Hempel and Wilkinson were early bridge-builders between homeopathy and Swedenborgianism, but the principal catalyst for this conjoining of ideas was James Tyler Kent, professor of materia medica at Hering Medical College and Hospital in Chicago. He constructed a uniquely Swedenborgian approach to Hahnemannian medicine in his Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy (1900) by providing a full description of Swedenborgian philosophy and spelling out such relevant Swedenborgian ideas as a human being’s interior and external worlds, the influx from the internal to the external, and the dependency of the whole on the Divine.
Each of Kent’s medicines had a “personality” that corresponded to the constitution of the patient. Rather than treat the specific organ or lesion, Kent aimed his medicines at the pattern exuded by the patient’s soul. Kent’s grouping of patients by type was an echo of Swedenborg’s description of the spiritual realms, where he described communities of angels gathering according to their personality and function to form the organs of a vast Universal Human that made up the whole of the heavens. In his writings, Swedenborg characterized spirits as, for example, “angels of the kidneys” or “angels of the lungs,” ascribing these souls of the deceased with characters and functions that corresponded with those organs.
Doctrine of degrees: The greater the number of dilutions (in this case, on a scale from 1 to 200), the greater the potency of the homeopathic medicine; likewise, the higher the level of spiritual rarefaction (from the physical world to heaven), the closer one moves to the Lord.
Kentian homeopathy spread abroad, attracting Margaret Tyler and John Weir in Great Britain, Pierre Schmidt in Germany, and Denis Demarque in France. Nevertheless, the Kentian penchant for the constitutional (whole-person) prescribing of word-pictures to characterize medicines became almost a high art form and quickly fell into the hands of lay practitioners who popularized them even more. Today, due in no small measure to Swedenborg’s influence, homeopathy has become a bifurcated healing system with one faction looking wistfully at a more disciplined and reductionist process, seeking to fulfill a complementary role alongside mainstream medicine, and the other, enthralled by a vision that calls attention to the body’s essential harmony with the unseen forces of the universe.