Dr. Peter Fisher, in an interview published in The American Homeopath 2015 edition (p. 39), made some comments related to vaccination. Dr. Fisher supported the validity of vaccination as a health promoting measure. I disagree, but that is not why I’m writing. Dr. Fisher then claimed that Hahnemann himself supported them.
“Some homeopaths attack vaccination unaware that in the 6th edition of the Organon, Hahnemann has said that vaccination is a wonderful thing and it has saved the lives of children. Do see the footnote under paragraph 46. Hahnemann seems to have considered that the Jennerian method of vaccination – scratching cowpox pus under the skin – was both preventative in epidemics and curative when it was used against similar disease states. Both homeopathy and Jenner’s cowpox vaccine came around in the late1700s and Hahnemann saw the benefits of cowpox vaccination.
In the present day and age, we have been able to eradicate polio, smallpox, diptheria and even tetanus by judicious use of vaccination. I see cervical cancer being wiped out by the use of the HPV immunization program. We have to wake up to the benefit of vaccination. There can be some adverse effects, no doubt, but vaccination has done a lot of good. Homeopaths would be able to do a lot by staying out of the vaccine controversy.”
Presumably because of the ‘fact’ that the very founder of homeopathy himself supported vaccination comes the advice for homeopaths to stay out of the “vaccine controversy.” I can understand, while not agreeing, with the view that getting involved in this controversy might damage the advance of homeopathy. However, I cannot understand nor agree with the claims made about Hahnemann’s views on vaccination.
In the comments that follow I have taken Dr. Fisher’s wise advice “to stick to core knowledge” using the Organon as “our foundation.” As for the advice that “all homeopaths must study it,” I take this to mean a careful and considered study, as presumably all homeopaths have studied it to some degree. In my defence, I offer 30 years of careful study, the fruits of which are available to anyone who cares to examine them, in various articles for homeopathic journals, in particular detailed articles in Homeopathy-On-Line (hpathy.com), and most particularly in a comprehensive analysis of all of Hahnemann’s writings, freely available at www.homeopathiceducation.com.
All this to say that I feel I have met the conditions set down by Dr. Fisher, and offer my considered response to his claims regarding Hahnemann and vaccination based on my detailed assessment of the relevant provisions of the Organon, in particular the footnote to Aphorism 46, which Dr. Fisher specifically references.
These are the claims made by Dr. Fisher in respect of Hahnemann and vaccination. I have simply quoted from the text of the interview and in the order they were made:
- “in the 6th edition of the Organon, Hahnemann has said that vaccination is a wonderful thing and it has saved the lives of children.”
- “Hahnemann seems to have considered that the Jennerian method of vaccination – scratching cowpox pus under the skin – was both preventative in epidemics and curative when it was used against similar disease states.”
- “Hahnemann saw the benefits of cowpox vaccination.”
To start, we need to be clear on the term ‘vaccination’. Historically, it refers to ‘the Jennerian method of vaccination’, the cow pox also being referred to as ‘the vaccine disease’ (OED), and then extended by Pasteur to refer to all subsequent inoculations of disease agents to act as a prevention of that disease when encountered naturally.
Next, to assess the three claims against the footnote to Aphorism 46, to which we are specifically referred, we need the context within which each is situated.
In Aphorism 46, the context for the footnote Dr. Fisher refers us to, Hahnemann gives various examples from nature where a stronger similar disease removes a weaker one. This itself follows from the preceding Aphorisms 43-45, wherein Hahnemann sets out the important principle of the law of similar, that in Nature the stronger similar disease annihilates the weaker similar disease. Hahnemann follows this with examples to be found in Nature herself.
Hahnemann first notes that smallpox disease, his most prominent example, has been found to have lifted and cured numerous maladies with similar symptoms and then gives various examples involving a reported cure by smallpox of a similar existing disease in a person. One of these examples involves the natural smallpox disease lifting the cowpox due to similarity and the greater strength of smallpox.
Hahnemann then goes on to comment on the other side of the equation, namely the impact on the stronger smallpox disease from its encounter with the weaker cowpox disease. Though this is not directly concerning the principle of the law of similars he is illustrating, it is nonetheless a valuable observation: “the ensuing outbreak of smallpox is at least greatly diminished (homoeopathically) and made more benign by the cowpox which has already neared its maturity.”
Thus, while the stronger smallpox disease is not, or course, destroyed, it is “at least greatly diminished and made more benign.” The conclusion is that the weaker similar disease (cowpox) does not act preventatively against the incoming disease, but lessens its impact. We also learn that the weaker disease is removed “at once entirely”, consistent with his principle that the stronger similar disease annihilates the weaker one.
At this point, we get the footnote Dr. Fisher is referring to:
This appears to be the reason for the beneficent, remarkable event that, since the general dispersal of Jenner’s cowpox inoculation, smallpox has never again appeared among us either so epidemically or so virulently as 40-50 years ago when a city seized therewith would lose at least half and often three-quarters of its children by the most wretched plague death.
What I understand Dr. Hahnemann to be noting here tangentially, following from his previously mentioned observation regarding the impact of an existing cowpox disease in a person on contracting smallpox, is a possible reason for the reduced severity of smallpox, since Jenner’s deliberate inoculation of people with cowpox disease (as opposed to the more random act of nature in infecting some people with cowpox, such as milk maids).
What conclusions can we draw from this footnote?
First, in both it and the main body of the Aphorism pertaining to this footnote, the incoming disease, smallpox, is stronger, and is not annihilated but it’s impact is reduced. Second, the existing disease, cowpox, is weaker, and entirely eliminated. Again, this is fully consistent with Hahnemann’s general principle that when two similar diseases meet, the stronger one annihilates the weaker.
We now turn to Dr. Fisher’s first claim: “Hahnemann has said that vaccination is a wonderful thing and it has saved the lives of children.” It is clear that Hahnemann accepts that the severity of smallpox outbreaks was reduced since the general use of cowpox inoculation. However, this is an observed correlation, not a claim or support of causality. Hahnemann, ever the scientist, does offer a possible reason consistent with his previous comments about the principles governing the interaction between smallpox and cowpox that might provide a causal connection.
Let’s now consider Dr. Fisher’s second claim: “Hahnemann seems to have considered that the Jennerian method of vaccination – scratching cowpox pus under the skin – was both preventative in epidemics and curative when it was used against similar disease states.” This claim has two parts: (1) prevention and (2) cure. It is clear from the text of Aphorism 46 and the relevant footnote that neither the natural cowpox nor the Jennerian inoculation can act or does act preventatively, but only in a mitigating manner. As for the issue of cure, this is not at issue in the case of vaccination, which Dr. Fischer is talking about here. This relates to an entirely different context, which has to do with the use of isodes and nosodes to cure existing diseases.
As for the final claim, “Hahnemann saw the benefits of cowpox vaccination”, if by “benefits” is meant ‘prevention against smallpox’, this claim is not true. If “benefits” is taken to mean ‘reduction in the severity of smallpox’, then this claim is accurate.
We now need to carry all of this analysis over to the more general point I take Dr. Fisher to be making, namely that what Hahnemann wrote about two similar diseases meeting in an organism is applicable to all subsequent forms of inoculation or vaccination.
If Dr. Fisher means that the principle derivable from Hahnemann’s writings related to smallpox disease and cowpox disease (naturally acquired or inoculated), in particular Aphorism 46 and its footnote, is applicable to modern forms of ‘inoculation’, or what is generally now termed vaccination, then he would need to accept that the vaccination is a disease, or more precisely engenders a specific, acute miasmatic disease in the person being inoculated or vaccinated. I presume that he does, as that is what Hahnemann is talking about here.
The question then arises: is the engendered vaccine disease, let us say the modified Human Papilloma Virus Dr. Fisher uses later as an example, weaker or stronger than the natural (HPV) disease?
If it is weaker, we then know two things based on Hahnemann’s writings: (1) the engendered or vaccinated HPV disease will be immediately annihilated by the incoming natural HPV disease, and (2) the stronger natural HPV disease contracted will likely be lessened in its impact.
If it is stronger, the engendered or vaccinated HPV disease: (1) would annihilate the natural HPV disease, and (2) remain as the sole disease in the organism.
There is a third possibility, as Hahnemann sets out and discussed earlier in Aphorism 44, that the two diseases are “so similar.”
“Two so similar diseases can neither fend one another off nor suspend one another, so that after the completed course of the new one, the old one would return.”
In this case, the natural HPV disease: (1) would run its course, unaffected by the engendered or vaccinated HPV disease, and again, as with the second possibility, (2) the engendered or vaccinated HPV disease would remain as the sole disease in the organism.
I would think that Dr. Fisher would agree, out of the three possibilities, this third one is not applicable. That leaves us with the vaccinated disease being weaker or stronger. Based on the principles Dr. Hahnemann has set out it must be the weaker disease. In this case, as noted earlier, the record is clear, at least for Hahnemann: the weaker disease cannot act preventatively, but only mitigate the severity of the stronger disease.
In conclusion, I cannot find any evidence to support Dr. Fisher’s claims, except possibly for the last one, that “Hahnemann saw the benefits of cowpox vaccination,” and then only in that the cowpox inoculation might be linked in principle to a reduction in severity of smallpox.
If you have had the patience to follow the argument so far, you may have noticed some benefits in terms of our understanding of vaccination from the perspective of Hahnemann’s medical system:
- Vaccination does not prevent a similar disease, though it may reduce its severity once contracted.
- To do so, vaccination must itself engender a disease in a person.
- This engendered vaccinated disease is removed if it is weaker than the stronger natural disease, so presumably any benefit would now be removed as well. If it is stronger than the natural disease, the engendered vaccinated disease annihilates the natural disease, but then remains in the organism as the stronger disease. Is this to be seen as a benefit?
Vaccines are not simply nosodes
To this must be added that modern vaccines are not simply nosodes or isodes of the disease agent (materia pecans), but also contain various agents (adjuvants, preservatives, additives) that are also disease agents in their own right – mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, antibiotics, etc. In addition, most vaccines are injected hypodermically, and there is research supporting that such injections alone are harmful, not to mention the fact that they are similar to puncture wounds that are routinely treated with remedies, being recognized as traumas.
Thus in the case of modern vaccinations we are dealing with what Hahnemann in Aphorism 40-42 warns against, namely iatrogenic disease. The vaccine material is neither natural nor single, but a combination of different disease agents along with the specific virus (attenuated or otherwise). Though material medical science claims that these are in such minute quantities that they are not harmful, this is not comforting to the followers of Hahnemann’s medical system, as even such minute quantities have the capacity to engender disease (which modern biochemistry and toxicology also are starting to support). Dr. Fischer also talks about new research that is confirming the ability of very small and even infinitesimal doses to be active. These different agents do not meet separately in the organism, but are deliberately injected together. They must form, according to Hahnemann’s principles of disease engenderment and interaction, a complex disease, which, because it is iatrogenic, “forms with this an often ferocious monster of complicated disease.”
If we examine the issue of modern vaccination through Hahnemann’s eyes, we are led to additional insights regarding the recognized so-called ‘side effects’, which are in reality disease effects’: modern vaccinations engender additional diseases beyond that of the virus alone. Even when the natural disease is contracted and removes the disease caused by the injected virus, that part of the disease complex caused by the various additions are not so removed. Thus, these iatrogenic diseases remain. In such a case, it is not at all clear that the possible benefit of a reduction in the severity of a given natural disease is worth the cost, particularly when there are many other measures that can be brought to bear on the regimen side to increase immune function generally and hasten healing.