Interviews

An Interview with Arthur B. Green, Editor of the homeopathy journal, The Layman Speaks for 41 years

An interview with Arthur B. Green (1884-1977).  He was the Editor of the homeopathy journal, The Layman Speaks, for 41 years.  He was considered the most outstanding layman in the field of homeopathy in the U.S.  
Duffy, John, 1915-1996 interviewer
Kaufman, Martin, 1940- interviewer
Publication: Produced: June 14, 1968

Mr. Arthur B. Green was probably the most outstanding layman in the field of homeopathy in the U.S.  He was the Editor of the homeopathy journal, The Layman Speaks, for 41 years. Green retired on his 90th birthday in 1974.  During its 41 years of publication, The Layman Speaks re-published many articles from the older, hard to find journals, as well as material from European sources. Arthur Green was an outspoken advocate of homeopathy and he wrote at least one piece in every issue.

Arthur B. Green was born in Washington, D. C. on November 7, 1884. He graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Applied Science and took a degree in Civil Engineering in 1909.  He had a long and successful career as an engineer, industrial consultant, inventor, and author of scientific textbooks. His chief avocation, however, has been homeopathy, one to which he was drawn by his family background. His sister was the late Julia Minerva Green, M.D., one of the foremost homeopaths of the 20th century and the main spirit of the American Foundation for Homeopathy.  Mr. Green worked with his sister in the Foundation from its inception in 1921.

K: I wonder if you could tell us how you became interested in homoeopathy?  

Green: Well, my family was ostensibly a homoeopathic family. That is to say, we had a homoeopathic doctor to take care of us.  My sister graduated from Wellesley, and at that time a female college graduate had about two things that she could do. She could either teach or she could get married. And she didn’t want to do either of those.

  1. That was Julia Green.

Green – Yes, Dr. Julia Minerva Green. And so, she decided to take up medicine and to study homoeopathy. She went to Boston University Medical School and then studied with Dr. A. Austin of New York and Dr. Frederica E. Gladwin in Philadelphia. Dr. Gladwin had collaborated with Dr. James Tyler Kent of Chicago, which resulted in Dr. Kent’s Materia Medica and Repertory.

I was attracted to homoeopathy because it does have laws as engineering has laws, as a basis. I mean, it is logical. It proceeds by logical steps. And so I was oriented for it, or conditioned for it, even as a youngster. Then when the American Foundation for Homoeopathy was organized, I became interested in the public relations end of the work, and was associated with Dr. Benjamin G. Woodbury, who was then here in Boston, in editing a publication called, the Homoeopathic Survey.  He was the medical editor, and I was the lay editor.

D – I assume you are retired now, or do you still… ?

Green – I should be retired, but there is no rest for the wicked.

D –  You were carrying on your full-time occupation and doing this as extra curricular activity?

Green – That is right.

KYou said that you were attracted to homoeopathy because you were impressed by the logic and the order and laws. Could you briefly tell us what these laws are?

Green – It is very hard to do that briefly, but there are some points about it that distinguish it very sharply from anything else in the healing field. First of all, homoeopathy, the name, comes from the principle of similars. Hahnemann didn’t originate the idea, but he did engineer it, and put it into practice.

The Law of Similars means that the medicine that will cure is similar, not to the disease, and not primarily to the symptoms, but to the person who is sick. Consequently, what most interests the practicing homoeopath is to learn from the patient those things that are peculiar, characteristic of the patient, and peculiar to him, and homoeopaths have a lingo for that. They say those things which are “strange, rare and peculiar” about the individual.

D-  As of 1921, the American Foundation for Homoeopathy was founded, this would be the pure homoeopathy?

Green – Yes, there were twelve physicians involved in that founding, and they were all what would be called, purists, Hahnemannian homoeopaths.

K- What was the function of the Foundation the past  forty-five years?

Green – The function has been to maintain the so-called strict, or purist homoeopathy. The main basis for making the Foundation, was to get team play between the profession and the laity. These twelve founding doctors foresaw that the future of medicine lies very much with the laity as well as with the profession.

They believed that the principles on which medicine was founded belonged as much to the laymen as to the profession, and that the laymen are perfectly well qualified, even with a modicum of education, to state these principles and to understand them. And they sought to bring together the efforts of the laity with the efforts of the profession, based on this understanding of principle.

In the original by-laws it said in the Statement of Purpose that the Foundation was to establish and maintain centers of education for the laymen as well as for the doctors. And as that has developed, we now have a formal course for laymen. It takes fifteen weeks, that is, it is in fifteen sessions. And that course is designed to be given by a layman.

And they go through it and have an examination at the end. But the purpose of it is not to make doctors, or even amateur doctors, but to make the layman an intelligent patient, an intelligent interpreter of homoeopathy to his fellow layman, and to give him the means of cooperating with other laymen in doing that.

 K- Is there a distinction between a homoeopathic patient and an allopathic one?

Green– If a doctor is going to find out from his patient those things which are strange, rare, and peculiar, that requires that the patient should be able to report intelligently. He is a better patient if he knows what to observe and what to report than if he doesn’t know that.

Now a man comes into the office and says, “I have a headache, and I want it cured. And of course you can always stop a headache with a pain killer, but you can’t stop it permanently that way. But if you are going to find out what is strange, rare, and peculiar about that particular patient you start by saying, “Well, when did this occur, and under what circumstances?

When are you worse and when are you better, and under what circumstances? Are you sensitive to drafts? Now the fellow as a layman, if he doesn’t know this, he just comes in and says, “Doctor, I have a headache and I want it fixed up.” He hasn’t observed all these things that the doctor will ask him. If he knows how to observe those things and can walk into the office and give them, he is a better patient, and he has a better chance.

 D.- Would you say that for an individual to go into homoeopathy he should be more inclined to have a reflective or philosophic mind, rather than an empirical viewpoint?

Green– Yes, I think that is a very marked distinction.

D-  Would you say that the homoeopath seeks to stimulate the body’s defensive mechanisms to react.

Green – That would be the phrasing that the bacteriologist would use. You may remember that Rene Dubos of the Rockefeller Institute, who has been a bacteriologist of world renown for many years, has come to the conclusion that before an infection will take place, something favorable to it has to be in the host. And he said that the future of medicine depends on finding what that “something” is. The question in any case of sickness is, what is it about the sick person that must be cured.

Now if a bacterium comes along and has an effect on an individual, that shows that the individual was susceptible to it. Otherwise, all individuals would be afflicted. Now what is it about the sick person that must be cured?  It is that inward energy, you can’t see it, they call it the life force, or the vital force and once the vital force is in disorder and can’t right itself without help, then the patient is sick.

And he is sick first, and his susceptibility to bacteria and his symptoms which you can observe are afterward.  So you use the signs that you can see and sense as your guide to the disorder that has occurred within, and it is that disorder that you have to reach in order to effect a cure. In other words, the bacteria, your bacteriology, has to do with a consequence of sickness rather than the sickness itself. It isn’t the bacteria that originated the sickness.

 D – Orthodox medicine might accuse you of relying too much on symptomatology.

Green- Of course all through the years, homoeopathy has been accused of that. But in the/practical working out of the story, the information which homoeopathy tries to elicit in case taking is prior to the information that you get from the symptoms, from the examinations of the laboratory, and if they fail to get that prior information, they are likely to fail of any permanent cure.

D- You are saying that the homoeopath must know the complete case history of the individual to be effective, more than say just the symptoms of the particular ailment.

Green – Yes.

K- In that case the homoeopath would always oppose mass immunization, fluoridation of water, is that correct?

Green – No, it is not quite correct. It is possible with homoeopathy to mass immunize very successfully. When I was in Erie, Pennsylvania, I got very well acquainted with a fine old prescriber out there by the name of Edward Granch.   And Pennsylvania was the most strict state in the union about vaccinating children to let them into school.

And so the children of his patients, when they came towards school age, he would give them homoeopathic variolinum, that is one of the possibilities, in the spring, and then in the fall as school approached, he would send them around to another doctor to be vaccinated according to the law.

And after a few years, this doctor came over to see Granch.  He hated to do it because he looked down on him, and he said, “Granch, I am never going to vaccinate any more of your children”, and Granch said, “Why not?  “Well”, he said, “It never takes.”

K- Well, wouldn’t this be opposed to the homoeopathic idea of seeing the patient as an individual?

Green- Yes, you see, it is only a blanket measure, but if you want specific immunity you can get it, in that way. Specific immunity doesn’t count for much in the matter of health. With specific immunity you don’t improve the health of the people. The more specific immunity has been used, that is in the orthodox way, the more chronic illness we have had. Not with regard to the particular diseases, but in general.

D-  Can we attribute a good part of increased longevity to the fact that orthodox medicine has conquered many of the great killer diseases, and people today, I think, are healthier, and happier, bigger, and stronger than their forebears.

Green–  I think the fact is true that people live longer, tend to be bigger and stronger. I think, however, that this taken by itself tends to leave out other factors. I am an engineer. When I was growing up everything was horse-drawn. You had no refrigeration. You had either to burn kerosene or burn gas in the evening.

You had to burn coal to heat your house. Central heating hadn’t arrived. We had a stable of horses behind our house and everything on the table had to be covered with domed screens. The water, this was in Washington, D. C., there was no filtration. There were many days when you couldn’t see the tablecloth through a tumbler of drinking water but we drank it.

The working day was ten hours, not eight, and the working week was six days, not four or five. So those engineering advances have had an enormous effect on the safety of living. The whole sanitary movement of the nineteenth century. We got our milk straight from the farm and there was no inspection. So those are engineering advances. So I think the doctors have been claiming a little of the engineering–taking a little of the credit that belongs to engineering.

 

  1. Could you tell us what the relations have been, and have they changed to any extent between orthodox medicine and homoeopathy?

Green – Well, I have already said that in order to become a homoeopath you have to become an orthodox doctor first. That is one point in the relationship. When homoeopathy started in this country it grew very fast. And at that time there were no national medical organizations.

The rapidity, the speed of growth of homoeopathy, scared the life out of the established medicine and instead of studying it they tried to suppress it. So the American Institute of Homoeopathy was formed as the first national medical professional organization.

Now that was in 1846, the year after Hahnemann’s death. And at that time the established medicine was represented only by local groups, state associations, city-wide associations. So they got busy and formed themselves into the American Medical Association to defend themselves against homoeopathy, which they refused to study. Harris Coulter can document that for you, better than I can.

The next big event began about 1910 with the Abraham Flexner Report.    Abraham was an educator, and not a doctor, and he was working for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and made a study of the curricula of medical schools, and published a report which indicated that there were no standards.

There was no degree of uniformity among medical schools. And so he recommended that standards be set up and adhered to. At that point the homoeopaths apparently, as far as I know, paid no attention to it, but the American Medical Association was smart enough to see the opportunity, and they had, of course, the bulk of the public support and sympathy and trust.  So they undertook to set up the standards for medical instruction and also for hospitals.  So, based on their specifications these Institutions were graded, A, B, and C.

In Boston University they were teaching some homoeopathy, not a great deal, and not very good, and that was characteristic of a great many of the colleges and universities. They didn’t have enough professors who understood homoeopathy themselves to give the boys a real good training in it.

But still, even if they didn’t do any more than call themselves homoeopaths, they were irregulars in the eyes of the medical association. So they gave Boston University here a choice. You get rid of your homoeopathy or you don’t get the “A” grade.

Well now, a school trying to operate without the “A” grade would have difficulty in getting students and even more difficulty getting endowments. So it was pretty tight pressure. And they decided to yield to it. Then there were some medical colleges founded entirely with homoeopathic money to teach homoeopathy, and they had to face the same choice. With the result that between about 1915 and 1930, the schools finally disappeared, and with them the homoeopathic licensing boards.  The elimination of these homoeopathic colleges obviously would have a fairly disastrous effect on the number of homoeopaths that were produced.

K- In 1936, the A.M.A.  passed a regulation saying that no medical school or hospital may have in its title any sectarian designation. And this meant that the New York Homoeopathic Medical College was forced to change their name to New York Medical College. Was this opposed?

Green – Well, individually it would be completely opposed by anybody who is interested in homoeopathy, but organizationally, they were just passive about it, and nothing was done. And consequently, the public didn’t know that there was anybody around who had any objection to it, and consequently the public has pretty nearly lost sight of homoeopathy.

The A.M.A. has had a political action committee for some time. And so he is starting one for homoeopathy.  We took the lead in the successful effort, to have the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia remain in the law when the Medicare law was made. The Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia is recognized in the law of the land, but when this new legislation was being written, if it hadn’t been for this campaign in which we all took part, the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia might have been dropped, and then it would have been hard to establish the right of a homoeopath to practice.

  1. Tell us about the programs within the American Foundation for Homoeopathy. Could you describe the work of a Layman’s League?

Green – Yes, the Layman’s Leagues are in two parts principally.  First, for the members to inform themselves, and keep abreast of the times, and second, to extend information to others outside of the Leagues, and to attract others to the Leagues that way.

Some of the doctors are born teachers, and my sister (Dr. Julia Minerva Green) was one. There were two leagues formed at the beginning, one in Washington and one in New York. My sister had so many questions asked her by her patients and it took so much of her practicing time to answer those questions, that she was having them come down to the office in the evening, and she would give them undivided attention to answer their questions.

And in that way, she finally developed a body of information that she put in a leaflet called the Homoeopathic Primer. And then the thought occurred to them that they might as well organize and make it a permanent thing. So that is the way the League in Washington was formed.

Then in New York there was an outstanding master in the art in Brooklyn by the name of Stuart Close. Well, he gathered younger men to him, younger men in the profession so he would meet with groups and they would extend their understanding together in the evening. Dr. Close died, and his wife applied the same idea in New York, to layman, so she operated the group there. And she learned about the Foundation, and she linked their group with the group in Washington. And that is the way the whole thing began.

 D- How successful would you say they were? Certainly they managed to enable homoeopathy to survive.

Green – That is right.

 D- Would you say they have done more than that, or I think in view of what we are saying, about the public lack of knowledge, it has been an uphill struggle I gather.

Green – A very uphill struggle, but there has been some headway made. People who are oriented toward public relations don’t come too often, and there are not many of them, so that the art of getting the word out is pretty hard to put into practice through a league, but if you don’t do it that way, how are they going to do it?

D- How about the postgraduate courses that have been offered since those years?

Green – That has been going since 1921.  As we have already said, the American Institute of Homoeopathy was pretty liberal in its requirements, and to its own disadvantage, because it raised a lot of controversy within itself between the various degrees and fractions of acceptance of homoeopathy among the members.

D- When did this this crisis occur?

Green –  Oh, it was immediate. There was a war for about twenty years, or more, between the two. Then the evolution happened like this. You see in the meantime following the Abraham Flexner Report, the undergraduate homoeopathic medical schools gradually disappeared.

They didn’t represent good homoeopathy anyway, and they disappeared. Well, that dried up the sources of new members for the Institute, so that the influence of what they disdainfully called purists, grew proportionately over the years, and so most of the officers and committee chairmanships in the Institute gradually veered toward the purists.

 K-  What do you think is the future of homoeopathy?

Green- Oh, certainly, it will never die. So it will always have a future. Homoeopathy will depend, I think, on the person of independent mind who doesn’t mind being in the minority. You know, the discriminating mind who doesn’t go by tradition or habit but by reasoning things out.

Did you ever go down to Thomas Edison’s place there in Orange?  The one in Orange is still there in Menlo Park, and over every door he has a quotation from Joshua Reynolds, “There is no limit to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.”  And another way of putting it is that the human animal always does everything the wrong way first.

So that is what limits homoeopathy. If the Universities keep on training people to think, homoeopathy will grow. But it does require thought. That is the reason that the circulation of the Layman Speaks is so small. It isn’t what the publishing industry calls an escape magazine that you sit down with to get entertainment, that doesn’t require anything of you. You have to do something up here in the head, and that is very difficult and very painful.

K- Where are the future homoeopathic physicians going to come from? The average homoeopath today is probably approaching sixty-five, if not over that.

Green- That is a terribly desperate situation. Well, where the new ones will come from will be, Harvard Medical School graduates. I think, about three hundred and fifty a year, and if you were free to discuss homoeopathy with them, which you are not, you would probably be able to interest three to five out of each class.

But of course, the bright side of the story is that if you could people the medical profession entirely with homoeopaths, you wouldn’t need nearly as many of them. You don’t believe that, do you?

 D- I would say that that is a value judgment,

Green– What most medicine now is doing is either palliation or suppression. That is where you get your long term chronic disease. And the official statistics in Washington, I have got them here, show that in our present time, one in two in the United States is chronically ill. And what they mean by that is, not expected to get better.

Now that implies that a lot of these deep-seated conditions like cancer, heart disease and all the neuroses, are cropping up in younger and younger people all the time. And that is where you have to say that although people are living longer they are living sicker.

K– The average patient is looking for a quick way to get better. I think this is the primary problem for homoeopathy.

Green- Yes, but you can’t say that homoeopathy is slow. Homoeopathy is much quicker than any other, but the patient thinks the other is quicker because it requires less of him.  I have seen a homoeopathic remedy work like the snap of your finger. In fact, every homoeopathic remedy works like that.

I mean the initiation of the curative force is immediate. Working it out may take longer. But because homoeopathy is good on chronic ills, it gets the reputation of being slow. The illness that is developing in the individual for forty years won’t be cured in five minutes. In order to cure it you have got to carry it back in inverse order. That is one of the laws of cure. So it gets the reputation of being- slow.

I had a fellow come to see me that I had known years back and he was elated over his success in selling insurance. And he was here attending a convention where he was honored for a high record in selling insurance. And he had been wining and dining, and all this, and he was in his glory telling us all about his triumphs. And then all of a sudden he paled, and he got grey, looked cadaverous, all of a sudden. And he had been telling us about all the lobster dinners he had had.

I was in a quandry. He was going into a deep state, and he was on my hands, and everybody in town knew that I was one of these crazy homoeopaths. And if he died on me, and I didn’t call a doctor, I would be in a pickle. And on the other hand, if I did call a doctor, I couldn’t get him there in time.

So I said: “I think I know what your remedy is, and it won’t hurt you any, and I’ll give it to you if you want me to,”. He was scared out of his life, and he said, “All right, go ahead.” So I gave him the remedy. It was a low potency. And I took out my watch and in less than a minute the color came back to his face and he began to get sleepy.

I put him on this couch here and loosened his clothes, and he slept there for over an hour. We had the lights on and we were talking, moving around, and it didn’t disturb him a bit.

He slept there like a baby. And finally he woke up, and he said, “I have got to go to the bathroom.” So I led him into the bathroom and got him on the seat, and in a couple of minutes he said: “Come here. What is the matter with me?” He was scared again.

He was emptying himself so fast he thought he was going to lose his back teeth. Before the evening was over, the friends who had brought him were going to call for him, and when they came, he was up on his feet, and he was all aglow and telling us what he was going to do the next day. But you can’t say that homoeopathy is slow, in an acute fix like that.

 K- Do you have anything to add, Mr. Green, that we might have forgotten?

Green – Well, I would like to have spent a great deal more time on this question of palliation, suppression and cure, because that comes very close to the philosophy. But if I were to attempt to give you the philosophy I would have to keep you here for a week.

You haven’t gotten the manual now, but we don’t let the manual out because it isn’t a textbook. It is a guide for the leaders in the Foundation Course for Laymen. But when you give that course the people never want to go home, and it takes fifteen of those sessions to give the layman enough so that he can really start thinking.

D.- Have you taught this course yourself?

Green- Yes, I wrote the course. I had a deuce of a time getting it adopted, but I finally got it adopted. It has been going now for twenty-two years.

D- Are you teaching it now?

Green – Yes, right along, all the time. We have it on tape.

About the author

John Duffy

John Duffy (1915–1996) was an American medical historian. Epidemics in Colonial America, The Rudolph Matas History of Medicine in Louisiana (2 volumes) Sword of Pestilence and The New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853 (1966), A History of Public Health in New York City (2 volumes, 1968, 1974), The Tulane University Medical Center: 150 years of medical education (1984) and The Sanitarians, A History of American Public Health (1990), The Healers (1976). That book describes the rise of modern medicine in the United States. In 1991 the American Association for the History of Medicine gave Duffy its Lifetime Achievement Award for the History of Medicine.

About the author

Martin Kaufman

Martin Kauffman was research assistant to the medical historian Dr. John Duffy.
He worked as Professor of History Westfield State College in 1969 until his retirement in 1998. His interest in state and local history led him to initiate the Historical Journal of W. Mass. in 1972, serving as its editorial director until 1980 when it became the Historical Journal of Massachusetts.

2 Comments

  • Wow…despite having read so much about homeopathy since 1973, I had never previously heard about or read this interview. And I have to admit to being shocked and amazed that I never previously knew that Arthur Green was the brother of Julia Green (it all makes so much sense!).

    However, no one at that time knew that the REAL problem that homeopathy faced was that JD Rockefeller gave away over $500 million during the first 3 decades of the 20th century…and he wanted HALF of his donations to medical institutions to go to homeopathic institutions…but not a dime was ever given. I am now writing on THIS subject…and readers will hear of it in the near future…

  • Beautiful interview. I would like to know if “The Layman Speaks” has been digitized? If not, does any library or private individual hold a complete set of this magazine?
    Enthusiastic laymen are a gift to homeopathy!

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