All homeopaths talk about is “vital force”. They consider it responsible for the disease and the return to health. But is it force? If it is not, should we continue to call it “force” or should we change the term to something else. What does it really represent? The term “vital force” is taught to all those studying at homeopathic schools. It is attributed to Hahnemann who used it in his book “Organon”. But is it a creation of Hahnemann? Let’s start first with what Hahnemann means by the term “vital force”. In Aphorism 11 he writes:
“…it is only the vital force, deranged to such an abnormal state, that can furnish the organism with its disagreeable sensations”.
From this we find that Hahnemann believed that “vital force” is what causes the symptoms.
Let’s look at Aphorism 12:
“It is the morbidly affected vital energy alone that produces disease, so that the morbid phenomena perceptible to our senses expressed at the same time all the internal change, that is to say, the whole morbid derangement of the internal dynamis; in a word, they reveal the whole disease”. He writes that the vital force, when it is affected, is what causes the disease, that is, the cause of the disease. Are these wordings Hahnemann’s original ideas or are they taken from someone else?
If you read Van Helmont or Stahl you will see that they too were saying the same things a few hundred years ago. There is “something” that if it works harmoniously keeps the human healthy and when it is disturbed it causes illness. The first named it “archeus” while the second called it “anima”. Also, the Vitalists, led by P. Bartez, considered that all animal phenomena are the effects of the action of an internal force, a vital principle that does not exist outside the organic living bodies. This creates all the vital functions of living organisms and called it “vis vitalis” from the Latin, “vita” meaning “life”.
If you go even further back, you will find that Aristotle, Hippocrates, and generally all ancient Greeks considered the existence of a “something” that if it functioned harmoniously maintained health, while its disorder caused symptoms, i.e. sickness.
The first who seem to have talked about the existence of this “thing” were the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. They called it “dynamis”. Aristotle then calls it “life dynamis” because he considered that “something” is a trait of living organisms only.As can be seen from the above, the “vital force” or “dynamis” as mentioned by Hahnemann is merely a paraphrase of the term “life dynamis” of the ancient Greeks and has the same explanation.
Although Hahnemann does not mention the ancient Greeks in his books, except for Galen, it is impossible for him not to have read Hippocrates and generally ancient Greek texts. From many biographies about his life we know that Hahnemann spoke several languages, including ancient Greek and Latin. He learnt ancient Greek and then worked as a translator for Greek and Latin medical books. Thus, although he has never said that he has received this knowledge from the ancient Greeks, nor did he nominally mention any of the Greek physicians, it is obvious that he has been deeply affected by them, since he uses the principles, concepts, descriptions and methods of practice from the ancient Greek knowledge. Even at the university that he went to, ancient Greek medicine was taught from the Greek and Latin texts, so it was impossible not to read the terms and definitions given by the ancient Greeks. From all this, we conclude that Hahnemann used the term “life dynamis”, paraphrasing it to “vital force”, with the same qualities as the ancient Greeks gave to it.
While in his first books he uses the term “vital force”, in the 5th edition of “Organon” he changes the term and calls it a “vital principle”. Towards the end of his life, in the 6th and the last version he changes it again using the term “life principle”. So he himself found that the name “vital force” was not fully covered. Why was that and why are modern homeopaths taught to use the term “vital force”?
Let us analyze the term “vital force” to see if it fits based on the explanation given to us in the definition. “Vital” means “necessary for life”. “Force” is “the cause of any change in motion or geometry of bodies “. If something makes an object move, that is force. If something makes an object change its shape that is a force. Hahneman used the word “force” for “dynamis”. In Ancient Greece, however, when they used the term “dynamis” they meant something different. Aristotle writes “Dynamis is the principle of a change of one in another”. “Dynamis” meant “the intelligence or mood of a thing that is able to be and not to be that or the other”. In other words it’s the potential of a thing to be or not to be. If we apply it to a living organism then “dynamis” is “the potentiality of an organism to change some of its own qualities.” So the ancient Greeks with the word “dynamis” did not mean the “force” we mean today. The finding that “vital force” is not right as a term has been understood by other homeopaths too, who tried to explain it with today’s terms. Some of them think that it is the “soul”, the “spirit”. Some others conclude that “force” is an energy. So “vital force” is the “energy of life”. Is this term representative for “vital force”?
If we look in dictionaries what the term “energy” means, we will find many different things.
- Energy is the ability of a body or system to produce work.
- Energy is the power and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.
- Energy is the power that comes from the use of natural or chemical resources, especially for the supply of light and heat or for machine work, e.g. nuclear energy
- Energy is the property of matter and radiation that manifests itself as an ability to perform work (such as causing movement or interaction of molecules).
There are different types of energy:
All these energies have some properties. One of these is the change according to external stimuli. However “vital force” has some more qualities than “common energies”. It can alter its reaction based on learning, experience. Normal energies do not have this ability. They do not learn, they just react to stimuli every time in the same way. For example, if you drop an apple, the energy of gravity will do the same thing every time. It will not change the way the apple falls. So the term “vital force” I would define as something different, because it is influenced by some other functions that living beings have. A person has the freedom to choose whether on a stimulus, e.g. he felt an insult, he would hit or not hit the insulting person. This depends on his/ her experience and learning. He may have reacted when he was younger by hitting the insulting person. But then he found out that the other person might have been stronger and hit him back worse. He may have learned that if he hits his boss he will be fired by him so he does not do it because he fears that he will lose his job. From this we understand that man has the potential to react as he thinks best about himself.
I will give you another example to understand this better. A woman has headaches after her husband shouts and she does not react even though she feels lots of anger inside. If she does psychotherapy and starts to get angry with her husband, the reaction may be different to that stimulus, causing the headaches to decrease or even disappear. Here it seems that learning has changed the expression of “vital force” because it has this potentiality.
Based on all that I have described above, I do not think it is right to speak of “vital force,” “life energy,” but of “living potential.” The definition of “living potential” seems to me to be the following. “Living potential” of an organism is the potential that has the means inherently, to alter its health and illness properties in the mental and physical fields, depending on internal or external factors. All forms that have life have a living potential. This living potential is responsible for health and illness. Changes in living potential can cause illness but also restore health.
As a conclusion I want to emphasize that the terms “vital power”, “energy”, “spirit”, “soul”, etc. do not fit and all homeopaths should use the term “living potential” to describe that “something” which causes illness to every living being but can also restore it to health. This is because if we want to call Homeopathy a science, everyone should agree and understand exactly the meaning of each term.
Hippocrates – “All works”
Hahneman – “Organon of medicine”, “Chronic diseases”
John Baptista Van Helmont – Oriatrike, or Physick Refined (English translation of Ortus medicinae)
Stahl – Theoria medica vera
- Bartez – “Nouveaux élémens de la science de l’homme”
Galen – “Galenic corpus”
Konstantinos Pisios – “The ideal treatment”