An Interview with Dr. William Esser

by Daniel Lilienfeld

I sure do hope you all enjoy this. Dr. Esser has written various health articles and essays (most published in Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review) and one book, The Dictionary Of Natural Foods.

For 50 years, Dr. Esser operated Esser's Hygienic Ranch. Before he retired, Dr. Esser supervised an estimated 25-30,000 fasts.

Dr. Esser passed away in his sleep in 2002 at the age of 91. -- Daniel

Quoting from Dr. William Esser:

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1911. I lived in Pittsburgh until my teens. The environment, of course, was smoky in those days. A lot of mill work and so on which continued up until 1945 but we moved out to the country in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and so we weren't quite as subject to the pollution. Had a nice place there, grew our own things.

My parents were, at that time, living hygienic lives according to the writings of Bernarr McFadden and Father Kneipp, the 'water cure' and that sort of thing. So we were brought up (I had two sisters), the three of us were brought up quite well in those days without any type of medications, without any inoculations.

In my entire life I have never had an inoculation, which in itself is rather a miracle--society being the way it is. And it was early days of course, diet wasn't quite as we would have it be today but we had lots of fruits and vegetables of our own so that was very good.

My original pursuits were not in this direction. But, at the time that I had to make up my mind about studying something--from the professional standpoint--those were the depression years so we had to consider something that would earn us a living and still be wholesome and constructive. So I studied Naturopathy. Got my degree and so on....

From that point on, of course, it opened the way to the continuation of natural living. I had my first practice in Pittsburgh. An office practice which, of course, was difficult. Unless you are practicing using modalities, using some form of treatments or adjustments--ie, Naturopathy treatments cover a wide field of adjustments, manipulations, physiotherapy and so on, but being a Natural Hygienist, and practicing according to Dr. Shelton's principles, we didn't use any of those things.

So after a patient would come in two or three times and we would just talk and advise and instruct they felt they were not getting their money's worth unless they had a treatment of some kind. So I was starving in those days. [chuckles] Which was perhaps fitting in consideration of my philosophy. [chuckles again]

There was a school for Naturopathy at that time in New York City. Dr. Benedict Lust was an M.D. but he came from Europe, from Germany and introduced Naturopathy to the U.S. and had the first school of Naturopathy. He was a good man and a good teacher and even though I did not follow through with the total naturopathic practice, in the sense of using all the different modalities, it was still a good course. A good fundamental course in all the basic sciences and so on plus the hygiene.

From there I opened my practice in Pittsburgh and then following that I realized that the only way to really have satisfaction with patients--because, well, after 2 or 3 treatments, well, they wanted to go because nothing was being done.[smiles] You know they were learning a great deal if they listened...

So I decided it was necessary to open an establishment where I could have them stay, where they could fast, where they could be fed properly and so on for a period of time until they overcame their illnesses and so forth. So I temporarily had a place in Pittsburgh where I would have them stay.

I moved to Connecticut for a short period of time and then I changed to South Carolina where I had a plantation which I leased. There I really got down to business and had a good practice. After a number of years, well, that was in '46 when I opened there and then in '49 I moved to Florida here. Where I've been the rest of the time.[ponders 50 years]

I am very satisfied.[that smile again]

My turning point occurred even while I was going to school and I became friends with Dr. Shelton and he had a great deal to do in forming my philosophy and my opinions about fasting and the care of individuals and recognizing that the healing is done by the body and nothing else, no supplemental thing.

The body did the healing.

And of course, under a fasting program it did the healing more rapidly, more efficiently, more effectively. And then following that, of course, the natural diet of fruits and vegetables, the raw foods, of course, were the important things.

So the results that we had, they carried out the truth in that matter. And, of course, we've had cases, as every doctor has, that haven't neccasarily responded but not because of the form of care but because of the disreputable conditions of the human body after it has been abused and subjected to conventional life and living for many years which is a destructive thing.

So these cases which have gone too far or have developed chronic illnesses that are not reversable as a result of the damage that is done to the organs, to the liver, to the kidneys, to the vital organs, the respiratory system, the heart and all--once it has gone too far on a destructive course it frequently has not the where with all to restore itself. So we do as well as we can, or rather the body does as well as it can under these circumstances and hopefully can still bring about a certain degree of restoration--if it hasn't gone to the end it always has possibilities.

It really hasn't changed here very much. Of course our philosophy and principles haven't changed. Anyway, we've made improvements. We've endeavored to update some of our accommodations and so on to a certain degree. It still isn't what we would like to have because we do still try to sustain rates that are bearable for people. In fact, we have the most reasonable rates in the country.

Because of that we haven't been able to create lavish [chuckle] accommodations and things that we might add if we were charging a lot of money. But I've always felt there are so many people that need the program and can't afford a great deal so we do the best we can in that regard.

As far as our set up and so on, people who come back who have been here 30 years or so before say "It's like home. It looks the same as it did when I was here before." And they appreciate that because our grounds are the same. The only difference is the fact that our surroundings outside the ranch are different and are more built up.

People coming in these days need a lot of instruction, a lot of advice, a lot of care and understanding. Because people do come in with neurological problems and mental and emotional problems which are the normal, natural result of the complexities of living today. In some directions we see great possibilities for the future. We see organic culture, that is gardening and so on, coming to the fore. These foods are more available for people if they want them.

But, on the other hand, the complexities of modern living--with all the drugs on the market and all the things like aspartame and that sort of thing which is used obliviously. People are oblivious of the dangers of these things and the effect that they have on the nervous system, the emotions and so on. It's unbelievable!

But it's the end result of conventional living as it is today. And the lack of--well, the power of the so-called medical science and what it has done to make these things all seem desirable. As well as the programs of innoculation that are now becoming--unfortunatly to the point that they are hoping to make all of them compulsory, that everyone is cataloged and checked from childhood to the death bed and that is frightening in my opinion.

Because if these things are taken over by the government and part of everybody's life then it is a sad business. Individuals simply won't be able to then live a normal healthy life. I find many many cases are much more complicated these days. More people with immune deficiencies that are manifested in various ways and actually a lot of young people at the age of 25 or 30 are caught up in these situations and their potentials are spent at a younger age.

It's very difficult for them to pick themselves up and bring themselves around to a stage of healthy existence. Things like A.I.D.S. and many other illnesses that are cataloged in a certain way--they are all part of that immune deficiency situation which is a body that is so totally depleted and with organic breakdowns and so on that it's almost impossible to restore that health. But we still feel that Natural Hygiene offers them more hope than any other procedure.

I have lots of hobbies but very little time for them. Excepting when I'm closed during the summer months and then, of course, I travel a bit and do some of these hobbies; book collecting, photography, and I have a lot of interest in collecting things that have nothing to do with my profession.

Mainly I'm a bibliomaniac and I do a lot of book collecting and I have some nice books, first editions and so on. I don't know how many books I have. I do know it's more than I have room for. Probably 10-15,000 maybe. They're not all related to health, though. I have one of the best collections available in so far as books from the 19th century and so on and some earlier than that.

The early writings of Sylvester Graham and Dr. Isaac Jennings and Trall and all the way up to -- well, I haven't been doing too much collecting in that regard of late because I had all the ones deemed worthwhile for the most part. And the others, like writers like Mark Twain, Chesterton, Tolstoy, Shaw and things of that sort. I can show you some time.

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