Homeopath and teacher Rudi Verspoor has for some time been writing and teaching about Romantic Science and Healthcare. He has written extensively in the past about homeopathy and Dr. Hahnemann’s complete medical system, called Heilkunst, such as in the extensive analysis of his writings found at www.homeopathiceducation.com . He also wrote a number of articles for a past issue of this magazine about Heilkunst and what it encompasses. He founded a school called the Hahnemann College for Heilkunst in 2001 and has now also started a school called The School for Romantic Healthcare, operated through the Center for Romantic Science and Healthcare: http://www.romantichealthcare.com/
AS: Given your long history with homeopathy and Hahnemann’s writings, both as analyst and practitioner, is it fair to say that Romantic science and healthcare has something to do with Hahnemann’s work and teachings, or is this something very different?
RV: It has a great deal to do with Hahnemann’s work and teachings. Hahnemann is not, despite the prevailing view, an erratic boulder on the landscape of his times (and since). Hahnemann’s achievements are an integral part of a wide-spread and influential cultural movement of his day, directly involved in a profound philosophical, scientific and medical re-evaluation and reform, known as Romanticism. While it may be ‘romantic’ to see and present Hahnemann as a lone wolf, a brave voice in the wilderness fighting for medical reform against a decadent and corrupted establishment, it is neither accurate, nor helpful in arriving at a full appreciation of Hahnemann’s genius. Part of the problem right off is the very term ‘romantic’ itself. It has been reduced in general usage to candlelight dinners, roses, chocolates, and other aspects of modern courtship. This is not what is meant by the term romantic when applied to the broad philosophical, scientific and cultural movement known as Romanticism.
Romanticism is the term given to a cultural movement at all levels of European society starting in the late 1700s that sought to establish a new philosophy and science of vital nature in order to understand the phenomenon of Life. While the achievements of the first Scientific Revolution regarding inert nature (Kepler, Galileo, Newton) and that of the Enlightenment regarding the use of the intellect and reason (mentation) were valued and accepted, the great minds of Germany and England in particular of that time started to question the validity of the simplistic application to vital nature of the methodology that had worked so well with inert nature.
The early attempts to explain life and living functions were unsuccessful and unproductive, and a general movement arose to try to answer the puzzling yet intriguing questions of life and death, sickness and health. Philosophy at the time distinguished between living or vital nature (natura naturans) and inert nature (natura naturata). And this attempt to penetrate into vital, not just inert, nature that constitutes the ‘romance’ as it were – seeking to get to the living essence of nature, beyond the outer appearances to the phenomenon itself (the basis at the philosophical level for German phenomenology). The Romantic impulse also came to a focus in the field of medicine, which was itself in a state of crisis, partly because the old Greek system of humoral pathology no longer seemed to work, and partly because it was seeking a way to incorporate the new findings of science as a new foundation for therapeutics.
Romanticism is grounded in a profound philosophy based on a hierarchy of dynamic polarities of powers, forces and energies that constitute life or vital nature, with a methodology based on this understanding. It is not vitalism, which is the rightly discredited notion of an abstract ‘vital force’ posited to explain what otherwise cannot be explained by a materialistic-mechanistic approach (derived from the inertial sciences). Vitalism is the mystical counterpart of materialism.
Romanticism was shaped and driven by many of the major figures of the time: Samuel Taylor Coleridge in England, Johan Fichte and Wolfgang von Goethe in Germany, along with Blumenbach and Schelling. In the field of medicine more specifically, we have in the forefront John Hunter, John Brown and Richard Saumarez on the English side, with Samuel Hahnemann and Andreas Röschlaub in Germany. There are various other figures, but these are the main ones. Around about 1795, German medicine entered a crisis, and into this crises emerged a dynamic approach to health and illness based on the earlier work of Dr. John Brown, The Elements of Medicine, undergoing several translations into German. Dr. Hahnemann’s insights and discoveries are very much a part of and in the spirit of that time of ferment and reform. The earlier works on physiology by Blumenbach on the Bildungstrieb or dynamic, generative power, in addition to the earlier German understanding of the Lebenskraft, and John Hunter’s earlier idea of the living principle, influenced Hahnemann’s own understanding of the dynamic aspects of life and disease. Goethe, the pre-eminent cultural figure and Romantic scientist of the time knew of and made various references to Hahnemann and his works. Hahnemann read and commented on Brown’s work, and incorporated many references that invoke Brown’s excitation theory of life and illness into his own works, notably the Organon.
The Romantic idea of life as a dynamic consisting of dualities, that is, polaric relations of powers, forces and energies rather than of matter, itself a product of such dynamic forces, is replete throughout Hahnemann’s system: a duality of disease (primary and secondary, or tonic and pathic), of the living power (generative and sustentive powers), of laws (similars and opposites), of organism (psyche and soma), of unique disease characteristics (thermal principle and state of mind); of natural versus artificial diseases; of disorder versus disease, etc. All of this has been set out in great detail before and is available for anyone to examine for themselves in The Dynamic Legacy: from Homeopathy to Heilkunst (www.homeopathiceducation.com). As well, a critical aspect of the romantic, that is, polaric nature of Hahnemann’s system is to be found in the much neglected, if not distorted and suppressed story of the use of dual remedies. This has been told in detail for the first time in a recent book, reviewed earlier in your magazine (http://hpathy.com/book-reviews/scandal-in-kothen-the-real-homeopathic-love-story-rudi-verspoor-and-steven-decker/) and available on Amazon.com – Scandal in Köthen: The Real Homeopathic Love Story.
What has not been set out in any way, much less in any detail, is the history of romantic science and healthcare. This is what I and Steven Decker, translator of the Organon, and also co-author of The Dynamic Legacy, have been researching for many years and what we are now teaching at the Center for Romantic Science, School of Romantic Science and Healthcare (http://romantichealth.com/moodle/ ) There’s a lot more to tell, but to come back to the question, yes, Hahnemann is an integral part of Romantic science and medicine and cannot be appreciated to any real degree without an understanding of that important movement in Western history.
AS: Now that you’ve laid the philosophical groundwork, I wonder if you could explain how the Newtonian and Enlightenment mindsets manifest in society and medicine, and what would be different if the perspective of Romanticism prevailed.
RV: To properly answer that question, I first have to go back a ways in Western culture, to its origins in Ancient Greece, at least as far as philosophy and science is concerned. Classical Greek culture marked a break in the previous consciousness. Prior to the Greeks, consciousness was more akin to a partial dream state, and there was a form of direct being in or participation of the world, experiencing both its super (spiritual) and sub-sensible (elemental, dynamic) dimensions. In a dream state, subject and object don’t really exist, nor do the usual constraints of time and place of the waking consciousness.
The world prior to the Greeks, and even to a large extent throughout Greek culture itself, was not so much ‘out there’ as an object separate from one’s self, as a living experience that a person felt himself ‘inside’ of. Julian Jaynes in his famous work, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, documents that with the early Greek culture (as symbolized in the Iliad), there was no ‘mind’ as we know it, a single entity and distinct from body, but that one ‘thought’ with different parts or organ systems of the body – the Ancient Greeks had close to a dozen ‘mind words’ for different ways of participating in the world – kardia, psuche, phrenos, thumos, nous, etc. All of these are generally translated by the modern English word ‘mind’, but to the Greeks it made a difference if a person acted based on activation of the kardia (from whence our modern term cardiac) or the psuche (from whence our term psyche). Later, these individual elements came more and more to be integrated and form a focus, the nous, which itself had a polarity between its nether pole, which was able to take impressions from the natural world (which capacity the Medieval Scholastics termed the nous patheticos) and its upper pole, which was able to receive what Plato called Ideas (archetypal patterns) from the spiritual realm, which guided the mind of man to ‘see’ (theoria) the world around it.