A chat with the Master: Evil spirits and Aphorism 148
(DISCLAIMER! No dreams, drugs or hyperphysical means were actually used or abused in the writing of this article!)
After spending perhaps too much time studying opium, I had an extremely vivid dream. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was sitting in front of me, in the flesh! (well, it was a dream). He was smoking his pipe – when I asked him to stop, he looked meaningfully at the cappuccino which had materialized in front of me, and I understood that we would just have to tolerate each others’ bad habits. Dr. Hahnemann leaned back in his chair, puffing vigorously, and said: “I know you have questions. This is your chance, young lady!” (I was about to correct him but thought – he is after all over 200 years old…)
“Do you mind,” I asked tentatively, “if I ask you some questions about Aphorism 148? The “evil spirit” bit has always bothered me, makes disease sound like a superstitious, evil-eye kind of experience.”
“Foolish woman!” he exploded. “Have you never heard of metaphor? Simile? Do you people not know anything about writing? I was trained in the classic writings of the Greeks, in the art of using metaphor. For goodness’ sake!” He sat back, twitching slightly in his armchair, trying to calm himself, inadvertently dropping tobacco ash on his smoking jacket. “If I wanted to call disease an evil spirit, don’t you think I would have said it directly? I don’t hesitate to call those idiot allopaths idiots do I?”
“So what exactly did you mean?” I persisted in the face of his wrath, after all, faint heart never won fair answers…
“I meant it’s like an evil spirit,” he responded impatiently, “like a torturer, forcing the organism to produce symptoms. Isn’t that what disease feels like? Like being tortured to produce something you don’t want? You don’t want to cough, vomit, endure unbearable headaches do you? This is metaphor, young lady, kindly remember I’m a medical doctor, not a shaman-priest…”
At this he seemed to relax somewhat, even smiled to himself, apparently reminiscing about something amusing. I understood that he had been forced (or tortured…) to explain this point so many times it had moved from the ridiculous to the sublime.
“So…” I continued, taking advantage of the lull in Dr. Hahnemann’s irascibility, “when you say “spirit-like” you mean…”
The impatience returned. The lull was short-lived. The master slammed his hand on the table, causing a further avalanche of tobacco… “When I say “spirit-like”, he exclaimed, “you have to look at what I wrote in note 1 to Aphorism 31!”
He sat back and quoted from memory: “When I call a disease a derangement of man’s state of health, I am far from wishing thereby to give a hyperphysical explanation of the internal nature of disease… diseases are not and cannot be… mechanical or chemical alterations of material substance of the body, and [are] not dependant on a material morbific substance, … they are merely spirit-like (conceptual) dynamic derangements of the life..”
I checked quickly with Prof. Google. Yup, “hyperphysical” means supernatural…
I couldn’t leave it alone. I had to be sure. “So by “spirit-like – conceptual”, I continued, “you mean non-mechanical, non-chemical? Conceptual as in something that cannot be seen, touched?”
“I repeat,” he said somewhat disdainfully, “spirit-like – conceptual. Why is it so difficult for people to understand? Why can’t they just read what I wrote instead of twisting it into some spiritual hogwash?”
“Pah!” He spluttered in disgust. “The most spiritual thing about aphorism 148 is the bit about the roasted pigeons…”
“Well,” he said impatiently, “carry on, carry on… I know you have more questions.”
Well, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I carved up Aphorism 148 much like the proverbial roasted pigeon, dissecting it with questions till I felt sure I had no more questions to ask.
Dr. Hahnemann was surprisingly patient – but it was my dream after all.
When I woke, to my great surprise, the whole dream was summarized in my horrible handwriting. There were a few lines scribbled at the bottom – but they didn’t seem to be connected to anything…
” In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea. “
Anyway, here it is:
§ 148 Sixth Edition
VR: Dr. Hahnemann, please tell me: Can the natural disease ever be considered to be from a noxious material in the organism? Some material that has to be removed?
Dr. Hahnemann: The natural disease is never to be considered as a noxious material situated somewhere within the interior or exterior of man …
VR: So what causes the natural disease?
Dr. Hahnemann: … an inimical spirit-like (conceptual) agency
VR: What’s this agency like?
Dr. Hahnemann:… like a kind of infection
VR: What does it do?
Dr. Hahnemann:….[it compels the organism] to produce certain ailments and disorders in the regular course of its life. These are known as symptoms (disease). [In addition, it not only causes but strives to continue this disorder].
VR: What happens if this inimical, infection-like agency is removed?
Dr. Hahnemann: [If it’s removed homoeopathically], the influence of the original noxious morbid agent on the life principle is lost during the action of this stronger similar artificial disease. Thence the evil no longer exists for the life principle – it is destroyed
VR: How fast does it work?
Dr. Hahnemann:… the acute natural disease which is to be overruled if recently developed, will disappear imperceptibly in a few hours.
VR: How fast does it work in cases of chronic disease?
Dr. Hahnemann: An older, more chronic disease will yield somewhat later together with all traces of discomfort
VR: In chronic disease, does the remedy have to be repeated or changed?
Dr. Hahnemann: [It will need]… the use of several doses of the same more highly potentized remedy, or after careful selection, of one or another more similar homoeopathic medicine.
VR: What can we expect after giving homoeopathic treatment?
Dr. Hahnemann: Health, recovery, follow in imperceptible, often rapid transitions. The life principle is freed again and capable of resuming the life of the organism in health as before and strength returns.
VR: Are all the excellent books on homoeopathy enough to find the best homoeopathic remedy for the disease?
Dr. Hahnemann: [No, it] still demands the study of the original sources themselves
VR: Anything else?
Dr. Hahnemann:... a great amount of circumspection and serious deliberation
VR: How would you describe the way the gentlemen you call “the new mongrel sect” of homoeopathists practice?
Dr. Hahnemann:… when the unsuitable remedy does not immediately give relief, in place of laying the blame on their unpardonable ignorance and laxity in performing the most and important and serious of all human affairs, ascribe it to homoeopathy, which they accuse of great imperfection
VR: What do roasted pigeons have to do with anything?
Dr. Hahnemann:…if the truth be told, [homoeopathy’s] imperfection consists in this, that the most suitable homoeopathic remedy for each morbid condition does not spontaneously fly into their mouths like roasted pigeons, without any trouble on their own part
VR: Hmm… what else do they use in their practice? Is it true they use leeches and bleedings?
Dr. Hahnemann:... They …make up for the inefficiency of the scarcely half homoeopathic remedy by the employment of allopathic means, that come much more handy to them, among which one or more dozens of leeches applied to the affected part, or little harmless venesections to the extent of eight ounces, and so forth, play an important part…
VR: How do they explain it if their patients actually recover? Do they credit homoeopathy or the leeches?
Dr. Hahnemann:… they extol their venesections, leeches, etc., alleging that, had it not been for these, the patient would not have been pulled through
VR: And if the patients die?
Dr. Hahnemann:… if the patient die under the treatment, as not unfrequently happens, they seek to console the friends by saying that “they themselves were witnesses that everything conceivable had been done for the lamented deceased”