Naturism

The two key empirics who reinvented the nature cure were Arnold Rikli, who opened his 'sanatorium' in the Swiss mountains at Veldes in the 1870s, and Adolf Just, author of the mystic Return to Nature (1896), who opened Jungborn in the Austrian Harz Mountains in the 1880s. Both took their cue from Priess-nitzian hydropathy but took it a step further. They preferred patients to take their baths naked and exposed to the elements: Adolf Just even revived the eighteenth-century vitalist earth bath (being buried up to the neck). At Veldes patients lived in 'air huts' (three wooden walls with an open front) on the shore of a lake, and sunbathed on two large platforms, naked except for modesty aprons and protected with smoked sunglasses and straw hats. Veldes was so successful that Rikli had to open another, winter establishment where patients could outdo each other in their endurance of snow and cold air.57 But the huge popular success of the nature cure came with the charitable, or free, regime devised by the celebrated Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-97) at Worishofen in the Austrian Alps in the 1890s.58 The thoroughly vitalist and Priessnitzian Kneipp sent his patients and followers out for strenuous walks and swims in the mountains wearing minimal loose hygienic clothing, such as 'Father Kneipp Swimming Trousers' or the Reformed (porous) vests, shirts, and shorts invented by Dr Gustav Jaeger and promoted by Just, but preferably wearing nothing at all—he disapproved of clothes. Kneipp also invented the 'dew bath' (walking with bare feet over dewy wet grass, wet stones, or even fresh snow), and insisted on the 'vitality' of bare feet.59 Heavily popularized in the press, the naked air bath movement spread rapidly throughout Germany via societies for natural methods of healing and living, which encouraged municipal councils to set up public air baths in grassland enclosures on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by very high board fences. Photographs show naked brass band rehearsals and newspaper-reading, as well as bowling, turning, and gymnastics. Amateur sunbathing at the end of the century required professional instructions as grave and careful as any eighteenth-century balneologist:

Sun baths should not be confounded with air baths, for they are essentially different types of baths. If the body is kept exposed in the open air to the action of the sun's rays, the bath becomes a sunlight bath. It is well known that the energy of light rays is beneficial to the human system... The position of the body should be frequently changed so as to expose it on all sides. The duration of the sun bath should not exceed 20 to 30 minutes, at the end of which usually free perspiration has set in. After the bath one should take a full water bath of 90 to 95 Fahr., and finish up with friction rubbing Modifications of the air bath, which require but brief mention, are...the 'genuine rain bath', i.e. walking in air-bath costume during a rainstorm, which is only intended for those with strong constitutions; the earth, sand, and moor baths; and finally the snow bath... One may either roll in the snow outside, or else gather a pail of it, bring it into the room and rub the body with the soft and warm snow.60

By 1900 the mountain-top air bath movement had become one of main convalescent techniques of turn-of-the-century mainstream medicine—the super-hygienic tuberculosis sanatorium, architecturally designed with the emphasis on the open-air life and sunlight baths, with the nature cure as a model.61 But a Kneipp enthusiast, Benedict Lust, took naturism into the twentieth century by amalgamating the essential elements of the nature cure and changing its name, opening his American School of Naturopathy in New York in 1901, and founding the Naturopathic Society of America in 1902. In Lust's Naturopath and Herald of Health magazine, artificial modern drugs were unutterable poisons and the higher moral goal of naturopathy was 'ideal living' or complete wellness: 'Massive muscle, Surging Blood, Tingling Nerve, Zestful Digestion, Superb Sex, Beautiful Body, Sublime Thought, Pulsating Power'.62 Kneippism was represented in Britain by the brief Nature Cure Annual of 1907-8, but had quickly spread along the grapevine among 'the more enlightened of the Bohemian class', including the beard-and-sandals vegetarian socialism of Bernard Shaw and members of the Fabian Society and their 'set'; or the artistic 'Pagan' students and their set, who swam and sunbathed naked on the Cambridge backs. Many were proud to call themselves 'neo-pagans' at the end of the century (though not many were as vehemently antiChristian as the hardy hiker Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, 1844-1900).63 But the simple natural life—simplicity de luxe— also attracted such millionaire Nonconformists as the Reformed food manufacturer Dr Harvey Kellogg; or the Liverpool soap manufacturer Lord Leverhulme, who slept in a specially designed open-air bedroom containing little else but a simple iron bed and an enormous marble bath.64

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