What is Susceptibility?
To establish what susceptibility is, it is wise to look at conventional definitions as well as the homeopathic perspective. We must include the views of founding fathers Samuel Hahnemann and J.T. Kent; after-all they laid the groundwork of homeopathic philosophy to which we still adhere today. The Oxford Dictionary definition of susceptibility is “the state or fact of being likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing”. Allopaths are more likely to focus on external factors that make us susceptible to illness such as infectious diseases, germs, allergens, living conditions or pathogenic agents and would say that we lack immunity or resistance and thus are more likely to become attacked with a sickness – hence conventional medicines focus on healing with opposites. Whilst taking this stance into account, homeopaths also will focus on internal factors which make us susceptible to certain illnesses. Simply put, susceptibility is the reaction of the person to external and internal influences. This predisposition can make us more inclined to becoming ill.
Hahnemann said our vital force will “express itself through disease symptoms in the organism” – Aphorism 11 p11 Organon Unfolded. He talked extensively on the subject of susceptibility and provided the view that our miasmatic taint, constitution, physical and psychological makeup will also contribute to our predisposition to certain illnesses. Aphorism 31 p15 of The Organon Unfolded states: “Morbific disease agents do not derange health unconditionally. We fall ill only when our organism is susceptible. They do not produce disease in everyone at all times.” In other words to be susceptible to a certain disease our individual vital force must be disposed to it on a physical, mental and emotional level. If our vital force is not susceptible to it, there will be no disease. In Aphorisms 32 and 33 Hahnemann also points out that Allopathic medicine will affect all people at all times, whereas natural disease will not affect all people at all times i.e. “People are therefore unconditionally susceptible to medicinal forces. Natural diseases affect people conditionally” – Aphorism 33 The Organon Unfolded p15. Even Hippocrates (c460 BC – c370 BC) acknowledged that genetics or what Hahnemann called ‘Miasma’ had an influence on our susceptibility to illness in his tome ‘Sacred Diseases’. He said that diseases found in a mother and father are often found in their children. However it should be noted that even siblings within a family can be very different and have different susceptibilities taken from either the maternal or paternal side or both.
Kent expanded on Hahnemann’s writings on the subject:
“Because of these varying degrees of susceptibility some are protected from disease cause and some are made sick; the one who is made sick is susceptible to the disease cause in accordance with the plane he is in and the degree of attenuation that happens to be present at the time of contagion” – Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy p121. Here he is saying that we all have different degrees of susceptibility and that some people will become ill when exposed to certain internal or external factors and others will not. He also states that when we are exposed to natural disease and recover from it, we will not be susceptible to that same disease. For example if we get a normal childhood illness such as chicken pox once, we recover and will then no longer have susceptibility to it. Kent continued “When a violent epidemic is raging we all know that, although the number of victims is large, they are few compared to those who go through the epidemic unscathed…we suppose…that a large number of the immune have escaped because they were usually strong and vigorous…but we find among those that have escaped the epidemic are a large number of persons who are anything but strong…the reason is that they have a sickness that is impossible for the epidemic to suppress…if the chronic disease is stronger than the epidemic disease…it cannot be suppressed” – Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy p127-128. Here Kent is saying that the reason these people lack susceptibility to the epidemic disease is because the disease with which they are suffering is dissimilar to the epidemic and stronger.
What make us susceptible?
Susceptibility in a person can be inherited from parents. It depends on the miasmatic background of both parents. It is also influenced by the mental condition and circumstances during the production of sperm and ovum. An interaction of all these determines the miasmatic background of the individual.
Early and late environmental factors may also influence the development of susceptibility. Early environmental factors involve conditions pertaining to intra-uterine life. Any influence or indulgence during the gestational period may affect the development of susceptibility of the individual such as worries, diseases, tension, smoking, alcoholism, or malnutrition.
Late environmental factors also affect the development of susceptibility. These involve the influence during childhood and adulthood. H.A. Roberts wrote “Everything that has life is more or less influenced by circumstances and environment.” We see very frequently the susceptibility to climatic conditions, as well as all other phases of environment. One person will thrive in a rigorous climate where another will become seriously ill; one will thrive in dampness to which another would succumb. Altitude affects some individuals kindly and some adversely. The seashore improves one man’s condition while it makes another man ill. The power of assimilation and nutrition is one of the phases of susceptibility. One easily assimilates a certain kind of food while another finds the same food indigestible.
Human beings are susceptible to infection and contagion in varying degrees. One man will become infected in contact with diseased individuals while another will experience no ill effects. One person is made ill by noxious plants, while another man can handle them with impunity.
Thus both genetic and environmental factors determine the susceptibility of the individual. This is why pathogenic agents do not affect every person nor the same person all of the time. The patient must be sufficiently susceptible according to the time and circumstances. Susceptibility varies in degree in different patients, and at different times in the same patient.
Miasms can be active or dormant. When the vital force is relatively balanced, a chronic miasm will remain dormant. This is our aim as practitioners. We will never eradicate a chronic miasm because it is part of our genetic makeup, but we can keep it dormant. Dormant miasms can be activated by adverse conditions or events (exciting causes). Each time this happens, the condition is worse than the previous exacerbation.
Events that can augment the disease and increase the difficulty of curing are exciting causes. These can be environmental factors such as pollutants, microbes, stress or weather, or internal factors such as strong emotions. By far the most frequent excitement of miasms into chronic diseases is by grief and vexation. Other obstructions to the cure can be long-lasting chronic allopathic remedies or bad habits in lifestyle (gambling, sex, sedentary life).
The good prescriber has to pay close attention to his patient’s whole history, especially his habits, age, occupation, mode of living, cravings and character. Everything is a manifestation of his own vital force which has changed by an external cause due to the susceptibility of the individual in this particular point of his life. Taking a deep and detailed case history lets the homeopath establish what miasms he is dealing with.
A little boy, age 2 ½.
Blonde hair, blue eyes, very slim.
Presenting symptoms: Parents have brought the child for homeopathic treatment. They are at their wits end and can’t cope on their own any longer. They have seen homeopathy work over many years and hope it can help with R.
1) Molluscum warts. In excess of 150 warts, presenting as little round white head warts, on the left side of the child’s torso, under armpit and down the arm. His sister has a few warts. R got one or two and then started picking them. They spread rapidly over his torso. GP advised that it may take two years to clear naturally.
2) R has an obsession with his bottom region and what comes out of it. He will at any opportunity try to remove faeces from his anus and eat it or smear it on walls or people. This makes helping him with toilet training extremely difficult. He sits and tries to access the area as often as he can. He laughs and enjoys doing this. It becomes even more difficult as R will not wear clothes. He strips them off and will fight if being dressed. He will be naked as often as he can. He has named his penis and he refers to it as a human, with thoughts and feeling.
3) Obsessional behaviours: these include repetitive swearing. He has an acute sense of hearing and will pick up a word said by a passer by or on the phone perhaps and will repeat this for days. He has a few favourites that he will repeat to his siblings and parents over and over.