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


  • Lecture in the College Hall, Monday, January 14th, 1895
  • Introduction
  • God is God
  • The Osteopath an Electrician
  • Diphtheria
  • Bright's Disease
  • An Illustration
  • The Age of Osteopathy
  • The Children of Life and Death
    GOOD-Morning; I am from Virginia, and shall introduce myself by saying, How are you?  I am not very well myself, but in spite of that little drawback will talk to you for a short time.  As I said, I'm from Virginia, but I came West at an early day, and
am practically a Western man.

    My father was a minister, in one sense a missionary, and I've said prayers one-half mile long (as long as the longest chapter in the Bible), said those prayers as I walked between the plow-handles that a lapse of memory in that direction might not result in a strapping from my father.  Those were the days of small things.  My father's salary the first year was the mugnificent sum of $6. Think of it, ye Beechers and Talmages, with your costly tabernacles and your salaries rising high in the thousands!

Our schools were of a crude Western nature, and one paper to a family was a big thing.  While I was at school in Tennessee, the editor of the Holston Journal, a paper in which my father was interested, came to our house one evening, bearing every appearance of a man physically tired out, and exclaimed:

    "Well, after laboring all day we have succeeded in getting out one hundred and sixty papers" (four pages 16x2O inches).

    Today, such is the rapidity with which our great printing presses operate, that with ease about 680,000 copies are struck off in a day.  But so accustomed are we to the magnitude of the results obtained in this day that we fail to appreciate the greatness of our age.

    Nothing looks large to us now.  In the past a spoonful of castor oil assumed enormous proportions; today it does not, for it is seldom seen, and is in use only among the stupid.

    But I will not assail the medical doctors.  Some of them have come and placed themselves among us, and when a man sweats in agony over a lost cause (even fears being kicked out of the lunatic asylum) it would be ungenerous to dwell on his defeat.  Between you and me, as far as the lunatic asylum is concerned, I would as soon go to a sausage mill as to one.

    Homeopathy has reduced the dose in drugs, and in the same ratio has allopathy found it possible to get along with less of those deadly articles.  Every step that drops even one grain of drugs develops mind that sees more Deity, and less drugs.

    It has been said to me: "If you should die now, your children would have much to be proud of." But I say, if I die now, put an extra shovel of dirt on my grave for the things I have failed to accomplish, but if I die in eighteen months from now, cast off the added amount for the now discoveries I hope to make in this science by that time.

    This is an informal school taught at my request for your benefit.  If you make one subject complete, it will take all your brains.  This subject is, Man, know thyself; if you do it in five years you will do better than I did in thirty-five.  Years ago I dug one skeleton after another out of the sand-heaps of the Indian burial grounds and studied them until I was familiar with the use and structure of every bone in the human system.  From this I went on to the study of muscles, ligaments, tissues, arteries, etc.  It has been my life-work, and yet there are things for me to learn.  You are admitted to the school now as an accommodation because we did not know that this building would be ready for occupancy at the promised time.  You see one little lie always
calls for more to cover it up.

    Do not think your payment of five hundred dollars will make me happy; such is not, the case.  I would far rather have a much-needed rest than all your money; but since you are here, I will teach you all I can.  You will enter upon new fields of learning, but do not think for a moment that after your two or three months of class work you will be shoved into the operating rooms.  That is a procedure in which I have been bitten.  Before entering the operating rooms you must make a grade of 90, on a scale of 100, in anatomy.  To admit you there sooner would be to connive your ruin, to make you marvelous, to send you out in the world to make money, to make you think that Solomon's head would be too small to fill your hat.

    Motion begins in the human foetus at about four and one-half months after conception.  Activity of the Osteopath begins at about the same date.

    After one year in school, you will arrive at the stage where, without proper guidance, you are likely to take a hammer to a looking-glass.  At the end of eighteen months, provided you have gone out into the world, you reach the point where you are anxious to see "Pap."

    In two years you just learn that steam blows up, but do not know how to control it.  It is a privilege for you to begin now, and not my desire.  Take heed that you improve your present opportunity for gaining the bread of Osteopathic knowledge from headquarters.  You may be called on to dispense it in Europe, Asia, and other distant points of the globe.  See to it that your supply is of the right kind.  An Osteopath asks no favors of drugs.  If you go out to your patient accompanied by a physician and allow him to suggest various medicines, then you have disgraced your diploma.

    Either God is God, or He is not.  Osteopathy is God's law, and whoever can improve on God's law is superior to God Himself.  Osteopathy opens your eyes to see and see clearly; it covers all phases of disease and is the law that keeps life in motion.

    As an electrician controls electric currents, so an Osteopath controls life currents and revives suspended forces.

    To turn on the blaze of an incandescent light, would you make a hypodermic injection into the wire?  Would you give a dose of belladonna or apply cocaine?  A thousand times no, yet such procedure would be no more ridiculous than pouring those things into man, who is but a machine.  If you take the course wisely, study to understand bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood supply, and everything pertaining to the human engine, and if your work be well done, you will have it under perfect control.  You will find when diphtheria is raging and its victims dying, at the rate of one hundred and fourteen per day -- as was the case at Red Wing, where my son is located -- that by playing along the lines of sensation, motion, and nutrition, if you do not play ignorantly, you will win the reward due your intelligence, and lose not a. single case.  You will also meet that terror to the ordinary physician -- Bright's disease.  Let me make an illustration along that line, by comparing the progressions in kidney disease to the different stages of milk.  Place milk in a pan, it is simply milk and represents the kidneys in natural working order; leave the milk a little longer, until it is old, then it corresponds to diabetes; leave it until it rots, and you have Bright's disease.

    Even here you will not experience defeat, for with your accurate knowledge of the human machinery you will not only know, but meet all its requirements; and so it will be all along the line of surgery, obstetrics, and general diseases.  If success does not attend your efforts, it is not the fault of this science, whose working is exact, but of yourself.

    You who make this your life work will go out into the world as representatives of the only exact method of hearing.  You will be recognized as graduates of a legally incorporated school, and will never know the ridicule, the obloquy, the contempt that
was heaped on myself when I first tried to make known this beautiful truth.

    No preacher will pray for you, as one possessed of a devil; no innocent children will fly from your presence in fear of one spoken of as a lunatic.  No, your fate will not be my fate, for my untiring efforts placed this science and its exponents upon a footing to command the respect and admiration of the world.

    Osteopathy today in a greater or less degree is the subject for discussion in all North America, in all English-speaking nations, and all nations that speak their own tongue as intelligent people.  When Europe thinks she has discovered a new remedy for disease -- say of the lungs, brain, or any other part of the human body -- all North America knows it just as quick as science and electricity can bring the news to us.  When North America has made a discovery the European nations know all
about its merits because we are of their blood.  To be an Englishman, German, Scotchman, Frenchman, or of any other educated nation is to expect intellectual progress.  It may be that the whole masses are not Galileos, Wasbingtons, nor Lincolns, but now and then a Fulton, a Clay, a Grant, an Edison arises, or some unchained mind moves against tradition, with unerring philosophy.

    It is our fortune at this time to raise our beads above the muddy water far enough to have a glimpse of the law that we choose to call the Divine law.  That law we use in healing.  We have traced it by reason, by philosophy, under the microscope, in the light and in the dark; and we hear a response.  That response is so intelligent, its answer is so correct that a man is forced to believe there is knowledge behind it.  We have houses much larger than this all over the civilized world.  People congregate there every seventh day in the week for some purpose.  Ask them why they assemble there every Sabbath, and their answer is: " To speak of, or give a token of respect to, the Creator of all things, or that intelligence commonly known as God."

    Now since I have given you the size of Osteopathy at the present day on the globe, I will give you a contrast.  If I am a speaker at all I want to prove it by comparison.  I want to show you just how large Osteopathy was in the world twenty-two years ago.

    One man, who has the reputation of being the finest mechanic possibly in the whole State of Missouri, said to me then: "I wish you would go and see my wife."  I went with the gentleman.  I felt very timid, because I didn't know how little sense he had, nor how much.  I had seen a glimpse of what I considered the very candle of God Himself, lighted and sustained by the oil of reason.

    The speaker said: " Now, Mr. Harris, if you will arise I will show this people just the size of Osteopathy then." (Mr.  Harris appeared on the platform).  If you examine this man, and are a philosopher, you will see in him a mechanic.  And if you are a doubting Thomas, just take your old shot gun to him, and he will put it in order and prove his skill.  This is the gentleman who first said, "Plant that truth right here." He was Osteopathy's first advocate in Kirksville.

    I said, after a long conversation with him: "Mr.  Harris, let me ask you one question: Why is it, in your judgment, that people are so loth to believe a truth?" He said: "Dr. Still, in my opinion a man dreads that which he does not comprehend." That was his answer twenty-two years ago, and that is the reason Osteopathy is not accepted by the masses and is not adopted by every man and woman of intelligence today.  A man dreads to give up his old boots for fear the new ones will pinch his feet.  We have gone from generation to generation imitating the habits of our ancestors.

    I am as independent as a wolf when he knows the dog got the strychnine.  The reason why I am independent is that when I see the deltoid or any other muscle in position and working in conformity to the laws, I feel able through Osteopathy to look at Saturn as a small corpuscle of blood in the body of the great universe.  When I look at the earth, and the moon, and take the solar system, I find that the directing Mind has numbered every corpuscle in the solar system, and each one of them comes on time -- no mistakes.

    Whenever you see a man who is afraid of a comet, you find a man who is ignorant on that very point.  Do you suppose God Himself is going to allow one of His planets to get drunk and butt its brains out against this earth?  Hasn't He counted the space for every planet to sail in?  Are we following the old Grecian ideas of two thousand years ago -- that the sun is making noodle soup out of comets for supper?  I want to tell you that I worship a respectable, intelligent, and mathematical God.  He knows whether the earth is going too fast or not.  He didn't ask your papers to publish that He had better push the earth a little faster to let that comet go by.  None of His children disobey, get drunk, or lose their minds.  I make this assertion from the confidence I have in the absolute mathematical power of the Universal Architect.  I have the same confidence in His exactness and ability to make, arm, and equip the human machine so it will run from the cradle to the grave.  He armed and equipped it with everything necessary for the whole journey of life to a man threescore and ten years.

    The minister has often said: "And it pleased God to take the dear child."  It didn't do any such thing.  It pleases God when He makes the child that it dies in the service for which He made him.  When He creates a man He doesn't create him to fertilize the ground while still a babe.  He brings him into existence to live on and on, and endows him with sense plentiful enough to suffice for all his demands, and he is expected to use it.

    We take up Osteopathy.  How old is it?  Give me the age of God and I will give you the age of Osteopathy.  It is the law of mind, matter, and motion.

    When four of my family were attacked with that dread disease, cerebro-spinal meningitis, I called in a number of the most learned medical doctors of the land, gave them full power to fight the enemy as they chose; to use any and every means to capture the enemy's flag and put him to flight.  When the doctors gave the command to "charge," I looked to see the disease run up the white flag, but the smoke was dense, and the cannons ceased to fire on both sides.  When the smoke cleared away, the enemy had all our flags, and all the children captives; the doctors joined the procession of mourners, and said: "Death is the rule, recovery the exception."

    At the close of that memorable combat between sickness and health, life and death, I gave the generals of drugs a belt of my purest love.  If men ever fought honestly and earnestly, till all fell in the ditches, I believe they did.  They wept not as Alexander, who had conquered and had no more to do; but they had met an enemy whose steel was far superior to their own.  With me they wept, and said: "We have no steel worthy of this or any great or small engagements."

    From that hour until the present, I have seen the ability of nature to do her work, if we do our part in conformity with the laws of life.

    Since we stacked arms to the relentless weapons of disease, a new thought has been my companion for years, by day and night, and after this manner: That disease is the culmination of effect, and its cause lies in the choice of birth.  If to be a child of
misery, it sought conception from the womb of the sensory nerves; if to be of great stupidity, its conception and birth must be of the motor nerves.  The first child is neuralgia of all forms, and cries with pain.  The second child is paralysis of all forms; it is stupidity and death.  To produce death of either child, you must disgorge the womb before motion develops the child to maturity; if not it may be a deadly enemy to life and motion.  All of which you diplomats of Osteopathy know full well how to
do, and give nature the ascendancy.