All are aware that the primary definition of the term, disease, is simply "a lack of ease." But this gives a very inadequate idea of its significance as it is usually employed. A lack is only a negative condition, and does not involve any positive and objective entity. But words are only the labels for ideas. If the proper meaning of a term has been superseded in the mind and consciousness by something quite different, the latter is what it really stands for.
Disease, as a term, carries the idea of an intangible but very real enemy which comes from without and seizes hold of its victim. In varying degree, it is regarded as a malignant adversary, from no one knows where, with which we are obliged to grapple. Its appearance is largely a matter of chance or luck. Like an armed enemy, it springs out of ambush and makes an attack more or less disastrous.
While it is true that unhygienic antecedents are increasingly recognized, it yet remains that they cut but a small figure to the average man. And still worse, mental antecedents practically mean nothing. Conventionally, disease is nothing less than an implacable foe. Who sends it, and where does it come from? Nobody knows exactly, and the "profession" is often as much in the dark as the laity. Take an epidemic of grip. When it gets ready, it comes. Palace and hovel alike suffer. Be the weather dry or damp, balmy or severe, it apparently makes little difference. Its selection of victims to ordinary observation is fatalistic. But our sensory equipment tells us that it is very uncomfortable and we want to be rid of the sensation. Doctor and drugs are summoned to fight off the intruder.
We suggest a proposition so strongly in another direction that to many it will seem, not only paradoxical but absurd. Disease is provisionally and educationally good. This does not in the least mean that it is ideally good, or to be sought. Bear the distinction in mind. But when it is actually in evidence, it in some way has been invited, and its mission, if understood, is beneficent. We give it an evil character, and thereby—to us—it is made malignant. We clothe it with a wicked mask to our own consciousness, and this intensifies it actually and physically. If we were aware that we were dealing with a messenger, which though corrective and disciplinary was normal and kind, three fourths of its bitterness would at once vanish. Both fear and antagonism multiply its pains, while concordant vibration therewith fulfills its purpose and its departure soon follows.
Let us try to re-define disease. It is simply the friction caused by the surge of divine and recuperative forces to repair our mistakes. These forces are always working in the right direction. Should they then be aided or thwarted? A fever is a quickened effort of these internal energies to remove obstructions. If a physician by material means tries to force down the temperature towards the “normal" he is fighting nature's quickened effort to repair a condition. He would change the weather by a manipulation of the thermometer.
Disease is the burning out of the “wood hay and stubble" which we unwittingly have built into our structure. Its mission is to purify, and this is true, not only of the body, but of thought and consciousness. It is an educator and refiner, but we look at our ugly picture of it and refuse to learn its lessons. No person ever will have the grip unless he unwittingly have some grip fuel accumulated all ready to be ignited. So of every other man-made subdivision of "disease." Moreover, unfriendly germs are positively innocuous unless a congenial soil has been already prepared.
The saving forces should be encouraged rather than discouraged. Even if an .offending organ be called bad and weak, this state of thought toward it intensifies the condition. "I have a bad stomach." The more you put that quality upon it, the more it will put your estimate of it into expression. This is not sentiment or conjecture but positive law. To affirm goodness of our members is like a lubricant to machinery.
The inner and real man is all the time trying to express himself more freely through the outer organism, but is repressed by crudeness, materialism and opacity. As light shines through glass so the soul and spirit should shine through its responsive though cruder instrument.
Can any individual immediately realize these ideals in their fullness? No! because we are all in some degree of evolutionary lock-step with present environment. But we may work toward them. We violate law upon the spiritual, psychical or physical plane—or all of them—and then complain of the kindly penalty which inherently comes to arouse and free us from ourselves. We then look about for a "scapegoat," and find one either in “Providence," chance or contagion. Let us cease the creation and multiplication of evil, disease and abnormity, for they are all man-made. They are negative educational experiences during the process of the evolution of the spiritual self. Our knowledge, especially of ourselves, is yet but partial, and we learn even though slowly through mistakes. The moral order is perfect and beneficent. To regard it otherwise, and to make it unfriendly by our thought, is like shutting out the light at noonday organism is the nearest objective. The sensory equipment makes all that is within this boundary intense, and practically, it is often congested. In this small area, the average man lives, moves and has his apparent being. Indeed, he often identifies it with the ego itself. It seems a kind of little world while all beyond is remote. The next larger unit is the family. Around this area is a deeply marked boundary. Still larger circles enclose, respectively, the neighborhood, club, church, union, order, town, city, party, state, section and nation. The latter, in the present evolutionary state is about the largest unit that has definite lodgment in the consciousness of today. Patriotism is good but still closely limited. But many fail to reach even so far as that, and find it difficult to spread their conscious interest beyond their section or political party. Outside of this, all is feeble and indistinct. Humanity at large seems like a loose aggregation and has little apparent solidarity. Perspective is lacking and petty things hide the larger objective.