient have lived bad we kept our drugs out of him?  Did the convalescent have the power to resist both disease and drugs?  You may answer the question, I cannot.  One is dead, the other alive, and that is all I know about it; and my brother councilman expresses the same feeling, and says, "I do not know."

    When all remedies seemed to fail in my first case of flux, I felt I had done my duty and no censure would follow in case of death.  Myself and council had agreed that this case was bound to die.

    Without any instruction or text-book to be governed by, I concluded to take one shingle off of the spinal cord and see if I could not put a new one in its place that would do better.  To my great surprise I found the flux stopped at once.  That shingle contained all the opium, whiskey, and quinide that God thought necessary to cure flux.  That shingle took the pain out, the fever off, and stopped the discharge from the bowels, and my confidence in drugs was very badly shaken then and there.

    I soon had opportunities to treat many more cases of flux, all of which recovered without the use of any drug that was recommended by our standard authorities, which convinced me that the laws of God are trustworthy when thoroughly understood.  By investigation I was led to a better understanding of the cause of flux, and that flux was an effect that could be traced to a cause in the spinal cord or other nerves, and the remedy should be addressed to cause and not the effect.

    I felt proud to be able to say to the people that I could throw all the known remedies for flux out of the window, and give them a reliable and demonstrative substitute that I found on a prescription written by the hand of the Infinite.

    I kept up this method of removing old and putting on new shingles until the house was entirely covered.

    I have written this bit of history for the express purpose of warning all students of Osteopathy against the danger of breaking down when they have a difficult case, and sending for some drug doctor and asking him to
do that which they cannot, because they do not know what set of nerves are disturbed by pressure, and are made to assert that what they have said about the power of nature to cure is false, or else they do not understand their business.  There are some Osteopaths out in the field, trying to treat Osteopathically, and yet have a drug doctor running around with them.  If one will examine their work he will find such persons feeble in Osteopathic knowledge, with less than one year in school previous to the time of offering their services to the people.  You are apt to find on their cards such and such M. D.'s in our office, with a great long apology for our ignorance, and say we do thus and so to please the people.

    Every drug tolerated by an Osteopath in a disease will shake the confidence of your most intelligent patients, and cause them to always take your words, skill, and ability at a great discount.  I would advise you to bathe your beads long and often in the rivers of divine confidence, and pray God to take care of you with other weak-minded people, who pretend to know that which they have not studied.

    Rely on your anatomy, physiology, and rub your heads, or deny the perfection of God and intelligence, and say, I am only Osteopathy in one pocket and pills in the other, and none in my head.  Much more could be written on this line, but I have said enough to warn you against being a kite-tail to any system of drugs which is your most deadly enemy.  A doctor will use you for what money he can get out of you.  Osteopathy is now legalized in four states, and you do not have to compromise your profession nor your dignity by associating with anything.  Your opportunities from the American School of Osteopathy to master the science are good, your foundation is solid.  I want you to come back with heads up, and on your return I want you to say, "I have transacted my business as the institution teaches me, without the aid or assistance of any medical doctor, either before or behind me.  I have proven that the laws of the Infinite are all-sufficient when properly administered."

    When you are out in the field the medical doctors will sail around you like buzzards do over a sick cow, pick your eyes out, and fill their pockets from your labor, and that is all the use they have for you.