History of Fasting

Theory of Fasting

The Technic Of Fasting

The Hygiene Of The Fast

Natural Therapy



Dr. Tanner died of sheer old age in 1919 at San Diego. It is a sad resection upon those who should have felt the obligation, that the last days of this gentle but firm-principled man should have been spent in the County Hospital. The author had been absent abroad for nearly four years and had lost touch with the doctor, only to discover on her return to this country after his death the facts as here recorded. Eighty-eight years of existence, forty-two of which were devoted to the advancement of that method of healing by which his own life had been saved and prolonged, and devoted as well to teaching others the natural way to health, with what far reaching effects none of us may ever know! In that he advocated and practiced fasting and other natural therapeutic measures for the long space of forty-two years, and that he was first to attract public attention to the possibilities of the fast as a curative means, to Dr. Henry S. Tanner is justly entitled the first place among the pioneers of therapeutic fasting.

Just about the time that Dr. Tanner in Minneapolis discovered for himself the worth of abstinence from food as a therapeutic measure, another medical physician in Meadville, Pennsylvania, by what may be called pure accident, was given a revelation of the power of nature in disease along lines similar to the Tanner experience. Wonder is occasioned at the coincidence in time and in circumstance. Dr. Tanner says definitely that his first trial of the fast was a personal and experimental one, and that he began his initial experience on the 17th day of July, 1877. Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey, on page 48 of his True Science of Living, states: " On a hot day in July, 1877, I entered a home to assume charge of a case of typhoid fever that was to arouse every possible faculty as by an electric charge." The doctor began to treat this case in orthodox medical manner, and in order to support strength and vital power, from the medical viewpoint it was his duty to enforce feeding. But, fortunately for the patient and for the future of scientific fasting in disease, every dose of drugs or of food, every drink of water, was instantly rejected by the stomach, and this condition persisted for over three weeks. In this connection Dr. Dewey remarks: "I was a very surprised physician, for, even without food, I found the tongue cleaning and a manifest gain in both mental and physical strength that became even marked at the time, when, to my continued surprise, food might be borne. I, however, determined to let nature continue to have her way, and from the end of the third week I watched, without trying enforced feeding, until the thirty-fourth day, when my patient, with natural hunger in evidence, began to eat and to rebuild with ultimate return to normal vigor.

"Here," he continues, "was an object lesson:

"(1) Vital power supported without food.

"(2) Mental and physical strength increasing with the decline of symptoms.

"(3) A cure without the aid of remedies, and one that was eminently complete in every way.

"(4) No unusual wasting of the body."

In later years, when relating his early experiences in connection with fasting in disease, Dr. Dewey, both in conversation and in writing, dwelt at great length upon the complete reversal of personal opinion and belief which the conditions and the outcome of this case produced. He gives in detail in his several books the results of this change of thought, and the tale is as interesting as is one of adventure or romance, for it led this man into life-long advocacy and practice of a method diametrically opposed to that for which he had been trained, and which he had theretofore made his profession. It also brought to him controversy, ridicule, and persecution.

He who becomes a renegade from an established creed is more than likely to find himself an outcast from the society of believers in that creed. And Dr. Dewey, once launched upon a course which he deemed that of the truth, proved no exception to the common fate. His medical confreres at first dubbed him eccentric--even crazy. And it was not long before his presence in consultation and in professional assemblage was no more desired. In fact, the local medical society requested his resignation as a member of its body. But Dr. Dewey possessed among other sterling qualities, courage, and he never wavered, but sturdily and steadily continued in his chosen path until recognition of his discovery and of his teachings was forced, first upon his clientele, and then upon his colleagues, by the results which his methods obtained.

Dr. Dewey is perhaps best known to the world as the strenuous advocate of the "No Breakfast Plan", and his book with this title has circled the globe. But his other works, notably The True Science of Living, well bear careful reading, even though in the light of later and more scientific investigation discovery, his theory and practice of the fast leave many things to be supplied.

It is not, however, the purpose of the author to write in criticism of the work of the pioneers in the art and science of physiatrics, for it is sufficient that these men first made exposition of present-day natural practice, later to be developed and elaborated by their disciples. And it is also to be remembered that, as is the destiny of every pioneer, they proved no exception to the rule, and were reviled and persecuted exquisitely by those who should have supported their investigations, those who should have worked out with them the possibilities of their discoveries. Intrenched authority invariably escapes ridicule and persecution, since in most instances it is individually devoid of acumen and initiative, and is smugly content to dwell within the vicious thrall of orthodoxy.

Dr. Dewey was born at Wayland, Pennsylvania, in May, 1839. In the late fifties he entered thc employ of a local druggist, and he spent two years dispensing remedies and absorbing pharmaecopoeial lore. He says for himself that at that time he came into contact with all kinds of physicians and with all kinds of "isms" in medical practice, and that the prescription counter is a wonderful revelator of the literary and scientific attainments of the medical profession, yet it fails to account for the relative degree of success of men who are without the slightest shade of scientific conception of the action of a remedy or of its indicated need as revealed by symptoms. He further says that his drugstore experience led to a slowly developing conviction that, as an adaptation of means to an end, the administration of drugs for the cure of disease is one of the most unscientific of human vocations. It is evident that this conviction did not then become an entity in the doctor's mind, for it did not deter him from going. ahead with those studies that finally brought him to the College of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Michigan. From this college he was graduated in 1864 with a medical degree, and almost immediately we find him as an acting assistant surgeon in the army of the United States on duty at a field hospital at Chattanooga, Tennessee. When discharged at the close of the war, the doctor chose Meadville, Pennsylvania, as his field of labor, and in the autumn of 1866 he became a general practitioner in that small city, then numbering about ten thousand souls. Here for eleven years he followed the paths of orthodoxy, still with that slowly developing conviction disturbing his professional thought, until, as has been related, in 1877 sudden light was given and his conviction, now confirmed, became the guiding principle of the remainder of his life.

Thenceforth Dr. Dewey was eminently successful in a practice based upon causing his patients to abstain from food for periods short or long; upon inaugurating the no-breakfast plan; and upon impressing upon his followers in illness and in health the beneficent effects of fresh air, pure water, and sunshine. But, as has been indicated, there was much in the fundamentals of his method that needed revision, and he was lamentably lacking, as was Dr. Tanner, in perceiving that prompt and efficient auxiliary hygienic means must constantly be employed while the extreme process of elimination occasioned by a fast is in progress. He repudiated the use of the enema or internal bath, and preferred and insisted upon waiting upon the bowels to act "naturally", as he termed it. In later years, when the writer enrolled as a student with Dr. Dewey, her own thought led her first to suggest and then to remonstrate upon this and other vital omissions in procedure, and at one time only her friendship for her preceptor prevented a break in relations. It was not until a few months before Dr. Dewey died that he partially acknowledged his error in these respects and deplored the fact that he had continually advised against the use of the enema, which he had finally come to recognize as the most essential of hygienic accessories connected with a scientifically conducted fast.

The physiology of abstinence from food for the prevention and relief of disease as determined by Dr. Dewey and published to the world in his books is beyond all doubt correct. But the doctor was much astray in the hygiene necessary to the successful issue of therapeutic fasting. Accepting neither the eliminative assistance of the enema nor that of daily cleansing the surface of the body, he ignored as well the dietetic requisites, both preparatory and subsequent to the total abstinence interval. And as to diet in health, the doctor exhibited the common failing of the medical profession, which then as now seems to consider food merely as fuel for the body, with but little regard for its digestibility or its nutritive content.

Dr. Dewey died from paralysis, a condition that arose solely from error in personal dietary. He conscientiously observed the "no breakfast plan," which he advised for others, but food values, food adaptability, food combination, all were ignored in the two daily meals he permitted himself. Meats and fish, eggs and milk, breads and pastries, with comparatively few vegetables in combination, and these mostly of the starchier kinds, formed his food supply. What wonder that hardened veins, high blood pressure, and ultimate paralysis developed!

Dr. Dewey suffered his first stroke of apoplexy on March 28, 1904. For sixteen days he fasted and gradual improvement took place, so much so, that in several months he again became active in his profession. At that time the author was most desirous that the doctor accept her proved conclusions concerning the internal bath and the dietary essential when a fast is broken. But to no avail, and her warning went for a time unheeded, until untoward symptoms again arising, Dr. Dewey consented to close his practice and to come to Minneapolis there to be under the care and direction of his erstwhile pupil. He was delayed in departure, and a second paralytic seizure occurred on December 10, 1904, resulting in his death on the 21st of the same month.

In personal contact with Dr. Dewey and in a voluminous correspondence he ever dwelt with great inspiration and broad vision upon what he called "New Gospel of Health", emphasizing at all times the thought that the lesson he was endeavoring to impart was one that applied to every human ill. He said so often that he wanted me clearly to see, as he did, the divine hand in cure through an evolution in reverse. By this he meant that disease in the structural changes involved is a matter of nature's own work--just as clearly as in those structural changes by which the body was originally developed. And he further added that the cure of disease is but an analogous process in reverse of its cause. This reasoning is clear and logical, and its conclusions are truth.

Dr. Dewey is dead, but his work lives, and, because his was a mind of system and of science, the foundation he laid for the new gospel of health, which nevertheless is the oldest of hygienic truths because it is nature's own system of law, will stand for all time. Natural therapy owes to Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey both recognition and honor as the first scientifically able pioneer in the field of therapeutic fasting.

Since the remainder of the chapter in hand deals with the personal work of the author, she will, it is hoped, be pardoned for speaking in the first person.

My work in natural therapy dates back nearly thirty years, to July, 1898, to be exact. As did Dr. Tanner, I arrived at my preliminary knowledge by way of illness. My girlhood, which was spent in the lake region of Minnesota, was given over to a healthful, athletic life, filled with every sort of outdoor exercise and work. My mother, who never touched animal food in her life, possessed a knowledge of dietetic combinations and of cookery, which was purely instinctive, since there were no opportunities cast her way for its acquirement. In consequence the family table was supplied mostly with food vegetarian in character. My father, who was of similar habit and belief, unfortunately at about the time I was seven years old, so far compromised with his principles as to employ a medical physician upon a yearly basis to care for the family health. This physician was convinced, as were the majority of his profession at that day, that all children harbored intestinal parasites, and that periodic doses of some vermifuge were essential. Therefore I, in company with my brothers and sisters, was given some blue mass pills, a strong mercurial preparation. I now allow, what of course I could not then suspect, that this powerful poison did irreparable injury to my intestines, retarding and preventing their development and growth to such degree that even to this day I am compelled to resort to the enema daily.

After the blue mass experience, for a long time I was never well. No diet, however carefully chosen, agreed with me, and life thereafter during the rest of my childhood and well into young womanhood became a dreary search for health. In this search I learned much of what was then taught concerning dietetics both from orthodox and unorthodox sources, but no permanent relief was ever vouchsafed me until in 1898 I heard of the work and the remarkable successes of Dr. Dewey. As a result of the inspiration I thus received, with some trepidation I attempted a fast, and went four days without food. A little later I dared still more and tried fasting for one whole week, with benefits that were so pronounced that whatever reservations I may have felt vanished completely. Since then I have fasted many times, and, when necessary, for longer periods. And I attribute the robust health which now is mine as well as the comparatively lengthy span of years I have attained to the practice of what I preach, to the taking of my own medicine.

Shortly after I began to take practical interest in fasting I made the acquaintance of Dr. Dewey, and at his invitation I placed myself under his tutelage. I was then studying osteopathy, but, after a term spent under the instruction of Dr. Dewey, and with my own fasting experience to guide me, I became convinced that osteopathy alone was not the panacea its advocates claimed, but I believed, as I still believe, that in conjunction with other remedial measures, among which dieting and fasting are of most import, its therapeutic value might be greatly increased. And I have found this so.

In Minneapolis, where I first located, my early practice proved a struggling one, but gradually I had the satisfaction of seeing it grow steadily and surely, for the results that accrued from my then rather drastic application of the complete fast were such as to surprise Dr. Dewey as well as myself. Cases pronounced incurable by medical physicians recovered under the regimen I imposed, and the symptoms presented ranged from chronic constipation, diabetes, Bright's disease, and syphilis to paralysis. Called to the Pacific Coast in 1906, I decided there to remain, and in the summer of that year I opened offices in Seattle. Soon after this I began to encounter organized persecution from medical sources, aided by newspapers controlled by the profession. Such deaths as occurred under my care received the widest publicity, and the accounts written concerning them were distorted and filled with implication, innuendo, and threat. These articles eventually accomplished the end sought by their authors, for in 1912 I was brought to trial charged with having wilfully caused the death of an English woman patient through starvation.

A jury divided amongst itself, but urged to decision by a prejudiced judge and by public sentiment inflamed by a public press, determined that my crime was that of manslaughter, and I was thereupon sentenced to a minimum term of two years in the penitentiary. I served these years day by day in anguish of body and of mind, until finally the then Governor of Washington became convinced of my innocence and of the monstrous injustice that had been done, and he granted to me an unconditional pardon, restoring all of the rights and privileges which by reason of my conviction I had forfeited.

In 1916, shortly after my pardon was granted, I was called to New Zealand to take charge of the case of a friend, and I spent nearly four years in that country, every day of the time devoted to a large and successful practice. But home ties and home duties brought me back to the home land, and here I continue the work with bettered surroundings, increased facilities, and with perspective and concept broadened by experiences to which those of my predecessors and contemporaries compare as mere bagatelles.

Because of my intimate association with Dr. Dewey in the early years of my work, because he deemed me a practitioner worthy of his confidence during his last hours, and because I have developed to the utmost his theory and his art, I do not think that I can be denied my place with him and with Dr. Tanner as a pioneer in the therapeusis of the fast.

There are others, physicians as well as laymen, to whom is due recognition as pioneers in furthering the fast as a remedial measure. Among these must be mentioned Charles C. Haskell, now deceased, also a writer and issuer of books, who was friend of Dr. Dewey and his publisher as well; Lloyd Jones, head of the firm of H. I. Jones & Son, Ltd., book dealers and publishers, of Wanganui, New Zealand, whose personal advocacy, writings and publications have done so much to spread the new gospel of health throughout Australia and the South Seas; and the late Dr. C. E. Page of Boston. All of these are entitled to place and honor for their untiring efforts in support of the doctrine promulgated in the pages of the text.

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