The history of mankind has been marked by profuse cultural, sociological and individual searching for a ‘higher level’ of existence and consciousness. Historically punctuated by the attempts and explanations of the two major branches of thought, philosophy and science, the existential questions that have formed the fabric of this journey have yet to be solved. Despite their differences in reasoning, philosophy and science have both, seemingly and inadvertently, arrived at the same questions on which other methods have sought to further expand. These questions are the “Big Questions” about what defines humanity and its role in the cosmos. From examining the definitions of health and disease, the dichotomy between life and death and the question of transcendence of one’s physical being, mankind’s questioning has resulted in branches of thought that try to answer them both from a philosophical and scientific viewpoint.
The purpose of this paper is to arrive at an understanding of the intertwined relationship between the two major sciences, arts and philosophies of human history – alchemy and homeopathy. United by the common goal of reaching the highest level of existence, the two branches propose ideas that seem unrelated on the surface, but are truly and inherently connected.
Alchemy has sought to find the Philosopher’s Stone, and Homeopathy’s ultimate goal is to reach the freedom of health on all planes of existence. I hope to demonstrate how homeopathy has been strongly influenced by alchemical philosophies and principles in order to promote its own individual purpose of holistic healing.
History of Alchemy:
Alchemy is one of the oldest sciences in the world (Hall, 1928 ).The ancient word “Khem” originated from Egypt, the land alchemy arose from. In their time, the Egyptians and their land were invaded by the Greek Empire followed by the Arabs. Many things changed during their reigns including the language. The Greeks believed matter was made from four elements: fire, water, air and earth. Once their belief merged with that Egyptian sacred science of Hermes, the previous word “Khem” was changed to Khemia. Subsequent to that the Arabs overcame the Greek rulers and took control over Egypt. Finally, the Arabs added the word “Al” to “Khemia” which formed the word Alkhemia: meaning “black land” of Egypt. (Hall, 1928)
From the 400’s to the 1600’s alchemy was spread throughout the world from Egypt to Greece, to Muslim empires, to India (in the 1100’s) and to Europe during the 14th, 15th and 16th century. ()
History of Homeopathy:
Homeopathy had its start as a rebuttal to the common methods of 18th century medical practitioners. These methods, which included over-drugging, bleeding and cupping, were administered to the ill. The medical approach of homeopathy can be traced back to the time of the medieval alchemists. These practitioners include: Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), Agrippa Von Netsheim (1486-1535) and most important of all, Theophrastus Paracelcus (1493-1541) and even Hippocrates (468-377BC) (Morrell, 1999).
Samuel Christian Frederick Hahnemann, the founder of the homeopathic system of cure, gave reference to Hippocrates in the law of similars. However, no other person was the biggest influence in homeopathy and its practice than Hahnemann (1755-1843). Hahnemann combined all the previous ideas of his predecessors and joined them with his own, to form what we now know as homeopathy. (Danciger, 1987)
Many question if Hahnemann was influenced by the works of the physician and alchemist Paracelsus. In his time Hahnemann denied any parallels to Paracelsus and his practice of medieval alchemy. Some evidence disputes Paracelsus’ influence on Hahnemann and his work in homeopathy. Paracelsus did not use homeopathy in the way Hahnemann used it; he did not conduct provings like Hahnemann and neither did he dilute and potentize doses. The processes of provings, potentizing and diluting remedies was exclusively established by Hahnemann. (Morrell, 1999) However, general consensus supports speculation that Hahnemann was in fact influenced by Paracelsus and his work. Hahnemann and the advancement in homeopathy were influenced by the law of similars, (Danciger,1987). This method is most attributed to Paracelsus and his extensive clinical use of it. Paracelsus was also known for using small and single doses in his practice, which is one of the main principles of classical homeopathy.(Danciger, 1987).
An article written by Peter Morrell, a contemporary homeopathic researcher published in (http://www.homeoint.org/morrell/articles/pm_alchem.htm) affirms conventional opinions that Hahnemann built upon the work of Paracelsus. He speculates the reason for Hahnemann’s disassociation with the alchemist as being related to the controversy surrounding Paracelsus and his method of healing. Morrell goes on to say ” The fact is that Hahnemann was a brilliant thinker and practitioner, he was very inventive and precise in everything he did, although he left very little evidence behind that he was influenced by Paracelsus’ work”. Both Hahnemann and Paracelsus were fascinated by chemicals , made use of poisons, minerals, acids and metals to heal disease. They both had university teaching posts and were denounced later on, and they both rebelled against the medical practices of their time.(Morrell, 1999)
Additionally, both Paracelsus and Hahnemann were opposed to the Galenic method, created by the roman physician Galen( AD 129-199), which was based on four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Galen’s methods were derived from Hippocrates’ and Aristotle’s views on the nature of men. It was the opinion of Paracelsus that the Galenic method was limited in its approach to illness. To Paracelsus, a true physician must have knowledge of illness and nature. It was in his work that Paracelsus merged his study of alchemy with his medical practice. He believed that only those who understood the mysterious work of nature could be true medical art practitioners and discover the power of the remedy. (Morrell, 1999)
The physician should be versed in all branches of philosophy, physics and alchemy as well, as thoroughly, as profoundly as possible and should not lack any knowledge in these fields. He should stand on solid ground, founded in truthfulness and highest experience. For, of all men, the physician is supreme in the study and knowledge of nature and her light, and that is what enables him to be a helper of the sick.” (Paracelsus Samtliche Werke Sudhoff Matheissen Edition, vol. 10, part I, pp 277-8)(Danciger, 1987, P14)
The followings are two separate, but extremely similar quotes written by both Paracelsus and Hahnemann, each during their own time, outlining their aversion to the way medicine was being practiced:
“I found that the medicine I had learned was faulty, and that those who had written about it, neither knew nor understood it. They all tried to teach what they did not know. They are vainglorious babblers in all their wealth and pomp…[Paracelsus in Das Buch Paragranum, quoted in Coulter,Vol. 1, p.346]( Morrell, 1999)
” The unholy chief business of the old medicine seems to be, out of ignorance, to render the majority of diseases if not fatal, then at least incurable through the continuous debilitating and tormenting of the weak patient who, moreover, is already suffering from a. his disease and b. the addition of a new destructive disease. This is a very easy business once one has got the knack of this ruinous procedure and has become properly insensitive to the warning of conscience!”(Hahnemann, 1843 P.3).
The fact remains that the two healers had very similar systems of practice; “indeed many of the metals, acids and minerals including Mercury, Arsenic, Sulphur, Tin, Lead, Gold, Iron, Copper and Salt that were proved by Hahnemann, were originally introduced into medicine by Paracelsus”. (Morrell, 1999)
Although Hahnemann denied any association with alchemy or Paracelsus’ ideas, the fact remains that there is an underlying link to alchemy in Hahnemann’s work that makes one safely assume that he had a great knowledge about this sacred art and science. (Morrell, 1999)
Alchemy and its philosophy and Principles
Alchemy, and its philosophies, are a highly complex study that forms the source of much discussion. Alchemy is a science that teaches about the transformation of metals. (Hauck, 2004). Roger Bacon a British alchemist, in his book titled Mirror of Alchemy stated:
” Alchemy is a science teaching how to make and compound a certain medicine called the Elixir, which when cast upon metals or imperfect bodies of any kind, fully perfects them in the very projection.” (Hauck, 2004. P. 21).
The Elixir to which Bacon makes reference is “Aracanum” also known through medieval tradition, Powder, and Stone. (Hauck, 2004) In the book “The Secret Of The Emerald Tablet,” written by Dr. Gottlieb Latz, he postulates that Arcanum has the ability to “perfect anything.” An example of this may be found during the metamorphosis of baser metals to gold. Latz also professes that the cure to disease and the power to make man whole, is within Arcanum (Latz, n.d).
Paracelsus himself proclaimed Archaues, a common name for what is now known as Archanums, as playing an important role in healing. He believed Archanum to be “an essence that is equally distributed in all parts of human body. He also believed Archanum is “the Spiritus Vitae (Spirit of life) and takes its origin from Spiritus Mundi (Spirit of Universe) ( Danciger, 1987). This relationship between the transcendentally-cosmic spirit “entities” and the study of metallic transformation will become more apparent when specific reference is made in the next section of this report.
Various studies in both homeopathy and alchemy have arrived at the generalized hypothesis/observation that during a person’s life there is present a finely diffused form of matter of a magnetic nature , not only enclosed in the body but that radiates within and around it like a luminous sphere. It is constantly renewed by the vital chemistry (Hauck, 2004). In homeopathy this is called the Life Force (Hahnemann, 1842, ref: Aph. 9). Once the breath has served its purpose, this diffused matter leaves the body. An alchemist may set free this vital principle in his lab, destroy the body of metal on which he is working, purify its salt and reassemble its principle together in a higher form.” (Hauck, 2004)
In alchemy the physical world is a manifestation of a spiritual reality. This greater reality is only understood by those who condition themselves to be loving and pure in heart (Danciger, 1987). To many practitioners of homeopathy this realization, in the form of spiritual self-actualization is the ultimate goal (Hahnemann, 1842). The assumedly divided nature of the physical and the spiritual is an inherently false assumption. (Hahnemann, 1842). We may understand that homeopathy’s alchemically-based mandate to treat the physical, mental and emotional conditions of a patient can be seen as unification between the physical-spiritual realms.
The Emerald Tablet
This ancient artifact is formed in seven paragraphs of Hermetic teaching. There are many hidden messages carried in this single piece of green Tablet that provides guidance on how to achieve a personal transformation on all physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Hermetic teaching is the source of alchemy and its practice. (Hauck, 2004). It is this researcher’s attempt to demonstrate that the messages of the Tablet, when decoded, provide guidance on the previously mentioned physical-mental-spiritual unification goal. In the provided reading below, (the complete transcript of the Emerald Tablet) the unification between the ultimate goals of homeopathy and alchemy become apparent. “In truth, without deceit, certain, and most veritable. That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and That which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to Accomplish the miracles of the One Thing. And just as all things have come from this One Thing, through the meditation of One Mind, so do all created things originate from this One Thing, through Transformation. It’s father is the Sun; it mother the Moon. The Wind carries it in its belly; its nurse is the Earth. It is the origin of All, the Consecration of Universe; its inherent Strength is perfected, If it is not turned into Earth. Separate the Earth from Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, gently And with great Ingenuity. It rises from Earth to Heaven and Descends again to Earth, thereby combining within Itself the Powers of both the Above and the Below. Thus will you obtain the Glory of the Whole Universe. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the greatest Force of all Powers, because it overcomes every Subtle thing and penetrates Every Solid thing. In this way was the Universe created. From this comes many wondrous Applications, because this is the Pattern. Therefore am I called Thrice Greatest Hermes, having all three parts of the wisdom of the Whole Universe. Herein have I completely explained the Operation of the Sun.” ( Hauck, 2004, P.8, 9)
Commentary of The Emerald Tablet:
This following section is dedicated to the interpretation and detailing of the homeopathic significance of the The Tablet. I will simplify and expound upon certain aspects relevant to the alchemy-homeopathy link.
The expression “Above” contains two concepts: The first, being the starting point, from which there is an Above; the second, the existence of an unlimited upwardness. Likewise, the expression “Below” also includes two concepts. The first, being the starting point from which there is a Below; the second, an unlimited downwardness. (Clark, 1996)
Above is like what is Below; Below is like what is Above. This concept is an infinite field with the centre being “the One Thing” from which above and below stretch infinitely. This infinite field is “The One Thing” itself. It is all things and no-things, and thus the most powerful point we can imagine. It is this field that can place us in relationship with everything that is to be and in this field nothing occurs outside the nature’s laws. (Clark, 1996)
The “miracles of the One Thing” is the interplay of nature’s law; nothing can be broken outside of it and everything humanity does here is the manipulation of the fundamental points of this natural One. (Clark, 1996) It is from this point that alchemy’s four elemental natures is seen to relate to homeopathy, and homeopathic purposes at the spiritual level.
Each alchemical force is associated with a specific density. The turning downward in elemental sense is Fire, the active force in a denser form of vibration. It is the power of conscious awareness that is manifested through the human being (Clark, 1996) .
The homeopathic relation to alchemy bases itself on the encapsulation and the resultant application of the alchemical forces and their meaning, when paralleled with the spiritual notions of “Above” and “Below”.
This conscious awareness reconnects with the “SELF” when it is turned more inward, clothed in the denser matter (Earth) and this turning inward upon itself is what initiates the cycle of return that brings us to the next equation: Force arising from Form. This separation of Force from Form will separate Subtle from Gross, separating itself from its Self, constantly shedding its clothes of Matter, the process of human introspection or alchemical putrefaction and fermentation. There are two processes of separation; First Earth is removed from Fire, the ascending of conscious awareness, then the Fire acts upon itself, and it is separated from its own essence; from its Gross aspect. This is the release of Self from Form which is the reversal of the creation process. To die and be born again on a higher octave. (Clark, 1996).
Human introspection can, through the deep interconnectedness between homeopathic notions of Above and Below and their respective alchemical connotations of Earth and Fire, be seen as the same concept as alchemical putrefaction (fermentation), that will be discussed in the upcoming sections.
Returning again to the ideas of density and vibration, conscious awareness will rise within the field through levels of vibration with great wisdom. This ascendence is from the Earth or The Below to the Heavens or The Above. The Force that originally descended into Form is no longer the same. It is now ascended, it has been transformed into a new form and it has the power or wisdom to ascend a new Form with an increased awareness of its nature as a Force. It is now that we have an integration of Above aspects of the Force with Below aspects of the Form. This is a picture of whole field of Above and Below that results in a self aware Force uniting Above with Below. (Clark, 1996)
The new active Force is clearly on a higher octave of existence, and of all works of wonder in the word. It has wisdom and understanding that illuminates all darkness, it is a reflection of the “One Thing” placed one octave lower than the “One Thing”. As a result there is a process of recreation where a new generation is created.(Clark, 1996)
This new generation is “the world” where everything is alive, where there is a constant circulation in the field between Above and Below, The world is the product of the “One Thing” . It is at the level of marvelous adaptation that we humans, as physical beings, intervene and work with the substance of the world. Conscious awareness of the physical body is the Force within the Form, the Above inhabiting the Below.(Clark, 1996)
In alchemy there are four fundamental forces, (Fire, Earth, Water and Air), however it includes the fifth element. This fifth widely used element is a unifying force that assists both mental and physical states as well as their related alchemical-homeopathic positions, the Above and the Below. Quintessence is the incarnation of the life force encountered in dreams and altered states of minds; the purest individual state of something or someone that one must understand in order to transform (Hauck, 2004).
Paracelsus commented on Quintessence when he said: “Nothing of true value is located in the body of a substance, but in the virtue thereof, and this is the principle of the Quintessence, which reduces, say 20 lbs. of a given substance into a single ounce, and that ounce far exceeds the 20 lbs. in potency. Hence the less there is of body, the more in proportion is the virtue thereof.” (Cockren, n.d,)
Is also known as The Prima, the Elixir of life, The Astral Body, the Salt of The World and the alchemist’s ultimate goal to reach. Philosopher’s Stone is the inner potential of the spirit, the reason to evolve from the lower states of imperfection to higher states of perfection. This is illustrated by baser metals, such as lead, and the progression to Gold. The goal of the GREAT WORK in alchemy is the Philosopher’s Stone, which immediately perfects any substance and state. When elixir is applied to the human body it cures disease and restores youth. The Stone is the symbol of incorruptible wisdom. (Hauck, 2004)
Homeopathy and its Philosophy and Principles
In order to properly give an overview of homeopathy and its philosophy a few important definitions must be given based on the practice of homeopathy.
Homeopath Dr. Rajan Sankaran , in his book Spirit of Homeopathy, defines health as :
“The man’s freedom to be in the moment and fulfill the purpose of life. Man, like all creatures is an instrument of the spirit and is assigned a specific purpose by it.”
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann describes health also as:
“In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force that enlivens the material organism as dynamis, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in the admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the HIGHER PURPOSE OF OUR EXISTENCE” ( Hahnemann,1842, Aph.9 P.65).
A passage mentioned earlier in the philosophy of alchemy is worth noting, as it stated the ultimate health as : “It is at the level of marvelous adaptation that humans, as physical beings, intervene and work with the substance of the world. Conscious awareness of the physical body is the Force within the Form, the ABOVE inhabiting the BELOW”. The material body without life force is unable to function. Life ‘s functions are only possible through the action of the immaterial Force that inhabits in the material body in both health and disease states.
No other statement is as brilliantly phrased as Dr. Hahnemann’s views on disease in Aph 11 of The Organon of Medical Art: “When a person falls ill, it is initially only this spirit like, autonomic life force, everywhere present in the organism, that is mistuned through the dynamic influence of a morbific agent inimical to life. Only the life principle, mistuned to such abnormality can impart to the organism the adverse sensations and induce in the organism the irregular functions that we call disease. The life principle is a power-wesen invisible in itself, only discernable by its effects on the organism. Therefore, its morbid mistunement only makes itself known by manifestations of disease in feelings and functions. In other words, the morbid mistunement of life principle makes itself discernable by disease symptoms; in no other way can it make itself known.”
Thus disease is a dynamic and invisible force within us that causes an imbalance of vital forces. Recognition may only be accomplished through manifested symptoms affecting the physical body. Vital force is not limited to the physical embodiment, but the spiritual too. Therefore, it may be concluded that disease is more than just a physical ailment but a spiritual one also. Everything in this world contains a visible and invisible form. The invisible is the inner spirit and the visible is the outer form. The visible can be observed with our five senses, but the inner spirit (the life force) should be sensed with intuition.(Hahnemann, 1842). In homeopathy we not only use our five senses to observe the patient and his/her symptoms but we need to train the inner eye of intuition to understand the deep inner spirit of the patient (Sankaran, 2007).
Classical homeopathy is based on the following important principles: The Law of similar, The minimum dose and the potentisation of remedies . The working of the life force to retain all parts of the organism in both feelings and functions in anadmirable and harmonious way. (Hahnemann, 1842)
Misha Norland in his book “Signatures, Miasms, Aids, Spiritual aspects of homeopathy” explains how these three principles are parallel with hermetic tradition, which is the basis of alchemy. “The cardinal principles of the hermetic world view are the following: Principle of unity, Principle of correspondence or analogies , Principle of polarity, Principle of levels of consciousness or planes of existence.” ( Norland, 2003, p.11)
Principle of unity:
Everything is related to the ultimate level of existence ” the ONE”. To reach this ultimate and higher purpose of existence is to achieve this unity and at a personal level. The goal of science is to explain nature as a rational whole. Scientists like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein searched in a mathematical way to explain this unifying theory. Homeopathy’s search of this unity is clearly stated by Hahnemann in Aph. 9 of the Organon that was mentioned earlier. To reach this unity is the ultimate goal, so that our indwelling reason gifted mind can freely employ this living healthy instrument for the HIGHER PURPOSE OF OUR EXISTENCE”.(Norland, 2003)
Principle of correspondences or analogies:
This expresses the similarity of Form and Force between the microcosm and macrocosm (the subtle and gross), the reflection of the individual in the universe. The correspondence between heaven and earth, “as Above, so Below”. That which is Below is like unto that which is Above. This principle in homeopathy corresponds with the law of similars, like cures like. (Norland, 2003) What is the law of similars? Pathos is the Greek word for suffering and Homios-pathos means similar suffering and to cure “like with like” (Hahnemann, 1842). Hahnemann writes in one of his essays about the power of the medicinal substances based on the law of similars:
” Every powerful medicinal substance produces in the human body a kind of peculiar disease; The more powerful the medicine, the more peculiar and marked violent the disease. We should imitate nature, which sometimes cures a chronic disease by another and employs in the disease we wish to cure, that medicine which is able to produce another very similar artificial disease, and the former will be cured; similia similibus.”(Hahnemann,1842)
He explores this idea more readily in Aph. 24 of Organon:
“In homeopathy, a medicine is sought for the totality of symptoms of the disease case, with regards for the originating cause and for the accessory circumstances…a medicine is sought which (among all medicines whose condition-altering abilities are known for having been tested in healthy individuals- provings) has the power and tendency to engender the artificial disease state most similar to that of the case of the disease in the person.”
Principle of polarity:
Drawing from every worldly example, everything has a polar opposite. In the physical world, the human consciousness has allowed for the categorization of substances. To comprehend the relationship between objects, the brain must group objects based on characteristics and observed properties. Just as the notion of ‘wet’ corresponds to that of the property, ‘dry’, alchemical thought too has polarized its inclusive ideas. Above is teamed with Below, Darkness with Lightness, Fire with Water, Lead with Gold, Saturn with the Sun.
In homeopathy, this polarity is expressed in accordance with Hahnemann’s principles of “the primary” and “the secondary” action. (Norland, 2003) An understanding of these terms is essential in case-taking, analysis, proving and interpreting the Materia Medica. The Primary state is when the disease first expresses itself; this being said, it is the uncompensated state. The Secondary state is the compensated state. It is a way that we adapt in any way necessary to continue our survival. Homeopathy uses these two states to describe the progress of a disease and the development of pathology in remedies. If the disease state is not transformed into health, we can see a progression from compensated to uncompensated and to decompensated states. When a patient is given the right remedy, the symptoms will be intensified because the symptoms of the artificial disease are added to the natural symptoms. (law of similars); this presents the primary action of the remedy; following this primary action of the remedy the vital force reacts in an equal and opposite manner to this stimulus,(Norland, 2003).
From a scientific viewpoint, the Third Law of Newtonian Mechanics states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Stern, 2006). This law is carried out in the alchemical vein by describing the ‘related dichotomy’ of positioning: “that which was Above will go Below and that which is Below will go Above”. As it states in The Emerald Tablet: With great capacity (Wisdom) it ascends from Earth to Heaven. Again it descends to Earth and takes back the power of the Above and the Below. Thus you will receive the glory of distinctiveness of the world. All obscurity will flee from you. (Clark, 1996,)