Explanation

Last modified on January 12th, 2019

Explanation

My first duty is to thank the President and Council of the Royal Society of Medicine for their unprecedented courtesy in offering hospitality and thus affording an opportunity of presenting to the profession some knowledge of homoeopathy. They are thus falling into line with the idea expressed in the British Medical Journal of July 9th, 1932, in the “History of the Association,” where it is stated:

“Before passing of the Medical Act a Committee on Quackery was appointed which in 1851 presented a report condemning the practice of homoeopathy. In more recent years a wider view has been taken, and it has been realised that in medicine there is no orthodox doctrine, but that when once a man has obtained a registrable qualification in the usual way, he is entitled to hold his opinions on therapeutics.”

I was reminded recently that when a man is legally qualified it is not only his privilege but his duty to practice in any way which he genuinely thinks will be for the benefit of his patients.

This meeting is really the outcome of the expressed desire of several physicians to know more of the principles of homoeopathy than will be possible in a short paper on “The History of British Homoeopathy” at the British Medical Association on the 29th inst.

One feels keenly the honour, but also responsibility of having to present the subject of homoeopathy before such an audience as faces me to-day. And I am minded (because of the widely-prevalent mistaken ideas as to what homoeopathy really is) to simply state facts, ab initio.

I am delighted to tell you a little about homoeopathy because it helps me to do some things that I should have believed impossible; and my ambition is, to so interest you, that you may go away and try it.

It is only the few who are intrigued by cleverly-worded arguments; what the many want is more power; and it is to such that my appeal is addressed to-day. Arguments leave most of us cold. You cannot learn homoeopathy from arguments as to its possibility. The appeal of homoeopathy has always been to experience. Do the works if you would know the truth.

Homoeopathy could never have been discovered a priori. It is a science, since it is entirely based on experiment. Who was the great chemist who said the only possible way to know how a lump of sugar would behave when put into a cup of tea, was to try? Or, as Hunter said to Jenner, “Don’t think: try”. It is only our experience of homoeopathy that has made us homoeopaths. We have all been sceptics; but facts have been too strong for us.

It may seem strange to you, but the century-old message of homoeopathy has a distinct appeal to the men of modern science. Homoeopathy has reversed the old saying, “The science of to-day is the nonsense of tomorrow”; for here, the nonsense of one hundred years is proving to be the science of to-day. And, as I said, my ambition in coming here is to help my professional brethren to an appreciation of what appears to me to be vital knowledge in regard to curative drug-action – as conducive to a more definite and wider range of usefulness and power. It is a poor creature who, having found something good tries to keep it to himself.

For, after all, it is power we need. Knowledge of disease – knowledge of drug-action – what are they? Nothing! – lacking the essential knowledge, how to apply the one for the relief of the other. There must be the co-ordinating principle – law – if power is to result; i.e., the power to deal curatively, with assurance and fore-knowledge, with the sick individual. And, after all, this is our very raison d’etre, as doctors.

Now, it is legitimate, natural and praiseworthy to question and to strive for something better than that which contends other men. Progress would cease if we were merely to accept that which comes to us by tradition or authority – satisfied our predecessors. And does it not seem the height of absurdity to hark back to medical ideas of a hundred years ago for light on our problems of to-day? Changes are so rapid in our profession that it has been said, “If a doctor who dies to-day could come back in fifty years from now, and attempt to take up his profession, he would have to graduate all over again.”

And yet there was one great physician of the past who, were he to come back to earth to-day, could take up his work as he left it. He would find new and exciting developments – possibilities – confirmations, but the essentials would be absolutely the same, because based on law. Moreover, he would find hundreds – no, thousands of doctors in all countries of the world, doing precisely what he did: treating their patients as he treated his, and experiencing, thereby, his astonishing results.

How can this be?

GENIUS

Because in the world’s history, there appears from time to time, genius, which instead of moving placidly with the times, leaps far ahead of them. “That man,” we say – but we are only able to say after his death! – “that man was born a hundred years before his time”…for it is from posterity alone that such men receive tardy vindication.

One such genius was Samuel Hahnemann. Law was revealed to him one bright flash of intuition and realisation – the Law of Drug-action; and to the elucidation and elaboration of that Law he devoted his long life. Poverty – bitter enmity – banishment – scorn – were his sorry portion, but nothing moved him. His steadfast appeal was to experience, and to posterity.

SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURENTUR In these days I think we all allow that the medicine of Hahnemann’s day (he was born in 1755) was crude and cruel; worse than that, it was harmful and futile. The establishment of issues – with venesections – salivations to a terrific extent, coupled with purgings and depletions, were wrecking the health, or costing the lives alike of the monarch on his throne, or the humble toiler for bread. So hopelessly wrong did all these things appear to Hahnemann (and here time has justified him) that he threw up a flourishing practice, and plunged himself and his family into dire poverty, that he might not, as he says, “any longer incur the risk and doing injury”; and he “engaged exclusively in chemistry and in literary occupations, supporting his family by his pen, and by his translations from many languages”.

Then one of his children fell ill, and the sight of her suffering sent the born physician back to his life-work, determined to investigate the whole question of medicine in all languages. He set his soul to discover – as he puts it – “if God had not given some certain Law. whereby the diseases of mankind could be cured.”

And while he was diligently seeking the light – suddenly it flamed before his eyes. He was translating Cullen’s Materia Medica, and in one of his characteristic annotations he criticised Cullen’s opinions in regard to the action of Peruvian bark, and the idea came to him to test the effect of the drug, as to its sick-making properties, on himself, when – lo and behold!–they took the form of ague. There could be no doubt about it: quinine both caused and cured ague. Hahnemann has denounced the abuse of quinine, but it was quinine that revealed to him homoeopathy. Observations (accidental) on the prophylactic and curative properties of Belladonna in scarlet fever were also suggestive; for are not their symptoms identical? How did other drugs act? He set to work to discover.

(It has been observed in confirmation of Hahnemann’s findings in regard to cinchona that workers in quinine factories suffer with a cinchona poisoning resembling ague.)

His eyes opened by that initial experiment with cinchona, Hahnemann began to realise (and all his subsequent experiments conducted during some fifty years confirmed this) that “It is only by their power to make sick, that drugs can cure sickness; and that a medicine can only cure such morbid conditions as it can produce, when tested on healthy persons.”

Hahnemann had one of the attributes of genius, “an infinite capacity for taking pains.” But he had more than this. He was pre-eminent in intuition – in deduction – in industry – in research -absolute self-devotion to Truth and to Humanity. He was not only great as a scholar – linguist – chemist – sanitarian – physician, but he takes special rank as one of those to whom Law reveals itself. For as Newton discovered the Law of Gravitation, so Hahnemann discovered the Law of Similars – dimly guessed at, but never realised – never understood – never demonstrated before his day.

Hahnemann found the enunciation of the Law in the “remarkable words Similia Similibus Curentur (let likes be cured by likes) in one of the books attributed to Hippocrates,” and he also found his foreshadowings in solitary remarks (which he quotes) in works by half a dozen authors (viz. Boulduc, Detharding, Bertholon, Thiury, von Stoerk and Stahl). “But,” as he says, “no one had taught this manner of cure; no one had put into practice.”

THE PROVINGS PROVINGS ONLY ON THE HEALTHY

The tendency of medicine has always been experiment on the sick. Hahnemann experimented only on the healthy, in order to have an exact materia medica, ready and proved, for administration in sickness. He soon gathered round him an enthusiastic band of disciples (some fifty of them were medical men) and he and they proved (i.e., tested) drug after drug, with all possible precautions to eliminate error; and these original provings, carefully and faithfully recorded, form the nucleus of the homoeopathic materia medica. They are embodied in his wonderful work – his Materia Medica Pura, which is as alive and up-to-date to-day as on the day when it was published – and his subsequent work, Chronic Diseases. These two, with his Organon on the Art of Healing, are the best known among his numerous works, and embody the essentials of his teaching.

The purely scientific bent of Hahnemann’s mind, and the reason why his medical works have survived those of his contemporaries, to be as illuminating and useful to-day as on the day when they were penned, is seen by the following.

“A true materia medica”, he says, “will consist of the genuine, pure, and undeceptive effects of simple drugs”; and again, “Every such materia medica should exclude every supposition – every mere assertion and fiction – and its entire contents should be the language of nature, uttered in response to careful and faithful enquiry.”

Many remedies, since Hahnemann’s day, have been added to our armoury against disease; but all subsequent work has been done on his lines. It has never been found necessary to eliminate, or to alter. Recorded in the simple language of nature, free from theory, safe from the transient language of succeeding generations, they stand for all time, complete and true; while science, in discovering new truths, has never been able to touch Hahnemann’s premises – except to confirm – since they are based on Law.

It is interesting that, in Austria, many years ago, when doubt was thrown on some of the original provings, they started to re-prove certain of the drugs. But, finding their results identical with those of Hahnemann, they concluded to accept the rest.

For the more exact purposes of homoeopathy, experiments in drug-action on animals are useless, as Hahnemann pointed out; and that for two reasons. The proverb, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” applies with tenfold force when it comes to animals. Substances poisonous to man are innocuous to many animals. “Ailments and poisons are convertible, according to the specific nature of different animals, so that ailments become poisons, and poisons alimentary”.

Opium, with us a medicine, is to some Eastern nations an alimentary substance. Hedgehogs feed on Cantharides, and take no hurt.

Rabbits eat Belladonna with impunity.

Morphia makes dogs drowsy and vomit, but excites cats. Syrian mountaineers take doses of Arsenic sufficient to kill ordinary persons; and horses are given large doses of Arsenic to improve their wind and to make their coats glossy.

Rats are immune to diphtheria.

Cats are said to be immune to tubercle, whereas guineapigs and monkeys are highly susceptible to that infection.

By experiment on animals it may be found that certain drugs affect certain tissues of certain animals. That is all.

But more than this, homoeopathic provings have to be very fine, very delicate, and very definite; and the subjective and mental symptoms (all-important for our purpose) can only be obtained from humans.

It is only men and women who in provings could give us the mental symptoms, which have led to so many brilliant cures, such as the depression to the verge of suicide of Aurum; the insane jealousy of Lachesis; the terror of insanity of Mancinella; the frantic irritability and intolerance of pain of Chamomilla; the suspicion and restlessness of Arsenicum; the terrors of anticipation of Argentum nitricum; the fear of death of Aconite and Arsenic; the sensation of tallness and superiority of Platina; the sensation of unreality of Medorrhinum, the sensation of two wills of Anacardium; the indifference to loved ones of Phosphorus and Sepia – all straightcuts to the curative remedy, and they can only be got by provings on human-beings. Even provings on the sick are not accepted, since sickness modifies the response of the organism to drugs, and from the sick no true drug-picture can be obtained. Remedies also need to be proved on women as well as on men, in order to get their whole range of usefulness. The provings of Lilium tigrinum, for instance, entailed intense sufferings on the heroic women who undertook them; but they have given us a most useful remedy for the peculiar suffering of women, in uterine displacements, after miscarriages, etc.

As we said, the experiments of homoeopathy have always been on healthy beings. They have always been voluntary experiments. And they have never proved detrimental to health (whatever the immediate sufferings may have been), on the contrary, they tend, as Hahnemann pointed out, to raise the resistance of the prover. And Hahnemann should know, who, having spent the greater part of his life in proving drugs, lived on, in full possession of health and senses, till only one year short of ninety.

TO CURE…

The outcome of his experiments in this… “To cure mildly rapidly and permanently, choose for every case of disease a medicine which can itself produce a similar affection.”

Homoeopathy is no invention, no theory. It has been hammered out of hard facts. It is simply a scientific way of discovering what drugs can do in the way of perverting the health, mental and physical, of healthy human beings, and then applying them for the relief of just such conditions in the sick.

“Homoeopathy appeals,” says Hahnemann, “solely to the verdict of experience….Repeat the experiment, carefully and accurately, and you will find the doctrine confirmed at every step…Homoeopathy insists on being judged by results.”

DOCTRINES OF HAHNEMANN

But it was not enough for Hahnemann to have merely discovered power; he devoted a long life to its investigation, and to showing under what conditions it best works. And he has bequeathed to us, not only the Law, Similia Similibus Curentur, but also what he calls his “Doctrines”, which not to obey is to render much of our work inferior, if not futile.

May I here point out that these Doctrines of Hahnemann apply equally to such homoeopathic measures as vaccines; and that had Hahnemann’s Laws been known and observed in regard to vaccine, X-ray and radium therapies, better and more reliable results might, from the first, have been obtained; since those who use them have had perforce to approximate to the methods of Hahnemann.

For Hahnemann teaches not only

The like remedy,but also

The single drug,

The small dose,

The infrequent dose,

Non-interference with vital reaction,

Initial aggravation, and

Potentisation.

VITAL FORCE

I think we all recognise in these days what Hahnemann insisted on, that cure comes by the reaction of what he calls Vital Force against disease. We know a little more about the complicated mechanism of such reaction; but it is no longer absurd to teach, as he taught, that vital reactions are evoked by disease, and that such reactions are curative; and that the utmost we can do, curatively, is to stimulate such reaction.

He says that thousands of substances, subversive to health, simulate disease conditions, and can be employed to evoke enhanced curative reaction, where such is the case.

For instance…who will diagnose belladonna poisoning from scarlet fever? they have often been mistaken; or diagnose between dysentery and poisoning by corrosive sublimate? or between ptomaine and arsenical poisonings? Hahnemann contends and demonstrates that substances which simulate natural disease can be used, in fine dosage, for their cure. And the most striking homoeopathic curative results can be seen when using Arsenic (in infinite subdivision) for ptomaine poisoning, Mercurius cor. (corrosive sublimate) for dysentery, or Belladonna for scarlet fever. Anyone who desires to put homoeopathy to the test cannot do better than start with one of these.

Homoeopathy never contemplates curing disease by drugs in massive and repeated doses. Its objects is to stimulate the patient to cure himself. Therefore it is never a question of quantity, where the vital stimulus is employed, but always of precise selection and quality, in the drug employed for the purpose.

SINGLE DRUG

As to the single drug….that goes without saying .For what can be learnt, in provings, or in practice, from mixed prescriptions? If work is to be exact and scientific, drugs, as Hahnemann contended, must be proved separately, and can only then be used with fore-knowledge and confidence, for the cure of sicknesses of like symptoms.

THE SMALL DOSE

And then the small dose – that ancient bugbear – as Hahnemann foresaw, even for his own followers; and for others, a subject for endless witticisms. No need to apologise for the small dose now! Radium – Vitamins – Ferments – Ions – Colloids – even mineral waters have done that, and have demonstrated, to some extent, the immense potentiality of the infinitely little. Even chemistry teaches that chemical affinity comes into play only on surface, which are enormously increased when mass is reduced to impalpable powder. A lump of antimony plunged in chlorine gas shows nothing spectacular; but powder the antimony and throw it into chlorine, and the violence of the reaction will be almost explosive.

By minutest subdivision, energy is liberated from inert mass – bulk-weight: from things palpable and manifest to our grosser senses. We are last beginning to realise the potentialities of the intangible and the imponderable. But the most sensitive thing in the world is the diseased cell or tissue for the remedy of like symptoms, in infinitesimal subdivision. And it is with this that we have to deal. Science is bearing Hahnemann out in this, and his small doses present no difficulty to modern biology. Recent research on enzyme action, and the standardisation of such agents as Thyroxin and Pituitrin have emphasised the action of minute quantities of all kinds of agents, from minerals to complex organic substances.

Romies states that Thyroxin influences growth and development of tadpoles in dilutions of 1 in 5,000,000,000. 1

Jakoby shows that Potassium cyanide activates the ferment urease in a dilution of 1 in 1,000,000. 2

Reid Hunt has demonstrated that Acetyl chlorine in the strength of a milligram is half-a-million gallons of blood causes a distinct fall in the blood pressure.3.

Macht has shown that the uterus of a virgin guineapig responds to such a dilute concentration of Histamine as could not be demonstrated by the most refined microchemical methods.4

Cobra venom has been shown to haemolyse red blood corpuscles in a dilution of 1 in 10,000,000.5

The addition of 4 parts in 10,000 of copper doubles the rate of toxin production from a culture of diphtheria bacilli. (Locke and Main).6

These are merely random selections exemplifying the action of micro-doses in living cells – bacterial – amphibian – and mammalian.

But why this ultra-refinement in the dosage of homoeopathic remedies? Why, when all medicine is concerned with the maximum dose, should homoeopathy teach the minimal dose? and indeed such minimal doses as we shall speak of later, when we come to describe potentisation.

The reason is plain. Medicine, hitherto, has been mainly concerned, if one may so put it, with doing violence to the organism. It has been directed to cause sweating – vomiting – purging or sometimes to paralyse the action of the bowels. It has been used to deaden pain – to induce a drugged sleep – to modify the action of the heart – to depress fever – to excite appetite. In all these cases, the dose must be material. We are doing something subversive to the patient, or to his parts. Therefore the dose must be a poisonous, but not a lethal one. It is for this reason that the dosage of official medicine is apt to be the largest one dare give, to ensure the desired effect.

But when a remedy is used, in exactly the opposite manner – croton oil for diarrhoea – apomorphine to control vomiting – opium for the coma of cerebral haemorrhage – lead for constipation -rattle snake poison to control bleeding – and so on, it is only common sense to give it in the smallest dose that will evoke the desired reaction. Anything more than this will pro tem increase suffering – even where the ultimate result is good. And this is why, in the first instance, experience compelled Hahnemann to reduce his doses.

Observe! Homoeopathy never wants to do anything to a patient, only to stimulate his reactive powers, and so cause him to cure himself. For Hahnemann, disease was merely to rebellion of Vital Force against noxious agents inimical to life; and he taught that cure can only come from the stimulated reaction of Vital Force against disease.

Again, Hahnemann tells us that the smallest possible dose of a homoeopathic medicine will operate chiefly upon the diseased parts of the body, which have become extremely susceptible of a stimulus so similar “to their own disease”.

This increased sensitiveness of diseased parts is stressed by Bier also, who talks of the “extraordinarily sensitive disease threshold”;7 and who quotes Hufeland: “There is a reagent which is more delicate than the most delicate chemical reagent, and that is the reagent within the living organism.”

As a crude instance of this increased sensitiveness in diseases, Bier states that “it requires 250,000 times as much formic acid to produce symptoms in the healthy than in the gouty.”

Hahnemann, when applying to hypersensitive diseased tissues the one stimulus to which they were most sensitive, viz. the drug of like symptoms – that is to say, the drug that was proved to irritate those particular tissues – was forced, again and again, to reduce his doses.

It is by provings that we discover, in each case, exactly what organs or tissues are affected by different poisons; and when we apply these, as stimulants, to parts (not only especially sensitive to those particular drugs, but also rendered hypersensitive by disease) the necessity for reducing the dose is manifest.

THE INFREQUENT DOSE

Hahnemann speaks of the dose, whose repetition, depending on many factors, is never a matter of routine, or of the proclivities of the prescriber, but always depends on the reaction of the individual patient.

In acute sickness, without structural changes (I will give you cases), the effect of the first dose may be dramatic, and establish such instant and complete reaction that no second is needed.

Or in (say) pneumonia, after a marked improvement all round, the disease may, a few hours later, again get the upper hand; and experience shows that the remedy generally needs to be repeated in from four to six hours for a couple of days, till the temperature not only comes, but remains, down.

In deadly and most rapid cases, such as cholera, Hahnemann tells us that the repetition of Camphor must be in three to five minutes until reaction is established, or with Cuprum or Veratrum, every hour or half hour…. He says that remedies which act for a considerable time have the duration of their action diminished in proportion as disease is acute.

In chronic diseases the call to repeat varies with every case. The symptoms demand a remedy, and the return of symptoms, modified, will demand its repetition.

But there are other factors that come in. Some remedies are deep and long-acting, some superficial and short-acting. Some patients respond actively, others are sluggish and slow in their response. The question of the potency also comes in, since reaction varies with different potencies, and lengthens out with the higher potencies.

Therefore experience and observation alone can decide as to repetition, which depends on the individual reaction of the patient to the individual medicine.

This allowing the remedy to act was one of the great obstacles, as Hahnemann foresaw, to the acceptance of his work. His rule is, that the dose of the carefully selected homoeopathic remedy should act till it has accomplished its effect.

“Perceptible, continuous improvement, whether in acute or chronic disease, so long as it lasts contraindicates the repetition of any medicine whatsoever.” He says that every new dose of medicine would disturb the process of recovery.

And it is not this reasonable? Medicines do not cure; they merely stimulate curative reaction in the patient; and so long as this is in full swing, it is foolish to interrupt. The call for repetition is the renewed call of symptoms.

Hahnemann says, and we have proved it. “The surest way to hasten the cure is to let the medicines act so long as improvement continues…He who observes this rule with the greatest care, will be most successful homoeopathic practitioner”… and one may add, Vaccine-practitioner – as has been found.

One of Hahnemann’s greatest followers had told us, “More cases are spoilt by the too hasty repetition of the remedy than from any other cause.”

But Hahnemann foresaw the long years in which even his own followers, convinced of the law of similars, would yet doubt his teachings in its regard, and would do inferior work, because of the two great stumbling blocks to its acceptance – the small dose, and the infrequent dose. He says: “My doctrines in regard to the magnitude and the repetition of the dose will be doubted for years….I do not comprehend it – but facts speak for themselves. The truth of the proposition is demonstrated by experience – in which I have more faith than in my intelligence…If physicians do not carefully practise what I teach, let them not expect to be successful in their treatment.”

About the author

John Weir

Sir John Weir (1879 – 1971), FFHom 1943. John Weir was the first modern homeopath by Royal appointment, from 1918 onwards. John Weir was Consultant Physician at the London Homeopathic Hospital in 1910, and he was appointed the Compton Burnett Professor of Materia Medica in 1911. He was President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1923.
Weir received his medical education first at Glasgow University MB ChB 1907, and then on a sabbatical year in Chicago under the tutelage of Dr James Tyler Kent of Hering Medical College during 1908-9. Weir reputedly first learned of homeopathy through his contact with Dr Robert Gibson Miller.
John Weir wrote- Some of the Outstanding Homeopathic Remedies for Acute Conditions with Margaret Tyler, Homeopathy and its Importance in Treatment of Chronic Disease, The Trend of Modern Medicine, The Science and Art of Homeopathy, Brit Homeo Jnl, The Present Day Attitude of the Medical Profession Towards Homeopathy, Brit Homeo Jnl XVI, 1926, p.212ff, Homeopathy: a System of Therapeutics, The Hahnemann Convalescent Home, Bournemouth, Brit Homeo Jnl 20, 1931, 200-201, Homeopathy an Explanation of its Principles, British Homeopathy During the Last 100 Years, Brit Homeo Jnl 23, 1932: etc

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