Origins of the Ranch, Part V

Fascinating techniques on everything from sleep and breathing to chewing foods…

The Professor continues his “breaking down” methods of eliminating disease and toxins from the body, as chronicled by Florence Mahon, a health refugee from England who, along with her friends and Purcell Weaver (the Professor’s translator), was at a retreat run by Szekely on the shores of Lake Elsinore, California, in 1935. The diet and exercise program was very strict…a daunting challenge, but she stuck to it. Ms. Mahon found it extreme at times, but the presence of her daughter helped a great deal. Professor Szekely was also encouraging, patting his guests on the back and (according to Mahon’s account) saying, “Bona!” whenever he noticed “the toxins coming out.” As mentioned before, please note that these methods have not been in use at Rancho La Puerta since its founding…they are of historical interest only, but some still seem intuitively valid today—the Professor’s methods continued to evolve, and by the time The Ranch began in 1940 the focus was mainly on healthy eating and exercise, not deprivation, to rebuild health.

[The following is from “Through the Cure with Professor Szekely” by Florence Mahon.  To read previous installments, see Origins of the Ranch:  Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV]

We experienced many unpleasant things when we were getting rid of our ailments, but these symptoms varied according to the nature of the disease we had. Very little could be done to ease the pain while the new cells were forming….emphasis was put on the fact that it wasn’t possible to cure one thing without cleaning up the whole organism—each organ must work for the good of the totality.

First the organism eliminated the toxins of last year, and then retrogressively back to the first year of our life, so we experienced again the symptoms of old illnesses which introduced toxins into us. It was explained that everyone is born twice—once when he is physically born, and again when he learned the laws of nature. When the process of disintoxication has got back to the condition of birth, it begins to eliminate the toxins our ancestors passed on, so bad heredity can be overcome. If we lead an unnatural life we constantly absorb more toxins than we can eliminate. If we live according to the laws of nature we introduce less toxins and eliminate more

We have now seen that the daily routine covered the needs of the physical and mental well-being of the patient. We will now turn our attention to sleep. During elimination, more sleep is needed. Before sleeping, it was necessary to clear all disturbing thoughts from the mind, for the quality and content of sleep is influenced by the thoughts and sentiments prior to sleep. If we sleep with harmonious thoughts, our sleep is a source of energy, harmony and knowledge. Inharmonious thoughts cause us to wake up tired instead of refreshed.

Having dealt with the procedures of the day, I will clear up one or two points that may have arisen in your mind.

On the question of breakfast. To begin with, we did feel hungry and wanted breakfast badly, but after some weeks of going without, the desire disappeared and never returned. It may have been the fact that we were already understanding that if no breakfast is taken then the organism is able to eliminate toxins during the morning, but if food is taken this process is stopped.

The question of thirst was a problem, for we were always thirsty during the first month or so. The various exercises in water, sun and air lead to deeper breathing, so therefore there was a greater burning up of toxins, and this caused thirst. The way to alleviate this without interfering with the process of burning up the toxins was to gargle, holding the head back as far as possible to allow fresh cold water to trickle down the back of the throat, then gently throwing up the head and ejecting the water. Thirst comes from the throat regions and not from the stomach.

Great importance was attached to mastication. When eating it was necessary to be in a good humour so as to allow the food to digest properly. Also, we found it was not wise to drink too much, for when the organism is digesting a great deal of liquid, it cannot eliminate. More than the right amount of food becomes ferment. We were told to “listen to the voice of our organism” and not to go on eating for the sake of eating. We were encouraged to leave the table feeling we could eat just a little more. Controversy or arguments were prohibited during meals on the grounds that they distract attention from the food and draw blood away from digestion.


We now come to the second part of the cure: that of the “building-up” stage. This was the most exciting period, for not only did we start to put on weight (for we had become very thin) but we began to feel good and take an interest in life once more. While the breaking-down period was very slow and gradual, the building-up did not take so long. It was fascinating to watch the changes come over one—in the texture of the skin, the colour of the eyes, the flexibility of the body, and the clearness of the mind. Our attitude to life was different, fear went, depression, bad feeling—in fact all the unpleasant things that make one ill—went for good, and day by day and every day there was a marked improvement in general health and well-being.

Next month: the joy of tasting bread again…and the mysteries of the “diet chart.”

Origins of the Ranch, Part IV

Purcell Weaver, Professor Edmond Szekely

Purcell Weaver (left) and Professor Edmond Szekely, circa 1940 …

Challenging treatments at Lake Elsinore continue…

In which Florence Mahon, a health refugee from England, and her friends continue their rigorous, ascetic exercise and diet program in search of cures for their various diseases and infirmities. The retreat took place in 1935 on the shore of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, California—an area also attractive for its healing hot springs and year-round warm weather—and was hosted by Purcell Weaver and Edmond Szekely. Five years later Edmond and new bride Deborah opened the first summer health camp at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate; “$17.50 a week. Bring your own tent!” proclaimed the founders. 

[The following is from “Through the Cure with Professor Szekely” by Florence Mahon.  To read previous installments, see Origins of the Ranch:  Part I; Part II; Part III]

After the water exercises [in Lake Elsinore] came land exercises. There were two of them: one standing up with the trunk and arm movement, and the other lying down with an upward leg movement. These were designed by Szekely, and he emphasized that if they were done regularly combined with breathing, other exercises were superfluous. It was recommended to do the lying down exercises direct on the earth so as to get the earth’s radiations.

[Editor’s note: the latest trend in 2013 is known as “Earthing,” which emphasizes direct contact with the earth. Once again, Szekely was 80 years ahead in offering teachings that most spa leaders and guests today consider “new.”)

It was pointed out that all pain was due to an accumulation of morbid matter, so movement and respiration, not rest, were the best way to get rid of it.

The process of alternate sun-bathing, water-bathing, and land exercises went on all through the morning until noon, when we went back to the house to prepare our individual meal. More often than not, I felt that I would never reach the house—which was only a few yards away—for I was so weak.

We each had our own little food cupboard, and we each chose our food from the list of things that were allowed. Purcell used to do all the shopping, so as to keep temptation from us. The midday meal consisted chiefly of fresh fruit, with a very little oat flakes and dried fruits. The total was not more than one pound and a half, which we religiously weighed up every day.

The reason given for having juicy fruits at midday was that the body had absorbed liquid during the morning and that it was now ready for more liquid. The fresh fruit was recommended on the grounds that it was a means of absorbing internally the radiations of the sun, water, air, and earth in an accumulated form. We were advised to chop everything up very small and eat it slowly with a teaspoon from a bowl. We were to chew each mouthful fifty times to allow the saliva to mix with the food. Thus we would get the best possible benefit from the food and at the same time not put too much work on the digestive organs.

The washing-up and cooking problem was solved, as each prepared his own meal. The only crocks we had the whole of the time were a bowl, a knife for chopping up the food, and a teaspoon, and not more than three mixtures were advised, and these were put together in the bowl. On the kitchen wall was a chart of food-values and compatibility, so that at the same time as we prepared our food we were learning a good deal about dietetics. No cooking was done at all during these first three months. We had everything raw.

After lunch, instead of the usual five minutes’ rest, it was a quarter of an hour’s walk, so that the fresh air and bodily movement would make the job of the digestive system easier, and by avoiding congestion we also avoided the usual feeling of wanting to doze.

After the walk we again repeated the procedure of the morning until five p.m., when we came back and prepared supper. By the way, the Professor used to say it takes a quarter of an hour to prepare a meal but you take an hour to eat it.

The evening meal consisted of a salad with not more than three mixtures, for instance, tomatoes, lettuce and root vegetables such as carrots. The proportions were most of the juicy vegetables (tomatoes), less of the leafy, and still less of the root. The root was chopped finely and a dressing was made of finely chopped onion, lemon and oil. A little oat flakes was sprinkled on if wanted, and the whole dish weighed not more than one pound and a half. Less could be taken if desired.

This diet, with the variation of fruits and vegetables, continued for three months. Sour milk was available, but at the time none of us liked it. Again, after the evening meal, we all went out together for a walk by the mountain-side, which usually ended up by a few folk-songs and choruses. Every evening was devoted to lectures of some kind, and a question-book was kept in which we all put down any questions or subject for discussion, and these formed the basis for evening lectures and discussions.

Each of us kept a daily diary, in which we put down our innermost thoughts and feeling and our reaction to the cure and our observations and record of our experiences. By this method Szekely got a good picture of our progress. A regular time allotted each day for mental work was recommended.

We were encouraged to solve problems as they arose; to analyze them, do what we could about them, and then put them out of our mind. Detailed attention was given to put the mind in good order.

We studied Esperanto, for the Professor only spoke a little English. The lectures were given in Esperanto, and Purcell translated. Unless you could speak German or French (I could speak neither), it was up to you to learn Esperanto as quickly as possible.

The importance of mental work was stressed, to keep our minds off ailments, so the evenings were put aside for lectures and discussions. A great field was covered during the whole period—Therapies, Science, Music, Art, and all the subjects that interested the individuals going through the cure.

(Editor’s note: lectures were ALL by the Professor!)

Next month: Depression! But the “building up” period begins…

Origins of the Ranch, Part III

Our story to date:

Rancho La Puerta co-Founder Edmond Szekely, in Tahiti on a scientific health expedition, meets Purcell Weaver in 1934. Weaver, a young Englishman suffering from ill health, solves his health problems under Szekely’s tutelage, and becomes Szekely’s translator. Weaver returns to England to start a “Cosmotherapy” health institute following Szekely’s concepts of natural health and healing, while Szekely travels to Elsinore, California, to establish one of his “health camps.”

In future newsletters, our story will circle back to Tahiti to describe the fateful meeting of Deborah Shainman, born May 3, 1920, and her family with Professor Szekely, also by pure chance. Eventually Szekely, the Shainmans, and Purcell Weaver all find themselves in Tecate in the 1940s, site of Rancho La Puerta.

(Editor’s note: Although Rancho La Puerta today is a fitness resort and spa that does not offer or promote “cures” via fasting, the early experiments of its founder Edmond Szekely were very much aimed at curative measures through his principles of Cosmotherapy, and he heavily influenced some of the regimens still practiced at other health institutes today around the world.)

We rejoin Weaver’s story in the words of Florence Mahon, as chronicled in her memoir “Through the Cure with Professor Szekely.”

[To read Part I, go to Origins of the Ranch Part I]

[To read Part II, go to Origins of the Ranch, Part II]

It was my lucky day when I met Purcell Weaver. The meeting was no ordinary one, for within a week we were on the way to California with five other very sick people. Purcell had been through the cure at Tahiti under the guidance of Professor Szekely, and he was so convinced of its rightness that he decided to find five sick people and take them off to California, where the Professor was on holiday; there they would go through the cure, then come back to England and start a nucleus to convey to the English people the meaning of Cosmotherapy.

On the morning of April 6th, 1935, a motley crew, for, except Purcell, we were all very sick people, set sail for America. From New York we travelled by car, driven by Purcell, across to California. It took eleven days, and, sick as we were, we are able to enjoy the beauties of the mountains and scenery on our journey.

It was a great day for us when we met Szekely. No time was lost; the same evening plans were discussed for our treatment, which would last seven months. An outline of the cure was laid before us, what to expect and how to understand what was happening. To effect a cure would require a complete detoxification of the organism; this could be done by the patient giving 100 per cent co-operation with Szekely. Treatment was not dogmatically laid down beforehand, as it would vary according to the development of the symptoms of each individual during treatment.

The thing that impressed me most was the fact that the nature or name of the disease didn’t count. During the period of my stay, there were cases of infantile paralysis, diabetes, tuberculosis of the lungs, goiter, and many kinds of nervous diseases, all of which responded to the same treatment, generally speaking, though each patient needed individual attention. The main thing was that all disease, whatever its name, was caused through one thing—and that was a toxic condition of the organism (toxic means “poisoned”). The healing system of Cosmotherapy was not content to remove the symptoms which manifested themselves at a given moment, but aimed at renewing the whole body.

The Plan of the Cure

The plan of the cure was in two stages: first the breaking-down period and second the building-up period. The method of the treatment was far different from what I had been used to from previous doctors and hospitals. From the very start, each patient was made to feel that he or she was an important being and that he or she had an important part to play in life. Questions were readily answered and explanations given, no detail was too small. I marveled at the Professor’s patience, for it didn’t matter how much of his time you took, he was always ready to listen and to help and give guidance. Never once did I feel during the whole seven months that I was being a nuisance. Szekely’s diagnosis extended over a period of a few days, by taking note of the patient’s habits, posture, tone of voice, mannerisms, and so on, followed by a chat during which he enquired of one’s problems and interests in life. During this examination, he would encourage you to study your particular subject, and he would help you develop and bring out the best in you. Great importance was attached to the mental activity, as this greatly influenced the physical well-being. While the mind held toxins in the shape of bad thoughts and feelings, it was not possible to bring about good health.

No drugs or medicines were given, and it was explained that these drive toxic wastes deeper in the tissues. The daytime was devoted to the physical part of the cure, while the evenings were set aside for the mental development and activity.

As I mentioned before, the cure was in two stages, the first being the breaking-down period, with which I will now deal.

The Breaking-Down Period

The first three days we were given grape-fruit juice at midday and again in the early evening. The amount for the two meals was the equivalent to three pounds in weight. The fourth day we had nothing at all, and at midday had an enema or wash-out…the weekly wash-outs were continued every Wednesday throughout the cure, and nothing was eaten or drunk on that day.

The daily routine was as follows: On rising, the weight was taken, then followed a cold-water sponge-down. It was California and the water never froze. Then down to the beach by the lake, where sun-bathing, water exercises, and land exercises, combined with breathing, were carried on continuously throughout the day. The length of exposure to sun and length of time on exercises increased as time went on. When sun-bathing, the feet were always towards the sun to allow the sun’s rays to play evenly on all parts of the body and at the same time to keep the top of the head from the sun’s rays. First position was on the back, then front, left and right side, increasing the amount of time each day. The direct contact with the sun radiations was a powerful means of drawing out toxic matter.

After perspiring from the sun bath, it was necessary to go straight into the water to get rid of the sweat and heat. Special exercises were given to do in the water, combined with breathing. The body was thus in contact with the sun, water, earth and air, the circulation was therefore stimulated and the skin helped to function.

Next month: the treatment continues.

Origins of the Ranch, Part II

 Upolu Island, rancho la puerta, tecate, mexico, tahiti, health, wellness, health retreat, spa vacation, destination spa, health spa

Feeling better following Edmond’s Szekely’s health plan, Purcell Weaver begins working for Edmond as a translator in Tahiti…and plans for the future take form.

The following story is from Purcell Weaver’s Preface to Edmond Szekely’s book “Man, Cosmos & Society: A Paneubiotic Synthesis” (The C.W. Daniel Company, Ashington, Rochford, Essex, England; 1936).

Mr. Weaver, a young lawyer from England traveling the South Pacific on a curative vacation, misses a boat home and finds himself in Tahiti, where he meets Edmond Szekely, who advises him on how to recover his strength and vitality through a program of rigorous diet and exercise. (Purcell Weaver is pictured in top row, right.)The results are remarkable, and feeling well again, Mr. Weaver begins a collaboration…

[To read Part I, go to Origins of the Ranch Part 1.]

After two weeks of treatment I felt much better than I had for many years. I woke up fresh in the mornings and ready for mental work—which the Professor provided. On one of my weekly visits to him to report progress I found him busy dictating in French what appeared to be a chapter of a book. When the typist had left, he told me that as he was not permitted to give personal medical advice to the natives who came to him for help, although his treatment was quite gratuitous. He was preparing a practical manual of his therapy for distribution in the island. I walked home late that night with an Anglo-French dictionary in one hand and a bundle of manuscripts in the other. Next morning I started translating and I have been translating ever since. For the manual grew and grew. It arose out of the practical needs of the moment; by the time it was finished it had laid down the foundations of the new natural medicine and the new natural society of the future.

The full titles of the two expeditions directed by Edmond Szekely are the International Cosmotherapeutic Expedition 1930-40 for the Pschophysiological Investigation and Therapeutic Application of the Cosmic, Solar, Terrestrial and Human Radiations between Latitudes 45° North and 30° South and the International Ethnopsychological and Ethnosociological Expedition to the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

His practical work of healing among the natives of Tahiti represented one side of expedition’s activities. At the same time new cosmic, psychotechnical and sociological methods were applied in the field of enthnohistorical research.

[At this point in the introduction, Mr. Weaver details some of Szekely’s theories, then returns to describing the practical effects of a therapy that basically embraced whole, natural foods in a special diet, exercise, detoxification, cautious exposure to sunlight, and a study of the wisdom traditions of ancient cultures–in other words, an abundance of nature and historical common sense/intuition in all its forms.]

When I found that the therapeutic methods worked in practice I decided to abandon the study of law and take up that of the medicine which had served me well. By November I was able to return to England. I arranged with Edmond Szekely that I should spend the winter at home, arrange for the publication of his book and then set out again in the spring to spend the summer with him in California where I might learn for myself how to apply the healing forces of Nature used in cosmotherapy. To do this effectively a supply of patients was essential. We did not wish to have a repetition in America of our difficulties with the medical profession in Tahiti. The simplest plan was that I should find some volunteers in England. This was easier said than done. Not unnaturally, as California is a long way away and there was only myself and no Cosmos, Man and Society to convince people of the excellence of the treatment. December, January and most of February passed and still I had no patients.

One evening I was taken to the theatre by some friends and found myself sitting next to a young woman to whom in the intervals of the piece I confessed my difficulties. She took the matter in hand and within a fortnight had collected half a dozen people besides herself who had the faith and courage to venture to the new world—a new world not only in space, but in ideas.

Next month: On to Elsinore…and Deborah Szekely, who married the Professor at age 17, chronicles how her family first met Edmond Szekely in Tahiti, as well as her childhood adventures there.

Origins of the Ranch

Edmond Szekely
Origins of the Ranch

In which Purcell Weaver, a young English lawyer, journeys to the South Pacific in 1934 seeking a cure for his infirmities, and meets Professor Edmond Szekely for the first time.

The following story is from Purcell Weaver’s Preface to Edmond Szekely’s book “Man, Cosmos & Society: A Paneubiotic Synthesis” (The C.W. Daniel Company, Ashington, Rochford, Essex, England; 1936). Edmond Szekely, along with his wife Deborah, would go on to found Rancho La Puerta in 1940 in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico. But this fateful meeting occurred six years before, and as you shall eventually see in subsequent articles each month, still influences the Ranch’s destiny today…

Early in the year 1934 two expeditions left Europe for the South Sea Islands.

The first, consisting of one sick man and five pieces of luggage, sailed from London on the eleventh of January bound for Samoa. The second, the International Cosmotherapeutic Expedition 1930-40 together with the International Ethnopsychological and Ethnosociological Expedition 1933-35, under the direction of Edmond Szekely, left one month later for the island of Tahiti.

The one sick man was myself. For a considerable period I had been unwell and passed into and out of the hands of a number of physicians, surgeons and even ‘quacks’ who so far from effecting cure, were unable to say with any certainty what was the matter. So I decided to see whether rest, fresh air and the newness of life among people with customs and ideas far different from our own would not succeed where drugs and operations had failed.

In due course I reached Apia, and after a fortnight’s stay in the town where the European residents and officials did everything they could to make my visit a pleasant one, I set off on foot round the island. I took two young Samoans with me as interpreters and carriers of much unnecessary food and baggage. Each night I stayed with some native chief or pastor and saw much of the life and social customs of the islanders. The evening usually ended with a dance or fiafia by the girls and children of the village.

After ten delightful weeks among this unspoilt and unsophisticated people, I had sadly to think of making my way home to England. I had learnt much from the Samoan, but I had not found health.

I was due to sail to San Francisco on the 8th of May, but on the 7th I took to my bed with a bout of fever. Then Providence stepped in. There was a strike in Sydney and the mailboat service between Australia and San Francisco via Tahiti was suspended. A cargo boat was sent to take its place, and contrary to custom called at Apia on its way to the east. I booked a passage on her to Papeete and awoke one morning to see the mountain peaks of Moorea and Tahiti rise from the sea. The next northbound boat was supposed to arrive in ten days’ time, but my plans were again upset. The strike in Sydney persisted and no boat came. This time I was annoyed, even angry, as I was to meet my brother at San Francisco and return to England with him. So after sending a cable to announce my imprisonment in Tahiti, I retired to Tautira in the extreme south of the island. There I met a fellow-countrywoman in the hotel at which I stayed. I remarked that she ate nothing but a little sour milk and a slice of papaya at each meal. She was much bronzed by the sun and despite her meagre fare appeared to be extremely well. She explained to me that she spent three or four hours each day bathing in a stream and in the sun and that she had been advised to do all these things by a foreign doctor who was treating the natives of the island.

She suggested that I should visit him and gave me a note of introduction to the Tahitian friend with whom the Professor was staying just outside Papeete. M. Oscar Haereroaroa received me kindly but explained that the Professor was forbidden by the authorities of the island to give medical advice. He could therefore only talk of medical science in a very general way. Subject to this he would be very pleased to see me. So one evening I walked to the Professor’s house. I was greeted by two fierce Alsatians and a notice which declared that “the Professor sees no one.” Having successfully passed the canine Scylla and Charybdis I was not deterred by mere words and continued down a dark and narrow alley between two walls of bushes to the house. All was in darkness and no one appeared to be at home. I was about to retire when M. Haereroaroa appeared behind me and said that the Professor would not keep me long.

He soon arrived and I was introduced to him. I explained the reason for my visit and asked for general information on his methods of healing. The Professor seemed more interested in other topics and the conversation turned to the political situation in Europe. I began to feel that it was time to go.

Though I did not know it till afterwards, I was at the time suspected of being an ‘agent provocateur’ sent by local intriguers to cause trouble.

When all seemed lost I chanced to utter the names of Karl Marx and Jesus Christ. The Professor thawed at once; the prohibitions of the authorities were forgotten and I was sent away to eat oranges for three days and bidden to return on the morning of the fourth day for diagnosis. I did as I was told—not only for three days but for more than three months. I had to do many things that I had never done before: I fasted, I gave up breakfast, I reduced my ration to two pounds a day, I ate nothing but raw fruits and vegetables, sour milk and a little bread. I did a thousand exercises a day. I bathed for long hours every day in the sun and in the river which flowed down the valley where I lived. I grew extremely thin.

After two weeks of treatment I felt much better than I had for many years. I woke up fresh in the mornings and ready for mental work—which the Professor provided.

Next month: Purcell Weaver begins translating Professor Szekely’s “Man, Cosmos & Society” in Tahiti, and the stage is set for Deborah Szekely’s family to meet the Professor.