From drug medication as a therapeutic system, to the observance of intelligent hygienic regulation is a great advance. It leads away from the artificial toward the natural, and from the experimental and empirical to that which is logically in accord with the constitution of man. Hygiene cooperates with the beneficent forces of nature instead of repressing or opposing them, and employs prevention, thereby in large measure displacing the necessity of cure. It operates through ascertained law, and so far as that is understood becomes logically scientific.
But may not another and yet more subtle force be recognized as an important part of our equipment which may be brought to bear against abnormal conditions? Modern investigation is inclined to delve deeply in order to discover hidden principles and deal with primary causation. A further and inner extension of hygienic effort is clearly in order. It has been conventionally assumed that the human constitution was a fixed quantity and quality to be dealt with only by some change or improvement in external conditions and physical adaptation. But a pertinent question is suggested: Can that supposed fixture or human ego be so modified in itself as to come into different relations with its own physical instrument? In other words, if man himself is not a mere material mechanism, but rather an intelligent ego and unseen entity, may not some beneficent change take place on his part with a view to a more complete control of the outer organism? Does even the most efficient patching-up of the latter include all that can be done to improve the relation between the two?
It has been abundantly proved that anger changes the secretions; that fear deranges the circulation and impoverishes the blood; that anxiety wastes the nervous energy; and that selfishness, pessimism and immoral thought sap the vitality. These, and many other things, make it evident that nothing in man is fixed, and that the subjective realm is a promising field for new observation and effort. Now consider how many inharmonious and disorderly elements come daily into the average mind and consciousness. All these, even if not acute and outwardly noticeable, are constantly causing friction in the physical organism. The body, or external expression in quality, is a result and correspondence of the average mental status which is behind it. The process being very complex and gradual, renders it somewhat difficult to trace the direct connection.
It follows, that if discordant mental conditions admittedly pull down physical tissue, high, harmonious and optimistic thinking ought to build it up. In other words, mental positives should have even more power for good, than careless and unwitting negatives in the other direction. The question now comes in regard to the practicability of a change in the quality of one's thinking and the cultivation of a higher consciousness. Well established psychological law proves that habits of thought may be formed as readily as physical habits. As a matter of fact, the former are all there are, for so-called physical habits are but resultant expressions of what is back of them.
The practicable means to be employed to lift one's thinking is mainly through systematic concentration upon well chosen ideals that one wishes to actualize externally. It is idle to claim that one cannot gradually change his nearest neighbors, which consist of the mental pictures which are the continual product of the imaging faculty. The mind is not only constantly adding to its gallery of art, but it is also taking on the color and quality of the particular works upon which its gaze is most earnestly fixed. By natural law, the tendency of the physical organism is to articulate and externalize them. Nothing is more certain than their molding influence. Shall then these nearest of neighbors be harmony, health, soundness, sanity, love, courage and optimism or their negative opposites? We choose them, and they mold us.
We are souls having bodies, and not bodies having souls. The latter idea indexes our gross, even though unwitting, materialism. Man is higher than his visible instrument or embodiment, and should continually affirm his rule. It is his legitimate kingdom. He may cultivate a growing sense of spiritual supremacy, increasingly dominate physical sensation, and by degrees free himself from its tyranny.
Hygiene, to be truly comprehensive and scientific, must begin to concern itself with the cleanness of mind as well as body, and with the ventilation of the thought-atmosphere as well as the air of the apartment. Bad mental pictures must be classed with sewer-gas and pessimism rated like malaria. Idealism and optimism must take their place among sanitary agencies, and man utilize his hitherto slumbering resources and focalize his thought-forces. Vitality can be increased from within. All this is exceedingly simple when the working of the law is intelligently grasped. It involves no nonsense, superstition, denial of matter or anything else that is unreasonable. It does not disparage physical hygiene, but is friendly and cooperative.