Interviews

Interview with Dr. James Hawley Stephenson – 1968

Written by John Duffy

An interview with homeopath Dr. James Hawley Stephenson from 1968. This avid researcher and prolific writer defends homeopathy and shares his experience and knowledge in the politics of medicine.

Dr. James Hawley Stephenson (1919 – 1985) was born in St. Louis, Missouri (U.S.). He was an allopathic physician in New York City, but converted to homeopathy after being cured of abdominal pain by Elizabeth Wright Hubbard. For ten years he served as Editor of the Journal of International Homeopathy and was an active member of the International Hahnemannian Association and was one of the first Diplomates of the Board of Homeotherapeutics.  He did considerable research in homeopathy and published many clinical trials as well as numerous articles.

Dr. Stephenson was interviewed in his office at 66 East 83rd Street, New York, New York, on June 18, 1968. The interviewers were Dr. John Duffy of Tulane University School of Medicine and Dr. Martin Kaufman, his graduate student and research assistant. (The interviewers were allopaths and skeptical of homeopathy)

Q:  Could you start by giving some of your background?

JHS:  When I was a sophomore medical student at Cornell, through a series of coincidences, I found out about homeopathic medicine. Dr. Elizabeth Hubbard’s name was given to me as a homeopathic physician, which I recorded and more or less forgot about. Then I got acute appendicitis in the middle of my sophomore year, and did not wish particularly to lose a few weeks through an operation, so I thought I would try homeopathy. She gave me a remedy, and overnight the symptoms went away, and this made me quite interested. I was probably more open-minded than the average physician in this direction, because 1 had gone into medicine late, after five years in the army, and I had some background in various philosophic systems which are to some extent coincident with homeopathy.

Q:   Where did you study medicine?

JHS:  I am a graduate of Cornell Medical College. I did a year’s internship and then I went right into a homeopathic preceptorship with Dr. Hubbard for three years. Before that I had attended the postgraduate course of the American Foundation for Homeopathy between my sophomore and junior year in medical school.

Q: And you are in general practice right now?

JHS: I see people of all ages and sexes. But I am really rather highly specialized in that the therapies I use when I give medicines are always homeopathic. In addition to homeopathy, I have some background in nutrition. I worked for the New York City Bureau of Nutrition for ten years.

Q:  What about the concept of dilution, the assumption that the less of the drug, the better. How do you feel about this?

JHS:  Well, here again it is not so much a matter of feeling, Hahnemann introduced the use of medicines in very high dilution, as I am sure you are aware, around the early 1800’s. And homeopathic physicians have been using this now for many, many years, and they have had abundant clinical evidence that this is effective. The recent work on nuclear magnetic resonance and some work done in England and France has indicated that, indeed, the high dilutions do exist physically, and that it is not only a matter of dilution, but the dynamization, consisting of succussion and trituration appears to be a vital factor.

Medicines are homeopathic in the manner in which they are used, not in the manner in which they are prepared. The medicine can truly only be called homeopathic if it has been tested on a healthy person, its symptoms recorded, and if the physician then gives that medicine to a patient who presents symptoms similar to the so-called proving symptoms; this renders the medicine homeopathic. It just happens that homeopathic physicians introduced this method of preparing medicine into science, and it has really been tragic that it has remained in the homeopathic field so long and has not been taken up by other scientists for work in this, area.

Q:  In testing out the doctrine of similars, what assurance have we that people will respond collectively to it?

JHS:  Well, you are arguing theoretically about something that is a scientific fact. People do respond collectively, and anyone who has done provings with homeopathic medicine knows this. I have done many provings.  In addition, to that, you have probably seen this book of mine which is the only summary of recent provings. In order to write that, I had to go back into all literature and check the original proving records. And it is a fact that you can give an unknown substance to fifty or a hundred people and a significant number of those people will all get the same symptoms without any collusion.

Homeopathy is a rather pragmatic thing. It does work. Let me give you an example. I just gave a dose of arnica to a lady in Greenwich who has had a bursitis now for two years, and she has been to everybody you can think of for this. She has had no contact with homeopathy. She didn’t even know what I gave her. And her shoulder is now fifty percent better than it has been in two years, and she had the best of so-called orthodox care.

Now this is only one example out of thousands I could give, and which any homeopathic physician’s practice is full of. And after one is exposed to this kind of thing one has to accept homeopathy as a pragmatic science. And of course the counterpoise that it is my psychosomatic power that suggests this—man, if I’m that powerful as a suggestor – hypnotist, Mesmer is a pipsqueak by comparison. And to imply that all homeopathic physicians are supermen—their ability to suggest health into patients—and not to apply an equal superhuman quality to non-homeopathic colleagues, again, is scientifically incorrect.

Q: To what extent has any testing of homeopathic remedies been done under, let us say, controlled circumstances?

JHS:  My reaction to this is, would it be of value in treating animals? It is, believe me. Animals are my best patients. I am a real general practitioner. I am a Dr. Doolittle. I have probably on the average here fifty assorted dogs and cats that are patients. Often these animals are medicated without even their knowledge. Sometimes I don’t even see them. I will have some anxious patient say, “So-and-so has been given up to die by a local vet. Is there something I can give from the kit?” I will have this patient give this animal medicine from a kit which they have. Now the animal will get better. I wish my human patients responded as consistently as my animal patients. I have treated cancers in dogs and cats successfully, where a cancer is a very hard thing for me to treat in humans. So whenever one gets into this psychological thought transference business with homeopathy—to me this completely invalidates it.

Q:  Would it be possible to briefly summarize clinical investigation of the type of research that is being done in homeopathy? (This question is asked in 1968)

JHS:  First of all, we would have to talk about different aspects of homeopathic research. The whole business of double-blind, random sampling, etc. has never been done in homeopathy. One of the reasons for this is because the homeopathic medicines are not diagnostically specific, they are patient specific. Therefore, it would be very hard to find five hundred casually selected patients all of whom were indicated by the same homeopathic medicine for a particular diagnosis. So this really mitigates against that kind of human testing. I don’t think that homeopathic physicians are that anxious to prove the effectiveness of homeopathy to their non-homeopathic colleagues. I don’t really think we are ardently in the missionary business.

Professor W. John Boyd of the Department of Biochemistry at Hahnemann Medical School, who is doing a great deal of work in muscle enzyme chemistry has done some work with Veratrum album alkaloids in homeopathic solutions to see what effect they have on muscle enzyme systems. This really is the first good research on the high dilutions at the academic level which has existed in the history of American homeopathy, save for a little bit at New York Homeopathic Hospital which he did on fruit flies, which was very provocative. He showed that by using high dilutions of triturate of the fruit fly, and also Arsenican album he could alter a genetic predisposition in red-eyed fruit flies to a genetically determined cancer. So that beyond a certain point this particular breed of fruit fly, which when untreated, would have a spontaneous incidence in a hundred percent, were stopped from having this. And if the high dilutions can effect genetically determined cancer, the biological application of this is obvious. But this was in the 1920’s, and like most homeopathic research of that period, it appeared solely in one of the homeopathic journals. This, I think, is an important point for the record. Most homeopathic physicians are clinicians, and they are involved primarily in treating sick people. They are not research people in orientation or training. In the past, any research that has been done has been largely proving, or largely some clinical application of homeopathy.

About the author

John Duffy

Dr. John Duffy of Tulane University School of Medicine

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1 Comment

  • I enjoyed this interview with Dr James Haley Stephenson, who did such nice job of characterizing the state of medicine in the U.S. ” The big brother attitude that the government is interposing itself between the citizen and his right to have a therapy”.” And the FDA is continuing this oppressive control. “I don’t know how the United States, “The land of the free, and the home of the brave,” has gotten to this phase of medical practice.”
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