History of Fasting

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But the outcome of Dr. Tanner's experiment was so surprising and so successful from the therapeutic viewpoint that Dr. Moyer was unable to remain silent, and he told a few of his friends, among whom was a reporter of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. This virtually necessitated a public statement of the facts, which called wide-spread attention to Dr. Tanner, and newspapers throughout the country were soon publishing articles and interviews, many of which attempted to throw doubt upon the doctor's veracity. Medical men especially, almost to a man, when questioned upon the subject, stated that such a fast was a physical impossibility, and medical journals published such statements as scientific facts.

These attacks upon Dr. Tanner's probity he believed were likely to affect his professional reputation, and he thereupon determined to speak for himself. This he did through the columns of the Pioneer Press in an article iterating what has been related, together with other announcements and arguments that need not here be quoted.

For some time after publication of this communication considerable interest was shown, especially in the Middle West, upon the subject of fasting, not, however, because of its therapeutic possibilities, but because of the doubt that a human being might emulate the Christ and perform in the flesh a miracle. For Christ's fast of forty days and nights was then as now by orthodox believers numbered among miraculous events.

Dr. Tanner went further than this in later years, and, as he says in a letter to the author of date February 23, 1912: "My second fast, publicly given, was called the 'Great American Sensation', and its novel incidents were wired to the ends of the telegraphic world. My advisers planned for me wisely. My object was not money, but to relieve myself of the odium unjustly heaped upon me by the medical enemies of all righteousness. Right triumphed, and the very javelins of hate hurled at me, in their recoil held up the medical profession to the derision of the world. Every prediction of failure was nullified, and I came off conqueror and more than conqueror, in spite of the medical Goliaths arrayed against truth."

This statement was made by Dr. Tanner thirty-two years after he underwent his famous second fast in the City of New York. The fast began on June 28,1880, and ended at noon, August 6,1880, full forty days.

To go into the controversies that this public demonstration occasioned would be futile here. It is sufficient to say that Dr. Tanner successfully vindicated his cause, and that he proved his contention that mere man might refrain from eating for forty days and still live. In addition, he showed that the physical state of his body was materially improved by his experience, and that the therapeutic value of abstinence from food was an established fact. As a result of this test Dr. Tanner's name became a household word, and to this day in works not allied at all to the subject references are met with the good old doctor as their theme.

Dr. Henry S. Tanner was born in England in 1831. He died in San Diego, California, in comparative obscurity in 1919. Eighty-eight years of life, most of which was devoted to contending with the orthodox members of his profession! Yet he never lost his mental poise nor his well developed sense of humor. Nor did he ever descend to the meannesses of petty controversy, although outspoken to the end. Throughout his practice, and he was always actively engaged in the work of his profession, he decried the use of drugs, depending entirely upon natural therapy. When his purse was full, his funds were at the disposal of those in need, and his whole personality was one that carried with it and expressed the Golden Rule.

Dr. Tanner, from 1877 on, employed the fast in his practice. He slightly antedates Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey in this regard, but he did not, as did Dr. Dewey, make of his knowledge the basis of a cult, the foundation of a school.

When in 1911 the author was persecuted by the political members of the orthodox branch of medicine, and was accused of having caused the death of one of her fasting patients by starvation, Dr. Tanner rose to the occasion, as evidenced in the following letter: "Our local papers have published matter in regard to you professionally. As I am the father of fasting, I'm an interested party in your welfare. If I can be of service, command me, and to the extent of my ability to help, I will cheerfully respond."

One could not ask for more than this, yet Dr. Tanner did more. Testimony from witnesses not directly connected with the case was barred at the trial by a prejudiced judge, so it was not possible to take advantage of the doctor's offer at this time. But later, while the case was pending in the higher courts, Doctor Tanner came to Seattle, and he and the author appeared many times jointly on the platform to the great good of the cause of therapeutic fasting. He was then eighty-one years of age and in possession of all of his faculties, save that he was slightly deaf. Upon his return to Los Angeles, where he then made his home, he continued practicing "natural methods" under medical license.

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