Homeopathy Papers

Do you think Kent was a Hahnemannian?

Written by Nancy Siciliana

James Tyler Kent may have made his mistakes as much as each of us do. He may have deviated towards his spirituality as he sought answers in his own life as well as his professional life. Many of us do this as well. But I think in essence, he remained Hahnemannian in his professional practice.

Finally, the latest poll:

Do you think Kent was a Hahnemannian? Did he follow Hahnemann’s path or create his own philosophy?

Yes (49.0 %) 122 votes
No (35.3 %) 88 votes
Can’t say (15.7 %) 39 votes
Total votes #: 249

To look at the full results for this poll, click here

Let’s look at some of the “Yes” responses:

From Sandra Russo (3/20/2006), who writes:

Kent was by and large Hahnemannian. His deviation mainly was in the higher potencies but even Hahnemann was tending to experimenting with the higher potencies (how much can one man do in one lifetime?).

If one reads the Organon and Kent’s philosophy, you could not possibly feel/think that Kent had deviated on the greater part….

H. Balasubramanian 3/17/2006

It is true J.T.K. deviated from S.H. on spiritual aspect. But in homoeopathic approach for the treatment of sick, there is no two opinions.
Dr. Leela 3/19/2006

Kent developed a very helpful perspective of finding the similimum remedy based on his background and his personality strengths. These have been incredibly helpful to most of us homeopaths who are able to understand his contribution with an open mind and evolving experience. I have learnt much from his books and I am immensely grateful.

He may have made his mistakes as much as each of us do. He may have deviated towards his spirituality as he sought answers in his own life as well as his professional life. Many of us do this as well. But I think in essence, he remained Hahnemannian in his professional practice.

M.Ramachandra (3/19/2006) writes (though I’ve edited his text to eliminate the shorthand used) that:

Kent is more Hahnemanian. General opposition is, “He followed Swedenborg’s philosophy. But if you read Hahnemann’s Organon and Kent’s lectures, you don’t feel that you are reading something different. In clinic Hahnemann or Kent you follow, it is the same. The concept of Vital Force itself is difficult for Westerners to digest. Hahnemann himself changed his ideas.
High potencies- once Hahnemann gave the idea of potency. Kent took it forward. Hahnemann never limited the level of potency.

Dry doses: What Kent says is correct. The quantity has no role. The dynamic level of disease is to be matched with the dynamic level of medicine. One pill or ten pills are taken at time, it won’t change the potency or dynamic level. Kent was not alive when 6th edition was published.

Miasm -Hahnemann himself was not clear about Miasm. He says it was infection. But to get infected you have to have Miasmatic-Tendency.
Nobody can exactly follow the leader. Certain INDIVIDUALITY will be there. Kent never claimed he is different from Hahnemann. Unnecessary controversy. Kent developed furthermore of Hahnemann. HAHNEMANN IS NOT END OF HOMOEOPATHY. HE IS ONLY BEGINNING.

Now, let’s look at a “No” response, posted by Wendy Howard (3/18/2006). She writes:

No. I don’t think Kent was a Hahnemannian. It’s certainly possible to read the Organon with Kentian spectacles on and it all looks like it fits, but for me, the difference became obvious once I started researching Boenninghausen’s methods. Hahnemann is on record as saying that Boenninghausen’s practice was the closest to his own of all his followers and that if he became sick then Boenninghausen would be the man he’d call upon.

So it follows that if Kent’s practice had been close to Hahnemann’s, then Kent should have had no difficulty understanding Boenninghausen. To begin with, that seemed to be the case — he recommended Boenninghausen’s works and used them. But once Kent devised his hierarchy of symptoms he became completely incapable of understanding Boenninghausen’s methods anymore and wrote many articles rubbishing Boenninghausen’s approach.

Kent’s criticisms of Boenninghausen don’t stand up to close examination. It becomes apparent that his inability to understand Boenninghausen’s approach is because he had become so enmeshed in his Swedenborgian notions about symptom hierarchy that he had created false distinctions between “general” and “particular” symptoms.

The bottom line is that Kent’s symptom hierarchy is incompatible with Boenninghausen’s non-hierarchical approach, and hence (by Hahnemann’s endorsement of Boeninghausen’s methods) with Hahnemann’s own views. So in seeing himself as the one true voice of Hahnemannian homeopathy, it would appear that Kent was horribly mistaken.

Well, first of all Hahnemann was an older man, but he would still have been a contemporary of Boenninghausen, who lived between 1785 and 1864. Hahnemann and Kent would never have met, as Hahnemann died six years before James Tyler Kent was born, in 1849. It’s quite likely Hahnemann approved of Boenninghausen and not Kent simply for this reason alone, so I wouldn’t take Hahnemann’s declaration of Boenninghausen as “the man he’d go to see if he were sick” as any kind of proof of Hahnemannian preference between the two, or proof of methodical and philosophical equivalence. That being said, there may have been many personal reasons for Kent’s denunciations of Boenninghausen’s methods including such things as self-interest (certainly Kent wished to flourish in his practice and in his work as a writer, promoting his own repertory over other writers’ works) and interests having to do with furthering Homeopathy in the U.S. It is true that Kent certainly went his own way with his understanding and practice, which was different from the very individualistic way Boenninghausen chose to practice. Whether there is room for each practitioner to be considered “Hahnemannian” depends on factors arising out of the comparison of methods used; if it just comes down to disagreeing with the way a person analyzes or understands a case, then we have to weigh whether or not that analysis or understanding maintains a scientific distance and focuses on the (observable, not speculative) facts at hand.

It is very true that Kent was influenced by the works of Emmanuel Swedenborg, the highly prolific scientist (yes, he did concern himself primarily with the natural sciences from chemistry to botany and zoology, and even anatomy and physiology and psychology) and philosopher and theologian who worked abundantly during the 1700s.

Swedenborg was influential not just in his spiritual philosophies, as many people think: he was also quite influential as a scientist and psychologist. Swedenborg’s own scientific ideas were influenced by scientists and philosophers such as Kant, Newton, and Descartes. His later works focused less on physical science and more on his own recognition of his psychic skills, leading to his fame as a mystic and philosopher on the relationship between the human being and the creator. Eventually, the influence of Swedenborg’s ideas spread throughout Europe and North America, and a church was created based on Swedenborg’s theological ideas, called the Church of the New Jerusalem: this church, not surprisingly, found a solid foothold in the U. S.. The ideas of Swedenborg’s philosophy fit so well with Hahnemann’s Homeopathy that Homeopathic medicine was readily adopted by Swedenborgians and members of the New Jerusalem Church. In turn, many Homeopaths at the time in Europe and North America found the theology to be so well aligned to Homepathy that many became part of the Church. In North America at the time, it would have been professionally advantageous for any Homeopath to become active (and aligned as practitioners) in that church, and in fact, so many prominent Homeopaths we still know about today were active members of that church (this list includes Constantine Hering, Hans Gram, and the publishers Boericke and Tafel). Kent is often criticized for his interest in Swedenborg and for bringing in the influence of Swedenborg in his practice, but the fact is that this intellectual philosophy was already a part of so many prominent homeopaths’ practices at the time. Kent was only one of many, and one who “joined in” the number long after equally influential, well-established homeopaths had already done so.

Kent’s own interest in Swedenborg’s writings didn’t begin until after his first wife died, and at that time he had already become well-known as a Homeopath, teaching in the Post Graduate School of Homeopathy in Philadelphia. It was his second wife, Clara, a well-known leader in Philadelphia’s New Jerusalem Church, who introduced Kent to Swedenborg’s writings, and her own influence on Kent’s work and on his subsequent advancement as a Homeopath in the US shouldn’t be overlooked. Kent’s perspective on Hahnemannian practice reflected the influence of Swedenborg in the way that he, for example, organized his Repertory, imposing a hierarchy on symptoms in much the same way that Swedenborg devised a hierarchy of Degrees. Clara also worked diligently as the Repertory’s editor and revisor, ensuring that its organization reflected this Swedenborgian influence (For more information of the direct correlation between Swedenborgian philosophy on Homeopathy in the United States, and on Kent especially, I’ll refer you to excellent article at http://www.theprover.com/). Once that Repertory became widely used, and Kent himself became prolific as a writer and lecturer, his own distinct understanding of Hahnemann’s writings and methods spread as well. Whatever your feelings about Kent’s work, it’s hard to see how homeopathy would have become as widely used and as well known as it had become in the US without this theological connection at that time.

I can’t let this wrap-up go without quoting one very abrupt, but pertinent and correct, comment from Ingrid Dryburgh (3/20/2006)

Firstly = you should never ask 2 questions and expect 1 answer. It confuses the issue.

As to the actual question, I think he started out Hahnemannian, but homeopathy is a living science that needs and should be further developed, added to and experimented with.

About the author

Nancy Siciliana

Nancy Siciliana DHom

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