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


  • Lecture Delivered in Memorial Hall, March 12, 1895
  • A Mature Woman
  • What is Man?
  • The Unknowable
  • Life Is a Mystery
  • The Pace We Go
  • The Machinery to Work With
    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: -- I am here tonight at your request, to answer before the court that tries a man and gives a just decision -- where each man is a juror and decides for himself, where each lady sits as jurist -- whose conclusions are filed away for herself, family, and her friends.  A woman can live an active life for forty-five or fifty years.  Then she is looked
upon as a mature woman, from whom her neighbors seek counsel.  She will go to church, to state-houses, political and national holiday gatherings for the purpose of picking up a few crumbs of knowledge, to bring back and impart to her children, grandchildren, her husband, neighbors, and friends.

    Allow me, in the introduction of the subject of Osteopathy, to tell you I am proud all over.  I don't, know why nature or nature's God opened one of my eyes to see a small corner of His work.  Over twenty years I have stood in the courts of God as an attorney.  I have questioned and cross-questioned, and directed my questions positively on all parts of this subject that I desired to investigate.  The questions that I asked myself were about the following: "Have I a mind capable of comprehending or solving by my force of philosophy the great question 'What is man?"' You remember that I spoke then as a man whose mouth would not be closed through fear.  That question " What is man?" covers all the questions embraced in the universe -- all questions, none left, " Who is God?" " What is life?," " What is death?" " What is sound?" " What is love?" " What is hatred?" Any individual one of these wonders can be found in that great combination, Man.  Is anything left?  Nothing.  Do you find any principle in heaven, on earth, in mind, in matter or motion, that is not represented by kind and quality in man's make-up?  You find the representation of the planets of heaven in man.  You find the action of those heavenly bodies represented in yours. You find in miniature mind controlling the power of motion.  You find in reason that it is the result of a conclusion backed by the ability known as the power of knowledge.  And when the machine was constructed it was given the power of locomotion, self-preservation, all the passions of all the beasts of the field, and all the aspirations of God Himself in kind.  All these qualities you find in man.  The same qualities you find in a more refined condition in woman, she being the sensitive part of the whole make-up of the human race.  She is a finer principle than man.  She is sensory, man motor.  He is motor, she is intellectual.

    Let me suggest that in the human make-up, we find the motor nerves driving the blood from the heart by the arteries throughout the body to all extremities, and returning it through the veins.  Therefore when you find in the make-up of man the motor, or the father principle, you will also find the other or mother part, in the return of the blood to the heart, where it is sent out again for the battle of life.

    I am talking to you as though you were Osteopaths of many years' experience, and who, having placed your hand on the side of Christ and found the scar, have no further doubts.  I am placed in a rather embarrassing position, and hesitate whether to throw a bombshell at you or to just simply fire a smaller ball; or like the Baptist preacher, fire a shotgun and bit more places.  But you needn't look for a howitzer from me tonight.

    When I looked up the subject and tried to acquaint myself with the works of God, or the unknowable as some call Him, Jehovah as another class say, or as the Shawnee Indian calls Him, the great Illnoywa Tapamala-qua, which signifies the life and mind of the living God, I wanted some part that my mind could comprehend.  I began to study what part I should take up first to investigate the truths of nature, and place them down as scientific facts.  Where will I begin?  That is the question.  What will I take?  How is the best way?  I found that one of my hands was enough for me all the days of my life.  Take the hand of a man, the heart, the lung, or the whole combination, and it runs to the unknowable.  I wanted to be one of the Knowables.

    The first discovery I made was this: every single individual stroke of God came to me as the unknowable.  The stroke of death -- what do you know about this?  I know nothing, therefore it is unknowable.  I began to study and experiment.  By accident I got started.  I removed growths from the human neck, called goitre.  The goitre disappeared in a few hours.  The philosophy to me was doubtful or unknowable.  A great deal of it is yet.  I tried flux.  It stopped.  I thought I commanded
it to stop.  I made a certain move and it stopped itself, and that law is absolutely unknowable to me yet.  I found headache.  What is headache?  That was also to me unknowable.  I found fevers; I found the reverse of that.  I did not know what it was.  I will give you an example.  You take hold of this incandescent light as it now stands at about 800, and as I turn the battery on you have then about 1600.  You turn it off and it is dead.  We have the motor principle, or the positive, coming forward and bringing the elements necessary to life.  We will destroy tbat -- the positive -- and let the mother principle take charge of it.  What does she do?  She clears up the rubbish in the house every morning, when the man goes out.  She takes the dirt out in less time than her husband brings it in.  So the temperature is brought back to its original 80, a change of 800.  How that result is obtained leaves me again in the unknowables.

    What is electricity?  I don't know anything about it.  I can only show you what it will do.  In the human make-up you have one of the most absolute and thoroughly constructed systems, wired from the very ground you stand on to the top of your head.  Every department has its wires and telegraph-poles, and it has millions of them over your body, each and every one being just where they should be -- one for the heart, one for the eye, one for the quilts that cover the eye.  Old Mother Nature says, "Spread a quilt there," and down goes your eyelid.  There is your quilt.  You see in there the mother standing.  You see the philosophy of the father and mother principles of the veins and arteries, by their actions and results.  When we take up principles, we get down to nature.

    It is ever willing and self-caring, self-feedidg and self-protecting.  One would say: "What does all this signify?  Why are you making such a fuss?  Why are you talking about those divine laws?  Are you going to baptize us?  Are you going to pass the hat around?"

    We have made a mistake and kept it up for a thousand years, according to history.  We have tried to meet and ward off effects which we call disease by the effect of something we do not comprehend.  When we are sick we take poisons, and plenty of them; the kind and quality that are deadly in their tendency; and not only that, but they are durable.  It is said that a dose of sulphur taken today is found by analysis in the body sixty days afterward.  How long do their effects last?  They may stay sixty or seventy years.  When I was a boy I had some poison put in my arm, which they called virus.  How long has that been in my body?  It has been there through several sieges of smallpox; therefore the effect is endless.  When I was about fourteen years old I was salivated.  I took several doses of calomel.  It loosened my teeth.  Today I am using part of a set of store teeth, because I lived in a day and generation when people had no more intelligence than to make cinnabar of my jaw-bone.

    Most of you are strangers, and a great many would like for me to get down to the minutia.  What is your Osteopathy good for?  It has proven itself good to stop croup.  In measles and in flux it never fails.  When a patient is dead we don't treat him.  Take it in any reasonable time, in case of flux, and it has proven itself absolutely certain.  It has not lost a case of diphtheria when it commenced within a few hours of its beginning.  It has never lost a case of whooping-cough.  Neither has it wrestled
with it over three days.  Is that of any account to you people who sit up eight or ten weeks watching your children whoop and cough?  It has absolute control over the nervous system, of the lungs, and if there is no pocket or cavity made in them, I believe the law is absolute, because it opens the veins, carrying the refuse away, and the arteries build it up again, and your cough stops.

    Headache -- that is very little bother to you people that have it two or three days at a time.  Who but an Osteopath can tell you what headache is?  Mr. Dunglison, will you please explain to the people what headache is?  "Headache is a peculiar condition, either with cold or hot temperature of the head, with an increased or diminished flow of blood.  I would suggest a copious vomit."  Here is your definition of headache by Dunglison.  And how much wiser are you for it?  Go to an Osteopath: "What makes the brain hurt?" He will answer you: "What makes a pig squeal, a calf bawl, a child cry when it is hungry?" You have a cold condition of the head.  The cerebral arteries are not supplying the brain with nutriment.  Therefore it gets very hungry, and miserably hungry too.  When the veins assisted by the motor nerves, or those that convey blood in its circulation,
become obstructed, pain follows, which is the effect -- headache.

    Dr. Sullivan, you have been a plumber for many years; suppose you would find at some point the water was not conducted to the next wash-bowl.  You would say there was break or dent in the pipe, wouldn't you?  How would you like it if I were to call you up and say: "Sullivan, what is the matter with the pipe? it don't let the water pass through.  I can't get any water out of  it."  Would you say, while you stood with the dignity of a doctor: "There is something peculiarly wrong.  It is probably organic disease of the heart.  However, I think that an injection of morphine possibly would be of some benefit."  That is about the sense you are answered with when you pay your money to a doctor for advice.

    The finer the plumber, the better he is prepared to judge of his business.  So it is with an Osteopath. Let me ask you another question, Dr. Sullivan: "Is not Osteopathy a system parallel, yet high above, but on the same principle as the plumber's work?"

    "Yes, sir."

    Nature's God, in constructing that house, proved Himself to be the finest plumber known by any person or philosopher.  What do you think of it?  Are the wires all in place and ready to do their duty?  I know what your answer will be. You will say: If you will look, you will find every nerve there; you will find nerves, veins, and arteries between each and every rib, between each bone of the back.  You will find that every bone in the human body has a bump to hold up some muscle.  You will find every muscle provided with veins, arteries, and nerves.  You will find there cause for a man to reason, that when they are in their normal position a normal God has declared it is in proper condition for health.

    I have been called a crank.  Who cares for such names as that?  I have been called an ungodly fellow.  Who cares for that?  I can give you two names where you give me one.  I am a long-tongued Scotchman, born with an Irish-man's mouth, and I think I have something of an average eye for observation.  I have observed for thirty years the workings of a long-protected system of stupendous, unpardonable ignorance, criminal ignorance, called allopathy, homeopathy, eclecticism, all of them using drugs without exception.  Why are they criminal?  When I was absent from home one of my children was attacked with fever.  An allopath came in with medicine.  He believed in tonics, sedatives, and many other little things.  What does the eclectic do? He believes in his purgatives, his sweats, his pukes, and his burns; he believes in his hypodermic syringe.  He uses it  and so does the homeopath.

    The allopath comes in and says: "I believe in both of them, only a little more heroically.  Being the highest of the trinity of experimenters, I want to tell you that I mean all of that, with no qualifications.  I mean it unreservedly!"

    When I came back my twelve-year-old boy was taking quinine and whisky.  I asked:

    "What have you in your hand?"

    "Oh, a little quinine."

    "What is in that bottle?"

    "A little whisky; I am going to make a little quinine whisky."

    How long does it take a boy to learn that whisky tastes better without the quinine?  Who started that shower of water from the mother's eyes?  That criminal who prescribed that first drink.  I call it criminal in any man.  You can get drunk and call it holy if you want to.

    Here comes up colic.  A young fellow goes to see his girl.  He is too lazy to make the fire for his mother to fill him up once a week, and he goes out and his Polly fills him up with pie and cake.  He comes home with colic; goes to the pill-doctor, and he pops the syringe into the region of the solar-gastric nerve; -- should I have said pneumogastric?  That makes him easy.  He fills up with crab-apples next time, and he needs another hypodermic.  The first thing you know he uses his own
syringe: you see them out in San Francisco, and all over America.

    "Come along, Tom; let's go and punch our arms."

    They are not going to be worked in that way any more, and pay for it.  Those hypodermic syringes are almost as common as grasshoppers when you go East or West.  What are we tending to?  I saw some dogs fifty years ago, and I never forgot them.  They were above a mill-dam, and the water was running very fast, and their tails kept going down, down, down.  A man said, "Look at those d--d dogs."  Well, I thought if they were not d--d they soon would be and it was but a second until they
were over the dam, and were dead dogs.  That shows if they try to swim across the current so close to the dam, something happens to the dogs; something happens to your boy; something happens to your husband.

    An Osteopath walks out single-handed and alone.  And what does he place his confidence in?  First, on his confidence in the intelligence and immutability of God Himself.   That the strokes of the smoothing-planes of God, the steam boilers constructed by the Divine Being and placed in man here, when unobstructed, act in harmony.  What is harmony but health?  It takes perfect harmony of every nerve, vein, and artery in all parts of the body.  Every muscle that moves has something to make it go.  Instance, what is it that constructs the heart that pushes the blood to all parts of the body?  Why, an Osteopath will tell you it is the work of coronary arteries, which he must know before be treats your heart.

    When I look upon the work of nature it doesn't work for a dollar and a half a day; it works for results only.  God's pay for labor and time is truth, and truth only.  If it takes Him a million years to make a stone as large as a bean, the time and labor are freely given and the work honestly done.  No persuasion whatever will cause that mechanic to swerve from the line of exactness in any case.  Therefore I can trust the principles that I believe are found in the human body.  I find what is necessary for the health, comfort, and happiness of man, the passions, and all else.  Nothing is needed but plain, ordinary nourishment.  We find all the machinery, qualities, and principles that the Divine Mind intended should be in man.  Therefore, let me work with that body, from the brain to the foot.  It is all finished work. and is trustworthy in all its parts.