There seems to be quite a bit of controversy regarding whether James Tyler Kent was Hahnemannian or whether he was overly influenced by Swedenborg. My first experience with homeopathy was with Dr. Kent Smith. His father, Dr. Dwight Smith, was a friend and student of Kent’s. Dr. Kent Smith was our family doctor and later became my teacher and mentor. Many years later, I began studying Swedenborg and found much of what he has to say parallels what I was taught about homeopathy.
Kent himself practiced and advocated strict Hahnemannian homeopathy. What he did was explain the mechanism of homeopathy, using Swedenborg’s concepts. Far from diluting Hahnemann, I think it provides explanation and clarity to what can be a very difficult subject. It’s no accident that so many of the early homeopaths were either Swedenborgians or students of his writings. Even today, it’s almost impossible to go to a Swedenborgian church or a Swedenborgian study group without being introduced to several homeopaths.
Swedenborg divides everything into three spheres of being or influence, called degrees, which flow into one another. Think of a pillar. It is made up of degrees in height and degrees in width. It has a bottom, a middle, and a top. These are the three degrees of height. It also has a center, an inside and an exterior, which are the three degrees of width. The highest degree has a correspondence to the center, the middle degree corresponds to the inside and the lowest corresponds to the exterior.
The highest degree in Swedenborg’s hierarchy is the celestial (heavenly, the fundamental source of everything); the middle degree is spiritual (the non-physical world or the inner cause); and the lowest degree is natural (the physical world or the outer result). He believed everything that happens and everything that exists, either in the celestial world, in the spiritual world or in the natural world, including what happens within us, corresponds to activity in all three spheres. Even more, each of the spheres is divided into three parts. So in the celestial sphere, we have celestial love which is the highest degree of pure selfless love of good. Within ourselves, this corresponds to our desire to do good. The middle degree of spiritual love is a love of wisdom, truth and understanding, which corresponds to our concepts and understanding of truth. The lowest degree, that of natural loves, corresponds to our doing the right thing just because we’ve been taught that’s what we should do.
To Swedenborg, the fundamental corresponds to the innermost, the cause corresponds to the inside and the result corresponds to the exterior. Within ourselves, we have three degrees of height and three degrees of width. In terms of height, we have the fundamental degree, which corresponds to the celestial or soul; we have the spiritual which corresponds to our mind or consciousness; and we have our physical bodies. Each of these three degrees within us is further divided into three.
Swedenborg doesn’t say a lot about the celestial realm within us, other than to state that it is the realm of the soul into which we receive the influence of God. While we are living on earth in our physical bodies, we are not conscious of the workings of this realm. The physical body hardly needs discussion because we are very aware of it. It, too, is divided into degrees both of height and width. Because correspondences are at work within our physical body, the importance goes from the center to the periphery and from the top down. Starting to sound familiar?
What’s most important to understand, since it is something we are conscious of, but is not particularly obvious to us, is our middle realm, i.e., the spirit, or mind. This too is divided into three degrees of height and three degrees of width. The highest is the rational, where we discover and use truth and love. This realm operates unfettered by our sensations and is where we develop and grow as human beings under the influence of our soul. The middle realm is that of our consciousness. It is where the life flowing into us meets the data from our sensations and brings us to consciousness of ourselves and our surroundings. And the lowest realm is that of the sensuous, where we experience pleasure and pain.
Our mind is also divided into our will (those desires and aversions which are the impulses toward action, i.e., what we love and hate); our understanding (concepts and thinking rather than just the raw facts that we might memorize); and our intentions which flow into our physical body as activities. When our will and understanding are joined, we are of one mind and our actions reflect that. When our will is to do good and our understanding is of truth, our actions reflect that. When our understanding is for lies and our will is for evil, our actions reflect that, also.
So what does all of this have to do with Kent? Well, actually Kent was not the only famous Swedenborgian homeopath. There were Hering, Boericke, Tafel, Farrington and many others. How do you think Hering came up with his concept of direction of cure? It’s pure Swedenborg! Then there is Kent’s Repertory. There was Boenninghausen’s repertory and some others, of course, but they left a lot to be desired in terms of organization. Along comes Kent and puts the repertory into order based on Swedenborg’s degrees. Mind is first, and then he basically follows the body from the top down, from the inside out, and from the center to the periphery. Since the innermost/center is the fundamental source, it’s influence flows to the inside/middle (cause) and from there to the bottom/exterior (result).
Next we need to understand substance. To Swedenborg, each higher degree was a state of more spiritualized substance. In the natural world the substance (matter) is observable with the physical senses, but the higher, more inner degrees are of a finer substance and are only observable with higher senses. What that means to homeopathy is that since everything has a correspondence, the higher/innermost parts of man will only respond to remedies that are of finer substance, i.e., more highly potentised. And since the will and soul are of the innermost/highest, they will respond best to the highest potencies. Even more importantly, since the will corresponds to the fundamental source, i.e., the origin of disease, to truly cure we must use high potencies! Anything less will cause suppression. Additionally, if one can truly grasp the mind of the patient, one has the entire case. Because the human being is of degrees, each part influences all others and has correspondences in all other parts. So the remedy affecting the highest degree will affect the entire person.
Now then, because the essence (essential) of a remedy corresponds to the essence (essential, which is the fundamental source) of man, and the keynotes correspond to specifics, Kent says you must prescribe on the essence, not on the keynotes; that prescribing on keynotes is suppressive. But, it’s much more difficult to learn essences than it is to learn keynotes. So Kent came up with a unique (at the time) method of studying materia medica. You learn by comparison: what’s the same and what’s different about each of the remedies. And this is how he wrote his materia medica.
Now lets discuss miasms. Hahnemann says that miasms start as a microbic contagion, whose symptoms are suppressed. But Kent asks, “Why would a healthy person be susceptible to a contagion?”. Answer: the susceptibility is the true disease and originates in the highest/innermost, which is the will, in an affinity for evil rather than good. This is why he equates psora with original sin. It’s something we are all born with.
Kent is the originator of the term ‘Classical’ in referring to Hahnemannian homeopathy. He used the term to set himself and his followers apart from the Eclectics and the combination prescribers. He considered himself to be a strict Hahnemannian and thought Swedenborg’s concepts were helpful in clarifying the Organon and in explaining the mechanism by which the remedies worked, how people became ill and how they were healed. He always exhorted his students to follow the Organon and would probably turn over in his grave to think there are people today who think he was not a Hahnemannian homeopath.
Read Julian Winstons Critique to this article: Kent and Swedenborg: Julian Winston in reply to Shirley Reischman’s Article
and Sheirley Reischmann’s reply to Julian: Kent and Swedenborg: Shirley Reischmann in reply to Julian Winston’s critique