The IHM does not endorse all the views of Peter Morrell as stated in this article. However in respect and fairness we felt it necessary to publish his words as written. We are extremely grateful for Peters work regarding homoeopathy.
Health & Disease
Commencing any assessment of the principles of homeopathy one has to consider the notions of health and disease, not only because they are central to medicine in general, but also because the concepts of health and disease in homeopathy are different from these concepts as they exist in common usage in allopathic medicine. Therefore, it is quite an imperative task to explore and discuss at the outset the specific meanings of these concepts as they exist in homeopathy.
For the homeopath, the state we call health is that natural and dynamic attunement of the whole organism in a harmonious state of smoothly coordinated functioning and balance. Health is thus by definition the state of the whole organism, the whole person, mind, body and spirit, and is not simply the absence of sickness symptoms. By contrast, disease is depicted as any state of disharmony and imbalance in the person manifested by signs and symptoms of disorder, imbalance and malfunction, some coarse or gross and others fine and subtle, some physical, some mental. Sickness is again a state or condition of the whole person and should never be conceived of as being confined solely to certain localised symptoms or to a specific cluster of symptoms that have been given a specific name [so-called disease label] or which are conceived of as an invading entity [named disease] that can, for example, affect whole populations in much the same way. These are entirely allopathic notions, rejected by homeopaths. He dismisses as irrelevant “the name of the disease, sought after so blatantly by his contemporaries.” [Haehl, I, 299] He “despises every useless name of a disease.” [Haehl, I, 299]
Homeopathy eschews broad disease labels, but treats each individual as a unique case of sickness. It regards that there are as many diseases as there are patients. It therefore resists any temptation to clump together cases of a similar type or give them a name or treat them with the same drug, such as has become the standard practice in allopathic medicine.
One ineradicable problem with all taxonomic schemes is that to some degree it is “a system of idealised entities…fictions compounded out of observed uniformities…concepts and categories…conditioned by human aims.” [Berlin, 1997, 301] Because all such systems are “a set of formulas, of imaginary entities and mathematical relationships,” [Berlin, 1997, 302] so to the same degree it is always in part a false and abstract system imposed upon raw reality itself, an “artificial construction of our intellect,” [Berlin, 1997, 302] that is not so much found but made. In reality, “nature is not a perfect machine, nor an exquisite organism, nor a rational system,” [Berlin, 1997, 302] it is rather “a savage jungle: science is the art of dealing with it as best we can.” [Berlin, 1997, 302]
By overlooking “that the disease classification is man-made…they assume…that disease entities somehow have an independent existence,” [Wulff et al, 82] which of course they do not. They are human constructs with no more reality than pipe dreams. The “disease classification is still largely a mixture of disease entities defined in anatomical, physiological and microbiological terms,” [Wulff et al, 77] which is indeed “a man-made classification of individual patients.” [Wulff et al, 77] True and natural disease “classifications are not arbitrary but must be moulded on reality as it is.” [Wulff et al, 88] Thus far, these do not exist.
Sickness in homeopathy is always individualised and idiosyncratic and never a pooled entity based on averages of large numbers of people, a population, as is the regular practice in allopathic medicine. Likewise, in homeopathy there can only be one person with one disease and each person presents a unique combination of symptoms; they do not have several diseases residing in the same person. Everything wrong with one person comprises their ‘disease.’ In homeopathy, there are no ‘diseases’ as such, but just ‘sick persons’ as individuals. In homeopathy, it is not valid to consider disease as external to the patient, or driven by external events, but as resident within the individual and driven mostly by internal processes. This might seem a hairs-splitting difference, but it proves to be both a subtle and also a pivotally insightful distinction between homeopathy and allopathy. It is clear from this why Hahnemann dismissed the very idea of classifying broad categories of so-called ‘diseases,’ and the disease entity model, as ridiculous, unnatural and arbitrarily fabricated human constructs, deriving from a fundamentally false perception of the human organism in health and in sickness.
The body is a dynamic structure constantly being made and being demolished; it is in constant motion just to stand still. It never stops creating and destroying itself at the same time. This means it has a balance of construction activity and destruction activity going on all at the same time. Cells are dying and new cells are being made all the time. Catabolism and anabolism balance each other but are in constant motion. This also gives an insight into the incredible complexity of the organism but also the smoothly coordinated operation of its processes.
The single drug was really the first emerging axiom of homeopathy. In many respects, Hahnemann’s conviction in the use of single drugs sprang independently and with deeper and more impassioned conviction as compared with all other axioms of homeopathy. He strove even from a very early stage in his medical career to simplify the complex medicine of his day, and was inspired always to obtain simplicity in his treatment of the sick.
“A single simple remedy is always calculated to produce the most beneficial effects without any additional means…it is never requisite to mix two of them together.” [Hahnemann, 1805, 469] “An equally important reason for prescribing only the single remedy was that all the provings were of single substances – not of mixtures.” [Coulter, II, 391] “…we must only give one single simple substance at a time.” [Hahnemann, 1805, 469] “Hahnemann insisted that only one remedy be given at a time and continually belaboured his allopathic colleagues for their multi–ingredient prescriptions…” [Coulter, II, 390] “Then let us…agree to give but one single, simple remedy at a time, for every single disease…” [Hahnemann, 1797, 320]
One key aspect of this impulse is his simple, possibly naive, notion that the drugs in use in his day were far too complex mixtures for them to bring any predictable benefit to the sick patient. He maintained that no true knowledge of the effects of drugs existed, that it was all based on hearsay, on tradition and speculation. Therefore, it followed from the critical approach he adopted that he decided that any true understanding of the nature and action of drugs should be based upon single drugs first and that the data so generated must be obtained PRIOR to their use on sick persons, rather than the reverse situation, which had pertained for centuries in a completely corrupt and unquestioned tradition. Drugs were simply used in mixtures and in a somewhat entrenched rote manner as based upon unquestioned and centuries-old formulas. This approach he detested, and rejected passionately, as a major obstacle to medical advance.
He rebelled most forcefully and at the earliest stage in his career against the apothecaries and their wonderful mixtures, which Hahnemann declared to be a bogus profession peddling dangerous mixtures that nobody knew the true therapeutic actions of. He was outraged by and rebelled against the whole tradition and privileges of the apothecaries, who he accused of being fools and of enjoying a wholly corrupt and cosy, parasitic relationship with the equally foolish physicians. He never lost his passionate opposition towards apothecaries and what he saw as their vile and murderous trade. He gave them no quarter and was unrelenting in the venom and bile he unleashed on them even to the end of his long life.
Therefore, in this manner, the first aspect of homeopathy to be truly enunciated was that of single drugs, because it was the first and most powerful conviction that Hahnemann had formulated from his very unhappy engagement with Galenic medicine: “homeopathy is more closely related to the medicine of Hippocrates and of Paracelsus than to that of Galen…and [thus] has much in common with two ideographic periods.” [Guttentag, 1178] “Galen’s dogmatisation of the doctrines of Hippocrates had been a sacrosanct, unassailable property of humanity,” [Gumpert, 14]
He became deeply and intuitively convinced that mixed drugs were fundamentally wrong and that single drugs alone spelled the true path for a sane and rational medicine. He condemned the allopathic use of unrecognisable mixtures of drugs by the “commingling of several such unknown substances in one prescription.” [Organon, xxviii] the therapeutic effects of which were inevitably unknown. He “was a most passionate opponent of mixed doses that contained a large number of ingredients.” [Gumpert, 96] Hahnemann “was the first to raise his voice against the compounding of prescriptions, holding that the effects of compounds on disease could never be known precisely.” [Coulter, II, 335] Then “let us…agree to give but one single, simple remedy at a time, for every single disease.” [Hahnemann, 1797, Lesser Writings, 320] He condemned the “employment of the many-mixed, this pell-mell administration of several substances at once…these hotchpotch doses.” [Lesser Writings, 1808, 498] He was very “outspoken in his contempt for every mixture of medicines,” [Haehl, I, 308] revealing his “rejection of compound medicines.” [Haehl, I, 308] On this point he never deviated during his long life and was disposed on only the slightest provocation to pour tremendous scorn on the pharmacy of his day.
How true this is even in our day too! But the simple apothecary is now replaced by huge pharmaceutical enterprises, a billion dollar affair and an immense political, media and social influence. So, in principle here is a serious problem Hahnemann put for the first time…WHO is managing health, the doctor or the big-pharma business?
One later reason for single drug use was also his theory about the vital force. The homeopathic remedy doesn’t act directly but by intermediary action and reaction of Vital Force of the patient. As diseases are viewed as “dynamic derangements,” so a single drug at once is to restore in a unique and coherent way the action and direction of the Vital Force. More than one remedy would create confusion, like an army conducted by more than one commander, which, at the same time tries to act on more than one front spreading and so diluting its forces. However, we have to mention that, for a short period of his life H was attracted by Aegidi to the idea of two simultaneous remedies, but he abandoned the idea because he was convinced by Boeninnghausen and others that accepting two drugs at a time could re-open the Pandora’s box of polypharmacy, which was not a suitable option.
On the other hand, the “single drug” principle doesn’t mean that he did not sometimes use remedies in alternation or in short succession. The change in the aspect of Vital Force—the image of the sickness—demands a change of remedy. On the other hand, as he stated in the 4th Organon, the remedy must be left for enough time to act.
Similars and single drugs really emerged together in Hahnemann’s scathing analysis of allopathy. It is hard to separate them even for convenience. The law of similars was first formulated by Hahnemann through a prolonged literature search which then inspired trial and error, and experiments, gradually revealing to him, and convincing him of, the superiority of similars as a medical maxim over contraries, which was the central axiom of Galenic medicine in which he had formally been trained.
“One should apply in the disease to be healed…that remedy which is able to stimulate another artificially produced disease, as similar as possible; and the former will be healed—similia similibus—likes with likes.” [Haehl, I, 66] “The primary characteristic of homeopathic medicine was the law of similia…” [Rothstein, 165-6] “Hahnemann called the ‘law of similars’ a ‘law of nature’ discovered ‘by the observation of nature and my own experience.” [Defence of the Organon, 1896, USA, 76, in Coulter, II, 362] “Then came the hypothesis—drugs cure disease by causing lesser diseases which the organism can effectively overcome—which is to say, ‘similia similibus curantur’ or ‘like cures like’.” [Cameron, 29] There occurred to him an “association of ideas that led him to suppose that he could cure fever with fever, instead of by the brutal current method of the evacuation of ‘pernicious juices.” [Gumpert, 68] When he published his Essay on a New Principle in 1796, “this work was the successful attempt of a man buried alive to force his way out into the open air.” [Gumpert, 86] Similars was indeed “the doctrine which was to redeem him from the medical nihilism of despair.” [Gumpert, 104]
“Hahnemann considered the production of his ‘mercurial fever’ necessary for the cure of syphilis;” [Ameke, 103] “a kind of artificial fever must be produced by Ipecacuanha, in order to cure certain forms of intermittent fever.” [Ameke, 104] He held “the view that in insidious fevers from unknown causes in which the vital force is sluggish, a new, strengthening and efficaciousfever must be excited.” [Ameke, 104] He “remarks that the mercurial disease resembled that of syphilis.” [Ameke, 104] “By choosing a remedy for a given natural disease that is capable of producing a very similar artificial disease, we shall be able to cure the most severe diseases.” [Ameke, 107]
Because Hahnemann was in a state of profound dissatisfaction with Galenic medicine, so he had in effect been rendered deeply sceptical of the therapeutic legitimacy of its core maxims, viz: mixed drugs in strong dose based on contraries, and its main therapeutic method: bleed and purge. This fact must naturally and inevitably have inclined him sympathetically towards consideration of the potential usefulness of the opposite maxims to Galenism: small doses of single drugs, employed through the more Hippocratic notion of similars.
Hahnemann instinctively detested the use of strong doses of mixed drugs so much in vogue at that time: “the prolonged use of violent, heroic drugs in strong, increasing doses, the abuse of calomel, corrosive sublimate, mercurial ointment, nitrate of silver, iodine and its ointments, opium, valerian, cinchona bark and quinine, foxglove, Prussic acid, sulphur and sulphuric acid, perennial purgatives, bloodletting in torrents, leeches, fontanels, setons, etc.” [Hahnemann, Organon, v.74] It is interesting, if not ironic, that many of these drugs whose over-use he condemns were the first to be proved and incorporated into the homeopathic materia medica!
Therefore, as he set out on his quest for medical enlightenment, it is fair to say that he was already naturally predisposed against the Galenic maxims and leaning more towards those which duly became the core maxims of homeopathy. This was the situation he naturally found himself in even before he set out on his search. Yet, even in spite of this statement of the situation, we must dismiss immediately any notion that he had a predetermined vision of what homeopathy was, before he independently validated each separate axiom of it, and which simply unfolded for him quickly under its own momentum.
This is an incorrect view of the facts. In reality, he still took a very long time to independently verify, through observation and careful experiments, each separate strand of what eventually became homeopathy. He chose to very thoroughly test and validate each axiom over a period from roughly around 1783 to 1801, starting with similars and single drugs and ending with small doses. Such a slow process of unfoldment clearly does not support the notion that he merely followed a simple, predetermined plan, and such a notion must therefore be dismissed out of hand at the start.
Hahnemann had noticed, “a drug imposes its own disease on the patient and wipes out the natural disease.” [Wheeler, 1944, 170] He observed that “the symptoms of Mercury poisoning were very like those of secondary syphilis. That was noticed by John Hunter long before Hahnemann.” [Wheeler, 1944, 170] A similar notion flows from the observation that “the children who did best on tartar emetic in pneumonia were those who had as well gastro-enteritis, i.e. presented more symptoms similar to those of the remedy.” [Wheeler, 1944, 170] Homeopathy then “is exclusively the science and art of the investigation and application of the similia similibus curentur phenomenon.” [Guttentag, 1176]
Similars should also be profound not superficial. This means that the similarities between drug and patient must be deeper and more extensive than just a few broad symptoms. It is also clear from this account that Hahnemann did not construct a theory of medicine first and then find facts to support it, as has been claimed in some less informed quarters [e.g. “Hahnemann had cast homeopathy in substantially the same eighteenth century mold that had given shape to the systems of Cullen, Brown and Rush.” Warner, 1986, 52-3] On the contrary, he distilled each axiom separately and directly from an extensive body of medical literature, from cases, from observation and experience, and thus from considerable reflection upon a large corpus of evidence. Such an approach is certainly an inductive approach a la Bacon, but it was based initially upon a deep dissatisfaction with the medicine of his day, which inspired his search, rather than upon a pure devotion to the methods of experimental science per se as defined by Bacon and Galileo, for example.
Similars must cover specifics and generals, modalities and rare or peculiar symptoms as well as the ideas presented above. This is what Hahnemann discovered. It is not simply a similarity confined to a few symptoms here and there. In other words, some broad and general similarity between patient and drug does not at all form a sufficient basis for a prescription. A much deeper, more detailed, individualised, specific and idiosyncratic level of similarity is required for a “true fit” to be seen to exist between patient and drug. Partial similarity will improve or palliate temporarily, but not cure. The best and most detailed similarity is always correct and curative.
There is a however another corollary of similars that needs some amplification. Similars necessarily embraces case totality both in the drug picture and in the patient. This means that there must exist a deep similarity or resonance between the case in total, as a whole, and the drug picture of the most suitable remedy. Similars does not therefore simply mean the similarity that might exist between a few specific symptoms here and there or based upon some arbitrarily defined named disease entity.
All these points illustrate quite well the interconnectedness of homeopathic ideas as forming a general continuum or whole system of tightly cohesive ideas and notions, which blend neatly into each other. It is a coherent and holistic system and it is thus difficult to separate any one aspect of it and isolate it from all the rest to which it is intimately related and connected.
Provings, Poisonings and Signatures
Having decided that only single drugs were to be employed in a sane and rational medicine, the next task Hahnemann encountered was how to decide what healing properties any drug actually contains hidden within it, and how this information might be obtained. Dismissing at the outset such ideas as the doctrine of signatures, the answer to this problem came to him from consideration of the effects of poisons, in which he had had a long interest and fascination.
In turn, the law of similars springs first from Hahnemann’s studies of poisonings and second from his proving experiments. Another stream of ideas flowed from his deep interest in poisons, which reveal the effects of drugs upon the healthy. For example, his publications: On Arsenical Poisoning, 1786; The Complete Mode of Preparing The Soluble Mercury, 1790; On The Best Method of Preventing Salivation and The Destructive Effects of Mercury, 1791; What Are Poisons? What are Medicines? 1806. There seems little doubt that these studies formed an important prelude to his provings, which are afterall merely mild forms of self-poisoning for experimental purposes. He therefore decided that the only way to accurately determine the detailed ‘sphere of action’ of any single drug was to take some yourself in small doses and accurately explore and record how it can temporarily derange one’s own health.
Heuristically, he found that yes indeed, all drugs are ‘poisons’ that can more or less derange health and induce artificial illness states. The provings were partly inspired by accounts of accidental poisonings—thereby opening up an entirely new pathway to therapeutic knowledge. This meant that many previously “highly poisonous substances,” [Ameke, 131] could now be safely brought into use as harmless healing agents. They could indeed be “converted into…powerful remedial agents in the hands of a skilful physician.” [Ameke, 131] Hahnemann felt that “medicines become poisons simply by imperfect use; in themselves no medicines are poisonous.” [Haehl, I, 75] “He zealously occupied himself…with the collection of cases of poisoning.” [Ameke, 101] His view was that “those substances which we term medicines are unnatural irritants…[that] disturb the health of our body…and excite disagreeable sensations.” [Ameke, 101] “Within the infant rind of this small flower Poison hath residence and medicine power.” [Shakespeare] “Day after day, he tested medicines on himself and others. He collected histories of cases of poisoning. His purpose was to establish a physiological doctrine of medical remedies, free from all suppositions, and based solely on experiments.” [Gumpert, 92] “Hahnemann very carefully argues the question of the new law; he adduces many results of poisonings by drugs, gives his experiences in the uses of medicines…and records the symptoms that certain medicines produced on himself and others.” [Bradford, 58]
The proving was just the start. “Hahnemann having, by his simple and rational experiment with Cinchona bark in 1790, conclusively established the great therapeutic law, that to cure diseases medicines must be used which possess the power of exciting similar diseases, at once perceived that the whole edifice of the old Materia Medica must be rebuilt from the very foundation, as that Materia Medica furnished nothing positive regarding the [true] pathogenetic actions of drugs.” [Dudgeon, 176] Clearly also, “Hahnemann’s dose reduction made possible the systematic use of poisons in medicine. While this had been recommended by von Stoerck and others, it could not be practised as long as large doses were considered necessary…the homeopathic pharmacopoeia later used dozens of the most powerful poisons: Belladonna, Aconite, Arsenic, Strychnine, Rattlesnake.” [Coulter, II, 403-4]
Provings and poisonings reveal Hahnemann’s abiding interest in drugs and their actions and his Pharmaceutical Lexicon was in many respects the forerunner of his Materia Medica Pura, and it is this deep interest in drugs and their effects that reveals and explains the basis of his enormous respect for Albrecht van Haller. What Hahnemann did with this interest was to explore the primary and secondary effects of drugs and poisons—that is where it took him—and from there he went on to observe and distil great principles about the actions of single drugs on healthy people and in turn on the sick. These can all be found in great detail in the Organon.
Homeopathy uses provings of single drugs to determine their precise sphere of action; these provings have been conducted upon healthy human volunteers, and do not employ animal experiments, for example: “his great endeavour was to found a physiological materia medica.” [Ameke, 101] Hahnemann “neatly and conscientiously assembled and numbered his observations of the symptoms excited in himself and his children by the most varied of medicines.” [Gumpert, 114] There followed “a period of twenty years during which Hahnemann worked prodigiously to accumulate data in support of his ‘law of similar’ as it came to be called. An immense Materia Medica was compiled, and he conducted continuous experiments on himself, his friends and those of his colleagues who were curious and willing.” [Cameron, 29]
The proving can be said to arise at the point of convergence of Hahnemann’s detailed knowledge of sickness, poisons and drugs and his uncompromising desire to ground medicine solely in empiricism, that is, observation and experiment. He reserved his greatest respect for “a science of pure experience…knowledge of the disease to be treated and the actions of drugs.” [Ameke, 134] These, he insists can only be deduced “from pure experience and observation.” [Ameke, 134] The proving idea mirrors exactly the incredible information Hahnemann had unearthed in the literature of cases of poisonings, but in provings this is expressed in a muted and more subtle form.
By ingesting a small dose of a substance over a few days one can begin to gain great insights into the nature of a drug, because what is revealed in the proving is the drug’s sphere of action within the body, what organs and systems it affects [resonates with] most strongly and what subtle impacts it has on likes and dislikes, modalities, sleep, dreams and mental states. When compiled together, this information translates into the drug picture [therapeutic image] of the drug in question as recorded in the materia medica. In many respects, this image represents the inner essence of that substance. And it is here perhaps that we can see a subtle connection between the proving and poisoning with the more ancient doctrine of signatures. “According to the doctrine of signatures, widely believed in many cultures, features in the appearance of a plant indicate its utility,” [Steiner, 26] Hahnemann “definitely rejected [the law of signatures]…in his Materia Medica Pura we read under Chelidonium…’the ancients imagined that the yellow colour of the juice of this plant was an indication (signature) of its utility in bilious diseases…the importance of human health does not admit of any such uncertain directions for the of medicines. It would be criminal frivolity to rest contented with such guesswork at the bedside of the sick.’’ [Hahnemann quoted in Hobhouse, 1933, 137-8]
“Paracelsus was also a firm believer in the doctrine of signatures, and in illustration of it explained every single part of St. John’s Wort [Hypericum perforatum] in terms of this belief “…the holes in the leaves mean that this herb helps all inner and outer orifices of the skin…the blooms rot in the form of blood, a sign that it is good for wounds and should be used where flesh has to be treated.” [Griggs, 50]
Arguably, it shows an underlying essence of the substance common to both and which might also be intuitively realised from observation and deep reflection as well as from actual provings. This also connects homeopathy with the various Flower Essence remedies now in quite widespread use.
We can also say that Hahnemann was a pioneer of the “medicine based on fact” or “evidence based medicine.” Hahnemann’s primary aim or ambition was to base medicine solely on solid ground, on facts and therefore he had toxicology and provings as pillars to build a solid data-base of all actions of substances on man.
Toxicology and the so called “side-effects” of drugs represent the involuntary, accidental, uncontrolled side of this topic, and reveal the gross and lesional aspect of the effects a substance can induce. Provings are the voluntary, controlled, conscious and experimental side, and so to say, the more subtle physiological and psychological side of the same phenomenon. Another point that came from provings is the idea of some specific reactions of individual nature, coming from susceptibility and sensitivity of individuals. From these arise the later notion of “sensible typologies,” which denote a complex description of the most reactive individuals to some remedies.
Not only in the case of the provings of drugs, but also with regard to the detailed study of medical similars, there has probably never been in the entire history of the world a single person who has studied the effects of drugs on the human subject more thoroughly than Samuel Hahnemann. In provings and in poisonings, Hahnemann’s pioneering work noted—dissected in detail—both the primary and secondary effects of drugs, and in studying the cures of the past he was able to show that the secondary effects usually mirror the primary and are often curative responses initiated by the vital force, opposite in their nature to the primary effect of the drug on the human system. Nowhere else in the medical literature, outside of his writings, has this information been studied and tabulated in such detail. Nor anywhere else has this data been slowly distilled to engender core therapeutic principles of such awesome predictive power.
This can be seen to derive in part from having no concept of a disease entity acting as the cause of a sickness. It comes from having no disease label and it also springs naturally from the provings, from observation in clinical practice and is thus primarily an empirical idea. It also derives from the conceptual meeting point of his translation work and the provings. It is important to understand why.
While working on translations, Hahnemann found and collected numerous references to specific drugs for specific symptoms, ailments or specific disease labels, and to examples of the effects of poisonings. What exactly did this material mean to him and how did it affect his thinking? Once he came to prove a drug [e.g. Cinchona in 1790], he then saw its effects really comprised a case totality rather than a specific for a named disease or group of symptoms. In other words, in proving a drug he found its action was not to create specific symptom clusters, but to impact more broadly on all mental and physical aspects of organism functioning, and thus creating an image of totality rather than merely being confined to a narrow range of specific actions. Therefore, there was a certain disparity between the references he found to the use of drugs, as found in the literature, which tended to be specific, and their actual effects in the provings. This disparity must have changed his views, probably radically.
His findings therefore meant that in similia such proved drugs were suitable to be employed not for quite narrow specific groups of symptoms [= named diseases], but only for a broader case totality. Then in using these proven drugs in clinical practice, via similia, he accidentally encountered the incredible sensitivity a patient manifests towards their specific similimum. Therefore, he also saw that any new ‘medicine of specifics,’ could not conceivably be a medicine of a specific drug fro a specific disease label, as he had probably imagined, but for a specific drug profile delicately matched and appropriate for a specific individual patient, as a holistic entity. The distinction between these two categories might seem subtle and thunderously hair-splitting, but in reality it is a crucially significant difference, that was to cast asunder the allopathic from the homeopathic systems. This distinction in fact creates a wide gulf between the two both at the conceptual level and at the practical level. Hahnemann saw that there would henceforth be no possibility, no option ever to treat a small group of localised symptoms with homeopathy; it would be case totality or nothing.
Basically, what Hahnemann showed is that all cases of what we term ‘disease’ are ‘totalities’ of symptoms or totalities of health disorder and NOT named diseases as conceived in allopathic practice. He could see the wider picture of each individual case rather than the narrowly fragmented view that naturally follows from the named diseases approach to the sick person. They are different ways of seeing the sick person and hence quite different ways of looking at the very nature of sickness. One is fragmentary and concerned with parts, and the other is holistic and concerned with wholes.
Hahnemann took the view “that physicians assess not only the cause of the illness, but all aspects of the patient,” [Porter, 172] As with Hegel’s philosophy, the “central thought is, then, that only the whole is real; the partial fact is only an abstraction, which needs to be brought into connection with the whole in order to gain validity. ‘The bud disappears in the bursting forth of the blossom, and it may be said that the one is contradicted by the other; by the fruit, again, the blossom is declared to be a false existence in the plant, and the fruit is judged to be its truth in the place of the flower…” [Rogers; 409] He believed that “the disease is reflected in the totality of the symptoms,” [Haehl, I, 292] Hahnemann “was very conscious of the danger,” [Guttentag, 1187] of focusing too narrowly on “one symptom rather than of the whole symptom complex.” [Guttentag, 1187] “not only a single symptom or a single chain of symptoms must be removed,” [Guttentag, 1187] one must remove “the totality of symptoms.” [Guttentag, 1187] For “the whole clinical picture guides the homeopath toward the proper drug…[one that can] produce a similar sum total of signs and symptoms,” [Guttentag, 1187] this is the similimum. Homeopathy “prefers to explore rather than to explain. It emphasises exhaustiveness in observation and stresses the significance of phenomena in terms of the organism as a whole,” [Guttentag, 1176-7] rather than a fragmented view of its parts. It seeks to describe rather than explain. It “considers the single patient as indivisible and unique…as not accessible to the method of measuring,” [Guttentag, 1177] so beloved of the allopaths.
Case totality principle (“Inbegriff des Symptome“) comes also as a direct consequence of the ‘totality of actions’ of remedies as revealed from provings. The differential diagnosis in homeopathy is not based on theoretical nosologic “standards” but on real symptoms, sometime not in a direct connection with the basic affection, that reflects the individual and specific reactional patterns. Because these patterns are external, observable symptoms that reflect in their turn the subtle and unobservable mis-attunement (Unstimmung) of the vital principle. Such semiological notions as modalities, localities, sensations, etc, have all to be carefully observed because they are the expression of the individual vital force reactions. One remarkable point in Hahnemann’s perspective that comes from this is the principle of coherence: disease is not a mere mix of symptoms, but a coherent reaction of the vital force as a consequence of its inner perturbation, of its ‘functional turbulence’ that we call sickness.
Homeopathy looks for the totality of the case because it has significance from the therapeutic point of view. In allopathy, to collect all the symptoms has no real therapeutic meaning; it collects symptoms to eliminate them afterwards because the only symptoms it considers are the common ones, the “disease symptoms.” On the contrary, in homeopathy even the most minor and peculiar symptoms are potentially of greatest importance; they reveal the individuality with its peculiar determination.
In his work with single drugs Hahnemann soon discovered that the process of matching a drug and a patient requires much greater subtlety and skill than is imagined. In particular this includes the idiosyncratic element of individuality and the rare and peculiar symptoms. Idiosyncrasies reflect also the fact that, from a reactional point of view, humans are not a tabula rasa, they come with inherited traits, they acquire others during the events of life in such a way that every individual is highly personalized and unique. This view stands in the starkest contrast to allopathic view of health and sickness viewed as they are solely through the filter of averages. Propria and communia, what is idiosyncratic and unique to an individual case, and what is common to all cases of a ‘disease;’ this connects with concomitants and ancillary drugs used in the medieval approach.
The inability of scientific medicine to individualise induces a focus not upon “the common symptoms [communia]…” [Coulter, II, 249] those common to many people [the communia]—as in allopathic medicine—but a focus upon “the symptoms peculiar to the individual,” [Coulter, II, 250] case [the propria symptoms]. The latter are much “more reliable criteria…for distinguishing one patient from another,” [Coulter, II, 250] and in most cases “the patient’s habits and mode of life were the most important of the propria.” [Coulter, II, 250] In ancient medicine “they separated the propria from communia with the aim of coming as close as possible to the idiosyncrasy of the patient.” [Coulter, II, 250] It is “that which distinguishes him from all similar patients,” [Coulter, II, 251] and which distinguishes this “patient from all others of his class. Each sick person is unique in his sickness, and the sickness is unknowable in its essence.” [Coulter, II, 251] By relying on “propria over communia they incorporated into their method precisely the characteristics which distinguish the individual patient from all others like him.” [Coulter, II, 498] Allopathy is more properly rooted in an impulse “to note the number of similarities in the behaviour of objects and to construct propositions…” [Berlin, 1996, 21] By contrast, homeopathy is rooted in an opposite principle “to bring out what is specific, unique, in a given character or series of events…respects in which it differs from everything…[and] conveys the unique pattern of experience.” [Berlin, 1996, 22]
All homeopaths become cognisant of “the large amount of individualisation demanded by Hahnemann.” [Haehl, I, 92] Osler when he said that “it is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.” [Maizes & Caspi] Therefore, we can say that Hahnemann makes a clear and wide deviation from all previous medical systems by insisting that disease is an individual phenomenon and that medicine must primarily base its rational and truly curative treatments upon the unique aspects of each case and not upon the aggregated ‘common symptoms.’ For clearly, what he is saying is that the true nature of any case of sickness lies primarily and fundamentally in its unique individuality and not in the symptoms common across many various cases of a similar type.
Idiosyncrasies form a common basis for the most peculiar symptoms coming from provings and those coming from sick persons. The same principle reveals a mirror-like situation: the most sensitive or susceptible individuals will reveal the most peculiar symptoms in provings, but the most peculiar symptoms in disease are signs that the individual is highly sensitive to a substance.
An interesting rapport between idiosyncrasy, individuality and wholeness is the main core of Hahnemann’s consideration: idiosyncrasy individualise, disrupt the uniformity of reactions, the persons, healthy (in provings) or ill (in therapeutics) are different. But as long as one consider the totality, individuality expresses itself as a wholeness, such that the person is never cut into pieces and all his/her parts remain integrated in a more comprehensive understanding, or fully rounded picture. This is a recuperation of the phenomenological view about humans and therefore homeopathy has less to do with the abstract notion of MAN, but with the more concrete individual man “as such.”
Allopathy, ever since the days of Sydenham, makes the exact opposite claim, and all its treatments are based solidly upon the notion of pooled data, averages, l’homme moyenne and what is common to each so-called “disease entity,” a concept Hahnemann derided as a ludicrous and quite arbitrary human construct, something unnatural, made and not found. Therefore, in this topic we begin to see one of the very strongest contrasts between the conceptual views of the allopaths and homeopaths.
The small doses of homeopathy were the last axiom and were entirely arrived at empirically through the desire to reduce [alleviate, and avoid] the impact that doses of the most similar remedy can have upon the patient. One of “homeopathy’s prime principles…in a nutshell…that drugs increase in potency with their dilution.”[Cameron, 30] Here we have to emphasise the high moral and deontological aspiration of homeopathy, which completely considers as valuable the Hippocratic principle of “primum non nocere“. This is part of the basis of the small dose: a small dose that can induce healing, does the least harm. Hahnemann found that the most similar drug had a uniquely powerful [often astonishing] ability to elicit strong reactions in the patient and for this reason could elicit aggravations of symptoms.
Hahnemann “advocated ever more definitely the administration of small doses.” [Gumpert, 96] “It is in his little work on Scarlet Fever, published in 1801, that we have the first forebodings of an unusual mode of preparing the medicines…the dose of Opium there recommended…is very small compared with the ordinary dose…the object of this dilution was to diminish the power of the medicine chiefly…for patients of very tranquil disposition.” [Dudgeon, 338] “Hahnemann…perplexed by the aggravations resulting from ordinary doses, seeking to find a dose so small that it would not endanger life and desiring to accurately measure his degree of dilution so that he might repeat or retrace his steps, invented or adopted the centesimal scale…” [Close, 218] “His discovery of the principle of potentisation came about gradually as he experimented in the reduction of his doses, in order to arrive at a point where severe aggravations would not occur. Gradually, by experience, he learned that the latent powers of drugs were released or developed by trituration, dilution and succussion.” [Close, 190] “Hahnemann’s final views and practice in regard to the dose were arrived at gradually, through long years of careful experiment and observation.” [Close, 189] “A hint of his growing conviction that remedies should be prescribed in high dilution was given in..(an article)..published in 1788.” [Cook, 51] “Hahnemann’s dose reduction made possible the systematic use of poisons in medicine. While this had been recommended by von Stoerck and others, it could not be practised as long as large doses were considered necessary…the homeopathic pharmacopoeia later used dozens of the most powerful poisons: Belladonna, Aconite, Arsenic, Strychnine, Rattlesnake.” [Coulter, II, 403-4] “In the Organon, however, he stated that trituration and succussion release the ‘spirit-like power’ of the medicine – which is compatible with his assumption that medicines act through their spiritual [geistlich] or dynamic impact upon the organism.” [Coulter, II, 403] “His discovery of the principle of potentisation came about gradually as he experimented in the reduction of his doses, in order to arrive at a point where severe aggravations would not occur. Gradually, by experience, he learned that the latent powers of drugs were released or developed by trituration, dilution and succussion.” [Close, 190]
He was alarmed and amazed to observe the great sensitivity a patient shows towards even small doses of the most homeopathic remedy for their case. Ever smaller doses were conceived by him for the pragmatic purpose of alleviating or avoiding these bad reactions evoked in patients by the most similar remedy. Already naturally inclined in the direction of adopting much smaller doses than his medical peers [e.g. Mercury], he was thus inspired to find ways of reducing dosage progressively and also in a mathematically precise way. This is how and why he first entered the field of dose reduction. The tiny doses of homeopathy can also be said to reveal a link to the more metaphysical ideas like vital force and miasms because they all partake of a subtle and non-molecular dynamic.
In his later views, the dose reduction is a problem of attunement between the subtlety of the target (vital force) and the subtlety of the means [the potentised drug]. Both vital force and potentised remedies are dynamic “spirit-like” entities and to use the second to correct the ailments of the first might be said to proceed as a natural consequence of his spiritualistic view. Actually, the diluted and potentised remedies of homeopathy are the greatest problem of its acceptance by the scientific world, because many of the remedies used are beyond the Avogadro number or, so to say, “ultra-molecular,” beyond the limit a molecular and materialistic paradigm can conceive. The fact that, however, they are therapeutically efficient opens a great problematic field about this paradigm itself, and creates a deep tension between homeopathy and conventional science.
The basis of these small doses was empirical, that is to say, they were arrived at through experience and trial and error; the doses were arrived at by Hahnemann in an attempt both to progressively reduce the toxic action of the drugs, but also to retain the therapeutic action; the result was smaller and smaller doses. “no poison, however strong or powerful, the billionth or decillionth of which would in the least degree affect a man or harm a fly,” [Simpson, 11]
In his ‘Essay On a New Principle’ of 1796, Hahnemann “does not yet talk about diminishing the dose, but insists on the necessity of administering but one medicine at a time…in all these discoveries Hahnemann was guided by experience, to which he trusted solely.” [Dudgeon, 49-50] The small drugs homeopathy employs are produced in a unique way by shaking and diluting in a serial manner in dilute ethanol; the chemical and physical basis of this method—in terms of modern scientific conception—remains a mystery, but was also arrived at empirically, by trial and error. This potentisation method somehow imprints the essence, or energy pattern, of the plant, mineral or animal drug upon the dilution medium, which can then be transferred to lactose pills. “We cannot fail to be struck by the sudden transition from the massive doses he prescribed in 1798 to the unheard of minuteness of his doses only one year later, and we can but guess the causes for this abrupt transition.” [Dudgeon, 395 6] “Hahnemann’s idea at first was simply to reduce the “strength” or material mass of his drug, but his passion for accuracy led him to adopt a scale, that he might always be sure of the degree of reduction and establish a standard for comparison.” [Close, 216] The “principle of the infinitesimal dose [is]…an outrage to human reason,” [Forbes, 17 and Nicholls, 121] and “the doctrines of potentiation and the infinitesimal dose has always been the central point of attack upon homeopathy by its enemies.” [Close, 215] “In the United States, regular physicians…found Hahnemann’s theories absurd and incredible. Reasoning that no one in his right mind could believe such arrant nonsense, they concluded that homeopaths must be either knaves or fools.” [Blake, 86] “His discovery of the principle of potentisation came about gradually as he experimented in the reduction of his doses, in order to arrive at a point where severe aggravations would not occur. Gradually, by experience, he learned that the latent powers of drugs were released or developed by trituration, dilution and succussion.” [Close, 190]
This crucial concept is mostly derived from empirical observation and experience with cases, especially when taking into account longitudinal case studies [through time] which show that suppressed foot sweats can lead to asthma, for example, or suppressed skin rashes, etc can lead to respiratory conditions [tonsil or sinus troubles]. Any set of symptoms removed by a crude drug can be regarded as a form of suppression.
As with chronic miasmata, the conceptual model of suppression probably first arose in Hahnemann’s mind from his extensive knowledge of venerology, where, for example, the suppressed chancre of syphilis leads to further secondary morbid manifestations or morbid alternations; likewise with the suppressed gleet of gonorrhoea. The main problem of this principle is a well balanced primary treatment of the acute diseases. As long as the primary conditions are treated in their natural extensor, as a condition that regards the whole organism itself, then treatment leads to cure. Suppression only arises when the disease is not treated in its whole extent, and instead of treating the complete condition, some local symptoms alone are treated. In this way, the named symptoms are excluded from their deeper context, the disease remains hidden in the interior and develops stronger and deeper forms. Hence, whenever the treatment is aimed at parts, mere symptoms, superficial physiological or pathological manifestation, it is suppressive. This doesn’t mean that homeopathy doesn’t treat acute or partial conditions, but its aim is to treat the integrity, the causes and the profound layers.
Hahnemann took the view that chemical drugs “suppress and hide the morbid symptoms by opposition [contraria contrariis] for a short time [palliatives].” [Organon, xxviii] Old school medicine considers disease as being “purely local and existing there independently, and vainly supposes that it has cured them when it has [merely] driven them away.” [Organon, xxviii] Allopathy turns one disease into another [metastasis] and makes a bad situation even worse by using “corrosive sublimate and other mercurial preparations in large doses,” [Organon, xxix] thereby “continually weakening and tormenting the debilitated patient.” [Organon, xxix] Hahnemann regarded this approach as indeed a “most senseless mode of treatment…[and a] mischievous so-called art.” [Organon, xxix] Homeopaths have always regarded drug-induced changes in cases as fundamentally uncurative acts: any “removal of the tangible products of disease…does not cure the disease, but does the patient a positive injury.” [Close, 73] As Close then adds, “the suppressed case always goes bad,” [Close, 75] to which Kent adds: “all prescriptions that change the image of a case cause suppression.” [Kent, 661] Suppression or palliation of disease “is the removal of the external symptoms of disease by external, mechanical, chemical or topical treatment; or by means of powerful drugs, given internally in massive doses, which have a direct physiological or toxic effect but no true therapeutic or curative action.” [Close, 75- 76] Kent exhorts: “The healthier the patient becomes the more likelihood there is for an eruption upon the skin. The vital energies must be sufficient for this. A cure progresses from within outward.” [Kent, Aphorism 442]
In the example of a skin disease being treated by lotions and creams externally applied, the symptoms are removed from the skin, and the condition alleviated or palliated, but the deeper internal cause of the malady is still present and its true focus is then moved inwards away from the skin. As Hahnemann discovered, and later homeopaths confirmed, the true cure of a skin disease, like any other, lies within, by correcting the deranged vital force, and cannot be cured with material doses of any drug. A view of disease as a “dynamic derangement of the life force,” [see Close, 37-8, 74]
Suppression “or palliation of disease, is the removal of the symptoms of disease by external, mechanical, chemical or topical treatment; or by means of powerful drugs, given internally in massive doses, which have a direct physiological or toxic effect but no true therapeutic or curative action. The suppressed case always goes bad… the abscess and fistula, act as if they were the vent or exhaust of the disease, affording temporary safety to vital organs. Close the exhaust and an explosion follows.” [Close, 74-5] However, “the mere removal of the tangible products of disease by mechanical means as in the case of tumors, or of the external visible signs of disease by topical applications as in the case of eruptions and discharges, not only does not cure the disease, but does the patient a positive injury and renders the case inveterate or more difficult to cure…to the death of the patient from metastasis and the complications which result from such treatments. Disease is only cured by the internally administered similar medicine…” [Close, 73] As an example, “some chronic disease of the liver, kidneys, spleen or lungs [can] be traced back to an initial attack of malarial fever checked by massive doses of quinine or arsenic. The patient has ‘never been well since’…” [Close, 120]
Once this pattern had first been seen and identified, and then became an expected pattern, so it was then found all over the place. Hahnemann soon realized that all changes brought to a case by crude drugs are in fact suppressions because they do not lead to true cure but only to temporary relief followed by relapse, or followed some months later by another disease of a more interior and more serious character or of a more intractable kind. Thus, the idea of suppression goes back to the beginning of homeopathy because it reveals a fundamental problem Hahnemann had identified with Galenic medicine that just removes symptoms [palliates] and then regards that as a cure, when in fact, as he showed, it is merely a suppression. Symptoms are removed or suppressed inwards, but the actual invisible cause of the disease [in the vital dynamism] is still present and dynamically active. It has by no means been cured, but has been forced inwards and upwards to a more sinister and intractable layer of organism functioning.
Hahnemann thus realised later in life that suppression is the very thing which he had instinctively disliked and rebelled against so ferociously in his early days, when he criticised the Galenic ‘purge and bleed’ methods as being both “fundamentally uncurative and harmful” to patients. He realised that his critique showed so-called allopathic cures as merely suppressions of symptoms that only engender first temporary relief, palliation, then relapse and ultimately no deep cure, but just new and more sinister ‘diseases’ breaking out in their train. That is a perfect description of what suppression means and it is precisely the same as the blistering critique of allopathy he launched with such passion at the start of his career.
Direction of Cure
This again is a largely empirical concept derived from close study of cases under homeopathic treatment. Such observations reveal that cures simply tend to move the site of disorder from the inside outwards and from above downwards, and from centre to the periphery. This is called the direction of cure or Hering’s Law. It is not really a law as such, but rather a vague principle that is often found to work out in practice. It also connects with the concept of suppression, of which it is the opposite. While suppression is uncurative and inward-moving, so direction of cure is curative and outward-moving.
Often called Hering’s Law or direction of cure, “cure takes place in a definite orderly manner and direction…normal vital processes, cellular, organic and systemic, begin at the center and proceed outwardly…life is a centrifugal force, radiating, externalizing, …’from above downward’. In the same sense disease is a centripetal force, opposing, obstructing, penetrating toward the center and tending to disorganization… the progression of all chronic diseases is from the surface toward the center; from less important to more important organs – ‘from below upward’. Curative medicine reinforces the life force, reverses the morbid process and annihilates disease. Symptoms disappear from above downwards, from within outward and in the reverse order of their appearance. When a patient with an obscure rheumatic endocarditis, for example, begins to have signs and symptoms of acute arthritis soon after taking the homeopathic remedy and is relieved of his chest sufferings, we know that cure has commenced.” [Close, 132]
The idea of direction of cure probably became also more precise at the time Hahnemann studied chronic disease more closely, because he observed that chronic diseases are more liable to stem from suppressions and the restoration involves a reverse process. In acute eruptive febrile and infectious disease (such as scarlet fever, measles, rubella, etc.) it is a well known fact that the stronger the exanthema, the less are the consequences and the faster is the convalescence. In chronic diseases, as long as the morbid manifestations are inflammatory, the progression towards affecting the deeper layers, inner organs and the immune systems is less grave.
The direction of cure presumes a hierarchy or layers of different degrees of importance on what regards the inner organisation of man. The core, the most important are deeper, higher and central. Deeper are not only the physical inner organs but also the genetic and inherited aspects. In chronic diseases, deepest are the miasmatic layers, the inherited or acquired miasms that manifest as morbid pre-dispositions. Higher and central are considered not merely in a physical sense but in a hierarchical order of importance for the definition of the individuality. Hence, psyche, or the mental symptoms are higher and more central to the physical ones; a disease that evolves with an amelioration of psyche even with the aggravation of some physical manifestation is therefore regarded as following a good direction of restoration.
From the practical point of view, without understanding the basic idea of restoration (Lat. restauratio = to rebuild, to give back, to repair), the directions of cure applied literally can represent a trap. For example, a lower back pain developing as a sciatic neuralgia with progression down towards the toes (from upward downwards) seems superficially to conform to this principle but in fact is an aggravation of the condition. The progression toward periphery or downwards in this case is usually a consequence of the progression of the disease from a simple contracture to an affectation, inflammation or protrusion of the intervertebral discs: so, in spite the disease have progressed from upward–downward, centre-periphery, it is an aggravation because the disease progressed towards deeper layers of physical and physiological organisation: the muscles are less deep and less important then the skeleton.
In chronic diseases, the restoration (or direction of cure) principle regards the successive layer of affections. The proper cure makes a reverse order development of symptoms, the most recent suppressed symptom can eventually manifest first and the more profound ones come later. Hence, this hierarchical underground order of the human being does not manifest itself only in space terms but also diachronically, in time. Deeper, higher, more central, are also older, inherited or closer to the individual definition.
The vital force in homeopathy plays the same role as the vis medicatrix naturae [the innate self-healing powers] of ancient medicine or archeus, or animus of Stahl or archeus of Paracelsus and van Helmont. He actually he denies this, by saying that the vis medicatrix alone is not capable of accomplishing the aim of cure and no cure without homeopathy is possible. It is a metaphysical concept designed to explain numerous observations of how the organism functions both in health and in sickness. It is necessarily conceived as an abstract, unproven, intangible entity that coordinates the body processes and directs bodily events. It is an immaterial entity that stands behind and beneath the chemistry or the cells and directs their activity invisibly just like the conductor of an orchestra. In health, it smoothly coordinates all activities of the organism. In sickness, it ever strives to correct imbalances. Even “Galen recognised, in agreement with Hippocrates, a natural healing power inherent in the body.” [Haehl, I, 283-4] Ancient physicians generally always took the view of medicine as one of “supporting the patient and trusting the healing power of nature,” [Porter, 260] This “life-force dominated all corporeal processes…[and was] a health-defending property,” [Porter, 208] often termed the innate self-healing powers or “natural healing powers of the body,” [Gevitz, 1637]
Hahnemann starts, “with the conception of Life as a real or substantial entitative power or principle…the Dynamis and the Life Force. This is Hahnemann’s greatest discovery, and the absolute bedrock of his system.” [Close, 30-31] Even Sir John Forbes [1787-1861], consulting physician to Queen Victoria, 1841-61, “accepted the homeopathic cures as the result of the Vis medicatrix naturae…the less the physician does, the better chance the patient has of recovering.” [Rothstein, 243] Such innate self-healing powers, “the self-rectifying powers of the vis medicatrix;” [Simpson, 82] the “natural sanative powers of the constitution,” [Simpson, 81] “the curative powers of nature,” [Simpson, 88] and “the vital dynamism,” [Simpson, 23] are valid forces at work in every one of us and the enhancement of those powers is the primary task of all natural healing.
The organism not a static but a truly dynamic structure permeated by, ruled over and coordinated by the nurturing and sustentative vital power: “the organism is indeed the material instrument of life, but it is not conceivable without the animation imparted to it by the instinctively perceiving and regulating vital force.” [Organon, Aph. 15] Hahnemann believed in the innate “self-healing energy in the patient,” [van Haselen, 123] what he called the “self-regulating vital force, the vis medicatrix naturae.” [van Haselen, 123] And for example, even a modern allopath has stated, “only that nerve energy that runs through you and controls every function and autonomic process of your being every second of your life is capable of healing you. No drugs of doctors can do that. We can only facilitate it,” [Foley] then he clearly echoes the vitalist views of homeopathy and acupuncture.
Hahnemann had essentially the same views on the natural healing powers as an illustrious band of physicians before him. According to Haehl, these include Hippocrates, Galen, Sydenham, Stahl, and the Montpellier School [Haehl, I, 282-6]. Although he believed in the vital force and built homeopathy very much around that concept, he regarded allopathy as using it only in a “crude, unseeing, unintelligent, unreasoned,” [Haehl, I, 287] way, whose methods were not truly enhancing of the vital powers, but in fact depleted them. “Hahnemann’s theory and ideas about vital force and natural healing power…place him close to others, e.g. the striking agreement of his views with Sydenham about natural healing power, with the basic ideas of Stahl’s animism, and with the thought processes of Bordeu and Barthez in their vitalism.” [Haehl, I, 289] They were clinicians prominent in the Montpellier School of France.
Barthez – Montpellier.
Hippocrates conceived of the vital force as “an inborn power regulating…the functions of the organs and the correct relative mixture of the humours.” [Haehl, I, 283] By the same token, “illness is a disturbance of the healthy equilibrium.” [Haehl, I, 283] Galen “agreed with Hippocrates on a natural healing power inherent in the body,” [Haehl, I, 283-4] but made many confusing remarks as well. Stahl’s view was that the symptoms of “diseases were simply the efforts of the organism…to restore the equilibrium of health.” [Haehl, I, 284] Even in the Montpellier school, illness was seen as “an affection of the life power and is expressed by disturbances…[it is] a reaction of the life power.” [Haehl, I, 285] It is roughly in keeping with the views of Hippocrates, Stahl and the Montpellier school, but not with those of Brown or Galen, Boerhaave or Hoffmann, where the effects of the vital force are not always highly regarded or assisted or regarded as curative, or in which therapy tends to run against the natural efforts of the vital force by use of contraries.
The vital force is a “spiritual principle…that rules with unbounded sway.” [Organon, Aph 9] or what might also be called “a spiritual medicinal power,” [Simpson, 141]“Hahnemann minimises the healing power of nature,” [Guttentag, 1175] but “he describes its effects as nowhere to be imitated and as rarely sufficient.” [Guttentag, 1175] Post-Hahnemannian homeopathy “still holds the same respectful view of the healing power of nature as in 1836.” [Guttentag, 1175] Most homeopaths have reiterated the view that the healing power of nature is supreme.
J. T. Kent.
Kent says that “there is no cell or tissue so small that it does not keep its soul and life force in it,” [Kent, 670] and he expresses the view that “the vital force dominates, rules and coordinates the human body.” [Kent, 677] Also, that the vital force “is again dominated by still another higher substance which is the Soul.” [Kent, 677] In his conception of the organism, “the vital force holds all in harmony, keeps everything in order when in health.” [Kent, 677] In this view, “that which we call disease is but a change in the vital force expressed by the totality of the symptoms.” [Kent, 661] Therefore, “the inner nature of the remedy corresponds with the inner nature of the disease.” [Kent, 685] Disease being a dynamic imbalance, so any “dynamic wrongs are corrected from the interior by dynamic agencies.” [Kent, 643] Thus, “Man cannot be cured or be made sick except by some substance as ethereal in quality as the vital force.” [Kent, 644] Kent wisely called the vital force the “vice-regent of the soul,” [Kent, 660] and it does seem to correspond to the concept of the unconscious or subconscious mind that regulates all the bodily processes through the involuntary nervous system, and the endocrine organs and keeps the breathing and blood going etc. Because of its immaterial nature, the vital force bonds with various other key concepts in homeopathy, such as the small doses and the miasms. Though it is an abstract and insubstantial entity, its reality and truth is confirmed through the powerful logic of its usefulness as a concept underpinning so many aspects of homeopathy.
The vital force stakes another primary claim for a unique status within the conceptual core of homeopathy in that the remedies of homeopathy do not directly impact upon or cure the alleged ‘disease,’ but impact primarily upon the vital force, the innate vital powers, the vital dynamism that controls the organism, and solely through whose dominion and sovereign powers sickness is either created or annulled. Therefore, sickness is removed indirectly rather than directly, not at the local level, but at the level of the whole organism. The sickness itself is conceived as under the control of the vital force, not of itself. It is conceived primarily as an internal matter, not an external one. Accesses to sickness is thus always indirect and only achieved via the holistic powers of the vital force itself, which pervades the entire organism.
Homeopathy treats “the person and not the disease.” [Shaw, 6] It truly is the ‘innate healing power’. We should always “remember that it is our duty to help nature as far as possible do her job.” [Bodman, 225] Medicine involves an attempt “to restore health…an attempt to restore balance,” [Wheeler, 1947, 1] for true “health is simply the balanced life.” [Wheeler, 1947, 4] Homeopathy “is no religion, no sect, no fad, no humbug…remedies do not act directly on disease; they merely stimulate the vital reactions of the patient, and this causes him to cure himself.” [Weir, 200-201] Regarding the remedy, we need to remember, “that the reaction it sets up in the organism is a reaction which goes on working to the ultimate dispersion of the infirmity.” [Cooper, Jan 1893; 14] Reliance upon the “natural healing power leads to interpretation of symptoms as signs of the body’s struggle against disease,” [Coulter, II, 456] and thus symptoms are seen “as beneficial—being the signs of the struggle of the vital force against disease.” [Coulter, II, 487]
He also condemns any medical system that searches out and respects only “the mechanical origin of diseases…[and] which derives diseases from the original form of the parts.” [Ameke, 95] However, Hahnemann—like Bach, Paracelsus and Bailey—regarded sickness as due to “a morbid derangement of the internal dynamis,” [Hahnemann, 1810, Aph. 12] and an affection of the “morbidly deranged spirit-like dynamis.” [Hahnemann, 1810, Aph.15] He regarded “symptoms…[as] the expression of the vital force untuned.” [Handley, 66] He also states that “diseases obviously are not and cannot be mechanical or chemical changes in the material substance of the body…but are an exclusively dynamic, spirit like untunement of life.” [Hahnemann, 1810, Aph.31] Hahnemann expresses his own sentiments in the Organon [Aphorisms 11 [9, 10], 15 and 16]: “let it be granted now…that no disease…is caused by any material substance, but that every one is only and always a peculiar, virtual, dynamic derangement of the health.” [Hahnemann, Organon, Aphorisms 11 [9, 10], 15 and 16] Such is certainly a view of disease as a “dynamic derangement of the life force.” [Close, 37-8, 74]
Remedies “contain a non-material healing energy.” [van Haselen, 123] They mobilise the “self-healing vital force,” [van Haselen, 123] which is recognised as the source of all natural healing. Homeopathic “remedies do not act directly on disease; they merely stimulate the vital reactions of the patient, and this causes him to cure himself.” [Weir, 200-201] They lead to “stimulation of a person’s self-healing strengths.” [Franz, 32] Homeopaths thus conceive that “homeopathic remedies and Bach essences act as a catalyst,” [Franz, 32] to stimulate innate self-healing processes, using “natural healing substances.” [Richardson, 174] Paracelsus believed that “attenuation would release from the crude matter the inner ‘arcanum,’ the essential curative virtue.” [Richardson, 174] They further held that “the overall archeus or vital force and the archeus of each organ could be healed by a corresponding archeus of a medicinally prepared plant or mineral.” [Richardson, 174]
Hahnemann “is in tune with Paracelsus’ and van Helmont’s concept of the archeus.” [Richardson, 176] According to them “the dynamis of the corresponding natural life form, medicinally activated by potentisation…restores the individual human dynamis to health…[and represents] the highest immaterial or spiritual extraction of medicines.” [Richardson, 176] Kent’s view that potentised remedies contain “purely energetic medicinal powers imprinted on the water/alcohol medium during preparation,” [Richardson, 176] is entirely consistent with the views of Hahnemann and Bach, and they would probably all further agree with him that such remedies resonate “profoundly with the soul, mind and will.” [Richardson, 176]
Again we see the strong connection to case totality [holism] and to the general inadequacy of the concept of a localised disease. In popular parlance, the remedy stimulates the vital force to cure the disease and the remedy merely stimulates the vital force, whose powers pervade the entire organism; it does not of itself cure ‘the disease’ directly, it stimulates the body to heal itself. The vital force can be seen to be a very cohesive and unifying principle that permeates the whole of homeopathy, linking together many otherwise disparate concepts. What we see then is a medicine “based more upon quality and not a quantity.” [Barnard, 301]
The miasm is a metaphysical concept to try and explain cumulative observations of case histories of sickness within families. As an idea it probably derives from Hahnemann’s studies of venereal diseases, most especially Syphilis, which does have this character of a miasm that is acquired, then goes dormant and then springs out later in various hideous forms as well as being passed on to children as predictable [patterned] inherited syndromes of sickness. When viewed more metaphysically the miasms are defects carried in the vital force that cause sickness by deviations from its perfect and harmonious control. Miasms might be termed ‘internalised relics’ or stains of big diseases that are left in the vital force and which steal its natural self-healing power.
From “frequent observations, Hahnemann had discovered that chronic maladies…had some connection with a previous outbreak of Psora.” [Haehl, I, 138] This ‘miasm theory’ stirred up great controversy among his followers, and seems to have instinctively elicited much more ridicule than it did praise. To Hahnemann, Psora was “a disease or disposition to disease, hereditary from generation to generation for thousands of years, and…the fostering soil for every possible diseased condition.” [Haehl, I, 144] The theory “did not receive unanimous support from his followers, even after Hahnemann’s death.” [Haehl, I, 150] The notion of Psora has many facets; for example, “seven-eighths of all the chronic maladies prevalent are ascribed by Hahnemann to Psora…” [Haehl, I, 142] He did not confine its meaning solely to Scabies; “Psora…was widely known in Hahnemann’s time, as the general term for a whole series of skin troubles of the most varied kinds…” [Haehl, I, 143]
Yet, the miasm theory undoubtedly is an attempt to reach into “the deeper fundamentals of disease.” [Haehl, I, 137] Many called psora, “this thousand-headed monster.” [Haehl, I, 145] Chronic symptoms are regarded by homeopaths as “symptoms of the underlying miasmatic malady.” [Haehl, I, 145] Hahnemann’s “idea of Psora coincides to a large extent with that of inherited predisposition to disease.” [Haehl, I, 151] The initial “starting point for the main ideas [of miasms]…was the observation that certain chronic diseases…could be alleviated by homeopathic remedies, but not completely cured.” [Haehl, I, 138] To Hahnemann, “psora is a disease or disposition, hereditary from generation to generation for thousands of years.” [Haehl, I, 144] It “can be observed in the most variable forms imaginable.” [Haehl, I, 145] Psora as a miasm, therefore, becomes “the fostering soil for every possible diseased condition.” [Haehl, I, 144] The miasm theory can be seen as the logical extension of the vital force concept, and as bringing the vital force to its ultimate point.
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