Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
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.
Normal and Abnormal
Nerves and Veins
How Often to Treat
Do Not Bruise the Muscles
The Battery and Engine
Beware of the Buzzards
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
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
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.